Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Judaism, Interrupted

Walking along damp station platform of the London Underground, the ad posters on the yellow bricked wall finally grabbed my attention. Fifteen identical adverts, framed in aluminum all lined up along the wall with white block-lettering on a heavy black background.

It read “KLAVAN” and the name of some book. I had never read any of his books, never really heard of this author, and I don’t know why the name stuck in my head – yet that was 5 years ago and I had since forgotten about it.

Till yesterday.

Once again this author’s name jumped out at me – from the most unlikely of places, an op/ed piece on the Arutz Sheva website, “Why G-d Chose the Jews?”

What in the world did this author have to do with Arutz Sheva?

His bio was interesting enough:

Andrew Klavan is the award-winning author of such bestselling crime novels as True Crime, filmed by Clint Eastwood, and Don´t Say A Word, filmed starring Michael Douglas. His essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times and elsewhere.

A quick google and I found that his article was originally from the LA Times and reposted on the A7 website. His homepage biography was too funny,

“Klavan attended the University of California at Berkeley for a year but dropped out when he discovered the sixties were over. He was one of the very few people at Berkeley who actually did discover this.”

especially how he met his wife:

Returning to UC Berkeley for a few years to pick up his diploma, he also picked up an extremely attractive hitchhiker named Ellen. Spying her as he was walking to is car, Klavan jumped into the antique vehicle, drove across a lawn to beat the one-way grid, dragged the poor girl off the street and abducted her for more than twenty years, forcing her to bear his two children, Faith and Spencer. So let that be a lesson to you. Ellen turned out to be the daughter of Thomas Flanagan, then chairman of the Berkeley English department, a fact which may account for Klavan’s graduation. Thomas Flanagan later went on to become an award-winning novelist, also named Thomas Flanagan

Browsing his website, I learned that he was a horror, mystery and detective novelist -- some of his books did better than others; he’s been published in newspapers as well.

Returning to google, I searched for this author and Judaism…or Jews…or Israel…and the main connection was still his recent article, “Why G-d Chose the Jews?”

Nothing on his website connects him with the Jewish people, Judaism, or anything remotely connected to Judaism. How does someone come to write an article like this which got rave reviews everywhere? Something in him must have connected to Judaism…or reconnected?

Google Found it. The Christian blog equivalent of the “Not the Godol Hador”The Questioning Christian (dare I say, lehavdil?) provided the missing link for me.

December 25, 2004
An Atheist Converts -- But for the Wrong Reasons?

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal features a column by Andrew Klavan, a former atheist who was baptized into the Episcopal Church this year. He took that momentous step, not because science suggests the existence of God, but because of "the human experience of God's presence."

The presumption of atheism seems to me to be at the heart of all scientific reasoning about religion. And as I'm someone who loves and believes in science, it was a major stumbling block for me most of my life. After all, why would anyone believe without proof in that for which there is no evidence in the first place?

Delving a bit deeper on the web, it becomes obvious that author went from Judaism to Atheism, to his recent baptism within Episcopalian Christianity.

His op/ed article reads very well…Jews were created to be a “…Villainy Early Detection System for everyone else.” If you hate the Jews, you must be evil.

“If it's some clown who thinks the Jewish state should be pushed into the sea, or that the Jews killed Christ, or are conspiring to subvert the world economy or the government or the media, I beg you to consider that you might be wrong. There is no shame in changing your opinion. Falling into step with wicked fools - that's shameful, and it's dangerous, too. God gave you an early detection system. Use it.”

As any reader of my blog knows, I actively try to convince people of the centrality of Israel to the Jewish experience and outright encourage Jews to move here to Israel. It really pains me when the concept of aliya is not even a blip on some people’s radar.

However, if the lack of aliya awarenes is painful, the following is far worse -- a pro-Judaism article from a disenfranchised Jew, who left the fold, returned to religion…yet the wrong one?

This person’s great-grandparents were probably respected rabbinic figures in Europe, in the best yeshivot…yet in the span of 80 years their offspring couldn’t find the answers, didn’t find the answers, or didn’t want to find answers. They probably didn’t read the Not the Godol Hador website to go “off the derech”…yet they return to religion, via extrapolated belief of "the human experience of G-d's presence,” in the framework of...Christianity? Is this the advocacy we really want?

Is Israel the answer?

There are no guarantees in life…but I firmly believe that Israel is still your best bet to retain your family’s Judaism, and your own.

Jameel a.k.a. Bernie Kleinman
In London for 24 hours.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael


Greg said...

Muqata: I read it all, and I can say it made me think (for once). The guy lives in a free world, not one controlled by the Catholic church or by some horrible despot who doens't allow freedom of religion.

Yet he freely chooses to turn away from Judaism, the religion his ancestors were probably denied the right to practice freely during most of the common era. And then the guy turns out to be an advocate of the Jewish State...very interesting.

My feelings coincide with yours in this case. I don't condone this man's actions for one second and I don't consider him a friend though he may be of use to the prevention of hate crimes against Jews by Muslim residents of England-who knows!?


Jameel @ The Muqata said...


Assimilation and intermarriage is a huge problem; Aliya is one great way to help safegaurd against it.

Its not foolproof, but better than the US.

G Green said...

I am not trying to aruge against you case, or give a reason for staying put, but if all (religious) Jews moved to Israel, how would you be able to survive leaving the confines without the backup of those in golus. Plus most of the money supporting The Holy Land (even those who work in Israel), it comes from chu"l so there would need to be an economic shift too.
Hakol min hashamayim, chutz miyiras shomayim. Just b'aretz you may have an easier ride.

Tovya @ Zion Report said...

i agree jameel... i wrote something somewhat similar about remaining jewish today myself.

Jerusalemcop said...

g green.

sorry to say you have it wrong. It's those of us in Israel who hold up EWretz Yisrael, waiting for the rest of u all to join us and help us hold it up from here.

Eretz Yisrael is sustained by Hashem, not by the financial pockets of American Jews.

Soprry to disappoint...


Irina Tsukerman said...

Part of the reason is simple temptation. It's much easier not to be observant than to be. It's much easier not to take responsibility than to take it. Even for someone as devoted as I am it's very difficult to put my thoughts and feelings into action. I hope to study the language and sent my children to a Jewish school and eventually establish a home in Israel and start observing some traditions - but in my lifetime I will not achieve the real level of observance. It will probably take a generation or two for my family to return to the derech. And that's considering that I'm very comfortable with my identity. How much harder it is for someone who hasn't been raised in such a proJewish family.

MC Aryeh said...

Are there statistics on conversion in Israel? Suddenly curious. Why has aliyah not been promoted as a means of stemming intermariage and assimilation?

Glad to see Bernie make another appearance....

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

MC Aryeh: The rate of conversions in Israel is very small. Granted there are missionaries in Israel, as well as non-jewish olim from the ex-soviet union, but on a whole, I doubt there were many conversions last year. I can look it up and get back to everyone.

Why hasn't aliya been promoted a means of stemming intermarriage and assilimilation?! It has!

Seems like I need to write a top ten list of reasons to make aliya.

Thanks for a good subject for another posting!

Glad to be back.


Jerusalemcop said...

good morning bernie. it was nice seeing you yesterday.


Anonymous said...

Any relation to the actual Klavan rabbinic family that included R' Yehoshua Klavan of Berlington, Vermont and R' Israel Klavan of RCA and best-friend-of-RYBS fame?

tafka PP said...

McA/Jameel- Actually, conversion is promoted here. And fully subsidised by the government. And very quick!

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Anonymous: How the heck would I know?

TAFKAPP: Excellent point! Jewish conversion :-)

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