Righteous Jews, Self-Righteous Critics


I think we can safely assume that many men reading The Jewish Week have been in love with a fair number of religious Jewish women, have had a crush on a good number more, and only wish they were given the time of day by a dozen other Orthodox women so breathtakingly beautiful, to paraphrase “Farewell, My Lovely,” that they could make an angel kick a hole in a stained glass window.

I’m no expert, never have been, but in the interests of full disclosure, I’m the child of one, the husband of another, a friend to many, and the father of two. Anybody wants to talk trash about religious Jewish women, well, pal, you better be smiling when you do.

With that emotional background, and this column having rabbit ears for slights against Jews of any variety, you can imagine how I took to the fightin’ words I heard in a clip of “The View” (Jan. 21) that a reader was kind enough to send me, guessing correctly that “The View” isn’t this writer’s natural habitat.

The guest was Susie Essman, one of the stars of “Loving Leah,” a Hallmark special that aired Sunday night, in which Essman plays a Chabadnik. Essman, explaining her character, says, “I, as the religious mother, am very much against [my daughter] marrying a secular Jew.”

Barbara Walters: “Where did you go to in your own head, since you’re not religious, to understand how this mother felt?”

Essman: “I went… as if my daughter was going to marry a right-wing Republican.”
The audience guffawed. Of course, on a show like “The View,” there are few things that four of the five co-hosts loathe more than a right-wing Republican. However, we doubt even the most liberal Upper West Side mother would prefer her daughter marry a left-wing Democrat who looks like Al Sharpton or Dennis Kucinich rather than a rich and handsome Republican.

The idea of Essman comparing right-wing Republicans, whom she despises, to Chabad’s kindness and willingness to socially interact with secular Jews, not one of whom is turned away from a Chabad House, is simply ignorant.

But what makes Essman’s righteous liberalism all the more unfortunate is what she goes on to say about chasidic women. Essman was asked by Joy Behar, “So what did you learn about the chasidic religion?”
Well, said Essman, “they’re not very good dressers… Have you seen what these women look like half the time?”

Behar replied, “Well some of them are pretty and some, you know, like everybody else.”
“Yeah, yeah,” said Essman dismissively.

Now let’s imagine the subject were black women. Imagine someone on “The View” saying of black women, “they’re not very good dressers… Have you seen what these women look like half the time?”
Would not the speaker be branded as a racist, an instant pariah? Why is it OK to speak that way about Orthodox women?

I remember the photo of Rivka Holtzberg, the Chabad woman who was murdered in Mumbai. She wore a wig, like the ones mocked on “The View.” She was attractive, if I could be forgiven for speaking of her that way, all the more attractive for the dignity she exuded precisely because of her wig and modest style of dress. I was reminded of her not only for her style, but also because of her dead child.

There was an item in Reuters the other day from Gaza, quoting psychologists and trauma experts on how the war will make Gaza children into the Hamas terrorists of tomorrow: “Counselors and aid workers fear that Gaza’s children… will grow up hating Israel and become easier prey for extremists.”

Has anyone written, anywhere, that Jewish children, such as little Moshe Holtzberg, might grow up hating anyone, let alone become easy prey for terrorist recruiters? Why is that future only assumed for Islamic children? There have been many thousands of Israeli children whose parents were murdered by Muslims; millions more who were in concentration camps or whose parents were. Where are the psychologists interviewed by Reuters to explain why so few of these Jewish children, in Israel or the United States, have grown into violent adults? Why not, if a murderous second-generation resulting from wartime trauma is so inevitable?

Reuters spoke to a Gaza father who said he’d like his son to attend university, but wouldn’t talk him out of taking up arms. “He has witnessed the events by himself,” said the father, “so he, by himself, hates Israel.”
Who thinks that the orphaned Chabad child will grow up hating all of Islam because Muslims murdered his parents, a murder he probably saw? Reuters never explains why not.
E-mail: jonathan@jewishweek.org

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