Sex, Jews & High Holydays

So what is it, lately, with Jews and sex? Really, people of the book, it’s embarrassing, and demands some serious contemplations. And of course, the proximity to our High Holydays – with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur leading the way; with renewal, atonement and Slichot ahead of us soon – require of us some answers. Real ones. Because if not now, when?

But how, and where to begin? Allow me to choose the worst case first, even if it’s not the most headline-grabbing. I’m referring to the accusation, and now lawsuit by some 31 Jewish men, of physical sexual abuse and decades of cover up by New York Yeshiva University High School.

The allegations and accusations, according to CBS 2 New York, are leveled at two faculty members – Rabbis George Finkelstein and Macy Gordon. (Ironically, using the ‘law of return,’ both men now live in Israel.) The lawsuit claims that the rabbis repeatedly sexually abused male students. How incomprehensible is that? Or is it, really? Because, in light of what had been exposed for years in the Catholic Church, and lately in other prestigious private high schools in New York City, maybe it is not so surprising after all. Maybe it comes to show, again, that the Jews in America are now no different from the rest of the people. Complete assimilation had been achieved, finally. How terrible is that: I prefer us to be light to the goyim, rather than being just.

Second on the totem pole of shame is none other than Anthony Weiner, the notorious, modern-day digital sex-exhibitionist. It was not enough for him to have a promising career in the USA Congress, with a successful and pregnant wife (by then) at his side; he had to go viral with his sexual organ, exposing it to the global social network. And then, after his disgrace and humiliated resignation from Congress, and after the birth of his son, it was time – no, not for atonement, contemplation and Tikkun Olam – but rather plotting how to return to the political arena, as a (what a chutzpah?) NYC mayoral candidate. And yet, at the same time, why not continuing with his lewd, electronic-age escapades and sex-deviations? Why not, while using the pseudonym “Carlos Danger,” put to shame – no, not himself, as he indeed has none – but his wife, his son (in years to come he’ll be sure to find plenty of evidence for his father’s indiscretions) and us, Jews. Hey, people of New York, kick him real hard in the rear end – away for good this time, please – at the polling stations on September 10, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Okay, who’s next? Oh, in my book it is actually the San Diego Mayor, what’s his name? Here’s Jodi Kantor from the NY Times to the rescue: “Bob Filner, proud son of Forest Hills, Queens, whose California dream of a life – history professor, congressman, San Diego mayor – was undone by so much alleged lechery that the city he governed established a hot line for victims.” There you have it in a nutshell. Mr. Filner and his white-shark smile, elected by a wide-margin to be a mayor and fix that beautiful city’s financial problems. But we soon have learned of his despicable, misogynistic, brutish behavior towards women. In his case, it seemed much more than the occasional misguided chauvinistic joke. What is it, the Filner headlock, killer hugs, rear-patting, undesired saliva kissing and so on? But no, he will drag us all into the mud. He won’t resign immediately – why should he, if he has no shame to begin with – until he’s forced to. Instead, a man seventy-year-old will check himself first into a “sexual behavior therapy rehab,” then fight the citizenry recall. Let’s hope the city citizens will be successful in kicking him out of office (it looks like it, as I write these words).

Sorry, but we are not done yet: here gallantly marching on is none other than Eliot Spitzer, the “governor-turned-hooker-booker,” as The New York Post so “poetically” labeled him. Yes, he, the highly regarded crime and corruption fighter, a modern day Robin Hood. If not for his “affaire-la-prostitute” he was surly be on his way mow to a higher office even than the governor mansion; he was mentioned as a potential first Jewish American president. Alas, Mr. Spitzer, while also being married and a father, was caught in the old, biblical story of straying into the forbidden fruits of prostitution. Not so bad by comparison, all things considered, with the first two. Even if he had paid enormous sums of money for his guilty pleasures of “illegal” activities. Is he a changed man, now that he’s running for the position of NY city comptroller? Don’t bet on it. Though it does seem that, with his “good wife” by his side, he has been through some slow, agonizing process of recovery, and therefore his chances of success are better.

That all these cases came to light so soon one after the other, probably have contributed to the sensational media effect. And yet in Israel, not to be outdone by American Jews, sexual abuse by army generals and politicians had been a staple of men behavior for a long time; as if they had tried to prove Ben Gurion correct, about being like all the goyim, with thieves of our own, whores of our own, etc. So now we have a president, no less, serving time in prison for rape. (And talking about presidents, we surly would’ve had the first French Jewish president in Mr. Strauss-Kahn, if not for his sexual abuse of the New York Hotel maid – what is it about New York, really? – with pimping and orgies with young prostitutes to boot.) And lately, we’ve been privy to the beautiful, half-naked bodies of young Israeli female soldiers, partly in uniform and some holding guns, courtesy of their own wish to expose themselves via Facebook and Twitter to the eyes of the entire world. The Israeli female soldiers, naughtily exposing themselves, seem so innocent and fun-loving by comparison with all the smut, perversion and stupidity of the grownup men behaving badly.

So in the spirit of the coming holidays, forgive me for not writing this time about the regular stuff: Israel and Palestine, other Middle East conflicts, America and the world, war and peace and politics – but rather on the politics of sex. It is as if the Jewish people of America – and of Israel, too, to a degree – assimilated comfortably now into the fabric of American life, and after conquering the top echelon of Academia, Medicine, Movies, TV Drama and Comedy, Literature and Finance – to name but a few of the occupations in which Jews so readily excel – have decided to conquer also the bottom bastion: politics and sex. Almost as if they are saying this is the last barrier between us and complete assimilation; between us and being, finally, goyim like all the goyim. Is that really what we want? Ask yourself that during High Holiday services, and have a deep, meaningful conversation with yourself – at your temple, synagogue or home – about Jews and sex.

About the Author
Hillel Damron was born in Kibbutz Hephzibah to parents who survived the Holocaust; he was an officer of elite paratroop unit who was wounded in battle; studied film and became a director of TV documentaries, video shorts and a feature film. Damron is the author of three novels, short stories and a political blog; winner of Moment Magazine’s 2011 Memoir Contest and is the past executive director of the Hillel House, at University of Davis, California.
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