Those Run of the Mill Hasidic Landlords January 17, 2008 2:00 PM   Subscribe

What's the ruling on borderline anti-Semitism?

In the interest of full disclosure, I may be overly sensitive due to sharing the same religion (though not the particular sect of that religion) with the landlord in question. However, I can't help but feel that had the OP made a similar comment using a different race or ethnic group ("This is just your run-of-the-mill black/Hispanic landlord"), with the obvious inference that certain stereotypes can be assumed about the landlord from the identifying remark, it would not be tolerated. So why is it ok with a particular sect of Jews? It seems to me that this is yet another example of some groups being off-limits to show prejudice against, while with others it's fair game.
posted by The Gooch to Etiquette/Policy at 2:00 PM (310 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

It seems like someone called that out in-thread and a few people mentioned why it might matter. I think as a stand-alone comment it could read pretty strange and/or screwed up, but the OP explained why she mentioned it. Otoh, the whole "shylockinan" thing that the OP supposedly clarified with, to me, is significantly more sketch.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:07 PM on January 17, 2008


You flagged it, right? If so, I'd say the ruling seems pretty obvious.
posted by nomisxid at 2:08 PM on January 17, 2008


The Shylock comment puts it severely over the top. That's not ok. The OP should be asked to rewrite and resubmit the question.
posted by occhiblu at 2:27 PM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the clarification looks well iffy (I think, anyway - it also didn't seem to make much sense).
posted by jack_mo at 2:37 PM on January 17, 2008


The OP's comment is offencive as far as I can tell. Poorly worded. I don't know that there is anything to be done about it, but I think you were right to bring it here, and it doesn't reflect well on that person. So no I don't think you're overly sensitive.
posted by nola at 2:38 PM on January 17, 2008


Had the statement been "This is just your run-of-the-mill Muslim landlord" who is also "a lone TowelHeadian landlord petrified in his own stereotype...", it would have otherwise, understandably, created an enormous wall of flames around AskMe. But it would have also been confusing because TowelHeadian isn't a real adjective.
posted by deern the headlice at 2:38 PM on January 17, 2008


The Shylock comment would be completely fine with me if the OP hadn't made a point of stating that the landlord was Jewish. In that context, its usage seems more than a little suspect.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 2:40 PM on January 17, 2008


What's the ruling on borderline anti-Semitism?

For the last time, it's not anti-Semitism! We're just tired of them swimming over here and taking all our dish-washing and fruit-picking jobs.
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:41 PM on January 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


As my mom says, anti-semtism is like gravity: a natural law of the universe, and, for all pratical purposes, inescapable.
posted by milarepa at 2:45 PM on January 17, 2008


Flag as offensive, same as in feminist/racist town.
posted by SassHat at 2:51 PM on January 17, 2008


As my mom says, anti-semtism is like gravity: a natural law of the universe, and, for all pratical purposes, inescapable.

To me that's a totally mysterious statement that would benefit from some additional context. Is your Mom Jewish? Mine is, and if she said that I'd consider it all sorts of messed up. On the other hand if my Dad or some other non-Jew said it, I'd consider it messed up in a toally other direction.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:52 PM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I didn't get the Hasidic reference, either. I thought it was in poor taste and completely irrelevant. As jessamyn said, though, some commenters chimed in to say that there might actually be some relevance.

But the "Shylockian" comment? Whoa. Way over the top, IMO.
posted by misha at 2:53 PM on January 17, 2008


I can't figure out why that question remains posted in its original form.
posted by sneakin at 2:57 PM on January 17, 2008


I agree that it's a bigoted remark.

As my mom says, anti-semtism is like gravity: a natural law of the universe, and, for all pratical purposes, inescapable.

I have the impression that many -no, not many, some - Jews hold this principle, and of course, that is part of their rationale for needing the state of Israel, and a living interpretation of the concept of the "chosen people." Like many ideas about divine will or destiny, I find that rather off-putting.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:59 PM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Plus, he's more a Fagin than a Shylock.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:02 PM on January 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yeah, not cool at all.
posted by Devils Slide at 3:04 PM on January 17, 2008


Worse still, he's wrong. A typical hasidic landlord would demand a pint of gentile infant blood along with the monthly rent. To be delivered at midnight at a nearby graveyard, where he and his ilk are plotting world finances.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:08 PM on January 17, 2008 [6 favorites]


Did anyone read hermitosis' comment?
posted by tristeza at 3:10 PM on January 17, 2008


My mom is Jewish by birth (and decidedly anti-Zionist, chosen people bs) and our extended family has directly suffered the effects of anti-semitism in many wonderful european countries. It's never said as seriously as I guess it came across, but there is definitely some resignation behind it.
posted by milarepa at 3:13 PM on January 17, 2008


hermitosis' comment.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:21 PM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hermitosis has a point. I also had a sleazy Hasidic landlord in NY many years ago and they do indeed have a tightly knit community, so having that information in the original question could be considered useful. However, that's what I thought right up until I saw the shylockian comment, which IMHO is well beyond the pale.
posted by mygothlaundry at 3:37 PM on January 17, 2008


The mention in the original post that the landlord is Hasidic may have been okay if the OP had explained in a culturally sensitive way why that might be relevant. Without context for those of us who do not live in Brooklyn, it just looks shitty.
posted by amro at 3:52 PM on January 17, 2008


To me that's a totally mysterious statement

Really? Lots of Jews feel that way, and frankly it's not an unreasonable inference from the last couple thousand years' worth of history. Not "anti-Semitism is natural and right," but "anti-Semitism is inescapable." It's an easy statement to disagree with, but "totally mysterious"? I find that reaction totally mysterious.

And yeah, the Shylock reference was pretty ignorant.
posted by languagehat at 4:00 PM on January 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Could someone explain to naive me, sheltered among kindly California Jews, how the fundamentalism or insularity of Brooklyn Hasidism contributes to this guy's despicable behavior? It still reads to me as "The Jew can't help but be greedy," though I assume there's more to it that I'm not getting.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:11 PM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


It was a pretty racist post. This is not the sort of crap which should be kept free of complaints in the thread. Just shuffle your complaints off to MeTa. Nothing to see here. No, that thread should be bombed with crap until it is pulled. I hate that nonsense, no matter how bad the landlord might be.
posted by caddis at 4:14 PM on January 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


I hear they're also dirty. Maybe there is a correlation between being dirty and greedy. Or maybe its some toxic combination of being dirty and clannish. And rootlessly cosmopolitan. Those elements conspire to make hasids love diamonds.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:15 PM on January 17, 2008


That being said, as a Jew, I love the phrase "rootless cosmopolitan." Who wouldn't want to be that?
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:21 PM on January 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


Well, my two complaints were removed from the thread. I encourage some civil disobedience whereupon people keep complaining in the thread itself until it is ruined and pulled. There is no room on MeFi for this.
posted by caddis at 4:25 PM on January 17, 2008


In order to give accurate advice, it would be helpful if the poster would give a general description of the landlord's nose. How curved is it? How much larger is it than an average white person's nose?
posted by spork at 4:31 PM on January 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


"And yeah, the Shylock reference was pretty ignorant."

Dude, total ADD moment (from Shylock to shyster to Shamus): Is there any decent evidence on how Shamus came to mean "detective"? A quick look around didn't turn up much that seemed well-documented or particularly convincing, and there seemed significant factions for Yiddish or Irish origins without anything to back them up.
posted by klangklangston at 4:32 PM on January 17, 2008


zoomorphic: Sure, sure. Unfortunately, there are specific aspects to our relationship that come to light when Iimplicitly identify myself as a non-member of his community: he's a small business guy who's working as a part of a larger communal network of landlords who own property in this area, make repairs on the same buildings, and rent to white kids rather than Hispanics. Anyone in Brooklyn would immediately apprehend why he won't take checks, not mention why a jury might unfairly look favorably on me and my white bread subletters rather than on him, a lone Shylockian landlord petrified in his own stereotype predetermined by specific demographic histories and social strata. It's sad but true, and far more complicated than niceties will allow.

This is brilliant. It's a remarkable feat of contradiction. Translation:

Anyone in Brooklyn would immediately apprehend why he won't take checks, not mention why a jury might unfairly look favorably on me and my white bread subletters rather than on him...

"If you live in Brooklyn, you know that those people are all like that."

...a lone Shylockian landlord petrified in his own stereotype predetermined by specific demographic histories and social strata.

"I've learned the nineteenth-century trick of rationalizing stereotypes, and don't see the point of just being individually specific about greed or underhandedness when I can drag a whole social group into the issue."

"It's sad but true, and far more complicated than niceties will allow."

"Racism isn't nice. But the truth isn't nice, either. Ergo, the truth is that it's justifiable to be racist. But all you nice people don't understand it like I do."

*gives self gold promised gold star for not ranting about how much I hate NYC*
posted by koeselitz at 4:34 PM on January 17, 2008 [8 favorites]


klangklangston, the OED says "origin uncertain." Sorry
posted by joseph_elmhurst at 4:35 PM on January 17, 2008


The "Shylock" remark was wrong, but Chassidism is a culture every bit as much as it is a religion, and culture is not off limits here-- especially in Ask Metafilter, which is about finding answers to questions.
posted by Kwantsar at 4:36 PM on January 17, 2008


"Could someone explain to naive me, sheltered among kindly California Jews, how the fundamentalism or insularity of Brooklyn Hasidism contributes to this guy's despicable behavior?"

Because it's a tight-knit culture (less open to social disapprobation), with a significant anti-modern bent? It makes him less likely to deal with an out-group person fairly, and there's also a big chauvinistic sexist tendency to the culture.

Obviously, not all Hasidics conform to the stereotype, but there are some fairly reasonable cultural assumptions that can be drawn. It's like the prior AskMe kerfluffle over a woman dealing with Hispanic neighbors, or Stav's discussion of Korean cultural norms. I'd also mention that cultural differences tend to be amplified in conflict, because they provide a way to avoid having to communicate openly—when someone's screwing you, often the last thing they want is to communicate openly and honestly.
posted by klangklangston at 4:39 PM on January 17, 2008


koeselitz: New York City hates you.
posted by mlis at 4:39 PM on January 17, 2008


I think that the relevant context to such a statement, if it exists, needs to be explained clearly. There was a similar comment that I flagged awhile back. ("They're Indian. It's hard to get a straight answer out of them.")

White, middle-class, midwestern me has absolutely no idea how either statement could be contextualized as non-racist or not-anti-semitic. (I didn't even know that Indians had the stereotype of being obfuscating, so the statement itself made no sense. Hell, I didn't even know if she was referring to Native Americans or Indians from India. As to the question under discussion, I had no idea what Hasidic landlords were supposedly like.)
posted by desjardins at 4:40 PM on January 17, 2008


Kwantsar: The "Shylock" remark was wrong, but Chassidism is a culture every bit as much as it is a religion, and culture is not off limits here-- especially in Ask Metafilter, which is about finding answers to questions.

"I have a problem with my stupid American landlord-- you know how they are. They're all absolute idiots. And if you've ever met them, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Anyway..."
posted by koeselitz at 4:44 PM on January 17, 2008


Obviously, zoomorphic is intimidated by her landlord's Hasid horns. Just because she can't see them doesn't mean they aren't there. Just ask her.
posted by caddis at 4:50 PM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


MLIS: koeselitz: New York City hates you.

Well, I know. But I'm learning to live with it. I've ranted about how much I dislike it a lot in the past, but I'm trying to get over that and just be a little more pleasant.

posted by koeselitz at 4:53 PM on January 17, 2008


The "Shylock" remark was wrong, but Chassidism is a culture every bit as much as it is a religion, and culture is not off limits here-- especially in Ask Metafilter, which is about finding answers to questions..

I hate to use the hackneyed "slippery slope" argument, but I'm not sure calling something a "culture" instead of a "religion/race/ethnic group" justifies promoting the worst, most hateful stereotypes of a particular set of people. For example, there is such thing as black culture too, but I'm guessing "I just moved into a new apartment building in a predominantly black neighborhood. Any recommendations for a good deadbolt lock?" would be frowned upon. I honestly don't see the difference between the two.
posted by The Gooch at 4:59 PM on January 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


"I have a problem with my stupid American landlord-- you know how they are. They're all absolute idiots. And if you've ever met them, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Anyway..."

Either you're arguing in bad faith, you're a complete relativist, or you are otherwise somehow incapable... ah, hell with it. klangklangston did a far better job of explaining my point of view than I could do.

I honestly don't see the difference between the two.

Well, the first and most obvious in a long list of differences is that being a Chassid is a choice.
posted by Kwantsar at 5:03 PM on January 17, 2008


caddis: Are you going to self-immolate? This is a promising start.
posted by mlis at 5:14 PM on January 17, 2008


I honestly don't see how the information about religious affiliation or ethnicity adds to the likelihood of a better answer. Are there special "legally-intimidating measures" for recovering money from the Hasidim of Brooklyn outsiders to the community can try that are different to things you'd do to get cash back off anyone else? So it's pointless as well as bigoted.
posted by Abiezer at 5:15 PM on January 17, 2008


Kwantsar, for clarification, I meant I don't see the difference in severity between the two statements (the one regarding Hasidim from the original question and my hypothetical one regarding African Americans above). Both throw in the cultural identity of an individual or group of people for the express purpose of presenting them in a negative way based on stereotypes.
posted by The Gooch at 5:18 PM on January 17, 2008


Is there any decent evidence on how Shamus came to mean "detective"? A quick look around didn't turn up much that seemed well-documented or particularly convincing, and there seemed significant factions for Yiddish or Irish origins without anything to back them up.

Nope, those are the two main contenders, and they're still duking it out.

"In this corner..." nah, better not go there in this thread.
posted by languagehat at 5:19 PM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well, the first and most obvious in a long list of differences is that being a Chassid is a choice.

Well, to an extent. Some of what is being addressed here are generalized stereotypes about Jews. And I suppose you could make the case that being Jewish is a choice as well, but antisemites tend not to agree. They tend to think that whatever is wrong with Jews is just something that's wrong with them. It's why people whose great grandparents had converted were shoveled into ovens.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:19 PM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


"I honestly don't see the difference between the two."

You don't? You're a liar or an idiot.

"Both throw in the cultural identity of an individual or group of people for the express purpose of presenting them in a negative way based on stereotypes."

Wrong. The expressed purpose is to get the security deposit back. That there's a cultural conflict may be relevant information, and it's not that big a deal for answerers who don't think it's relevant to still answer the fucking question or not, to the best of their ability.
posted by klangklangston at 5:27 PM on January 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Could someone explain to naive me, sheltered among kindly California Jews, how the fundamentalism or insularity of Brooklyn Hasidism contributes to this guy's despicable behavior?

It's very different from your California Jews. Culturally, they're very close to you. The Hasidics aren't. Think if the question involved how to conduct business with the Amish, how to rent an apartment in Japan, how to ride the Chinatown bus, or what's an appropriate gift to bring to a Kenyan host. I've never dealt with Hasidic landlords in Brooklyn, but I bet that addition to the question would let someone who has provide a more specific answer.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 5:31 PM on January 17, 2008 [5 favorites]


i always thought "shamus" was just a misspelling of the irish name "seamus". maybe there was a time when irish people gravitated to the detective business because it was more difficult for them to get regular jobs.
posted by bruce at 5:38 PM on January 17, 2008


Oh, come on. Hasids don't live in some mythical Jewbania, and there's nothing especially unique about Brooklyn hasids (there are plenty of hasids in LA). Yes, they are a small, relatively insular community, but they speak English, participate, to a large extent, in the outside world, do business with non-Jews, watch television, go to movies, ride public transportation, etc. They know and obey the laws of the United States when doing business, not some obscure hasid law. If there is a problem with a hasidic landlord, it's because he's a landlord and perhaps a crook, not because he's a hasid and hasidim are a community that doesn't share the larger values of the outside community.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:39 PM on January 17, 2008 [5 favorites]


You don't? You're a liar or an idiot. -klangklangston

Very generous klang.
posted by nola at 5:44 PM on January 17, 2008


Because it's a tight-knit culture (less open to social disapprobation), with a significant anti-modern bent? It makes him less likely to deal with an out-group person fairly, and there's also a big chauvinistic sexist tendency to the culture.

Also, Klang, what makes you presume that they are going to tend to deal with an out-group unfairly? That's pretty presumptuous.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:48 PM on January 17, 2008


Yes. I understand that Hasids are, ahem, insular and fundamental. How does that make them apt to be slumlords, or to shirk the law for money? The implication of "Those Run of the Mill Hasidic Landlords" is certainly that there is a deterministic correlation between these two traits. It's not that this guy is refusing to speak with a woman or shake hands, or do work on the sabbath. It's not his funny hat. It's his greed that is tied to Hasidism in the offending phrase. Is there any justification for that? No? Then it's bigoted and I think it should go.

I keep imagining how easy it would be to write this question as about a "bitchy Leona Helmsley type woman landlady from hell," and that would certainly be dealt with severely as sexist.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:48 PM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


on non-preview, obviously I agree with AZ.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:51 PM on January 17, 2008


"Also, Klang, what makes you presume that they are going to tend to deal with an out-group unfairly? That's pretty presumptuous."

Um… Because that's pretty much a social relations constant? It's true of nearly every GROUP, though not necessarily every individual. But it does make it more likely.

"How does that make them apt to be slumlords, or to shirk the law for money?"

It doesn't (though I'd argue that being Hasidic does make one more likely to be a landlord in certain parts of Brooklyn, but I think it's the being a landlord part that makes 'em shirk the law for money, not their Jewish identity). What it does mean is that some communication tactics that assume a shared culture (like threatening their reputation with the general population) won't be effective, and it does mean that certain effective communication techniques (threatening their reputation in-group) will be more difficult.
posted by klangklangston at 5:55 PM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've learned my lesson about calling racism around here, so I'll just derail:

>Is there any decent evidence on how Shamus came to mean "detective"?

Not in the least definitive, but Michael Chabon has a lot of fun with this kind of thing in "The Yiddish Policemen's Union". If you're interested in that kind of thing, you'll really enjoy what he does with slang and dialect.

Best. Jewish-Alaskan-Free-State-Alternate-Universe. Evah.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 6:08 PM on January 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


His reputation sounds like it's better protected by the market demand than the Hasids. I don't think smearing this guy's community standing was a tack the poster was considering taking, rather she was seeking "other legally-intimidating measures," so I find your point interesting but not pertinent enough to function as an excuse for expressing frustration with a projection of "greedy slumlord" on "Hasid." After all, most Hasids are nice, I assume. Some even have killer flow!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:13 PM on January 17, 2008


This thread is clearly part of the metafilter zionist movement to control our snacks. Never!
posted by oxford blue at 6:15 PM on January 17, 2008


They know and obey the laws of the United States when doing business, not some obscure hasid law.

You know that they are, in fact, following obscure Hasidic laws.

I mean, it's useful in a question about landlords to identify the type of landlord. He could write "my landlord is a big corporation," "I have an absentee landlord and a management company" or "my landlord is a retiree renting out the spare room" and it gives useful information to the question. Similarly, so does "my landlord is a Hasidic Jew from Brooklyn." "My Black landlord" and "my woman landlord" don't, but "Brooklyn Hasidic" does.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:15 PM on January 17, 2008


♫ The west coast has the sunshine
And the Jews all get so tanned
I dig a french bikini on hawaii island
Mohels by a palm tree in the sand
I wish they all could be California Jews... ♫

posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:21 PM on January 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


You know that they are, in fact, following obscure Hasidic laws.

Which ones?
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:40 PM on January 17, 2008


So I have this Scientologist landlord...
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 6:42 PM on January 17, 2008 [5 favorites]


Are there special "legally-intimidating measures" for recovering money from the Hasidim of Brooklyn outsiders to the community can try that are different to things you'd do to get cash back off anyone else? So it's pointless as well as bigoted.

The answer to the question (for me personally) is "I don't know." Unless the questioner knows that the answer is no, then it's obviously not pointless. The question (and the detail therein) have a very specific point: "How do I get my money back?"
posted by Kwantsar at 6:58 PM on January 17, 2008


You know that they are, in fact, following obscure Hasidic laws.

Which ones?


Well, my last tailor (An Orthodox jew, but not a Chassid) closed at noon on Friday-- not an obscure law, but a departure from the customs of larger society driven by his religion and/or culture. And Chick-Fil-A is closed on fucking Sunday. Both of which piss me off as I think business owners should worship money, not God.
posted by Kwantsar at 7:07 PM on January 17, 2008


The lack of a capital J was an oversight. Please accept my sincere apologies.
posted by Kwantsar at 7:08 PM on January 17, 2008


♫ The west coast has the sunshine
And the Jews all get so tanned
I dig a french bikini on hawaii island
Mohels by a palm tree in the sand
I wish they all could be California Jews... ♫


"round, round schlep around, I schlep around..."
posted by jonmc at 7:08 PM on January 17, 2008 [6 favorites]


Which ones?

There are a lot. Personally, I find one of the more interesting examples in the law that a continuous wire enclosing the community negates the law that you cannot go outside carrying things on the Sabbath.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 7:08 PM on January 17, 2008


Well, I'm talking about laws that contravene the laws of the United Sates. Believe me, there is no hasidic landlord law that is different than regular landlord law. In fact, Jewish law makes it very clear that Jews must obey the laws of the country they inhabit. In fact, engaging in ethical business practices is considered so important in Judaism that there is a popular legend that it is the first thing that come up when you die and are questioned in the afterlife.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:11 PM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Still don't see it, Kwantsar. Distinguish between an individual and a corporation, sure. The rest, I really don't get it if it's legal remedies that are being suggested.
posted by Abiezer at 7:14 PM on January 17, 2008


I agree it was weird to mention it in the question and comes off as vaguely anti-semitic, so I deleted it. They can try again next week.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:25 PM on January 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


The "Shylock" remark was wrong, but Chassidism is a culture every bit as much as it is a religion, and culture is not off limits here-- especially in Ask Metafilter, which is about finding answers to questions.

But the OP's question was: Are there other legally-intimidating measures I might take to let this dude know we mean business? The landlord's culture or religion have no relevance to answers to that question.

I think the post is offensive and should be pulled.
posted by Neiltupper at 7:26 PM on January 17, 2008


You know who else was an anti-Semitic? Huh?
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:02 PM on January 17, 2008


Thanks, Matt.
posted by occhiblu at 8:02 PM on January 17, 2008


ugh, an anti-Semite, sorry.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:04 PM on January 17, 2008


Thank you, Matt! May the Lord protect and defend you. May He always shield you from shame.
May you come to be In Israel a shining name. May you be like Ruth and like Esther. May you be deserving of praise. Strengthen him Oh Lord, and keep them from the strangers' ways.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:11 PM on January 17, 2008


Thank you Matt.
posted by caddis at 8:12 PM on January 17, 2008


klangklangston: I honestly don't see the difference between the two.

You don't? You're a liar or an idiot.


Well, in that case, enlighten me. What is the difference between perpetuating the worst, most hateful stereotypes about Jews (money grubbers) and perpetuating the worst, most hateful stereotype about blacks (all criminals)? Or any other minority group for that matter?

Reading responses like yours only serves to prove my initial argument at the top of the thread "that this is yet another example of some groups being off-limits to show prejudice against, while with others it's fair game"
posted by The Gooch at 8:47 PM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


He could write "my landlord is a big corporation," "I have an absentee landlord and a management company" or "my landlord is a retiree renting out the spare room" and it gives useful information to the question. Similarly, so does "my landlord is a Hasidic Jew from Brooklyn."

Yeah, but that's not what he said. If he'd given that information by sying "FWIW, he's a Hasidic Jew from Brooklyn" or something else neutral-sounding (neutral to the religion/culture-- he doesn't have to be neutral towards the guy) then I think many/most people (well, me, anyway) would not be upset, or at least less so. But instead he said "This is just your run-of-the-mill Hasidic slumlord." i.e., a sweeping negative judgment about a group of people.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 8:47 PM on January 17, 2008


Thanks Matt.
posted by Jahaza at 9:26 PM on January 17, 2008


I have the impression that many -no, not many, some - Jews hold this principle, and of course, that is part of their rationale for needing the state of Israel, and a living interpretation of the concept of the "chosen people."
Ambrosia Voyeur

Funny you should mention that. I came across the following earlier tonight.

"Am Segulah -- the "chosen people" -- an idea which sets Jews apart from others, becomes understood as the "well-choosing people", something that any nation that segulah -- "sustains the action of learning" -- can aspire to.

This is not word-play. We have simply re-discovered and re-validated traditional claims that Torah Hebrew roots are not arbitrary, but rather, intrinsically define that which they describe. The Hebrew letter Samek means "to sustain". Gimel refers to "action" or "relationship" (a camel), and Lamed means "learning" (Samek-Gimel-Lamed is the root of segulah, "chosen/choosing"). Any person or people that "sustains the action of learning" learns to choose well.

Simply by moving from noun-translations to verb-translations, principles that previously have set Jews apart and caused jealousy now unite us with others, as examples of successful behavior."
posted by Sailormom at 9:54 PM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's amazing how jealous people get of the words "The Chosen People." You want our lot? Have it! Be despised for centuries. Be a tiny minority. Suffer outrageous hatred, calumny, libel, genocide. Worship a distant and strange God. Have countries invite you in, because they have a strange superstition against lending money with interest and you don't, and their economy won't grow as a result. Watch them despise you for it. Wait for them to rise up against you and eventually kick you out. Enjoy the pogroms. Enjoy the ghettos. Have fun fleeing a country, only to find all borders closed to you. Watch colleges institute quotas to keep you out. Do business in cities that forbid business on Sunday, when your sabbath falls on a Saturday, conveniently guaranteeing that there will be one day less per week you can make money than them. The lynchings are great too. And the fact that any grade school bully has something right on hand to abuse you for. And the fact that the dominant religion tends to view you either as the killers of the savior or somehow necessary to the return of their savior, but won't bother to try and understand you except in relation to your savior. Watch your sacred texts get burned. Your wives and daughters raped. Your beard and sidelocks shaved in the streets to humiliate you. Learn a trade, become a doctor, only to learn that hospitals won't hire Jewish doctors. Become a journalist. Go abroad to an Arab country. Get kidnapped. Have your kidnappers film you giving a speech about how you are a zionist, and then continue filming as they saw off your head. Become a landlord. If you aren't a good one, wait for people to ask, not, why is he a bad landlord, but, what is it about being a Jew that makes him a bad landlord.

This is being chosen? It's yours if you want it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:21 PM on January 17, 2008 [22 favorites]


their savior, rather.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:22 PM on January 17, 2008


Sailormom, that is truly fascinating. Now, I must admit, my developmental personal prejudices about Jews and Judaism were been very much in line with this revised interpretation. I, and I assume some others, have been first attracted to Judaism in part because of the success and education represented by the Jews we've been exposed to. For myself, I'm talking about before age 10, here. Of course, not all Jews are educated, funny and well-to-do. It's a sharp, double edged sword that they (in my amateur estimation) have just that sort of image in contemporary US media.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:25 PM on January 17, 2008


Of course, not all Jews are educated, funny and well-to-do.

YOU LIE!!!
posted by Krrrlson at 11:36 PM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I was chosen, once.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:50 AM on January 18, 2008


Shorter Astro Zombie: "next time couldn't you choose somebody else for a change?"
posted by languagehat at 7:01 AM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


But the OP's question was: Are there other legally-intimidating measures I might take to let this dude know we mean business? The landlord's culture or religion have no relevance to answers to that question.

Rub him with bacon.
posted by The Bellman at 7:57 AM on January 18, 2008


That would be assault.
posted by amro at 8:18 AM on January 18, 2008


Sorry, battery.

Damn, now they're going to come take my law degree away.
posted by amro at 8:19 AM on January 18, 2008


Oh, come on. Hasids don't live in some mythical Jewbania, and there's nothing especially unique about Brooklyn hasids ... If there is a problem with a hasidic landlord, it's because he's a landlord and perhaps a crook, not because he's a hasid and hasidim are a community that doesn't share the larger values of the outside community.

I'm not gonna argue that her statement wasn't bigoted, but I feel the need to challenge this statement. Something tells me you've never been to South Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where the poster lived. The Williamsburg hasids are Satmars, and they are profoundly different from other Hasidic dynasties. They're far more traditional and old-world, if you can imagine. (Seriously, there was an incident upstate a few weeks ago where a Satmar woman was systematically terrorized by her Satmar neighbors because she wore stockings without back seams, which is a no-no.) Women are generally not well-educated, and they don't work outside of the home once they're married. They are incredibly insular and suspicious of outsiders. They don't care about the welfare of outsiders. (And why should they? No one--save for politicians--really cares about their welfare, either.)

And the landlords who rent to people outside of the Satmar community mostly own crappy tenement buildings in poor neighborhoods. Hence the slumlord reputation. But then again, there are very few "professional" landlords in NYC who aren't slumlords. However, the poster was wrong in her implication that being Satmar makes them slumlords.

It doesn't. It just makes them maladaptive, backwards, anachronistic religious zealots.
posted by cowboy_sally at 8:22 AM on January 18, 2008


You are right, amro. So go up to him and say "If it were not assize time, I would rub you with bacon!" [/law school joke]
posted by The Bellman at 8:23 AM on January 18, 2008


"Well, in that case, enlighten me. What is the difference between perpetuating the worst, most hateful stereotypes about Jews (money grubbers) and perpetuating the worst, most hateful stereotype about blacks (all criminals)? Or any other minority group for that matter?

Reading responses like yours only serves to prove my initial argument at the top of the thread "that this is yet another example of some groups being off-limits to show prejudice against, while with others it's fair game""

Oh, fuck your dudgeon—The difference is that being Hasidim can influence the answers and is based on fact. That this Jew does, indeed, seem like a greedy slumlord. Blackness does not influence how you deal with deadbolts; being part of an insular New York community does influence how you deal with a landlord.

And if that's the worst Jewish stereotype you can find, you're not trying very hard.

As for Astro Zombie's long riff: How many of those things have happened to you? How many have even happened in your lifetime? The Daniel Perl execution's the only one I see that's contemporary, and that happened pretty fucking far from Minnesota. There are no genealogy laws here—you can stop being a Jew at any time, if it's such a horrible burden, but it's like listening to a fucking Baptist complain about the Romans and the Inquisition.
posted by klangklangston at 8:35 AM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


MetaTalk: fuck your dudgeon.
posted by languagehat at 8:43 AM on January 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


Oh, you're right, Klang. Thank God we live in a post antisemitism world, and all that bad stuff is a thousand years in the past.

Wait. No. That's not what I mean to say. What was it ... ?

Oh, yeah. You're a liar or an idiot.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:57 AM on January 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


The difference is that being Hasidim can influence the answers and is based on fact. That this Jew does, indeed, seem like a greedy slumlord. Blackness does not influence how you deal with deadbolts; being part of an insular New York community does influence how you deal with a landlord.

Agree that this Jew in particular seems like a greedy slumlord. Disagree that mentioning his Jewishness serves any purpose or provides answerers with any useful information in responding to the specific question. What I found troubling was it seemed clear to me (others are free to disagree with my interpretation) that his Hasidic affiliation was mentioned for the primary purpose of cluing in responders that they can assume certain negative characteristics about him based on his religious affiliation. I suppose you would call that righteous indignation on my part. I call it being slightly defensive against prejudice towards my religion. We may be stuck in a "you say tomAYto, I say tomAHto" situation here.

Actually, in some ways the worst offense the asker committed was to out-of-hand reject the idea of taking her landlord to court since that is really the only logical answer to her question, regardless of the ethnicity of her landlord.
posted by The Gooch at 9:06 AM on January 18, 2008


As for Astro Zombie's long riff: How many of those things have happened to you? How many have even happened in your lifetime? The Daniel Perl execution's the only one I see that's contemporary, and that happened pretty fucking far from Minnesota. There are no genealogy laws here—you can stop being a Jew at any time, if it's such a horrible burden, but it's like listening to a fucking Baptist complain about the Romans and the Inquisition.

Sixty years of relative peace doesn't undo many more years of segregation and hatred. And sure, I haven't personally had to flee in the middle of the night to avoid being killed (only my relatives), and I personally haven't been shoveled like garbage into a furnace (again, my relatives), but that doesn't mean it doesn't or shouldn't shape my world view.

Shit, things are rosy for you, and pretty good for me too, but I'll be surprised if I don't have to flee for the border in the thick of night before I die. And you know what? I have a pretty good basis for this world view--I wager a hell of a lot better basis for the one you are trying to foster off on us. It's not the fucking Romans, it's our fucking grandmothers and aunts and brothers.

I should have known better than to come in this thread.
posted by milarepa at 9:10 AM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Nothing to worry about, milarepa. According to Klang, the cure for antisemitism is for Jews to stop being Jews.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:18 AM on January 18, 2008 [5 favorites]


you can stop being a Jew at any time, if it's such a horrible burden,

not according to the jews. sure, you can call yourself an atheist, but you're still a jew. moreover, anti-semites don't really accept "it's ok, I'm agnostic!" either. they still think you're a jew.

How many have even happened in your lifetime?

You're... you mean... you can't... dude. THE MIDDLE EAST. it's a big anti-jew fest out there. you haven't noticed?

but for real, it seriously depends on a lot of things. for what it's worth, I've never had anybody treat me poorly for being half-jewish. that might be because I look more italian than jewish, I don't know. on the other hand, one of my closest friends comes from a non-jewish family and recalls vividly the time when his aunt said how surprised she was to find out that jews don't have horns. the aunt grew up in the very deep south.

another friend of mine went to washington state to see his girlfriend's family. maybe near spokane? I don't remember specifically. when he was introduced they said "ooh! your name's [insert italian last name]! how exotic! so you're an eye-talian! ooh lala!" I wish I were exaggerating. but the worst part is when he said "and this is my friend Dan Goldstein." (name altered for the telling, but similar.) they went "... huh." not so much as a nice to meet you or a handshake.

when I was a kid I grew up in an exceptionally wealthy long island neighborhood. it happens to be that I never tried to join any of the country clubs out there, but a number of the other jewish kids in the neighborhood let me know which ones wouldn't accept them, or me, because we were jewish.

now, I'm not trying to use any of this to make a point about the askme in question. I'm just saying that, yes, after thousands of years there's still prejudice if you know where to look, and yes it does happen in people's backyards, not just in concentration camps. Hell, just ask Professor Griff.
posted by shmegegge at 9:34 AM on January 18, 2008


Shit, things are rosy for you, and pretty good for me too, but I'll be surprised if I don't have to flee for the border in the thick of night before I die.

Wait a minute. Do you honestly believe that? You really think you're going to be driven out of the United States--out of New York City--because you're Jewish? Rest assured, there are plenty of folks who will be rounded up before you are. There must be at least a 30-year backlog.
posted by cowboy_sally at 9:37 AM on January 18, 2008


There are no genealogy laws here—you can stop being a Jew at any time, if it's such a horrible burden

It's not a burden, per se, and your words above read as ignorant or at least distastefully flippant (however, I don't religion bash, and that is a pretty normal behavior around here). I assume you've never participated in a Passover Seder. That ritual demonstrates well how persecution and suffering are important to Jews. Whatever degree of literal persecution of Jews occurs or occurred, the "chosen people" mantle is a rather beautiful and ancient reminder of god-given strength and grace, in the right hands. The literalities of persecution are continual reminders of the nature of and connection to God.

And, no you cannot stop being a Jew to avoid anti-Semitism.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:47 AM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


cowboy_sally, when you look at Jewish history, nothing seems impossible. And as milarepa said, the murder of one's relatives for their religion (or in my grandfather's case, the escape from Russia in a wooden wardrobe) does tend to shape your world view, and the views and fears that are instilled in you.
posted by amro at 9:48 AM on January 18, 2008

There are no genealogy laws here—you can stop being a Jew at any time
Ick. That's just unacceptable, as far as I'm concerned. You think antisemitism is acceptable because Jews can just stop being Jews? On what planet is that not fucking repulsive?

I have to stop reading this kind of thread. The bigotry here makes me wonder if I really want to be a part of this community.
posted by craichead at 9:51 AM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yes, because one guy = THE COMMUNITY.
posted by Justinian at 9:57 AM on January 18, 2008


"Disagree that mentioning his Jewishness serves any purpose or provides answerers with any useful information in responding to the specific question."

IT'S NOT HIS JEWISHNESS. It's not his Jewishness any more than dealing with Mormon separatists is about their Christianity. See Cowboy Sally's comment.

"Oh, you're right, Klang. Thank God we live in a post antisemitism world, and all that bad stuff is a thousand years in the past."

Ah, so it's that you have no fucking sense of proportion at all. Of course calling someone a Shylock is THE EXACT SAME THING AS THE HOLOCAUST. Or Hamas.

"Nothing to worry about, milarepa. According to Klang, the cure for antisemitism is for Jews to stop being Jews."

Since you have a choice to be Jewish or not, and since it's such a terrible fucking burden on you, there must be some reward for remaining Jewish, otherwise why? I mean, my comment was in response to your fucking third-rate Catskills dirge about being the "Chosen People." If it's so terrible, quit—or admit that it's not so fucking terrible to be a Jew.

"I'm just saying that, yes, after thousands of years there's still prejudice if you know where to look, and yes it does happen in people's backyards, not just in concentration camps. Hell, just ask Professor Griff."

Yeah, and there are still plenty of Jews who hate the schwartzes. Or the Arabs. But to sit in America and deny that there's some pretty heavy cultural chauvinism implied in being the "Chosen People," or to whine about suffering "genocide" AS IF IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED TO YOU is chutzpah, and pretending that Jewishness is somehow the crux of this issue, or a magical shield from cultural criticism is flat-out bullshit.
posted by klangklangston at 10:01 AM on January 18, 2008


the murder of one's relatives for their religion (or in my grandfather's case, the escape from Russia in a wooden wardrobe) does tend to shape your world view, and the views and fears that are instilled in you.

I understand what you're saying. But it's still insane--or at the very least really unhealthy--to believe that there will be a Jewish pogrom in the United States.
posted by cowboy_sally at 10:01 AM on January 18, 2008


There are no genealogy laws here—you can stop being a Jew at any time.

Wow. I can't believe you wrote that. And if you think anti-Semitism is ancient history, you haven't been around much.

However, most of the Jews I'm around do have a different relationship to money than I grew up with. I end up being the cultural (WASP-Jew) translator sometimes. (No, Boss, she really can't renegotiate her tithe to the church, even if she's really poor.)

This is not so say the OP isn't completely out of line in her question. Handled differently, though, I think mentioning her landlord's Hasidism (or Satmarism? cowboy_sally, that is so interesting!) would be relevant information. If nothing else, it might enable some of us translators to suggest better communication techniques. Though since I'd never even heard of Satmars, I would not be one of the translators able to help.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:04 AM on January 18, 2008


Klang, do I really need to make a list of antisemitic events I have personally experienced in my lifetime for you to believe it is an issue?

Oh, fuck it. I don't know if you are aware of it, but minimizing someone's pain so that you can defend someone's question about whether being a hasid makes someone a crooked landlord? Not okay.

And it is his Jewishness. The trouble here is that you don't get that fact.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:06 AM on January 18, 2008


Thanks for deleting that question, mathowie.

Maybe you could close this thread before it gets any uglier.
posted by timeistight at 10:07 AM on January 18, 2008


You're embarassing yourself with your shallow understanding of the spiritual significane of the "chosen people" thing, and tossing out yiddish and catskills sterotypes isn't gonna help. If you're just anti-"chosen people" because you're anti-religion, fine, but this isn't really the best thread to be anti-Judaism.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:12 AM on January 18, 2008


agreed. Klang, your best course of action right now is to just walk away from this thread without a further comment.
posted by caddis at 10:15 AM on January 18, 2008


Can I get some kind of shiksa biscuit for this, btw?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:17 AM on January 18, 2008


I assume you've never participated in a Passover Seder. That ritual demonstrates well how persecution and suffering are important to Jews.

Pretty much every Jewish holiday can be summed up with the quip, "They tried to kill us, we survived, let's eat!"

And that actually makes me proud. If it wasn't for some pretty tough people that came before me, I wouldn't be here.
posted by amro at 10:18 AM on January 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


Can I get some kind of shiksa biscuit for this, btw?

If you stick around a few more hours, you could be the shabbos goy!
posted by cowboy_sally at 10:20 AM on January 18, 2008


"Ick. That's just unacceptable, as far as I'm concerned. You think antisemitism is acceptable because Jews can just stop being Jews? On what planet is that not fucking repulsive?

I have to stop reading this kind of thread. The bigotry here makes me wonder if I really want to be a part of this community."

Right, that's exactly what I said—All anti-semitism is totally acceptable because Jews can quit being Jews at any time. That's identical to saying that because being Jewish is a choice in America that there must be some reason to keep identifying as Jewish aside from all the fun persecution times. If you can't fucking parse the difference there, well, yeah, I gotta say that I won't miss you.

"That ritual demonstrates well how persecution and suffering are important to Jews."

You're right—I haven't participated in one. But EVERY SINGLE MAJOR RELIGION, and MOST CULTURAL GROUPS have a tradition of persecution that's important to them. Seriously, that's half of the modern Evangelical movement—that Christians are oppressed and need to push back to secure their cultural values. I was serious about the Baptists, there's a litany of persecution of Baptists going back through Christian history. That's pretty much the sole talking point of Osama Bin Laden, that Muslims are oppressed by the West, along with a list of significant and legitimate grievances.

And it's a common rhetorical technique to deflect legitimate critiques and discussion of anti-modernist cultural traditions, to bring up that tradition of persecution. I help moderate a board for local events back in Ann Arbor (I know, I know, I've moved), and there are routine clashes between ultra-Zionists and pro-Palestinian groups, and again and again I see the pro-Palestinian folks toss together a passel of legitimate complaints, and then add on some stupid anti-Jewish (Semitic's too broad) bullshit, and the Zionists use that to dismiss all of the criticism of Zionism, usually in a context of historicalized oppression.
posted by klangklangston at 10:23 AM on January 18, 2008


Elvis was a shabbos goy. True story.

Also, his maternal grandmother was Jewish. So ELvis? A Jew who was his own shabbos goy.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:23 AM on January 18, 2008


Can I get some kind of shiksa biscuit for this, btw?

Sure
posted by The Gooch at 10:24 AM on January 18, 2008


And it's a common rhetorical technique to deflect legitimate critiques and discussion of anti-modernist cultural traditions, to bring up that tradition of persecution.

So what was the legitimate critique here? What was the marvelous comment about Jews that so desperately needed saying that you had to rush in to defend it by reminding Jews that they can stop being Jews at any time and that they are a bunch of whiners who haven't been oppressed and should just shut up about it?

Because I can't find it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:26 AM on January 18, 2008


Shit, things are rosy for you, and pretty good for me too, but I'll be surprised if I don't have to flee for the border in the thick of night before I die.

Seriously: If anything happens, they'll come for the gays and Muslims before any Jews are rounded up. Dominionists are pretty clear about Jews being needed for the end times.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:29 AM on January 18, 2008


Elvis was a shabbos goy? That's the best bit of Elvis trivia ever.
posted by cowboy_sally at 10:30 AM on January 18, 2008


"So what was the legitimate critique here? What was the marvelous comment about Jews that so desperately needed saying that you had to rush in to defend it by reminding Jews that they can stop being Jews at any time and that they are a bunch of whiners who haven't been oppressed and should just shut up about it?

Because I can't find it."

That's surprising, because you found all sorts of other bullshit that wasn't there.

I mean, where did I say that Jews haven't been oppressed?

And the legitimate point is that the landlord's cultural background can be relevant to the answers the asker is given. Care to disagree some more by talking about that time you watched your sacred texts burned or your daughters raped? I mean, since those things happened to you and are directly relevant.
posted by klangklangston at 10:35 AM on January 18, 2008


Klang, I think the difference is the extent to which Jews believe their oppression comes (indirectly) from God, and revere it accordingly. It's not just kvetching, there's pride and awe and lots of other nuances. Pick up a haggadah sometime. Zionists are a subgroup like Evangelicals, imo, and I don't understand them so I won't try to analyze them.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:35 AM on January 18, 2008


whine about suffering "genocide" AS IF IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED TO YOU is chutzpah,

Would you tell someone to stop "whining" about their father or grandmother being sold down the river before they were born?

"Being sold down the river as a piece of meat didn't happen to you, so stop whining."
posted by milarepa at 10:35 AM on January 18, 2008



Seriously: If anything happens, they'll come for the gays and Muslims before any Jews are rounded up. Dominionists are pretty clear about Jews being needed for the end times.


Others being rounded up doesn't make me feel much better.

Besides, once the rounding begins, I suspect they'll throw the jews on for good measure.
posted by milarepa at 10:37 AM on January 18, 2008


Fuck off, Klang. You can be as disingenuous as you like, but it's becoming obvious to everyone here that the issue is that you have a problem with the Jews, thanks, in part, to your relentless need to minimize two thousand years of suffering.

And the legitimate point is that the landlord's cultural background can be relevant to the answers the asker is given.

That's not a point. That's not a critique of hasidism. That's a question. And it's a question with an easy answer: Not in this case. Thank God you're here, man; without you hollering and panting about how contemporary Jews should just shut the fuck up about the Holocaust already, and stop clogging discussions of Israel with nonsensical braying about antisemitism, we would never have gotten to that answer.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:40 AM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Besides, once the rounding begins, I suspect they'll throw the jews on for good measure.

I still can't tell if you're joking or not.
posted by cowboy_sally at 10:42 AM on January 18, 2008


And it's a common rhetorical technique to deflect legitimate critiques and discussion of anti-modernist cultural traditions, to bring up that tradition of persecution.

This may (or may not be) be a valid point, but it's also a castle in the air since the question in question was not a "legitimate critique() and discussion of anti-modernist cultural traditions". It was a question about a sleazy landlord that brought up his religious affiliation for what appears to be no other practical purpose other than to put forth the idea that certain negative stereotypes can be assumed about the landlord solely because he's a Hasidic Jew.

AskMe is regularly filled with variations on the "my landlord is trying to screw me out of my deposit what should I do"-type questions. The answer, invariably, is some form of "research your local tenancy laws so you can write an appropriate letter of protest and/or take him/her to small claims court". This question is no different since my understanding is that your rights as a tenant don't vary depending on the religious affiliation of your landlord. Which is why trying to bring up the landlord's religion in a negative way was not only in poor form, but pointless.
posted by The Gooch at 10:45 AM on January 18, 2008


I don't think that's meant as a joke. I don't think the Jews are going to be kicked out of New York, but, then, Berlin was once really good for the Jews.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:46 AM on January 18, 2008


Anyway, is their really a reason for keeping this thread open at this point. Unless people enjoy watching me and Klang argue, which, frankly, even I'm sick of?
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:48 AM on January 18, 2008


because being Jewish is a choice in America

for real, it's not. yes, a person can convert INTO judaism, but if you ask a rabbi they'll tell you: if your mother is jewish you're jewish whether you like it or not. I'm half roman catholic by geneology on my father's side, I'm agnostic by practice and my mom's only jewish by ADOPTION and I'm still jewish. I went and asked. no choice.
posted by shmegegge at 10:51 AM on January 18, 2008


craichead: You think antisemitism is acceptable because Jews can just stop being Jews? On what planet is that not fucking repulsive? I have to stop reading this kind of thread. The bigotry here makes me wonder if I really want to be a part of this community.

(1) Reread. The only person you could even begin to have a problem with her is klangklangston, and everybody else is piling onto him. "The bigotry here" is in your head.

(2) Look, I dislike what klang said as much as anybody, but I think it's pretty clear that he's obviously not saying that "antisemitism is acceptable because Jews can just stop being Jews." That's a blatant misreading. Please go back up and look. What klang said was bad because it might be open to that interpretation, but my god, how can you get that out of what he's said here?

(3) These are actually all interesting issues, with some detachment. For example, even if it isn't his Jewishness, as klang claims, is it fine because it's his Hasidism? Also:

Ambrosia Voyeur: And, no you cannot stop being a Jew to avoid anti-Semitism.

You could try renouncing your religious Jewishness to avoid anti-semitism. In fact, Spinoza mentions briefly in his Theologico-Political Treatise that, if the Jews ever throw off the bonds of their emasculating religion, they could have their own nationhood and be free. One could make an experiment of a nation of secular Jews, and see if that ended the hatred against the Jews. My feeling is that it wouldn't work.
posted by koeselitz at 10:53 AM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't think the Jews are going to be kicked out of New York, but, then, Berlin was once really good for the Jews.

Of the nuts running the US, the ones to worry about are really not interested in coming after America's Jewish, when there are family-destroyin', butt-pokin' perverts and brown-skinned, towel-wearin' terrarists to deal with. And remember that the Final Solution came after more than just European Jews — gays, gypsies, mentally and physically disabled, and political prisoners were also rounded up and murdered. Just a little perspective may be useful, here, for understanding klang's point.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:57 AM on January 18, 2008


Oh, I remember that plenty of others were killed during the Holocaust. What was Klang's point again? That contemporary gays, gypsies, mentally and physically disabled, and political prisoners should also stop complaining?
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:00 AM on January 18, 2008


There are no genealogy laws here—you can stop being a Jew at any time, if it's such a horrible burden...

That's probably the most ignorant statement I've read all week. A look at something like Soviet history should clear that misconception right up.
posted by Krrrlson at 11:00 AM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, wait, with the exception of political prisoners, none of the others can stop being what they are, so they have a right to complain. Jews, in the meanwhile ... ?
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:01 AM on January 18, 2008


Like I said, other's being rounded up should never be a source of comfort.

Frankly, that's my personal gripe with the jews...they don't care about other people's suffering. They should know better by now.
posted by milarepa at 11:07 AM on January 18, 2008


meant to say, they don't care enough. Still probably abrasive.
posted by milarepa at 11:08 AM on January 18, 2008


"Would you tell someone to stop "whining" about their father or grandmother being sold down the river before they were born?

"Being sold down the river as a piece of meat didn't happen to you, so stop whining.""

I would tell someone who feels that what blacks still face, assimilation wise, is equal to what the Jews face today that they have no sense of perspective. Further, were we stuck in a policy discussion, I'd ask what they wanted now. Blacks are still more likely to end up in prison than whites. Are Jews? Blacks are still paid less than whites. Are Jews? Do Jews have trouble getting an equal education? Those are social problems that can be worked on—that someone's grandmother was sold down the river isn't.

And yes, if that was all they could talk about, I'd tell them to stop whining.

"Klang, I think the difference is the extent to which Jews believe their oppression comes (indirectly) from God, and revere it accordingly. It's not just kvetching, there's pride and awe and lots of other nuances."

I'm totally willing to accept nuance on this as distinguishing it from the history of persecution faced by various Christian sects, though I'd point out that a lot of the Christian rhetoric of persecution flows from that Hebrew narrative (as does the Muslim rhetoric)—but the persecution of Baptists or Universalists or any other of a long line of denominations isn't just about kvetching either. It's a legitimate part of their faith, as much as faith can have legitimate traditions of suffering. How that is articulated today is different, and I'd be interested in learning more, but that tradition of suffering doesn't make it more legitimate or more deserving of protection outside concerns of majoritarianism.

"Fuck off, Klang. You can be as disingenuous as you like, but it's becoming obvious to everyone here that the issue is that you have a problem with the Jews, thanks, in part, to your relentless need to minimize two thousand years of suffering."

Yeah, that's it—I hate the Jews. I eat their babies with Matzo meal on Christmas day, because I'm a German and the only way we relate to Jews is through the Holocaust. But today, I find out at least one Jewish miracle—You're 2000 years old, and have suffered the entire time! That's amazing! And all of that for no reward, no reason, no positive that you can articulate—because I asked you more than fucking once. The only thing you seem to get out of it is the ability to complain and to call other people anti-Semitic.

"That's not a point. That's not a critique of hasidism. That's a question. And it's a question with an easy answer: Not in this case. Thank God you're here, man; without you hollering and panting about how contemporary Jews should just shut the fuck up about the Holocaust already, and stop clogging discussions of Israel with nonsensical braying about antisemitism, we would never have gotten to that answer."

An easy answer, but not a right answer. I guess if being right was more important to you than complaining about the terrible trials and tribulations that you've suffered—again, you saw your sacred texts burned and your daughters raped? That must have been a hell of a trip, man. You wouldn't be exaggerating to make your case seem stronger, because that'd be fucking disingenuous, something you accused me of being. But hey, without you here, I wouldn't know that you, not Jews, could be a fucking whiny, hypocritical idiot.

Oh, but wait, I hate all Jews. So I guess they're all like you.

"It was a question about a sleazy landlord that brought up his religious affiliation for what appears to be no other practical purpose other than to put forth the idea that certain negative stereotypes can be assumed about the landlord solely because he's a Hasidic Jew."

And this is where I'm fine with agreeing to disagree—there is cultural baggage there unique to the geography and community which has been brought up clumsily by the asker. Given that they didn't want to go to court, that information IS relevant. But I don't disagree that going to court is their best option.
posted by klangklangston at 11:09 AM on January 18, 2008


I just went back and reread the original AskMe question. The asker wasn't even asking if there is some cultural issue that should be addressed. The comment was "This is just your run-of-the-mill Hasidic slumlord who isn't affiliated with a Real Estate corp or anything of the sort, so I can't attack his superiors."

Either the fact that the Landlord is Hasidic is entirely incidental to the discussion and should be left out, or the poster is implying that Hasids are, by virtue of being Hasids, slumlords. There is no question in there. There is no question Klang is demanding we respect.

So here are the fallacies that followed from this:

Jews can stop being Jews any time they want.
Contemporary Jews aren't really affected by antisemitism.
Jews follow some sort of strange Jewish law that might contravene American business law.
Hasids are as different from other Jews, and other Americans as, say, the Japanese are from Americans. Alternately: They're like the Amish.
Jews use charges of antisemitism to silence legitimate criticism -- look at message boards that discuss issues in Israel.

Frankly, if there were as many Jews on MnSpeak as their are women, I would expect that these would create as much of a blow up as the Boy Zone discussion. They aren't unique to this thread -- hell, it's almost impossible to have a discussion about antisemitism without some jackass popping his head in and shouting "Israel! Israel! You're silencing criticisms with your phony claims of antisemitism," whether the thread is about Israel or, as in this case, isn't.

It would be nice if the moderators would take this discussion as seriously as they do the boyzone one. Trust me, this sort of behavior is just as alienating for Jews and relentless boorish male behavior is for women.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:17 AM on January 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


Maybe you could close this thread before it gets any uglier.

Agreed. And klang, my friend, you're not coming off at all well here. Best to quit before you get any further behind. And could you please start using itals for quoting other comments instead of those fershlugginer quote marks?
posted by languagehat at 11:17 AM on January 18, 2008


Could we learn more about your heritage, klangklangston? I was going to go with "Spoiled White Brat Lectures Minorities on Oppression," but I wanted to make sure I got it right.
posted by Krrrlson at 11:17 AM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


"for real, it's not. yes, a person can convert INTO judaism, but if you ask a rabbi they'll tell you: if your mother is jewish you're jewish whether you like it or not. I'm half roman catholic by geneology on my father's side, I'm agnostic by practice and my mom's only jewish by ADOPTION and I'm still jewish. I went and asked. no choice."

Is it the Jews that are persecuting you? Is it your rabbi?

Here's how you stop being Jewish—You stop hewing to the cultural traditions, you distance yourself from the community, you (if you want to be thorough and have a Jewish name) change your name.

To clarify, I'm not saying that people should stop being Jewish, or that the should feel that they should have to stop being Jewish. I'm saying that you can, effectively, stop being Jewish. That it's a constructed identity without real outside markers, whereas someone can't just stop being black, Michael Jackson to the contrary. Hell, you can make a quasi-serious argument that Hitler stopped being Jewish, despite ancestry.
posted by klangklangston at 11:18 AM on January 18, 2008


Gevalt. And not in the funny or ironic way.

Zionists are a subgroup like Evangelicals, imo, and I don't understand them so I won't try to analyze them.

Untrue. People have just taken the word "Zionism" and assumed that it means "horrific racist essentialist right wing neoconservative maniacal ideology that utterly fails to understand that the Palestinians have rights, too." That is a slander and a misunderstanding. I'm a Jew, a Zionist and pretty well committed to getting to a Palestinian homeland and to justice. There are a lot of us. There are also Zionists who meet your description, with whom I have a major problem. Like most things people don't know much about, it's a little more complex than all that. A long history of invective and reduction have turned it into a buzzword requiring disclaimer.
posted by kosem at 11:19 AM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


I would tell someone who feels that what blacks still face, assimilation wise, is equal to what the Jews face today that they have no sense of perspective. Further, were we stuck in a policy discussion, I'd ask what they wanted now. Blacks are still more likely to end up in prison than whites. Are Jews? Blacks are still paid less than whites. Are Jews? Do Jews have trouble getting an equal education? Those are social problems that can be worked on—that someone's grandmother was sold down the river isn't.

And yes, if that was all they could talk about, I'd tell them to stop whining.


My point was not that jews face the same problems assimilation wise, and I think you know that. My point was that things that don't happen directly to you can still affect your life and how you view the world.
posted by milarepa at 11:20 AM on January 18, 2008


That contemporary gays, gypsies, mentally and physically disabled, and political prisoners should also stop complaining?

Astro Zombie, I'm really trying to figure out your point, from some of your comments in this thread. You seem to be all over the place, mostly out of some perceived slights.

You seem to be saying that Jews are being persecuted now, as a matter of course, or are just a few minutes away from being rounded up. I can tell you that there are a lot of minorities that have it much, much worse than Jewish-Americans: citizens who are oppressed by numerous legal, religious and cultural edicts. Jews aren't refused jobs for being Jewish. Jews aren't being murdered, and then get defended with "Jew panic" defenses. Jews aren't kicked out of their houses for being Jewish. Jews aren't dragged away to Gitmo for being Jewish.

From my readings and conversations about history and culture, I more than get it that there is a basis for holding a persecution complex, but you gaining a little perspective for how things are at this point in time might be, perhaps, helpful for seeing where other human beings might be coming from on the subject matter.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:21 AM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


I recognize this discussion has moved on beyond the original thread, but I was one of the people who objected in it. My point was, and remains, that the landlord's religion is irrelevant to the question, and actually hampered the OP's ability to get good advice. I tried to answer the question with concrete advice on what to do, but her comment about her landlord's Hasidism frankly annoyed me. As I said in the thread, I practice this kind of law here in Brooklyn, and recognized exactly what the OP was implying when she put that line in there. Yes, it's true that if you go to Kings County Housing Court on any given day, a majority of the landlords appear to be Jewish, and represented by counsel, and a majority of the tenants appear to be people of color, and pro se. However, that does not render the inclusion of the landlord's religion relevant to the question.

Even if the OP chooses to not go to small claims court, her landlord's religion is irrelevant to whether she can successfully intimidate him into returning her deposit. It's not like if she writes a letter, the entire Orthodox Jewish community is going to unite and take some terrible action against her. Her landlord will likely resist these attempts to get him to disgorge the deposit by himself, without invoking the awesome power of the Jewish Landlord's Cabal. If, on the other hand, she chooses to go to small claims court, the landlord's Hasidism will not garner him any particular favors with the Court.

As for the people here and there who mentioned that they've been through similar experiences with Jewish landlords, I fail to see the relevance of these experiences to the OP's question as she framed it. Surely, on a site filled with so many smart people, we can realize the fallacy of using individual experiences to justify the invocation of a stereotype. I'm not calling the OP a bigot -- my discomfort lies with the lazy shorthand she used to avoid having to explain something she thought was relevant to her question.
posted by lassie at 11:24 AM on January 18, 2008 [6 favorites]


'm saying that you can, effectively, stop being Jewish. That it's a constructed identity without real outside markers, whereas someone can't just stop being black, Michael Jackson to the contrary

Well, that's it. I'm off tot the two-dozen synagogues I've belonged to to burn my records of ever being there, and I'm going to spend the day on Google making sure every Web page where I have ever referenced being Jewish is scrubbed. Oh, and I'll have to contact every other Jewish organization I've ever worked for or belonged to in order to make sure my files are destroyed. And go through my financial records to make sure every check I've written to a Jewish organization is removed.

Klang, you repeatedly demonstrate that you don't get it. Being Jewish, when addressing the issue of antisemitism, is more than about pretending you're not Jewish. As someone above mentioned, were this a place where antisemitism were murderous, as in Soviet Russia, there would be no lack of ways to discover that I'm a Jew, even if I claimed otherwise.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:24 AM on January 18, 2008


You seem to be saying that Jews are being persecuted now, as a matter of course, or are just a few minutes away from being rounded up.

No. Not sure how you got that. Although Jews are being persecuted now, although not in America.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:25 AM on January 18, 2008


Don't forget rhinoplasty?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:27 AM on January 18, 2008


"My point was not that jews face the same problems assimilation wise, and I think you know that. My point was that things that don't happen directly to you can still affect your life and how you view the world."

My point was that comparing this AskMe's Shylock bullshit to the Holocaust was rhetorical tub-thumping, and that this particular instance of social retardation was fairly unrelated to the terrible onus that Astro Zombie somehow feels he's been saddled with without recourse. As to your second point, I agree that they can affect your life and how you view the world, but I'd encourage a sense of proportion.
posted by klangklangston at 11:30 AM on January 18, 2008


♫ If I were a slumlord
deedle-deedle-deedle-deedle-deedle-deedle-deedle-dee... ♫

posted by Meatbomb at 11:31 AM on January 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


kosem: No, I know what I said and I meant it. I don't approve of the inception of the state of Israel, because I view it as well as Evangelicalism as fundamentally non-pacifist. We likely don't agree about that.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:31 AM on January 18, 2008


Nobody compared the AskMe question to the Holocaust, speaking of rhetorical tub-thumping.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:31 AM on January 18, 2008


Astro Zombie: Well, that's it. I'm off tot the two-dozen synagogues I've belonged to to burn my records of ever being there, and I'm going to spend the day on Google making sure every Web page where I have ever referenced being Jewish is scrubbed. Oh, and I'll have to contact every other Jewish organization I've ever worked for or belonged to in order to make sure my files are destroyed. And go through my financial records to make sure every check I've written to a Jewish organization is removed.

Klang, you repeatedly demonstrate that you don't get it. Being Jewish, when addressing the issue of antisemitism, is more than about pretending you're not Jewish. As someone above mentioned, were this a place where antisemitism were murderous, as in Soviet Russia, there would be no lack of ways to discover that I'm a Jew, even if I claimed otherwise.


Astro Zombie, I agree with you that being Jewish is more than a name and a religious affiliation. That's my personal belief. It's also the belief of many, many Jews. But it will never be the belief of secular humanists.

The most you can hope for from secular humanists like klangklangston here is that they treat you with respect and dignity no matter what you believe or what you call yourself. I think klangklangston generally does this, and while he's been both sloppy and touchy (a dangerous combination) while discussing this issue here, it's very difficult for me to imagine that he's the utter NAZI that you're accusing him of being.

You need to cool off, as well. Again, secular humanists will never agree with religious people that being a Jew means more than a name, a set of genes, and a religious affiliation. Secular humanists will always wonder why we can't just all assimilate into a homogeneous society of people who believe in progressive law and social justice. That conflict isn't klangklangston's fault; it's just what you and he are caught up in. And if you pay some attention, you'll see that, aside from being a little careless to speak with respect about the differences between himself and others, klangklangston hasn't done anything wrong here; he has a common, well-thought, and understandable position.
posted by koeselitz at 11:34 AM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I certainly didn't argue that.

klangklangston, I encourage a sense of proportion.
posted by milarepa at 11:36 AM on January 18, 2008


No, mostly what I'm responding to is his repeated insistence that Jews should shut up about their suffering. It's nice that you want me to cool off about that sort of comment, but I respectfully disagree.

I'm not accusing him of being a Nazi, which is a markedly unfair comparison for you to make, but he is grotesquely insensitive to and ill-educated about the Jewish experience, and is not open to hearing about it from actual Jews. And that's exactly the sort of thing people should get steamed about.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:37 AM on January 18, 2008


And you're off base on another thing. I am a secular humanist. My Jewish identity is a cultural and historic one for me.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:40 AM on January 18, 2008


"As someone above mentioned, were this a place where antisemitism were murderous, as in Soviet Russia, there would be no lack of ways to discover that I'm a Jew, even if I claimed otherwise."

If my aunt had balls, she'd be my uncle.

"Don't forget rhinoplasty?"

But what do the German Jews do? They've got spots!
posted by klangklangston at 11:41 AM on January 18, 2008


Case in point.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:42 AM on January 18, 2008


"No, mostly what I'm responding to is his repeated insistence that Jews should shut up about their suffering."

Not Jews—you.
posted by klangklangston at 11:43 AM on January 18, 2008


So what am I, chopped liver?
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:44 AM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Here's how you stop being Jewish—You stop hewing to the cultural traditions, you distance yourself from the community, you (if you want to be thorough and have a Jewish name) change your name.

Because my earlier comment was ignored and you persist in trotting out this ridiculous canard, I will elaborate. In the former USSR, a citizen's "nationality" as a Jew was clearly identified on the passport and similar official documents and passed down to children, despite the fact that, after the first half of Soviet rule, the majority was composed of secular people, Jews by birthright only. Similarly, the Nazis had little trouble identifying the highly assimilated Jews of Germany. This can be done almost anywhere with relative ease.

You can stop being Jewish in your own eyes, but history has demonstrated time and again that you cannot stop being Jewish in the eyes of anti-Semites.
posted by Krrrlson at 11:45 AM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


"You can stop being Jewish in your own eyes, but history has demonstrated time and again that you cannot stop being Jewish in the eyes of anti-Semites."

Fuck, man, I can't even stop being Jewish in the eyes of anti-Semites. Does that make me a Jew? Defining yourself through what other people think of you is bad faith.
posted by klangklangston at 11:49 AM on January 18, 2008


As an aside: "So what am I, chopped liver?" was pretty funny.
posted by klangklangston at 11:50 AM on January 18, 2008


I'm saying that you can, effectively, stop being Jewish. That it's a constructed identity without real outside markers, whereas someone can't just stop being black, Michael Jackson to the contrary. Hell, you can make a quasi-serious argument that Hitler stopped being Jewish, despite ancestry.

what... on EARTH... is this supposed to mean? look, man, I know you're a decent chap. I also know that you get REALLY uptight sometimes and need to back away from things earlier than you sometimes do. This is definitely one of those times. You're saying "Jews" followed by a characterization non-ironically too often in response to things being said that upset you. You are, in all likelihood, heading rather quickly toward a timeout if not worse simply because you're typing too quickly to express yourself well. at least, I hope so, because it's not just some thread wide misunderstanding going on here. whatever you're TRYING to say is getting very very lost in how poorly you're saying it.

for instance, the quote above makes it sound like you honestly believe that there's nothing more to a jewish identity than an arbitrary agreement among jews to construct said identity. that all a person has to do in order to stop being jewish is just pretend that they were never jewish in the first place. In other words, it sounds like you're saying that as long as people get nose jobs and stop going to synagogue then no one would ever know they're jewish. if that's honestly what you believe, then do yourself a favor and pretend it's not. if it's not what you believe, then do yourself a favor and just walk away from this rather now-ish. in fact, walk away from this no matter what your believe. this is not going well for you.
posted by shmegegge at 11:50 AM on January 18, 2008


What the? Speaking of bad faith.

YOU were the one who said Jews could just stop being Jews at any time. Now that you've been refuted, your response is, well, who cares what antisemites think?
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:51 AM on January 18, 2008


Defining yourself through what other people think of you is bad faith.

I don't define myself through what other people think of me. My physical condition, however, is defined in a large part by whether or not the murderous mob combing the neighbourhood thinks I'm a Jew or not.

Of course, I shouldn't have to clarify that, since I've seen you exhibit signs of intelligence before, so it's pretty clear that you're just trolling now.
posted by Krrrlson at 11:53 AM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


My Jewish identity is a cultural and historic one for me.

AZ, coming from the opposite place with regard to Judaism - I'd convert but it doesn't really matter since I'm a non-childbearing atheist. I should do a little home torah schooling though - I am a little troubled by this. Surely you take something spiritual away from The Jewish Experience, right? Otherwise, it's just (still totally justified) kvetching, as I said earlier? I mean, in secular terms, it's an awe-inspiring testament to human nature, and the sustaining power of family and tradition, don't you agree?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:57 AM on January 18, 2008


this is not going well for you.

It's not going very well for me either. Listen, Klang, I don't think you're an antisemite. But I really think the landlord's hasidic identity was completely beside the point. I don't even know if the poster meant it as a slur against hasids or it was just a detail they thoughtlessly added. But it becomes an issue for Jews, because even those of us who haven't directly experienced the worst of us -- and most of us have experienced at least a little of it -- are this close to it. My grandparents fled the Soviet Union because of antisemitism. My father was regularly attacked outside of Brownsville because he was a Jew. I went to high school with kids whose parents were Holocaust survivors. One was adopted, because the Nazis sterilized her father. I was friends with Persian Jews in Los Angeles who fled because of oppression. I helped raise money to get Jews out of Russia and Ethiopia because conditions were intolerable. It's not ancient history to us. It's not a tale we tell while sitting around the Passover tale. I am one generation removed from it. Many Jews aren't even that far removed. It's our recent history.

This is why we sometimes seem shrill in response to thoughtlessness, or ignorance, or overt meanness. It's a nerve that's still exposed. And I'm sorry you're sick of hearing about it. MI don't know what to suggest, except perhaps that you steer clear of Jews. They tend to talk about it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:58 AM on January 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


Ambrosia, I do take something spiritual away from it. The books of the Prophets, in particular, emphasized just human interactions and ethical behavior over ritual.

But mostly, I'm a fan of Yiddish, because no language was ever better for cursing.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:00 PM on January 18, 2008


But it becomes an issue for Jews, because even those of us who haven't directly experienced the worst of us antisemitism.

Fixed that for myself.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:02 PM on January 18, 2008


To put this in perspective, because then I'm going out to play foursquare on my lunchbreak (with some Jews who apparently don't know how much I loathe them):

I have a pal Jeremy, who I've known since middle school. His parents are Jewish. But while in college, he decided that he didn't identify with Judaism. He's an atheist, and while he still likes gefilte, he likes bacon more. He's renounced Judaism, and doesn't consider himself a Jew. He lives with his wife (a California Asian) in Georgia, and has nothing to do with the Jewish community. His children won't be raised Jewish. He doesn't keep kosher, he doesn't celebrate the Sabbath or Seder. That's his decision, not the decision of the Jewish community, or of anti-Semites. He never gets asked if he's Jewish, it never comes up in his day to day life. His wife didn't realize that his mother was Jewish (mom's pretty secular), and Jeremy brushed it off when she asked—"My mom's Jewish. I'm not."

So that, opposed to someone who can't even answer—when I've asked multiple times—what there is that's good about Judaism that keeps him from doing the exact same thing, yeah, I trust my friend. I trust my friend more than I trust vague historical threats about how the USSR behaved. I gotta go now. More.
posted by klangklangston at 12:05 PM on January 18, 2008


Some of my best friends are ex-Jews.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:09 PM on January 18, 2008


You trust your friend that there's nothing good about Judaism?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:09 PM on January 18, 2008


klang: So you're asking AZ to defend or give up his Judaism? As though he owes you an explanation for why he persists in identifying as a Jew? Because your friend gave it up?

Man. I hope you realize how awful you're being.
posted by kosem at 12:09 PM on January 18, 2008


I knew this jew one time, jeremy from georgia (do you know him? skinny chap with the bushy eyebrows?), well, he totally was like not jewish and it was like totally not a problem for him so I don't even get why you guys are like talking about this stuff that's happened to you or your family, cuz jeremy says its not a problem.
posted by milarepa at 12:10 PM on January 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


Defining yourself through what other people think of you is bad faith.

And defining other people -- in this case, an entire cultural and often genetically distinct identity -- with broad strokes of caricature is the essence of bad faith. Doing it with a few bits of Yiddish or Jewish culture with which you have a glancing familiarity only makes it that much nastier. Accusing Astro Zombie, a far funnier man than you, of being a third-rate Catskills comedian? Throwing chutzpah and schwartze around for lame comic effect? How impressive. Next time call him a shlemiel and ask him if he's been eating his latkes.

Oh, and nice citations from the rich Ann Arbor and Jeremy school of scholarship on this subject. Man, what an embarrassing display you've put on here.
posted by melissa may at 12:13 PM on January 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


Ambrosia Voyeur: You trust your friend that there's nothing good about Judaism?

GAH. The amount of willful misunderstanding in this thread!

He trusts his friend that it is possible to renounce and leave behind Judaism and become a non-Jew. Most Jews, especially the Orthodox, disagree, and would tell this friend that he is still a Jew, no matter what he says or does.

klangklangston is right about this. There are differences of opinion. I agree with the Jews, and disagree with klangklangston's friend, but I at least admit that there can be differences.

Everybody: start reading the comments more carefully, it'll go down easier.
posted by koeselitz at 12:14 PM on January 18, 2008


Weirdly, I'm going to defend klang. I don't think he's saying that. I think he's saying that his friend no longer identifies as being Jewish, and so it is, in fact, possible to be born a Jew and give up the identity. And, in America, it probably is. There's very little chance that antisemities are going to rise to power here, at least, not any time soon. You don't want to be a Jew, good on you. Be what you want to be.

But I maintain that if you want to be a Hasid, if someone is going to make a case that you're somehow a worse landlord as a result, they'd better really make that case, and not just throw it out there to make us all crazy in the head and the biring and the YELLING.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:16 PM on January 18, 2008


Biring, of course, means biting in my second language: Typo.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:17 PM on January 18, 2008


So that, opposed to someone who can't even answer—when I've asked multiple times—what there is that's good about Judaism that keeps him from doing the exact same thing, yeah, I trust my friend.

I think there is an implication here that there's no heretofore demonstrated benefit to being Jewish. Obviously klang thinks his friend believes there isn't. I think there is, but then, I'm essentially a tourist and I know even if I converted, in the eyes of many, I still would be.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:18 PM on January 18, 2008


So you're asking AZ to defend or give up his Judaism?

Do not go gentile into that good night, Astro Zombie!
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:20 PM on January 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm not trying to be unfair or accusatory, btw.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:20 PM on January 18, 2008


kosem: klang: So you're asking AZ to defend or give up his Judaism? As though he owes you an explanation for why he persists in identifying as a Jew? Because your friend gave it up?

I'm trying very, very hard to understand exactly what it is that klangklangston is saying. It's not easy. But I think he's saying something like:

'You say that a Jew is always a Jew, no matter what they say, no matter what renunciations they make, no matter what conversions have happened, no matter what they call themselves, no matter how they live. But I know people who disagree-- people who were once Jews, and who now say that they're not Jews. If you think that they're flatly wrong, then how can you justify that point of view? What is wrong about what they say? What is it, intrinsically, that makes Jewishness remain Jewishness no matter what? And how exactly is it something that transcends what people say or do? You don't offer any answers; so I'll continue to believe that Jewishness is a matter of birth and religious affiliation, nothing more.'

klangklangston, sorry if this is a shoddy interpretation of your argument. It doesn't seem like such a bad one as people are making it out to be, but you could help them out by stating it in less, well, explosive terms.

Not to mention the fact that people could stop jumping to conclusions.
posted by koeselitz at 12:21 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, I missed that part. I guess it's a good question. If Judaism is such pain, why do we stick with it, rather than just dump it?

I stay with it for a 2,000-year-history of ethical thought, and a complex process of interpreting ethical thought call the Talmudic method. I stick with it because it provides a series of mythic stories that I find appealing, and repeatedly turn to for inspiration in my own writing. I stick with it because these myths and ethical discussions had a hand in creating modern liberalism and socialism, as well as informing psychiatry and other sciences that look to understand the human soul. I stick with it because Jewish art -- that is, not just art by Jews, but art that reflects the Jewish experience -- means more to me, in that it also reflects my experience, and I find much of that art tremendously powerful. But, mostly, I stick with it for hamantaschen, which are delicious.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:24 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ah, the fabled Jeremy Defense. A former Jew who successfully renounced his Judaism, lives with an Asian among the Ewoks in Georgia... IT MAKES SENSE!
posted by Krrrlson at 12:25 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


By the way, I'm adopted. I was born to an Irish-American family in St. Paul. I also celebrate my Irish identity, in the way that many Irish-Americans do, by going to bars and drinking whiskey. We Irish have had it pretty hard too, but nobody ever asks me why I don't give up my Irish identity.

Maybe there needs to be more Jewish bars. Slivovitz for everybody!
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:27 PM on January 18, 2008


Do not go gentile into that good night, Astro Zombie!

*cough*

Goyzone.
posted by zebra3 at 12:30 PM on January 18, 2008 [5 favorites]


I like it for lots of things, like getting God right, getting ritual right, that stupid, wonderful 1000 year old Dayenu song, cute boys (fact.) and charoset.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:30 PM on January 18, 2008


I, for one, got that point. I just don't see its relevance.

"hey! that guy made an offensive characterization of his landlord for being hasidic! that's the same shit we jews have been putting up with for thousands of years!"

"so? stop being a jew then. then it's not your problem."

I know I'm exaggerating the insensitivity of his point, but the fundamental insensitivity (and ignorance) is still there. to some of us, it matters whether or not your family or your rabbi would acknowledge your renunciation of the faith. to others, it matters that violent anti-semites wouldn't give a fuck and would still beat the shit out of you or worse. in either of those cases you can change your own beliefs and behavior all you want and still care how other people perceive you. it's not that strange a thing. you can say "well stop caring if it bothers you so much" but the proper response to that is a heartfelt "go fuck yourself, I'll care about what I want."

klang doesn't get to tell people what they're allowed to be upset by. it's that simple. his criteria for caring about this characterization of hasids doesn't matter to anyone but klang, and the problem is that, rather than backing off and realizing that it shouldn't matter to him any more than it does to those of us who care, klang has sort of escalated both in tone of voice and inaccuracy of characterization while reducing his coherency. As I said, I blame this on him getting all het up and typing faster than he's thinking.

if I were in a bar and heard someone say things like that, I'd probably just walk away from the conversation and avoid the fucker for the remainder of our mutual time in the establishment. this being the internet...
posted by shmegegge at 12:33 PM on January 18, 2008

Weirdly, I'm going to defend klang. I don't think he's saying that. I think he's saying that his friend no longer identifies as being Jewish, and so it is, in fact, possible to be born a Jew and give up the identity. And, in America, it probably is.
Ok, sure. But who cares? It's possible to be gay and decide to be celibate. It's even possible to be one of those ex-gay nutjobs and to survive a straight marriage by laying back and thinking of England (or the partner you'd rather be with.) My guess is that it's usually not possible to do that without it taking a psychic toll, and why should people have to do it? And if someone showed up on a discussion of homophobia and pointed out that gay people can just stop being gay, I'd think that person was at the very least an asshole and probably a homophobe. Unless you're trying to minimize antisemitism, I can't understand how it's relevant that at this moment (although not in a lot of other moments in recent history), it's possible to change your name and obliterate other parts of your identity and stop being Jewish.

(You know, when Ivy League colleges had a quota on the number of Jews who they'd admit, they had a series of questions designed to weed out people who had done exactly what Klang talks about. For instance, they asked you if you or your parents had changed their names, and if you said yes, they'd assume you were Jewish. You could lie, but that could get you kicked out if they ever found out. Even in a situation of pretty mild, totally non-lethal antisemitism, passing isn't that easy.)

Incidentally, I thought the OP's reference to her landlord's ethnicity was a little odd, but I didn't think much of it until the "Shylockian" thing. I have trouble coming up with a non-offensive way to spin that one.
posted by craichead at 12:34 PM on January 18, 2008


this being the internet...

Slivovitz for everyone!
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:34 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Jewish guys are good in bed.

Sorry, I just don't often have a good thread to put that in.
posted by desjardins at 12:35 PM on January 18, 2008


yes, desjardins, yes, we are.
posted by milarepa at 12:45 PM on January 18, 2008


This whole fucking thread is about the OP's comment, and you klangklangston are making it about your personal pet theories, and being a blowhard. You have the terrible habit of treating people who don't see things your way like jerks.

The Gooch, asked a question about the AskMe post and was polite about it, no hand ringing no screaming about being persecuted. You came in here and got everyone worked up, since you can't say anything with out being a know it all. I'd like to say I see some of your points but since they really don't belong in this thread all I can think is; WTF dude?
posted by nola at 12:47 PM on January 18, 2008


BTW -- while we're on the topic, I'm looking forward to David Grubin's three-part television series The Jewish Americans that starts this Sunday (January 20) on PBS.
posted by ericb at 12:49 PM on January 18, 2008


I have a pal Jeremy, who I've known since middle school. His parents are Jewish. But while in college, he decided that he didn't identify with Judaism. He's an atheist, and while he still likes gefilte, he likes bacon more. He's renounced Judaism, and doesn't consider himself a Jew. He lives with his wife (a California Asian) in Georgia, and has nothing to do with the Jewish community. His children won't be raised Jewish. He doesn't keep kosher, he doesn't celebrate the Sabbath or Seder. That's his decision, not the decision of the Jewish community, or of anti-Semites. He never gets asked if he's Jewish, it never comes up in his day to day life. His wife didn't realize that his mother was Jewish (mom's pretty secular), and Jeremy brushed it off when she asked—"My mom's Jewish. I'm not."

And Hitler would have killed him anyway. I know you know that, but you think it's irrelevant because Hitler is not running America in 2008. It's not.

I know people who disagree-- people who were once Jews, and who now say that they're not Jews. If you think that they're flatly wrong, then how can you justify that point of view? What is wrong about what they say? What is it, intrinsically, that makes Jewishness remain Jewishness no matter what?


Ask the anti-Semites. It's not a matter of "letting your enemies define you," it's a matter of living in the real world. None of us get to define ourselves. If we're very fortunate (white, American, well-off enough to hang out on the internet) we can pretend we do until life forces us to realize otherwise.
posted by languagehat at 12:59 PM on January 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


I'm looking forward to David Grubin's three-part television series The Jewish Americans that starts this Sunday (January 20) on PBS.

We've already gotten the first two episodes here in Massachusetts, and it's great. (I won't stay up till 11 for many things these days, but I've been doing it for this.)
posted by languagehat at 1:00 PM on January 18, 2008


klangklangston, sorry if this is a shoddy interpretation of your argument. It doesn't seem like such a bad one as people are making it out to be, but you could help them out by stating it in less, well, explosive terms.

What offended me most about klang's comment was this:

So that, opposed to someone who can't even answer—when I've asked multiple times—what there is that's good about Judaism that keeps him from doing the exact same thing, yeah, I trust my friend.

Astro Zombie is allowed to have a complicated relationship with his Judaism without justifying himself to klangklangston or being presumptively required to give it up. Period.
posted by kosem at 1:02 PM on January 18, 2008


You know who else had a complicated relationship with Judaism?
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:08 PM on January 18, 2008


Jesus?
posted by Atom Eyes at 1:10 PM on January 18, 2008


Spinoza.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:10 PM on January 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's time for mincha and Kabbalat Shabbat. Are there enough Astro Zombies to make a minyan?
posted by kosem at 1:12 PM on January 18, 2008


There's enough for a SANHEDRIN!

Heyooooooo!
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:15 PM on January 18, 2008


I was going to guess Portnoy.
posted by shmegegge at 1:23 PM on January 18, 2008


You ever notice that "Chaim Potok" sounds kind of Romulan? I'm not sure how to work that into the ST canon, though.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:32 PM on January 18, 2008


Do zombies count for a minyan? Does it matter if they're astro zombies, as opposed to the more common terrestrial kind? Is there anything in Talmud that speaks to this issue?

That seems like it should be the extra-credit question on some sort of yeshiva exam!
posted by craichead at 1:32 PM on January 18, 2008


If we're good enough to be solar powered undead interplanetary astronauts, we're good eough for a damn minyan. At least, that's the opinion in the Reform tradition.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:37 PM on January 18, 2008


Zombies count.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:40 PM on January 18, 2008


It's pretty much an issue of Kavod Ha'Tzibur, but I think that generally we can get around it. The underpinnings for that holding are widely disputed since the prohibition (such as it is) comes from a single, confusing baraita. See, e.g.

I mean, I'm okay with it, as long as they aren't hungry.
posted by kosem at 1:50 PM on January 18, 2008


Solar powered, dude. Not all zombies eat people. Sometime I get so exhausted correcting people's misconceptions about astro zombies. I know it's innocent, but there is such a long history of zombie oppression.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:53 PM on January 18, 2008


AZ, the truth about you people is right there in The Protocols of the Undead of the Burbridge Chain. I've seen it myself.
posted by kosem at 2:03 PM on January 18, 2008


Oh my God. That's a forgery printed by Thomas Edison! He had zombies building his light bulbs, and reprinted that notorious anti-zombie slander to keep them from unionizing!
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:07 PM on January 18, 2008


itals for LHat:

"He trusts his friend that it is possible to renounce and leave behind Judaism and become a non-Jew. Most Jews, especially the Orthodox, disagree, and would tell this friend that he is still a Jew, no matter what he says or does.""


Yes.

Listen, Klang, I don't think you're an antisemite.

Then don't say that my comments are about my problem with Jews. They're not—that's what really fucking pissed me off.

"Oh, I missed that part. I guess it's a good question. If Judaism is such pain, why do we stick with it, rather than just dump it?"

And that was what I was trying to get at as a response to your "Choose someone else" finish. I don't believe, in the here and now, that you are required to identify as a Jew if you don't want to. I found Sailormom's explanation interesting, but what I saw out of your comment was only the negative. Further, since you're adopted, you've demonstrated that you have actively taken on Jewish identity in a positive sense. That's what I felt was disingenuous—"Choose someone else," well, you CHOSE to become a part of that culture and to remain with it. I'm not asking you to justify your faith, but rather was trying to recognize that you were choosing a specific rhetorical frame for the discussion over this issue, and I felt that you were trying to unfairly shift the discussion from one where it could be pointed out that different communities of Jews were often radically different to one where the quiddity of Jewish identity was that of being a victim of anti-semitism.

Whatever. I realize that I shouldn't have picked this hill to die on, but I was pissed off at seeing what I felt was a straw-man of thousands of years of oppression being trotted out over something that I saw as clumsy and stupid at best, and I got more pissed off every time I felt that I was being called anti-semitic because of that.
posted by klangklangston at 2:32 PM on January 18, 2008


While the post was poorly worded, and i'm not even going to jump into trying to decipher anti-semitic intent, I do think the mentioning of the fact that the landlord is Hasidic, and this is taking place in Brooklyn does have some relevance.

Without that information, the answer seems to be one of basic NY tenant law. Something I know very little about, but should probably learn more about as I am a NY tenant.

With that information, it becomes an issue I can actually offer some decent advice about, as I have been in that exact situation. Do I have any negative stereotypes about Hasidic landlords? no. But when I was in the same situation, someone gave me some good advice that seemed to work well in that specific situation.

Everytime I attempted to deal with the landlord directly, it turned into a nasty argument, and I was pretty convinced that I was not going to get my deposit back. So it was suggested to me by a friend that I have a friend of his who is an apartment broker, and did a lot of business with Hasidic landlords in Brooklyn talk to our landlord for us. We had been arguing for weeks, and to my surprise, the situation was remedied to everyone's satisfaction within a day. In my case, it was simply a communication problem revolving around faulty assumptions , cultural differences and a large amount of mistrust on both sides.

Hasidic or not Hasidic isn't REALLY the point. It's just that there is a certain unique aspect to the situation that's hard (but not impossible) to convey without mentioning it.

I think it's also relevant on a bigger scale as it is a perfect example of how easy it is for us to bemoan the lack of diplomacy on a global scale, when we rarely can see how to use it in our daily lives.
posted by billyfleetwood at 2:55 PM on January 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


languagehat, I one day hope to own a car big enough to fit a bumper sticker containing this comment on it.
posted by billyfleetwood at 3:05 PM on January 18, 2008


This thread has become ridiculous. Let's drop it and get back to what's truly important; banding together against the Irish.
posted by Justinian at 3:10 PM on January 18, 2008


itals for LHat

*weeps tears of sweet, sweet joy*

I one day hope to own a car big enough to fit a bumper sticker containing this comment on it.

You could just boil it down to "Ask the anti-Semites!" That should lead to some interesting conversations.
posted by languagehat at 3:22 PM on January 18, 2008


Let me take some givens from life and the post/comment:

There is a tight-knit, insular community of Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn.

There is a tendency in this community to be landlords. (In fact, I believe, though I'm not sure, that all landlords in NYC tend towards two groups: slumlords and multi-million/billion dollar corporations.)

In fact, they form a "communal network" as described in the comment. They cooperate in building ownership, repairs, etc.

However, we seem to have come to the conclusion that knowing someone is part of this specific communal network of landlords tells us nothing about how this person is likely to operate as a landlord. This seems very off to me.

The post even provides a possible example - the poster noted that this guy would not take checks. This seems quite odd to me from my experience and knowledge of landlords. I don't know if it's just this one guy being weird or if it's common for these Hasidic landlords not to take checks. The poster notes "Anyone in Brooklyn would immediately apprehend why he won't take checks," so I'd say there's at least a chance this not-taking-checks practice is peculiar to these Hasidic landlords. (Or it could just be a general Brooklyn slumlord thing, but I sort of doubt that. I've never heard of or had a Manhattan slumlord not taking checks, though I'll admit that while they're slumlords in both boroughs there are not really any slums left in Manhattan.)

Finally, I can construct these toy Ask Metafilter questions, from someone about to rent the apartment next to the OP.

Q: "What form of payment will I need for my new apartment?"
A: "A check, perhaps even a bank check."
FAIL - but I think the best answer possible given the information in the question.

Q: "What form of payment will I need for my new apartment? The landlord is a standard Brooklyn Hasidic slumlord."
A: "Cash money."
WIN AND AWESOME

And re: you can't stop being a Jew because the Jews say you can't: If that's true, I'm going to get my friends in the gay community to declare all males on Earth gay except for me, or at least everyone they can sweep up on some criteria like having a gay ancestor or that one time they hugged a guy and didn't pound his back to make it not gay, so I can get laid more often.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 3:33 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


TheOnlyCoolTim,

I would actually have no problem with a question that asked essentially the same thing as your second hypothetical question, but using more neutral language:

"I'm moving into a new apartment in Brooklyn. My landlord is a Hasidic Jew. Are there any cultural norms of the Hasidic community I should be aware of that might help promote good landlord/tenant relations?"

But I don't necessarily see how this relates to the poster's original question, since it wasn't asking about specific aspects of Hasidic culture as it related to her tenancy, but instead mentioned the landlord's Hasidic background to hint about what negative characteristics the landlord therefore embodied.
posted by The Gooch at 3:58 PM on January 18, 2008


And Hitler would have killed him anyway. I know you know that, but you think it's irrelevant because Hitler is not running America in 2008. It's not.

I don't know what to make of this or the rest of languagehat's comment. I have a Jewish last name and that's pretty much my whole attachment to Judaism. (Dad's dad was an atheist and disowned his family, and then skipped out on my dad's family.) I guess if Hitler or his ilk ran America, I'd be in trouble because of that despite my agnostic upbringing. Even though most Jews are quick to point out I'm not really Jewish and that my last name is false advertising.

As to the post- the person who asked the question really didn't have to include anything about religion, as many people have pointed out.

This whole discussion is interesting with the timing of this week's law & order svu.
posted by kendrak at 4:11 PM on January 18, 2008


All these comments, and no mention of Maimonides? Oy!
posted by greatgefilte at 4:14 PM on January 18, 2008


This thread has become ridiculous. Let's drop it and get back to what's truly important; banding together against the Irish.

Eh, they're all brawling drunks, but they're generally harmless. My problem is with the fucking Greenlanders.
posted by Devils Slide at 4:45 PM on January 18, 2008


I once asked Katallus, that Icelandic rogue, if they had Greenlander jokes in Iceland. He didn't know what I was talking about. I was all like, "You know, how Canadians make fun of Newfies and Germans make fun of Austrians (and Austrians make fun of Austrians from slightly smaller towns)." Truly, Iceland must be a world beyond prejudice, because he was even more confused.
posted by klangklangston at 4:56 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


/slams down Guinness and challenges Devils Slide to a fight
posted by desjardins at 5:00 PM on January 18, 2008


If I may infer a positive stereotype, but a stereotype nevertheless, Icelandic people do seem like a very civilized bunch.
posted by Devils Slide at 5:01 PM on January 18, 2008


Provides Hamas with funds and explosives to blow up desjardins' house /Iranian-American Devils Slide. Wait...I can't stop being Iranian-American ;)
posted by Devils Slide at 5:04 PM on January 18, 2008


I say it's all the fault of the fucking Sumerians. Them and their ziggurats.
posted by languagehat at 5:17 PM on January 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Didn't we just go through this?
posted by prophetsearcher at 5:27 PM on January 18, 2008


No, don't. Please don't start with the fucking Sumerians, because that'll remind me of the filthy kiddie-diddling Akkadians and then I'll have to go pick a fight with the first female Irish-American MeFite with a French nick I find.
posted by Devils Slide at 5:54 PM on January 18, 2008


well, don't worry, I'm "harmless."
posted by desjardins at 6:39 PM on January 18, 2008


I tried starting it up with the Assyrians once, but man, they came down on me like a wolf on a motherfucking fold.
posted by Abiezer at 7:27 PM on January 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


Yeah, this was a nice Cro-Magnon neighborhood until those Neanderthals moved in, with their 'walking uprigt' and 'fire setting.' Plus the language! They actually use language!
posted by jonmc at 7:30 PM on January 18, 2008


Listen, Klang, I don't think you're an antisemite.

Then don't say that my comments are about my problem with Jews. They're not—that's what really fucking pissed me off.


Sorry if it pissed you off. But I never said you were an antisemite. I said you seem to have problems with Jews. Rereading the thread, that's still how it seems to me, and I haven't been alone in that. If you don't, in fact, have any problems with Jews, you might reconsider how you represent yourself in public forums.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:12 PM on January 18, 2008


"But I never said you were an antisemite. I said you seem to have problems with Jews."

And you don't? I mean, if you weren't meaning to imply anti-semitism, you would honestly say that you've never gotten in an argument more than once with another Jew? Because then we've both had problems with Jews.

I have to admit that I read it a lot more specifically than that.
posted by klangklangston at 9:09 PM on January 18, 2008


klang digs his hole of shame deeper and wider...............
posted by caddis at 10:02 PM on January 18, 2008


I don't know what Astro Zombie is thinking but when I get in arguments with other Jews I don't tell them to go stick their putz in the kreplach or whatever. It is cringeworthy, dude. I despise when people form lame equivalencies between other minorities so I will not do that here but it is along the lines of having watched Uncle Sol do his "What it is, my brother" routine with some of the other dudes at the OTB. At least his goal is to be friendly, though. You were pulling out some pretty fucked up generalizations about Jewish people and using some loaded language to make your points and if I were you I'd be apologizing to Astro Zombie for being an abrasive reactionary and ignorantly misreading ass, not looking to make excuses for yourself. Would it kill you to not be the guy who always has to be right in this one instance? To make a simple graceful apology and then go the hell away? Jesus.
posted by melissa may at 10:08 PM on January 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


Yeah, this was a nice Cro-Magnon neighborhood until those Neanderthals moved in, with their 'walking uprigt' and 'fire setting.' Plus the language! They actually use language!

Other way around, mang. Are you sure you're not Neanderthalish?
posted by jtron at 12:01 AM on January 19, 2008


Jews are the new Women.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:54 AM on January 19, 2008


LH: Ask the anti-Semites. It's not a matter of "letting your enemies define you," it's a matter of living in the real world. None of us get to define ourselves. If we're very fortunate (white, American, well-off enough to hang out on the internet) we can pretend we do until life forces us to realize otherwise.

Eh? Sorry, am I misreading this or is this saying that if you're a Jew/have a Jewish name in the USA, you're gonna come to harm: life works out that way?
posted by five fresh fish at 1:08 AM on January 19, 2008


If you read the thread, it seems to be referring to the fact that, when Jews are targeted, renouncing one's Jewish identity will not help one bit.
posted by Krrrlson at 2:00 AM on January 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


"You were pulling out some pretty fucked up generalizations about Jewish people and using some loaded language to make your points and if I were you I'd be apologizing to Astro Zombie for being an abrasive reactionary and ignorantly misreading ass, not looking to make excuses for yourself. Would it kill you to not be the guy who always has to be right in this one instance? To make a simple graceful apology and then go the hell away? Jesus."

Y'know, never underestimate the calming effects of writing one profanity-laden response and then deleting it.

No, I'm not going to apologize. I'm fine with continuing to talk about this, but if all you can see is willful misreading on my end and none on his or anyone else's, I don't know what to tell you. I have my beliefs, and I'm pretty open to talking about 'em, but I feel pretty legitimately pissed off about the way I've been treated here. Again, if all you can see are the inflammatory things I've said, or think that I'm just making excuses for 'em, I'm at kind of a loss. If you weren't someone I generally respected, I'd just tell you to get fucked. I don't expect a fair reading from Krrrlson, but to read that from you makes it seem like you're not even trying.

Maybe I'll give this thread another look in the morning. At this point, I feel like my mistakes were in phrasing and tone, and that my beliefs may just be irreconcilable with some of the folks here. I'm willing to engage on that, but another round of telling me that I just have problems with Jews is only going to convince me that I have problems with a handful of people here and their rhetorical techniques. Hope you can understand that it's not about winning an argument here for me.
posted by klangklangston at 2:52 AM on January 19, 2008


fff: What Krrrlson said.

klang: Thanks for not saying nasty things to melissa may, 'cause then I'd have to have you whacked, and I like having you around.
posted by languagehat at 6:28 AM on January 19, 2008


Throw this thread down a well. So MeFi can be free.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:26 AM on January 19, 2008


I was born and raised Jewish (not Hasid, but I went to Hebrew school for many years, went to a religious camp one summer, had a bar mitzvah, went on a 'pilgrimage' to Israel, etc.). It's too bad I need to say that as a set-up to give my point of view any legitimacy in this discussion, but there it is.

Judaism is, for many people, not just a religion, but a culture. For Hasids, it's a worldview, a way of life, and a central part of their identity. Although I have dealt with many Hasids in many situations, it doesn't take many such dealings to know that of course their Judaism has a direct effect on the way they do just about everything. It is also not an exaggeration to say that Hasids take the 'chosen people' concept very seriously and literally.

More to the point: when asking a question about how to solve an interpersonal problem of any sort with a Hasid, it would be ludicrous and counterproductive not to mention that you were talking about a Hasid.

Unfortunately, the AskMe question that started all this included the phrase "just your run-of-the-mill Hasidic," which is bound to get some people riled up. In context, I think it makes perfect sense, and you're fooling yourself if you don't think that, to those with experience, this phrase brings to mind a set of characteristics that have a nearly 100% chance of applying to the landlord in question, namely:

He is part of an insular, elitist culture based on an ancient religion.
He is proud of that fact.
He takes the 'chosen people' concept seriously, and this concept has a direct affect on the way he thinks about, and relates to, non-Jews.
He has had a rigorous education that was fundamentally different in emphasis, scope, and underlying assumptions from that of anyone who isn't a Hasid, and he took that education seriously.
He has deeply ingrained ideas about the appropriate way to interact with (or avoid interacting with) people who are not part of his culture.
He has very specific ideas about the role of women in society, and those ideas are directly informed by his insular, elitist culture and his ancient religion.
Other than a vague idea that the world is full of anti-Semitism, he is completely unconcerned with the way he is perceived by non-Hasids.

If he didn't have all of those characteristics, then he wouldn't really be a Hasid. The phrase "run of the mill Hasidic," as far as the above-mentioned characteristics go, is a redundancy.

Zoomorhpic's mistake was asking the question without falling all over herself with pre-emptive apologies about how horrible she felt for vaguely implying that her Hasidic landlord might be acting in a way she finds repugnant because of the above-mentioned characteristics.

klangklangston: kudos to you for standing your ground.
posted by bingo at 7:32 AM on January 19, 2008 [5 favorites]


I've favorited and marked as fantastic comment everything Krrrlson has written in this thread. Everything. I sincerely never thought this day would come on MetaFilter. But then, I'd never thought that shit like
"Here's how you stop being Jewish—You stop hewing to the cultural traditions, you distance yourself from the community, you (if you want to be thorough and have a Jewish name) change your name"
would actually appear on a site like MetaFilter either, instead that on the real Internet home for such comments, places like alt.flame.niggers or some neo-Nazi propaganda site.

The whole "get over the Holocaust" attitude, I mean, I don't really know what's more appalling, between the sheer ignorance of the "there has been no antisemitism in the last 60 years" thing or the plain horror of the "stop being a Jew if antisemitism bothers you so much" thing. To have the balls to depict the Jews as whiners, in this day and age still, truly defies belief.
posted by matteo at 7:35 AM on January 19, 2008 [4 favorites]


Well, bingo, then what is the answer to the OP's question? How should she deal with a hasid that is different than any other landlord? And how does being a hasid change the way the landlord does business?

That's the crux of this, and I still haven't gotten a satisfactory answer.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:37 AM on January 19, 2008


I'm not trying to be argumentative in this case, either. I've known quite a few hasids, and, yes, they have a specific culture, and, yes, they are proud of their culture and don't really care what outsiders think about it.

I suppose the question could have been phrased as follows: I am having trouble with my landlord. He is Hasidic, and I am curious if there are any specific cultural differences that might exacerbate our tenant-landlord relationship?

But my answer, in that instance, would have been: Doesn't matter. He's bound by tenant-landlord law, and, even as a hasid, his religion requires him to know and obey the laws of the United States of America. If he's a bad landlord, it's because he's a bad landlord, not because he's a hasid, and he should be treated like any other bad landlord.

I am curious as to other answers, though.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:45 AM on January 19, 2008


the only way the religion is relevant (and there is no way the "shylock" remark could ever be relevant) is if the OP is going to the temple seeking to have her landlord shunned based upon his bad behavior
posted by caddis at 7:48 AM on January 19, 2008


then what is the answer to the OP's question?

the obvious piece of advice is, if you don't like the Hasidim, don't rent one of their apartments. there might be a lack of 100% Aryan landlords in Brooklyn, I don't know about that, but it's certainly not 100% Hasidim-owned, so there's no problem, really. we're all prejudiced after all, personally I'm extremely prejudiced against Nazis so I wouldn't rent an apartment from a guy who has a huge swastika tattoeed on their forehead or, like, a huge Nazi flag in their office.
posted by matteo at 7:55 AM on January 19, 2008


Honestly? I strongly suspect that Klang is anti-Zionist (as am I) and that he's bought into a system of thought common among opponents of Israel that holds that antisemitism is not a serious kind of prejudice and Jews should not be one of the groups which society considers a protected class, that Jews are whining or obfuscating when they talk about antisemitism, and that in general Jews are analogous to some other powerful, oppressive group that falsely claims to be victims, like apartheid-era Afrikaners or American Evangelicals. I see this attitude all over the place. There was an editorial in the Irish Times the summer before last, for instance, by the respected literary critic Declan Kiberd which argued that prejudice against Arabs was now the only "real" antisemitism and that the word should no longer be applied to prejudice against Jews.

If Klang buys into this view, then I don't think he's ever going to see why the stuff he's said here has pissed off people whom he otherwise respects. He really does think that Jews talking about antisemitism is like Baptists complaining about the Romans. It's ancient history that we're just keeping alive to fuel our persecution complex. And it really and truly terrifies me that so many people seem to be coming around to his point of view.
posted by craichead at 8:54 AM on January 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


Well, bingo, then what is the answer to the OP's question?

My answer would have been to have a legally threatening letter sent to the landlord, from a lawyer with a male Jewish name. On a past occasion, I made a similar recommendation to someone in an analogous situation, with success. It might not have worked in this case, but it would be worth trying.

It's too bad that I can't give the answer in the actual thread, which has been closed, but must instead give it here, the thread about why the question was inappropriate, and that I be prompted to do so by someone who is obviously cheering the fact that the other thread was closed. You say you're curious about answers different from your own; well, no doubt the OP was too.

But my answer, in that instance, would have been: Doesn't matter. He's bound by tenant-landlord law, and, even as a hasid, his religion requires him to know and obey the laws of the United States of America.

Your answer would have been spectacularly wrong. The question is about how to solve the problem without going to court. It's a question about personal dynamics. How to get someone with a very different perspective from your own to give you something that you want.

What's more, as any non-retarded person who has ever rented an apartment (or tried to single-handedly enforce any other law) knows, the fact that the law is technically on your side means very little.
posted by bingo at 9:55 AM on January 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


The whole "get over the Holocaust" attitude, I mean, I don't really know what's more appalling, between the sheer ignorance of the "there has been no antisemitism in the last 60 years" thing or the plain horror of the "stop being a Jew if antisemitism bothers you so much" thing. To have the balls to depict the Jews as whiners, in this day and age still, truly defies belief.

What Matteo said.

I never thought I'd see myself type that. Strange bedfellows indeed.

posted by timeistight at 10:09 AM on January 19, 2008


To have the balls to depict the Jews as whiners, in this day and age still, truly defies belief.

To be fair, though, comments like New York turning into the next Nazi-era Berlin are pretty ridiculous.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:51 AM on January 19, 2008


The phrase "run of the mill Hasidic," as far as the above-mentioned characteristics go, is a redundancy.

Because all Hasids are the same, right? I mean, they dress alike, and, like, they kinda sound the same. I guess that's sorta like how all valley girls hold identical world views because I find it hard to distinguish between them and their nutty dialects.

I am a Jew. I am an Orthodox Jew. I am not an Ultra-Orthodox Jew, but I do have about 300 cousins who are, and I am close to many of them, have spent a lot of time with their families, and deeply appreciate the differences between myself and them.

He is part of an insular,...
Yes. He highly values his tradition and what he understands as the proper service to G-d, and sees a closed community as the safest way of practicing and safeguarding that way of life. Personally, I find this value rather misguided, as I seek G-d in the world around me. I do, however, understand the inclination to keep the outside world at bay. In fact, at times I am jealous of their ability to ignore it -- it makes faith much easier and relieves them of many difficult questions.

elitist
That you positioned "elitist" next to "insular" leads me to believe that your conception of the "elitist Hasid" is directly derived from your conception of the "insular Hasid". You see them walking down 47th street in tight packs, not acknowledging you, completely disinterested in the world you inhabit. I suppose this could be mistaken as elitism, the same way a colleague's aloofness can be mistaken for arrogance. However, I don't believe it is. The Hasid is inhabiting his world, and just isn't that interested in yours. Yes, there are many Hasidim (pl.) who believe that they are "better" than everyone else. But you know what? There are a lot who just aren't thinking in those terms. And, there are a lot of Protestants who think that they are better than everyone else, as do many Muslisms, Reform Jews, Vegans, Blondes, Sanitation Workers and Trekkies. Wait. What? Hasidim are human too? And that means some of them are full of themselves like other humans? Whoa...

culture
No, no, a thousand and two times no. He is part of a people. He isn't thinking in terms of culture or religion or nation. He just is. What I mean is that for the highly devoted Jew (and I suspect, highly devoted any religionist), the religious elements of his life are his life. His Judaism isn't an "extra-curricular" activity that he can layer on top of his "real" life, the way people do with their casual religious identities or hobbies or affliations. His religious life IS his life. He does not see a distinction between being a Jew and his Jewish culture.

based on
Again, from the Hasid's perspective, it isn't "based" on anything. It is the natural evolution of the same.

an ancient religion.
Yes. Judaism is old. Does your use of the word "ancient" imply its irrelevance to our modern world? If so, that is an entirely different discussion that followers of all religions should be invited to.

He is proud of that fact.
Although I disagree with your interpretation of "that fact" - I suppose he very well might be proud. I think the Hasidim I am close with are proud of their lives. And I think that's great, too. Not quite sure what this has to do with how he'll behave as a landlord, though.

He takes the 'chosen people' concept seriously, and this concept has a direct affect on the way he thinks about, and relates to, non-Jews.
I've never really discussed this concept with my cousins directly, but from my own Orthodox upbringing, I only really ever hear about the issue of 'the chosen people' from those outside it, often insulted. When we do discuss the idea of being "the chosen people" (in prayers, for example) it is intended as having been chosen for the Torah, and - at the same time - having ourselves chosen the Torah.

I guess your insinuation, which you stopped short of spelling out, is that G-d chose the Hasidim (or the Jews in general), and therefore this particular Hasidic landlord feels that everyone else in the world is an underclass unworthy of honesty or ethics, and this particular Hasidic landlord believes it is literally his G-d-given right to "Jew" his tenants out of their money.

I do not know how I can sufficiently contradict this presumption of yours. I certainly won't earn any points by pointing out this perspective as one that - from a logical perspective - very easily evolve into a Protocols of the Elders of Zion philosophy.

He has had a rigorous education that was fundamentally different in emphasis, scope, and underlying assumptions from that of anyone who isn't a Hasid, and he took that education seriously.
Not entirely true. It was probably only about 50% different than my own rigorous education, and I - as stated above - am simply an Orthodox Jew, not a Hasid. But that's neither here nor there. I think this point is probably true, though I still am not sure what it has to do with getting back a security deposit.

He has deeply ingrained ideas about the appropriate way to interact with (or avoid interacting with) people who are not part of his culture.
Gosh, you seem to be saying the same thing over and over again in different words.

He has very specific ideas about the role of women in society, .

That's not saying very much, now is it? I mean, so do many of us. Sure, that role might be closer to a man's role, but it's still pretty specific.

and those ideas are directly informed by
So the way he views the world are "directly informed by" his worldview... Yep.

his insular, elitist culture and his ancient religion
This again? See above.

Other than a vague idea that the world is full of anti-Semitism,
First, his idea that the world is full of anti-Semitism is anything but vague. Specifically, his idea that the world is full of anti-Hasidim. But, to be fair, you don't seem to like Hasidim all that much, do you? So, maybe, his "vague idea" isn't *all* that crazy? Second, do realize that many of these Hasidim are trying their damnedest to live their lives how they would have been if it hadn't been for World War II. They are dressing the same, marrying the same people, speaking the same language with the same regional dialects, eating the same foods, following the same customs, as their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents, and so on, did up until about the time "The Wizard of Oz" hit the big screen.

Their lives are continuously effected by this Really Bad Instance of anti-Semitism, as bored as you may be of hearing about it. They were really quite happy minding their own business over in Lvov or Warsaw or Anatopel (well, when there weren't pogroms, I suppose). This "vague idea" you speak of is really anything but.

he is completely unconcerned with the way he is perceived by non-Hasids.
"Don't rock the boat." You know that expression? That's the one on the tip of their tongues. Just keep your head down, walk quickly, don't make a scene. Heck, even my non-Hasidic family members said the same thing when Joe Lieberman was running for office. "Just lay low."

To cool it down a bit, I'll close with an old joke that relates directly to this point (so Jewish, I know).

During the reign of a particularly nasty Czar, two older Jews are caught organizing illegal Torah classes. As they are being readied for their execution, the guard asks if they have any last requests. One of the men begins to raise his hand to ask for a drink, when the other one elbows him and admonishes:
"Yankel! Don't be a pest!"
posted by prophetsearcher at 10:58 AM on January 19, 2008 [9 favorites]


That was a great comment, prophetsearcher; one of the things I love about MetaFilter is the insider perspectives people contribute. A cavil:

culture
No, no, a thousand and two times no. He is part of a people. He isn't thinking in terms of culture or religion or nation. He just is.


That may be the way he sees himself, but you can't expect the rest of the world to adopt his self-evaluation. From outside, of course he has (or is part of) a culture, just like everyone else, and from the perspective of your average non-Satmar New Yorker, whether Jewish, Puerto Rican, or anything else, it's a pretty striking one. (My late friend Allan, a proud Jew, found the Satmars fascinating and weird; he told me "they're the ones wearing the 17th-century Polish hats.")

Good call on "elitist," though. That's not a word you can apply to an entire culture/people/religion.
posted by languagehat at 11:11 AM on January 19, 2008


But then, I'd never thought that shit like "Here's how you stop being Jewish—You stop hewing to the cultural traditions, you distance yourself from the community, you (if you want to be thorough and have a Jewish name) change your name" would actually appear on a site like MetaFilter either, instead that on the real Internet home for such comments, places like alt.flame.niggers or some neo-Nazi propaganda site.

Now, obviously, Judaism is 2-3 things. First, it's often a biological inheritance, which you can't get rid of, but that's rather irrelevant, I think.

Then, it's a very intertwined culture/religion. In this sense, I find this "You can't stop being Jewish" idea and the idea that it's racist to suggest people can stop being Jewish pretty damned abhorrent. Everyone can choose to what degree they will participate in or "be" a culture they find themselves in. One might choose only the aspects of the culture that they see as positive and abandon the negative ones, or one can just abandon the whole thing. You know what you get when people don't examine and choose how they participate in a culture? Six million dead Jews and several million dead sundry other undesirables, and a whole lot of Good Germans and Little Eichmanns. But I never thought a comment like "Here's how you stop being a Nazi" would actually appear on a site like Metafilter.

Furthermore, whatever indelible cultural aspects of Judaism you guys are proposing that you can't "stop being," it's a really short step to just add in, "They also can't stop being greedy moneygrubbers" as another of these cultural aspects, or to have something like "Arabs? Buncha fuckin' terrorists."
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:11 AM on January 19, 2008


This thread is fascinating.
posted by desjardins at 11:25 AM on January 19, 2008


I think the question of whether one can stop being Jewish is really complicated, TheOnlyCoolTim. It depends who you're asking and in what sense you mean. It's pretty clear to me that I couldn't stop being Jewish. I could stop practicing the Jewish religion (and mostly have, which is why I'm posting this on Shabbat), and I could stop identifying as Jewish. But I'd be denying something real about myself. Being Jewish has shaped me profoundly, for better and for worse. Moreover, there are many people, both Jewish and non-Jewish, who will always consider me a Jew, no matter what. So there are very real senses in which I can't just stop being Jewish.

I also think that people in America think that having Jewish heritage matters, even if one does not identify as Jewish. That's why Kerry's Jewish ancestors were considered noteworthy in a way that it would never have been if it had been revealed that his grandfather was actually (gasp!) Swedish.

But mostly, I don't understand why it matters whether one can stop being Jewish, unless one is trying to imply that it's ok to persecute Jews because our Jewishness is a choice. I honestly can't fathom why this is a relevant fact. I don't want to stop being Jewish. Why does it matter whether I could do so?
posted by craichead at 12:03 PM on January 19, 2008


"Honestly? I strongly suspect that Klang is anti-Zionist (as am I)"

Yes.

and that he's bought into a system of thought common among opponents of Israel that holds that antisemitism is not a serious kind of prejudice and Jews should not be one of the groups which society considers a protected class, that Jews are whining or obfuscating when they talk about antisemitism, and that in general Jews are analogous to some other powerful, oppressive group that falsely claims to be victims, like apartheid-era Afrikaners or American Evangelicals."

No.

Here's where the crux is for me—I do believe that there are legitimate claims of anti-semitism that can be made. I do not believe that Jews are a powerful, oppressive group (in America, or generally the globe, and even within Israel I would argue Jews are not a monolithic bloc though some are powerful and do oppress). I even agree that the Shylock comment was over the line in the original question.

I do not believe that mentioning Hasidism was over the line, I do not believe that Judaism is terrible or inescapable, I do believe that the ultra-Orthodox Jews have a lot in common with fundamentalist Christians (most specifically their views on women and gays) and that both the ultra-Orthodox and fundamentalists can make legitimate claims of oppression in modern America in ways that secular Jews can't, I believe that for the most part those legitimate claims are outweighed by my desire to live in a modern and secular country, and I don't believe that I am anti-semitic for believing any of this.
posted by klangklangston at 12:09 PM on January 19, 2008


"But mostly, I don't understand why it matters whether one can stop being Jewish, unless one is trying to imply that it's ok to persecute Jews because our Jewishness is a choice. I honestly can't fathom why this is a relevant fact. I don't want to stop being Jewish. Why does it matter whether I could do so?"

The reason why I brought it up, initially, was because Astro Zombie was giving a litany of ancestral woes as Judaism was an oppressive burden that he couldn't get away from. The reason why I believe it is important is because I believe that each individual should be able to decide what defines them. That does not mean that it is OK to persecute Jews. Keep on bein' Jews. But be a Jew because you want to be a Jew, not because you can't be anything else.

I got into a similar argument once, I believe with Amberglow, over the issue of innate homosexuality. My position there was that it's clear from historical records that it's not simply genetic—social homosexuality in Greece and Rome was at far higher levels than it is today (but that does not discount a genetic cause today, etc.). My position on that is that homosexuality should be protected whether or not it is a choice. If it is a choice for an individual, it should be a societally respected and legitimate choice, and I worry that reducing it to genetics means that it will be seen socially as a defect to be corrected rather than something anyone should be free to engage in if the fancy strikes them.

I got called a homophobe there and warned that if people thought it was a choice, they'd discriminate against that choice, and told that I was saying the same things as fundamentalists who wanted to exterminate gays.

I'm a big boy, I can take my lumps. I still believe that homosexuality should be protected regardless of essentialism. I feel like I'm getting the same treatment here, and I don't mind holding my ground.
posted by klangklangston at 12:22 PM on January 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


to read that from you makes it seem like you're not even trying

I am trying to understand why an intelligent and culturally engaged person such as yourself caves in to the get fucked impulse at all and resorts to bellicosity so frequently. "Mistakes in phrasing and tone" is a very generous gloss for the tact you took here and you could have reserved some of that generosity for interpreting what others were trying to say. You demanded justifications from Astro Zombie in a way that did not seem designed to lead to better understanding but rather an attempt to win your argument. Using Yiddish snark particularly read like baiting. I'm glad to hear you say that is not what it has been about for you.

My very laid-back Reform background hardly makes me the best choice to be village explainer on this subject so I am taking a pass on that. (Thanks, prophetsearcher, for so deftly explicating that circuitous bit of rhetoric. The joke was good, too.) But I will say that even positive stereotypes -- that we're all brainy or hellcats in the sack or what have you are still just that, stereotypes, and just as reductive and inaccurate as their flipsides. Whether you are getting your ass kicked or kissed because of one-size-fits-all-thinking, it's not a good place to be.

But I am mainly talking to you klangklangtson so the last thing I'll say on this subject is that if you're after mutual engagement and understanding the respect and clarity you are demonstrating now is a far superior way to achieve it. It is a dumb thing to say to a smart guy but I wouldn't bother if I didn't think you really wanted to examine what's gone so awry here.
posted by melissa may at 12:35 PM on January 19, 2008


Now, obviously, Judaism is 2-3 things. First, it's often a biological inheritance, which you can't get rid of, but that's rather irrelevant, I think.

Not that I would want to stop being Jewish, but one of the senses in which I couldn't is that I look stereotypically Jewish. People tend to assume that I am whether I mention it or not. Obviously, not all Jews look like the stereotype. But a whole bunch of us do, and I think that's a fact that is sometimes avoided in conversations like this.
posted by amro at 12:38 PM on January 19, 2008


Klang, not content to keep pissing off the Jews, decides to up the ante, open an old wound, go after the gays too. A little more fire in the belly, or perhaps some booze, and it could turn into a good, old fashioned flame-out.
posted by caddis at 12:41 PM on January 19, 2008


I think maybe you're setting up a false binary here, klang. You can deny essentialism and still realize that people don't experience a thing as a choice. "Socially constructed" isn't a synonym for "freely chosen," even in instances in which the outside society doesn't overtly impose the identity.
posted by craichead at 12:52 PM on January 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Good call on "elitist," though. That's not a word you can apply to an entire culture/people/religion

Perhaps not whole religions, per se, but some (Christian) denominations are predicated on their elitism - the fact that they will rule over the unsaved with Christ after the apocalypse. Some even associate themselves with the 'Chosen People' through British Israelism. Elitism, and belonging to the 'saved', is essential to their doctrine.

I'm with desjardins - fascinating thread!
posted by goo at 12:53 PM on January 19, 2008


""Mistakes in phrasing and tone" is a very generous gloss for the tact you took here and you could have reserved some of that generosity for interpreting what others were trying to say."

Yes, it is a generous gloss. To that, I can only say that I was pissed off and it was a mistake. I do not, however, believe that I have received very much generosity in return, aside from koeselitz, and I have to say I still feel indignant and prone to doing things like pointing to caddis's last comment as an example of why I still feel that way. I hope you can understand why it's hard to apologize for "misunderstanding" others when I repeatedly feel just the opposite is occuring.
posted by klangklangston at 12:56 PM on January 19, 2008


While we're being careful with language, I should have added that the term "Hasidic" is not necessarily the correct one. In fact, we should (shouldn't?) be talking about Haredi Jews.
posted by prophetsearcher at 12:57 PM on January 19, 2008


"Mistakes in phrasing and tone" is a very generous gloss for the tact you took here and you could have reserved some of that generosity for interpreting what others were trying to say. - melissa may

She has nailed it for me right there. Klang I dig your often ruthless approach when you go after someone who has lost their mind and are spouting off nonsense, but you when someone has a subtle difference of opinion with you it takes diplomacy to win them over to your way of looking at it, or at least to be able to agree to dissagree without bad feelings.

Only a person that has ceased to be reasonable deserves to get called an idiot, if that's ever acceptable in the first place.
posted by nola at 1:05 PM on January 19, 2008


I still feel indignant and prone to doing things like pointing to caddis's last comment as an example of why I still feel that way.

Yeah, but be indignant at caddis, don't take it out on the public at large. (Or, what nola said.)
posted by languagehat at 1:19 PM on January 19, 2008


"Only a person that has ceased to be reasonable deserves to get called an idiot, if that's ever acceptable in the first place."

I stand by my belief that his inability to tell the difference between mentioning the culture of the landlord and asking for advice on deadbolts because of blacks in the neighborhood was at best disingenuous. I do think you have to be either insincere or ignorant to hold the view that those are congruent situations, and I think that enough people here have talked about why the culture of the landlord could be relevant to back me up.
posted by klangklangston at 2:03 PM on January 19, 2008


Don't you have a Jewish friend? Perhaps they could back you up.

I keed. Because I love.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:54 PM on January 19, 2008


While we're being careful with language, I should have added that the term "Hasidic" is not necessarily the correct one. In fact, we should (shouldn't?) be talking about Haredi Jews.

prophetsearcher, 'Hasidic' is correct in this case. There's quite a difference between them and non-Hasidic Haredi Jews in terms of practices, values, organizational structure, etc.

The non-Hasidic Haredi (i.e. Lithuanian) high school I went to belonged to a particular movement that was known as the one whose rabbis 'encouraged people not to cheat on their taxes,' among other things. I don't want to say the exception proves the rule, but growing up in that sort of community, the common sentiment was always "we are not like them, their rules don't always apply to us." That is emphatically NOT to say that embezzling and cheating and other g'niavishe schtick were the norm, and nor was such behaviour condoned, but when we heard about it, it was nothing to be surprised at. FBI doing surveillance from a mobile home around the corner from someone known to be a little dishonest? Oh, yeah, that's Yankel, they caught him. This kind of stuff has been going on for a long time, it's when people get caught that they make the headlines and give rise to the "run-of-the-mill Hasidic slumlord" stereotype.
posted by greatgefilte at 3:03 PM on January 19, 2008


I think that enough people here have talked about why the culture of the landlord could be relevant to back me up.

Perhaps they've talked about it but no-one has provided any example in this thread or the original of its relevance to any "legally-intimidating measures".
posted by Neiltupper at 3:22 PM on January 19, 2008


The phrase used was not "run of the mill Hasidic." The phrase used was "run of the mill Hasidic slumlord." There is a huge difference between those phrases, and the assumptions they ask the reader to make.
posted by occhiblu at 3:23 PM on January 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


prophetsearcher, 'Hasidic' is correct in this case. There's quite a difference between them and non-Hasidic Haredi Jews in terms of practices, values, organizational structure, etc.

greatgefilte: I'd argue (in fact, I do argue) that since we don't specifically know the lineage of the particular landlord in question, we can't know if he is chassidic or misnaggdic, so we'd just as well refer to him by the umbrella categorization of 'haredi'.

If you're saying that your experience has taught you that since your Lithuanian school admonished stealing, then the logical extension is that the Hasidic culture allowed stealing, then we can continue to argue.

In either case, I do doubt the OP's familiarity with her (?) landlord extended to knowledge of his theological ancestry, and so any discussion we have of the landlord should be kept to him as a haredi and not a hasid.

But again, if you are saying that since he is acting immorally he is clearly hassidic and not misnaggdic, well, then, that's a whole other battle to endeavor.
posted by prophetsearcher at 4:00 PM on January 19, 2008


I have to say by my read, klang was the victim of a lot more ill will and misreading than he was a propagator. But he did say fuck a lot more. Here's a (still incredibly long) digest version. Maybe you can see why he got pissed off.

Gooch: I think this question was antisemitic.
Klang: I think the fact that the landlord was a Brooklyn Hasid is relevant because there are cultural differences that can affect conflict resolution.
Gooch: I don't see the difference between "cultural differences" and racism. What if the question was about black people?
Klang: You're an idiot.
AV: Why would being Hasid make them more likely to be slumlords or law breakers?
AZ: Why do you presume that because of their culture, they would treat an out-group differently?
Klang: They aren't money-grubbing law-shirkers because they are Jewish, but because they are landlords. And all insular groups treat out-groups differently.
Gooch: Why am I an idiot?
Klang: Fuck your dudgeon. Being a member of in an insular community affects this interaction. Being black would not.
Gooch. I respectfully disagree. His Jewishness isn't an issue in this interaction.
Klang: IT'S NOT HIS JEWISHNESS, it's the separatism.
AZ: The Jewish people have suffered for centuries and are still suffering today.
Klang: You've got it pretty good nowadays. If it sucks so bad for you being Jewish, why don't you quit?
AZ: There's still antisemitism, idiot. You're saying that the cure for antisemitism is for Jews to stop being Jews.
Chorus: That's a horrible thing to say! You're a horrible person!
Klang: You have no sense of proportion. This question is not on the same level as holocaust. If being Jewish is so horrible for you, you can quit. There's lots of prejudice in the world, but to whine about how hard it is for you to be Jewish, and to say that we can't criticize Brooklyn Hasidic culture because they are Jewish is bullshit.
AZ: I have experienced antisemitism, and saying that being Hasidic makes him a crooked landlord is antisemitic.
Klang: I didn't say antisemitism is okay because Jews can stop being Jews. I understand that persecution is important to the Jewish tradition, but it's important to all religions and most cultural groups. It's a common rhetorical technique to bring up your groups history of persecution to deflect criticism of your group and dismiss any valid arguments that might be made.
AZ: What valid argument made it okay for you to come in here and say Jews can stop being Jews and that they are a bunch of whiners that haven't been oppressed and should just shut up?
Klang: I didn't say those things. I said his culture is relevant to the question. How is your suffering relevant to the question?
AZ: I think it's become obvious to everyone here that you have a problem with Jews and just want us to stop whining about the Holocaust.
Klang: I don't hate the Jews. I asked you why you continue to be a Jew if it's so bad for you, and all you've done is complain and call me antisemitic. I still think that Hasidism is relevant to the question, and a history of persecution doesn't protect a group from criticism.
AZ: Hasidism wasn't relevant to the question. You've said that Jews can stop being Jews, there's no modern day antisemitism, Jews don't obey the law, Hasidic people aren't like regular people, and Jews silence their critics with charges of antisemitism.
Chorus: You can't stop being Jewish, and that's a terrible thing to say.
Klang: I'm not saying Jews should stop being Jews, just that if you stop proclaiming yourself a Jew, then you will effectively stop being treated as a Jew.
AZ: I couldn't hide my history of being a Jew, and if someone wanted to exterminate the Jews, they wouldn't except my resignation regardless.
Klang: No one is going to exterminate you in modern America.
milarepa : Would you tell blacks to stop whining about slavery?
Klang: It's harder to assimilate in America as a black person than as a Jewish person. Unless you are trying to rectify a social inequity, you are just whining.
milarepa : My point wasn't that Jews face the same problems, but that your history can affect your worldview.
Klang: My point was that comparing AskMe's Shylock bullshit to the Holocaust is rhetorical tubthumping, and AZ shouldn't have brought it up. I agree that history affects worldview, but encourage a sense of proportion.
AZ: No one compared it to the Holocaust. You are grossly insensitive to and ill-educated about the Jewish experience, and won't listen to actual Jews on the subject. You keep insisting that Jews should shut up about their suffering.
Klang: No, I said you should shut up about your suffering.
Chorus: Y'all need to chill out.
AZ: I don't think you're an antisemite, or the poster is an antisemite. My life has been greatly affected by antisemitism, and I'm very sensitive about the issue.
Chorus: But still! You can't stop being Jewish.
Klang: My friend stopped being Jewish. I've asked repeatedly, if being a Jew is so bad, why don't you stop?
kosem: So your asking AZ to defend or give up his Judiasm? That's awful.
AZ: No, I don't think that's what he's saying. He's saying it's possible to stop being a Jew in America, and that's probably true. I still say that it not okay to say being Hasidic makes you a slumlord.
koeselitz: Could people actually read what he's said and not jump to conclusions?
AZ: Oh, I missed that part. I guess it's a good question. If Judaism is such pain, why do we stick with it, rather than just dump it?
Klang: I'm not asking you to justify your faith, but rather was trying to recognize that you were choosing a specific rhetorical frame for the discussion over this issue, and I felt that you were trying to unfairly shift the discussion from one where we could discuss the cultural differences of this group of Jews to one where we could not. I was pissed off about that, and got more pissed off as people called me antisemitic because of it.
melissa may: You were pulling out some pretty fucked up generalizations about Jewish people and using some loaded language to make your points and if I were you I'd be apologizing to Astro Zombie for being an abrasive reactionary and ignorantly misreading ass.
Klang: No. I'm not the only one misreading. I don't think I've been treated fairly here. At this point, I feel like my mistakes were in phrasing and tone, and that my beliefs may just be irreconcilable with some of the folks here.
posted by team lowkey at 4:03 PM on January 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow. I think all runaway threads should come with Cliff's Notes.
posted by prophetsearcher at 4:12 PM on January 19, 2008


Well, it was nice of you to translate everything Klang said so that everybody who responded to him was merely misinterpreting the very reasonable thing he was saying. Next time Klang posts, please be on hand to translate for us.

Weirdly, you somehow mistranslated what I said so that my responses to multiple comments, and, in one important case, was simply a generalize comment about Judaism, have become direct responses to Klang. Next time I post, please don't be on hand to translate for us.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:13 PM on January 19, 2008


occhiblu: phrase used was not "run of the mill Hasidic." The phrase used was "run of the mill Hasidic slumlord." There is a huge difference between those phrases, and the assumptions they ask the reader to make.

true dat, btw.

posted by prophetsearcher at 4:19 PM on January 19, 2008


Well, it was nice of you to translate everything Klang said so that everybody who responded to him was merely misinterpreting the very reasonable thing he was saying.

The idea that klangklangston has brought up and repeated several times, is that if a Jew renounces Judaism, he will be able to escape persecution as a Jew. Even if he doesn't think that this idea justifies the persecution, or that renouncing Judaism should be encouraged, this is a dangerous falsehood, shown to be incorrect by numerous historical examples. His only refutation, which he claims nullifies this abundance of historical precedent, is his friend Jeremy from Georgia.

Am I misinterpreting this, too? Please tell me if I am.
posted by Krrrlson at 5:19 PM on January 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I stand by my belief that his inability to tell the difference between mentioning the culture of the landlord and asking for advice on deadbolts because of blacks in the neighborhood was at best disingenuous.

And I stand by my belief that bringing up a person's ethnic/cultural/religious/racial identity for the primary purpose of trying to paint them according to commonly known negative stereotypes is wrong regardless of which specific minority group you choose to do it with. [For the record, I'm *not* arguing that bringing this information up, period, is off limits]

Which is exactly what I felt the original poster did in her question, since her landlord's Hasidism was first mentioned without any context, only as an additional adjective in a string of insults. When called upon in the thread to clarify, instead of calming the situation by describing what exactly about her landlord's Hasidism was effecting their ability to resolve their dispute (which I would have no problem with), she instead added fuel to the fire with a more explicit insult (the lone Shylockian comment).

I saw her question and my hypothetical one as congruent to the degree they both use a wink, wink, nudge, nudge ("And you know what *THOSE* people are like") approach to stereotype an entire minority group.
posted by The Gooch at 5:24 PM on January 19, 2008


And I stand by my belief that hamantaschen is delicious.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:27 PM on January 19, 2008


And team lowkey, if you are going to willfully (or even accidentally for that matter) misinterpret just about everything I've written in the thread I will respectfully ask you to not try to paraphrase me. Thanks.
posted by The Gooch at 5:30 PM on January 19, 2008


greatgefilte: I'd argue (in fact, I do argue) that since we don't specifically know the lineage of the particular landlord in question, we can't know if he is chassidic or misnaggdic, so we'd just as well refer to him by the umbrella categorization of 'haredi'.

Well, maybe, but judging by the ZIP code of the AskMeFi OP, I would strongly assume Hasidic. How many Misnagdic landlords in Williamsburg do you know of?

If you're saying that your experience has taught you that since your Lithuanian school admonished stealing, then the logical extension is that the Hasidic culture allowed stealing, then we can continue to argue.

Er, no, the implication was that the Lithuanian school was somewhat unique amongst all Haredi schools, Hasidic and Misnagdic.

But again, if you are saying that since he is acting immorally he is clearly hassidic and not misnaggdic, well, then, that's a whole other battle to endeavor.

Whoa, whoa, no, I didn't say that. Trust me, I have complete faith in the ability of all religious fundamentalists, Jewish, Haredi, or whatever, to be dishonest. Not that all of them are. Just sayin'.
posted by greatgefilte at 5:33 PM on January 19, 2008


AZ - unless they're stale or the fruit inside goes rotten.
posted by The Gooch at 5:35 PM on January 19, 2008


What the? Who self-identifies as misnaggdic? It's the phrase Hasidim once used to identify Jews who weren't Hasidic, as it means "the opponents." And since Hasidim are now considered legitimate Jews, rather than heretics, by mainstream orthodoxy, who would still be called Misnaggedim?

Trust me, if they look like a hasid, they're a hasid.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:38 PM on January 19, 2008


Unless they're Amish.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:40 PM on January 19, 2008


Or live in Williamsburg. And sing in a band.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:48 PM on January 19, 2008


AZ, you're right that there's been a lot of reconciliation between Hasidim and Misnagdim, but they're still pretty distinct entities. There's the outward appearance (hat with upturned brim vs. hat with brim down; long coats vs. conventional suit jackets; full beard vs. trimmed or clean-shaven; sidelocks curly vs. none, or tucked behind the ears -- and this is all discounting non-Haredi Misnagdim, a whole other story); community structure (followers of a particular Rebbe vs. affilitation with a particular school), attitude towards working (Haredi Misnagdim tend to encourage extended full-time study for as long as possible, as opposed to getting a foot in the workplace for young adults).

They're out there. Not so much the 'opposition' anymore, but still a distinct 'other.'
posted by greatgefilte at 5:53 PM on January 19, 2008


But yeah, they probably don't self-identify as 'Misnagdim.'
posted by greatgefilte at 5:55 PM on January 19, 2008


Interesting. Do they call themselves "misnaggedim"?
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:57 PM on January 19, 2008


Beat me to my question.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:01 PM on January 19, 2008


AZ - Not really, the colloquial term used for them now is "Yeshivish."
posted by greatgefilte at 6:02 PM on January 19, 2008


Yeshivish!

Whenever some asks me if I'm a Jew, I wave my hand in the air in the "sort of" gesture and say, "Well, I'm Jew-ish."
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:05 PM on January 19, 2008


As someone who is currently attending "Introduction to Judaism" classes at a local synagogue, I find this thread both disturbing and highly hilarious.

I think some people here need to calm down and step away from the keyboard for a couple of hours.
posted by mrbill at 6:08 PM on January 19, 2008


Whoa, whoa, no, I didn't say that. Trust me, I have complete faith in the ability of all religious fundamentalists, Jewish, Haredi, or whatever, to be dishonest. Not that all of them are. Just sayin'.

Well, thanks for the clarification, I guess. Surely, though, you have complete faith in the ability of *anyone* to be dishonest, right?

@AZ: To clarify the point a bit, the misnaggedim ("opponents") opposed the then-newfangled hassidic notion that the individual could approach the Holy through song, spirits, and spirituality, rather than just through learning and rabbis. As per your question, The misnaggedim today would be, for example, the Lithuanians mentioned above, who still insist that the "directest" path to the Almighty is in the House of Learning, not via melody and story.

The wiki link I posted before further hones the point:
The term misnagdim is loosely used by Chasidim to refer to European religious Orthodox Jews who are not Hasidic, although they are not necessarily opposed to Hasidic Judaism, such as the Yeshiva movement. The term is often used for the historical period of active opposition to Chasidus. The non-Chasidic Orthodox Jewish world is heavily integrated with Chasidim and few non-Chasidic Jews are actively opposed to Chasidut. Worldview differences, however, still manifest themselves in the various educational institutions organized by the respective groups, and may even influence the political affiliations and decisions...

The article continues to touch on some points that may be of relevant interest to you (eg, Misnaggdim today*)

*which, incidentally, could be a great name for a magazine: "Misnaggdim Today". I am SO all over that.
posted by prophetsearcher at 6:13 PM on January 19, 2008


And sing in a band.
To wit?

I think some people here need to calm down and step away from the keyboard for a couple of hours.
Indeed. Such a pity when the thread about Orthodox Jews happens over Shabbat, and I can't contribute til the party's over. Well, in my time zone, it's way past bedtime anyway.
posted by prophetsearcher at 6:26 PM on January 19, 2008


My word! I had no idea this turned into such kerfuffle, and have made a note to not post convoluted explanations after three glasses of wine. I sincerely apologize for the Shylock remark: to clarify, I offhandedly mentioned it as a reference to the stereotype of that circulates in our cultural dialogue of Judaism, that most Brooklyn court arbiters would gladly peg my landlord as Shylockian figure even though most landlords, by nature of their frequently shady business tactics, would warrant a similarly unwholesome parallel. To be honest, I'm actually not quite sure what I was getting at in that defense, which is undoubtedly how most beyond-the-pale words spew from our labyrinthine minds. I can give you all my best, most repentant "some of my best friends are Jewish" speech, but it's not worth anyone's time. Again, I do apologize, both for not thinking through my explanation and for causing unnecessary hostility.
posted by zoomorphic at 6:29 PM on January 19, 2008 [6 favorites]


zoomorphic - After the monster thread this turned into that takes a lot of guts. Apology accepted.
posted by The Gooch at 6:39 PM on January 19, 2008


So this was all for nothing! OH THE JEWMANITY!

But thanks for the apology.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:50 PM on January 19, 2008


Sorry to interrupt the love-fest, but I was at the movies for a few hours, and had left the majority of what's written below in preview, waiting for me to finish when I got back.

prophetsearcher: Because all Hasids are the same, right? I mean, they dress alike, and, like, they kinda sound the same. I guess that's sorta like how all valley girls hold identical world views because I find it hard to distinguish between them and their nutty dialects.

In terms of the issue at hand, that's actually a pretty good analogy. "Valley girls" have a lot more in common with each other than the way they talk. The phrase "valley girl" describes a whole subculture in which you will, in fact, tend to find similar paradigms on subjects that are important to the people in that group. And I didn't say anything about the way anyone dresses or speaks. All that said, Valley Girls are at a disadvantage here, because the values they have in common were not instilled in them from birth by parents who are following a codified tradition that has been passed down for centuries.

Your defense of Hassidic insularity does not change or invalidate my point of view.

That you positioned "elitist" next to "insular" leads me to believe that your conception of the "elitist Hasid" is directly derived from your conception of the "insular Hasid". You see them walking down 47th street in tight packs, not acknowledging you, completely disinterested in the world you inhabit. I suppose this could be mistaken as elitism, the same way a colleague's aloofness can be mistaken for arrogance.

Not true at all. If they have a reason to acknowledge someone in the crowd, experience has shown that it's usually going to be me. Am I Jewish, they want to know. Would I like to wear tfillin and say a prayer with them? Or maybe they just want to ask for directions, and I see them standing there evaluating passersby until they see me, recognize from the way I look that I am probably Jewish, and then asking me. And boy, a couple of words exchanged, and I'll end up getting an extremely condescending and reductive lecture about the importance of study, god, Israel, etc. (This happened more often when I lived in Los Angeles, but I also found myself more often in neighborhoods popular with Hasids in particular than I do in New York.)

But...as I already explained above...I had a pretty extensive Jewish education, and while it was not orthodox, it sure did involve a lot of orthodox people, including a number of Hasids. My discussion here is not based on some book I read or some rumor I heard; it is based on first-hand experience, involving a range of different Hasid and orthodox people, in different cities, countries, and situations, over the course of my life (I'm 37).

He isn't thinking in terms of culture or religion or nation. He just is. What I mean is that for the highly devoted Jew (and I suspect, highly devoted any religionist), the religious elements of his life are his life.

Uh...yeah, I completely agree. This is all the more to my point: the fact that this guy is a Hasid is relevant to consider in all dealings with him, tenant/landlord or otherwise.

Yes, there are many Hasidim (pl.) who believe that they are "better" than everyone else. But you know what? There are a lot who just aren't thinking in those terms.

I don't believe you. Again, this is based on a combination of experience and education, in the US and in other countries including Israel. Hasids think that they are living a better, more righteous, more god-endorsed life than anyone else on the planet.

Wait. What? Hasidim are human too? And that means some of them are full of themselves like other humans?

I'm sure that some of them are full of themselves in particular, in addition to the way in which the Hasidic culture is full of itself in general.

I've never really discussed this concept with my cousins directly, but from my own Orthodox upbringing, I only really ever hear about the issue of 'the chosen people' from those outside it, often insulted.

Wow, sounds like your orthodox upbringing was a lot more liberal than my conservative/reform upbringing. I was indoctrinated with the 'chosen people' idea from a very young age, and the meaning was perfectly clear.

When we do discuss the idea of being "the chosen people" (in prayers, for example) it is intended as having been chosen for the Torah, and - at the same time - having ourselves chosen the Torah.

There is no getting around the fact that the 'chosen people' idea is directly tied to the covenant with Abraham. And that's in Genesis, so the torah wasn't going to come along for quite a while. As far as choosing the torah ourselves: ha! Nobody ever asked me if I wanted to choose it. It was chosen for me. In fact, I was told repeatedly by my teachers/rabbis/etc. that it wasn't even really possible for me to reject it, because it was part of who I am, etc. etc....I'm making myself a little bit sick here just thinking about all that.

I guess your insinuation, which you stopped short of spelling out, is that G-d chose the Hasidim (or the Jews in general), and therefore this particular Hasidic landlord feels that everyone else in the world is an underclass unworthy of honesty or ethics, and this particular Hasidic landlord believes it is literally his G-d-given right to "Jew" his tenants out of their money.

I'm sorry if it looked like I was trying to avoid saying this explicitly. So, for the record, yes, that is exactly what I'm saying.

I do not know how I can sufficiently contradict this presumption of yours. I certainly won't earn any points by pointing out this perspective as one that - from a logical perspective - very easily evolve into a Protocols of the Elders of Zion philosophy.

You're right, that would be pretty irrelevant. In fact, you've touched on the very problem with this type of discussion in general. Just because some irrational extremists have taken up a post at one end of the spectrum does not mean that the whole spectrum is invalid. All cultures and creeds do not share the same core values, and they can't all peacefully co-exist with each other. Similarly, we can't all honestly love and accept everything about every culture on earth. It should be possible to criticize Judaism, or a certain aspect of Judaism, or mention a person's Jewishness in a negative context, without being accused of thinking like a Nazi.

[about the difference in education] ..I think this point is probably true, though I still am not sure what it has to do with getting back a security deposit

The question is about how to convince the landlord to give back the deposit. The landlord is obviously living in a different moral universe than the tenant, and this tremendous difference probably belies other major differences in perspective. Ergo, the tenant is giving an important piece of information that is very likely to yield clues as to the landlord's perspective on a number of issues.

[about the role of women in society]That's not saying very much, now is it?

I don't have to say very much on that one...I think it's pretty obvious. But I guess we can go into more detail if like.

First, his idea that the world is full of anti-Semitism is anything but vague...

I didn't say 'misplaced.' I said 'vague.' They are so out of synch with the way the rest of the world is thinking that they have no idea where the anti-semitism is going to come from next. This naturally leads to a vague sense that it's going to come from somewhere...and who knows who the culprit might be? In other words, this vague sense of anti-semitism is the only area where they are even bothering to lose sleep about how much different their basic life paradigm is than that of the typical non-Hasid person that they might pass on the street.

Second, do realize that many of these Hasidim are trying their damnedest to live their lives how they would have been if it hadn't been for World War II. They are dressing the same, marrying the same people, speaking the same language with the same regional dialects, eating the same foods, following the same customs, as their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents, and so on, did up until about the time "The Wizard of Oz" hit the big screen.

Uh, yeah...I'm all too aware of that fact. That's kind of my entire point. When you are not part of that culture, and you are renting an apartment from someone who is, and you're getting advice about how to handle the situation, the fact that your landlord is one of the people you just described is pretty relevant.

"Don't rock the boat." You know that expression? That's the one on the tip of their tongues. Just keep your head down, walk quickly, don't make a scene.

Yeah? How's that working out for them? Is that the same strategy that was in play over in Lvov or Warsaw or Anatopel (when, as you say, there weren't pogroms)? Or is it possible that the situation is a little bit more complicated than that?

posted by bingo at 7:30 PM on January 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


There. You went and ruined it. No Slivovitz for you.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:05 PM on January 19, 2008


MetaTalk: cav[ing] in to the "get fucked" impulse.

Two things: One: I am usually champing at the bit for flameouts in MT, but I'm truly happy it hasn't happened here, and Two: as others have said this is a very fascinating thread, and I'm enjoying it immensely.
posted by exlotuseater at 8:23 PM on January 19, 2008


I was just trying to boil my reading of the Klang/AZ argument down to its basic elements. If you feel that I've misinterpreted your meaning, I can only say that that is how your statements appeared to me, edited for brevity. I'm not trying to make anyone out to be a bad guy. I'm sure Klang also thinks I misrepresented some of his positions.

It just looked to me like everyone involved was more or less talking past each other, being touchy about a touchy subject (which is completely understandable), but that a lot of shitty shit was attributed to klangklangston undeservedly. If you read my digest and felt you were misrepresented, maybe you can look back at what klang actually said and see how your digested assessment of his statements may have been off base as well. If you look past the "Fuck you, you fucking fucker" stuff (which, admittedly, you shouldn't have to), he really didn't say anything that awful. Personally, I think he picked the wrong fight with the wrong tone in the wrong place at the wrong time, but he didn't say anything near as bad as what was attributed to him.

And Krrrlson, I think you're right that he is saying that if you renounce Judaism, you can escape persecution is modern day America. That may very well be dangerous and wrongheaded in your opinion, but there's nothing hateful about it. He didn't say that it isn't true in other places, or other times. He did not say that Jews don't face bigotry, or that they should all renounce Judaism, or that they should all stop whining about the Holocaust. I think that is where he was unfairly represented.
posted by team lowkey at 11:32 PM on January 19, 2008


He did, however, call me a third-rate Catskills comedian, and that's beyond the pale. I'm at least a Shecky Greene.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:10 AM on January 20, 2008


That was definitely uncalled for. You are second-rate all the way.

AZ, I'm guessing your reference to your general comment about Judaism was the initial comment about "chosen people". I'll just say that I liked that comment a lot, but klang's reaction to it is what started the whole shitfest, so it had to be inbreviated. And in digesting the conversation, I obviously missed a shit-ton of nuance, but mostly tried to get all of your and klang's (shortened) comments into he script, and quoted as much as I could. I guess my hope was that viewing the interaction from an outside perspective might lead to rethinking the position of your "opponents".
posted by team lowkey at 12:36 AM on January 20, 2008


I have some quibbles about the Team Lowkey summary, but it's pretty much what I was trying to say and captures the way I felt the conversation was going. For the folks who felt they were misrepresented, well, I got a sly chuckle out of that.

Back to work!
posted by klangklangston at 11:01 AM on January 21, 2008


"For the folks who felt they were misrepresented, well, I got a sly chuckle out of that."

Sees bait. Avoids
posted by The Gooch at 11:42 AM on January 21, 2008


what a weird digestion of the conversation. it basically takes what everyone INTENDED to say and puts it together instead of what everyone actually said. so it looks like there are 3 or 4 people having totally different conversations from one another, except that every once in a while they call each other names and tell each other to shut up.
posted by shmegegge at 3:14 PM on January 21, 2008


Metafilter: every once in a while they call each other names and tell each other to shut up
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:04 PM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


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