Something That Shouldn’t Just Be Passed Over…

“Even if we were all men of wisdom, understanding, experience, and knowledge of the Torah, it would still be an obligation upon us to tell about the Exodus from Egypt.” –Passover Haggadah

Hi, I’m MaNishtana. So about a week before Purim (and Dov Hikind), my wife, mother, and I were talking to this Rabbi acquaintance of ours.

Upon reading excerpts from my book (*shameless plug* Buy Thoughts From A Unicorn HERE *shameless plug*), the Rabbi asked what rabbinical school I was considering attending, to which I answered Yeshiva Chovevei Torah. He grimaced, then asked about the hearsay that he’d heard on whether or not founder Avi Weiss calls women up to the Torah (He doesn’t. But he doeshave organized all-female Shabbat services during which such things happen. Which is okay if there are no men present. But it’s really amusing/ironic that YCT is “otherized” just as much as non-Orthodox Jews otherize Orthodox Jews).

Anyhoo, said Rabbis then asks me why I don’t just go for smicha at Yeshiva University. He figured I’d have enough people scrutinizing me just because I’m Black, why go to a “radical” yeshiva on top of that? I replied that YCT is a lot more closely aligned with my personal philosophy vis a vis Torah and Orthodox/non-Orthodox denominational relations, and that YU generally pumps out the kind of Jews that caused me to write my book in the first place.  In fact, the end of one of the chapters directly involves an unpleasant encounter with YU students.

“But they’re pretty progressive,” he countered, surprised.

My wife, mother, and myself then proceeded to attempt to impress on our Rabbi friend that as “progressive” as YU is on religious/secular/social issues, when it comes to dealing with the intersection of religion and race and treating your fellow Jew as a fellow Jew regardless of tint, YU is very sadly somewhere in the Mesozoic Era.

I mean, wasn’t being “just old fashioned” the excuse being given when Rav Hershel Schachter, rosh yeshiva of YU, gave a shiur involving the word “schvartze” and proved my point?

(By the way, the “just old-fashioned” defense for White people racial snafus just tickles me to death. Brown people should start doing that. Y’know, like someone African just blowdarting someone White in the face when they’re insulted and saying that they’re just “old-fashioned” when it comes to some social interactions.)

Like, really though, people were bending over backwards to explain away Rav Schachter’s words. (“The Forward Doesn’t Understand Rav Schachter”, was particularly amusing).

For those who haven’t heard yet, Rav Schachter gave a shiur to a British audience warning against reporting sex abuse crimes because “they can put you in a cell together with a shvartze, with a… black Muslim who wants to kill all the Jews.”

“But, no! He didn’t mean schvartze as a derogatory term! He was just using it as a Yiddish word meaning ‘black person’.”


Let’s say he was. Does this sentence read any better now, then?

“They can put you in a cell together with a Black guy, with a…black Muslim who wants to kill all the Jews.”

Wow. That IS so much less-inflammatory now.

Also, apparently White-supremist Jew-killing neo-Nazis are no longer a thing in prisons.

And no, people rushing to the Rav’s defense, his awesome knowledge of the scope of Talmud and Gemara doesn’t give him a pass. It only illustrates why this is NOT the school I’ll be pursuing smicha at. Because it pumps out more Rabbis like that. Ones who think their Torah knowledge outweighs a responsibility of human sensitivity and respect.

Perhaps all these “men of wisdom and experience”, these Dov Hikinds and Rav Schachters, should pay extra attention to the Haggadah this year, and remember the experience of the Exodus and how it should inform a Jew on how to treat and respect his fellow man.

Or that just TOO old-fashioned?


Order Thoughts From A Unicorn: 100% Black. 100% Jewish. 0% Safe.

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