SJ Signs off – temporarily

Dear Readers,

As you will have noticed, over the past couple of weeks, all posts have been written by contributing writers (Yoram, Malki, Frochel, The Hasid, Malki, and Paroggan).

The same reasons that initially forced me to conceal my identity have forced me to cease writing completely and  suddenly. Fortunately, a wonderful group of people enabled the blog to continue temporarily so that the closure of this forum might be less abrupt.

My departure (and the circumstances that forced it) provoked something like a mourning period for me. I was surprised at how attached I could become to a blog and to (some of) the commenters who have enriched the discussions here. So many intelligent and engaged people, such as Yoram Symons,  Manny Waks, and The Sadducee among many, many others proved that this community needs and deserves a forum for debate and discussion of issues relevant to us.

With the exception of a couple of group emails, this blog never publicised itself. The Sunday Age and The Australian Jewish News approached us, and fortunately, Yvonne Fein agreed to represent this blog in public. I cannot thank her enough for her support and advice.

That these publications saw us as newsworthy is another indication that there had been a vacuum in communal fora for discussion and debate.

Some in the community, however, have rejoiced at this blog’s closure. There have been thanks given to God, and other expressions of similar delight.

My concern is not that there might be people who disagree with me or the other writers who have posted here, but that there are Australian Jews who felt that a group of Zionists, whose beliefs fall very much within the mainstream of Australian Jewish life, could somehow be so vile that this blog’s closure could provoke utter bliss. The most radical position presented on this blog has been the mooted democratisation of our leadership. That there is a significant number of people that cannot tolerate such a mild topic for debate without resorting to flaming, abuse, and trolling is symptomatic of something quite disturbing.

Many more have commented or emailed to express support for what this blog was about. But such people were rarely motivated to comment on multiple occasions. Some privately confided that they were intimidated by the trolls, or that they just couldn’t be bothered fighting with the more conservative elements.

Such people felt that if their opinions and identities were made public, they would be publicly shamed, ridiculed, or defamed. Again, such people were not propounding radical views, and ours is not a violent community, so it shocked me profoundly that there was enough fear to keep a significant number quiet.

This blog was not an experiment. It was born out of a sense that our community was going down a dangerous path. Many of you will remember the dual issues that first inspired me to write: the idiotic Maccabi decision to ban non-Jews and our leaders’  foolish, misguided media responses to the 8 minute play.

For all our success in high level advocacy, clinking glasses with PMs and Premiers, we need to remember that as s00n as we are more of an electoral liability than an asset, the special relationship will be over. Just as issues such as feminism and homosexual rights began on campus and filtered through to the mainstream, anti-Zionism/anti-Semitism, now bubbling in the current academic crucible, may find similar resonance in the mainstream. Only smart, new-school PR can head this threat off.

We need engaged, young folk to start taking the sclerotic communal institutions over. But there’s a problem…

If I had the opportunity to continue writing here, I would  tackle what I believe is the parlous situation of our youth: dangerous behaviors and mental health issues that seem to be at rates seen only in the lower echelons of Australia’s socio-economic ladder.

As someone who worked for over a decade with Jewish youth, I know that honest parents of teenagers will discuss drugs, sex, and mental illness as a terrible blight. If their own children are not directly affected, close family and friends most certainly are.

Apart from the odd article on Purim drunkenness in the AJN, there is no public discussion of the anomaly of young Jewish self-destruction that is not mirrored in broader upper-middle class Australia.

Unfortunately, I cannot give this issue the attention it deserves here. But I will say that I see it as symptomatic of everything that is wrong in the community.

Let’s begin with the amazing result in the AJN’s poll that asked if readers found their roof bodies adequately representative. At the close of the poll, 95% of respondents said they did not.

This is an astonishing result.

How is it that such a resounding indictment is not reflected in more general communal discourse? Similarly Jews will talk animatedly in private about the problematics of our PR, but again, this is rarely reflected in public discourse. Why do we focus on Purim drunkenness when drugs, depression, and unsafe sexual practices have infiltrated every Jewish sub-community?

My answer is simple: shame.

There seems to be a generalised sense of Shlom Bayyit as Australian Jews suffocate communal debate through self-censorship. One of the problems with the concept of Shlom Bayyit is that whenever there is a power imbalance in the house in question, Shalom can only be preserved through the “weaker” party’s acquiescence.

So many people that I have communicated with feel that if they are secular, or if there are others more religious/right wing than they; if they are not directly involved in communal institutions or less involved than others; that they are somehow lesser beings morally.

Rationally, they may hate many of the opinions of the self appointed leaders, or the louder communal voices, but they feel somehow less able to defend their position because only the most vociferous is seen as a rightful Jewish representative.

The most reactionary position is always considered the default correct one, even by folks with more liberal tendencies. Such people talk in hushed tones of awe about the grandfather who was “tough” enough to boycott his grandchild’s wedding because the spouse-to-be was not Jewish, or the parents that threatened to cut their son off if he continued dating an Asian girl.

I don’t actually believe that these quieter folk really admire the tough talkers. They love their own Goy kids-in-law and love it when someone else has the balls to call conservative idiocy for what it is. These same people rarely consider becoming more religious, but somehow think that more orthodox Jews have cornered the market on morality and righteous living.

It’s a bizarre submission to some unrepresentative collective ideal of what a good Jew should be.

After having watched the dynamics on SJ, I’m starting to wonder if a “bullied” mentality has taken hold. When honour is so tenuous, and shame an ever-present threat, is it any surprise that no one will talk about why or how many of our young people are self-destructing, and why so few are prepared to join our institutions?

People who have been angriest with this blog have been at pains to point out how fine everything is, and how great this community’s doing.

I myself am not against intermarriage, but I suspect that many of our conservative critics are. The extremely high rates of intermarriage  that are now occurring, combined with the substance abuse, dangerous sexual behaviours, and reluctance to enage in public Jewish life, may be an indication that at least two generations of people (X and Y) disagree, even if they are not prepared to articulate it publicly.

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32 Responses to “SJ Signs off – temporarily”

  1. Almoni says:

    Hmm, very interesting because there is such a cross over beween issues you are concerned about (and it seems from a kind of religious perspective) and a much more sceptical humanist viewpoint like mine.

    But you have learned something that some of us have faced for years in our attempts to offer alternative opinions, that there is a vigorous, intolerant and nasty streak in the community, that I don’t like to say, but say with some sadness, a good dose of fascism. Even if it is a minority, they rule the bully pulpit.

    Why? You are right, about the affluence and inwardness of the community, and its a sad reflection on the lack of a safe and respected space in the public sphere to talk.

    But it’s also the story of a ‘community’–one of the most contested terms in sociology– that for a number of reasons, some of which I haven’t quite worked out, seems to have adopted an extraordinarily traditional and authoritarian form of governance and particularly representation to the ‘outside’ world. Maybe it is in part due to the fact that there is a traditional deference to money and some people made a lot of money, and that brought that prestige, the Queens Birthday Honors, and POWER to create community structures, organisations etc.

    Thus, the agend of orginal (and quite honorable) charitable organiations like aged care organisations, have been pushed aside for the big time. I think that is where the trouble may have come from — for example, that pushing the Israel cause has become a power cause in the community and externally to the community and that ‘fundraising’ is a business in itself, not a (modest) means to an end. It’s as if there has been a severe case of mission drift at the top, but like Topsy, it’s growed, and doesn’t like challenge.

    I read somewhere that in Israel, the older forms of the current parties were based upon poltical cultures coming out of Russia and Poland, with a strong authoritarianism, and I think, given the origin of many people here, we’ve seen the same thing, including the weakness of religious diversity.

    And people are otherwise, happy in their suburban affluence (at least people in the ‘core’), while the rest live in their stress and discomfort and not quite being acceptable because they can’t keep up with the Goldmans or what ever the expression might be. Thus, to have problems is a shameful thing, not to be made public.

    And strange and sad, as we see, are the numbers of very right wing people who love being spoilers.

    Enough said.

    Good luck.

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  2. Rhino says:

    turn the light off on your way out…and try not to trip over your tail. ha!

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  3. Dear Sensible,

    It is a real shame to see the demise of this infant forum – hopefully Galus will continue the good work.

    The psychoanalysis of the community coming back to shame (or guilt) is interesting. There are many other issues involved which I would love to debate over several glasses of wine, but time is short. Dangerous, experimental, desperate youthful behaviour can have a raft of causes.

    You have done a mitzvah a service to the community by lancing a boil of repressed dissent. I have always believed that my 1950s-70s Habonim (and to a lesser extent Mt Scopus) view of Israel and Zionism was stongly at odds with the garbage coming from the so-called community leaders, who are mostly parrots of an extreme Likud view that can only lead to Israel’s continuing difficulties in its neighborhood.

    We are the Real Zionists – they are the self-appointed, self-aggrandizing political players prepared to do anything for their careers. Some of them even think that that perpetual terror is good for Israel. They should go and read some Theodore Herzl. Sensible Jews need to stand up and say what Herzl said: A social utopia, technologically advanced and with equality for Arabs.

    Well done on the furthering of a pluralist debate. Hopefully in the words of that other great Zionist: “You’ll be back!”*

    L’Hitraot

    David Langsam

    *If AIJAC staff are reading this, the last sentence deliberately included humor, appropriating a phrase from Arnold Schwarznegger in Terminator 2 – it’s so hard having to explain these things to them, but one needs to persevere.

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  4. Ittay says:

    Dear SJ,
    Well done on writing so clearly about the things you cared about for so long. Whilst I didn’t always agree with the aggressive tone you took in some posts, I mostly agreed with the overall vision that you had for how we should be represented as a community and about the different ways we can talk about Israel.

    I was also very impressed about how much time you devoted to this project, responding to almost every post.

    Shkoyach and behatzalacha on whatever your next project may be.

    Ittay

    And to the rest of the readers of this blog
    Lo alecha ham’lacha ligmor, V’lo ata ben chorim l’hibatel mimena
    It is not your duty to complete the work, But neither are you free to desist from it. (Pirkei Avot 2:20)

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  5. Harold Zwier says:

    Dear SJ,

    I had a small e-mail exchange with you earlier in the blog and was looking forward to engaging on other issues over time. I applaud your endeavour and those of your colleagues. Civil dialogue and the exchange of ideas in a sensible environment is a welcome development. I hope that your effort has a ripple effect and will look with interest at the new website Galus Australis.

    Shabbat shalom,
    Harold Zwier

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  6. “But I will say that I see it as symptomatic of everything that is wrong in the community.”

    It’s clear to me that a large chunk of “everything that is wrong in the community” is due to people being obsessed with putting being Jewish ahead of being human. The price of being Jewish, of being different to mainstream society, following a religious doctrine, and dare I say it, the arrogant notion of being better than the rest, brings with it unavoidable and damaging consequences. There are too many dichotomies. By following the word of “god”, it negates the right to be individual and have freedom of thought and action. You end up with people who lie and cheat and deny themselves and others true happiness, self respect and who they really are.

    It’s human nature to want to be the same as people around you, to not stand out, take a stand and be different, but when the society you aspire to be part of is flawed, it’s not going to do you any good as a person to be part of that society. Borrowing from The Life of Brian:

    Brian: Look, you’ve got it all wrong! You don’t need to follow me, you don’t need to follow anybody! You’ve got to think for yourselves! You’re all individuals!
    The Crowd (in unison): Yes! We’re all individuals!
    Brian: You’re all different!
    The Crowd (in unison): Yes, we are all different!
    Man in Crowd: I’m not…
    The Crowd: Shhh!

    Take a look at yourselves. You can’t have your (kosher) cake and eat it.

    Michael Barnett.

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  7. Michael says:

    Judging by the few regulars on your blog site just another left wing Jewish Blog site, you won’t be missed, thank heaven we have the boys at AIJAC to expose all the rif raf ,you won’t be missed, and no body likes long goodbyes!

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  8. Judging by the few regulars on your blog site just another left wing Jewish Blog site, you won’t be missed, thank heaven we have the boys at AIJAC to expose all the rif raf ,you won’t be missed, and no body likes long goodbyes!

    Michael, you make it sound like they’re the community’s elite hit squad, out to get everyone who has a dissenting point of view and beat them into submission. Nice work mate.

    Michael Barnett.

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  9. eli says:

    SJ,
    I am seriously miffed by the need to end this blog. Although many of the contributors here know each other, as an outsider i was always annoyed at the need for the Sj to be so secretive and sensitive about its identity. especially since the many of the articles that were posted demanded transparency and accountability from the organisations it wanted changed. To me it it smacked of hypocrisy.

    Not withstanding my own annoyance,much of what was written in respect to communal organizations i agreed with in principle , and the lack of of a suitable forum was obvious. Why is it that you feel your own position is so vulnerable that you need to withdraw?

    To effect change it needs people in positions of influence. That they have much to loose both personally and even financially only adds strength and credibility to the cause. If people such as yourself are unwilling and unprepared to place themselves in the spotlight, to take the heat so to speak,then what hope for the rest of us to affect change.

    If pressure was brought to bear then , it seems the effort was already bearing fruit. But acquiescence at such an early stage only adds strength to those that found themselves on the receiving end. How much more arrogant will they now be?

    I am sure that the new blog will provide much discussion, however without a focused intent and well known,respected individual/s it will be no more than an extension of a “letters to the editor’ supplement.

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  10. Captain Pugwash says:

    Ooooooo, it’s just soooooo mysterious…I wonder who the SJ really is? Ohhhh, just another chubby Jewish housewife?

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  11. Almoni says:

    Thank you deeply for sharing your patronising juvenile sexism and stereotyping. May it come back to haunt you badly as you seek to become an adult.

    I think many others may share this sentiment–

    May you have no friends or lovers–fat, skinny, Jewish, non-Jewish, animal, vegetable or even mineral– until you grow up.

    Good luck in your sad search for meaning.

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  12. Captain Pugwash says:

    Thanks Al – even my youngest son found your last post funny! Good luck in your sad journey towards complete and utter irrelevance.

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  13. Captain Pugwash says:

    The best part of this whole thing was just seeing how easy it is to derail and, ultimately, destroy a site like this. It’s been a blast!

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  14. Daniel Levy says:

    CP (ironic about the ambiguously vile connotation associated with the acronym of your name that is redolent of the tripe that you spout), you are here in a sad attempt to fill a void in your life left barren by the love of others. Your continued bitterness and vile attacks on others underscore just how disgusting a person you truly are. You are just shameful.

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  15. Daniel Levy says:

    by the lack of love from others*

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  16. Captain Pugwash says:

    Thanks for your insight, Levy. You are right. I have decided to turn over a new leaf and love my fellow man. You have changed my life! Quick question: when did you actually come out of the closet?

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  17. Almoni says:

    Please remove yourself from this, and any other lists. It is clear that you enjoy agression and causing distress to others.

    I strongly suggest that you seek the help of a trained counsellor because of the attitudes towards women and now gay people you have displayed.

    I am sure everyone who has been reading posts on this site will agree that your behaviour is completely unacceptable and causes concern.

    Also remember that your IP address can be tracked if statements are considered to pose a threat to the safety and security of other people.

    No joke. If you were doing this in the workplace I think you know what the consequences of your actions would be, whether or not the posts were anonymous. Consider yourself in the public workplace of ideas.

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  18. Captain Pugwash says:

    Thanks Almoni – your words are enlightening. I will immediately remove myself from “this and any other lists”. Also, thanks for reminding me about the IP issue. I wonder whether I will be able to sleep at night or whether I will stay awake in fear of the internet police. How about you consider yourself in my world, where I make the rules. I just throw in bananas and watch the monkeys dance. Dance for me, little monkey!

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  19. Anonymous says:

    ..

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  20. Eli says:

    oh how brave and loud those of you with anon names are. any of you have the balls to post as real people.
    Lets see how pathetic you are prepared to be when your real persona is attached to the post.

    Gutless!!!

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  21. Anonymous says:

    that’s pretty brave coming from Eli who doesn’t post a surname or address!

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  22. Eli says:

    oh Paaaaleeeese!!! click on my name …not going to waste anymore time with trolls…last post from me here..so go ahead have the last word…its all you really want anyway!

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  23. Captain Pugwash says:

    what a surprise!?! you are on a dating site! how horribly desperate.

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  24. Kim Obrest says:

    Over the last few months, I have watched, read, agreed, disagreed, laughed, sighed, and cry about what this blog has had to say.
    But after all is said and done, I was happy to see someone use the internet to discuss the very same things that have happened time and again in our community. You talk about shame being the reason our community doesn’t talk about these issues, but I believe before shame comes a cycle, one our community has been stuck in for generations. The first step to avoiding a problem, is know of its existence. On that front, this blog brought issues up that I remember talking to people who for there troubles were exiled from our community. The issue for me is that if your not willing to go the distance, you cant expect others to pick up from where you left off. Its not a case that “someone else will make the changes” You chose this forum, you picked your battleground, and now you run away. To quote a film “Never stop fighting, till the fight is done!” Unlike the people before you, who didn’t have the luxury of anonymity you have SJ, they stood tall, and took responsibility for what they believed.
    Here is the problem with our community. Here endeth the lesson.

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  25. Yiddishe Mamme says:

    Just to say thank you for this blog, short lived as it may have been. And good luck with your next project.

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  26. MelbaAbroard says:

    What a shame, it was only a few weeks ago that I discovered and started to enjoy the blog… a shame that you are not continuing. I am a little unclear why you are stopping….

    Best wishes.

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  27. aussie says:

    The fact that you have 30 comments since signing off is proof that Sensible Jew was a welcome and much needed voice in the community. Come back soon. You are missed.

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  28. sensiblejew says:

    Eli,

    Your questions are absolutely spot on.

    It makes me nuts that I can’t reveal my identity (I’d love to take credit for my writing here) and that I’ve had to stop suddenly.

    I also agree that it is galling to have an anonymous writer talk about transparency. As for contributirs knowing my identity, it was only a tiny handful of folks that did, and I revealed my name to them because I knew that my ability to write here would be limited. I had hoped that they would be able to take up the mantle and make this blog more about the issues than about the writers.

    But people have different visions for what’s needed. From what I can gather, Galus Australis will be more culturally oriented, less political, and probably less controversial than SJ. Some of the writers for GA did not want to be associated with the tone and controversy that SJ generated. Fair enough. But it means that this blog will have to finish up for now.

    The reason for my secrecy and my stopping this blog are very complicated. They have nothing to do with Jews, however.

    For all my very strident criticisms of this community, and for all my many concerns about the direction we’re taking, Aussie Jews are remarkable for their non-violence. What some have called “stifling” debate, is in reality nothing more than Jewish Australians self-censoring because they don’t want to draw negative attention. But the conservative critics, no matter how much I may despise their positions, only ever fight with words. I have never heard of any serious intimidation that has come from any Australian Jew.

    So my inability to write here is not about any pressure from any Jewish quarter. I cannot stress this enough.

    I ask you to keep in mind that it’s a big world out there. There are millions of possible reasons that an outspoken woman might not be able to continue a blog such as this. Depending on how one views the SJ persona, one may infer petty reasons or weighty reasons.

    I can claim in perpetuity that my reasons are weighty and that I do not fear Jewish wrath; but without being able to explain my true reasons, it really is pointless.

    I truly apologise for not being able to explain more fully. I hope that circumstances in the near future will change and that I can come back again, perhaps even using my real name.

    To Michael, Ittay, Harold, David, Almoni, and all other well-wishers, thank you for your kind words. I know that the need for debate is strong, and I hope that you all will continue to pose the questions that need to be asked.

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  29. sensiblejew says:

    Hello Kim.

    Thank you for your comment. I would like to begin by saying that this is the first I’ve read of you. So much of the debate on this forum was dominated by defenders of the status quo. So many supportive people preferred to email me privately about their thoughts and concerns and shied away from taking on the big mouths.

    As for your thoughts on my departure, I ask you to read my response to Eli on the matter. I am unable, for quite serious reasons to explain myself or reveal my identity. Believe me, this whole project would have been far less fraught had I been able to be open about who I am and the challenges that I face. Again, I apologise for the vagueness of such a statement.

    If you have indeed been reading the blog, I hope that you get a sense of who I am, even if you do not know my name. I am not a person who scares easily, nor am I one to shy away from difficult arguments. I did not abandon this blog (for now) because it was simply inconvenient for me.

    One of my criticisms of certain community members is that they are unable to conceive of possibilities beyond the confines of their own experiences. They could not possibly imagine a legitimate reason that a passionate advocate for what she believes is right, could be in a difficult and unusual position that severely circumscribes her freedom to act.

    I have written before that abandoning this blog left me in a state of grief. Leaving was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make in my shortish life.

    As for the luxuries you mention, I don’t believe many in our community are at all aware of what true “luxury” is, when it comes to freedom of expression. Our community is truly blessed to be non-violent, and it infuriates me that intimidating ordinary Australian Jews is relatively easy. It is these people who have the true luxury of being able to speak out without retribution.

    You do not know me or my situation. You therefore do not know to which luxuries I may or may not have access. It’s a safe bet to say that the “luxury” of choice is, for now, denied me.

    All that said, I am touched by your opening sentence. I could not have hoped for a better response from a reader and I’m honoured that this blog could have affected you in such a way. When I read such a lovely sentiment, it makes leaving that little bit harder.

    Oh well, at least we have the sleep deprived Captain Pugwash/Anonymous/Jewish Genius/Yiddishe Kopf/Rhino/Heartened to entertain us. Before anyone else gets upset about what our friend writes, please note the times at which he writes. He rarely sleeps, and perhaps suffers from a disorder. Ambivalence is my overriding sentiment when I read him: on the one hand, his horribleness is quite amusing and a vindication of my last post. But on the other hand, Schadenfreude is an ugly phenomenon. I think he may be unwell, so laughing at him is not exactly the most compassionate reaction.

    I advise our readers to ignore him, not just because he’s a troll, but because he may not be in total control of what he writes.

    Just an interesting note – even though the blog’s been inactive for days, over the last two of days we’ve had over 300 visitors. I hope they’re reading archived stories. That would be lovely.

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  30. sensiblejew says:

    Thank you, Yiddishe Mamme!

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  31. sensiblejew says:

    Hi MelbaAbroad. Thank you for your kind words. I prefer to think of the current situation as a hiatus, rather than a complete cessation. Hopefully, we’ll read each other’s words again very soon.

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  32. sensiblejew says:

    Aussie, what a lovely comment! Thank you.

    You know what? For all the trolls and other misanthropes, I really miss y’all too. I have to sort one or two things out and then, hopefully, we can get things going again.

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