Volume 15 Number 30
                       Produced: Fri Sep 23  0:19:41 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Orthodox Judaism Today
         [Marc Shapiro]
Racism (5)
         [Ronnie Schreiber, Binyomin Segal, Constance Stillinger, "Ezra
Dabbah", Joseph Steinberg]
Racism, The Message of the Book of Jonah
         [Yaakov Cohn]


From: Marc Shapiro <mshapiro@...>
Date: Sun, 11 Sep 1994 08:40:14 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Orthodox Judaism Today

Since some people are having difficulty understanding some of my points
let me give an example which will show the sorry state Orthodoxy is in.
If a new neighborhood in Israel or the U. S. is established only for
Orthodox Jews and someone who moves in is caught smoking on Shabbat no
one would object that he be thrown out of the community, since anyone
who smokes on Shabbat is obviously not Orthodox. In fact, some of these
communities would kick you out if you had a TV. However, if someone was
caught in a criminal offense, e. g. he had robbed from customers or the
government, embezzled, violated import-export laws, used insider
information in the stock market, no one would dream of kicking this
person out of the neighborhood as long as he continues to have peyot,
wear tefillin eat glatt etc. This person is still regarded as Orthodox
(Orthodoxy meaning nothing more than ritual, not religiosity).
Therefore, someone who gives a lot of tsedakah and treats
people nicely is not Orthodox, or "religious" but we have "Orthodox"
criminals, and we will speak of someone who is convicted of a crime as
an Orthodox Jew. As most people know, there is a demand for kosher food
at Allenwood and there used to even be a daily minyan.(In general, isn't
the term Orthodox -- borrowed from Christianity -- ridiculous in and of
	Doesn't the fact that people are "makpid" on ritual, and this,
and only this, determines who is Orthodox, show that we have become too
attached to ritual at the expense of underlying values. There are some
good stories about this in the name of Salanter but since time is short
I will have to end, however I would add one more quick comment. Someone
pointed out the R. Yaakov Kaminetzky used to say hi to the nuns in his
neighborhood while everyone else used to ignore them. Here is another
example of the phenomenon. I am not referring to the fact that everyone
ignored the nuns. That is to be expected and is another example of our
sorry state. I am more concerned with the fact that people think it is
some great act of righteousness that R. Yaakov would say hello to
them. I can even picture this being printed in some Artscroll-like book
extolling his piety. Of course, what R. Yaakov did has nothing to do
with piety but is simple common courtesy. The fact that people look at
this as something pious, almost lifnim mishurat ha-din, shows how far we
have slipped.
					Marc Shapiro

P. S. I find it amusing that I have been accused of being a "liberal". I
didn't know that liberalism had the exlusive right to the ideas I have
been expressing. Anyone who knows me is well aware that not only am I
not a liberal, I am not even a neo-conservative. Russell Kirk's The
Conservative Mind is one of my favorite books and I hope to write an
article showing the relevance of Edmund Burke to traditional Judaism.
My personal feelings are not really relevant so I will not continue, but
I mention it only to show how people can jump to unfounded conclusions.
                  Marc Shapiro


From: <RonnieS153@...> (Ronnie Schreiber)
Date: Wed, 14 Sep 94 01:32:30 EDT
Subject: Racism

On the issue of racism among Jews let me toss in a few meagre ramblings.

a) The word "racism" has taken on a rather plastic nature and is often
used in a manner that has little to do with its original meaning. It
seems to me that racism originally meant that one categorized groups of
people and their abilities, natures etc. based on their
biology. ie. That blacks or asians or Jews or caucasians were
inferior/superior based on their group heredity and that nothing could
overcome these supposedly innate differences.  Personally, I feel that
the entire concept of race (outside of identifying specific gene pools)
is a product of racist 19th century [pseudo]science. The conceit
collapses when one considers that any healthy male between the ages of
15 and 70 (or so) can breed with any healthy female of child bearing
 Only a racist can come up with the concept of an octaroon or eurasian.

b) If crossing the street when seeing a couple of teenaged blacks makes
someone a racist, what does crossing the street when seeing a couple of
leather jacketed, Doc Martens wearing skin heads make someone? Face it,
teenagers are dangerous.  Furthermore, a small percentage of Black
teenagers are disproportionately involved in violent crime. Prudent
action is not racism. I should point out, however, that the primary
victims of black criminals are other blacks, so the perception that
might cause one to cross the street is a distorted one.

c) I'm a bit surprised that nobody has pointed out the fact that Jews of
African descent are as fully Jewish as any of us and that an anti-black
racist comment or action might have the effect of harming a fellow
Jew. Since harming a fellow Jew is clearly prohibited by halacha I
believe that this might be a legitimate halachic avenue for prohibiting

d) Because of comments by Tony Martin of Wellesly (sp?) (one of Louis
Farrakhan's fellow travellers) on CSPAN, I did a little secondary
research on the subject of the Hametic curse and rabbinic attitudes in
relation to it. I was led to the works of Ephraim Isaac of the Institute
of Semitic Studies in Princeton, NJ and David B. Davis of Yale (whose
field is the history of slavery).

Isaac, who is an Ethiopian Jew, researched the issue and came to the
conclusion that the passage in the Medresh Tanchuma (the basis of both
the Ginzburg quote cited by Julius Lester and a more widely circulated
version quoted by Graves and Patai) was mistranslated and more
accurately reads "[Ham] x his eyes became redxhis lips became
crookedxhis beard became singedx". It must be noted, however, that even
in the more 'racist' translation offered by Ginzburg, no association is
made between Ham and slavery. It was Canaan, Ham's offspring, who was
fated to be the servant to others.

Isaacs points out that the Tanach and rabbinic sources are fundamentally
concerned with national distinctions, not racial distinctions and that
in any case Cush is taken to be the progenetor of the Africans, not
Canaan - and that Cush's blackness is spoken of admiringly in rabbinic
sources. In rabbinic literature there is no implication that the
descendents of the accursed Canaan are black or African people.

"It is interesting to note that in some Jewish sources both the children
of Shem (including the Israelites) and the children of Ham were
described as black; the first as "black and beautiful", the latter as
"black like the raven" (Pirkei de'Rabbi Eliezer 24).xThough the
description of Canaan as "ugly and black" (Cf. Cant. Rabbah 5:11) is
indeed puzzling, it is clear from this passage that "ugly" and not
"black" is the perjorative term, for the ancestors of the Israelites are
also described as black. On the other hand, Laban's whiteness is
elsewhere described as "a refinement in villainy" (Num.  R. 10:5, Ruth
R. 4:3, Gen. R. 60:7)." (Isaac: Genesis, Judaism and the 'Sons of
Ham'. From Slaves and Slavery in Muslim Africa, John Willis ed.)

Marc Shapiro cited a Satmar book that justified the slavery of Blacks
based on the Hametic curse. I find it supremely ironic that a member of
perhaps the most isolationist subculture in Judaism would make this
comment. David B.  Davis of Yale has demonstrated that the linkage
between black skin and slave status as part of a divine curse was first
made by medieval *Islamic* apologists for the massage Arab slave trade
in Black Africans. (Slavery and Human Progress, Oxford Univ. Press 1984
p. 43). So we have the situation of a Jewish writer justifying racially
based slavery with a concept that was started by a Muslim!

From: <bsegal@...> (Binyomin Segal)
Date: Wed, 14 Sep 1994 11:36:51 -0600
Subject: Racism

A few more points on this racisim thread (with my devil's advocate ears
still up)

Robert Book writes:

>Racial slurs are definitely halachically prohibited, since they
>constitute Loshon Hara ("evil speech").  Both disparaging an entire
>community, and speaking Loshon Hara about a group, are prohibited.  No
>mention is made of any distinction between and Jewish or non-Jewish
>community or group in this context.
>See "Guard Your Tongue" by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, p. 122-123.  This book
>has the haskamot of Rav Moshe Feinstein and Rav Mordechi Gifter.

An excellant book, but perhaps you need to read the whole thing to get a
clearer idea of what's meant on page 122-123. If you read the list of
prohibitions in the front you'll find that none of them that forbid
loshon hara (ie damaging truth) apply to non-jews. Further, if you look
at page 107 you'll see "You are forbidden to listen to or believe loshon
hara about any Jew. Michlal lav ata shomeya hein (the exception proves
the rule) - you can listen & believe loshon hara about a
non-jew. [Somewhere in this book, though i cant find it today there is a
discussion that loshon hara about non-jews is bad "practice" as it gets
you in the habit, but is not assur per se.]

The quotes you mention are about JEWISH cities. You'll recall that the
book is esentially a translation of the Chafetz Chaim, and in Europe
that was the normal experience.

Next, Shalom Carmy writes about a story of a ger and a joke
telling/haggadah reading yuppie. I would point out that this story does
not concern the prohibition of racism. It is about the positive mitzva
to love a ger! The gemara already points out (cites if wanted AFTER YOM
TOV) that it is prohibited to make fun of a ger's background, as they
are clearly sensitive. This has nothing to do with the non-jewish world
per se.

and Mike Grynberg writes:

>I am just wondering how this whole thread on racism fits in with the
>concept of "am segula", the chosen nation. If we are the chosen nation,
>which we assume, then everyone else isn't henceforth there must be
>something different about us to make us chosen. By default, is everyone 
>else 'not as good, or able' as we are? or is there another understanding
>of am segula,

Mike gets big points for this! As they say - half the answer isincluded
in the wise man's question. So are any of you out there goint to answer
this?  Or are you willing to admit that we're better? [Of course, as
Spiderman always said - with great power comes great responsibility!]

gmar chasima tova

From: Constance Stillinger <cas@...>
Date: Wed, 14 Sep 1994 09:56:27 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Racism

<spike@...> (Mike Grynberg) wrote:

> I am just wondering how this whole thread on racism fits in with the
> concept of "am segula", the chosen nation. If we are the chosen nation,
> which we assume, then everyone else isn't henceforth there must be
> something different about us to make us chosen. By default, is everyone 
> else 'not as good, or able' as we are? or is there another understanding
> of am segula,

It's sort of like we're playing the lead role in a drama.  We have a
special, starring, role to play, but the nations play essential roles,
too.  If it's racist to assert that our role is better, well then I
guess this kind of racism is ok.  But it does *not* justify treating
other people badly.

This analogy is imperfect though.  Others will probably give you more

detailed and learned responses.  

An easy fast to all,

Dr. Constance A. (Chana) Stillinger    <cas@...>
Research Coordinator, Education Program for Gifted Youth
Stanford University

From: "Ezra Dabbah" <ny001134@...>
Date: Sat, 17 Sep 94 20:46:55 -0500
Subject: Racism

Is there anything written regarding racism and the distinction the Torah
makes between eved kena'ani and eved ivri?

From: Joseph Steinberg <steinber@...>
Date: Wed, 21 Sep 1994 22:20:18 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Racism

To close up my posts on the issue of Jewish Racism let me just mention 
two points:

(1) Even if someone is to believe that by believing that we are a 'chosen
nation' that we are racsits -- remember -- ANYONE nowadays can become a
Jew... We have a process of conversion... 

(2) OF the three 'Western' religions Judaism is BY FAR the most
universalistic. We do not believe that to be good a person must be Jewish
-- unlike the Christians who believe that to achieve salvation one must
believe in Jesus or the Moslems who feel the same way about Mohammad. We
do not believe that 'if you are not like me you are no good.' A non-Jew 
who is moral and keeps the 7 Noachide commandmants is regarded VERY 
highly by Judaism...

We do believe that we are different -- but we are not racists who 
consider others inferior.



From: <cohn@...> (Yaakov Cohn)
Date: Wed, 14 Sep 1994 08:57:11 -0400
Subject: Racism, The Message of the Book of Jonah

Doesn't the Book of Jonah carry the message that all people are the
children of the One on High(OOH)?

Jonah in angered by the OOH's acceptance of the repentance of the
Ninevites.  I don't think any Jewish prophet ever argued against mercy
towards Jews who changed their evil ways.

I interpret the close of the Book of Jonah to be (in the modern idiom) a
psycho-drama conducted by the OOH, to cause Jonah to recognize his
'racism' and to recognize that the OOH repudiates Jonah's

Yaakov Z. Cohn                    |UUCP:!uunet!pws.ma30.bull.com!eileen!cohn
Mitchell and Gauthier Associates  | Internet: <cohn@...>
200 Baker Avenue                  | Fax:      (508)-369-0013
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End of Volume 15 Issue 30