Category Archives: Comedy

Ruth the Moabite’s Request for Permanent Status Rejected!

Some great Shavuot satire from the Israel Religious Action Center. (h/t Elaine Waxman)

This week we celebrate Shavuot, the holiday on which we read the Book of Ruth. The following is a simulated correspondence between IRAC and the Ministry of Interior if the Biblical Ruth, the great-grandmother of King David and Judaism’s first convert, were to be seeking legal status in Israel today. Chag Sameach!

Mr. Eli Yishai*
Minister of Interior
Kaplan 2

Dear Sir,

Re: Ruth the Moabite – Request to Obtain Permanent Status in Israel

Our client, Ruth the Moabite, is the non-Jewish widow of a Jewish husband, Chilion son of Elimelech. Her husband passed away outside of Israel, in Moab, and is buried there. My client entered Israel legally with her Jewish mother-in-law, Naomi, who was also widowed while abroad.

The following is a declaration of our client, Ruth the Moabite, regarding her strong link to the Jewish people: “Where you lodge, I shall lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. Where you die will I die, and there will I be buried” (Ruth 1:16-17).

In addition, you may find attached the appeal of Mr. Boaz son of Salmah, an Israeli citizen, who participates in this request for Ruth the Moabite’s permanent status in Israel with his intention to marry my client.

I ask that you grant our client status in Israel by virtue of her prior marriage to a Jewish man.

With respect,

Anat Hoffman, Executive Director
The Israel Religious Action Center
The Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism

*Yishai (Jesse)—Biblical name of the father of King David and grandson of Ruth the Moabite.

Anat Hoffman
The Israel Religious Action Center

Dear Ms. Hoffman,

Re: Ruth the Moabite

Your request was received by our offices and has been reviewed by our staff at the Ministry of Interior. The request is rejected due to the absence of essential documents needed for the Ministry’s procedures regarding these matters:

The Moabite woman is required to present a marriage certificate when requesting verification, as the marriage was performed abroad.

A death certificate of the deceased Jew signed by a recognized Chevra Kadisha must be presented.

Your client’s declaration of her link to Judaism is not acceptable as a conversion. In the absence of a conversion certificate, she is registered as a Moabite, not a Jew.

In reference to your client’s declaration: “Where you die will I die, and there will I be buried.” This statement cannot be used to seek approval from the Burial Council.

Your client is attempting any and all potential methods to legitimize her being in Israel, first through her claim that she is a widow to a Jewish husband and now through her new claim that she is the partner of Boaz son of Salmah.

In light of the above, we ask that the Moabite woman exit from Israel within 30 days from the receipt of your initial request in order to arrange her documents from abroad. As such, she can present herself at the Israeli Embassy in Moab to submit all of the required documents that meet the specified criteria for obtaining residency status in Israel.

The position of the Minister is that one must regret the situation in which a respected Jewish citizen of such high status, such as Boaz son of Salmah, requests to marry a non-Jewish woman. Do we lack proper women here in Israel? It is necessary and advisable to take into account the status of the expected children from such a union.

With respect,

Dr. Shuki Amrani
Interior Ministry

God Hates Flags: Fighting Fire with Absurdity

photo by Rubin Starset for Laughing Squid

As I mentioned in my last post, JRC had the dubious honor of being demonstrated against on Rosh Hashanah eve by the hate-filled wackos from Westboro Baptist Church. In an e-mail to my congregation the day before, I urged members not to engage the protesters as I desperately wanted to avoid a circus on the eve of the holiest season of the Jewish year. I’m very happy to report that the pathetic demo proceeded without incident.

While I hesitate to give these publicity hounds more attention than they deserve, I couldn’t resist sharing this link sent to me by my friend (and new JRC member) Susan Klonsky. Apparently the Westboro folks recently traveled to San Francisco to demonstrate in front of Twitter headquarters and a local production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” (!!) Get a load of the hilariously absurdist counter-protest that greeted them there.

Helping Others? Couldn’t Hurt…

By now more than one person has asked me desperately: Rabbi, please tell me: what is the meaning of “The Goy’s Teeth?!!”

I know better than to even begin try and explain it. Even Joel Coen himself has described it as “an elaborate shaggy dog story.”

And given that “A Serious Man” is a retelling of the Book of Job, isn’t that sort of the point? Job is, if nothing else, a Biblical shaggy dog story of epic proportions. (In the words of Rabbi Nachner, “You can’t know everything…”)

Rubbed Raw

Saw the movie “An Education” last week (really great). As my wife Hallie and I were talking about it afterward, she referred to one of the characters, a sort of handsome ne’er do well who sweeps the heroine off her feet, and asked, “why do you think they had to make him Jewish?”

I admitted that the thought had fleetingly occurred to me during the film, but it didn’t really bother me in the end. It didn’t seem to me that the filmmakers made him Jewish to make a negative statement about Jews in general, but rather to illustrate the rebellious, non-conformist spirit of young woman who falls in love with him. (Lest anyone miss this point, at one point the girl’s headmistress says to her at one point, “you know, don’t you, that the Jews killed our Lord?”)

After watching the movie, I read a Forward interview with the film’s screenwriter, Nick Hornby, which contained a really interesting conversation about his portrayal of the Jewish character. Hornby (who is not Jewish) made the very trenchant point that he hoped “we’re beyond the point where you can only show ethnic and religious groups in a positive light.”

There’s a different dynamic at play when these kind of portrayals come from Jews themselves. I’m thinking particularly of the Coen Brothers’ “A Serious Man,” another recent movie that engendered similar conversations in the Jewish community. Though I personally loved it, I was struck by how many of my Jewish friends were put off by the portrayal of Jews and Judaism in the film: the neurotic main protagonist, his son’s hilariously horrid Hebrew school experiences, the three nutty rabbis, etc.

It seems to me this kind of raw self-reflection is a time-honored Jewish phenomenon. I’d say “A Serious Man” is part of a grand tradition that dates back to the books of Philip Roth and Bernard Malamud, and the stories of Sholom Aleichem – and if we’re going to be truly honest, to the Bible itself, which itself contains innumerable flawed protagonists who often behave in troubling ways. (I can only imagine what the ADL would have to say about the King David story if it was published today…)

I’m sure that Jews have been wincing about popular portrayals of their folk from time immemorial – and I imagine that members of other ethnic groups have done just the same. But at the end of the day, isn’t it true that the narratives that speak to us most deeply tend to be the ones in which that include imperfect characters struggling to survive in an imperfect world? (I can’t think of one great work of literature that contains a perfectly well-adjusted protagonist living a happy life with no problems to speak of).

I also think we need to put these portrayals in context. I’m reminded of a comment made by one of my undergraduate Jewish lit professors years ago regarding “Annie Hall:” if some of the Jewish characters were often neurotic, the non-Jewish characters were often downright psychotic (exhibit A: Christophen Walken’s hilarious turn as Annie’s little brother, above). Of course they are stereotypes in both instances, but I don’t we’d wouldn’t laughing if we didn’t recognize a deeper truth underneath.

I’d like to think we Jews are secure enough in our skin in this day and age to bear warts-and-all-portrayals in the popular culture. It’s all too easy to cry self-hatred or anti-Semitism every time we come across something that makes us wince. I’d say it’s much more fruitful to expend less energy worrying what the non-Jews might think and accept that the best and most worthwhile stories are the ones that rub us a little raw.