The Shtupids are Out in Force Again

By Becky O'Malley
Tuesday August 24, 2010 - 10:43:00 AM

A friend sometimes quotes her late father, sometimes with a Middle European accent:

“The Shtupids! They’re everywhere!” 

It’s a quote I like, one I’ve taken to repeating myself on appropriate occasions, which unfortunately are coming closer and closer together in recent days. 

The latest appearance of the Shtupids is the crowd of latter-day Know-Nothings, of all races, creeds and colors, who have gathered to denounce a middle-of-the-road Sufi imam’s plan to build a Moslem version of the Y in lower Manhattan. 

Here’s an approximate description of what’s been talked about: 

“Our Mission: The _____, a _____ community center, is a vital neighborhood resource that welcomes people of all backgrounds. We provide a variety of programs with a distinctive downtown point of view, emphasizing excellence, innovation, creativity, and a questioning spirit. “

It just so happens that this is actually the program of the 14th Street Y (formerly the YMHA, “Young Men’s Hebrew Association”) and the second blank is filled by “Jewish”, but “Moslem” would also work if this were a description of the proposed center. 

This is not a radical or a novel idea here, but one that’s been part of the American religious scene, heretofore Christian and Jewish, for a long time. 

Some of you young folks might not remember it, but the Ys of various genders and denominations didn’t use to be nothing but health clubs. They were dedicated to all kinds of uplift, from safe housing for young women in the big city to bible study, and in some places they still are. 

In other places they have morphed along the lines of New York’s 14th Street Y or the fabled 92nd Street Y into cultural centers which serve the broader population. That’s what the good Imam and his charming wife say they have in mind for the center they envision. Yes, and they also plan to include a small room for worship services—commonly called a mosque. 

Fortunately, the Shtupids everywhere are sometimes challenged by more thoughtful citizens, but it’s an uphill battle. I was encouraged by overhearing a family sitting in front of me at Shakespeare Santa Cruz last week. 

Father (or Grandfather) with heavy New York accent: “It’s not even at Ground Zero, it’s blocks away.” Mother (or Grandmother): “There’s already a strip joint much closer. “ Teenage Daughter (or Grandaughter): “It’s only 13 stories high.” 

At least this family gets it—of course they’re part of the literati, or they wouldn’t be at a Shakespeare production. 

The Republicans, on the other hand, don’t get it, or pretend they don’t. They’re no longer genteel upper-class conservatives like William Buckley: The Republican literati have long since left the building. 

Evidently they don’t even believe in property rights the way that they used to, or they wouldn’t be challenging the right of the owners of the property in question to build whatever the zoning laws and the building codes allow on the lower Manhattan property. Their excuse is that they don’t happen to like the tenant’s religion. 

That’s an old American tradition, of course. In the early 20th century my husband’s Birthright Quaker grandfather incurred the wrath of many people in his small town in Iowa because he sold land to the Catholic newcomers who wanted to build a church—the Whore of Babylon and all that. 

But in this day and age religious institutions are even allowed by the zoning laws to build in residential neighborhoods where other institutional buildings are prohibited. Temple Beth El, on Berkeley’s north side, was strongly opposed by some neighbors on environmental grounds, but it would have been deeply shocking if anyone had said it shouldn’t be built because of Israel’s policies toward Palestinians—didn’t happen, and just wouldn’t happen here, we hope. 

Similarly, all Moslems shouldn’t be punished for the bad behavior of their co-religionists. In Berkeley, we hope we’re preaching to the choir on that topic, but you never know. The Anti-Defamation League, an organization with a long proud history, came out against the Moslem community center, as did a number of rabbis and archbishops who ought to know better. 

And while we’re on the general topic of Shtupids, consider Dan Pine, staff columnist for “J. the Jewish Weekly for Northern California.” In his column in the latest issue, in honor of the Jewish New Year, he hands out “Golden Jack awards” for his favorite stories of the last year. 

Among them: 

“Most Disheartening Interview: Rae Abileah, a smart and thoughtful South Bay woman who grew up in the Jewish community, went on to join the far-left group Code Pink, and is now radically anti-Israel. We cannot keep losing our kids like this.”  

But at least one of his readers is smarter than he is. Her riposte: 

“One more Golden Jack Award for the record: Dan, I think you missed one category in your recent online post: Most Disheartening Interview Recap of the year: JWeekly’s Dan Pine summarizes interview with human rights activist Rae Abileah by saying “We cannot keep losing our kids like this,” though his article earlier this year quoted Abileah as saying, “The principle that resonated with me was tikkun olam, putting our faith into action. It’s such an amazing legacy of Jewish activism I learned in college. I feel I’m, doing the work my ancestors have paid the pathway… [The Israeli] government is doing illegal things every day… We have a moral responsibility to speak up when that is happening.” Sounds more like a young woman embodying the values of Judaism than a loss to the faith! 

Dan, it’s time to stop labeling human rights activists as “anti-Israel…. I am beyond exhausted from hearing this phrase “anti-Israel” used to describe actions that take a stand for human rights and justice….”


And there’s more, all equally cogent. Worth reading, as a reminder that the Dan Pines and the ADLs of the world don’t speak for the majority of Jews, even though they make a lot of noise. 

While we’re on the subject of Shtupity, Dan Pine Division, here’s another one of his favorite stories of the year: 

Goodbye and Good Riddance: To the print edition of the flagrantly anti-Zionist Berkeley Daily Planet (the web version lives on). This rag still rags on Israel all the time, and its editor doesn’t have the cojones to admit she flat-out hates the Jewish state.”  

Guess what, Dan? Us gals have never wanted balls—yours appear to be occupying the cavity in your skull where the brains belong. Of course I don’t hate Israel, I just lament some of the policies of its current rulers, as many Israelis and Jews worldwide do. 

When you exhibit glee at the loss of the print edition of the Planet, you only make yourself look—Shtupid. You’re doing harm to your own interests. 

These days, when friends call my attention to articles in J.Weekly, it’s usually with an apology, something like “I don’t normally read it, but I picked it up at my grandmother’s house.” People like you, as your comments writer pointed out, are losing the sympathy of conscientious members of the younger generation, for all the reasons she enumerates. 

J.Weekly, like the ADL, has had a sterling reputation, but if its staff writers continue to turn a deaf ear to all the answers about Israel now blowing in the wind, it will soon be as irrelevant as Abe Foxman.