August 3, 2013


Israel's New Chief Rabbi in Hot Water Already : David Lau under fire for using racial slur while speaking at a summer camp (Tal Kra-Oz|July 30, 2013, Tablet)

[J]udging by a recording recently broadcast by a Haredi news service, Lau isn't always such a unifying figure--nor is he a fan of technology. Speaking at an ultra-Orthodox summer camp, Lau told a group of youngsters that he had trouble defending Haredi youth against critics intent on drafting them into the IDF, when confronted with the behavior of many of these yeshiva students. While the Haredi community claims these individuals must be exempted from the army in order to study Torah, Lau said, this argument is often belied by their conduct. For instance, many Haredi youth can be found in local establishments in the evenings, watching the exploits of Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Euroleague basketball series. "On some Thursday nights in my hometown of Tel Aviv" said Lau, "the kiosks have a screen that has colors on it, surrounded by people. Some of them have a hat and suit on, some of them just a shirt, but most of them have their tzitzit out and wear a black kippah." It's a fair point, but the rabbi's next one wasn't: "Mai nafka minnah," he jokingly asked (a Talmudic phrase meaning "what difference does it make"), "whether the kushim paid in Tel Aviv beat the kushim paid in Greece?"

While the word kush has biblical origins (for example, the first verse of the Book of Esther refers to lands of Kush), kushim has been used in Israel as a derogatory term for black people for decades, almost as bad as the N-word (though lacking that word's deep, painful history). And while the national pride caused by the success of the Maccabi Tel Aviv team, many of whose stars are not actually Israeli, has been a source of mystification for some, racism is clearly not the proper response.

Posted by at August 3, 2013 7:18 AM

blog comments powered by Disqus