Just Not Getting It

It’s politics slightly closer to home this week—politics of the Jewish community. Specifically, the return to chauvinism. You might think I’m taking about the now-(in)famous Maxim/Israel spread, but no—we’re on to the next insulting incident for women. It seems the JNF—yep, the people who plant trees in Israel and gave you those little blue tzedakah boxes at Hebrew School—have decided to have a fund-raiser in which you can bid to win a trip to the Playboy mansion. Fun for the whole family!

I don’t know what makes the head honchos (and honchas) of the JNF think that this is remotely legitimate. I mean, I really don’t know. Is there some deep-seated Zionist connection with Playboy? Some hidden Herzlian tract on how exploiting women’s physical attributes helps build the homeland? Can somebody fill me in?

I think I’m doubly offended, as a commentator on Jewschool put it, because this crap wasn’t even perpetrated by the likes of Heeb Magazine, the smirking post-irony frat boys of modern Jewish intelligentsia. At least when they offend me, I get the feeling that they’re doing it on purpose. I may not like that, but it has its place, I suppose. The controversy around the JNF kerfuffle, however, seems to mildly surprise its leaders:

“If people don’t want to bid on it, they won’t,” said Anita Jacobs, the director of the JNF’s Greater New York branch, which is organizing the auction. “This is America.”

Asked if she thought Playboy objectifies women, Jacobs replied: “No, not at all.”

But in an era when the divide between the heads of the Jewish institutional world and the rest of us becomes larger and more painfully difficult to bridge, every effort at communication across the divide holds ever more tenuous possibilities for real communication or a whole lot of disillusionment. It works in both directions, I know—but what a throwaway moment. Because young men aren’t going to travel to Israel because they saw a spread in Maxim. They’re not going to be more dedicated to eretz yisrael because they won a subscription to Playboy. (Similarly, nobody should vote for Hilary Clinton based on her cleavage.) And the rest of us out here—feminists of all genders, as well as those who merely have sound taste—are running, screaming, for the hills. Looks like Israel’s getting one less tree this year.

Have something to say? Drop JNF a line, or leave a comment below. In fact, do both.

–Mel Weiss

According to the fine folks at Jewschool, the outraged voices of a lot of folks have turned the tide of misogyny. Huzzah!