Dec 23, 2007
the power of the Jews
as always, your comments are welcome...
OCTOBER 20, 2007
RABBI MITCHELL WOHLBERG
Are Jews Too Powerful? The Vanity Fair Perspective
This magazine may be dangerous to your health … or maybe not! You can't tell which magazine it is because I've only shown you the back cover. The front cover has a picture of Nicole Kidman in a state of undress and I fear if I show it to you, you may have trouble focusing on me!
The magazine I am referring to is the October issue of Vanity Fair. Vanity Fair is one of the magazines I subscribe to. I do so because I have a subscription that costs only $12 a year and despite the fact that most of its advertisements (the main reason I subscribe to any magazine) is geared toward women, I find Vanity Fair a lively magazine where every month at least one or two of its articles I find of interest. But nothing prepared me to expect what is found in two articles in October's Vanity Fair – two articles that may be dangerous to your health as a Jew – or maybe not!
In the October issue of Vanity Fair there is an article on page 259 entitled, "The 2007 New Establishment" – a list of what Vanity Fair considers the 100 most powerful, influential people in American society. Now I think it was Joseph Aaron in the
We Jews represent about 2.5 percent of the American people. So one could naturally expect that out of the 100 most influential people in America, one would find listed two or three Jews. How many Jews do you think were listed? You're going to find this hard to believe, but according to Mr. Aaron's calculation, 51 out of the 100 are Jewish! Now, keep in mind that this is not a list of shleppers … amongst the 100 are people with names like Warren Buffet, Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey. And yet, right along side of them are people with names like Schwartzman and Spielberg and Bloomberg and Geffen and Perelman and Lauder and Wasserstein and Cohen and Weinstein and Weintraub, and Friedman, and Silver.
Not bad, my friends! Not bad! Not bad when one considers that there are more people born in
And as if all this is not enough, on page 306 in the same issue of the magazine, there is another list. This one called "The Next Establishment" listing younger people who Vanity Fair believes will eventually make it to the 'big list.' There are 26 people on that list … 15 are Jews. Again, over 50%! Eat your heart out, Anne Coulter!
And then, just in case you still don't get it, on page 308 of Vanity Fair they have a list of people who made the "New Establishment" list in the past, but for one reason or another didn't make it this year, but Vanity Fair believes will be back in the future.
There are 9 names on this list … 8 of them are Jews! This is absolutely unbelievable!
This is absolutely incredible! The only question is – the age old question: Is it good for the Jews? Does presenting so many Jews out front in the public, in positions of power, drawing attention to us … is that good? It shows how good we are? Or is it bad, feeding the hatred of the anti-Semites who accuse us of being too powerful and too controlling.
It's not easy giving a correct answer to this question because I believe Jewish tradition provides two contradictory responses. On a verse toward the end of Genesis where Jacob speaks to his children as they are about to go down to Egypt, the Midrash describes the conversation: "Jacob requested of them: do not go out with bread in your hands and do not all enter through one gate … do not go out with bread in your hands in order not to arouse ill feeling and do not all enter through one gate for fear of the eye."
There was a famine in
On the other hand, in the Book of Exodus, in describing the garment that was made for the High Priest to wear in the
And that's just what Lubavitcher Chasidim do these days, with their "Mitzvah Mobiles" and the big Chanukah menorahs they put up in public squares throughout our country. So, from the perspective of the Lubavitcher Rebbe you could say – although he never would have put it this way: "If you've got it, flaunt it!"
So what do you think? Lay low or flaunt it? Is Vanity Fair good for the Jews or not? I venture to say that your answer depends upon how old you are.
Alan Dershowitz put it so well in his book appropriately entitled, Chutzpah" when he pointed out, "We are at a generational crossroads. The Jews who were the American pioneers – our first generations of immigrants – were indeed guests in other people's land." Yes, many of our fathers and mothers and certainly our grandfathers and grandmothers felt that they were guests in
They did as little as possible to draw attention to themselves. They had a 'sha-shtil' philosophy – lay low and they won't come after us with an ax. And so, Betty Perske changed her name to Lauren Bacall, and Joseph Gottlieb to Joey Bishop, and Issur Danielovich Demsky to Kirk
But then, all of a sudden, in the 70's "Freedom for Soviet Jewry" was put on billboards in front of every synagogue … and Jews started demanding their rights and asserting their interests. Sure, it led the Jimmy Carters and the Walts and the Mearsheimers to claim that the Jewish lobby was too powerful. But just one generation ago there was no Jewish lobby! And there was no Israeli Air Force! And by the time others fought our battle 6 million Jews had gone up in smoke!
At the beginning of this morning's Torah portion God challenges Abraham to leave his country and to come to the Promised Land of
Not them! Who rules? Me and you … and our 'mishpocho' over at Vanity Fair.
And you know what? There are lots of people who think that's true! And you know what? I'm glad they do! It's very important for our survival.
My teacher, Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, of blessed memory, once pointed out an interesting fact about Abraham. Abraham found respect from the outside world only in the aftermath of one particular incident. As we're told in our Torah portion this morning, "Melchizedak, king of
Let our enemies think that we are all-powerful. As Akiva Eldar once put it in the Haaretz newspaper, "The Arab belief that the Jews rule the world has become one of
state. When Anwar Sadat and King Hussein came to
And here in
I've told you the story of someone sitting in a café in
But you know what? It makes many of our friends feel good! And we Jews have many friends here in
We speak of the "glory that was
But that glory and grandeur soon departed after the Greeks and Romans turned against us. Similarly, soon after
"I will bless them that bless thee and him that curseth thee I will curse."
On a majestic night nearly 4000 years ago, God promised our forefather Abraham that his people would be made in to a "great nation." That pledge by the Almighty was repeated to our forefathers and remains a solemn oath. This month's Vanity Fair seems to indicate the pledge is being fulfilled in our day. We are the most blessed generation in the last 2000 years of our people. We should thank God for being that privileged generation that has an Israeli Air Force that could knock out
Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg • October 20, 2007 • Beth Tfiloh Congregation •