Archive for September, 2008

Claiming Paul Newman

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Gary Rosenblatt, editor and publisher

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Now that Paul Newman is gone, Jews obsessed with knowing whether celebrities are Jewish or not (which seems to account for everyone I’ve ever met), are noting with pride that the legendary actor and gentleman considered himself one of the tribe.

To women (and many men) of a certain generation - actually several generations - Newman was the coolest guy around. He was a leading actor with talent, good looks (yes, those Blue Eyes) and a self-deprecating sense of humor that indicated he never took himself too seriously. And that was before he became a director, leading racecar driver, businessman and major philanthropist - all done with low-key grace, well aware that he was blessed but striving to be a regular Joe.

According to halacha, Newman would not be considered one of us. His father, Arthur, was Jewish; his mother was a Roman Catholic who converted to Christian Science. Newman explained that he considered himself Jewish “because being Jewish is more demanding.”

It always strikes me as curious how Jewishly flexible many of us are in embracing those we like, like Newman, as one of us, no matter how big a stretch it takes, while denying the Jewishness of someone born of two Jewish parents but who led a life we don’t approve of, as in, “You mean Louis “Lepke” Buchalter [a mobster who ran Murder Incorporated] was Jewish? What a surprise!”

Endearing or annoying, depending on your point of view. But one thing is clear: we’d go a long way to be associated with the style, success and exemplary good works of Paul Newman, may he rest in peace.

Taking Anti-Semitism For Granted

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

Gary Rosenblatt, Editor and Publisher

(Return to Jewish Week Homepage)

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has come and gone, and while our community focused primarily on the Stop Iran rally outside the UN last week ­ and was caught up in a controversy over which, if any politicians to invite — it seems we have almost taken for granted how the Iranian president is treated with respect rather than disdain inside the halls of the UN, despite his anti-Semitic rantings.

He was greeted warmly by many at his General Assembly talk, and no one seemed to blink, much less object, when he railed against “the Zionist murderers” who he described as a ragtag collection of people from different parts of the world who detained, displaced and killed “the true owners of that land.”

And in interviews, he continued to assert that the Holocaust is a myth, a Zionist plot to gain sympathy for the post-war Jews.

I know I sound naïve if I express even mild surprise that such murderous, racist talk goes unchallenged at the United Nations, with its long history of and obsession with blaming Israel for much of the world’s problems.

But the UN did pass a resolution less than two years ago condemning Holocaust denial and asserting that such behavior was “tantamount to approval of genocide in all its forms.”

Each year Ahmadinejad succeeds in flaunting his hateful views in front of this world body, perhaps testing the waters for international reaction to the future fulfillment of his oft-repeated pledge to wipe Israel off the map.

Based on the lack of outrage this year, as in the past, we can only assume the Iranian leader has returned home convinced that there is insufficient international opposition to keep him and his country from completing its task of building a nuclear bomb.

If and when that happens ­ a dark day, indeed, not only for Israel but for America and the free world ­ we can’t say we weren’t warned.