This is a picture I took today while walking to a meeting on 29th street. While taking this picture someone yelled the words “F*cking Jew” at me. I was wearing a yarmulka at the time and the words were clearly directed at me. Years of hearing stories from my grandparents, parents, teachers and rabbis taught me the existence of anti-Semitism, but I never thought I would personally be the brunt of such an attack. That peaceful reality ceased to exist at 2:45pm today on the corner of 29th and 7th.
I am a pretty strong person when it comes to stuff like this, but I’m gonna be honest, this incident was a tad jarring. I had never really seen anti-Semitism in real life, let alone be the subject of a verbal anti-semitic attack. My grandparents are holocaust survivors, and I went to Jewish schools my whole life, so trust me when I say I’ve heard a LOT about anti-Semitism. I’ve heard thousands of stories and seen hundreds of pictures that feature Jews living in places where they were persecuted. My own grandparents had their families wiped out under the rule of Nazi Germany. I know a lot about hatred towards the Jews, but never actually experienced it first hand, until today.
I didn’t say anything back, I just walked on and went to my meeting (which was ironically about an improv comedy program I am in). I acted as if nothing had happened, yet inside I was fuming. I wasn’t angry at the hatred they had, after all I have things I flat out hate too, but I try and keep those feelings inside myself, especially if I know that my hatred compromises my ability for rational thought (unless you are Mark Sanchez or NHL commissioner Gary Bettman). What I was angry about was that they thought it was ok to bring that hatred outside, into the world. They saw me taking a picture, and felt like the appropriate response was for them to yell out words usually reserved for KKK meetings and Neo-Nazi functions.
So I leave you with this. Over the next few days Israeli leadership will be deciding whether to send in ground units or to continue with air strikes to quell rocket threats from Gaza. There will be harsh public opinion from BOTH sides of the debate (pro-Israel and pro-Hamas). We live in a land and time where we are free to express our opinion, no matter what it is, without fear of persecution from the government. Do not abuse this power with the use of hate filled rants and racist terms. Take a deep breath, proofread what you write, decide if your arguments help get your point across, or if it just adds fire to a situation already covered in gasoline. Yelling something like “F*cking Jew” or “Dirty Arab” does not showcase your intellectual dominance over a subject, it showcases your ability to sound like a moron.
Also, Gary Bettman, end the NHL lockout.
Also, Follow me on Twitter @Eitanthegoalie
This is a completely random nerd find of mine BUT one of the extras in “The Social Network” was one of the employees of the BuyMore in “Chuck”. Chuck fans know what I’m talking about.
Today, pictures surfaced showing Matisyahu without a Yarmulka, without a beard and with dyed hair. I think this picture hit harder for me because it looks like he has gone back “religiously” to where he was before “finding god” and the Hasidic community. I should also mention that he kinda looks like Vanilla Ice in this picture. What I’m gonna try and do now is work through what I am feeling via this blog. Keep in mind, this is an experiment. Usually when people write, they have a drawn out idea of what they want to write, this is blog is being written as these ideas and emotions come to me.
Here is my honest thing about this whole Matisyahu “scandal” or “Matis-gate” as I have been calling it. I try my hardest not to pass judgement on people’s religious status. Matisyahu has the right to choose whatever religion he wants and no one has the right to judge him. The biggest problems I have with super-religious groups in America is not their beliefs but rather the fact they impose their beliefs on other people. When some nut from Westborough Baptist church pickets the funeral of a fallen soldier with a sign that says “THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU LET QUEERS MARRY IN AMERICA!”, I’m not angry at their beliefs. They are allowed to believe what they believe. The real issue comes when their beliefs pour over into other people’s lives.
There will undoubtedly be fallout from this picture in the Jewish community. People will yell, tweet, blog and write in newspapers about the big Chillul Hashem (Desecration of God’s Name) that Matisyahu is causing. They have every right to be mad on the inside, but the hateful public response to this is not OK. People need to take a step back from the situation and ask themselves, would it have been better for him to hide under the Beard and Black Hat singing songs that he doesn’t believe in just so that we can say “Look at that nice Jewish rapper”? Matisyahu can do whatever he wants to do and i am behind him 100%.
That being said, I have to admit, I am kinda bummed out by all this. I am not angry at him but rather just feeling kind of “Blah” about the situation. It’s weird but the best way to describe this feeling is if you thought you were getting $50 for your birthday but only got $45. You are happy you got the money but slightly bummed you didn’t get that extra $5. (“But Eitan, That metaphor doesn’t fit the situation at all!” Guys, It’s not suppose to fit the situation, It’s just suppose to describe my emotions! I got mad emotions y’all.)
Matisyahu became big around the time I started to do comedy and as a young religious Jewish comedian I looked up to Matisyahu. Sure, he was a cool Hasidic guy to the WORLD but what people have to remember is that he was also a role model to thousands of Jewish youth out there. Yes, The Payot, long beard and the black hat did give him a bit of a “Novelty” feel but if you were to take all those things away he was still was a tremendous performer who made amazing songs with powerful lyrics. When I looked at Matisyahu, I saw someone who was dealt some major disadvantages because he was a religious Jew in showbusiness (Shabbos and Kashurt are HUGE disadvantages, Trust me) and overcame them purely because of his tremendous talent (If you haven’t ever gone to a Matisyahu concert I strongly suggest you get a ticket ASAP, homeboy can entertain y’all). What was more then that was that he didn’t just overcome his disadvantages, He embraced them. His spiritual lyrics, his humble demeanor off stage and his black hat that he wore during shows. It’s like his whole act was based around the premise of “Whats that? You have a preconceived idea about what every Jewish person is like? Allow me to BLOW YOUR EFFING MIND!”
I distinctly remember a conversation with someone when I was around 17 where he asked the obvious question “How are you going to deal with shows on Shabbos? It’s gonna be very hard to be religious on the road.” and I remember answering him “Tell that to Matisyahu”.
So where does that leave me now. I think the best way to deal with this is to separate Matisyahu the Hasidic rapper and Matisyahu the person, or as I now shall call them “Matisyahu” and “Jewish Vanilla Ice” (“JVI” for short). Everything inspirational I learnt from Matisyahu I still hold as true. JVI’s new found way of life does not negate Matisyahu’s lyrics, lessons and his representation as a really bad-ass Jew in show business, kinda like how a baseball player’s stats don’t get erased from history when he retires (unless you are Sammy Sosa). I’m sad about Matisyahu very much in the same way that many people will be sad when Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera retire (It should be noted here that i am a Met fan. DJ and Manny can’t retire soon enough in my book).
As for Jewish Vanilla Ice? I’m actually happy for him. He clearly didn’t like the way he was living and changed it. In fact, we can all learn a lesson from him. He changed his ways despite the huge weight that was on him from the Jewish Community. The lesson to learn from this is that you shouldn’t let the society pressure you into doing something you don’t believe in. If you have an issue with your current situation, there is nothing holding you back from making a change. Don’t think you got the strength to do it? “Tell that to Matisyahu”.
As I am finishing this blog I just put “King without a Crown” on in the background. I’ll finish this post with one of my favorite lyrics from the song.
“Strip away your layers and reveal your soul. Got to give yourself up and then you become whole. You’re a slave to yourself, you don’t even know. Want to live the fast life but your brain won’t go.”
Eitan Levine is a New York City based comic and writer.
Follow him @Eitanthegoalie and Youtube.com/Eitanthegoalie
Also, today I found out that the Atlanta Braves mascot used to be named Chief Noc-a-homa which is slightly less racist then the old Mets mascot, Rabbi Grandslamberg.
Every Christmas I think “What is Glen Coco doing today?” Well, I think it is safe to assume that he is watching my latest Vlog about Chanukah!
I present to you “Chanu-Vlog!!!”