Am I Doing Hitler's Work?
07/13/2012 - 12:53


Oops. Not only did I go on a blogging hiatus (thanks to pre-vacation, vacation and post-vacation distractions), but I did so after writing about mine and Ellie’s God problem. Hopefully, attentive readers didn’t conclude that, despairing of God’s goodness, I’d decided to give up writing for The Jewish Week.

Of course some might have been hoping I did exactly that. Like “SG,” a gentleman whose e-mail greeted me upon my return from vacation (a lakefront cottage in Maine, in case you were wondering):

Julie, I am nearly always offended by your columns, blogs, and articles. You seem to have an agenda that is pro-intermarriage. Intermarriage is simply doing Hitler’s work and it has no place in a Jewish newspaper.  I’d like to see move on to a different publication.



The grammatical errors and typos are his, not mine and, in my desire to depict this affable fellow accurately, I’ve restrained my copy editing impulses. My friends have advised me to “avoid feeding the troll” and not favor him with a reply, as tempting as a response might be. But what I most want to ask him is, “What publication would you like to see me move onto, SG — Der Sturmer? And did you know, SG, that Hitler, himself a staunch opponent of intermarriage if ever there was one, would have fiercely objected to having intermarriage described as his ‘work’?”

Fortunately, SG is not my only reader, and, despite a few condescending and judgmental posts, most people offered thoughtful suggestions, in the comment section and elsewhere, as to further study material for Ellie and me. Susan Esther Barnes, of “Religious and Reform,” wrote a whole blog post in response.

I do feel compelled, however, to respond to the commenter accusing me of ignorance and hubris: I acknowledged in my original post that my daughter and I are hardly the first to “deal with” these issues, and nowhere have I ever described Jewish scholars as “a bunch of primitive idiots.”

I am eager to study more, and I welcome suggestions. However, a bit of advice: it is not particularly persuasive to respond to a learner’s questions with, “You have no right to ask any questions until you first have read the works of millions of commentators (none of which I am bothering to identify here).” Should I tell my 8-year-old daughter this as well? Can you imagine if we took this approach to pedagogy in other disciplines? Don’t waste my time with your ignorant questions about arithmetic until you have mastered calculus, young lady! Or apply that approach to politics: Not sure you want to vote for Mitt Romney because you are uncomfortable with some of his positions? Well, you’d better read everything on his website and everything ever written about him in Commentary, The National Review and The Weekly Standard before you dare voice any concerns.

We live in a vast marketplace of competing philosophies and theologies from which to choose how we wish to live our lives: most educated people, at least those of us living outside highly insular communities, need a better answer for why make Jewish choices, or why study Jewish texts, than, “Because I said so!” or even “Because God said so!” 

So, now that I am back from vacation, I plan to be a better blogger, at least until the next big article pulls me away. Stay tuned for more God talk and for more on UJA-Federation of New York’s landmark population study.

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I read both of your articles and I would like to commend you. The story that you relate and the thoughts that you have had are shared by many. I too have had questions, but have been fortunate to have someone to whom I could ask them. Not everyone is willing to be open to questions that they feel are unworthy, or uncomfortable with. In the reading I have done, to me (simple view of course) is that we look to answer the big questions about G-D but have trouble putting them into words. I see G-D as a being that seems to react as we would in our day to day lives; sometimes it makes sense at other times everyone asks what were you thinking. I am comfortable with the concept that question can be asked, and the asking should be encouraged. This forces not only the asker, but also the person to whom the question was asked to think and this inturn fosters discussion and understanding. I have been fortunate to be in a place that this is encouraged. The basic message that we are given in the Torah about how we should act and be is clear, but at the same time difficult to apply on a day to day basis with all of the temptations and conflicting messages that we received on a daily basis. Continue to ask the difficult questions and never allow your daughter (children) to stop. It is encouraging to see a preson of your daughter's young years asking profound questions, it demonstrates couriosity and that is the starting line of knowledge.

Ms. Wiener:
I just came across this blog column (vacation..just getting caught up) and I'd have to say that I agree with the thoughts of Mr. SG. You add nothing of Jewish significance to this Jewish publication.
You should take your talents and peddle them elsewhere- maybe New York Magazine has a place for a Jewish writer who spews sarcasm, cynicism, and ignorance for tradition while professing that this is all normal. "Oops" that is the norm over there.

Wow. Please don't stop writing for TJW. You're amazing.

Come on, people. We're Jews. We're supposed to ask questions. One of the things I love about Judaism is how it holds up and endures in an environment of honest and heartfelt questions.

You are a journalist and therefore feel compelled to respond. I remember my own teacher suggesting that some comments are not even worth the response, especially when it gives them more time "on the air" (he came from a different era). Seems like this is one of those.