Will you get a load of this?

UPI brings us the story — Madonna has declared herself an “ambassador for Judaism”:

Madonna celebrated the Jewish new year in Israel with her husband Guy Ritchie and Israeli President Shimon Peres, Usmagazine.com reported. Madonna, who was raised Catholic, has in recent years publicly embraced the teachings of Kabbalah, a form of Jewish mysticism. She traveled to Israel Wednesday, the eve of the Jewish new year, to attend a conference on Kabbalah.

She exchanged gifts with Peres at his Jerusalem home Saturday. Peres bestowed upon Madonna a lavishly bound copy of the Jewish Bible, while the singer gave Peres a copy of “The Book of Splendor,” the guiding text of Kabbalah, Usmagazine.com said.

Inside the volume, she wrote, “To Shimon Peres, the man I admire and love, Madonna,” the Yediot Ahronot daily reported. “You don’t know how popular the Book of Splendor is among Hollywood actors,” Madonna reportedly told Peres. “Everyone I meet talks to me only about that. I am an ambassador for Judaism.”

This is perhaps the most audacious usurpation of Judaism we’ve seen yet by a Kabbalah center graduate. Ambassador? When did she get citizenship?

Ignoring the fact that it’s more than just a little patronizing to Jews-by-choice to declare yourself an “ambassador for Judaism” just because you give over excerpts of Kabbalah Centre philosophy (or, perhaps, the week’s “spiritual forecast”), for Madonna to consider herself the “voice” of any Jewish community or of “Judaism” is just not realistic. Rabbis in Israel are so furious over her visit that one respected kabbalist wouldn’t even mention her name. One can not be an ambassador for a group against that group’s will.

Not to mention, the fact that Kabbalah is being called “a mystical sect of Judaism” is likewise mania-inducing. The Zohar (“Book of Splendor”?) does not create a “mystical sect” (or, G-d forbid, create the “Kabbalah faith”) nor does it prescribe its readers to follow its teachings to the exclusion of — oh, just to pick something — the Torah.

Furthermore, Judaism has enough authentic adherents out there in the public eye to fill its own embassy. From Matisyahu to America’s new attorney general, from Shmuley Boteach to Paula Abdul, we are beginning to baruch Hashem have an abundance of mitzva-observant bonafide Jews attempting to put a good face out there for the Jewish community, and for Judaism. I also feel particularly irked because Madonna’s being an “ambassador for Judaism” does nothing productive for our communities, on the contrary, it makes being a “follower of Kabbalah” equivalent to being a Jew-by-choice, something which cheapens the life-changing choice of Judaism by equating it to that which Paris Hilton does after a breakup.

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Y-Love

A modern charedi Jew-by-choice since 2000, and igniting headphones with Torah hiphop since 2001.

Originally from Maryland and now holding it down in the shtetlach of New York, won the Jewish Music Awards for "Best Hiphop" in 2006. Vocally anti-prejudice and pro-unity.

Love me, hate me, or debate me, know you can't ignore me, though.

41 Comments

  • Y-Love, Madonna isn’t even JBC (Jew by choice). She never converted. She simply proclaims to be a Kabbalah devotee, which of course makes her statement about being an ambassador of Judaism even more ridiculous.

    I don’t think any legitimate “ambassadors” of Judaism would make such an arrogant comment.

  • Indeed. I blame Yehuda Berg and Kabob Centre, before I place blame on Madonna. They have led her down this path, and while she clearly is trying to do good and is gaining some value from these teachings, they are benefiting from her celebrity and using her spotlight.

  • First, Madonna:

    F**k off, you pretentious shiksa c**t.

    2nd, Paula Abdul:

    Abdul is Jewish? And she observes the mitzvot? Since when?

    That would be, um, interesting, but I’m not sure how an incoherent airhead has-been who appears to be stoned all the time is a very good ambassador for anything, particularly Judaism.

    However, it appears to be true that Rashida Jones, the very hot daughter of Quincy Jones, actually is Jewish through her mother, and identifies as a Jew. Dunno how observant she is, but she is most definitely Jewlicious.

  • I guess Madonna et al are shopping like they do for Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses: they want what they think is the “cool, mystical, enlightened” (i.e. elite) part of Judaism, not the “prosaic, grounded, unglamorous” version that everyone else “makes do” with.

    But it’s not her fault that the lunatics are running the asylum; they gave her the keys.

  • Xisnotx, why not? He is the President of Israel, not of particular religious groups within Israel. She’s a big star, he is a big star, she’s a guest in his country, he’s a host in his country. It makes sense, especially since her intentions are positive.

    I think the former President, Katsav, made a big mistake by declaring certain rabbis kosher and others unkosher. This job is symbolic and should be about unity, not about division.

  • i think what she meant was that she is out there exposing people to Jewish text.
    also, “book of spendor” is the standard english translation for the zohar. another one is “the book of radiance.” what would you suggest, yitz? “the book of brightness?” what do you call rambam’s prominent philosophical work? i would wager you call it “moreh nevuchim” or “the guide to the perplexed.” and yet that is not what he called it, as he wrote it in Arabic. no biggie really, and definitely not a reason for mystification.

  • What is the correct translation for the original Arabic title “Dalalat Al-Ha’irin”?

  • invisible_hand Says:
    September 18th, 2007 at 1:01 am
    i think what she meant was that she is out there exposing people to Jewish text.
    Attempts to expose people to something fun, easy and exciting can have unintended consequences. 🙂

  • Michelle

    What’s with your anti-hippie stance? Is it okay for non-hippies to rant, but not so-called hippies? How do you define a hippie? Some people say that a person who had a hip replacement is a hippie!

    I don’ consider myself a hippie, but I would suggest to you, if you don’t what some people write, don’t read it. Why are you opposed to freedom of expression?

    Are you still beating your companion? Yes or no!

    Loosen up.

    Sagebush

  • I’ve been wondering, and would like to read your opinions, whether the over(t)ly-publicized media-adapted and PR-conformed interest various celebrities allegedly have for Kaballah / Judaism could not at some point and to some extent backfire as in a) adding fuel to the fire of conspiracy theorists, and b) make the average non-Jewish public get fed up with the public display of anything Jewish, thus providing the grounds for anti-Jewish resentment.

  • Hard for me to see exactly what the big deal is. Is she an authentic representative of any legitimate branch of Judaism? No, of course not. On the other hand, she’s an indescribably less malevolent and destructive force in the Jewish world than the scheming religious hustlers that churn out the innumerable graduates of the “Reform/Conservative-Judaism-is-a-made-up-religion-for-goys” cult.

    I think the former President, Katsav, made a big mistake by declaring certain rabbis kosher and others unkosher.

    Now that, Middle, is some witty and fantastically dry comedic understatement at its absolute best. “A big mistake?” Hmmmm; I’d say “big mistake” might have been a wildly over-charitable description of Katsav’s behavior while his presidency still appeared to be a political office occupied by a human being, rather than a cage at the zoo inhabited by humping gorilla in heat. Katsav’s ludicrous pronouncements about the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate rabbis (as well as those of whoever inspired his arrogant musings in the first place) seem comically redolent of Larry Craig’s denouncing the “homosexual lifestyle” with a big dick in his mouth. Of course, the comparison is only intended to demonstrate the appalling hypocrisy of both men, not to suggest an equivalence in their moral depravity, which would be deeply unfair to Craig.

  • Hey Ephraim:

    “F**k off, you pretentious shiksa c**t” is not engaging in debate. It’s just a sexist insult.

  • She wrote a book herself, that I guess she could not have given him.

    That woman has done so much harm. It all started with her. She could get a lifetime award, as one of the most negatively effective people of the last few decades.

    Sarah, post 17, I could feel concern if I wanted to bother, that decent normal people would see her nonsense as another “alternative to big bad old Christianity”, like Islam or Wicca. I sure would not like that. That puts us on the wrong side and it is phony too.

    I would be stunned if anybody cared what she thinks, however.

  • Post 19, I don’t agree. This is not a nun. She literally is all those things. That’s just his pungent way of saying that she has no standing to represent a group she has not formally joined, even in the most liberal way.

    The language offends you but the person in the hat, above, should offend you even more. The language is ok because it is like for like.

  • Thanks for bringing this up, Y-Love. As an active convert, I get really sick of people looking at me with this kind of deprecating glance and sneering “Oh, like Madonna?” and checking my wrist for a red string next to my watch.

    Judaism is a huge choice for me, learning and trying to find the right level of observance is an amazing challenge. Even with all the work and excitement I bring in with me, I know that some people won’t ever consider me a ‘real Jew’.

    While I’m glad Madonna and the other Kabbalah Patch Kids have found something that makes them happy, and that adds something meaningful and mystical to their lives, declaring herself an “ambassador” for the Jewish population (including Jews-by-choice like me) just seems to cheapen those of us striving to what she seems to hold so cheaply – the Torah to which the Zohar is a complement, not a replacement.

    Anyway, now I’m getting all farklempt at work. Good morning, all!

  • Katia, that is awful. Your post is the most relevant in this whole thread. Real-deal converts get the best seat at the table, and the most ice cream. But you knew that.

    One of the sins we are going to confess at Yom Kippur in a few days is sneering at genuine converts, G-d help us all.

  • Reply to post #22 – Katia, I have had a similar experience, as too I am a convert.

    When I get the occasional, “Oh, Jewish like Madonna?” comment, I just laugh and inform them that Madonna is not Jewish. Her connection to the Kabob Centre does nothing to degrade my commitment to Judaism. That’s like saying my marriage to my husband degrades another’s heterosexual marriage. (Not implying that you felt this way about my marriage :-p)

    American Jews have much more to worry about than Madonna wearing a red string, even though her belief system is completely bogus. If she and her celeb friends find some connection to these teachings, then good for them. If we want to root out the real problem, it’s time to point out these organizations that are bogus and reveal them for who we are.
    Our inability to disassociate with the Kabob Centre is what degrades our Jewish identity, not an individual like Madonna or anyone else.

  • “Kabbalah Patch Kids!” Love the phrase – it’s an instant classic 🙂

    And in case anyone was wondering, as Paula says on this video where she is seen with her Chaba”d rabbi, she had recently begun to light Shabbat candles and pray daily. IY”H her observance will increase and she’ll be another observant Jew on the TV.

  • Katia, I hear ya. If there’s one thing I’ve come to terms with, it’s this: lots of people have opinions about us, and the majority of them are negative, and none of it matters. Non-Jews think wonder why on earth anyone would willingly choose to be identified as Jewish, non-observant Jews think a convert is a starry-eyed idealist who doesn’t really get it, and even some observant ones bristle at what they think are the Johnny-Come-Latelys calling themselves Jews.

    Know why this doesn’t matter to me? Because I answer to a higher authority. 🙂

    And to put it in ridiculously childish terms, my Jewish soul is as good as anybody’s. It isn’t about a choice even, really, a “taking on” of something; it’s the recognition and acceptance of something that is already there, of who you already are. What outsider could possibly know what that means? Could it ever really be anything but between you and G-d? The presumptuousness of anyone who would challenge that should make you laugh. And while Madonna might be irritating, I think she is so far away from anything that resembles Judaism by choice that she is insignificant–she’s looking for designer Judaism, not anything real. Don’t forget, people have to actually believe in her as a spiritual guide for her to be one. I don’t think many people are making that mistake.

  • Muffti, Kabbalah-string producers all over the polytheistic child-labour-exploiting environmentally-reckless industrial societies do.

  • Re: Sharon (#19)

    Just to be clear: I wasn’t trying to engage in debate. The woman should go jump off a cliff.

    But only after all of the hucksters responsible for demeaning and degrading Yiddishkeit by pandering to gentile fascination with Jewish exoticism for money FOAD.

    When did you become Henny Youngman, Tom?

  • It could make for some extra income to have our students assemble royte bendlach. Then we could even go to Legoland in Denmark.

  • At first I was offended but then I thought about the “real” Jewish celebrities and how they’ve done nothing to advance Judaism or promote Israel in the media.
    Most of these celebrities are full of self-hate and married to Gentiles to care about the Jewish community or support Israel. At least Maddona has visited Israel and has given
    the country her moral support.
    Madonna may not be “kosher” but in many ways she’s more Jewish than most of the Jewish celebrities in Hollywood.

  • Then again, Judaism is not supposed to be about bragging or showing off. There’s that Yiddish joke about three yiden (two “respected” congregation members, one a regular yid) at shul humbling themselves, beating their chests; the punch line is that one of the two “respected” congregation members says to the other, “Look who thinks he’s nothing!”

    Not too long ago, Madonna would decorate herself with henna tattoos; Hindu organizations asked her to stop doing so as she was using symbols that are of religious value to Hindus. Not long before that, she named her daughter after a pilgrimage site popular among hardcore conservative Catholics. I wouldn’t consider her an ambassador of any religion, philosophy or lifestyle other than that of a rather successful business woman.

  • Not to go on a tangent, but to continue on the Paula Abdul thing, how stoned would you be if you were on the pain medication she is on? I heard that she has this condition called complex regional pain syndrome in which she has to take a lot of medication just to be without pain.

  • “Kabob Center” – another instant classic 🙂

    I’d never heard of her pain syndrome, but I have heard that she was going through a period of emotional instability. She should have nothing but the refu’ot she needs and the hatzlachot she prays for…

  • Y-Love, BTW, my friends in BP and Willi all think you’re beyond cool and some kind of hero. No doubt they’d elect you their ambassador 😉

  • Ephraim and Jewish Mother, let’s go over this, ok?

    You have legitimate issues about the things Madonna has said and done. Fine.

    But what are you saying when you call someone a cunt, which is another name for a vagina?

    You are saying that the person in question is “a vagina”, or really a woman. Well, I’m sorry, but being a woman is not a reason for insult.

    Nobody says things like, “Hitler: what a dick.” No, they say, “Hitler was an evil man. He murdered millions of people.”

    Now, it would be coy of me not to mention that one criticism of Madonna is that she exploits her sexuality to sell records. Therefore, some could call her “a prostitute.” Being a Western Canadian, I am a bit sensitive about the term “prostitute” being an insult (murdered prostitutes found in my medium-sized city this year, so far: 3); however, it would be a correct description of someone who sells sex.

    Nope, I’m not arguing over semantics. It’s about dehumanizing women.

    I’ve got too many friends who have been raped or beaten to let shit like this go. And, BTW Jewish Mother, some of them were frum women.

  • Wow, stumbled onto this site whilst surfing for another subject….What a great (sic) debate!!!
    Shanah Tovah to you all…..
    Please can we focus on the important issue here and that is the fact that her music is s**t.
    Rock’n’Roll Dudes…..

  • kabbalah center in New York ruined my life. The teachers there are money-hungry vultures.

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