Guilt Envy
A dialogue over coffee and warm knishes between Dan Friedman and David Zellnik on Catholic guilt, Jewish envy, murderous rabbis and pedophile teachers

I see they convicted that priest Paul Shanley of child molestation. I don't want to get weirdly competitive about this, but we had a couple of cases of shmeckel-touching where I grew up in the north of England. I'm not sure whether it makes it worse or better when the pedophile is an equal opportunity gender offender, but our Bar Mitzvah teacher, apparently, touched girls as well as boys. Whether it is, in fact, better or worse, in traditional English fashion, the Board found out after about 5 years of it, secretly convicted him, and then shipped him off to Australia.

Lucky guy - the 12-year-old Jews are hot in Australia.

Excuse me?

Sorry. Well, I raise your shmeckel-touching with one murderous Rabbi: the rabbi who presided over my Bar Mitzvah, Bob Neulander of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, was convicted of hiring a man to bludgeon his wife to death so he could remarry the shiksa of his dreams and continue his affairs with the women he’d meet through grief counseling.

That’s terrible. Brilliant, in a cake-having, -eating, and –ordering-more-of type of way, but terrible.

I never liked him. In fact I threw up on him when I was 3 years old. My mom asked me why - we had just joined the synagogue, see, and throwing up upon meeting the Rabbi was quite a faux-pas. I said: “The man picked me up, so I threwed up on him.” But maybe I sensed something deeper.

You’re a prophet.

Totally. You know I knew he was guilty the moment I heard the charge in '94. All his students did. Only the parents were shocked. Arrogant asshole.

David eats his knish.

The parents are always the last to know, even the pushy ones. That was the first alarm bell in Capturing the Friedmans – that the kids didn’t know what was happening. The kids always know - even if they don't throw up on them at first meeting. But at least your communal leader was keeping his evil self away from the kids, saving it for murder and philandering.

How do you mean?

Well the Catholic priests, and our own communal pedophile, had no clear space – at least in their own minds - between what they were supposed to be doing – working with kids, educating, inspiring, and the part of them that wanted to do these horrible and damaging things to these kids. Yours at least had the courtesy to lead a double life.

Well, I’m not an expert in these things, but seducing women in grief counseling is sort of a perversion of an existing role.

Hmmm. Yes. That’s true. Freud said that love is the greatest teacher, but you’re right, that’s probably not the same thing. (Pause) So... there’s this weird thought I’ve been having about all these recent pedophilia charges. Of course, the most famous case at the moment is Michael Jackson. But there's a lot more going on in the world. For instance, I don't know whether you heard of it, but there was a massive child molestation scandal in the Orkneys.

Sounds painful: a molestation of the orkneys.

Um, actually the Orkneys is an island group, pretty remote, off the North of Scotland, almost in the Arctic Circle, and there were allegations of mass child-molestation there, but it ended up that there was pretty much nothing going on. I think that was the problem actually, that there was so little going on that they had to make up the scandal to keep themselves entertained on the cold winter's nights.

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Image: Hila Lulu Lin

May 2005

Guilt Envy
Dan Friedman & David Zellnik

When Dialogue Harms
Jay Michaelson

Friday Night Poetry
Sarah Cooper

Tribal Lessons:
A Jewish Perspective on the Museum of the American Indian

Michael Shurkin,
with Esther Nussbaum on Yad Vashem

What, me Tremble?
Jonathan Vatner on Mentsh

Zachary Greenwald

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