Rabbi Avi Weinstein

Archive for December 18th, 2009|Daily archive page

Garrison Keillor Cries Foul On Irving Berlin: Jihad, American Style

In Uncategorized on December 18, 2009 at 8:17 am

Garrison Keillor is offended that Irving Berlin penned songs about His holiday. I have to laugh. Those bloody Jews, those bloody Jews not content with just writing songs about their own holidays, hijacked Xmas and Easter.  The truth is Philip Roth, in his novel, Operation Shylock, agrees with him:

“God gave Moses the 10 Commandments, and He gave to Irving Berlin ‘Easter Parade’ and ‘White Christmas.’ The two holidays that celebrate the divinity of Christ–the divinity that’s the very heart of the Jewish rejection of Christianity–and what does Irving Berlin do? Easter he turns into a fashion show and Christmas into a holiday about snow.”

It’s hard to be a competing minority this time of year for many Jews–this is an old story.  Once Keillor himself referred to Christmas music for Jews is like having noisy neighbors, he just wants us to endure the incessant “harumpumpums”, and “silent nights” as the price we pay for living in the Christian diaspora. Instead, those geniuses of assimilation, de-Jesus the holiday, so they can celebrate along with the rest of America.  Roth sees this as a good thing, Keillor feels violated by those insidious, surreptitious Jews of the “culture conspiracy”.  I feel ambivalent.

Now Orrin Hatch has written a snappy Chanukah song out of his deep respect for Jews and Judaism.  Conan Obrien and his Jewish drummer Max Weinberg view this as an opportunity to gently spoof Mormonism, as if there is something bizarre about Senator Hatch writing a Chanukah song. This is a peculiarly, but not uniquely, American phenomenon.  Why not uniquely? Marc Chagall created a number of paintings of Jesus, some of which equated his crucifixion with Holocaust victims. Mounds of irony in that comparison, even though it’s hard to figure out who is co-opting whom.

America’s greatness, some opine, is that Irving Berlin can write a song in celebration of the season, and the days that mark it.  For the believers, however, it’s like, “Get your friggin’ hands off my holiday, write songs for your own holidays!” Max Weinberg lets Orrin Hatch have it, and Keillor wails on poor Irving who can’t even defend himself while Marc Chagall evokes Jesus as the prototype for Holocaust victims–which, for some reason, I find the most offensive of all.

Well, at least no one is burning down buildings, and nobody’s getting hurt–at least physically.