Courageous journalism has become a rarity in our time. There are all too few journalists who cut through all the nonsense and begin flipping through the back issues of Der Sturmer for tips on exposing the Jewish Threat.
The Forward is, hypothetically, a Jewish paper. But it's a Jewish newspaper in the sense that Karl Marx was Jewish. Having some Jewish ancestry didn't stop him from writing, “What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money."
Yigal Tumarkin, a co-founder of Peace Now, was technically Jewish, despite having non-Jewish family members who served in the Nazi SS, but still said, "When I see the black-coated Orthodox Jews with the children they spawn, I can understand the Holocaust" and "My true contribution would be if I grabbed a sub-machine-gun, instead of a pen and pencil and killed them."
Since its old ugly days, the Forward has maintained an aura of civility. It pretends not to be a hatefilled rag run by people who hate Jews. It continually attacks traditional Jews, but it does so under the pretense of journalism. It avoids going Full Marx or Full Tumarkin.
Now it's refreshing to see the Forward take off its mask of civility and reveal the mad hateful leer underneath. It's refreshing because it's honest.
The Forward has spent years frenziedly attacking Orthodox Jews. But now, in its latest issue, Jay Michaelson gets to the point warning of "The Creeping Jewish Fundamentalism in Our Midst."
"American Jews are actively supporting a demographic trend that threatens the fabric of American Jewish life," Jay Michaelson writes, apparently going through some kind of rehearsal for a production of Philip Roth's Eli the Fanatic.
Orthodox Jews are also American Jews. Or perhaps they're Unamerican Jews? Lefties may mock Dr. Strangelove, but they quickly end up sounding like him when confronting the threat of the creeping Jewish fundamentalist, creeping now down your chimney or through the doggie door.
"Call them what you will — ultra-Orthodox Jews, “fervently Orthodox” Jews, Haredim, black hats. They will soon become the majority of affiliated Jews in the metropolitan New York area, and the religious majority in Israel. The results will be catastrophic."
Why not call them the Black Plague? It seems to be where Jay Michaelson is headed.
What follows is a paragraph of convoluted doomsday predictions. The best I could make out was that Israeli Orthodox politicians are having sex with women dressed like Hitler and breaking the circumcision truce by invading Germany.
And it wouldn't surprise me one bit. Call them black hats, Haredim or giant black devils, they're capable of anything.
"And that is just the tip of the fundamentalist iceberg," Jay Michaelson breathlessly declares. "In recent months, the Forward has depicted the coercion and ignorance prevalent in American ultra-Orthodox communities."
Yes, it's been quite a flashback to 1919 or 1899. One of these days, the Forward will even do an expose on how Matzas are baked with blood.
"And pretty soon, the hierarchy will overwhelm us. Demographers tell us that 49% of New York’s Jewish children are Haredi (either Hasidic or “yeshivish”). Especially in light of non-Orthodox disaffiliation, New York Jewry, within a generation, will be fundamentalist, poor, uneducated and reactionary."
There's no answer to the tidal flood of the black hats. Except maybe having children of your own. Or going Full Tumarkin and killing their children.
Fortunately Jay Michaelson does have some solutions to the grave threat of Judaism.
Step 1. Hate them
"First, mainstream American Jewish organizations must stop pretending to have common cause with Jewish fundamentalists. Just as mainline Christian denominations recognize Christian fundamentalism to be a threat to their religious values, so the mainstream of Jewish denominations — including Modern Orthodoxy — must recognize that this distortion of Judaism is actively destructive to Judaism itself."
I don't want to get into a theological debate here, but it's rather hard to argue that traditional Judaism is a distortion of Judaism. And Orthodox Jews, outside of Modern Orthodoxy, are the kind who rarely have any common cause with more liberal organizations. Jay Michaelson is calling for a boycott of something that doesn't exist and expecting Modern Orthodox Jews like me to make common cause with his raving hatred.
It isn't going to happen.
Like Christian fundamentalism, Jewish fundamentalism is extremely new. It arose in response to modernity, and it radically changed Jewish values.
Orthodox Judaism arose in response to modernity? I assume Jay is talking about the Greek and Roman modernity.
Formerly, the Jewish mainstream balanced strictness and leniency: In the battle between the strict Shammai and the lenient Hillel, Hillel always won.
Umm no. He didn't. Hillel won a majority of the time. Not all the time. That's what distinguishes Judaism from liberalism. It was humane, not destructive. It kept an open mind without getting brain damage.
But the Haredi world is a phalanx of Shammais. The strictest is always the best. Moses wore a shtreimel, the fur hat that many married Haredi men wear, at the Red Sea.
We fail to act because, I think, deep in the hearts of non-Orthodox Jews there lingers the belief that the Haredim are the real Jews; or the safeguards of our future, or perhaps the sweet, cuddly Tevyes of our imagined Yiddish roots.
But they are not.