Posted in Judaism, Movies, Religion

Judaism according to Hollywood and Netflix

Ever since I reclaimed my spiritual birthright as a teenager, I’ve been very annoyed (to say the least!) at how Jewish characters and Judaism are depicted on the vast majority of TV shows and films. Historically, it’s pretty rare for a film not about the Shoah to depict the religious side of Judaism as The Jazz Singer (seen above) does. While the film clearly champions a secular identity over a religious one, it doesn’t denigrate religiosity as 100% incompatible with modern life either.

Jewish subjects on film in the silent era frequently played on ugly antisemitic stereotypes, but there were occasional positive depictions, such as Hungry Hearts (1922), based on Anzia Yezierska’s stories about Lower East Side Jewish women’s lives; a few early D.W. Griffith shorts; and the German Golem trilogy (of which only the last installment is known to survive in full).

Unfortunately, many Jewish characters are played by non-Jews, and 99.9% of the time they’re Ashkenazic (of Central and Eastern European descent) and therefore white-presenting. This feeds harmful stereotypes and disgusting slanders, like claiming we just Magically appeared out of thin air in 18th century Poland and later immigrated en masse to the Middle East as part of a white supremacist, colonialist project.

No acknowledgment at all of how we’re an ethnoreligious tribe indigenous to Israel, with a continual presence tracing back thousands of years! Nor do these Ashkenazocentric portrayals depict the full rainbow of Jewish peoplehood. Eighty percent of Israeli Jews are Mizrachim, from North Africa and the Middle East. And even white-skinned Ashkenazim aren’t ethnically European.

There are also Sephardim, of Spanish and Portuguese descent, as well as Italians, Romaniotes (Greeks), Ethiopians (who completely disprove the racist lie that all Jews are white!), Persians, Indians, and so many other Diaspora communities.

It’s not as though there are barely any Jewish actors, the way it’s difficult to find real disabled people to play disabled roles. But more often than not, a Jewish character is played by yet another Gentile actor.

Fictional Jewish families are also almost always intermarried, secular, and assimilated, unless the film is about the Shoah. Then it’s okay, because most of them will be dead by the end anyway. There’s a reason Dara Horn titled her 2021 essay collection People Love Dead Jews.

Nowhere in the majority of Hollywood and Netflix productions do we find a warm, accurate, nuanced, sensitive depiction of Jewish life. People are either secular and assimilated or cartoonishly stereotyped members of an ultra-Orthodox enclave, from which some poor oppressed woman is desperate to escape so she can achieve liberation with bikinis, high heels, crotch-high skirts, and lots of casual sex.

Never mind the fact that many women have made the conscious, educated choice to leave the secular world for Orthodoxy! I’ve known so many Orthodox women, and they’re not at all oppressed, unhappy, or abused. There are legit criticisms of the more extreme corners of the Orthodox world, but even the fanatics who do things like throw rocks at men and women praying together at the Western Wall are NOT representative of the majority of people in those communities.

If there is an Orthodox character in a non-Shoah story, odds are s/he’s portrayed as an out of touch bigot who needs to learn a lesson and become dutifully secular and assimilated, or accept intermarriage as the modern American way. The world Jewish population still hasn’t recovered from the Shoah, due in huge part to intermarriage and assimilation!

And speaking of intermarriage, the real-life statistic is only about 33%, NOT the constantly bandied about 52% figure. There were significant flaws in the data collection of that survey. But according to Hollywood, it’s 99%! There’s also the storyline that makes me cringe every time, “Ooh, I’m getting married, I have to convert!” Cue a quicky, insincere conversion and Judaism never being mentioned again in any serious way.

The obligatory Chanukah episode falsely portrays this holiday as a Jewish Christmas, though it’s a minor holiday and only rose to prominence as a way for people to demonstrate they were just as American as their neighbors in postwar suburbia. There might be an episode with a Pesach Seder or mention of the High Holidays, but never will you find holidays like Shavuot, Sukkot, Simchat Torah, or Purim, let alone fast days like Tisha B’Av.

Compare the nonsense of Hollywood and Netflix to Israeli shows and films like Shtisel and Srugim, where the full range of Jewish life is depicted honestly instead of being reduced to cheap stereotypes and offensive slander.

Posted in Censorship, Israel

NaNoWriMo goes full woke and antisemitic!

As I recently mentioned, I’m strongly considering not participating in NaNoWriMo, either the big event in November or the camp months in April and July, because of the disgusting antisemitism and wokery embraced by their current leadership in Berkeley. However, I wouldn’t delete my profile, since I’m proud of writing almost a million and a half words since I began participating.

And if these woke loons return to their senses, of course I’d start participating again. Hope springs eternal that all these fools will finally reach peak woke within the next decade and look back in embarrassment at the days they put freaking pronouns in their screen names and pretended they gave a damn about things like Native American history and supporting Black-owned businesses.

The clowns in charge had a long blog post bashing Israel’s right to exist and defend itself against terrorism, and cheering on how the Palestinians refused the chance for statehood at least eight times because they weren’t given the entirety of the country and a Judenrein (Jew-free) land.

Please explain how it’s not antisemitism to destroy the world’s one and only Jewish majority country, in the very place our ethnoreligious tribe is indigenous to and has had a continuous presence in for thousands of years. There’s so much archaeological and historical evidence proving our connection to the land! The Bible mentions it over and over again, and our prayers are full of longing to return to Israel and someday have a Third Temple (which I envision as a universal house of prayer for all peoples).

Where do you propose the seven and a half million Jews living in Israel (half of the world’s Jewish population!) would go if it became the 51st majority Muslim country? And what about the sizable Christian minority? Do you realize how unsafe it is to be Jewish or Christian in most other countries in the Middle East? That 850,000 Jews were ethnically cleansed from the Middle East and North Africa after 1948 and have nowhere else to go?

You’re advocating for genocide, since these people would be killed or severely persecuted if they returned to countries like Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, and Iraq.

NaNo doesn’t support the five chapters in Israel, since they think the country is illegitimate, colonialist, racist, committing genocide, all the usual disgusting antisemitic slanders and Holocaust inversion taken straight from the USSR’s playbook. Soviet leadership realized it was no longer socially acceptable to openly hate and persecute people for their religion or ethnicity, so they began attacking us for our country, under the guise of social justice.

Indeed, many of these contemporary clowns claim to be Communists.

I’m still angry at the former virtual friend who soft-blocked me on Instagram in May because I was sharing so many stories calling out antisemitism and defending Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism. She had the naked audacity to say the firing of over 4,000 rockets wasn’t a conflict, thought reading a freaking CNN guide made her an expert on a complex geopolitical conflict, and trotted out the old canard “I’m not antisemitic, just anti-Zionist.” What a vile, vile person she turned out to be, after seven years of what I thought was friendship.

She’s gone full woke too, espousing many other ridiculous or repugnant positions she clearly hasn’t fully researched from unbiased sources, so it’s no loss.

I’ll be going into the subject of antisemitism in much further detail in future posts.

NaNo brass also gleefully ousted some municipal liaisons (the heads of local chapters) for being insufficiently woke, particularly regarding the dangerous, anti-scientific concept of self-identification (i.e., legally regarding people as the opposite sex based just on their say-so, which is, among many other things, destroying women’s sports and making women unsafe in prisons and shelters for survivors of domestic violence and rape). This is so creepy and sinister, straight out of a Maoist struggle session.

They also had some mea culpa lamenting how their leadership isn’t a more diverse Rainbow Tribe, full of virtue-signalling woke word salad. Needless to say, they support CRT.

I dare these fools to go to a working-class mill town and announce their pronouns as she/they or zir/zem and say they’re lithromantic skoliosexual greysexual moongender, promote prostitution as a fun, empowering career no different than flipping burgers, demand everyone check their privilege, and call them bigots for understanding biological sex is grounded in material reality.

I am so disgusted at how NaNo is taking political sides and promoting woke groupthink.

Posted in Books, Judaism, Religion

A sobering, provocative look at antisemitism

I was alerted to this book by Jewish Twitter soon after its release, and read many positive reviews and impressions. It was also mentioned by one of the rabbis at the synagogue I livestream services from (seeing as how I’ve been unable to go to shul in person since lockdown began in March 2020). Many of these people brought up Ms. Horn’s sobering statement that more people can name three death camps than three Yiddish writers.

The twelve essays in this volume make painfully clear how many Gentiles, often without doing this on purpose or being consciously aware of it, only know about us through the Shoah and visiting heritage sites in places whose Jewish community has long since vanished. In other words, they know a lot about dead Jews, but not living Jews (either past or present).

We also have to contend with Gentiles goysplaining antisemitism to us, lying about Jewish history (particularly our indigenous connection to Eretz Yisrael and the Hebrew language), happily believing any false information they hear because it’s wrapped up in the guise of wokeness, only listening to fringe tokens instead of proud, committed Jews, and trying to gaslight us.

I’m still angry at the fellow writer and former virtual friend who soft-blocked me on Instagram in May because I shared so many stories calling out antisemitism and supporting Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish homeland and to defend itself against terrorism. She was sharing stories with the exact opposite message. The end of our virtual friendship isn’t much of a loss, though, since she’s gone full woke over the last few years, and is the kind of clown who gets off on virtue-signalling by putting freaking pronouns in her screen name.

The new woke antisemitism comes straight from the Soviet Union’s playbook.

Ms. Horn’s first chapter, “Everyone’s (Second) Favorite Dead Jew,” opens by talking about how an employee of the Anne Frank House was told not to wear a kipah to work in 2018. The previous year, visitors noticed Hebrew was the only language in the audio-guide displays without a national flag next to it.

The rest of the chapter discusses how Anne’s diary has been so popular and palatable to the masses largely because it’s not about the Shoah at all. Had Anne lived and written about her experience in the camps, it’s doubtful she would’ve found such a receptive audience. She also wrote the famous line about everyone being good at heart before she met people who weren’t good.

The next-best-known Shoah memoir, Elie Wiesel’s Night, is full of rage in the original Yiddish. Only after it was published in French and transformed into a story of theological angst did it gain notice. In other  words, many Gentiles look to Shoah memoirs for feel-good inspiration, and are deeply uncomfortable when they don’t follow that socially-acceptable mold.

Chapter Two, “Frozen Jews,” concerns the history of Harbin, China, which had a large, flourishing Jewish community from 1898 till the 1950s. The last Jewish family left in 1962, and Harbin’s last Jew died in 1985. Though many Harbintsy fondly recall their lives in the city, there were also many pogroms, particularly after White Russian refugees arrived in 1919 and brought their violent antisemitism with them. Among their vile acts was burning a synagogue. The city’s golden age lasted less than one generation. Then came the Japanese occupation, and the situation became even worse. Many people viewed immigration as inevitable because of how difficult life was.

Now Harbin’s remaining synagogue is a typical heritage site paying homage to the former Jewish community, with no mention of just why everyone left. The displays also only have photos of and captions about the minority of rich and bourgeois residents, not the poor and proletarian majority who could only dream of servants and grand society events.

Chapter Four, “Executed Jews,” talks about the Soviet Union’s persecution and eventual purging of Jewish writers, artists, actors, and playwrights. They were allowed to remain at liberty after Stalin’s crackdown on Yiddish only because they served as useful tokens. Basically, classic Chanukah antisemitism as opposed to Purim antisemitism. Chanukah antisemitism purports to like and respect us, but demands we dutifully assimilate and abandon our faith and culture. Purim antisemitism openly declares its belief that we’re inferior and intent to murder us.

Chapter Five, “Fictional Dead Jews,” discusses the differences between Jewish and Gentile literature. Traditionally, many Jewish novels end without an uplifting, redemptive happy ending, but instead are morally ambiguous or even depressing. Given Jewish history, it’s easy to see why. I got a lot of great authors and books to add to my TBR list from this chapter.

Chapter Six, “Legends of Dead Jews,” discusses the urban myth about surnames being changed at Ellis Island. A lot of people react with anger and disbelief when they’re presented with undeniable historical and documentary proof that this never happened. They cherish their family stories about stupid clerks changing the spelling or inventing an entirely new name.

What really happened was that many immigrants felt compelled to change their obviously Jewish names due to systemic, institutionalized antisemitism. Other groups of immigrants, like Italians, Greeks, Germans, and Ukrainians, typically kept their names, or at most changed the spelling to make the pronunciation more obvious or look a bit less foreign. Jewish name-changers routinely cited difficulties in finding jobs, being accepted at schools, being allowed to stay at hotels, and housing.

They also claimed their names were unpatriotic, too foreign, uneuphonius, cumbersome, annoying, uncomfortable, hard to spell and pronounce, embarrassing, and a hindrance to employment, education, social acceptance, and housing. Rarely did they cite the clear culprit, antisemitism. The only name-changers who mentioned this were Christians with Jewish-sounding names. Instead of challenging this unfair system, they submitted to it.

Chapter Eight, “On Rescuing Jews and Others,” is by far the longest. I was surprised Ms. Horn believes barely anyone has heard of Varian Fry, one of only five Americans to date honored by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations. I’ve known about him for years, even if I didn’t know so many details until now. Mr. Fry rescued several thousand people from his base of operations in France, including many famous artists, writers, and intellectuals such as Marc Chagall and Franz Werfel.

Chapter Nine, “Dead Jews of the Desert,” discusses Diarna, a virtual museum documenting vanished Jewish communities primarily in the Middle East and Southwest Asia. Diarna is a Judeo-Arabic word meaning “our homes.” Some of the synagogues and other places documented have now been destroyed by wars, like the gorgeous 500-year-old synagogue of Damascus. Due to Ashkenazocentrism, many people don’t know what a huge, vibrant Jewish presence there was in this part of the world until the ethnic cleansing following WWII. Jews living in Muslim lands were also subject to dhimmitude, a legal, humiliating second-class status.

Chapter Ten, “Blockbuster Dead Jews,” is about Shoah museums and the travelling exhibit Auschwitz: Not Long Ago, Not Far Away. Ms. Horn was very uncomfortable with this exhibit because it once again ultimately used the Shoah as a lesson about love and feel-good inspiration. All these museums, which do wonderful work, also tend to reduce Jewish history and our people to the Shoah, and leave out testimonies soaked with rage at all the bystanders and collaborators.

Chapter Eleven, “Commuting with Shylock,” is obviously about The Merchant of Venice, and explores the cruel reality of Venetian Jewish history. Ms. Horn found that people who critique the play as irredeemably antisemitic are called whiny, vulgar, censors, and too PC, and of course have antisemitism goysplained to them, while Jewish scholars who declare it nuanced or not at all offensive are lovingly praised.

Chapters Three, Seven, and Twelve discuss the shooting attacks on U.S. synagogues in recent years. The final of these “Dead American Jews” chapters reveals the shocking fact that many news stories about the attack on the Jersey City kosher grocery defended the shooters’ motives. They were just angry and frustrated about gentrification, school zoning, and Chasidic Jews moving in. Yet these news outlets never justify hate crime attacks on Black churches, gay nightclubs, and stores with a big Latino customer base, nor do they show sympathy for the murderers.

Ms. Horn concludes by talking about Daf Yomi, the worldwide Talmud study group that studies one page (back and front) of Talmud every day. When this study cycle ends after seven years, there are huge celebrations, and then it starts all over again. I would love to start participating when the next cycle starts in 2027.

I highly recommend this book to everyone. Many of the insights might make Gentiles uncomfortable, but these are important conversations we need to have for the sake of healthy, positive interfaith relations. Oh, and read more Yiddish and Hebrew literature!

Posted in Judaism, Religion

Yes, we do bleed when you prick us

As I’ve mentioned before, I am so disgusted, angry, and hurt at how a lot of people have been showing some very ugly true colors since the latest terrorist attacks on Eretz Yisrael in May.

The horrifying story screencapped above is far from the only such incident of this nature since the explosion in worldwide antisemitism since May. Many politicians, organizations, businesses, schools, sports teams, etc., who issued statements against antisemitism and in support of the Jewish people have been dogpiled on social media. People are absolutely ranting about how one-sided, bigoted, politicized, and uneducated they are.

Shamefully, there sometimes followed retractions and apologies.

Just as all these “intersectional” clowns are trying to recast feminism as a feel-good social justice free-for-all where everyone but actual women are centred in our own liberation movement, so too have Israel-bashers tried to force-link condemnation of antisemitism with Islamophobia and anti-Arabism. God forbid we get a voice all our own!

If you don’t feel the need to condemn anti-Asian hate crimes without also mentioning prejudice and crimes against gays and lesbians, African-Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, Haitians, and the disabled, there’s zero reason for you to “All lives matter” antisemitism.

One, nice Ashkenazocentrism. About 80% of Jewish Israelis are Mizrachi, from the Middle East or North Africa, and therefore NOT white-presenting like Ashkenazim! Have you ever seen an Ethiopian Jew?

Two, nice job blatantly lying about the history of Israel. The Jewish people are indigenous to the land, and were there thousands of years before any Arab tribes arrived. You’re living in a fantasy land if you truly believe everyone lived in Kumbaya harmony until 1948. There were a number of pogroms committed by Arabs, like in Hebron in 1929.

The antisemitic Grand Mufti of Jerusalem was also buddies with Hitler, and his thugs convinced the British to severely limit Jewish immigration when they most desperately needed to escape Europe.

Arabs in Israel gladly sold their marshy, desert, unused, uninhabited lands to olim (immigrants), who proceeded to transform them into modern cities and fertile farmland. More Arabs began moving in when the land became habitable and desirable.

Many Shoah survivors were met with anger and violence when they returned home. Their houses and belongings were stolen by former friends and neighbors after they were deported. Some people were even murdered. Hence, why most survivors immigrated to Israel, the U.S., Canada, the U.K., or Australia as soon as possible.

Every single war Israel has ever been involved in was started by the surrounding Arab nations. They even attacked and invaded the very day Israel declared her independence and the British Mandate finally ended! How dare you defend the firing of 4,500 rockets and say it doesn’t constitute a conflict!

All of these things, and many, many, MANY more, are well-known, easily-verified historical facts. They’re not hidden away in obscure folios only hardcore scholars know about.

And by the way, the “anti-Zionism” screed comes right from the USSR’s playbook. They knew damn well open antisemitism was no longer socially acceptable after the Shoah, and so reinvented it under the guise of just bashing our liberation and decolonization movement. In the Middle Ages, we were hated, persecuted, and murdered because we wouldn’t convert to Christianity, and in the 19th and early 20th centuries, we were hated because of our so-called race. (Judaism is actually an ethnoreligious group, or, as Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan called it, “an evolving religious civilization.”) Now that both religious- and racially-based hatred are out of favor, we’re hated because of our country.

Helpful tip: If you replace the word “Zionists” with “Jews” in what you’re saying or writing, and it sounds very obviously antisemitic, you know damn well you’re not just innocently criticizing specific policies of the Israeli government.

I never see these obsessed clowns even mentioning real human rights abuses in countries like Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Venezuela, China, Turkey, Russia, Libya, and Nigeria. Just the only democracy in the Middle East, the only Jewish-majority country that’s ever existed. And to make it even worse, they often use Holocaust inversion and soft Holocaust denial in their propaganda.

These people distort history, use doctored and decontextualized pictures and videos, and outright lie in their quest to pretend Israel is, as Bob Dylan sang in a song of the same name, a neighborhood bully for daring to defend herself against terrorism and repeated attempts at destruction.

Oh, and fringe tokens like Neturei Karta and JStreet do NOT represent the vast majority of the Jewish world.

Bottom line: I’m sick of non-Jews goysplaining what is and isn’t antisemitism, and the outright falsehoods, slanders, and threats. When you parrot Hamas talking points, you contribute to the international spike in hate crimes.

Get out of your damn woke bubble and talk to people who don’t share your groupthink!

Posted in Dante, Divine Comedy, Writing

IWSG—Life imitating art

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

It’s time for another meeting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The first Wednesday of each month, we share struggles, triumphs, quandaries, and fears. This month’s question is:

What would make you quit writing?

Death. I want to die with my boots on and write till the last possible moment, till Archangel Michael descends to Earth to carry my soul away. I also want to give it my all till the end instead of phoning it in if my health declines, the way Freddie Mercury still sang like a god even when he was dying.

I knew going in I probably wouldn’t come anywhere close to 50K for JuNoWriMo, and I was right. At least I didn’t set myself up for a crushing disappointment and denial of reality by pretending otherwise. But it wasn’t so much my overall slowed writing progress caused by lockdown this time as it was life imitating art.

I thought I’d begin my new alternative history on the first of the month, esp. since I’ve been wanting to do this for 17 years and finally pulled together a storyline and many details. But I just couldn’t do it immediately.

I finally began it on 9 June at 9:00 at night, since nine was Dante’s favorite number and it appears often in his work. Then it was really slow going for awhile until I overcame my initial doubts and cowardice. After all, who am I to not only write about one of the greatest writers in history, but in the first person? I’m not that chutzpahdik, am I?

At the end of Canto I of Inferno, Dante is really hopped-up about going on the otherworldly journey promised, particularly since it means he gets to hang out with his idol. But then, at the start of Canto II, he’s seized by a fit of cowardice and second thoughts:

“Then I began: ‘O poet come to guide me,
tell me if you think my worth sufficient
before you trust me to this arduous road….

But why am I to go? Who allows me to?
I am not Aeneas, I am not Paul;
neither I nor anyone would think me worthy;

and so, if I should undertake the journey,
I fear it might turn out an act of folly—
you are wise, you see more than my words express.'”

I think it’s a good portent that I did have some second thoughts, hesitation, and cowardice. Writers should have a healthy dose of pride and chutzpah, but it should be combined with humility and caution. If you’re going to write about real people from history, particularly in the first-person, you need to be 100% motivated by love and respect. It’ll be obvious in the finished product if you only chose that person to mindlessly follow a trend or because you thought s/he sounded cool.

I’ll be discussing this in much greater detail in a future post, but suffice it to say for now, I’m absolutely horrified at this turn of events, and how many writers happily cheered on Ms. Powers’s firing. Since May, a lot of people have been showing some very ugly true colors in their support of antisemitism repackaged under the guise of being woke.

I won’t name and shame, but a writer I considered a virtual friend for quite a few years soft-blocked me on Instagram because I shared so many stories calling out antisemitism and supporting Israel’s right to exist and defend itself against terrorism.

Pardon my French, but if you feel the same way as the “I’m not antisemitic, but…” crowd, Allez vous faire foutre! You are not my friend or ally, and your rhetoric has helped to fuel the recent spike in hate crimes all over the world. Yet again I’m deeply disappointed in the popular face of the writing community nowadays.

I’ve set a lowball goal of 15K for Camp NaNo, and so far am on track to achieve it. As I’ve been doing since 2017, I also count blog posts as creative nonfiction towards my wordcount.

Are you doing Camp NaNo? Have you ever had an “I am not Aeneas, I am not Paul” moment in your own writing or life?