Sunday, January 18, 2009

Madoff's Chosen People--A Dialogue (Sort Of)

My friend David Kudish wrote a thoughtful comment to my last blog but it apparently was too long for the "Comments" section of blogspot to handle. He asked that I post it on the blog which I am doing and then following it with my response.

Anyone who has thoughts or comments should feel to do the same.


I have several problems with your interesting comments. First, I take offense at the phrase “‘goyification’ of American Jews.”

I don’t respect those who use the monikers such as ‘kike’, ‘goy’, ‘wop’, ‘spic’, ‘wog’, ‘frog’, or the ‘N’ word that are so prickly and offensive. It is from another time (the 1950s and 1960s) that best be left in the past... like women who were taken to abortion hatchet men down dark alleys.

I would prefer that enlightened Jews use the phrase “Christianization” of American Jews. That is so less offensive and does not make us appear more elevated or superior by denigrating someone else’s background.

Then you make a leap to assuming “victory” because today, Jews are largely able to marry out of their faith. Is this a “victory” that would be celebrated by all Jews? Certainly not traditional or Orthodox Jews. (I tried this once; I married a non-Jew who demanded a very generous pre-nup agreement. I thought that I was fully prepared to address the complications but it turned out that I was not. And it resulted in a complicated series of painful problems that left me in an emotionally weakened and negative state of mind for many years. Maybe the sages are correct in advising that one should stick with their own? I know that you have married a Christian lady who is lovely, kind, generous and welcoming to your co-religionists and we, in turn, enjoy her company. So, please do not take this as criticism. It is not. It is an observation of probabilities and tendencies.)

Further, Larry thinks that we have passed the time of “real” anti-Semitism if one examines the metrics of disappearing impediments to career choice, geographical location for living, marriage partner or social club entrance and acceptability. There are strong undercurrents in many parts of the world whereby anti-Semitism has made a vigorous comeback. This is especially so in the Muslim areas of the world where the mosques (largely funded by Gulf-state Wahhabi Arabs whose coffers are flooded with petro-dollars) teach a virulently Jew-hating version of political Islam. But, let’s not fail to mention Western Europe and especially the United Kingdom whose institutions are trying to twist themselves into pretzels to accommodate Muslims’ calls for a dual system of civil governance — the embracing of Sharia in place of British law (a horrible precedent and a prelude to civil conflict).

Larry, you are a good-hearted fellow but often you bite off more than you can chew with attempts to make good-sounding panoramic sweeps of history of which you know less than you might realize. You sound good but your wide-ranging prescriptives sometimes fall short. I would suggest that you stick to doing what you do best, selling investment advisory services. If this is received as “hurtful” — it is not meant that way — I offer to share with you some of my wonderful single malt Scotch in Aspen this summer (when we are on break from working for tips parking cars ... given that our main line of work has evaporated).



Thanks for your thoughtful response. I don't take any of it as "hurtful" but I think much of what you say is misguided.

I used the term "goyification" advisedly and for a reason. It is not I but Joseph Epstein who seems to believe that phenomena such as Jews playing golf in great numbers or naming their children with appellations such as Meghan Goldberg or Hutchinson River Parkway III (a favorite of mine with credit to my friend Rabbi Joseph Telushkin)is a sign that our people has lost the essence of whatever it was that made us great.

I refer you back to his opinion piece in Newsweek that I cited and linked in my original blog.

The term "goyification" is my own because it hits a very large nail right on the head. Decades ago, friends of your family and mine were getting nose jobs and changing their names to make them look and sound less Jewish. They did not do that (as you suggest) to make themselves more Christian. None of them had the least interest in the Christian religion and they certainly did not accept Christ as their savior.

They didn't want to be Christians--they wanted to be goyim. They wanted to be able to live in the neighborhoods they wanted, join the clubs they wanted, get the jobs they wanted, and to send their kids to the best schools at a time when being Jewish was a real liability. It was about having full access to the American Dream and all that came with it.

Our parents and grandparents fought a fight for access to all aspects of that dream without having to make those changes and sacrifices and they won a huge victory. Along with full acceptance of Jews in this country came an increased willingness and even a desire on the part of non-Jews to allow their kids to marry us.

The ability to marry anyone we want was not the victory--it was an inevitable byproduct of being fully accepted in a free country where people can do pretty much whatever they want, even if they are Jewish.

I never said that the rest of the world is in the same place. It's not. That's what makes the U.S. such a unique and special place for Jews and pretty much everyone else. There is still anti-Semitism in much of the world. It's a problem and we and others need to work on it. But in the U.S., the only vestige that remains is Jew-hatred among a relative handful of bigots. That's a very different thing from anti-Semitism.

It also needs to be said that many of our Jewish friends seem to have fallen to the dark side in the bigotry and prejudice department. I can share with you dozens of hate-filled emails that I received during the presidential election full of hateful lies and slurs about the man who in a few hours will become our next president. It is clear that some of our people can dish out the venom as well as receive it.

If you want to play Divorce Horror Story Whipout, my sense is that we will end up with a lot more heat than light with numerous examples of painful situations on all sides of the ledger.

I was married to a wonderful Jewish woman for almost 30 years. We raised an amazing family and all of us grew as individuals and as Jews. For the last six years I have been married to a wonderful Catholic woman. My Judaism has never been a bigger or richer part of my life and I remain extremely grateful for my good fortune.

I'm sorry that your experience was more painful but I'm not sure that any important conclusions can be drawn from either of our stories other than that we are all lucky to live at a time of unlimited choices and in a country that gives us more freedom than Jews have ever had in any place or at any time in history. It's up to us to make those choices wisely. That's sort of the whole point of the Torah, isn't it?

The downside to having choices is that the decisions we make have consequences that are often unpleasant or expensive. It still beats the alternative of living trapped in a world without the freedoms we now enjoy. Billions of less fortunate people in other places have to deal with that reality every day.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. As always, I look forward and value your comments and as long as it end with us sharing a single malt, how bad can it be?


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