It's Yom Kippur, the Jewish High Holiday where we're supposed to be atoning for our sins, and uber-conservative Jewish columnist Mona Charen is taking this opportunity to be completely hateful. Charen is responding to an article in the New York Times about "The Great Schlep," Sarah Silverman's viral video which tries to get young Jews to convince their Floridian grandparents to vote for Obama. I will not fight Charen over the beginning of her essay. She is offended by what she sees as Silverman's "antisemitism" (saying Jews have big noses, etc.). While I think Silverman is hilarious and satirical, Charen and others are welcome to find Sarah's humor offensive. That's opinion. What upsets me deeply, however, is that Charen distorts Silverman's words, calls her "not a Jew," and then claims that Jews like Silverman are "substituting liberal politics for religion."Let's start at the top. In the New York Times article, Sarah Silverman says, “I have no religion. But culturally I can’t escape it. I’m very Jewish.” Reading this, Charen twists Silverman's words around, writing, "Though she comes from a Jewish background and can pronounce a few Yiddish words, she is not a Jew." Actually, Mona, it's not really for you to say whether or not Sarah is a Jew. There is disagreement within the Jewish faith about what constitutes Jewishness. Some say you are Jewish if you are born to a Jewish mother and father, period, end of sentence. It doesn't matter if you do not practice, you're still a Jew (maybe you should ask the Nazis about that one)! Which brings me to my second point, which is that Charen claims that many Jews replace actual religiousness with secular liberal beliefs, which is just patently false. Charen writes, "For at least a century, large numbers of nominally Jewish Americans have demonstrated far more attachment to liberal politics than to actual Judaism. They declare that Judaism demands social justice, equality, gun control, liberal abortion laws, and an increase in the capital-gains tax and they adhere to these tenets, well, religiously." However, she doesn't give a single example of Jews who do this, beyond Sarah Silverman, and this is a willful misinterpretation of "The Great Schlep." Silverman doesn't say Judaism demands a damn thing; plus, it's a little more than convenient that Charen both dismisses "The Great Schlep" as "a little romp" but then also uses it as the basis for an entire theory about liberals. Charen is just flat out wrong in some places. "Abortion, for example, is traditionally forbidden except to save the life of the mother," Charen writes, but that's a vast over-simplification of a rather complicated issue. As Slate points out, "The term 'threat to the mother' is more of a guideline than a strict principle and may be interpreted so broadly, even by respected Orthodox rabbis, that it includes situations in which the mother's life would not appear—to the non-rabbinic eye—to be at risk." In addition, Slate notes, "Jewish law also comprises dozens of commentaries on the Talmud and thousands of individual rabbinic responses, their opinions expanding on or refuting previous opinions." Finally, the one thing Judaism does explicitly define is that a fetus is not a person until after it is born. So saying abortion is "forbidden" is actually untrue and a misrepresentation of the Jewish attitude towards law, which is to say — almost everything is open for debate. None of this should come as a surprise, however. Charen is waterboarding apologist who also claims, "Islam is problematic. While we would love to think that Islam is as pacific as Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism or Hinduism, the facts suggest otherwise." But the fact that she chooses arguably the holiest day on the Jewish calendar to denigrate other Jews who don't fit her narrow definition of Jewishness is in remarkably poor taste. Hating the New York Times, Part 573 [National Review] Message to Your Grandma: Vote Obama [NY Times] What Do Orthodox Jews Think About Abortion and Why? [Slate] Taking The Easy Way Out On Torture [Jewish World Review] In Praise Of Discrimination[Jewish World Review]
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