The New Week: Ideas from SJ Readers 1 – Yoram’s Report from Auburn Rd Shul

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Ideas from SJ Readers

Over the last day or so, a number of ideas have emerged from our readers. Because these ideas are complex, we will devote three posts to them:

1) This post will address Yoram’s report from Auburn Rd Shul

2) Jewish priorities: the media, Jewish schools, and our leadership

3) Where to now: practical questions and suggestions for change in our community

Firstly, Yoram, of the Auburn Rd Shul, conducted a discussion among the  Shul’s congregants regarding some of the themes raised on this blog. We thank him for doing that. For more information on that discussion, you can read Yoram’s comment here. The congregants, diverse in age and background seemed to agree that the community requires some form of leadership; however, Yoram contends that even though such a forum was effective at promoting discussion, the “Town Hall” style of meeting may not be best suited to establishing tangible changes.

One very interesting theme to emerge is what we’ll call, “The Loewenstein Paradox” – that is, when Antony Loewenstein first emerged in the mainstream media, he complained incessantly of the community’s silencing of dissenting voices. Ironically, this complaint helped propel him into the public eye. Yoram wrote that during the discussion it was suggested that, “…if someone believes they have a position that deserves an audience then simply get out there and make yourself heard, the media will inevitably follow.”

We believe this is not the correct conclusion to draw from the Loewenstein Paradox. When Loewenstein first emerged, his was very much a, “man bites dog” story: A young Jew, instead of defending Israel, writes and speaks of Zionism in language that seems more suited to Palestinian lobby groups. It was this novelty – the arguing against type – combined with media awareness of the massive ruckus Loewenstein’s views would cause in the community – that made his voice so audible. We cannot imagine moderates of any background having such an easy time attracting attention. We’re just not that exciting, and we don’t play the required dichotomous roles.

Yoram also paraphrased people as saying, “[Loewenstein] did the work, he got out there and now he is one of the voices that the media will turn to for quotes and opinions.” This again disregards certain facts. Anyone who has read anything by Antony Loewenstein will be aware that his arguments are of themselves, neither novel, nor edifying. His fact-checking abilities (or lack thereof) hint at an intellectual laziness that could only be ignored if one were more interested in the personality behind the story than in the story itself. Had the same lack of scholarship/writing/argument been put forward by someone without the explosive communal relationship that Loewenstein developed, the book would likely never have been published.

So we disagree that media attention is as easy to attract as just speaking out, or slapping a poorly written book together. There needs to be a hook. You need to be,  for whatever reason – good or bad – newsworthy.

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Related posts:

  1. The New Week: Ideas from SJ Readers 2 – Jewish Priorities, the Media, Jewish Schools, and our Leadership
  2. In The New Year: Glimpses of the Future at Auburn Rd Shul
  3. Reader Response 7: Responding to our Non/Anti-Zionist Readers
  4. SJ Signs off – temporarily
  5. Where to now? practical questions and suggestions for change in our community and a link to Manny Wax’s Report

2 Responses to “The New Week: Ideas from SJ Readers 1 – Yoram’s Report from Auburn Rd Shul”

  1. Frochel says:

    Hi again SensibleJew,

    Your explanation of the Loewenstein phenomenon was very perceptive. However, I think there is one other very important aspect that has not yet been mentioned.

    Loewenstein (and those of his ilk) are loved by media organisations such as the ABC and Fairfax, as well as the (typically left-wing) anti-Israel/anti-Semitic crowd, because he provides them cover from accusations of anti-Semitism. [Note: Right wing anti-Semites do not normally have any use for Loewensteins, as they are less concerned about being labelled racists etc].

    It’s a simplistic reasoning, but it is nonethless a comfort to them: “We’re not saying anything an actual Jew has not already said themselves, so we can’t be anti-Semitic.”

    Alternatively, these media and anti-Israel organisations don’t even need to say anything themselves, they simply need to provide these poor ‘free-speech deprived dissidents’ a forum, and these ‘dissidents’ will say it for them.

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  2. sensiblejew says:

    Hi Frochel. Boy! This is a case of, “Why didn’t we think of that?” You’re absolutely right. Loewenstein and to a less public extent, Louise Adler are very valuable to anyone needing an anti-Zionist proxy – especially because these sorts of Jews are able to raise the hackles of the mainstream community and start an internecine ruckus that develops a life of its own that provides excellent media fodder. It is for this reason – as much as the ones we stated earlier – that Jewish moderates just will not be as attractive to the media.

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