Jewish Media Politics Social Justice Television Torah Tzedakah

Glenn Beck Vs. Social Justice

Reform Judaism might have been the first Jewish movement to embrace social justice in the 20th century, but the first decade of our current century has seen a vast increase in the importance of Tikkun Olam in the global Jewish community.  There are few Jewish congregations in North America that have yet to embrace a coordinated social action initiative.

While there may be some rabbis who would prioritize the adherence to Jewish law, prayer, ritual, study, and worship above social justice work, there are not many rabbis who have the chutzpah to actually criticize synagogues or individuals for participating in such noble endeavors.

But that’s where Glenn Beck comes in. Back in March, the Fox News personality told his audience to leave churches and synagogues that pursue social justice as a value. I am not a regular viewer of Beck’s show, so when I heard this sound bite I thought I misheard him. But, no, he really said it.

Many church groups and Christian leaders fought back, but there was not a strong rebuttal from Jewish groups. Simon Greer, the President & CEO of Jewish Funds for Justice, wrote in the “On Faith” column on Newsweek’s website that Glenn Beck is “a con man and America is not buying it. I exhort you to stop bottling your ideological agenda and labeling it ‘theology.’ Americans deserve and demand better.”

Greer went on to tell Beck, “You’ve told us what not to look for in a house of worship. But now I ask you, sincerely, what kind of house of worship do you desire? On March 23, you said, ‘Make sure your church puts God first and politics and government last.’ The question then is, how do we put God first?”

In response to Greer’s column Beck retorted: “This is exactly the kind of talk that led to the death camps in Germany” and that Greer, “a Jew, of all people, should know that.”

Here’s my simple take on this: Social Justice is an essential component of any Jewish theology. As Jews, we should use our hearts to pursue prayer, our heads to pursue the study of Torah and to seek to understand God’s Law, and our hands to assist God in the repair of this broken world in which we share responsibility. The same holds true for all people of faith. Caring about our fellow human and seeking to help them is at the core of being part of a just society.

Glenn Beck? He’s just a crazy man saying ridiculous things to anyone who will tune in and listen. Part of our job in pursuing peace and justice is to publicize just how incredibly wrong and hurtful Glenn Beck’s words are to humanity.

We should be grateful not only for the sacred work that Jewish Funds for Justice is doing, but also for the mitzvah of tochecha (reproachment) that its leader Simon Greer has demonstrated.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Celebrities Humor Israel Politics Television World Events

Marriage Ref Middle East

As tensions between the United States and Israel seem to intensify, it looks unlikely that President Barack Obama will be able to broker a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. So, I was thinking of who might be the best negotiator to sit down with Bibi Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas.

Jerry Seinfeld seems to have come up with a successful idea with his new TV show “The Marriage Ref” and that got me thinking…

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Celebrities Jewish Movies News Obituary Television

Corey Haim, Son of Israeli is Dead at 38

Corey Haim is not the first Jewish teen actor from the 1980s to die tragically and certainly not the first child actor to overdose. River Phoenix, whose maternal grandparents were Jewish emigrants from Hungary, died of a drug overdose on Halloween morning in 1993. Now, teen heartthrob Corey Haim has died of a drug overdose at 38.

Corey Haim was born to a Jewish mother from Israel and a Jewish father from Canada. The son of Judy and Bernie Haim, Corey Haim became famous following his role in “The Lost Boys.” He also starred in the 1980s movie “License to Drive” and was later part of the reality TV show “The Two Coreys,” alongside Lost Boys co-star Corey Feldman, who is also Jewish.

The Jewish Chronicle reports that “Haim had been open about his battle with prescription drug addiction, including Valium. He was found dead by his mother in his Los Angeles apartment.”

Many celebrities have been victims of teen drug abuse themselves, with some of them never making it out alive.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Antisemitism Humor Israel Jewish Politics Television World Events

Jon Stewart on Hamas Cartoons

Last night on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, the host seemed willing to take a chance on a not-so-funny comedy skit for the sake of delivering a strong political message. On an episode when the Jewish host racked up more Yiddishisms than normal (Brian Williams later attempted his own Yiddish too), Jon Stewart showed some shocking footage of Hamas-sponsored children’s cartoons containing centuries old anti-Semitic stereotypes.

Through a hole in a public restroom wall, Jon Stewart operated a Hasidic bagel puppet with a kippah on its head. He reviews Hamas children’s cartoons spewing hatred and delivers a political message noting how “they wonder why this conflict is so intractable and hope so fleeting.” The Daily Show staff must have had some fun turning the conclusion of a Scooby Doo episode into an anti-Semitic cartoon in which the head of programming was old man Hitler who would have gotten away with the crime “if it hadn’t been for those meddling Jews and their talking bagel.”

There was really nothing very funny about the bit, but Jon Stewart was able to forgo a few minutes of humor for a chance to do what organizations like MEMRI and CAMERA do every day — inform the public about the messages of hate that Hamas directs to Palestinian children through the medium of television cartoons.

What made Jon Stewart decide to do a skit like this? After all, it was an unusual segment for Comedy Central’s Daily Show. My guess would be that he might be trying to appease his large pro-Israel following after a show this past Fall in which he appeared overly critical of Israel. As CAMERA documents on their website: “In a segment dealing with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Stewart hosted Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti and anti-Israel agitator Anna Baltzer. Barghouti presented a familiar narrative of Palestinian grievances of the kind often heard. But it was the pairing with Baltzer that sparked indignation among many viewers. Fortunately, the segment’s producers edited out much of Baltzer’s misinformation about Israel, making the version that was broadcast substantially less objectionable than the original taping.

The Huffington Post reported on Jon Stewart’s attempt to get some laughs from the serious subject of Hamas propoganda: “In a segment geared toward children, a shocked Jon Stewart rolled clips of Hamas cartoons that depict Jews and Israelis as evil, blood-drinking psychopaths. Even Stewart’s “Story Hole” partner, Dr. Bagelman was appalled, as each clip left the two with their jaw (or bagel slice) dropped. Bagelman, a stale Hasidic bagel “thrust through a rest-stop hole in a bathroom wall,” recognized that the blatantly anti-Semitic cartoons were most likely Hamas’s retaliation for his old kids show, “Jewby Doo.”

Here is the segment from the February 2, 2010 episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart:

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Celebrities Movies Television

Larry King Slept Through the 90s

Larry King forgot that Jerry Seinfeld signed off when he was on top

I’ve always been a fan of CNN’s Larry King, but the host of “Larry King Live” has been making a lot of mistakes lately including calling his guests by the wrong name. Interviewing the living Beatles, he confused Ringo Starr for George Harrison and George Harrison for George Hamilton. Then last week, former CIA agent Valerie Plame-Wilson became “Flame Wilson.” Larry King has admitted that he doesn’t prepare for interviews and just wings it.

On his November 1st show, Larry King interviewed Jerry Seinfeld about his new movie “Bee Movie” in which Larry King makes a cameo appearance as “Bee Larry King.” In what is now a famous exchange, Larry King asked Jerry Seinfeld if his TV show was cancelled when it went off the air in 1998. The transcript is available on the CNN website and here is a video clip:

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |
Antisemitism Celebrities Interfaith Jewish Politics Television

If Ann Coulter’s Going to Be in Heaven, Then I Don’t Want to Be There!

Ann CoulterLike every sensible person I was outraged by Ann Coulter‘s anti-Semitic comments on CNBC’s “The Big Idea” with host Donny Deutsch. Coulter began answering Deutsch’s question about what her ideal United States would look like by stating it would be like it was during the Republican National Convention in New York City. She then went on to say that the Democratic Party would look like Joe Lieberman, presumably because he is the iconic Jewish politician to Coulter. When Deutsch (Jewish) asks if she thinks we (Americans) should all be Christian, she responds in the affirmative and invites Deutsch to church with her. The woman is the textbook definition of chutzpah if not outright Antisemitism.

This is where Coulter really stepped out of bounds:

DEUTSCH: […] We should just throw Judaism away and we should all be Christians, then, or –


DEUTSCH: Why don’t I put you with the head of Iran? I mean, come on. You can’t believe that. “Let’s wipe Israel off the earth.” I mean, what, no Jews?

COULTER: No, we think – we just want Jews to be perfected, as they say.

DEUTSCH: So you don’t think that was offensive?


Shumel Rosner - HaaretzOy Vey! What are we to make of this? Clearly, Ann Coulter will say anything to get headlines. Last Spring she referred to John Edwards using an anti-gay slur. I found Shmuel Rosner‘s column about Coulter’s anti-Jewish comments to be most helpful. Rosner (right) is the Chief U.S. Correspondent for Ha’aretz.

Rosner listed the potential reactions people will have to Coulter’s comments. I’ve posted them below:

The shock and amazement reaction

Did you hear what she said? She wants Jews to be perfected? This is anti-Semitism; pure and simple (should be conveyed in an angry tone).

The retaliatory reaction

This is a continuation of the shock and amazement reaction, but is mostly reserved for Jewish organizations calling for Coulter to be punished (purgatory? hell?). Actually, the National Jewish Democratic Council has already done that: “While Ann Coulter has freedom of speech, news outlets should exercise their freedom to use better judgment,” said NJDC Executive Director Ira N. Forman. “Just as media outlets don’t invite those who believe that Martians walk the earth to frequently comment on science stories. It’s time they stop inviting Ann Coulter to comment on politics.”

Another retaliatory reaction

So now I’m going to say that it’s better for all Americans to be perfected and become Jewish, Coulter included (a scary thought, eh?)

The self-hating reaction

I also think Jews should be perfected.

The dismissive reaction

I don’t read her books and don’t care what Ann Coulter thinks, neither about politics nor about Jews nor about anything else.

The forgiving reaction

(Should we call it The Christian reaction?) This is also a kind of dismissive reaction: She just wanted to say something nice for a change and it didn’t turn out so well. She really isn’t anti-Semitic. Her tongue runs so fast that she sometimes doesn’t even know what she’s talking about.

The knowledgeable reaction

Also known as the paranoid reaction: she only said what all Christians think in their heart of hearts but don’t have the guts to say publicly. It?s just like John McCain saying America is a Christian Nation.

The expert reaction

Ann Coulter needs therapy!

The explanatory reaction

She only said that for a Christian it is okay to hope for everybody else to be a Christian. What’s wrong with that? We all want other people to be just like us.

The amused reaction

She was kind of funny wasn’t it?

The feigned ignorance reaction

Also known as the cool reaction: Ann Coulter? Who’s Ann Coulter?

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |