Dan Friedman & David Zellnik
So how does this connect – your feeling that the supercharged environment of a boys’ school renders accusations 15 years on potentially suspect, and our general fucked- up Jew envy over Catholic scandals, and desire – perversely – to right the record and tell the world yes, Jews can be pedophiles and monsters too?
Well, can we still think of the Catholic Church as (inadvertently) encouraging this sort of behavior, along with other furtive single-sex institutions like all-boys’ schools, and the Masons, and acknowledge that we Jews have our fair share of terrible people?
What interests me is what we share between our two stories. I mean, there's a big difference in that I know my rabbi took a hit out on his wife, but you aren't convinced about the schmeckel-grabbing. Still, I think there's something important in common: this perverse, crazy, envy. This need to have more extreme people in our religion than they have in theirs. More extreme victims “our genocide was worse than yours,” AND more extreme perpetrators “our pedophiles are worse than yours” to go along with the usual claim about more extreme smart people “our scientists are better than yours.”
I think there's more than just envy, though. You know your rabbi is guilty but that doesn’t make you question your Judaism, just the hypocrisy of one man. Whereas, somehow we feel that Catholicism is itself implicated in the scandals.
If priests and bishops and maybe all the way up to the Pope (z”l?) are found to be corrupt, then Catholicism, a religion of over a billion people(!) collapses. The Church is Christ’s representative on earth. But if the Jewish hierarchy is corrupt, well...just replace them. That doesn’t break the covenant. So our scandals are by definition less important, not just to the media and wider world, but to us as well, as Jews. Maybe this is why our envy can be a joke – it doesn’t force us to question our religion any more or less than we wanted to before.
Well, it did kind of shake my unexamined acceptance that religious representatives deserved ex cathedra respect – should that be ex synagogia? I mean they’re just people. And often, people who like to tell the rest of us how to live. Did I mention Rabbi Neulander was introduced at schools as a “respected member of the community”? I remember him once inveighing against moral relativism to a sex-ed class I took.
Rabbi, heal thyself.
Maybe we’re just jealous because secretly we feel that there’s no such thing as bad publicity.
Uh, except the blood libel.
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From previous issues:
Josh Gets his Checkup
Carrying Light into Dark Times
Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi