Jerks for Judaism and Their Jewish Opponents

Jerks for Judaism and Their Jewish Opponents January 17, 2012

Years ago, I discovered the (for me) new revelation I dubbed the Nancy Kerrigan Principle. It happened this way. When America’s sweetheart, Nancy Kerrigan, got wailed on by leg-breaking goons sent by her rival, everybody felt sorry for her. She was our number one public victim for a little while. Then the Olympics came and the mikes and cameras caught her making bitchy comments about other competitors. I had an epiphany: Just because you are a victim doesn’t mean you can’t be a jerk too. Thus was born the Nancy Kerrigan Principle.

Ultra-orthodox Jews in Israel, who carefully discipline themselves to make sure they spit on any Christian they see, are living embodiments of the Nancy Kerrigan principle. Yes, Jews have suffered in the past. So what? Grow up. (The Ultra-Orthodox are also total jerks to other Jews too. Every religious tradition has its crazy reactionary fringe.) Happily, Abe Foxman at the ADL is willing to take them on. Jimmy Akin has the story.

Update: speaking of jerks, some of the commenters under Jimmy’s article make it clear that when you scratch a Rad Trad, odds are pretty good you will find an anti-semite. The mere mention of Jews Behaving Badly is uncorking some pent up hatred of Jews among some of the Ultra-Orthodox Catholics. Repellent. Jerks for Jesus are peas in a pod with the Jerks for Judaism.

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  • SKay

    I appreciate your comment -following some of the comments under Jimmy Akin’s article, Mark.

  • Elisabeth

    Mark, I really like a lot of your posts but I will never understand why someone who clearly cares a lot about the Faith and orthodoxy is so biased against traditionalists. I haven’t read the comments, and I am willing to believe you came across some anti-semitic tradiationalists (just as you could come across anti-semitic Muslims/Protestants/etc) but I don’t see why you are so happy to tarr all of us with the same brush. It’s not a fair accusation, and I think you ought to retract it.

    • Mark Shea

      I didn’t tar all of you. I said that “odds are pretty good” that when you scratch a Trad, you will find an anti-semite. That’s because this is, in fact, true. Anti-semitism is *much* more common in the Rad Trad population. Instead of doing the standard self-pity schtick for somebody pointing out the obvious, why not head over to Jimmy’s blog and rebuke the anti-semitic dude who has fantasies of beating up Jews?

  • Rabbi Benyamin Blatt

    Your statement; “Ultra-orthodox Jews in Israel, who carefully discipline themselves to make sure they spit on any Christian they see, are living embodiments of the Nancy Kerrigan principle,” which myopically paint all we Haredim , with the same brush as those few fringe individuals, who hide behind the uniform of religio-ethnic-cultural identity so as to have a pretext to act out their deviant psychopathology that is sinful, if for no other reason that they gives holier than thou types such as the perspective that you put forth in your blog, fodder to hold all Frum Jews in contempt. You speak hate language in what you say. I know of no Hasidic Rebbe or Rosh Yeshivah who ever sanctioned the spitting, or failed to publicly reprimand any of their followers found to be responsible. That it happens is regrettable to the point of being reprehensible., regardless of the provocations, which obviously escape your knowledge base completely, as I am not referring to history, but current behaviors.
    But your mean spirited tone is what it. And by the way the term ultra-Orthodox, which is a distancing term based on out-of-touch alienation and a measure of self-loathing is the equivalent of calling my people the niggers of the Jews, it is that pejorative. You posture yourself as so all knowing that one has to wonder was the slur intentional, or perhaps could it be a sign that you really don’t know as much about what you are talking about, than you might wish your readership to believe. Or perhaps like the spitters of ill repute, you have found an outlet for expressing a nurtured childhood grudge, just itching to find an excuse to let those filthy Ultra-Orthodox Jews to have it. In any case I will pray for your repentance.

    • Mark Shea

      Rabbi. You might want to re-read my blog and see the comment at the article I link, in which I defend the Jewish people from real anti-semitism. I never it was all Haredim nor did I say it was approved by any rabbi. I speak as an ordinary Gentile who is not up on the inside baseball of Judaism. Your mind-reading about my childhood grudges is hilariously far off, and particularly funny since I just finished reaming out a guy over at the linked articles comboxes who actually was indulging fantasies of violence against Jews. Sorry, but not all criticism of individual Jewish jerks translates to race hatred.

      • Rabbi Benyamin Blatt, LCSW

        It had not occurred to me that you intended to voice anything to do with “race hatred.”

        • Mark Shea

          Perhaps, then, you should refrain from loaded language like “calling my people the niggers of the Jews”.

    • Franciscan


      Let me say up front that I’m a Catholic and I detest anti-Semitism and will call it out when I see it. But you’re reading too much into what Mark Shea wrote. I’ve read his blog for some time and he’s not as you seem to be perceiving him.

      He’s spoken out against anti-Semitism on numerous occasions and publicly criticized anti-Semites — even Catholic ones. Now he’s speaking out against some ugly practices in the Jewish community. And they *are* ugly. His style can be brash, but it seems to me that he’s trying to be fair by not ignoring the ugliness on either “side”.

      If he missed some nuances that you think are important for people to know about this issue, then by all means, please bring them out. More information is a good thing (assuming it’s sound information, of course). But don’t read too much into Shea’s post, either. I’m sure he would welcome information that helps clarifies the distinctions so that people can understand better what is going on, why and what can be done to stop it.

      • His style can be brash

        Heh, heh, heh….

        • Franciscan


          Brash: as in, cheeky, bold, a bit audacious.

          I doubt he’d disagree that he can be a bit so at times. After all, he’s always had a whole section devoted to “mea culpas”.

          And his style is also probably a fair part of the reason why people find his writing interesting and are drawn here to read and comment. 😉

  • Confederate Papist

    I never heard about the spitting….new to me. It seems (to me at least) that Orthodox Jews just hold true to their faith and don’t take the “cafeteria” approach that many faiths, including our own, do.

    As far as Abe Foxman and the ADL, they seem to me to look for grievances rather than take up actual causes to defend their faith.

    And the guy on Jimmy’s blog that wants to beat up Jews? What a loon! Who needs enemies with a “friend” like that. Must be a troll.

    • Rosemarie


      One of the nuns in my high school told us that, back in the days when they wore full habit, if they walked through certain Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn some people there would spit at them because of the large crucifix they wore. She said that is was specifically the cross or crucifix that offended them.

      So this has been going on for a long time. Another snapshot of the fear and mistrust that has built up between Jews and Christians over nearly two millenia, which we have only begun to try to quell through inter-religious dialogue.

      At any rate, Jesus said “Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you” (St. Matthew 5:44). So if certain Jews hate us and consider us “enemies,” we should love them and do good to them in return. He never told us to beat anyone up; in fact, I seem to remember Him saying something about turning the other cheek.

  • Will

    As someone who literally had to live with the problem (May my father rest in peace, and may there be no more in Israel like him), I am the last man to condone Jewish anti-Christianism. But I urge caution when we are pretty much relying on what people said people said.

    Reading between the lines, it seems to me that, as with TheCatholicChurch and anti-semitism this COULD be another case of not taking yes for an answer. You know…

    “We demand that you repudiate X!”
    “But we have repudiated X, repeatedly.”
    “That isn’t good enough! It isn’t how We WANTED you to do it!”

    And, as the Reb Papist notes, without things to condemn, Foxman and his organization would not have a job.

  • William

    Having lived in Jerusalem for two years back in the 70’s, I am very familiar with the spitting and worse. While we were there we knew of an incident where an Hasidic Jew decided to spit on a Franciscan friar in the Old City. It was a big mistake as the Franciscan beat the crap out of him right there in front of a gathering crowd.
    There was also regular wall painting in Hebrew at the Upper Room with things like “Death to Christians”. There was a constant tension between the Franciscans and the yeshiva students next door. And in one case, in the midst of all the psychological battle, there was a trip wire to a small explosive found on the steps of the Basilica of the Dormition. A Franciscan friend of mine was living at the basilica at the time.

    • Rosemarie


      Somehow, I can’t imagine St. Francis of Assisi beating the crap out of someone for spitting at him. I doubt his spiritual son pleased him with his vengeful actions that day.

    • SKay

      There are always new things to learn. Your comment makes me very sad,William-but I appreciate the new insite.

  • Confederate Papist

    Ignorance crosses all lines.

    We make the choice to join or reject.

  • Romulus

    odds are pretty good you will find an anti-semite

    Well Mark, on the thread in question, the odds are no better than 50/50. Two posters self-identify as trads. One is out of line in his prideful ignorance; the other rebukes him for it. Based on the thread to which you linked, you could just as justifiably said the opposite of what you did say.

    The fact is, you’re suspiciously averse to trads and readily seize gratuitous opportunities to take a swipe at them — unintended irony frequently pursues the short-tempered.

    • Mark Shea

      You should go back and check again. The Jew haters are coming out of the woodwork. Feel free to delude yourself that this is not a very common feature of Traddery.

      • Ivan

        “A common feature of traddery.’ Wow. The only difference between you and the anti-semite is the group you choose to hate.

        • Ivan

          I wouldn’t say that I’m a “trad” strictly speaking, but I know quite a few and I’m familiar with the culture at a few EF parishes. Oddly enough, Jews have never once come up in our conversations. I suppose you must be an anti-Semite because you support Ron Paul. After all, “it’s a common feature of Ron Paul support…”

          • Mark Shea

            I don’t say all Trads are anti-semites. I say it’s a common feature because, you know, it is. I don’t assume a given Trad is an anti-semite. But I’m not surprised when a given Trad opens his mouth and anti-semitic tropes come out. If you dislike that, you should rebuke it, as I have rejected the racist crap that Paul tolerated in his newsletters.

            • Ivan

              Again, I know no such thing. I’ve been to trad parishes and it’s just not a topic that comes up. I doubt that you’ve had very much contact with ordinary trad families.

              I don’t spend a lot of time rebuking people on the internet because I have no idea who they are. I support Ron Paul, but I don’t feel at all compelled to ‘rebuke’ every Paulbot who says something stupid on some combox. Comments of that sort are quite common—I’d never get anything done. Besides, I have no idea whether the person posting them is the real thing or someone trying to be funny.

              That’s why I don’t fault you for failing to ‘rebuke’ the paulbots or to add something about ‘anti-semitism’ whenever you mention Ron Paul. In his case, you seem to be quite aware that combox comments are a measure of nothing.

              Combox comments can be used to prove anyone’s point, because someone will inevitably say something vile in them, whatever their point of view.

              Don’t be like the anti-semite who trolls for stories about Jews behaving badly, and uses them as his excuse to point out that, once again, he has been proved right.

              • Mark Shea

                I have had contact with a number of Trad folk. And they are not anti-semites. Which is why I don’t say all Trads are anti-semites. But on the web, not only in comboxes but even more on Trad sites, anti-semitism is common. I don’t troll for Trad anti-semites. They come out of the woodwork whenever it looks like an opportune moment to attack Jews. My habit is not to look for them, but to kick them off my blog when they appear.

        • Mark Shea

          I don’t hate Trads. But lots of Trads hate me and spend a lot of time talking about that fact.

      • Romulus

        The Jew haters are coming out of the woodwork.

        Indeed? And, having not disclosed their liturgical preferences, is it not impertinent to ascribe one to them?

        How many posters on the thread self-identify as trads, Mark? That is the challenge I have put to you. I have had another look, and the count is still one windbag (who’s offered a partial retraction) and one who rebuked him.

        So far as I can tell after years of reading your blog, your real world (as opposed to virtual) experience with trads is very limited. That you nevertheless impute to so many the extreme views of a fringe handful is unjust and irresponsible — and does nothing for the credibility of your po-faced, clean-hands protests that trad worship is simply fine by you for those who like that sort of thing.

        • Franciscan

          I spend time with a fair amount of traditionalist and non-traditionalist friends. I can’t say how many traditionalists or what percentage have an excessively negative fixation on Jews – a tendency to believe the worst, conspiracy theories, etc. But I can say that in my experience the proportion is noticeably higher than in the general populace or among non-traditionalist Catholics.

          I think there are a few reasons for it, perhaps one being that there’s a tendency among some traditionalists to have something of a bunker mentality. Some are over-reacting to perceived dangers and threats in various quarters and Jews are one of those commonly perceived dangers/threats.

          I’ve met a number of Fr. Fahey fans among my traditionalist friends and acquaintances. Reading his work doesn’t seem to help much, either. I also think that some Traditionalists, in trying perhaps too hard to be “authentically and historically Catholic”, look at the writings of Catholics who lived in different times and circumstances and they make the mistake of believing that these attitudes and approaches of the past are somehow binding upon us or that they’re what “real” Catholics believe and how they should act now. There sometimes seems to be a tendency among some traditionalists to go for the harshest, the most unyielding, in whatever it is.

          That’s by no means an indictment of the traditionalist movement. I believe there’s some real good that had come out of it and that it will continue to bless the Church.

  • Franciscan

    For what it’s worth, I spent two weeks in Israel a couple of years ago with a group of Catholics, including priests and a bishop. I wore my cross and never hid it. The priests and bishop walked around in their clerical attire.

    I walked through the streets of the old city of Jerusalem and the New over a period of many days and never had a single negative reaction. Sometimes I was by myself. At other times I was with the group. But we spent countless hours there. We prayed openly. We shopped. We walked the Via de la Rosa. We prayed the stations. You name it, we did it. No one in the group experienced a single negative reaction, let alone being spat upon. I ended up sitting next to a chasidic man on the long flight. He couldn’t have been nicer. We talked about many things, including our faith and the things we had in common. There were many other chasidic individuals around us.

    It seems clear that some ugly things do happen and even once is too much. But I also think it is important to keep things in perspective and balance. There’s a danger of over-reacting by thinking things are worse than they are. It can start a vicious cycle.

    • Franciscan

      correction – “via dolorosa”


      Too little sleep, typing too fast.

  • Rosemarie


    I think this story provides a good contrast/balance: a rabbi formerly involved in Occupy Wall Street has left the movement after witnessing a member of that movement urinate on a cross in one of the churches housing the protesters:

    (It’s not the main story in the article, but it is mentioned in passing.)

    Clearly, not all Jews disrespect Christians and our sacred symbols.