Friday, May 4, 2007

Shabbat Ideas - May 4, 2007

It is really nice outside and I am very much looking forward to a lovely Shabbat dinner with friends and family, here are my Shabbat Thoughts for May 4, 2007.

"We wanted a synagogue, and we wanted a Reform one," said the 82-year-old. "There were no other Jewish organizations in the area at that time."
Lefty Jews?!?! NO WAY
I like yoga at the gym not at the synagogue

Is Yiddish is cold, but not dead.

Michael Chabon, author of many books having to do with Jewish themes and what is now being called anti-Semitism – because of his new book The Yiddish Policemen’s Union - spoke this week at the 92 Street Y on the Upper East Side. He discussed at great length the process that brought him to write this book. It had a lot to do with the cultural need for Yiddish to survive. I have ordered the book and am looking forward to reading it.

He spoke about what Yiddish cultural is today. He said the spoken word of Yiddish is not heard as much any more. I argue that the spoken word of Yiddish culture is having a re-birth. Now this might be because I am living in the middle of the most Jewish non-Jewish city in the world, but I believe with everything I am that we are seen the re-construction of a Yiddish culture.

We may not speak Yiddish anymore, but we live Yiddishe lives, debate Yiddishe topics, politic in Yiddishe ways. Just this week Chabon and his wife, Israeli born American author Ayelet Waldman, called upon friends and family to donate money to Barak Obaman’s presidential run. In this letter they ask for money by writing a paragraph of questions that you can just hear an old country yenta saying:
“Have you ever voted for a candidate you really believed in? We haven’t. Don’t you want to? Once in your life? Can you even imagine the joy of being able to do that?”

Read that quote out loud and as quickly as you can. Tell me you don’t hear a voice from the past in your own mouth? You see what I did just then? I made you do it Yiddish. But why is this happening?

I believe that many American Jews, all of these disaffected anti-establishment types, want to move away from what their parents wanted, which was to move away from what their parents had. While this is a very simplistic argument, it has some merit.

But I also think this has to do with people be sick of the macho better than you Zionism or anti-Semitism attitude of many Jewish organizations. Yeah yeah, there is no one way to be a Zionist blah blah, but really we all know that the major orgs has just a few ways they let into the “no one way” model.

Anyway…Yiddish culture is and has always been an alternative and intellectual culture of resistance. Chabon told his group of Jews this week that every good Jewish boy feels a little guilt when he does something bad, but also a little devil inside of him drives him to do this more and push the envelop of acceptable culture. How would such a thing come about? In a culture that promotes ideas and debate…like Yiddish.

Yiddish is coming back because there is too much in Jewish culture to be bound up in the trifurcation of perceived Jewish identity: Israel, the Holocaust, and anti-Semitism. Yiddish is filling in a gap where people are asking for more. Is the language going to die within a generation or two? It is most likely, but the culture will live on.

Shabbos Sholom

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