Jews, Non-Jews and Ethics

March 28, 2011

Following the recent terrorist attack in Jerusalem, I came across a predictably biased media report. Toward the end of an ITN news segment, the reporter says, “Israeli police called the bombing a ‘terrorist attack’ – their term for a Palestinian strike.” Wow. Someone leaves a bomb in a bus station filled with innocent civilians, and that’s merely a strike?! Just in case this reporter needs a refresher course, there’s a huge difference between guerrilla warfare and terrorism: guerrillas strike military forces; terrorists target civilians. Apparently, Israeli civilians don’t count. Listen closely at around 0:52 of the video:

It’s incredibly frustrating to witness the constant double standard directed against Jews and Israel. While we have every right to call out such prejudice, we can’t let it affect us to the point where we stop doing what is right. Despite the fact that virulent anti-Semites will always blame Jews no matter how ethically we behave, the same is not true for everyone else. Whether we’re dealing with difficult people in our personal lives or the world-at-large, it’s easy to fall into the trap of rationalizing that we only have to act ethically toward those with whom we agree. This might be emotionally satisfying, but Judaism demands more than that.
Sefer Mitzvot Gadol (152b) states that we cannot mislead anyone – Jew or non-Jew – in any matter. If we were to cheat other people, particularly in financial dealings, they will say that God chose a nation of thieves and deceivers. This kind of Chilul Hashem (desecration of God’s name) is among the worst of sins. Furthermore, who would want to abide by the Seven Noahide Laws (which were transmitted through us), let alone convert to Judaism, if we act this way? On the other hand, when we conduct ourselves along the highest ethical standards, we create a Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God’s name).
The Chofetz Chaim provides a great example by way of a story told over by his son. There was once an incident involving workers at a Warsaw printing press where some of his books were being prepared for publication. Late in the afternoon on a Friday, one of the workers saw the Chofetz Chaim running down a small side street. It was an odd sight to see him at such an hour because it was almost time for Shabbat. It didn’t take long before word spread about what had happened. The Chofetz Chaim discovered that one of the workers at the printing press left before being paid. In order not to violate the prohibition against not paying a worker’s wages on time (Deuteronomy 24:14-15), the Chofetz Chaim found out the man’s home address and rushed to pay him.
When God speaks to Jacob in Genesis 28:14, He says, “and through you and your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” This is quite a lofty calling, but one that we can fulfill on any given day by engaging in ethical behavior. If non-Jews have good encounters with Jews, they will feel blessed. However, if non-Jews feel unfairly treated, we inevitably create a terrible Chilul Hashem. From this idea, perhaps we can draw a kal vachomer (an inference from minor to major). If we’re supposed to strive for impeccable behavior around non-Jews, how much more so should we act decently toward one another. Like charity, good behavior should start at home.
Related to this issue, Dennis Prager has an interesting observation. He suggests that one of the most important days in a religious person’s life is when they meet a member of a different religion – or of a different denomination within their own religion – who is both a good and intelligent individual. Such an encounter forces a person to consider that the other group’s followers are not all bad or unintelligent. We’re perfectly free to believe that members of other religions – or of other denominations within Judaism – are theologically flawed. But does that mean they are bad people? Not necessarily. Whether or not they engage in ethical behavior determines the answer to that question.


Coasties, JAPs, Sexism, Weeds, Rejuveniles and the Definition of Hotness

December 23, 2009

I seldom use this space to cry “anti-Semitism” or to rail at the misogynist patriarchy, but every once in a while, the Jewish feminist in me uses her guest posting privileges.
why not? it’s a reality we totally deal with. stop kissing ass to your “liberal” and “progressive” friends… and you totally know what I’m talking about here Ester. don’t act like I can’t define you because I hate that. you know damn well you want to rant about shit, but ranting about a philosophy and world view is very different then ranting about your genetilia and who wears the pants. both can be fun to talk about however, but really you act as if feminism should be taken seriously at this juncture. you can choose to be a Jew. I never chose to have a penis Ester. It’s wrong to put the two subjects together. it leads to some kind of equivalence argument that you package for your liberal readers. excuse me as I thumb my anus a little bit…
Coastie Over the past week or so, my Jewish circles online and off have been buzzing about two things. Most recently, this video (“The Coastie Song,” via DCC at Jewschool) from the University of Wisconsin that is an ode to (or perhaps a condemnation of) the East Coast Jewish honeys who are blowing Daddy’s money. But even before that came this Details magazine article by Christopher Noxon, celebrating “The Rise of the Hot Jewish Girl” – with its subtitle of “Why American Men Are Lusting After Women of the Tribe,” hailed by many as a long-overdue paean to Jewish girls, or women.
oh come on… this is a no brainer. it’s because they have written Jews off as elitist and getting to screw an elitism is like busting a virgin. it is pathetic and about power. My last boss in advertising was a Greek and he used to spend half his time telling me about the Jewish women he screwed… probably because I was a Jew and he thought it pissed me off. It didn’t really because any woman no matter who her parents were that thought that guy was worth screwing deserved what she got… probably a disease. He obviously didn’t think highly of any of his Jewess trophy screws because he settled down with a Venezualan who shared his Chavistan politics… but that is another story.
After a few mentions of Rachel Weisz, Natalie Portman, and Mila Kunis, the focus is revealed to be Jewish women in pornography. As feminist site Jezebel noted, “It’s a pretext for a package of “JILFS” (guess) that include photos of and interviews with starlets whose appeal hasn’t historically hinged on their rabbinical status.” Are these two pieces of popular culture evidence for the appeal of Jewish women, or are they insults masked as compliments? Are they anti-Jewish, or anti-women, or neither?
well ya knows… they did kill an awful lot of us off. if one were a bitch connoisseur and not a real lover… a kind of ego based pursuit in the bedroom kind of thang?
It’s not that the “Coasties” song itself is so bad – I mean, these guys didn’t invent the term (although they did put a beat to defining it) – and with or without “Coasties,” the JAP stereotype (as much as all stereotypes) is still alive and well. As a friend just pointed out in an IM chat, women getting offended by this video is kind of like him getting offended by a portrayal of the ludicrous men on “Jersey Shore” (which I’m not sure about, but I get what he’s saying).
really I have no idea wtf you are talking about Ester. Coasties? background on that please. I spend most of my time hanging out online and don’t go to bars. how on earth did Jews get called Coasties? is it because we aren’t in Middle America? boy is that a myth
I’m pretty sure that this stereotype has skipped me – I’ve neither the money nor the inclination to spend $500 (or even $15) on sunglasses or wear Uggs (although I admit, I am from the East Coast and occasionally drink Starbucks). But as a single Jewish woman, I still suffer the fallout from stereotypes. After years of writing about relationships between Jewish men and women, I believe that anything that paints Jewish women in general as superficial damages the reputation of all Jewish women, and empowers others to use this stereotype as fact in conversations and in cultural products. (Despite it’s clever riff on “Gold Digger,” this is why I’m not a fan of the “Gelt Digger” t-shirts.)
well Amen Sister. of course it is bullshit. my sister barely gets by as well. but I think there still is something special about you for being a Jew
People who may not know many Jewish women and who form their opinions of things based on popular culture may see this kind of video in a vacuum and determine that the behavior depicted is typical, or may read the Details article and think all Jewish women are porn stars.
now we are all porn stars… oh lord… what next will they say? it isn’t our fault that we are often top of our field. oops elitism…
But even people who should know better and who deal with Jews many times a day use these tropes to justify bad dating behavior. I think there’s a reason that on JDaters Anonymous, my most-commented-on post of the last two years is “Driving the Jewish Men Away,” offered originally in jest, but leading to some bitter conversation on why Jewish women may or may not be at fault for the lack of available, willing Jewish men.
hey Ester… I might be available this month. moo ha ha ha… but seriously… guys really don’t like to be a commodity. especially since our chances of employment are no better then yours and yet our sexuality is completely tied in to our ability to provide. frankly I’ve given up on that fight… hence all my social networking that doesn’t bring me a profit. my best friend is a Jewish Doctor. I can set you up with him if you want… he really gets turned off by women and their needs however. He makes plenty of money and he is a great guy… ok maybe a little passive aggressive, but other then that… he’s my best friend, but he remembers being the nerdy kid that girls wouldn’t touch and he resents the behavior of most dames.

In the Details article, I learned that Jewish women are only seen as hot when they shatter the otherness/expectations/limitations of their Jewishness, through looking, behaving or sounding not-particularly-Jewish but while otherwise conforming to contemporary standards of attractiveness. Heterosexual men are attracted to conventionally hot women – although we could unpack how conventional attractiveness is constructed, this is not really a news story. As for Jews in porn, a population that I doubt reads this blog, they are working in an industry that by its definition casts all its actors as sex objects – so that men (gentiles or Jews) who enjoy watching women in porn also enjoy watching Jewish women in porn is, again, not a surprise.
translation: be a blonde Gentile woman and pretend to be Jewish for hotness. I knew a lot Caucasian non Jewish Girls who were adopted into Jewish families when I was growing up and they did very well in life.
Jezebel blasted writer Noxon for his Details piece; I don’t know Noxon personally, but I do know, as a writer, that you can’t always assume the piece – or even the headline – is the writer. But what I think is interesting is that Noxon has his own experience with Jewish women, most notably his wife – “Weeds” creator Jenji Kohan – which we can only hope/assume inspires a positive image of Jewish women. So we can assume (or at least, I’m assuming) that Noxon’s perspective is not an inherently anti-Jewish or misogynistic one.
some stereotypes have some truth to it I guess… any niche sexuality shtick has it’s drawbacks. I wouldn’t want to be a nebbish Jewish stereotype that often can lead to success. I prefer to be my obnoxious self that isn’t afraid to offend anyone. I’m a one girl kind of guy and I see no benefit of playing to that libidinal cliche.
While I was on Noxon’s site, I read about his last book, “Rejuvenile” – an examination of how people (mostly men) are holding onto childlike behaviors and putting off adulthood (in this clip reel from his site, he talks about how he met and eventually proposed to Kohan – on the kickball field), and how this presents an opportunity for marketers. But my question is, how is this desire to look, feel, act and be younger, this maintaining the grip on a more adolescent attitude, impacting relationships in terms of both shaping attraction and commitment?
is this about Jewish guys or guys in general? Women seem to be very tolerant of this boy stuff. I find it to be as annoying as most women. it really leads to a lot of school yard style abuse. if anything I find women benefit from the Bull fighting and school yard play. It produces a more dominant mate, but then you have to share him. you can always chase Ishmael out of the tent though. they say Gorillas live in Harems. So do some Arabs in Saudi Arabia.
ooops… I said something elitist again
Standards of beauty and which traits are considered attractive in women in a particular era are a product of that era’s social norms, expectations and culture. What’s interesting to me is what plays out in popular culture – although Jewish men don’t have to look a certain way to be seen as desirable as long as they display other traits (intelligence and/or humor, primarily) that are considered attractive, the language around attractive Jewish women seems to require us to see their primary worth as attractiveness first and as an afterthought add, “and you’d never believe she’s Jewish!”
Ester I can’t tell you how much psychology it forces most men to deal with. a lot of flattery and deceit. It really is a lot of work and it gets in the way of actually making a living… which is something a lot of ladies want their men to do. it’s not a problem for me however since I’ve given up on both making a living and flattering women. Most heterosexual guys are a lot less critical then the gay ones who are a lot of women’s best friends. the materialistic femme culture really isn’t men’s fault. It’s something you femmes do to yourselves.
This leads me to wonder about other assumptions about men and women in general, that women are more emotionally attuned and therefore attracted to inner substance and potential, while men are more visual, concerned with status and are attracted to appearance. And is all of this a concession to the overall emphasis on staying younger longer?
the status bit isn’t true. we aren’t concerned with status at all. it’s you who are. and we want you ladies. we don’t like to be humiliated and with all those Gorillas running around that you (ladies) encourage in the school yard the one thing that protects us is indeed status.
I lack the formal sociologist’s training or feminist educational background to do anything but conjecture.
just don’t shave your legs.
Besides, I wouldn’t want to make any generalizations – that could lead to dangerous stereotyping, accusations of misogyny and misandry, and, in a worst case scenario, to more YouTube videos. And no one needs that.
oh noes. wouldn’t want to be objective about anything. it is post feminism you are talking about?

below is what I posted on her profile…. ;^)

I’m enjoying your latest post… will get back to you on it later

6 hours ago

Noah David Simon

you do realize I’m going to tear you a new asshole for your opinions… but I’m going to enjoy every second of it. I’m going to be reposting parts of your latest blog post on my blog because I think you are dealing with some real juicy stuff… that I totally disagree with, but I admire that you aren’t afraid to think about.
Esther Kustanowitz

Believe it or not, I don’t write to incite you, or anyone. But honestly, I hope you’re engaging in the conversation on a high level, and not with the intention of tearing anyone a new anything, which I find to be a violent and uncomfortable image. I’m all about the conversation, but I believe it’s got to serve a purpose and be conducted with respect.

Noah David Simon

PS… I think you are hot. I guess that might niche me in the scurvy syber freak that is posting weird shit on my profile category and probably doesn’t have a job. I’m ok with that.
Noah David Simon

but I can tell you that most of my Jewish guy pals are more concerned with their Jewish noses then you know. I can also tell you that hooking up with a Jewish girl is near impossible… especially for a dude like me that is on edge and can’t keep a job because I scare people… probably because because I talk about shit. either way it’s a Jewish trait that I’m ok with. it is very true that I’ve got a big mouth… my looks have nothing to do with that. if I didn’t say a word you’d of thought I was an intimidating Spaniard or something. at any rate… my sister is the same. she has a big mouth and she don’t look like a JEW JEW… she looks like my sister.

Noah David Simon

oh yes… respect… um… right. um… well that takes time to think about being respectful. this is just me in reaction mode