November 9, 2006
David Mamet has one question—for the wicked son
(Page 3 - Previous Page)Perhaps there's also a parallel to be found in Mamet's show, "The Unit," about a group of men, a combat unit, who keep their identity hidden but are loyal to their country, to each other, and who act when called upon, when others are in danger, no matter where in the world. Is this the sort of tribal loyalty Mamet is searching for?
Then I realize why what Mamet is searching for ultimately doesn't matter, as he might be the first to tell you. What matters are the questions he is asking in his book.
We live in a time when anti-Semitism is no longer a matter of quotas or numerous clauses, of Nuremberg Â Â laws, or pogroms. We live in a country where one can say with conviction: It can't happen here. Where one can argue that there has never been a better time or a better country in which to be a Jew. But that doesn't mean that anti-Semitism is not occurring or that Jews are not being murdered in Pakistan (Daniel Pearl), France (Ilan Halmi), or in Israel (I regret that the names are too many to list) for the crime of being a Jew, and that the casual anti-Semitism of certain academics, or in foreign newspapers is as any less pernicious or dangerous than what is being spewed in Iran or in radical mosques the world over. History has taught us that words lead to actions. In times like these, as Mamet might ask, should we be more Jewish or less Jewish?
At times like these, just as our love for our country, America, transcends the actions of any one administration -- or any select individuals serving in Washington, Iraq, Guantanamo Bay or Abu Ghraib -- should those who disagree with individual policies of the democratic government of Israel feel less solidarity with their fellow Jews or more?
I have heard the story of the four sons explained as a tale of the generations of Jews in a country -- the first brings with them the customs and practices of the old country and the old religion; the next (the wicked son) rejects the old ways to make his own path in the new land; the next can no longer understand what the rituals meant; and the fourth generation is so cut off from its traditions that it doesn't even know how or what to ask about them. Is this our future or our present?
The challenge facing this generation, facing every generation since Egypt, is the same: To make of Judaism a living religion; to recognize that assimilation need not mean ignorance; and, in our generation, to foster a Zionism in a post-Zionist era, when moving to Israel is no longer the ultimate goal but standing in solidarity with Israel and its people remains central to our identity and our survival.
Whether you read David Mamet's book or not, whether you find it right on or over the top, whether you buy a copy for your friends to please them or infuriate them, the question, remains:
In or Out?
Tom Teicholz is a film producer in Los Angeles. Everywhere else, he's an author and journalist who has written for The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Interview and The Forward. His column appears every other week.