First, a note to y’all. Yes, I’m back…and should be writing again regularly. I’m once again in lovely New Haven, and ready for another year of my bid at Yale.

And now for something completely different.

Choosing your sources.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is not a representative sampling of Jewish thought.

I’m serious folks. If the only major Jewish author you know and regularly cite on your blog is the dude who thinks that boobs are best reserved as sex toys, you may have an issue in how you choose your sources.

There are three problems with this.
1. Oversampling of one source gives additional credence to that source.
2. Oversampling also gives the impression that this source speaks for all other people in the same group, creating the impression of a monotone where there is in fact, a lively discussion.
3. Negative over-citation assists in the production of stereotypes, and creates impressions of an ignorant or oppositional “other.”
4. He’s a freaking media addict.

Of course, there are more problem with this, but I’m moving on here.

The same could be said of many other figures…Falwell and Dobson come to mind. The important thing is to not stop citing or examining their rhetorics, claim they aren’t “really” representing the true essential tenents of group, or otherwise perform academic/blogavanian silencing/exile.

It’s to examine such rhetorics in relationship to their origins. Shmuley, Jerry, and James all have explicitly media aware/dependant careers, ministries, whathaveyous. All coming from evangelical wings of their respective traditions, these dudes make good noise. Real good. And they legitimately reflect a certain segment of their traditions.

Keyword being segment. Cite other people, reflect the diversity of thought going on, and be responsible to know the breadth of the conversation.


Edit: From comments below…I meant to explain in the piece why I don’t go with specific citations, an irony when I’m pointing fingers. The point wasn’t a specific gotcha list, but the seemingly broad misreading of Boteach as mainstream Judiasm. Which, for the record he’s not. He’s a part of it, on the far conservative end given that he’s Chabad-Lubavich Hasid.

Just because he doesn’t have a sex hangup like “our” conservatives seem to (here comes the conflation between Christian discourse and public discourse), he cannot be patly read as being “liberal.” In part, I can’t help but think that this is the backlash of the removal of Kabbalah from it’s original cultural contexts. C-L Hasids are some of the biggest proponents of Kabbalah due to their messianic outlook. So here you have the Material Girl and Boteach (who has called unsleeved women “sleezy”) both invested in the same cultural ground, perhaps neither realizing the depth of their differences.