Schlep back home, Sarah

The Jewish Chronicle - - Comment & Analysis - MIRIAM SHA­VIV

LAST WEEK­END, hun­dreds of young Jews de­scended on Florida to con­vince their grand­par­ents to vote for Se­na­tor Obama, earn­ing wide press cov­er­age, in­clud­ing in the UK. “The Great Schlep”, or­gan­ised by the pro-Obama Jewish Coun­cil for Ed­u­ca­tion and Re­search, may have had a hu­mor­ous edge, but it has en­trenched the idea that if Obama loses the swing state of Florida, it will be down to racist old Jews. More than 2.5 mil­lion peo­ple have watched a video in which come­di­enne Sarah Sil­ver­man asks, “You know why your grand­par­ents don’t like Barack Obama? It’s be­cause his name sounds scary. It sounds Mus­lim…” and tells Jewish grand­chil­dren to “ed­u­cate” their nanas that they are not so dif­fer­ent from black peo­ple, af­ter all.

Now, it’s true, some el­derly Jews may not vote for Obama be­cause they are racist — al­though, so far, the most no­table racist vot­ing in this cam­paign has come from the African-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity, which in the Demo­cratic pri­maries of­ten turned out 90 per cent strong for Obama; and al­though re­cent anal­y­sis in­di­cates that polls ac­tu­ally un­der­es­ti­mate sup­port for Obama among white vot­ers ( NYT, Oc­to­ber 11). But el­derly Jews, like all Jews, and in­deed all Amer­i­cans, have very good rea­sons not to vote for Obama. Here is a can­di­date who be­lieves we should be talk­ing to an Ira­nian pres­i­dent who openly states his geno­ci­dal in­ten­tions to­wards Is­rael; whose dear men­tor, Rev Jeremiah Wright, has sup­ported di­vest­ment against Is­rael; and who counts among his ad­vis­ers Zbig­niew Brzezin­ski, the anti-Is­rael for­mer na­tional-se­cu­rity ad­viser to Jimmy Carter. All this be­fore even con­sid­er­ing Obama’s com­plete lack of ad­min­is­tra­tive ex­pe­ri­ence, his far-left vot­ing record, his close as­so­ci­a­tion with a do­mes­tic ter­ror­ist (Bill Ay­ers) and con­victed felon (Tony Rezko), his re­luc­tance to pur­sue a winning strat­egy in Iraq, and the hazi­ness sur­round­ing his plans if he is ac­tu­ally voted into of­fice.

You do not have to be a racist to cast your vote else­where, and I hope that the Bub­bies and Zaidas of Florida gave their con­de­scend­ing grand­chil­dren a piece of their mind when they im­plied oth­er­wise.


TWOWEEKS ago, I wrote about the high cost of Jewish liv­ing. A case in point: my fam­ily wanted to buy a suc­cah this year. At the var­i­ous out­lets we vis­ited in North-West Lon­don, even the most ba­sic units — made with metal frames and can­vas, seat­ing four — could not be found for much less than £200. A suc­cah seat­ing 10 was in the re­gion of £300. Yet at Ar­gos, all the raw ma­te­ri­als for a large suc­cah — metal poles and can­vas — are avail­able for a to­tal of £50 and can be put to­gether in half an hour or less. So why are the com­mu­nity’s suc­cah-sell­ers charg­ing con­sumers four times that?


IT IS hard to get through this time of the year without hear­ing some­one com­plain­ing about the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of Sim­chat To­rah from the mod­est, joy­ful cel­e­bra­tion of their child­hood — when­ever that was — into may­hem, com­plete with prac­ti­cal jokes, drunk­en­ness and youth run­ning wild in the syn­a­gogues. I agree that the blur­ring of the line be­tween Sim­chat To­rah and Purim can make it un­pleas­ant. How­ever, take com­fort in the thought that it has ever been so. As far back as 1663, Sa­muel Pepys de­scribed in his di­aries his first visit to a shul — the Span­ish and Por­tuguese in Creechurch Lane in Lon­don (which in 1701 moved to Be­vis Marks). He was hor­ri­fied: “But, Lord! to see the dis­or­der, laugh­ing, sport­ing, and no at­ten­tion, but con­fu­sion in all their ser­vice, more like brutes than peo­ple know­ing the true God, would make a man for­swear ever see­ing them more and in­deed I never did see so much, or could have imag­ined there had been any re­li­gion in the whole world so ab­surdly per­formed as this. Away thence with my mind strongly dis­turbed with them…”

It was, of course, Sim­chat To­rah. Plus ça change…

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