Writing from the road, deep in NC horse country for my second annual May ride here. Beautiful riding, rolling hills. I am taking personal vacation time, having used up my allotted for the year, so this it’s Wednesday isn’t costing you a cent. And it probably will be worth about that.
I think a lot about role modeling. The fact that I went skeet shooting after yesterday’s ride is a secret that I held back last year, when I also managed to shoot down three clay pigeons. But the rabbi using a shotgun? I obviously have some ambivalence about it. I talk a lot about gun control, which is so needed and so elusive. So why would I be using a gun? And does that disempower me from gun talk? I decided it’s OK. Recreational safe usages of guns should not be eliminated, no more than archery or fencing should be, and gun control people are not advocating that. I hope I model good behavior in enough ways that you will overlook this possible failure of judgment.
Then my thoughts turned to Donald Sterling, the owner of the L.A. Clippers who made totally racist statements to his mistress that were leaked to TMZ and produced an outcry that continues to reverberate. It took me until last Wednesday to realize Sterling is Jewish, the son of eastern European Jewish immigrants. He changed his name from Donald Tokowitz. Great role model. Everybody thinks he is a total jerk, but it is interesting how Jewish charities are not returning his money ( he gives relatively small amounts to Jewish and non sectarian causes) and some might continue to accept it if it helps people in need. Google his current name and Jewish if you want to read more about that. For me, he is an embarrassment. He joins a long list of Jewish men ( has there been a woman?) who behaved badly – Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer, mayor Bob Filner, Rep, Steve Cohen come to mind at the moment. I don’t think any of them is Jewish in an active way, so our tradition is not to blame, but I think we all feel diminished as Jews by their actions.
One little sidebar. A number of television commentators have gone out of their way to mention that Mr. Sterling is a Jew, a gratuitous and therefore anti-Semitic racist remark. When talking about Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy and his racist remarks, nobody mentions his ethnic or religious identity because it is not essential to the story. Why is it different with Sterling? And why, on the Daily Show, when Jon Stewart highlighted the racist remarks of the two men, did he say that “as racism has caught on in America it quickly caught on with many Jews.” Do Sterling’s remarks prove that? And what evidence does Stewart, who is Jewish, have for indicting us on this issue? He should be ashamed, on a variety of levels, the least of which is being clueless about anti-Semitic racist remarks.
I look forward to getting back on my bike this morning and flushing negative thoughts from my system. You please have a good positive Wednesday. See you this Shabbat. Bill Rudolph
P.S. Our celebration of Israel continues with a special musical Shabbat service this Friday night followed by a dinner hosted by BEENs. RSVP for the dinner today to Hattie at hgoodman@ bethelmc.org.