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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2019 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved. 


 

January 25, 2019  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

NY Times writer doesn’t check Jewish ID at door

By BRUCE LOWITT Special to the Jewish Press


Bari Weis will speak Feb. 13 at Temple Ahavat Shalom. Bari Weis will speak Feb. 13 at Temple Ahavat Shalom. Ask Bari Weiss if she’s a Jewish writer or a writer who happens to be Jewish and she laughs.

“My Jewish identity is so integrated with who I am,” the New York Times op-ed staff editor and writer said. “The thought of pulling out (one part of her identity) is impossible for me. It’s like asking if I’m a woman writer or a writer who happens to be a woman.

“I don’t know and I really don’t think about it,” Weiss, who writes about culture and politics, said by telephone from New York.

Expounding further in an interview for this month’s Hadassah Magazine, she said, “The amazing privilege of being a Jewish woman in 21st-century America – I count myself among the luckiest Jews in history – is that I don’t ever think about checking my Jewish identity at the door of any space I enter. If that’s what’s being asked of me, then I know that’s not a room I want to be in. One of the wonderful surprises about writing about topics like Yom Kippur and mortality for the Times is how much readers seem to relish those pieces.

Weiss, 34, formerly an op-ed and book review editor at The Wall Street Journal before joining the Times in 2017, will be the special guest at Temple Ahavat Shalom’s annual speakers event this year.

A Pittsburgh native, she attended and became a bat mitzvah at the Tree of Life synagogue where 11 worshipers were murdered by a gunman Oct. 27.

Shortly after the slaughter at the synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, Weiss wrote in the Times: “As with many synagogues in America, the doors to Tree of Life and other shuls on Saturday morning did not have any security and were open to all comers. … The heartbreaking coincidence is that the Jewish emphasis on the open door, on welcoming the stranger, is exactly what the Jews of Tree of Life and the Jews of every synagogue big and small in every far-flung corner of the globe were reading about [that] Shabbat morning.”

She will have to pass an armed guard when she enters the Palm Harbor temple to speak on Wednesday night, Feb. 13.

“It’s a terrible reality that we need it,” Weiss told this writer. “On the other hand, the top Jewish mitzvah is choosing life and protecting life, so that has to be the priority.”

She criticizes both the right and the left, which has earned her both compliments and condemnation from Times readers.

She isn’t troubled by a voter who will support a candidate because of his or her stance on one particular subject – but she offers a caveat.

“There are lots of people who are one-issue voters,” Weiss said. “I know a lot of people who vote (for a candidate) on a woman’s right to choose, for example. So I don’t think that’s unique to our community. I personally don’t relate to it and I think I’ve made my views on how Jews have prioritized their perceived understanding that President Donald) Trump is supportive of Israel and what that’s come at the expense of.”

What concerns her deeply, she said, are political trends on the far left and the far right “that prioritize the tribe over the individual. That never leads anywhere good.” Those trends aren’t limited to the United States, she said. It’s what’s happening in Israel, too.

“I really try and approach my criticism from a place of love, which is not hard because it’s true and genuine,” she said. “I was raised in a Zionist home. I spent a lot of time in Israel beginning when I was 6 years old so I feel a deep connection to it and I feel very lucky to be alive during the Jewish return to political sovereignty.

“However, I’m very troubled by various aspects of the current government in Israel. First of all there’s the issue of the Orthodox stranglehold on the Judaism in Israel and as someone who is a staunch feminist and a progressive Jew, that’s really bad for me.”

She recently wrote about three Jewish weddings she attended in New York City, none of which could happen in Israel, where there is no civil marriage because all elements of religious life are controlled by the Orthodox rabbinate, maintaining, “The official religion is not just Judaism. It’s Orthodoxy.”

One was an LGBTQ couple and the rabbinate doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage. One bride converted to Judaism within the Reform movement, which the rabbinate does not recognize. The third couple’s feminist values clashed with the Orthodox ketubah (marriage contract), in which the groom acquires the bride.

She doesn’t adhere strictly to feminist talking points, which has made her a target of denunciation. But she is consistent in her viewpoints.

A story last year by Josefin Dolsten of the JTA news service noted that articles she has written or edited about the #MeToo movement have attracted the most attention, particularly when she wondered whether women accusing men of sexual harassment should automatically be believed.

“In a climate in which sexual mores are transforming so rapidly,” Weiss wrote, many men are asking: If I were wrongly accused, who would believe me?”

* * *

Tickets for the Feb. 13 talk start at $18 and babysitting is available at no charge. Weiss’ talk begins at 7:30 p.m. at the temple, 1575 Curlew Road, Palm Harbor. For tickets and more information, call (727) 785-8811, ext. 2 or email, adminassistant2@ahavatshalom.org.


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