Hank Williams Jr. Exposes the Modern Chasm in American Jewry

Isn't there more to being Jewish than Hitler?

By , Contributor

"Oops, my bad!"

Here’s some preemptive background information: I am essentially a non-practicing American Jew. For me, being Jewish has become more of an ethnicity than it is a religion. That doesn’t mean that I’m embarrassed to be Jewish or a self hating Jew. I guess I would prefer to still have my hair and look like Brad Pitt, but that’s as far as my self hatred goes over being Jewish.

Nevertheless, I went to Hebrew school until my Bar Mitzvah, and Sunday school until I was confirmed at 17. So you could say I’ve had a lot of exposure to the religious side of Judaism. 

Now, let’s dispense quickly with Hank Williams Jr., who quite frankly, is a bonehead not a racist. Bocephus was recently on Fox and Friends and said, "That would be like Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu. Not hardly. In the shape this country is in?" He was referencing a golf game between Barack Obama and John Boehner.

Just to prove that he was a bonehead, he went on to call the duo of Barack and Joe Biden “The Three Stooges”. The guy can’t differentiate between the number 2 and 3. So perhaps he shouldn’t be your go-to guy for political analysis.

Hank violated the first rule of public relations. Never reference Adolf Hitler on television unless it’s on the History Channel. I don’t think for a second that Hank Williams Jr. was seriously comparing Barack Obama to Hitler. He was making a hyperbolic analogy about how polarized our country is at present.

This is nothing new, morons do it all the time. Some guy is talking politics, and likely losing the discussion so he throws the “Hail Mary” and compares the other guy’s side to Hitler. At that point that’s usually as far as you can go. After someone goes Hitler on you, you pretty much have to give up trying to reason with the person or raise the stakes in the only way possible: nuclear war. 

“Oh Yeah! Well better to live under Hitler than to destroy the planet by starting World War III!”

I debated in high school and that was essentially how half of all debates ended. Believe me it’s a lot easier to compare someone’s politics to Adolf Hitler than it is to actually read the entire Patriot Act. Still, that wasn’t even what Williams was saying. He was saying that Boehner and Obama were about as far to the right and left as is humanly possible.

I didn’t think Williams had anything to apologize for, and it’s stupid that I can’t hear his Monday Night Football song on Monday Night Football anymore.

Annex - Chaplin, Charlie (Great Dictator, The)_01.jpg

Now on to us American Jews.

After Williams’ gaffe he was of course criticized by Abraham Foxman, the head of the Anti-Defamation League. Why? Basically because that’s 99% of Foxman's job.  

If you are caught using the N word, you have to apologize to Jesse Jackson. If you make a Hitler gaffe - well, that’s Abraham Foxman’s territory.

You never really see anything in the papers about American Jews unless someone makes a Hitler gaffe or Mel Gibson has been drinking and driving. Occasionally, we track down a Nazi, but we’re fast running out of those guys.

It always leaves me shaking my head. Is that all our religion is about?

In all the time I spent in religious instruction - Here is essentially all I learned.

         1.       We’re called the “chosen people” not because we are arrogant and hate all non-Jews, but because God chose us to receive the Ten Commandments.

         2.       We don’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah and we do not in fact consider drinking wine at a meal to be drinking his blood.

         3.       We must never again let anything like the Holocaust happen - “Never Forget!”

         4.       We should always support Israel.

Now number 4 is redundant, because the reason we are supposed to always support Israel is so number 3 never happens again.

Is that all there is to it? Did I really need to waste over a decade of Sundays to learn those four things? I was a smart kid - I could have nailed that in an afternoon.

Sure, I know some other Jewish-related trivia: the absurd reason God wanted us to all be circumcised, Sandy Koufax was basically the only great Jewish athlete, the Torah has no vowels in it, ham is not kosher.  Gee, I know a lot of that stuff.

But if you want a serious discussion of the Talmud, I and millions of other Jewish Americans are not your place to go. I literally know of no other real difference between Judaism and Christianity, besides the Jesus disagreement. Admittedly, I’ve never really understood the whole Holy Ghost concept, but other than that despite my years of admittedly half-hearted study that’s as far as my understanding goes.

Look I know that the Holocaust really, really, really sucked, but shouldn’t there be more about our religion being taught than every single detail of the Third Reich?

I’m not saying that I shouldn’t know what Kristallnacht was, but there has to be more to it than that doesn’t there? After all there were a lot of Jews before Hitler was born? What the hell did they teach in their Sunday schools?

People in America - Jews and non-Jews alike - know so little about the Jewish religion that the second worst anti-Semitic slur in the country is actually the word “Jew.”

There are really religious Jewish guys in Los Angeles who walk around every day of the year in bushy black fur hats. It can be 105 outside and these guys are still wearing those hats. Personally, I don’t want to believe in any God that would want me to be that uncomfortable on really hot days, but I'd like to think those guys are gaining a better understanding of our heritage than I am.

If American Jewish leaders want being a Jew to be more than just an ethnicity to the vast majority of us, perhaps they should start teaching the religion itself just a little bit more. I know it will take away from our minute by minute breakdown of 1933-1945, but I think we’re smart enough to handle it without seeing the Swastika suddenly flying over the White House.  

Note: If any of what I've said above is offensive to my fellow Jews - I plan on apologizing to Madonna instead of Abraham Foxman. 

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Brad Laidman has been a freelance writer since 2000. His work has appeared in Film Threat, Perfect Sound Forever, and Rock and Rap Confidential. His defense of The Kinks' Dave Davies so moved the legendary guitarist that Davies labeled Brad his hero and he has the email to prove it.

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