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Fear and Kvetching in Jerusalem: Part II


We go to the Tel Aviv Center for Educational Technology in order to hold an experiment in “open space technology,” which is a fancy way of describing the act of sitting in rooms and talking. Sessions include “Can I Be a Bad Jew and Good Person?” “The Future of Fundamentalism,” “Kosher Sex,” which I don’t attend because I don’t want people to get the impression that I’m some kind of pervert, and “Jewish Continuity in 2020,” which I do attend hoping for a discussion of flying cars. Unfortunately the conversation is a series of tirades against intermarriage.

“Why should Jews survive?” I ask to my own surprise. Everyone stares. “Like, if it’s just about breeding for the sake of breeding, what’s the point? And even if Judaism does die out, billions of people are still going to worship our God, right?”

The other attendees stare at me with eyes like daggers (For the record: I’m not a self-hating Jew; I’m a self-loving asshole.)

“Oh, I’m just fucking with you,” I say. “We survived Pharaoh, the Romans, the Diaspora, Hitler and the Bacon Double Cheeseburger. The fact that WASPs finally let us bang their daughters is not exactly the most daunting crisis that we’ve ever faced.”

(Replies to my outburst: “It is a crisis,” “It’s the crisis of freedom,” “You are clearly misinformed.”)

Later in the afternoon a few Israeli ROI attendees complain that American Jews are pathetic, neurotic dweebs who analyze our identities to no end and refuse to perform any manual labor. None of the American Jews protest these hurtful stereotypes because they are 100 percent accurate.

This gets me thinking: If secular American Jews and secular Israeli Jews don’t have a shared religion or culture, what do we have in common besides a distant family tree? But there I go analyzing my identity like a weakling American Jew who enjoys laughing, knows how to stand in a line without cutting and doesn’t dress like a European disco addict or flamboyant homosexual.

We enjoy dinner and more free wine (this time really good free wine; I help myself to nine glasses) along the Tel Aviv port. Lynn Schusterman announces a $100,000 grant for ROI participants’ projects but I’m too busy getting loaded off her booze to pay much attention. The next couple of hours are hazy in my memory; apparently I reminisced about seeing a live porn shoot in Los Angeles (I believe the working title was Atomic Ass Whores), belted out Beatles and Elvis Costello tunes as everyone tried to sleep on the bus back to Jerusalem, and when I overheard a hippy chick from California say, “I just love animals so much and want to help them in any way possible,” I replied, “Yeah, I like to help them into a bowl of honey barbeque sauce.”

Everyone thanks God when I lose consciousness.




Amazingly I do not have a hangover, but I am sickened when the hotel charges me $35 for my late laundry. The desk clerk won’t let me check out until I’ve signed. Without getting too dramatic, this fucking hotel is the only place in Israel that I hope Palestinian terrorists incinerate on the condition that only the desk staff is killed.

A closing ceremony follows lunch. A top ROI staffer suggests that we all make aliyah and asks us to stand for “Hatikvah,” the Israeli national anthem. (Apparently I’m the only person in the room who does not know the lyrics.) After the closing ceremony everyone hugs goodbye and swears that ROI has changed their lives. And maybe it has. These Young Jewish Innovators are clearly passionate about our religion and culture. I might not understand them or their nonprofit world, but maybe they will make a difference someday. Then again, I’m still not entirely sure why it matters that these goddamned hippies are Jewish goddamned hippies. (Correct me if I’m wrong but the thirteenth-century Kabbalists didn’t equate tikkum olam with campaigning against factory farms, which by the way are awesome.)

As for me, I’m Jewed out. All I’ve heard for nearly a week straight is Jewish this, Jewish that, Jewish Jewish Jewish Jewish Jewish, and I need a vacation. I don’t want to talk about Jews anymore, I don’t want to think about Jews anymore, and I certainly don’t want to look at Jews anymore. You hear me? I’m done with Jews.

So I say goodbye to my fellow Future Jewish Leaders, take one last glance at the Jewish Promised Land and board a plane back home…

To Brooklyn.


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