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Interview with Dave Deutsch Dave Part Two

I Party With Heeb Magazine

What better to celebrate the end of Holocaust Memorial Day?

Heeb Magazine threw a big party at 1707 N. Vine St in Hollywood Tuesday night, 4/29/03. It was scheduled to run from 9PM to 2AM.

I arrived outside the club at 9:30PM after circling the block four times before finding a free parking space. I struck up a conversation with a couple who were trying to produce movies and television. They'd come to see their friend Dave Deutsch, the "world's worst Jewish comedian" according to Heeb Magazine.

The man didn't understand what the evening was about. I told him it was a party thrown by Heeb. He didn't know anything about Heeb. Did they own the club? No, they're only renting it for one night.

I was going to bring a date but she was too tired, so I substituted David Poland as my date. He thought he'd arrive around 10PM. I'm on the list to get in but nothing about plus one. Publisher Joshua gets David on the list but David never shows.

I wander in and run into the female side of the producer couple. Her husband hasn't been able to get in. She needs to talk to Dave.

I see this tall guy with a yarmulke and fringes out. I figure he'll be the only religious guy at the party so I chat him up. He says his name is Dave Deutsch. I can read about him on page 35 of the latest issue of Heeb magazine. He's looking for two friends.

I hook him up with the producer lady and together they rescue her male partner from the humiliation of waiting outside to get in.

I meet Joshua Newman, the new publisher of Heeb. Joshua teaches two classes in Jewish philosophy at NYU, including one in Post-Holocaust Theology. He's clean shaven and clean cut, dressed like a professor or businessman.

Joshua, Dave (uberjuden at msn.com) and I chat. We're joined by a gorgeous Vietnamese-American writer, Lan Tran. She took a history class at NYU with Dave and they became friends. Lan put on her own one-woman show in New York. She loves Sandra Tsing Loh. I tell her I interviewed Loh for my Cathy Seipp profile and that gets me in Lan's good graces.

Josh says to Dave and Lan and I, "I knew you guys would hit it off." We spend most of the night talking to each other.

I see Michael Aushenker and Amy Klein from the Jewish Journal.

The club fills up. I think there are more women than men, and the women are generally yummy looking. Half the crowd is dressed up.

I spend most of the evening by the bar talking about writing and religion with Lan. I have two Diet Cokes at $3 each.

I know about 20 or so people in the room.

There are two stages above the bar. Scantily clad beautiful women dance provocatively.

Dave Deutsch tells me: "I won't tell your rabbi if you won't tell mine."

Married seven years, he has two kids.

Tan says she has to remember that she can't hug him. An Orthodox Jew should not hug the opposite sex (aside from his spouse and family).

Josh and Jennifer Bleyer, the 20-something creator and editor of the magazine, talk to the crowd briefly at 11PM. Dave comes on and does eight-minutes of stand-up. He's flown in for these eight minutes and skipped two days of teaching school.

He jokes about three genocides and straight panic. The crowd keeps chatting, largely ignoring him. He's smart and funny but it's a tough environment. He quits after finishing his rapid-fire routine in eight minutes and comes over to talk with Lan and I, his biggest fans.

I chat with Heeb editor and founder Jennifer Bleyer (Jen at heebmagazine.com) for ten minutes. She and her magazine have received a ton of press. She did 40-minutes on the Howard Stern Show. She'd never listened to Howard Stern. He was brutal. He got her to show her bottom. He bagged on Steven Spielberg, whose foundation made a $60,000 grant to Heeb. Howard made jokes about the Holocaust. Jen was in shock but handled herself well and was funny and charming.

Her parents in Ohio found out about her appearance the next Saturday morning at synagogue.

Heebmagazine.com got so many hits from her Howard Stern appearance it shut down the site. She was bombarded with offers to do threesomes and other sexual perversions. She turned them all down as well as invitations to Howard Stern parties. Not her thing.

Jennifer was raised in Conservative Jewish day schools and majored in anthropology at college.

She's dressed in jeans and seems sweet and approachable. Josh and Jen and company flew in to LA last week and leave Thursday.

The loud pounding music makes it difficult to communicate.

I look for a bathroom and accidentally open the dancer's room while they're changing. They grab me, hold me down, and do all sorts of things to me strictly prohibited by the Torah. Ok, the last sentence is false.

I find the men's room and while I am doing my thing, I look at the walls and find they are covered with photos of naked overweight women from various twisted porn magazines.

My friends Aaron and Denise walk in as I leave at 11:45PM.

For three nights in a row, I haven't had enough sleep.

Heeb publisher Joshua Neuman writes:

"A lot of people say to me, 'Dave, how can you, an Orthodox Jew, us a Braun razor made in Germany?' And I say, 'Hey, give credit where it's due: Those people know how to take the beards off Jews.'" The crowd, seated in the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Lower Manhattan, winces. The show had beeen billed as "There's Still a Fly in my Soup: An Evening of Young Jewish Comedy," and it was a big hit, up until this point. "So I guess you don't think the Holocaust is funny," he apologizes. "But I gotta tell you, it killed them back in Poland."

Meet the world's worst Jewish comedian. Thirty-three-year-old Deutsch, a high school history teacher during the day, has been waiting for his big break in the comedy world since moving to New York from Milwaukee in 1994.

...................................................................

J. writes Heeb Magazine: "I'm reading Heeb #2 right now and I'm already figuring out how you can fit into my life plan. I just returned from the Ukraine where I went with the innocent intention of visiting Hasidic gravesites on a Breslov pilgrimage. My hotel in Odessa was in the prostitution district however, and I ended up making a 21-minute shock-erotic-trash video using some of the local pros. The entire film was shot in eight hours using a home video camera on a budget of $300! The next morning, I was off to Berditchev to visit the grave of Rabbi Something-or-Other. Talk about extremes! Anyhow, I have found my calling and am looking for someone to take me under his wing, promote my hilarious brand of deviant sex tales and produce me. Screw the Torah, I was miserable there. I just want a life of pleasure now. Enclosed is my video. I expect you to love it and publicize it in your next issue. Get back to me on this!"

XXX: Did you walk around the party wondering why they were being so decadent during the sefira?

Sefira is a time of semi-mourning during the seven week run-up to the festival of Shuvuot (giving of the Torah).

I have a copy of the zine that this jennifer bleyer chick did in the mid-'90s - "mazel tov cocktail." It's not bad for, y'know, a 20 year old or whatever age she was, more punk rock style stuff. This is back when tower records used to sell zines. Heeb isn't *awful* but there's not exactly a lot of ideas flowing through it because it's operating from that snarky gen x perspective that Judaism is some kind of inside joke.

I Win, I Win

Dave Deutsch, the world's worst Jewish comedian according to Heeb magazine, writes me:

All right, you win--I thought my whole--US Army veteran, left-wing, pop-culture obsessed, trashy comic Orthodox Jew thing was pretty good, but I give you the trophy for most contradictory frummie. If you were born into the fold, I'd still call it close, but the conversion puts you over the top.

As for the write-up, thanks for the mention, I enjoyed both meeting, and reading about meeting you. I must, however, take umbrage at two things (I'd hoped, given how smashingly we'd gotten along, that umbrage would be freely given--one way or the other, however, umbrage shall be mine).

I didn't "give up." I did my routine, and was done. Please recall--I teach high school. Thus, I spend a considerable portion of my life performing in front of audiences who are ignoring me and talking amongst themselves.

I didn't discuss "the difference between gays and straights." I just made fun of straight panic. Saying I discussed "the difference between gays and straights" makes me sound like one of those awful black comedians who tell jokes about how white people drive vs. how black people drive.

Still, I'm too self-aggrandizing and egomaniacal to hold a grudge against somebody who'll write anything positive about me (I believe the words were "intelligent and funny;" at any rate, that's how I choose to remember them.) I'll take a closer look at your site when I get a chance. The baby's crying, and you know how those people from Child Protective Services can be.

Hey, do you mind if I forward this to Lan? I'm sure she'd love to see it. Keep in touch--perhaps we can one day form a special kehillah for depraved Orthodox Jews. Dave Deutsch

PS--I had no idea who you were at the club; I was informed later. I'd read about your travails in both the porn and frum world's some years back in the Forward. Personally, I think you got a pretty raw deal, and it's just a mark of the hypocrisy of Orthodoxy (by that I mean a sociopolitical movement, not halacha). If you'd just been a slumlord, or owned a tobacco company, they'd be all over themselves to honor you (at least if you were generous with your ill-gotten gains). But a humble (and I'd imagine, not terribly wealthy) porn reporter--how can we let him in our shul! At least I understand now your comment that you have so much in common with conservative Christians. I imagine they also spend much of their time trolling for porn. Take care, and gut shabbos.

Heeby Bachanal During Sefira Delays Arrival Of Messiah?

Dave Deutsch writes: I noticed you made a reference to attended the bachanal on sefira [Heeb party Tuesday night]. Two loopholes.

For talent such as myself, there's the exception allowed for making a parnossa, e.g., normally, one doesn't shave, but if your job requires it…

Some people don't begin observing sefira until after rosh chodesh, then observe it until shavuos instead of lag b'omer.

So we should be lenient, and think best of the yidn, and presume that everybody at the club had the minhag of beginning after rosh chodesh.

I'm the perfect rabbi; I always say yes (or maybe that just makes me the perfect date…)

Luke asks: If the Torah prohibits mixing linen with wool, what does it think about you hanging with shvartzes?

Dave replies: It's fine as long as I'm neither wearing nor consuming them. "Hanging with schvartses?" Yet another point of contact with conservative Christians--an affinity for lynching and derogatory terms for blacks.

Heeb's New Competitor - Keyk Magazine

JustMrT writes: Luke - I'm kicking around the idea of taking a cue from the Maxim/FHM/Stuff/Gear/etc. wars and starting up a publication to compete with Heeb. My magazine -- tentatively titled "Keyk" -- will be aimed at Jews who are sufficiently self-hating that they will not only voluntarily purchase a periodical named for an offensive anti-semitic slur, but in fact purchase it from a Gentile publisher/editor-in-chief.

What do you think? Would you be interested in a position as a columnist?

Why The Term 'Schvartze' Is Racist

Dave Deutsch writes: Linguistically, the schvartzer question is an interesting one (I should have warned you; I completed the coursework and most of the exams for a PhD in Jewish Studies and American History--prepare to be bored). On the most basic level, of course, it simply means "black," and became the American Yiddish term for blacks (and, quite frankly, sounds a lot better to American ears than the more proper "Neger"--indeed, Yiddish use of "black" predates the Black power movement by several decades). The problem, of course, is that in dealing with race in America, nothing stays basic.

It began taking on a negative connotation a long, long time ago, stemming in large part from the nature of the relationship between Jews and blacks. In American Jewish idiom for much of the earlier part of the 20th century, "the schvartzer" meant "the cleaning lady," and while I see nothing shameful in being a cleaning lady, there was a certain dismissiveness to it, which was a reflection of the general attitude towards blacks. Ask yourself a question--do you ever hear it used in a complimentary way? Do you ever hear Jews talk about how wonderful Operation Solomon was "when Israel brought the schvartzes to the Promised Land?" No, when referring to Ethiopian Jews, or blacks to be admired, one rarely hears it. It is generally used in a dismissive way. "These schvartzes on the train were so loud."

Having grown up around Orthodox Jews, I can say with a clear conscience that I've almost always heard the word used in a negative or dismissive way. The one exception that I'll grant is to people who actually grew up in a Yiddish speaking environment, for whom the word really does maintain its original connotation, because it was simply the word they learned. However, when I hear somebody using the word who doesn’t speak Yiddish, its definitely a red flag.

We can compare schvartze in American Yiddish to the "zhid" in Polish and Russian. The word simply means "Jew," just like "schvartze" means black. But while in Polish, it's simply the proper word, and has no negative connotation (at least no more than the average Pole will impute to it), in Russian, the proper word is "Evrei," and "zhid" has the connotation of "kike." Sort of like the way "Yid" sounds different coming out of a Jew's mouth as opposed to a goy's mouth. Or to make it understandable to you Talmudic types, whatever the pshat of schvartze may be, the deeper meaning is a negative one.

There is actually an interesting reversal of this in American Yiddish. What's the word for a non-Jewish woman? You're probably thinking "shiksa." The truth is that the basic word is "goyte." (feminine version of goy). Shiksa is actually the feminine for sheygetz, which derives from a Hebrew word for vermin, and was originally used for really bad goyim. While sheygetz retains the negative connotation, Shiksa, despite its original meaning, has become simply the word for non-Jewish woman, and most people who use it have absolutely no idea what its original meaning is.

At any rate, I hope I provided some light on this, and, if you question my answer, I ask you to simply keep an open ear, and listen to how schvartze is used. Again, I want to stress that people don't necessarily use it intending to be racist--one of the ways its used is a matter of symbolic ethnicity--the sort of Yiddish that one throws in to show that you're a member of the tribe. But intentions notwithstanding, it’s a word with a lot of baggage (and as far as intentions go, when I was in the army, I knew a guy--who, I'll concede, was one of the dumbest people I've ever met--who used the term "nigger rig" in front of a black sergeant, and I don't think he had any thought that it was offensive)

Luke says: You can never call me a racist because I marched with MLK in Selma, Alabama in 1964 so negroes could have the right to vote...

Dave replies: That's nothing; I marched with Martin Luther in Wittenburg in 1519 so Lutherans could have the right to eat meat during Lent.

Luke writes: Why are you so sensitive to schvartzes while you mock the sufferings of your own people?

Dave Deutsch replies: The answers to the question are so numerous and so obvious that I can only assume that you find me utterly captivating and get giddy whenever I write you. I know this seems unlikely to you, but it gibes nicely with how I imagine the world to actually work, so I’ll proceed according.

Let me apologize in advance if I get preachy or tiresome, but, in my defense, you asked me. You probably operate under the assumption that my world view is standard issue PC secular leftie, etc. As I see it, though, I’m the one who’s really being true to the Torah, and if the Devil can quote scripture, I feel that with my 8th grade Day School education, I should be able to do so as well. A word like “schvartzer” offends me both as a Jew and a comedian.

First of all, I don’t think my response to “schvartzes” is sensitivity. I would say that it is menschlichkeit (unfortunately, too many people’s knowledge of Yiddish stops at “schvartze;” they’d do well to brush up on “menschlichkeit” as well). One of my criteria for being a mensch in my speech is that I don’t use a word to refer to a group of people, unless I would use that word to their faces. In the Talmud, the question arises as to which is worse, a gazlan (robber), or a goniff (thief). The answer is that the goniff is worse. Why? Because the gazlan robs openly, fearing neither man nor God, while the goniff, robbing secretly, fears man more than God. I don’t want to be like the goniff, calling people an ungodly name when they aren’t around to hear it, fearing them more than God.

Now, you may bridle at my use of the term “ungodly” to refer to harmless racist epithets. But, the way I recall it, we are all created b’tselem elokim (in God’s image—I don’t know how fluent you are with this stuff, but I also don’t want to patronize). Somewhere in the Talmud it says that when you shed human blood, it is as if you are attacking the image of God Himself, because we are all created in that image. So when a term suggests that somebody is of a lesser form of humanity, what else is that other than an attack on God? If blacks are created in God’s image, but all they are to you is “schvartzes,” then aren’t you also saying that God’s image is a despicable thing, too? While I accept a certain degree of Jewish particularism, there is an important principle in the Talmud that all humans are “bnei Adam”—the children of Adam, so that nobody can say to another “My father is greater than yours.” We may ultimately come from a more illustrious branch, be we all have the same roots. It is only in our actions that we differentiate ourselves. Thus, calling somebody a schvartzer or spic, or chink is different from calling him a “bastard” or “asshole” or “simpering troglodyte.” Those names just reduce him as an individual, based on his own behavior (and surely you recognize this principle, else why claim that you have more in common with conservative Christians than secular Jews?); a term like schvartzer, however, reduces him as a representative of the Divine, and this, as a frum yid, I cannot tolerate. I’ll leave the last word, however, to Rav Aharon Soloveitchik, who was more of an authority on the matter than anybody involved in this dialogue: “If an Orthodox Jew is a racist, it’s not because of what he learned in the Torah, but because of the Torah he didn’t learn.”

As a comedian, or at any rate, a man who, according to Luke Ford, is “funny and intelligent,” schvartzer offends me, not because its offensive, but because that’s all that it is. It isn’t funny, it isn’t original, it isn’t clever, it doesn’t make us look at the world in a new way, or deflate sanctimonious pomposity. It’s just petty name calling, and I like to think I’m above that (now, sophisticated name calling is another matter.) Consider the word “homo.” Also, an offensive term. But you made reference to “homos holding hands in shul,” so that, while I may disapprove of the term, I can at least admire your mastery of alliteration (although it should be noted that the same admiration could arguably be due Heinrich Himmler, who ran the SchutzStaffeln, which operated the concentration camps, like Bergen-Belsen, from which we learn that alliteration doesn’t always make you a good or even particularly handsome person).

So why do I make light of my people’s suffering? Well, number one of course, they are my people, so, to borrow from Hillel, “If not me, who?” But more to the point, I make light of it, because my people are so serious about it (and I will note as a matter of disclosure that my father is a refugee, so both the Holocaust and the obsession with it is not entirely abstract for me). Quite frankly, I think the American Jewish obsession with the Holocaust is a disaster, on so many levels. I think, quite frankly, that we could take a page from Pat Moynihan, and discussion of the Holocaust could use a little benign neglect. On this, I give some points to the Orthodox—it happened, it was horrible, commemorate it on tisha b’av, and move on.

I’ll tell you something funny about my Holocaust Museum gig that Josh left out of the story. Just a few minutes before the Holocaust material, I told a joke about a Jew being killed in a pogrom by Cossacks—the crowd loved it. I’ve had the experience elsewhere as well. See, people aren’t objecting to the notion of Jews being killed; they are objecting to Jews being killed during the Holocaust. People can laugh about all kinds of other misery, but not the Holocaust? People who know nothing about Judaism or Jewish culture think that being utterly humorless about the Holocaust makes them a good Jew. This is a piety which I find both perverse, and worthy of skewering.

As for blacks, why make fun of them? The job of the jester is to criticize the king. What do they have? Do they have political power? Financial power? Cultural power (arguably, yes; but I would argue that whites adopting of black cultural poses doesn’t translate into any particular respect or power for blacks themselves). The only power they wield in America is fear, and, then, only on an individual basis. People might fear the possibility of the black mugger; they don’t have any fear of the collective power of black America, because that power is pretty much non-existent. Organizational Judaism, by contrast, is very powerful, and so if my comedy causes some dyspepsia in the halls of the ADL, more power to me.

Finally, you, and, unfortunately, you are not alone, are completely short-sighted in your desire to use words like “schvartzer.” See, I want to live in a world where I can make fun of anyone and anything. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, because the fact is that in the United States, there is a real history of systematic oppression of blacks, which carries over to this day both in the behaviors of many whites, and in the visceral response of many blacks. I recognize that being a white American, while I don’t have any guilt for what has happened, I do share in the responsibility for not perpetuating the sins of the fathers (and, I can say that, even if it wasn’t my biological fathers, because, being a democracy, we have a government that represents the people. The sins of the government are our sins as well). There are still plenty of raw nerve endings exposed; I see it as being a matter, as noted, of simple menschlichkeit, not to touch those exposed nerves. But aside from common decency, there is a self-serving motive as well. I recognize that until those wounds are healed, there will be some jokes that will be verboten. That may be fine for some, but not for me.

I have a dream, of the plantation owner’s great-great-great-grandson, telling a joke about the stupid, lazy, forty-dog drinking great-great-great-grandson of the slave, and both laughing uproariously. The problem is that all these pricks who think they’re being so revolutionary by making snide racist remarks are helping keep those wounds open, preventing my dream from becoming a reality. Won’t you join me, help stamp out serious racism, so that we can live in a utopia where comic racism may grow and flourish…Just do me a favor, and think about what you’re doing to my dream the next time you’re about to say “schvartzer.” I’d go on, but, quite frankly, even I’m starting to find me tiresome.

Dave Robb Issues A Challenge

Journalist Dave Robb writes Luke 6/1/03: "You are a liar. As you well know, after our brief encounter at the Writers Guild Theater, when I hurt your feelings by refusing to shake your slimy little hand, I stood there in the aisle talking to Ross Johnson and watched you slink off to lick your wounds. There is a park in Beverly Hills called Roxbury Park. It's on Olympic Blvd. near Century City. You name the time and I will meet you there at the north/west corner and I will beat the shit out of you. Dave Robb"

Luke says: Baloney. You backed off after Ross introduced me. Ross then wanted to get rid of me so he could finish his conversation with you. So I left quickly and you resumed talking to Johnson.

Gentle reader: Is it nobler for me to meet Dave Robb on a field of battle and vanquish him or should I plead Orthodox Judaism and take the spiritual way out?

Dave Deutsch writes: Morally speaking, of course, you should try and mend fences. Did you lie about the guy? If so, that would, of course, be wrong, and necessitate an apology.

If that's not what you're going for, however, then avoid the fight, and make fun of the guy. Here's your situation: Here's a guy clearly upset by what you write--so if you don't want him to be upset, then, as noted above, apologize and offer to buy him a beer--you'll feel better come Yom Kippur. If you want him to be upset, then fighting him gets you nothing. If he wins, you give him satisfaction, and if you win, it won't bother him any more than if you keep writing about him (I had a situation like this in basic training--guy wanted to kick my ass, so I just made fun of him for 13 weeks because I knew he couldn't do anything about it). Here's a rule to live by: 98% of the time, when somebody tells you they're going to kick your ass, you have absolutely nothing to worry about, because those who does it won't tell you beforehand. On the other hand, be aware that for the other 2% of the time, you're in for the ass-kicking of your life.

Personally, I'd go with making peace (I'm older and frummer than I was back in boot camp).

Try this: "You know, I really have to give you credit. When I wrote ______, I thought you'd be angry. But now, you write telling me that not only aren't you angry, but you actually want eat the shit out of me. I appreciate the offer to toss my salad, and, quite frankly, your magnanimity shames me. What else can I do but apologize for ______________, and if you still want to eat the shit out of me, I'll buy you a drink and we can see where it goes from there."

If that's not a brilliant apology, I don't know what is.

On the other hand, that apology may drive him into a homicidal rage. You might want to try sincerity, feigned or otherwise.

And you know what would be a good olive branch? Why don't you see if he wants to get together draft a blogger's code to prevent these sorts of things from happening in the future. A Road Map of Principles to Guide Bloggers in their Online Treatment of One Another, or ARMOPTGBITOTOOA, as an easy to remember acronym.

I just read the offending piece. If, in fact, you did lie about the encounter, then I suppose you owe him. If you didn't then you owe him nothing.

Here's a lesson from basic training--this guy kept wanting to take me "to the woodline" (beyond the barracks--in BT mythos, a place where the rules don't apply) to kick my ass. I would tell him that if he wants to do it, then he should just do it where we were, in the barracks--I'll tell the drills sergeants, and he'll get busted--otherwise, he should shut up.

This went on for almost the entire 13 weeks, and he never learned to stop impotently threatening me. So while I, older and wiser, advocate peace, if you really didn't wrong the guy, simply find out where he's going to be, some function or another, and place yourself near him. Greet him, be civil, cordial, downright friendly. He will, in all likelihood, do absolutely nothing, and from that point on, any threats he levels at you can be met with "Hey, don't pull that tough guy act with me--you had your shot at the Rabinowitz bar mitzva, and you didn't take it when you had the chance." If he does slug you, then girls will be all over you, because you'll appear like this David Niven-like bon vivant who was willing to patch things up before this brute assaulted you.

And what the hell kind of lightweight brags about how he'll lose control of himself after "two beers?" If he'd be so out of control that he'd assault you after two, would he sexually assault you after four?

6/4/03

The World's Worst Jewish Comedian

Dave Deutsch writes: Glad to see that you resolved things peacefully [with Dave Robb]. But it's interesting that this guy was on this strange enraged jag for three days. If he'd actually assault you with two beers, this must have been the product of one beer. Now, I can accept that the guy can't hold his liquor, but my god, a three day drunk on one beer?

As for the IQ thing, do you actually know what IQ signifies? I don't. I don't know if you're familiar with the Flynn Effect, but I enclosed an article about it. Read it, and ask yourself if we are smarter, wiser, more decent, less prone to criminality, more industrious, etc., than our forebears sixty years ago, many of whom, apparently, would be considered borderline retarded by today's standards of IQ.

I never quite get why discussions of race in America must be "all or nothing." "Is America racist, or is it a land of opportunity?" As opposed to simply recognizing that while America offers numerous opportunities for its racial minorities, discrimination remains a significant problem (see attached article).

Moreover, white who argue that this is a land of opportunity (and that racism against minorities isn't a problem), don't seem to be so optimistic when it comes to affirmative action. Then America is a horribly racist country where the poor white man can't ahead.

White crybabies are actually a pet peeve of mine. When blacks complain about racism, you may disagree with their conclusions, but at least you have to concede that they are at least bringing up important matters--"I can't get a job," "I can't get an apartment, " "the police keep shooting me and 911 doesn't deliver in my neighborhood." What do whites complain about when the question of discrimination comes up?"

"Why can blacks call each other nigger, but we can't call them nigger? Why can black comedians make fun of whites, but we can't make fun of them?"

Of course, because those are real problems that affect the lives of large numbers of Americans. Personally, I'm dreading having "the talk" with my sons: "Son, I'm sorry, but it's time you learned the truth about life in America. Although you will face less discrimination in hiring, no discrimination in housing, have an easier time getting a loan or insurance, don't have to worry about police harassment or the odd accidental shooting, and will live longer and have fewer medical problems than blacks, you are going to have suffer under the yoke of not being able to call blacks "niggers." And if that's not bad enough, you can't put on a minstrel show, either. I know it's unfair; I know it's wrong. But that's life in racist America. I don't know, sometimes, I look at your face, and think "Those are lips which will never be able to openly call a black man "nigger," those are cheeks which will never know the feel of burnt cork, and I can't help but think to myself, "Is this what Martin Luther X gave his life for?"

Also up on my list of crybaby complaints is the "Why don't they learn English?" Yes, indeed, "whose country is this," when sub-minimum wage illegal aliens who work sixteen hours a day don't even speak English? Why, it's getting so you can't find a yard man, parking lot attendant, or sex slave who can carry on a decent conversation in English. I tell you, they are taking over.

On a lighter note, here's something to consider about IQ. The conventional wisdom is that one of the reasons why America has gone downhill is the granting of equal (or, if you prefer, greater) opportunity to lower IQ minorities. Except that, based on the Flynn Effect, the IQ's of blacks today are roughly what white IQs were back in the 50's, when things were still good. So what's changed? It's not that we've let in low-IQ blacks (since their IQs are only low in comparison to whites today, not to whites back in "the good old days"); rather the problem would seem to be high IQ whites. Note: I'm not saying that IQ has this sort of impact; But if one is inclined to make an argument based on IQ, this makes more sense than the conventional wisdom, since black IQs today would seem to be at the ideal level, given the hagiographic view the CW has of the 1950's.

Where Crime Comes From

Dave Deutsch writes: Just read a comment you made disparaging the notion that crime stems from poverty, and citing orthodox Jews as an example. Before I begin another one of my self-righteous lectures, how familiar are you with the fascinating history of Jewish criminality both here and abroad? (Incidentally, I would say that while anybody who blames crime solely on poverty is wrong, they are no more wrong than someone who denies it plays a significant role).

Luke says: Pretty familiar, and few of them were Orthodox...

Dave replies: So naïve, so very, very naïve. I don't have a whole lot of time now, since I have to finish grading my papers and Sunday I have to go Milwaukee for a week to help my parents move, but when I get back, you're in for an earful (eyeful? awful?) on Jewish criminality and American social history. Or you could just cut your wrists now.

Just one thing to tantalize you: in Rotwelsch, which is sort of a German thieves cant, the word for "prostitute" is "mezuza." (you know, because they stand in the door. That usage goes back at least to the 17th century or so, and there are actually many, many words in the jargon from Hebrew. How many Reform temples do you think were in Germany at the time?

Similarly, in Polish, many words associated with crime (like the words for "prison," "prostitute," and "police interrogation.") come from Hebrew. And in Russian thieves cant, there are also Hebrew loan words (the only one that comes to mind is "kesiva," for "document.") These were all Jews from the most traditional backgrounds.

To make an argument that Orthodox Jews are not prone to crime is meaningless--you can say the same about pretty much any normative religion. Replace "Orthodox" with "Devout," and I think it fair to say that "Devout Black Baptists" are not likely to mug you. "Devout Mexican Catholics" are not likely to break into your home. Obviously, because the fact that they are devout means that they believe its wrong, and applies just as well to any of the major religions.

But you can't mix an argument that one group (blacks) is racially predisposed to crime, while comparing them with another group (orthodox Jews) that's culturally predisposed away from crime.

To compare Orthodox Jewish criminal behavior with blacks, you would have to compare it with equally religious blacks, and I don't know that they would necessarily come out favorably, at least not from what I see in the New York area.

If you want to compare blacks to Jews as a racial group, or African-Americans to Jews as an ethnic group, you can do that, but then you have to throw in the issues of poverty, acculturation, and the general transformation of American society since the turn of the century.

Anyway, I've got to run, but unless you throw yourself down and begin major chest beating (in a yom kippur way, not a gorilla way) you're in for it when I get back. Gut Shabbos.

I just remembered this, and couldn't resist sending it to you. In case you're not familiar, the Berditchever was one of the disciples of the Maggid of Mezeritch, and was famous for always finding the best in Jews (hint, hint).

REB LEVI YITZHOK STORY

One Eruv Pesach Reb Levi Yizhak of Berditchev told the Hasidim to go fetch him some German merchandise. Now At the time it was illegal to own German merchandise as some Russians had a monopoly on the market; and G-d forbid, you get caught, you would go to Siberia for it. The Hasidim were amazed at their Rebbe's request, but the Rebbe's command is the Rebbe's command, so off they went. They came back with much German merchandise because they had found it everywhere.

Then Reb Levi Yitzhok told them to go out and bring back some bread. The Hasidim were shocked, eruv Pesach bread? But he said, "Don't ask me questions, I need it very badly." So they went, and nowhere in Berdichev, and in those days the people were all Yidden, was any bread to be found. So they came back to Reb Levi Yitzhok empty handed.

So Reb Levi Yitzhak turned to the G-d and said, "Ribbono Shel Olam! See how much we love You. Our Tsar has police on every corner and he can't even stop the people from getting German merchandise. On the other hand, You, Master of the World have no police, and yet no Jew will ever disobey You."

A few points: Berditchev was on the border with the Austrian Empire, and was a major smuggling center. Who do you think they engaged in the smuggling? This story is such a great timepiece (I just cut and pasted this version, I would have written it differently, but I'm in a rush), because it's expected that Jews were smugglers, and nobody telling this would have thought that's odd. But just replace "tobacco" or "british wool" or "german goods" with "pot" or "opium."

This is what I really love; somebody figured out how bad this looks, and the way the story is usually told today, Levi Yitzchok either asks a goy to get him the smuggled goods (which makes no sense, because it was the Jews who were involved in trade in Berditchev, and consequently, smuggling), or just asks a random, religiously unspecified person on the street. But in this truer version, there's no doubt--he asks his chasidim, because he knows they're involved in smuggling.

My views on the sorry state of African-American (I don't use that term to be PC--I use it because it refers to a specific ethnic group, as opposed to an abstract racial group) culture. Most racially minded types make the mistake of presuming that the negative traits evidenced by African-Americans are because they are overly "African."

I would say just the opposite is true: African-Americans are actually the uber-Americans. Unlike most immigrants, who have retained something of their original culture, with traditional support structures, communalism, opposition to capitalism, etc, African-Americans had their cultures about as stripped away as they could, making them the perfect template for Americanization. Think about the negative traits--violence, materialism, anti-intellectualism--these are classically American, not classically African. Similarly, the positive stereotypes--linguistic and musical originality, a "happy-go-lucky" attitude, these, too, are classically American. These aren't "racial" traits, they are cultural ones, and the products of history, not biology.

Now, consider immigrants--be honest, if you were to see a couple of black teens on a dark street, wouldn't you feel better if you heard them speaking Patois, or French, or Portuguese? I know I would; I would immediately categorize them as "immigrants," I.e., people who came to work, have a certain initiative, drive, etc. The problem isn't immigrants, it's their American kids, who act like other American kids.

I don't have statistics, but I would be surprised to find that immigrants had as high a crime rate as similarly located (geographically and financially) native-born Americans.

Some years back, Pat Buchanan made a statement to the effect that if you took a group of northern Europeans and a group of Zulus, the former would fit in better in America. He's right, of course, but not for the reasons he believed. It's not that they would instantly have a better appreciation of American jurisprudence, its that they would already be familiar with all the vices that we know and love. Indeed, it's always been a bizarre blind spot of so-called cultural conservatives, like yourself.

Who do you think shares a closer outlook on society to you, the average American (who is, of course, reasonably secular and modern), or the average Mexican immigrant from a small village, who is probably pretty religious and conservative?

I'll leave you with one last Deutsch thought, that relates to race and crime. Whites inclined to connect the two only look at "small crimes--" robberies, rapes, muggings, etc, and offer that as proof that blacks are inclined to such behavior. But why not expand this to "great crimes?" Why isn't the Holocaust, or the Gulag system, or chattel slavery, evidence of an inherent barbarism locked deep within the genetic structure of every white man? Why is it "biological" when a large part of a nation engages in personal brutality, but "cultural" or even "political" when a large part of a nation engages in civic brutality?

7/3/03

Raising Jewish Kids In A Pagan America

Report by Orthodox grads warns of sex, drugs and ‘interdenominational dating’ at secular colleges. The Jewish Week article

Dave Deutsch writes:

There's some truth to it, of course, but there's also a question of order. Is it that college is making frum kids unfrum, or that kids less inclined to remaining frum are going to these colleges?

On a more basic note, is this a major chiddush [insight]? This has been going on since the early 19th century.

Some of the problems, I think, can be traced to Orthodox education. I know plenty of teenagers who are completely put off to Orthodoxy by their shiur rebbeim; some of these kids will give it up, and when they do so, nobody is going to say "Oh, they did it because Rabbi so and so called them worthless." No, they'll say "See what happens when you go to a secular school."

Similarly, I think Orthodox education ill prepares students for the real world, because its stress on that world is overwhelmingly negative. Kids grow up hearing how pretty much everything other than Orthodox Judaism is worthless. Then they go away to college, and find "Hey, there is some value in this life, and in this culture." It’s a shock, and its going to cause them to question. Furthermore, this approach is actually insulting to Judaism.

We should teach kids that there is value in lots of cultures (chochmas goyim), Judaism is still God's will. It's like saying "My wife is the most beautiful woman in the room, and everyone else is ugly" I'm not saying that she's beautiful, just that she's not as ugly. We should be teaching kids that the world is full of beauty, and that's also God's plan, but none of that is meaningful without the Torah. Instead, we just insult it all, thinking that that's going to inculcate kids against it.

Essentially, I see it this way: If a college is going to take a kid away from frumkeit [Jewish Orthodoxy], it's not because of something he got in college, but because of something he didn't get earlier on (though, to be sure, without the temptation, he might not have gone away in the first place).

Thinking more about it this morning, and I would also question what exactly is the phenomenon these people are talking about. Is it people actually leaving frumkeit forever, or is it kids taking a break during college? Saying that people don't go to daily minyan isn't exactly the same thing as tossing your tefillin into NY Harbor before you reach Ellis Island.

The Amish actually have a fascinating practice. Being Anabaptists, they are big on the notion that membership in the community has to be a real choice, not just something you inherit or do by rote. So when Amish youth turn 18 or so, they go out into the world and live a weltlich lifestyle for a few years, so that they can really decide what they want to do. Most stick with being Amish.

I came up with a term for people like Mr. Amalek and myself who latch on to a blog and use it as our own sounding board: Blog-trotter. Use it, pass it on to your blogging cronies, that I may be fully credited as the inventor. I have a friend who is a lexicographer, and if it gets used a few times, I can probably get it into her journal. I get nothing for this, but it should earn you a mention as being the first place to use it if it spreads.

Do you think I have what it takes to be a fancy Hollywood reporter like you?

Dave Deutsch writes: "Whom would you rather marry: A white, completely non-religious Ashkenazi who thinks a mitzva is a sports car, or a dark African-American frum woman, who makes a heartfelt brocho (blessing) over every forty-dog of malt liquor she drinks?"

Luke says: "The black woman. I'd rather live with religious black people than secular white people."

Dave Deutsch writes:

Here's a headline for you:

LUKE FORD PREFERS BLACK WOMEN!

Many people have called Luke Ford sick. What they didn't realize is that the ailment he's suffering from may be an incurable case of jungle fever. Although as well known for his witty racism as his racy witticisms, Luke Ford made a candid confession today: He'd prefer to marry an Orthodox Nubian Queen than a secular Jewish Ashkenazi Princess.

Like Matt Drudge, who has long made common cause with conservative Christians while secretly nurturing the love which, in light of recent developments, may finally speak its name (and, in Canada, register at Macy's), Ford has long played the role of bete noir to what he considers black beasts and sundry other racial undesirables, all the while longing for someone to play Sheba to his Solomon. In the fine old Southern tradition (he is, after all, from Down Under), Ford has been barring the door with one hand and unbuttoning his fly with the other. What this revelation will do to his standing among racist fellow travelers like Chaim Amalek remains to be seen, but this reporter for one wished Mr. Ford all the best mazl in the world--and, if I may make a suggestion as shadchan: Try Whoopie Goldberg. She seems to have some feelings for Judaism, and doesn't seem to mind when her boyfriends put on blackface.

Postville - The Movie?

Postville author Stephen G. Bloom tells me: "A lot of people said to me, 'Wow, this would make a great movie. It's like Witness.' Well, the Jews come out as the bad guys. It can't be made into a movie for a lot of good reasons. Who's going to make it into a movie? Look at Hollywood.

"If you run that, people are going to say, 'Gee, is he talking about the Jewish conspiracy, a cabal that runs Hollywood?' No. But a lot of Jews make influential and important decisions in Hollywood and this would make a tough sell."

Dave Deutsch writes:

Two points to consider the next time somebody says Jews (not "the Jews") don't run Hollywood:

In 1997, India, the second most populous country in the world, celebrated its 50th birthday. Hollywood did nothing.

In 1999, China the most populous country in the world, celebrated its 50th birthday, Hollywood did nothing.

In 1998, Israel, with a population less than that of the capital cities of those two other countries, has its birthday celebrated by a prime time, star-studded prime time special on CBS, making it, to my knowledge, the only foreign country so honored. (the punchline is that they got Kevin Costner to host, you know, so it wouldn't be too Jewish)

The second point, and, in its own way, more poignant, is that when they were casting the part of Doc on The Love Boat (you may be familiar with it; they had a special episode cruise to Australia), they got Bernie Kopell. Can you imagine the room full of Jewish trolls responsible for making that decision?

"You know who we need for Doc? A really good looking guy. You know who's a very handsome man? Bernie Kopell. The women will go crazy for him."

As noted above, the Jews, as a collective, certainly don't control Hollywood--but Jews, if they don't own it, sure as hell have a lease with extraordinarily good terms.

The World's Worst Jewish Comedian Talks To Teenagers About Sex

Dave Deutsch writes:

Do I support Israel? Yes, by which I mean that I want what's best for Israel. That is not the same as giving a rubber stamp to everything Israel does. For example, I think it would be best for Israel for it to leave Gaza and most of the West Bank. So yes, I support it, but supporting it to me means being willing to criticize it.

As for the other issues Mr. Amalek should define his terms: Is he concerned with race, culture, ethnicity, or polity?

I don't think Israel should allow open immigration to Palestinians. But that's hardly comparable to the US today. Lefty as I may be, I don't think that the US should have allowed open immigration to Germans or Japanese during WWII, either, BECAUSE WE WERE AT WAR WITH THEM. I don't think that's a particularly conservative position to take. The Palestinians are at war with the Israelis; last time I checked, the Dominicans were not at war with the US, so, deep-fears of cultural overthrow or miscegenation notwithstanding, the presence a large Dominican population in Washington Heights is not actually an existential threat to the US in the same way that allowing a few hundred thousand Palestinians to set-up shop in Tel-Aviv would become an existential threat to Israel. (also--and this is where he confuses his terms--Israel's population is already mostly "non-white," insofar as it is mostly Arab, Druze, Circassian, and, of course, Sephardi-Mizrachi Jews)

At the same time, I agree with him that neither Germany nor France has any particular obligation to open their doors to mass immigration, either. They have a responsibility to those immigrants they've already let in, and their descendants, but they don't have to admit further immigrants, nor do they have to justify their policy.

However, for me a cardinal sin is a failure to appreciate irony, consequently, I have very little sympathy for those people who don't relish the spectacle of extreme nationalist citizens of former imperialist overlords that literally invaded other countries and imposed their cultures on them crying over the "invasion" of their own homelands by their former imperial subjects. Seems fairly poetic justice to me.

Now, as far as all this goes, race, as Mr. Amalek seems to use it, doesn't matter a whole lot to me. Israel is a Jewish country; it is hardly a white one, insofar as it already has an Arab population that's roughly 20 percent of the overall population, and among the Jews, its only been in the last 8 years or so that the Russian migration has given the Ashkenazim numerical superiority over the Sephardim and Mizrachim. That said, yes, I think Israel has a right to work to maintain a Jewish cultural dominance, as France and Germany and England, etc have a right to maintain their own cultures. However, the US is different, because from its inception it has been a religiously, ethnically, and racially diverse society, which was historically open to immigration.

In 1776, there were Jews, Catholics, Anabaptists, Anglicans, Congregationalists, Methodists, etc., etc. There were Germans, Dutch, French, Irish, English, Scotch-Irish, Spanish, etc. And there were Blacks, Whites, and Indians. As the country expanded it brought in more French and black citizens and residents (Louisiana Purchase), Mexicans (Treaty of Guadeloupe-Hidalgo), and Indians (both). It also let in immigrants from all over the world. Those who speak of any sort of pure American culture are in denial over the fact that the strength of American cultural vibrancy has been its relative openness. As for those who believe that there is something "different" about modern immigration, they don't know a lot about the history of race or immigration in this country. The Irish, the Jews, and the Italians were all seen as racial others, who would never be able to fit into American society. They were seen as criminal, deviate, treasonous, unassimilable, with foreign languages and customs that would overwhelm America's. Sounds pretty much like what we hear today. And just about as valid. Culture, by definition, is fluid, it changes, it grows (sometimes, of course, for the worse)--it is not static. So culturally, I don't have a problem with American "becoming" multicultural, because it always has been. Lets just look at the Jewish example: A century ago, the sentiment among many was that Jews were "orientals" who would never fit in, and who threatened America's cultural traditions. Well, I would argue that Jews seem to have done a pretty good job of fitting in, considering the intermarriage rate, and while Jews have, of course, irrevocably transformed American culture, that's hardly a bad thing. I like TV. I like movies. I like comic books. I like Jazz, and Rock, and Punk. Not a big fan of the idea of Burger King selling ham-on-a-bagel sandwiches, but who said amalgamation was always a good thing? The point is that American culture wasn't destroyed, it was reformed, as it has been since day one--the American culture that the Jews and Italians transformed had been previously transformed by the Germans and Irish. And as far as race goes, it doesn't matter to me. If anything, blame the sorry state of affairs in America today on the racists, since if they hadn't fought against, and turned back, reconstruction, Black Americans would have assimilated mainstream American culture a long, long time ago. I love it how racists fucked up race-relations in the country for a century, and then blamed it on anti-racists for trying to remedy the problems they caused.

As far as liberal hypocrites, I agree with the guy in many cases. As for myself, I grew up in an integrated neighborhood that turned majority black while I was growing up, and my parents stayed there for 25 years (we actually just moved them last week). And yes, it became a pretty bad neighborhood (there was actually a fatal drive-by three blocks away the week they moved, and as early as a decade ago at least there were crack houses a few blocks away). I went to a mostly black high school, and I spent two years in the US Army infantry as an enlisted man, and I've lived on the Lower East Side, which is mostly latino and Chinese, for the last 8 years, so I think I have a certain amount of credibility on these things, as opposed to those (all too) many liberals who preach integration from the security of their lily-white suburbs.

So I have no problem with Mr. Amalek disagreeing with me (unlike Voltaire, I don't know that I'd defend to the death his right to do so, but hey, I am an honorably discharged veteran, so I guess theoretically I did put my life on the line for his liberties, which is more than he ever did for him), but I do think my positions are fairly consistent.

You complete me.

Was that too much? Should I have just gone with "You make me want to be a better man?"

No, that still sounds swishy. Maybe I'll go with "I like you, but in a prison way, not a gay way."

A few observations:

1. For whatever its worth, you seem to be doing your job. Having read your interview with Sue Fishkoff, I'm actually interested in reading her books, since she has a sense of humor.

2. I like Amalek making fun of bloggers; as insignificant as you may be (though, see note 1, above), I'd say your insignificance has to pale before that of the lesser species, "People Who Use Other People's Blogs for their Own Forum." (and yes, I appreciate the irony of that statement, but hey, I don't pretentiously criticize bloggers, so I'm covered).

3. RE: your talk with Rand Simberg. Neither belief in God nor belief in no God is more rational. Essentially, we are the products of our socialization, experiences, etc. and we believe what we were raised, or trained through experience, to believe. To say that the Six Day War is a miracle is no less rational then to say it was simply what happens when a well-trained and prepared western-style military launches a brilliant surprise attack against poorly trained, led, and experienced armies whose soldiers weren't inculcated with the same discipline and drive. Approach it like a math problem (and I should note that I failed remedial math in college, though it wasn't entirely my fault: it was during Desert Storm, and I thought I'd get called back up, so I just went to the bars instead of math class) X + 2=4 is no more rational than X+2+5. It all depends on what you believe X to be. X, in this case, is either God, or No God. If X is God, then logically, the Six Day War may be a miracle. As far as that initial belief, either way, its not about logic, but belief, which is implicitly irrational, either way. Very few people can actually divorce themselves from their own experiences when it comes to divining the truth or falsity of the divine. They simply accept that "X" is what they think it is, and then everything else follows logically. But here's the thing: at root, both sides have to simply make that leap of faith, and, on one level, belief in God is more logical. You believe that God exists outside of the laws of nature. Consequently, you don't actually have to explain how He was created, because unlike everything else in the Universe, His existence is implicitly beyond explanation. Belief in a Big Bang, however, isn't so easily excused. If nothing existed before the Universe, and all things follow laws of nature, then how could this have taken place if there was no nature to have laws? God can be eternal; forces of nature can't be, since that would contradict the laws of nature. Ultimately, neither approach is more logical; each simply stems from faith.

RE: What You Should Drink: I know that you might want to shy away from it, since it might seem like you're trying too hard to establish your Jewish credentials (like muttering "baruch hashem" in response to everything), but seltzer is, of course, the non-alcoholic Ashkenazi beverage of choice, and is the finest non-alcoholic beverage in the world.

RE: Comments on Affirmative Action

Quite frankly, affirmative action is the greatest gift the federal government has ever given to poorly qualified white men in the history of the country. For the last thirty years or so, any white man who's ever been turned down for job or rejected from school has had the perfect excuse for it. Klansmen who get turned down for "Grand Dragon" will claim that they gave it to a black man. If half the white men who claimed they lost a job to affirmative action were telling the truth, there wouldn't be an unemployed black man in the country. If the NAACP were smart, they'd adopt the motto: Affirmative Action--providing 5000 black men with jobs and 5,000,000 white men with excuses since 1973 (or whenever it began)

Interview with Dave Deutsch