Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Cautionary Tale

I had fun with this post's title the other day, but it wasn't until I went back and read it that I realized just how far off the deep end our old pal Tzvi's head is.

The premise is that the Fourth of July is not a legitimate holiday for Jews to observe, because they aren't really Americans, they're Jews. Which is to say, Israelis.

This is where Tzvi first muddies things up. Just because all Jews are theoretically able to become Israelis doesn't mean they actually are, just like the fact that you might be able to apply for Italian citizenship thanks to your grandma Rosa doesn't mean you can go vote in their next election. We're talking about separate things. However, since we're also talking about Tzvi, he of course doesn't care. On with the show.
It may say that you are an American on your passport, but in G-d’s eyes you are an Israeli – a displaced citizen of Israel, an Israeli refugee in someone’s else’s land, an Israeli whose great great great grandfather was exiled from the Land of Israel, thrown out by the Roman usurpers, thieves who pillaged the country and stole the heritage of your forefathers.
Unless you're a convert, or descended from Khazars or something. In which case, we wish you a lot of luck in your legal battles to reclaim your ancient birthright of Astrakhan.

From there things get really weird as Tzvi relates some of the more abusive things he's done to Birthright participants who have been unlucky enough to spend a Shabbat with him over the years, all in the name of "educating" them. But first he compares them to a gallon of milk.
How it pains me to see the kids who come on the Birthright trips. Of course, I am happy they’re here, but they’ve been so pasteurized, homogenized, Americanized, that they hardly know that they’re Jews. 
Yes, don't you hate it when your young American Jews have been over-pasteurized? Not like our authentic, artisanal Jews, straight from the land's... udders?

Wait, no, I can do this. Let's just use our old friend the Internet and...

Ok, let me guess, the cream is the emunah and the skim milk is the... ruach? I have no idea where this is going. Besides someplace awful, of course.
This past Shabbat, we hosted a couple of guys from the Birthright program. The moment I saw one of them, call him Tony, I was reminded of myself back when, an all-American poster boy trying my hardest to pretend that I didn’t have a Jewish nose.
What? How does that work? Did you dress your nose up in disguise? Did you pretend it was Greek? What are you talking about, Tzvi?
Tony was going to college in Colorado, where grass was legal and available in every corner grocery, he said. 
A- Grass? What decade are you living in? I know B'aal Teshuvahs are supposed to aspire towards the childlike innocence of Frum-From-Birthers, but that doesn't mean you need to pretend you just got back from 1962.

B- I'm pretty sure that's not how pot distribution works in Colorado. Really, really, sure.
While I was asking them some preliminary questions, he showed me a photo of his dog and his girlfriend, Cindy, a shicksa if I ever saw one.
So, to recap: you're a superficial and judgmental jerk, and this guy should avoid any attempt to be polite to you. Good to know.
The other two guys were more the straight type, so I concentrated my blitzkrieg on Tony. I use the term blitzkrieg because these guys have been deceived all of their lives, and I have only two hours with them to set their heads straight, so I have to give them all I’ve got.
I love that you're using the same terminology as the Luftwaffe, and you realize how dicey this is, yet you still think it's justifiable because, after all, all you're doing is an intensive indoctrination session. Cute. 

First, I give everyone a full glass of sweet wine at the Kiddush. Then, once the meal starts, I bring out a new bottle of dry wine and explain the blessing “HaTov V’HaMativ,” and fill up their glasses again. “Hey, this is really cool!” they say, realizing that they’re in for a good time. When they’re gobbling up the spicy Mediterranean salads, I give each guy a bottle of beer. “Colossal!” they say, really beginning to feel relaxed. While they’re drinking, I tell them about their great great great grandfathers, how they came from the Land of Israel, and how we were all Israelis until the Babylonians and Romans expelled us from our Land. I transport them through history, telling them that every time we tried to be good Persians, or Spaniards, or Germans, or Russians, the goyim always reminded us we were Jews and that we didn’t belong in their lands. Then, before my wonderful wife serves the main course, I bring out my special bottle of etrog liqueur. The other two guys were smart enough to politely decline, but Tony was all for it.
“This is humongus!” he said. “This is the best time I’ve had on this trip!”
With a big, “I love you, Tony,” smile, I pour out a solid shot glass of the power-packed Golan Heights liqueur and slide it over to my guest.
“L’chaim,” I say, downing a shot glass myself.
“L’chaim,” Tony toasts, shlushing it down his throat. Within seconds, his face turned pink and his forehead started to sweat. “Oh, wow,” he exclaimed. “This stuff is cool.”
He looked like Joe Frazier, after he’d been tagged the twentieth time with a stunning Ali combo. I could see that he was dizzy, and trying to keep his cool, but his cheeks were burning, as if he had eaten a hot potato.
Um... what are you doing, Tzvi? I know you must think this is a great way to connect with them, but there's a really uncomfortable vibe coming off from this.

While the other guys started wolfing the aromic main course, Tony was still reeling from the liqueur. I could see he was doing his best to follow my every word, but he was already on the ropes. So I poured myself another shot of the holy elixir and offered him one too. He knew he shouldn’t, but he wanted to show me he was as macho as I was, so he accepted. This time I thought his eyeballs would pop out. I made sure he ate a little something, because it was Shabbat, and the hospital is a long walk away, and I didn’t want him drinking on an empty stomach. As usual, the other guys asked me what movies I wrote in Hollywood, but I brushed aside their questions with a wave of the hand. My wife, great partner that she is, explained that I didn’t like to talk about movies on Shabbat, because of the special holiness of the day.
Yeah, talking about movies would spoil the special holiness. Not like the divine spark that comes from alcohol poisoning.
Then I spoke about the Torah, how it’s our true culture, giving them a tour of all the hundreds of books in our living-room library, explaining how it’s been denied them all of their lives, their true identity, until they were programmed to sing the Star Spangled Banner with tears in their eyes, get stoned on New Year’s like all their heathen friends, and celebrate the 4th of July.
“What’s wrong with celebrating the 4th of July?” Tony asked.
That’s when I stand up from the table, walk into the kitchen, open the freezer, and take out the chilled and frosted bottle of “Arak,” a liquorish-tasting liqueur a little like Ouzo. The alcohol is so cold and concentrated, it goes straight to brain like a 10,000 watt electric charge. I poured myself a full shot glass, downed it with a smile, and handed one to Tony. The good sport gulped it down innocently. Then BOOM! His head trembled, his eyes fluttered closed, and he swooned off his chair. My little son was waiting with a throw pillow to cushion his fall. I’ve got my family trained. While I knelt down on the floor with the Birthrighter, my wife and older sons kept the conversation going with our other guests. In the beginning of the Birthright program, my wife didn’t like my antics, and she would get angry at me, but when she saw that it was all needed to break down the walls and walls of defensive barriers that these kids are encased in like vaults, she became a true helpmate in my efforts.
Angry with you? Now that's just crazy. Who could find anything wrong with giving this guy at least six drinks (2 glasses of wine plus 1 beer plus 3 shots of liquor) and then brainwashing him while he's sprawled out on your kitchen floor? That's just silly. And I like how getting this guy totally sloshed is described as "breaking down defensive barriers." It's particularly disturbing that the whole family knows this is what you do and is "well-trained" to help out. Seriously, this sounds like the prologue to a really screwed up TV movie-- I'm honestly not sure whether  to make a joke about Josef Fritzl or Sawney Beane. 
“Tony? Do you hear me?” I asked, sitting beside him under the table.
“Yeah. Wow. You’re such a cool rabbi.”
“Tony. Repeat after me. I’m not an American!”
“I’m not an American!” he said.
“I’m not an American!” I shouted louder.
“I’m not an American!” he yelled.
“I’ve been lied to all my life!”
“I’ve been lied to all my life!”
“I’m an Israeli!”I barked
“I’m an Israeli!” he echoed.
“I’m an Israeli!”
“Oh, man. You’re blowing my mind,” he said.  “I don’t believe it. I’m an Israeli! My whole life’s a big lie. I’m a Jew. I’m an Israeli. I’m not an American at all!”
Tzvi, there's a world for this, and it's called assault. I can't believe Birthright still lets you entertain young people in your house. I really feel like I should be reporting this to someone. It would totally serve you right if this guy's family sued your pants off.

Once again, he looked like he was going to faint. Quickly, I whipped out the small sack of smelling salts I keep in my pocket whenever we entertain. Immediately, his eyes opened wide.
“Noam,” I called to my son, the soldier. “Bring me your rifle!”

WHAT? Wow, just when I thought this story couldn't go anywhere worse...
Quickly, my son rose from the table, went into his bedroom, and returned with his big, sci-fi looking Tavor automatic rifle and laser night scope. Normally on Shabbat, we give the rifle a rest, but this was a case of saving a life, so I pulled Tony into a sitting position and put the rifle in his arms.
Dude, not cool. This guy is seriously intoxicated and you're playing with guns, in a house full of people no less. I mean, presumably your son the soldier knows to unload his weapon before bringing it into the house but... Jesus!

“I don’t believe this,” he said. “This is so friggin cooool.”
“You’re an Israeli!” I told him. “Not an American wimp!”
“I’m an Israeli,” he said proudly, hugging the rifle.
“You want to live in Israel!”
“I want to live in Israel!” he agreed.
“You want to study Torah!”
“I want to study Torah!”
“I’m fed up with America’s crap!”
“I’m fed up with America’s crap!”
“I want a Jewish girlfriend!”
“I want a Jewish girlfriend!”

Tzvi, you're really an asshole. I hope this guy's family and girlfriend come to Israel and punch you in the nose. 

Then I stood up and pulled him to his feet. Strapping the rifle over his shoulder, I grabbed his hands and started singing. “Hava negilla, hava negilla….” I figured it was the only Israeli song he knew. My sons brought the other Birthright guys over to join us, and we all danced a happy “hora” in the middle of the living room. “Hava negilla, hava negilla….” Around and around and around.

The guys had a great time. By the time they left, satiated with delicious, homemade desserts, they were all pickled out of their minds. I sent my army boy with them to show them the way back to their hotel. I gave them all a big loving hug and escorted them out the door. At the top of the stairwell, I gave Tony a real kick in the rump. Not in the Jewish side of him. I kicked the American imposter. As it says, “A time to speak, and a time for a good kick in the rear.” He tumbled down a few stairs and looked back up at me with a big happy smile.
“Thanks, Rabbi Fishman,” he said. “Thanks for such a colossal Shabbat. You’re the first person in my life who’s ever told me the truth. I’ll never forget you.”

Yay! Nothing's more fun than getting drunk and indoctrinated, except maybe if you follow it by playing with guns, pretending you're a soldier, and getting your ass literally kicked by some so-called friends.

It's funny, all this hedonistic revelry and yet Tzvi claims to be against the Fourth of July. It sounds like really he just objects to which flag all the fuss is over.


scazon said...

If I weren't already convinced not to go on Birthright this would have sealed it for me.


Friar Yid said...

Various mispacha folks have been nudging me to go, "While it's still free!" (Oh, Jews.)

I think I'd rather spend my own money and visit family and other sites on my own and skip the brainwashing fun.

On the other hand, I probably don't have enough juice to get myself in to one of those fun settlement Shabbatons. With my beard powers I'd be a king there!

So yeah, a bit of a Catch-22.

Next year in... Kibbutz Lotan?

Conservative Apikoris said...

I looked at the original post, read the author's bio sketch, and, well -- did you consider the possibility that this might be a work of fiction?

As for Birthright, the sooner they end it, the better, as far as I'm concerned. We spent $11K a year on tuition for a Jewish high school for Apikoris Juniorette, and on top of that they had us fork over another $3.5 K for the senior class trip to Israel. (And they claimed that price was subsidized.) As a result, Apikoris Juniorette is now ineligible for her free vacation. What kind of "birthright" is that?