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Surprising Science

Sarah Silverman’s Rabbinical Tangle

In a hilariously foul-mouthed video last month, comedian Sarah Silverman called attention to Republican-led attempts to suppress turnout among left-leaning voters in November. “Hey black people, old people, poor people and students,” the video begins, “guess what you have in common? Lawmakers are trying to fuck you in your assholes. ”

It was a remarkably effective polemic pointing out the GOP’s transparent efforts to elect Mitt Romney by keeping Obama voters out of polling sites. In some states, Silverman observed, it is easier for registered gun owners to establish voting credentials than it is for pensioners or college students to do so.

On Monday, an unlikely response to Silverman’s video appeared from an unlikely source: Rabbi Yaakov Rosenblatt, ultra-orthodox CEO of a kosher meatpacking plant in Texas, wrote her an open letter and the Jewish Press published it.

What is the rabbi’s beef with Silverman’s video? Remarkably, he says nary a word about the substance of the argument she is making. His problem is with the title of the video:   

You have grown political as of late, and your politics have traction. Your YouTube video “Let My People Vote” has been viewed more than 1.4 million times. You have 3.4 million Twitter followers apparently eager to consume your mix of sexual references and political barbs.

I wouldn’t be writing these words had your most recent video not been framed in biblical language. Its title held deep significance to me, as I am sure was your intention.

How dare Sarah Silverman co-opt Moses’s demand to Pharaoh  “let my people go”  and pervert it into a call for universal suffrage? How dare she sully Exodus 8:21 by exploiting it for democratic ends? Who does this Jewess comedienne with a sharp wit and a potty mouth think she is?

Apparently, Rabbi Rosenblatt is something of a fan of the comic’s. Yes, he condemns her later in the letter as “crude” and “sickening,” but this critique comes only after he betrays a rather intimate knowledge of her position on same-sex marriage, her cunnilingual tweet to Mitt Romney and her risque offer to Sheldon Adelson.

It’s quite possible that Rabbi Rosenblatt is deeply in love with Sarah Silverman. Why else would he use a pretext like this to bash her so ruthlessly and so publicly? Many ultra-orthodox families avoid the Internet and television to avoid coming across dangerous crass material like this. So what business does such a pious man have following Sarah Silverman’s every move? And why is he so interested in and knowledgeable about her love life?

And most pressingly: why doesn’t the rabbi address her arguments about the ridiculously unjust voter ID laws in his own state of Texas and elsewhere, laws that have now been struck down in Pennsylvania and Mississippi?

Near the end of his love/hate letter, Rabbi Rosenblatt offers this blessing: “I pray that you channel your drive and direct your passion to something positive, something that will make you a better and more positive person, something that will allow you to touch eternity and truly impact the world forever.”  

Rabbi Rosenblatt would be wise to follow his own admonition.

Follow Steven Mazie on Twitter: @stevenmazie


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