Amid the media scandal-mongering over the untimely demise of Michael Jackson, only a few reports have zeroed in on the Gloved One’s infamous 1995 song “They Don’t Care About Us,” which “outraged” the Anti-Defamation League with its “antisemitic” lyrics: “Jew me, sue me, everybody do me/Kick me, kike me, don’t you black or white me.”
Jackson explained to The New York Times: “I am the voice of the accused and the attacked. I am the voice of everyone. I am the skinhead, I am the Jew, I am the black man, I am the white man.”
If Jackson was really the Jew, one wonders if he would have been welcomed later by members of the Nation of Islam movement quite so enthusiastically Whatever the rationalizations, there is really no sane reason for Jackson to be praised as he is in “TYPISCH!: Klischees von Juden und Anderen” (“TYPICAL!: Clichés of Jews and Others”) a current exhibit at Vienna’s Jewish Museum, for supposedly having “attempted to destroy stereotypes” by marring his face with multiple nose jobs.
Far from seeing the late singer as a breaker of stereotypes, readers might side instead with ADL National Director Abe Foxman, who castigated the Gloved One for making a “decision which reinforces intolerance” by releasing a video version of “They Don’t Care About Us” as well as for later manifestations of antisemitism.
The JTA has the following story: “Jackson kids’ Jewish mother could regain custody,” which notes:
Reports are conflicting over whether the Jewish mother of two of the late Michael Jackson’s children will seek custody.
Jackson, the “King of Pop” who died Friday of unspecified causes, and Debbie Rowe are the parents of Prince Michael I, 12, and Paris Michael Katherine, 11. By virtue of having a Jewish mother, they are considered Jewish.
According to London’s Sunday Times, sources close to Rowe said she will not fight Katherine Jackson, the pop star’s mother, for custody of the children, and that she would be satisfied with more access to them.
But Iris Finsilver, Rowe’s attorney, told the Associated Press that she was certain that Rowe would seek custody of the two children. Finsilver had previously confirmed that Rowe was Jewish.
In the wake of Michael Jackson’s death, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is, not surprisingly, all over the place — weighing in on the Gloved One’s decline and demise. In this opinion piece in today’s Jerusalem Post, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach writes that, back in 2004, he foretold Michael Jackson’s untimely death:
In the two years that I had attempted, ultimately unsuccessfully, to help Michael repair his life, what most frightened me was not that he would be arrested again for child molestation, although he later was. Rather it was that he would die. As I told CNN on April 22, 2004, “My great fear, and why I felt I had to be distanced from Michael … was that he would not live long. My fear was that Michael’s life would be cut short. When you have no ingredients of a healthy life, when you are totally detached from that which is normal, and when you are a super-celebrity you, God forbid, end up like Janis Joplin like Elvis… Michael is headed in that direction.”
Even as we adjust to a world without Michael Jackson, we’re still left grappling with the question of how to understand the gifted and bizarre “King of Pop.” A few years back in the pages of the Forward, Ami Eden offered up some insights, drawing upon what might seem like an unlikely source: the Book of Genesis.
In many ways, both significant and superficial, Jackson resembles the biblical character of Joseph, interpreter of dreams, viceroy of Egypt and favorite son of the Israelite patriarch Jacob.
Like Jackson, who first achieved fame as the youngest and most talented member of The Jackson 5, Joseph was imbued with natural gifts that allowed him to tower over his older brothers. In both cases the golden child’s superiority was marked by the acquisition of a jacket. Jackson took to wearing his trademark red coat after the release of “Thriller,” the record-smashing 1982 solo album that propelled the performer into a stratosphere of superstardom beyond the reach of his siblings. Joseph’s father gave him a multi-colored tunic, underscoring his elevated status as Jacob’s favorite son and chosen successor.
And both fought famine in Africa. Jackson used his superstar power to line up dozens of celebrities to record the hit song “We Are the World,” a successful effort to raise millions of dollars to fight hunger. Joseph used his dream-reading power to warn Pharaoh of an impending famine, successfully fending off starvation in Egypt.
Despite their respective good works, both Jackson and Joseph were plagued by a rising insecurity over their personal appearance. For both men, physical change became a vehicle for assimilating into the wider culture.
The full article is well worth reading.
As you’ve probably heard, pop superstar Michael Jackson died today at age 50.
The music icon had a short-lived, but well documented, friendship with Rabbi (and author and television star) Shmuley Boteach. In 2003, the British Web site “Something Jewish” published a Q&A with Rabbi Shmuley about his relationship with the King of Pop. Read it here.