Who Is That Masked Fundamentalist?

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Question for the reader: Which well-known Jewish figure is the author of the following recently-penned lines?

[T]here is no reason for a famous person who just happens to be Jewish to command special respect, particularly if that person is not a practicing Jew.

Sadly, many of today’s Jewish stars are not committed Jews. The book Stars of David, a collection of interviews by Abigail Pogrebin, highlights sixty-two “Jewish celebrities,” many of whom have only incidental connections to Jewish life and tradition. Author Nora Ephron expresses mostly contempt for Judaism and for Israel; she takes delight in the fact that her two sons chose not to become b’nai mitzvah. While most of the other “stars” do express some pride in being Jewish, it amounts to little more than ethnic nostalgia. Sarah Jessica Parker, for example, has some interest in Judaism but also finds Unitarianism attractive and provides a Christmas tree for her child. Gene Wilder “feels” Jewish and remembers suffering from anti-Semitism but sees no merit in Judaism as a religion. Natalie Portman finds little evidence of Jewish teen involvement in social justice; the value young Jews are taught, she suggests, is the importance of getting a nice car for their sixteenth birthday. And Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a noted champion of Jewish and minority rights who credits Judaism for stirring her passion for justice, did not insist that her children continue their Jewish education and was angry when no rabbi would assure her daughter that a baptized child would still be considered Jewish.

It is appalling how little these celebrities know of the Judaism that they discredit and discard. If they were to reject Judaism after serious learning, so be it; but to reject it out of ignorance and laziness is simply disgraceful. There are, to be sure, some serious Jews in this group. . . . who demonstrate that fame is not inconsistent with living a committed Jewish life. I suggest, then, that we save our admiration for them, and for all others—famous or not—who live their daily lives devoted to Jewish learning and to the transmission of our precious heritage from one generation to the next.

The identity of the writer is sure to surprise. It’s also simultaneously heartening and saddening (on which, more in the next post.)

Oh, and don’t be thrown off by the obvious tone of dismissiveness and judgmentalism: — e.g., use of words like “appalling” and “disgraceful” and accusations of “ignorance and laziness” regarding Jews who have simply chosen to live their Jewish lives (and read G-d’s love letter to the Jewish people) differently from the writer — the mystery writer is not, in fact, Orthodox.

Anyone? (Honest guesses, now, not Googling.)

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16 Responses

  1. another Mordechai says:

    Tal Benschar has really capsulized every relevant point into his one short comment. He really said it all.

  2. dovid says:

    I can’t hold my breath any longer. Who is (s)he?

  3. Tal Benschar says:

    “Sadly, many of today’s Jewish stars are not committed Jews.”

    That’s really rich coming from him. First, reduce a 3000 year old religion based on the revelation of the Almighty to an entire nation down to nothing more than the tribal customs of a small group of Semites. Then wonder why no one is “committed” to it anymore.

  4. YM says:

    Now that I did google it, I look forward to your follow-up piece.

  5. Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz says:

    I would not have guessed correctly (I did google it). It is astonishing that the author would pen those words.

  6. T.A. Zev says:

    David Mamet?

  7. Mark says:

    If not for the fact that his synagogue includes so many A-list celebrities, I’d say this was written by the Exodus-Denier himself – David Wolpe.

  8. Jonathan Rosenblum says:

    I bet Jonathan Schorsch though it could be his father.

  9. Steve says:

    It’s odd that he included Natalie Portman in that list – based on the quote, she seems to be in agreement with him.

  10. Steve says:

    By cutting off the first and last paragraphs, you’ve made him sound much frummer.

  11. Avigdor says:

    Don’t confuse “practicing” for “orthodox”. And certainly don’t assume that “committed” means to the Torah. I cheated – I won’t give it away – but I have to say that I am not surprised by who the author is. It’s important for frummer yiddin to realize that the Reform and Conservative who are committed to their Judaism really are sincere in their beliefs.

  12. Lumpy Rutherford says:

    A reform rabbi?

  13. Koby says:

    Sounds like vintage Dennis Praeger.

  14. Noam says:

    In Natalie Portman’s defense, she wrote an op/ed piece with her own name attached, while at Harvard strongly defending the State of Israel. And, from what I see here, she is only commenting on what she sees around her.

  15. Ahron says:

    >“Natalie Portman finds little evidence of Jewish teen involvement in social justice; the value young Jews are taught, she suggests, is the importance of getting a nice car for their sixteenth birthday.”

    I don’t know about “social justice” (whatever that term is supposed to mean) but Ms. Portman is right that most secularized Jews (i.e. the majority of Jews in America today) seem to be raised with few more values than the secularized society around them. The incoherence of that upbringing would indeed lead one to suspect that “getting a nice car” is a high value for many of them.

    For her part Ms. Portman is very open about her Israeli heritage and Jewish identity.

  16. soccer dad says:

    Kirk Douglas.

    Maybe he didn’t say that, but he’s said and written similar things.