Comedian Jackie Mason — former rabbi, self-proclaimed “ultimate Jew” and possessor of the world’s schmaltziest Borscht Belt accent — is topping the bill at Britain’s “Israel at 60” gala show at Wembley Arena. Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg of the New North London Synagogue, for one, thinks he’s “a terrible choice.”
Writing in Britain’s Jewish Chronicle, the rabbi explains:
His love of Israel is unquestionable. He abandoned his show to stand with the Jewish state while the Scuds descended in 1991. He will be funny and robust. He will draw the crowds and, with so much venom about Israel, solidarity matters. But solidarity with what?
The authors of the Declaration of Independence asserted that the Jewish state would “be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel”, ensuring complete equality for all its inhabitants. They espoused the same idealism as Isaiah when, in a Jerusalem surrounded by the Assyrian army, he spoke of the redeemer who would come not with the sword, but with righteousness and justice. Twenty-seven centuries later, in 1948, with Jerusalem again under siege, my father’s uncle, a jurist who had fled Nazi Germany, died for that same vision. Those values are far removed from the kind of stereotyping of which Jackie Mason’s work is full.
I think Rabbi Wittenberg is way off base: I rarely find Jackie Mason funny.
The rabbi goes on to note that Mason isn’t exactly Mr. Compassionate when it comes to his views on Israeli-Palestinian relations. Nor, I might add, is he Mr. Sensitivity when it comes to interethnic and interreligious affairs in general.
In any case, I’m sure Europeans will love his shtick. And if, perchance, they don’t, well, thankfully, their support for Israel is unshakable.
While we’re on the topic, check out Jackie Mason’s interview with the Jewish Chronicle, in which he explains how he’s like a piece of furniture, suggests that he may be bigger than Benjamin Netanyahu and shares his thoughts (if they can be called that) on the upcoming presidential election.