If you’re not doing anything on Thursday, July 23 at 6, come to Sign of the Whale, where I’ll be speaking about being a Jew in the Obama era when we’re all forcibly converted to Islam when we can take a more mature and less tribal view of the U.S.-Israel relationship. We’ll drink beer until Max Blumenthal films us. Update: Did I mention that this is a J Street happy hour? No? Well, I should have, because it is. 

One issue worth covering: there are a bunch of Jews elected to play in the All-Star Game this year. And I’ve been noticing a bunch of Jews emailing that around with a rhetorical nudge in the ribs, like, Go Team Jew. Really, tribesmen: this is pathetic. So what if Kevin Youkilis is a Jew. First of all, there aren’t that many Jews on the roster. Second of all, who cares. It’s not like any of these guys are the first Jews in baseball. And it seems like every time a Jew does anything athletic, we tend to treat it as a huge accomplishment, which bespeaks a certain self-loathing. 

And that’s nothing new. When was the last time you read "The City of Slaughter," Chaim Bialik’s blame-the-victim masterpiece about the Kichinev Pogrom:

Come, now, and I will bring thee to their lairs
The privies, jakes and pigpens where the heirs
Of Hasmoneans lay, with trembling knees,
Concealed and cowering -the sons of the Maccabees!

That’s fucking pathological. The description on the page I took this from calls the poem a "tribute to the victims" of the pogrom, when it’s no such thing. "Crushed in their shame, they saw it all; /they did not pluck their eyes out; they/ Beat not their brains against the wall!" Because that’s what you’re supposed to do when you survive a pogrom? Kill yourself out of shame for not defeating it? Anyway, to be sympathetic to the poem, you could read Bialik as saying that the vulnerability of the Jews of Europe is a corrosive cycle of endless enfeeblement, and the only way out is to be a macho muchacho tilling the Palestinian desert. And OK — no one wants to be a victim, and these were really serious concerns in the days before a certain State Of Our Own. But Bialik is paying way too much attention to Jewish physicality, as if  some kind of redemptive path lies that way. 

The All-Star Game thing is obviously not on that level, but there’s still an uncomfortable similarity, and for a people stereotyped as being awkward and unphysical, it’s unseemly to reaffirm all that shit by clapping at the handful of Jews playing in the All-Star Game as if it’s some major achievement.

Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman

4 Comments