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Gabriel, Don't Blind Me With Your Charisma

I walk into the Wednesday Morning Club Wednesday morning March 10, 2004 at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

[Rodger Jacobs writes: "Worst Line Ever Written by Luke Ford. Your L.A. Press Club card is being revoked. Immediately."]

I see three college kids and strike up a conversation. Chris Riha, Kendra Carney, David Lazar.

I hear Mecha (radical Mexican-American group) is the highest funded student organization at UCLA, snagging $6500. Next to them are the Filipino and Vietnamese student groups. These radical racialist group dominate student politics at UCLA, these three white Republicans tell me.

An appearance on Al Rantel raised $28,000 for the Republican group at UCLA.

Kendra: "UCLA won't distribute funds to political or religious groups but the Muslim group gets funded as a cultural organization and Mecha gets funded as a cultural group. They campaigned against the Iraq war."

Kendra is the president of the UCLA chapter of Students For Academic Freedom, founded by David Horowitz (who founded the Wednesday Morning Club).

I learn that every UC requires a diversity class to graduate except UCLA. Jewish classes don't count towards that.

Gay studies count.

Luke: "What about hot girl-on-girl studies?"

They laugh.

The three students seem more libertarian than conservative.

I understand the ethnic composition is about 40% asian, 40% caucasian. I hear the average GPA for entering UCLA from high school is 4.3 and the average SAT score is 1340 (I got 1135, and 3.3 but went to Sierra Community College (3.6 GPA) before transfering to UCLA).

During lunch, I sit next to the Tensers, who own Crown Pictures. I tell them their film My Tutor (1983) was my favorite teenage sex comedy. They say that Fox is coming out with a remake.

I loved the aerobics sequence at the beginning. They tell me how much trouble that was to shoot.

This is the biggest crowd I remember for a WMC and the worst speaker.

Cathy keeps clearing her throat.

The service is atrocious. One Jewish lady at a table must repeatedly request coffee and icewater before her needs are fulfilled 15 minutes later.

Kate Coe says that when her chef husband worked at a restaurant in Santa Monica, food got sent back all the time [because of all the picky Jews]. When he moved to a restaurant in South Pasadena, that almost never happened.

[Kate writes: "Oh, Luke, I'm the anti-Semite in my household. My husband thought the sending back was due to the insidious influence of show-biz, not Judism. He'd never say anything mean about anyone--that's why he married me."]

Kate recalls researching a documentary on Jesus for A&E for producer Bram Roos, who asked her why Christians held Jesus in such high regard? "Because they view him as God," she said. "No, that's not it," said Bram, cancelling her script and refusing to pay her. She took him to arbitration and extracted many thousands of dollars.

Cathy says when she was four years old, she sat on a fire hydrant at her home in Vancouver and yelled triumphantly, "We're going to America. We're going to America."

"We're going to Canada to have lunch," said the babysitter. "Come on."

Rabbi David Wolpe introduces the guest speaker:

My books aren't relevant to the moment.

I'd like to begin with an apology to my father. I remember my father, like a lot of rabbis, had an extremely sensitive antennae for anti-Semitism. When we were kids and watching football, and I'd say, 'Wow, what a great catch.' My father would say, 'Ehh, he's an anti-Semite.'

I resisted discussing anti-Semitism with my congregation. I knew that if you brought up anti-Semitism it would galvanize Jews, while younger Jews would think, is this all you have to talk about? Not the spiritual reaches of the tradition? Not God, history? So, I did not do that.

It seems strange that someone trained in a spiritual tradition would know about how much people hate him. But in fact, every rabbi I know has a good background in the history of Jew-hatred, the non-polite term for anti-Semitism. These days, I talk about it more.

One of the least consequential results of anti-Semitism is that it robs me of the opportunity to speak only about the spiritual riches of the tradition.

I disagree with David Horowitz [who loved The Passion]. Gabriel Schoenfeld is an optimist about anti-Semitism. On page 114, he talks about those who have drawn obloquy for anti-Semitic remarks (Pat Buchanan, Louis Farrakhan). He has a little footnote: 'A similar fate may be enveloping the actor-producer Mel Gibson whose film has engendered fierce controversy even before it assumes final form.'

I fear that no such fate is enveloping him. As the film climbs to the many hundreds of millions, and some of that is the function of the religious feeling that some have while watching the movie, I have no doubt that at least some of it has to do with the subject of our guest speaker today.

Gabriel Schoenfeld, an editor at Commentary magazine, speaks softly on his new book, "The Return of Anti-Semitism."

He packs all the charisma of a chess whiz.

Sheesh, man, if you are going to speak professionally you should either learn how to do it or you should stop inflicting yourself on the unsuspecting. Gabriel's content is compelling but he doesn't have the foggiest idea how to conduct himself.

To my right is a loud fat Israeli (next to the Marie Cathy writes about below) who proclains loudly that he punches anti-Semites.

Gabriel: "Let me give you a few examples."

Israeli: "Please don't."

Commentary magazine is housed in the offices of the American Jewish Committee in Manhattan. Schoenfeld has worked as an editor there for ten years. As time has gone by, the building has developed increasingly elaborate security measures. These are the genesis of Gabriel's new book.

Gabriel quotes from an American college newspaper: "Die Jew, die, die, die. Build yourselves an oven. Die Jew, die, die, die."

Gabriel calls the faculty advisor for the paper who's happy to talk until she realizes that Schoenfeld will use the interview for an article/book on Jew hatred. "That's not anti-Semitism," she protests. "It's just blowing off steam."

Gabriel has dignity and grace and is probably a terrific guy in a small group, but in this packed room, his speaking style stinks.

David Horowitz is a formidable communicator but on the radio his voice sounds irritating and his manner awkward.

Despite Schoenfeld's abysmal speaking skills, I find myself absorbed by his content. My blood pressure rises. I clench my fists. I fill with anger that the Democratic candidates for President did not condemn the Jew hatred spread by their fellow candidate Al Sharpton.

Gabriel wonders why the Anti-Defamation League (led by Abraham Foxman) fixates on The Passion when there are far more pressing issues of anti-Semitism like Sharpton.

If you forced me to choose between the values of Mel Gibson and Abe Foxman, I'd choose Mel in a heartbeat.

Sharpton said his numbers in South Carolina were "Jewed down." This got little media coverage aside from Michael Savage.

Gabriel lists off right-wingers who've been kicked out of the conservative movement for their anti-Semitic comments. Jude Wanniski was a key figure on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. They kicked him off when he made an alliance with Louis Farrakhan.

David Duke is behind bars on fraud charges.

Joseph Sobran (kicked off National Review by William F. Buckley) speaks at conferences organized by the Institute For Historical Review (notorious organization that denies the Holocaust). "Crackpots speaking for other crackpots."

Gabriel either looks at the lectern or David Horowitz, who sits five feet in front of him. Other than that, his eyes don't move let alone engage the crowd.

During the question and answers, Gabriel comes out of his shell. The problem is there are so many lunatics in the crowd who go off on long pointless tangets. One plump woman seems ready to burst into tears when she says how much Christians love Jews and what a wonderful movie The Passion is. About a quarter of the crowd applaud that last sentiment.

A Jewish woman then delivers an equally incoherent rant. "People say The Passion is a good movie. So were the gas chambers. They had good equipment."

A PhD student (doing her thesis on Moby Dick) gave a speech so abstract that only fellow graduate students like Robert Light could understand it. Then she went around asking people if they understood what she was saying.

I meet tall blonde actress-singer Anna Lively who's conservative and wears a black "Free Martha" t-shirt.

Cathy and I wait outside the restroom for Kate and Debbie.

"I have a big bladder," Cathy says.

I rest my head in my hands.

Kate and Debbie come out. "Ahh, that's a Hallmark shot. For a Rosh Hashanah card."

Cathy chatters about how many hours she can go without needing to pee.

I went on a twelve hour hike up and down Mount Hood with a woman a few years ago who did not pee. She called herself a camel.

Cathy Seipp writes:

I went to the Wednesday Morning Club lunch to hear Gabriel Schoenfeld talk about anti-Semitism. Usually I have to pick the mushrooms and onions off Luke's salad for him at these things, because ever since a nutty woman making goo-goo eyes at him loudly suggested that I do so he expects it. But today we had a different kind of salad, so I escaped that particular chore. Except she was there again today, and shimmied over to invent another task for me. "He has a spot on his shirt," she annnounced. "You should take better care of him!"

Geez. Is there something about me that invites these impertinent and insinuating comments? This woman had long, flowing, ash blond hair, and our new friend Kate Coe (who was also at lunch today) observed that it made her look just like Lady from "Lady and the Tramp."