Thursday, December 24th, 2009
Those Minnesota Jews sure are polite.
I was wondering when Minnesota Jewish leaders would respond to last week’s bizarre outburst by Garrison Keillor, the longtime host of the Prairie Home Companion. In the process of trashing Unitarians for diluting the religious meaning of Christmas music he also took shots at Jewish composers he seems to think abetted the war on the holiday.
Now we know; earlier this week Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Jewish Community Relations Council, published an op ed in the star-Tribune group that takes Keillor to task, but with characteristic Minnesota politeness.
“Anybody…can have a cranky day and spout all sorts of unfortunate remarks,” Hunegs writes. But then he adds that “Mr. Keillor’s Christmas commentary is not the Garrison Keillor who beautifully narrated ‘The Danish Solution: Rescue of Jews in Denmark’ in 2004 which tells the story of the Christian rescue of Danish Jews from the Holocaust.”
And: “Mr. Keillor’s Christmas commentary is not the Garrison Keillor whose ‘Writer’s Almanac’ has often featured Jewish writers and/or themes often, movingly, on the Jewish high holy days.”
Still more: Keillor’s diatribe about Jewish composers is “not consistent with his usual deep knowledge of the relationship of music, culture, and Americana,” Hunegs writes.
Finally, he says that “telling non-Christian Minnesotans to ‘buzz’ out of Christmas is not reflective of Jewish-Christian relations in the Twin Cities or its salutary and inspirational arc of the past decades.”
What you can read between the lines in Hunegs gentle chiding: Jewish leaders in Minnesota are baffled by the humorists outburst, but don’t think it’s very funny.