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to the editor a bright new day

the biblical caSe for intermarriage issue three

Funny, you don’t look jewish converts on the true colors of the jewish community

iron lion zion

forging ethiopian life in israel

hebrew Slanguage f a l l

2 0 0 7

unpacking the junk from israel’s trunk

fetal attraction why orthodox jews will prevent jewish extinction presentense $5.00

Toddlers of the Mosaic persuasion The latest issue of PresenTense (Fall 2007), Ariel Beery et al’s new mag, is filled with articles about Jewish babies. As I might have mentioned, I think the most ridiculous thing about Judaism in America today is the community’s emphasis on making more of us, as though, by refusing to marry a non-Jew, you’re retroactively sticking it to Hitler. Surprise: racial anti-Semitism encourages neither conversion to Christianity nor Jew-Gentile mixing. If you’re a Jew (or gay, disabled, Roma, etc.), anything short of suicide is sticking it to Hitler. It’s that easy!

But back to PresenTense. First there’s Ben Brofman doing the unthinkable and praising birthright israel for its emphasis on hookups. But it’s a joke. Kind of. He even suggests, tongue in cheek, that the organizers distribute “intentionally defective condoms.” Of course no Jews have STDs, so unlike secular hookup-fests, birthright skankiness is nothing but a force of life and continuity. Eric Ackland, in what appears to be utter seriousness, suggests Jews look to Orthodoxy if they want to have Jewish babies. In this he is correct—it is hypocritical, not to mention ineffective, for parents letters

to be open-minded about their children’s dating partners but then demand that these same children, after a few decades in the secular world, surface with Jewish spouses. While I don’t share these natalistic views, it’s indisputable that more Orthodoxy would lead to more Jewish babies. In his bio, Ackland writes of himself, “He’d love to walk the walk and have a large family, he’s just gotta get hitched first. That’s the trick.” And if the most promising candidate turns out to be a nonJewish woman? Here’s where we get to Ariel Beery’s article. Ariel argues that Jews can stop worrying about intermarriage. Kind of. His point is that the threat to continuity is indifference, of which intermarriage is just a symptom. If you care about being Jewish, your spouse will too, whatever he may have been raised. After giving examples from the Torah of men marrying out, Beery discusses a Jewish woman whose husband not only converted but “ended up co-founding and co-directing NYU’s program for nonprofit management and Judaic Studies.” A Jew is thus one who feels Jewish. Works for me. The catch with the communal vision of Judaism is, aside from the inevitable halachic arguments, where does this leave born Jews who’ve opted out? If the point of Ariel’s definition is to expand the numbers of those who count as Jewish, wouldn’t it ultimately lose at least as many Jews as it brings in? Phoebe Maltz. whatwouldphoebedo.

“To” is a preposition, “Pork “is a verb “Orgy Yiddles”—That was the original title of Ben Brofman’s piece in the latest issue of PresenTense (Fall 2007) titled “More Orgies, More Babies: A Modest Proposal.” Perhaps they should have stuck with Ben’s initial title suggestion—when you try to riff off of Jonathan

Swift, you have some mighty big shoes to fill. Ben begins his piece, as did Mr. Swift some 278 years ago, with a concise description of the problem. While Swift’s pamphlet, commonly referred to by its abbreviated title “A Modest Proposal,” discusses the urban poverty in Ireland occasioned by the Industrial revolution, Brofman talks about how the secular Jewish population is shrinking. Swift suggested that the Irish sell their babies as a culinary treat to wealthy Englishmen, while Brofman suggests mass institutionalized Jewish orgies utilizing defective birth control. Of course massive orgies as suggested by Brofman would solve nothing—most of the women in the demographic at issue are on the pill and if they should suffer the misfortune of getting pregnant before they complete their college and professional degrees and get a fast track job to a life of material comfort, well, there is no doubt that they’d end that pregnancy in less time that it takes to say “I’ll take that Prada purse please! Thank you!” This is especially true if they aren’t sure who the father is. Single Motherhood and Jewish women? That’s even more outlandish an idea than mass orgies for Young Jews. While Brofman’s piece lacks the sustained irony that Jonathan Swift is associated with, his was a nonetheless thought-provoking article. What is most ironic about it is that essentially aren’t all programs created by the Organized Jewish Community for young adults designed to get the yiddles to bump booties and make babies of the mosaic persuasion? I mean yeah, they add a thin veneer of meaning and content to the programs, but aren’t these all kinda, sorta ritualized mating rituals? And like the Organized Jewish Community, Brofman’s obviously tongue in (ass?) cheek orgy proposal would fail to solve the problem because neither efforts answer the all important

question that many young, secular Jews wrestle with—Why be Jewish to begin with? Why indeed. David Abitbul.

Demography Focus “Myopic” Thanks much for Ben Brofman’s “More Orgies, More Babies” article in Issue Three (Fall 2007). It was, by a great margin, the funniest thing I have ever read in any Jewish publication, and also, to add to its credit, makes a serious point worthy of consideration. Myopic attention to the threat of demographic decline has taken organized Jewry’s attention away not only from that decline’s underlying causes but also from consideration of how the problem can be successfully countered. We must ask and answer the larger questions (Why be Jewish? Is a lethargic and growing Jewish world preferable to a shrinking and lively one?) before throwing ourselves blindly toward greater procreation. Matthew Ackerman. New York, NY

End Racism...It’s a Mitzvah We should have a personal commitment to end racism, as it’s the challenge and responsibility of every single person in our society. As a New Yorker of color, I have seen the benefits of affirmative action in my community. I am an immigrant (recent naturalized citizen) from the Dominican Republic and due to continual AA efforts in NYC, I was able to successfully earn a scholarship to both private high school and private university. Currently, I’ve made it one of my mitzvahs to seek underrepresented individuals in order to serve as a mentor to their success. If we all engaged in this endeavor, we would reach substantial improvement for the many generations to come.

PresenTense is one of those pioneers, making sure to spread the word for all those willing to hear and help. For this I’m thankful. Susie Roman Luna. New York, NY issue four 2008

PresenTense Issue 4  

PresenTense 4 brings Social back

PresenTense Issue 4  

PresenTense 4 brings Social back