Amy Klein Packs Them In
Project Next Step (an Orthodox Jewish outreach organization funded by the Simon Wiesenthal Center) got its biggest crowd ever Monday night, 6/30/03, for Jewish Journal of Los Angeles managing editor Amy Klein, 34? years of age.
Over 100 people (normal crowd is about 30) packed the room as Klein, who always has a haunting sadness in her eyes, and Rabbi Yitzhok Adlerstein spoke about objective journalism vs personal narrative.
Amy wrote a well-received article about her adventures on Jdate.com a few weeks ago, published in the Jewish Journal and Moment magazine. She wrote the piece for Moment, because she didn't want it to affect her Los Angeles search for a husband. Then she allowed her editor, Rob Eshman, talk her into putting it in the Journal.
I suffer from moderate paranoia. I walk up to tonight's program imagining that all sorts of embarrassing and horrible things are about to happen to me (I've come to see myself in Orthodox life as a combination of pariah and contagion) but it goes swimmingly.
I've seen Amy at about 30 different functions, mostly Jewish, and we've exchanged a total of about ten sentences. Yet I have this weird stalkerish fixation with writing about her on my website (never unkindly). Why was I not invited to her birthday party Saturday?
A week ago on this site, I threatened to bonk Amy on the head with a heavy book on Jewish culture and drag her back to my Aboriginee-style hovel and make her mine. I figure that tonight there are enough people around that she won't feel threatened by me. My only weapon this evening is a slim volume on Kaballa scholar Gersom Scholem by David Biale. I could only land a frail chick with a whack from this book. Amy's more substantial. Nothing less than a Talmudic tractate will knock her out.
I've communicated with Rabbi Adlerstein since 1991, when I was confined to my bed by Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I wrote the good rabbi a letter and he called me back and gave me hope and cheered me to no end. It would be about the most exciting thing to happen to me all week to get a call from the rabbi.
Rabbi Adlerstein is the principle spokesman for Los Angeles Orthodoxy and its best local apologist. He belongs to Agudah Yisrael, which means he's to the right within Orthodoxy. When he speaks to an Orthodox group, he prefers that men and women sit separately.
In 1991, I didn't know these nuances as I was just beginning my journey to Judaism. I lived in Newcastle, 40-minutes above Sacramento, in an isolated part of the Sierra Nevada foothills.
Rabbi Adlerstein advised me to buy a modem and computer and get on the Internet and find friends. He was right. He also advised me to check out various bio-chemical solutions to my illness, which I did, and eventually returned to living a normal life, in no small part thanks to him and Dennis Prager, who gave me the same advice (in my Seventh-Day Adventist upbringing, anti-depressants and the like were regarded negatively).
Project Next Step (PNS) used to be aimed at people in their 20s and 30s. Now it is projected at people in their 30s and 40s. I'd say the average age of tonight's crowd was between 45-50.
Friday Night Live at Temple Sinai in Westwood is aimed at the 20-39 age group yet at least 25% of the crowd is over 40, which I bitterly resent.
I attribute the large crowd at tonight's event (PNS has had famous actors, directors, writers, producers, etc and never packed in as many people) due to the strong feelings in the Jewish community about its principle paper - the Jewish Journal (JJ). Criticisms range all over the place. If the cliche is true that if you are getting attacked from all sides, then you are doing something right, the JJ is doing something right.
As I walk in, I find a seat at the very back and look around the room. I spot my friends Alex and Tom, psychologists. I carry my chair over my head to the other side of the room. We have to move this stolid dark-looking Israeli female doctor to fit me in.
Five minutes later, she turns friendly. Doc went to high school with Amy Klein - at the Yeshiva of Flatbush, a scandalously modern Orthodox day school where boys and girls share the same curriculum and there is no uniform (instead a fashion war, abetted by some of the rabbis who encourage the girls to look stylish).
Tonight's program is billed: "Is the personal printable? Journalists who tell all."
The promised Yemenite buffet has been demolished by 8:05PM.
There's a whisper in the room that Amy wants us to sit in a circle.
PNS coordinator Sarah begins the evening. She says Amy Klein got her her job.
Amy sits with the rabbi at the front of the room. She's dressed in black. I've only once seen her in a skirt and that was at an Orthodox synagogue on the Sabbath. According to Jewish Law, women are forbidden from wearing pants in public (though there are Orthodox rabbis who dissent from this). She uses minimal make-up. She's a straight forward, no nonsense, what you see is what you get, surprisingly shy woman.
She says she's more comfortable writing than speaking. It's true. When you see her socially, she keeps to herself and to people she already knows.
Amy says she doesn't believe in objective journalism. No human being is capable of complete objectivity. What journalists should strive for is balance.
I find this discussion tiresome and I fear the evening is going to be a complete bore.
Then Amy gets personal and my interests perks up. She was the humor editor of her elementary school yearbook and she wrote what she thought was a funny send-up of her history teacher. He did not find it amusing. Amy found the experience so traumatizing, she abandoned journalism until college.
Klein wrote for the Jerusalem Post (centrist to right-wing) for seven years. She found that her personal stories got the most response. The only negative response came from her family who didn't like the way they were portrayed.
"When I came to the JJ, I was supposed to write the singles column. But I was also supposed to write news stories and we realized it would be hard to have credibility writing about Israel...etc and also writing about my dating life."
So she chose the editorial side over the personal.
I find I can't get through most of Amy's (or Rob Eshman's) non-personal columns because they are too pious.
I find I can't get through any pious story by a secular person. The JJ has way too much secular leftist piety - stuff about being kind to gays, that Jews are one people, we should take better care of the environment, we should talk through our differences, we need to be more innovative with Judaism to attract the young people...
Amy says she got such an enormous response to her JDate article that she wondered why the paper write on serious topics.
Then Rabbi Adlerstein gave a response. As usual, he tried to show how Jewish Law was superior to secular law. Rabbi Adlerstein stated that unless a journalist was objective, he shouldn't report a story. Objective journalists shouldn't taint themselves with writing personal pieces.
I think he was just being provocative.
Then the evening opened up to comments and questions. Things bet boring. People leave.
Everybody thinks he can write a book, host a talkshow and edit a newspaper. It seemed like everyone in the crowd had opinions on the news media, most of them far afield from tonight's topic. As is usual in such group discussions, I didn't hear anything I hadn't already thought through myself.
One man, dressed casually and not wearing a yarmulke, was incredibly obnoxious: "Torah is the manual for my life. There's a ton of garbage out there, like the Jewish Journal, that I don't care for."
This guy made Torah stink. He acted like an oaf but wrapped himself in religion. He left soon after his ugly diatribe.
What's funny is that his sentiments largely reflects Rabbi Adlerstein's view, though the rabbi would never been so boorish in expressing them. Rabbi Adlerstein's long despised the Jewish Journal. I've heard him say that you can read it in the bathroom. The question is whether you can read it outside of the bathroom.
Rabbi Adlerstein is the consummate gentleman and a good host, so he does not voice these sentiments tonight.
Rabbi Adlerstein sounds hip. He's from the German Jewish tradition of proudly embracing the culture of one's host country (without violating Jewish Law). He can talk about baseball and deliver bar jokes. But when you get down to it, this guy's life is all about Torah and observing God's commandments, and he thinks that's the way for any Jew (though you need to earn a living, raise a family, stay healthy physically and psychologically).
Amy Klein is one tough chick because the crowd gets passionate. They're dying to give their opinions on the Jewish Journal and on her article.
One guy says that every time he reads Teresa Strasser, he wants to kill her.
I've seen the exhaustion and fatigue of dealing with whining Jews written across Amy's face at LA Press Club gatherings at various bars. Tonight she is again a punching bag. I'm not sure I could handle things as calmly as she is.
I'm about the 25th person to make a comment. I'd sworn to myself tonight to stay quiet but I can't help myself. I make a point I've made repeatedly on this site and posted on the Jewish Journal forum. Why doesn't the news side of the JJ use some of riveting techniques of the new journalism to make their stories more interesting? Techniques such as multiple points of view, status details, realistic dialogue, scene by scene construction.
After about 40 people speak, it's time for the summing up.
Rabbi Adlerstein backs away from his earlier comments. He says the horse has already fled the barn. Haven't you heard about blogs where people get very personal? His favorites include unbrokenglass.com (Jewish dating horror stories), Hasidic Rebel... Rabbi Adlerstein blasts a guy who wrote on Jewish weddings two weeks ago in the Los Angeles Times but won't answer his emails. Rabbi Adlerstein says the LAT's reader rep allows the reporters to hide from public criticism.
There's one Orthodox reporter at the LAT -- Duke Helfand.
Amy's final word. She dealt with my appeal for the use of the new journalism by saying she yearned for the days of objective journalism, rather than today when you have such partisan news channels as Fox and CNN. She agreed that the JJ has to jazz up its news reporting though to attract more readers by using more of the techniques I described. She mentioned the "new rabbis" cover story of a month ago [LF says: read it and you will see you get no vivid sense of the rabbis profiled] as an example of a story that could've been made more compelling.
Klein said the JJ didn't have guys writing about dating because she can't find any who can do it articulately.
Why is this? It's largely our culture. If a man wrote the identical article Amy did about JDate, he'd look like a cad. In 21st Century America, it's fine to bash men and evaluate male weaknesses in detail, but you can't do the same to women. Almost all sex columnists in college papers are women for this reason. If it were men talking about their sexual experiences, they would seem boorish.
Also, men complain less and are less sensitive. If a man were to write about women the way the female columnists of the JJ write about men, he'd be lynched. Men usually just take it when they're abused and ridiculed. Women complain more. They have higher barriers of sensitivity. They are more likely to go ape over a slight. You can't josh with women. You can't tease a woman.
Look at the differing receptions to the book Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor by Rick Marin, and Candace Bushnell's Sex in the City work and her many female imitators. When men talk about their relationships and sex lives, they're scorned. When women do it, they're applauded for their bravery.
Amy says she's offered many of the men she's dated the chance to write about their dating experiences for the JJ.
I doubt the JJ is going to publish any accounts by men of disappointing dating experiences with Amy.
One guy in Amy's JDate article complained he was unfairly depicted. Another guy, who Klein claimed had blown her off, had not intended such, and they're going to give things a second try.
Klein says her father was the first person to see her JDate article because she wrote about him. He thought it was fine.
A secular lefty, Amy says she couldn't date a hardcore Republican.
It speaks well of the JJ that it constantly puts itself into the community. Klein and Eshman and others on the paper are constantly participating in dialogues like this and they genuinely seem to listen.
Then they go back to their headquarters and produce another excruciatingly dull issue filled with sanitized writing. Nice people. Dull paper. There are worse things.
Meet The Machers Is Not Working
I like the idea of this program and I appreciate the noble intentions of the Jewish Journal and the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles in hosting this three-part series but it's not firing on all cylinders.
And the painful reason is that Amy Klein, the Journal's managing editor, hates public speaking and is not skilled at leading discussions.
Because Amy's not comfortable at leading out, the panelists are uncomfortable and the audience is uncomfortable.
It must take great courage for a shy person like Amy to put herself out there. She's always prepared and courteous and asks the obvious questions but that's a part of the problem. She asks such questions as, well, let's go to the program email:
Her constant theme is what is it like to be Jewish in Hollywood. That is not a question that is going to get interesting answers when it is asked head-on. It's like asking three black men what it is like to be black in Compton. Yawn.
Amy's moderating technique leaves much to be desired. She'll ask her question, then repeat it with a minor twist, then ask it again and again until one of the panelists feels so uncomfortable that he will speak up and say something, anything, to avoid hearing the question for the fifth time.
Jewish Journal editor Rob Eshman takes a sly glee in asking provocative questions. Amy, by contrast, bends over backwards to not be confrontational. She's so careful to not give offense to her guests that these Meet the Machers (Yiddish for big shots) programs are boring.
Watching Amy moderate a discussion is like watching retarded kids play in a band (that scene in American Pie 2, not the one with the boy-in-the-apple-pie scene) -- you admire their spirit and feel obliged to applaud, but after a few minutes you begin to feel retarded yourself and then you start hating yourself for what you're feeling, and you say to yourself that you shouldn't feel uncomfortable, how wonderful it is that the specially abled have this opportunity to shine, and then your mind wanders to how good some warm apple pie would feel right now...and then you imagine your parents walking in on you...and then you feel like Stifler did when he realized the woman he was just with (American Wedding) was the 80-year old grandmother...
Amy did slip once Tuesday night (the panel discussion lasted 50-minutes and started as scheduled at 8:30pm, major props to the organizers for that) and asked a nasty question (which she quickly rephrased to be inoffensive) -- "Do you get any pleasure out of portraying Arabs badly?"
Amy asked the panelists if they had any favorite scenes from their shows based on their personal experience. It was another obvious question that went down like a lead balloon. These types of questions are so dull that the panelists can only hmm and haw.
David Sacks admits he serves as the Jewish cop on his every show.
He gave this example:
A character is asked if her boyfriend is Jewish. She replies, "Does it matter?"
Intermarriage matters a great deal to an Orthodox Jew such as Sacks.
A secular Jewish producer, worth about a billion dollars, had added the last question to avoid a nervous breakdown brought on by sounding parochial.
David was relieved when the question, "Does it matter?" failed to elicit laughs with a studio audience and was cut.
Michael (father of fourand YULA/UCLA graduate) and David (father of two-plus?) gave their well-worn stories about observing the Sabbath in Hollywood.
Gordie fears that his tombstone will read: "He had a way with words but no point of view."
Most of the audience seems to be aspiring TV writers.
I like the technique of having people write down their questions and then letting the moderator choose the best ones. It beats letting people stand up and drone on.
David Poland would be an excellent moderator for this type of series. He enjoys leading discussions and he knows his topic. I've read Amy's writing on entertainment and she rarely has anything to say beyond that Jews and Arabs should lie down together like lambs.
Moderating a good panel discussion is a rare gift. Most are herky-jerky affairs like Tuesday night's. It makes me more grateful for the superb panel of TV writers Cathy Seipp led six weeks ago (scroll past the stuff on race).
She drips with contempt for her subject as I drip with contempt for her piece. The reader will have to judge whose contempt is most worthy.
Her lead: "Conservative Jewish radio host Dennis Prager is expanding his audience-into the bleeding heart of the liberal media he so eschews."
According to my ninth edition of Websters Dictionary, "eschew" means: "to avoid habitually esp. on moral or practical grounds: shun syn see ESCAPE"
Anybody who has spent an hour or two listening to Prager knows that he regularly cites the liberal media. In fact, he cites it more often than the conservative media. He has long said that the best daily general interest newspaper is the liberal New York Times.
Prager has long written for liberal media such as The LA Times and given numerous interviews to such outlets.
Prager does many things to the liberal media but "eschew" is not one of them.
Nor has Prager ever sworn off publishing in the liberal media or talking to it. So there's nothing unusual in his accepting the invitation to write for The Times.
Amy writes: "This past week, in “Evil Targets God’s Chosen,” Prager attempts to tie the London terror attacks to Jews being the chosen people. Prager also wrote two other recent columns. In “Our Father Is No ‘It’ or Gal God,” he asserted that God should be masculine. In “The (Culture) War of the Word,” he divided the world into people who believe the Bible is literally from God and those who don’t."
There are many ways to summarize the essence of Prager's column, but "attempts to tie the London terror attacks to Jews being the chosen people" is particularly shoddy.
By the way, for a Jew to deny that the Jews are God's Chosen People and His representatives on earth who are going to attract the hatred of evil, is to deny one's Jewish identity and to deny Jewish history, particularly over the past 70 years. The essence of Judaism is that the Jews are God's Chosen People. To identify as Jewish yet deny this is stupid. The world keeps trying to wipe out the Jews. So unless you believe you are God's reps with a special work to do, why would you set yourself and your children up for genocide?
Prager's column was normative Judaism but Klein presents it as the work of an extremist.
As for Klein's claims about Prager's second column that Prager "asserted that God should be masculine," this is pure nonsense. Prager, along with Judaism, has always held that God is neither masculine or feminine. Prager simply argued that we should refer to God with the male pronoun for many reasons, including that humans need to view God as a lawgiver and judge more than as the quintessence of compassion.
As for Klein's claim: "In “The (Culture) War of the Word,” he divided the world into people who believe the Bible is literally from God and those who don’t."
Prager's column offered an explanation of the culture war in America (rather than divided the world as Klein claimed). He wrote:
“I represent the large number of Jews and Christians who believe the Torah is a divine book,” Prager told The Journal.
This is typical Prager. Accurate but unbelievably arrogant sounding. No wonder Klein hates him.
Amy Klein begins her column:
Any woman (or man) who takes Maureen Dowd seriously deserves the wounds she inflicts on herself. Dowd has not added anything to the national discussion since Bill Clinton got blown by Monica Lewinsky.
Dowd has no wisdom to share as either a pundit or a woman. Her personal life is in shambles, and it is not because she's so wonderful. It's because she's a clueless harpie.
Katie Roiphe writes in Slate: "The Times op-ed columnist adds nothing to the debate between the sexes."
The only contribution Dowd makes is sustaining the delusions of women like Klein who believe that the primary reason they are single is because they are so wonderful.
It's not so much that men want to date "non-challenging, non-career-oriented women" as that men want to date feminine women who will put them first in their life -- before job, parents, friends, and hobbies. No normal man is willing to be number two in a woman's life. (It is not reciprocal as women's needs in a man are different).
Also, what a man most seeks in a woman is not her ball-busting man-hating career-mad qualities. Men want someone who's soft and cuddly. A woman's career is of little concern to a man. A woman's looks are.
A woman who usually dresses in jeans with minimal make-up (as Amy Klein does) is not maximizing her chances for meeting a man.
She should buy my DVD on relationships -- "Left Behind" -- and dress like a woman.
Dowd writes: "So was the feminist movement some sort of cruel hoax? Do women get less desirable as they get more successful?"
No, the feminist movement (in its 1960s-70s stage) opened the door for equality of opportunity for women. As for desirability, it is a male perspective to equate career success with success. A woman's career success has no effect on her desirability (except that women will rarely settle for a man less successful than her, so her success cuts down on the number of men she will find desirable).
Amy Klein wails:
Maybe Amy is not nearly as open as she thinks she is. If she can't even listen to an opposing point of view without becoming angry, then she's a fanatic who radiates hostility. He obviously thought so because he shut up when describing something important to him.
The ironic thing is that Amy's most likely beshert -- the one who will stay faithful to her and her kids -- is the traditional Jew not her abortion-supporting secular mirror.
Only Amy Klein would take that comment literally. It's like someone seeing your homely daughter and saying, "Well, I hope she's smart." The man's not going to get out of the conversation by saying what he really thinks, such as, "What a ballbuster."
All of the women I date are well-read and smart. They're often doctors, lawyers, and graduate students. Most of them feel no need to show how smart they are. Anyone who does such a thing (such as Amy, constantly), is over-compensating for some wound.
That is just a line guys give to women they are not interested in. Yet Amy once again seizes something ridiculous as the literal truth to preserve her belief in her own superiority and in male doltishness.
Normally, I find Amy an indifferent writer. It's hard to get through her articles. You can see that I am not alone in this as they generate little feedback. But when Amy writes about herself, she becomes compelling in her delusions, and they open a door to understanding why the rest of her work is such a mess. The writer is the woman.
Really...talk about a disconnect. "One woman's search for the meaning of life, the universe, and everything Why are we here? " What rubbish.
Henry Gregory posts:
Dovenator posts: "Surprisingly I only needed to be resuscitated 3 times to get to the end of Klein's article. This deep thinker really deserved her promotion from "Singles" editor to "Religion" editor. I always knew that deep down she was a serious journalist. I'm left with only one word to describe the article: Babylon."
DaveK writes: "Dov, Mediocrity is always rewarded.
"Please tell the "Religion Editor" not to quit her day job, which by all accounts, consists of trolling for single jewish men, not being able to relate to them, and then writing a thesis paper about how its their fault. On second thought, no wonder they made her the religion editor."
Henry Gregory posts:
Henry Gregory responds: