Obama: the Orthodox Reaction

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As noted earlier today, racism in the religious Jewish community has been more intense — and scrutinized more intensely — after the recent election. Nowhere is this more vividly detailed than Y-Love’s blog This is Babylon. A prominent spokesperson for (and critic of) right-wing Haredi Orthodoxy, as well as an African-American Haredi Jew himself, Y-Love writes:

The son of a prominent Brooklyn rebbe asked me if I would be willing to rap at the White House for Chanukah. Obviously I replied “yes� emphatically, contrasting my music with the music of Kol Zimra, a Flatbush a cappella group whose music accompanied the menorah lighting a couple years back.

He replied, “Yeah, you should, because rap is the only language [Obama] understands�.

emo obamaThe morning after Obama won, I was walking down the street in Crown Heights, the neighborhood I live in, which is a mixed Hasidic Jewish-Caribbean neighborhood. Some Black middle-school kids stopped me on the street, thrusting an “Obama Wins” picture in my face, and asked me what I thought of that. “I can’t believe I voted for someone and he actually won,” I told them. Then I hustled on my way, leaving them gaping.

Orthodox Jews are mostly Republicans. Can I get a big “duh”? Fact is, the Moral Majority platform more instantly appeals to Orthodox people, who take certain things for granted, like religious liberty and freedom of expression. But there’s a huge Orthodox Democratic membership. (Uh, hello, Rahm Emanuel?) There’s a fairly smaller Orthodox Green Party membership. But I digress. Even Haredi settler rabbis have endorsed Obama.

Which makes it shocking, and yet somehow unsurprising, that Y-Love’s very existence is summoning comments such as those. The conclusion of his blog, however, suggests that we might not be seeing the bleakest side of our culture’s racism, so much as the first steps of its resolution — as well as reiterating that very Jewish maxim to “always look on the bright side of life”:

The venom of racism flows at far too high a concentration through America’s veins. G-d willing, the election of Obama will have provided just a little bit of anti-toxin.

Posted on November 24, 2008

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