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Musings And Meanderings On Matters That Matter To Me
#1 In A Series

Why It’s Good For The Jews… Whether We Like It Or Not

So before we get to the reason for this article (aside from the fact the title will help it show up on search engines), let me address some preliminary questions about why I’m doing this (if you don’t care why, skip or scroll down to the paragraph that starts with So anyway”

Will this be the first of many columns?

Too early to tell.

If it causes an outpouring of comments (good or bad) the answer is yes

If it causes an outpouring of apathy that’s a whole different kettle of fish.

That’s not to say I won’t try again. Maybe the topic I’m about to pontificate on only matters to me and the next one will better resonate with the masses…whatever, if I don’t get started on the reason for today’s THAT’S WHAT I FEEL, the reasons for tomorrows—or next week’s or next month’s won’t matter anyway, right? Right.

So anyway, I’ve been watching America’s Got Talent—in the interest of full disclosure, I never watch these kind of shows beyond the audition weeks mainly because like everyone else, I’m fascinated by what people seem to think constitutes talent these days.

In the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s it was the soda counter at a Hollywood luncheonette. In the 60’s, 70’s & 80’s the video revolution first inspired-then proved Andy Warhol’s now prophetic “15 minutes of fame” remark.

Then the internet came and begat broadband which begat streaming which begat myspace (a’h), Youtube, Facebook, twitter and all bets that required talent to be a part of the “15 minutes of fame” equation were off.

Suddenly the concept of ”so bad its good” was given new meaning as careers—and bank accounts were built on the strength of how many people checked out whatever the poster’s idea of talent was.

If this brings to mind “rubbernecking” that disturbing yet unexplainable phenomenon that causes people to slow down at accidents—and the very same phenomenon where the amount of rubberneckers is in direct proportion to the degree of gruesomeness of the accident, my apologies for the reality check.

So if we have the internet to blame for some of America’s Got Talent’s more bizarre auditions, feel free to complain to it’s founder Al Gore.

Yet every so often buried ‘midst the outrageous oddities and just plain “out of their mind” you come across some real talent—performers who’ve Got Talent (with a capital G & T) and you sit there hoping the judges agree with you. For those of you unfamiliar with the show, there’s a panel of 3 celebrity judges who act as “gatekeepers”. They’re the ones who decide (based on performances obviously) which acts will make it to the “next level”—until the next level becomes the level(s) when we the people are given a chance to decide if this act has really “Got” talent…or if its just an act.

So there I was watching the Austin auditions (and seriously thinking about never going near the great state of Texas again) when the host says “next up, a 14 year old singer from Chicago… give it up for Edon”

When I hear the words “14 year old” and “singer” in the same sentence, that’s my cue to head for the kitchen and microwave another frozen pretzel, get another frozen fruit bar, (lime lasts longer than grapefruit) check my emails (China’s 12 hours ahead of us, so while we’re watching potential entertainment history in the making, they’re watching production schedules) . Sometimes I can accomplish all the above—especially if I think this is the last act before a commercial break.

This time the connection between my ears, brain and motor skills was a bit slow as I was still getting up off the couch when I glanced at the TV and saw that this particular 14 year old singer from Chicago was sporting a yarmulke.

Back down on the couch I went, all thoughts of pretzels, ices and emails banished for at least 5 minutes.

Good thing I stayed—as Edon was fantastic. Truth be told, I never heard One Republic perform “Good Life” (the song Edon chose for his audition). But I didn’t have to to realize that this kid kippah or no kippah had Talent (wth a capital T).

Apparently the judges unanimously agreed, as they waved him on to Vegas where the first round of eliminations would take place. About the only thing that matched their “kvelling’ was the wonderfully beatific smile Edon’s father was wearing when the camera cut to him standing backstage.

Then I did what I’m assuming a goodly portion of frum Jewish viewers did after watching Edon’s audition, I hit Google. As the night was still young the background on him was sparse but after a bit of poking around I found out that aside from some early YouTube videos which got him knows as “the Jewish Justin Beiber”, he was the very same Edon who had performed with Shalsheles Junior as well as for an NCSY benefit.

Then the “fun began” and out of the woodwork the gatekeepers who have graciously taken upon themselves to approve all that is appropriate for the rest of us weighed in.

Their comments ranged from “Chilul Hashem” for being part of ANY mass culture event to being lambasted for having the temerity to sing secular music to “if he and/or his parents felt compelled to do this how could he appear with his yarmulke on, as this isn’t what yarmulke-wearing Jews are/should be about.

Please note, the preceding are all paraphrasings of actual comments that appeared on various sites and blogs—and also the reason for this inaugural “That’s What I Feel” column.

Memo to all those of you using a 14 year old kid to further your own agendas/careers/site traffic.

Open up a paper, or Google “Orthodox Jewish” and see the less than complimentary stuff that comes up—even in today’s age of 24 hour news cycles (that lately feel more like 24 minutes).

There’s stories of DA’s and abuse, scams, investigations and lawsuits. I recently spent Shabbos in Monsey and couldn’t help noticing that the cover story of the Journal News (Rockland/Westchester’s equivalent of the Times) had a story about a local development about to get cited for numerous safety violations…that’s safety as in violations that were going uncorrected even though they’d pose a sakanah to the frum families the development was targeting.

In short—and despite the fact that the “frum demographic” is more “chessed centric” than any other religion, ethnicity or branch of Judaism for that matter, the media seems to love pointing out our missteps and foibles.

While I have yet to see a major media outlet do a story heralding the achievements of Tomchei Shabbos, Hatzoloh, Mekimi, Ohel, HASC, Misaskim, Chaveirim, Bikur Cholim, Vaad Refuah or the countless other Chessed organizations who are there for virtually anyone in need (regardless of your beliefs and in some cases even religion or ethnicity), stories covering the exploits of less than savory members of our community seem to be given the spotlight whenever the crop up.

So here we (note: by “we” I mean frum/yarmulke wearing Jews) finally get one of own in the limelight—a 14 year old kid whose only sins (depending on which sites you read) are being talented, listening to secular music and wearing non black yarmulkes and rather than either be complimentary or just be quiet they choose to target him because he represents all that’s wrong with the K’lal.

So let’s clarify a few things. On the subject of secular music. Back in the glory days of pre Holocaust Europe. way more than a few “Rebbishe nigunim” were ‘inspired” by the marches and bar songs that the ‘goyim” of the village used to sing when marching, working or drinking.

On the subject of Chilul Hashem. Really?!?!. To hear Edon being described as being “not a showbiz kid… just humble and nice and America is going to fall in love with you”. Forget the talent, that’s a comment on the kid’s middos if I ever heard one.

On the subject of being upset by the yarmulke wearing because it links him to you. Again there’s worse things…way worse things. Yes, Mr Frum/Orthodox/Observant, I understand in a perfect world you wouldn’t want to be linked to either Edon or those of our tribe members who run afoul of the law.

But let’s face it, most of the world views all us frum folks as one quasi homogenous Group. Sure they know that the ones with the ear curls and long black coats probably don’t go to movies or watch TV and the ones without black hats and T shirts are more likely to know what the Knicks did last night, but those are all subtleties. Fact is, regardless what else you’re wearing, the world tends to ‘lump’ most frum people under one general yarmulke.

And while I don’t claim to know the color of this general (and metaphoric) yarmulke (though I AM pretty sure it’s made of suede), I will say I don’t mind if that yarmulke is being worn by someone described to millions of people as so “humble and nice…America will fall in love with you”. Look at it this way, he’s got talent, he’s ‘aidel’ if he was in medical school, it’d be the ultimate trifecta

In any case, it beats the way we’re usually described by members of the ‘Fourth Estate” (yes, I know the Fourth Estate usually refers to journalists, but as Howard describes himself as the “King of ALL Media”, I’m staying with that reference) .

While I’m at it, to all those who felt we’d all be better served if Edon chose to give in to his “Yetzer Horah” ALL the way and not just perform but do so sans Yarmulke, I have two words for you; Get Real.

Find me ANY serious/savvy community or lay leader who feels there’s a negative message in the way this humble, nice, monstrously talented kid who also happens to be a straight A student (ok so I watched the B roll background footage , sue me) is portraying Orthodoxy, and find you a person who is looking for attention…instead of looking out for the people he or she serves.

Edon’s meteoric rise through the America’s Got Talent ranks sends a message to frum kids everywhere “Being real to yourself beats being embarrassed to those around you. Bottom line, it’s a two way street, your yarmulke makes you as much as you make your yarmulke.”

Let’s say he would have taken it off and given the media savvy world we live in all it would take is a few days and fewer yentas for the word to get out that he IS in fact frum, would the fact he was hiding it send a better message?

Didn’t’ think so.

Bottom line to all this? Well truth is there isn’t. I doubt this will stop people from taking Edon and his family to task for succumbing to the “dark side”. I just hope they’re 100% sure they KNOW what/who/where defines the dark-side., because from where I’m sitting there’s not much “dark” about a kid with a yarmulke, midos, poise…and of course talent showing millions of people that certain things matter more to him than the opinions of three judges and for that matter millions of his fellow Americans. Because if you think for a second that Edon’s yarmulke hasn’t sparked a plethora of Google searches into what the “Yarmulke” is all about, what it represents, etc then think again.

And once people get that answer and realize what the yarmulke represents, they’ll realize that what we have here is a kid—and for that matter parents, who are potential role models for kids and parents everywhere.

Using this opportunity for Kiddush Hashem to instead lambaste him—and those who admire him isn’t just ill advised it’s bad karma as we’re right on the cusp of Shiva Asar B’tamuz and the Three Weeks/Nine Days…one of the darkest times in our people’s history. If memory serves, what began that chain of horrific events was a confrontation between Kamtza and Bar Kamtza. Had they chosen a “live and let live” approach, it’s more than likely I’d be writing this from my home in Israel and Edon would be one of the judges of America’s Got Talent, But Israel Has The Jews…And The Jews Have God

Which makes me wonder what Judge Edon would say about Howard Stern’s ‘talents”?

And life goes on…which usually beats the alternative.

THAT’S WHAT I FEEL represents musings and meanderings on matters that matter to the person writing them. While he (yes he is a he) prefers to remain anonymous for now, some readers may recognize his literary style (primarily because he’s big on parenthetical asides and “print versions” of those annoying “air quotes”) . If you want to comment on this column feel free. If you want to reach him with ideas for future columns, critiques of past or present columns or threats of violence unless he stops saying what’s on his mind, he can be reached at [email protected]. If you want to ignore him in the hope he’ll just go away that’s an option as well.

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Write a comment
  1. Elliott Gordon
    Elliott Gordon 3 July, 2012, 14:32

    Why do we continualy divide ourselves into different comunities? We are all 1 nation.To signify an entertainer as yamulke wearing, is obsene. this young man is from the same nation as Jerry Seinfeld, Larry david, Steven Spielberg, and Milton Berle.He represents nothing different.The jews who have built a
    nd run the Entertainment Industry, have spent the last 100 years “lifting the spirits of the world.”Our profession is as honorable as anyone in real estate, finance, or medicine. Lets all finaly acknowlege ourselves as one community.Let us appreciate these wonderful people of the entertainment industry, mostly Jews, who thru there increable talent, heip bring color into lives that otherwise might be grey and bland.this comment is coming from a proud, yarmulke wearing member of the entertainment industry.

  2. Mussar Nut
    Mussar Nut 3 July, 2012, 15:01

    Goyish GOYISH ah yiddshe yingle is doing this rashi says the only reason why kllal yisroel was zoche to come out of galus was becuse lo shinu they didn’t ottopt the ways of a goy

  3. Jackie
    Jackie 3 July, 2012, 22:49

    Doesn’t this boy have a G*d given gift to share? His voice is beautiful and he is a picture of innocence. Surely Hashem doesn’t care if Edon sings secular music or religious music. What matters is this boy IS a mitzvah in himself. I wish him so much mazel tov. I am not a religious Jew, but I think to have a debate about frum or no frum is ridiculous. Let Edon alone and let the gifts that he has been bestowed shine through.

  4. herb fellows
    herb fellows 4 July, 2012, 19:30

    And now for the goy opinion:

    Maybe it’s just me, but I really didn’t think he was that good.
    Lovely kid, but the voice just isn’t there, IMHO.
    Personally, I don’t think the judges should be the arbiters of who is best when the voting is supposed to have shifted to the public.
    I would be curious to know who the public voted for, Edon or the guy with the dog act. I would not be at all surprised if the dog act won the public vote.

  5. musicaldignity
    musicaldignity 5 July, 2012, 19:46

    This is so sad…whats happening now is what happening now is what happened before world war two and what happened by the time of the yevanim etc….everyone just forgetting what being a jew is all about

  6. guitarmaster
    guitarmaster 6 July, 2012, 01:18

    While I would think twice before either condemning or praising his talented act, on a topic so sensitive and complex as this, you’re piece has definitely provided much food for thought. I do beg to differ and would like to bring up a number of issues:
    a. It is definitely not our job to go out and make a kiddush hashem when the action we may be doing is assur (if it is assur). A common misconception in our circles is that the meaning of a chilul hashem is to do an act that is perceived in a negative light by onlookers. while this is definitely true, the basic meaning is that of the literal translation “forsake his (the) name”. By doing an action he has forbid, you are forsaking his name in our world, no matter how the world sees it. (the rambam in the 5th perek of hilchos yesodei hatorah lists many instances of chilul hashem.) Remember, we weren’t charged with our own PR, that’s G-D’s job. We were charged to sanctify HIS name. We therefore cannot sin to make a kiddush hashem(if it is indeed problematic).

    b. There is only one known instance of a chassidishe song originating from a shepherd. (not “bar songs” or songs sung during drinking.)

    c. Without getting into the hashkafic issues that might be involved (but then again we do many other things like listening to the news that partake in the culture) lets try to put our emotions aside (wich are often misplaced )and focus on the reasoning involved. the issue I see as most problematic is the prohibition of kol isha which if heard would constitute a chilul hashem.

    d. I still would not judge being that we know none of the details surrounding this .(maybe he had a rebbe/mentor following along. maybe he walked out during performances of girls above age 12 etc.)

  7. Sarah
    Sarah 20 July, 2012, 08:31

    I happen to know Edon personally, and he is one of the sweetest boys ever. I go to school with him, and he is brilliant, funny, and also very kind and respectful to everybody.
    Personally, I hate reality television, and despise AGT, but I am happy for my classmate and wish him luck.
    Also, to those of you who think it’s bad that he is on a secular show, while I understand your concerns, and it is true that incorporating into society has not always been the best for us, I do not see why it is any better to completely shelter ourselves from the world around us. Everyone has to interact with people at some point, why not do it sooner rather than later? Besides, if we live entirely separate from them, how are they going to be able to differentiate between real Jewish values and stupid stereotypes? Instead of avoiding goyim, we should be sharing our values WITH them and setting an example, which is what I think is the ultimate kiddush Hashem.
    If you notice, he did not eat with the rest of the group. Also, when it showed them touring New York he didn’t go because it was Shabbos.
    Edon was raised in a very loving family and both of his parents are well respected members of the community. They have been carefully monitoring him throughout the entire process of the show. His siblings are extremely supportive, which never ceases to amaze me because there is absolutely no jealousy between them.
    Edon has been careful not to let the show interfere with his family, friends, education, or religion.
    I admit, I certainly do not know everything. I’m hardly fourteen after all, but I think it is wonderful what Edon is doing and whether I like the show and its values or not is irrelevant. I am going to vote for him because he is my friend, and I am proud of what he is doing. It takes a lot of courage to wear a kippa on live television in front of thousands of people and act like its no big deal. If you guys don’t like what he is doing, then don’t watch the show.

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