I am a Yid. I like to rock. Veitur!

- [ Monday, February 23, 2004 ] -
My Afro-Semitic experience
We all have a certain responsibility, given any audience, to educate them and make the world a better place. That's a given. But how we go about it, and where we draw the line between educating and turning people off. Moral obligation versus unfair treatment of a captive audience.

On January 17th, 2004, I attended a nice jazz concert, The Afro-Semitic Experience, put on by my good friends at Kfar.

To introduce a song, the bassist, David Chevan, first mentioned how all the proceeds from one of the albums goes to Magen David Adom. He talked about political walls throughout the Torah and history. He contrasted it with all the love stories in the Torah that started around wells. Two of the guys from the band went around the room and passed out buttons that said, "WELLS NOT WALLS." He didn't mention anything about the security fence in Israel specifically, but the more I thought about it, the more obvious it was. Within a few minutes into the song, I got myself too worked up to enjoy the show and had to leave.

The venue was at Anshe Emet, a prominent Conservative shul in the neighborhood. Although degrees of Orthodoxy shouldn't necessarily be related to one's politics, I find that they usually are. To give you an idea about the Orthodoxy of the room, the only kippot I saw there were worn by women (in addition to the Bucharian-style kippot which were worn by the band). The show was billed as a "diversity" event in honor of the late, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I realize that I was probably the biggest right-winger in the room. But I saw no indication beforehand that I would be politically blindsided like that.

Here is the letter I wrote to David on the following Monday. I am still waiting for a response.

I attended your Afro-Semetic concert on Saturday night (1/17/04) at Anshe Emet in Chicago. It was a very nice concert, and I enjoyed the music very much.

I was very put-off by your political statement in the middle of the show. I have two oppositions to what you did. One is with the message itself, and the othe is an unfair use of the musical stage as a surprise political forum.

You spoke out against the protective FENCE to keep out bus-bombers and snipers. While you didn't mention this fence by name, it was implied by passing out buttons against "walls." It was a nice artistic idea. The problem is that you are equating the Romans and Nazis and their mission with Jews and their mission. The Jews want to have pizza and take the bus. Since the fence was erected, the amount of people blowing themselves up on the Israeli streets has been reduced to almost zero.

[This link has been updated since the letter was initially sent:]
MORE THAN 97% of the planned 720 km. (480 mile) security fence will consist of a chain-link fence system. LESS THAN 3% of the fence will be constructed of concrete. The short concrete sections are intended not only to stop terrorists from infiltrating, but also to block them from shooting at Israeli vehicles traveling on main highways.
But there is as much of a chance of me convincing you to agree with my political viewpoint as there is of you convincing me to agree with yours.

There is a moral responsibility for all artists with a significant audience to do good. The Beastie Boys have their "Free Tibet" cause. Bono has his "world debt relief." It is known what their political beliefs are. Whoever goes to their concerts can expect to get an earful. Often they will tour with concerts explicitly for that.

I feel I was unfairly assaulted with your viewpoint. You had a captive audience. We all paid to get in to hear some music. You offered a political viewpoint, with no forum for the opposing view. Unfair.

The more I stayed in the audience, the more upset I got. I was so distracted by your statements that I had to get up and leave. I'm sure you believe that your political pins are a message of peace. In my view they are not. In my view, there has been more peace since the fence was erected. I'm sure I was the minority in this particular crowd, but I still advise you to be more careful with the image you choose to push on your audience.


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