Virtual Talmud

Virtual Talmud


The Case for Borat


“Throw the Jew down the well” is the chorus to a Kazakh folk song brought to us by Borat, starring in his own movie opening in just a few days. Of course as everyone knows, both the song and the character of Borat himself are made up, inventions of British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen.

The Kazakh government is up in arms, and the Kazakh Embassy even devotes space on its home page to rebutting the movie’s assertions. Less predictable is the response of the organized Jewish community, which usually jumps at the slightest hint of anti-Semitism, reflexively bringing down the full force of its anger on any perceived infraction. For once, however, it seems that they actually get the joke–the Anti-Defamation League, for example, released a statement saying that Borat is not anti-Semitic, winking along with the viewer as it mocks the red-neck character and everything he stands for.

Of course, all this is easier because Sacha Cohen himself is Jewish. He’s one of us, so of course he’s in on the joke.

A pro-gypsy group, in contast, is not nearly so understanding of the film’s mockery of gypsies, launching a lawsuit in Germany to try to prevent the film’s distribution there. And of course, the Kazakhs are up in arms. And it’s a safe bet that the ADL and other groups wouldn’t be so blasé if Cohen weren’t “safely” Jewish.

This is a shame. Satire is an important part of comedy–the part that has the ability not only to make us laugh, but to make us wince and make us think. What’s more, reflexively decrying anti-Semitism at the slightest whiff of something offensive is not the way to combat this scourge.

We all remember how the ADL’s campaign against Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” backfired and helped drive up the movie’s profile and ticket sales. Yes, Mel Gibson is unquestionably a jerk and an anti-Semite, but how many press releases do we need to send out about it?

The fact is, constantly crying wolf or going into red-alert mode at every perceived slight does Jews a disservice, making us less likely to respond seriously to the very real threats that do exist. Similarly troubling is the trend to use the charge of anti-Semitism as a cudgel to silence opposing points of view, as some have recently tried to do with the political activist group MoveOn.org or with anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan last year.

The fact is that anti-Semitism is on the rise worldwide, and we would do our best to combat it by addressing its real underlying causes–the mistrust and anger that exist toward Jews in many parts of the world–rather than by bullying and cowing easy targets, which only increases resentment.

Sometimes we need to poke fun at our sacred cows to keep us from taking ourselves too seriously. Sacha Baron Cohen provides this necessary service.



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Tony

posted October 31, 2006 at 5:34 pm


The point is not a Jewish comedian singing an anti-Jewish song (It can’t be anti-Semitic, because he is a Semite.). The point is that a Jewish comedian is making fun of Muslims.



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astorian

posted October 31, 2006 at 9:55 pm


Borat, like many of Cohen’s personae, can be very funny. My sole objection is that his supporters seem to think Borat’s bits prove a lot more than they do. If you watch the country & Western bar where Borat sings “In My Country There Is Problem,” you’ll see that the audience is hooting and clapping loudly long before Borat actually sings anything offensive. Some viewers probably believe that Cohen has coaxed a bunch of violent Jew-haters into showing their true colors. I’m more inclined to think the crowd was patronizing someone they perceived as a clueless, talentless foreigner. Meanwhile, Cohen himself was patronizing his listeners.



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Burt

posted November 1, 2006 at 2:46 am


As someone who has been “fighting anti-Semitism professionally ” wherever it rears its ugly head ” for over 30 years with what we used to call Jewish defense organizatons it is nice to see that some of us can have a rationale discussion about anti-Semitism. G-d knows it is real and still lives in strange places like in hearts of some progessive theologans and the marketplaces of Jakarta and Khartoum but if everything that some of us find offensive is anti-Semitic then ultimaely nothing is. Yacher koach, Rabbi Waxman ( who just happens to be my own “spiritual leader”



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Anonymous

posted November 4, 2006 at 1:40 pm


This is ridiculous! My parents always taught me that Jews were just like anyone else….no better and no worse — just people! It is said that if you have 3 Jewish people in a room you’ll get 4 opinions….but I daresay this holds true for people of ANY ethnic group. My rabbi taught us that Jews were “chosen” FOR helping others…NOT “because” they are any better! Look — other than being Jewish, what similarity is there between Meyer Lansky and Leonard Goldenson? OK — they are, (or were) both men, and both are deceased. But Meyer Lansky was a notorious gangster, and made many people miserable…if not causing their demise. Mr. Goldenson founded the ABC Television Network….and gave joy to SO many people! There was ALSO this guy, (I forgot his name), who started shooting Arabs a few years ago….and then you have people like Leonard Nimoy who give people joy! There were Jews on both sides of the American Civil War….and probably the English Civil War, and every other war in modern history! You have Jews like William Shattner, abd Muriel Seibert, who do not really think of themselves as Jews first; they are more humanistic than anything else. They hurt no one. But they make lots of people happy! I have always thought, myself, that if Christianity, (and Islam), professes LOVE as a chief virtue of their religion, then (obviously?) hating is un-Christian, (and un-Islamic). We all, I think, have to be wary of the “one-upmanship” aspect of prejudice: that is, if one is, say, anti-semitic, then being poor, a woman, ill, and ugly won’t matter: you need not even try to imnprove your circumstances, you see….because, (at least!) you’re not Jewish! (Or Black, or Hispanic, or short, ad nauseum.) Charles Steinmetz was a dwarf and not at all handsome….yet he was a brilliant scientist. A few years ago, there was a young French peasant…..who, when tested, was found to be a genuis! There are enough problems in this world without us syphoning off people because of prejudice. This isn’t to say I myself have not had prejudices. I have. But I know they are wrong….and I’m working on trying to dissipate them. Try these two tricks: 1) Look into people’s eyes….and try to see similarity to yourself, instead of differenes. 2) Believe EVERY prejudice there is, if you wish…. but also believe there are “exceptions”. Before you know it, you’ll find that these “exceptions” outnumber the stereotypes, about 100 to 1!



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Anonymous

posted November 4, 2006 at 1:40 pm


This is ridiculous! My parents always taught me that Jews were just like anyone else….no better and no worse — just people! It is said that if you have 3 Jewish people in a room you’ll get 4 opinions….but I daresay this holds true for people of ANY ethnic group. My rabbi taught us that Jews were “chosen” FOR helping others…NOT “because” they are any better! Look — other than being Jewish, what similarity is there between Meyer Lansky and Leonard Goldenson? OK — they are, (or were) both men, and both are deceased. But Meyer Lansky was a notorious gangster, and made many people miserable…if not causing their demise. Mr. Goldenson founded the ABC Television Network….and gave joy to SO many people! There was ALSO this guy, (I forgot his name), who started shooting Arabs a few years ago….and then you have people like Leonard Nimoy who give people joy! There were Jews on both sides of the American Civil War….and probably the English Civil War, and every other war in modern history! You have Jews like William Shattner, abd Muriel Seibert, who do not really think of themselves as Jews first; they are more humanistic than anything else. They hurt no one. But they make lots of people happy! I have always thought, myself, that if Christianity, (and Islam), professes LOVE as a chief virtue of their religion, then (obviously?) hating is un-Christian, (and un-Islamic). We all, I think, have to be wary of the “one-upmanship” aspect of prejudice: that is, if one is, say, anti-semitic, then being poor, a woman, ill, and ugly won’t matter: you need not even try to imnprove your circumstances, you see….because, (at least!) you’re not Jewish! (Or Black, or Hispanic, or short, ad nauseum.) Charles Steinmetz was a dwarf and not at all handsome….yet he was a brilliant scientist. A few years ago, there was a young French peasant…..who, when tested, was found to be a genuis! There are enough problems in this world without us syphoning off people because of prejudice. This isn’t to say I myself have not had prejudices. I have. But I know they are wrong….and I’m working on trying to dissipate them. Try these two tricks: 1) Look into people’s eyes….and try to see similarity to yourself, instead of differenes. 2) Believe EVERY prejudice there is, if you wish…. but also believe there are “exceptions”. Before you know it, you’ll find that these “exceptions” outnumber the stereotypes, about 100 to 1!



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Anonymous

posted November 5, 2006 at 11:03 am


P.S.: I really do feel sorry for Borat…. People, mostly, do their jobs because they need money, (although many….like clergymen and those who are in the bottom rungs of the entertainment industry, etc., do it because they enjoy their jobs more than the money they make….but even they need SOME money to survive.) Obviously, Borat sees ONLY the negative stereotypes of his own people. I guess my somewhat limited experience is still broader than his….because I’ve known people of EVERY ethnic group, including Jews. Some fit their group’s stereotypes….most do not. Like the Jewish duo of some years back, (two young men who dressed as old men, and sang the song, “We’re two old Jews…and we’re kosher as we want to be.”), it seems all that Borack THINKS he is good at is stereotyping his own people! He wants to “cash in” on other people’s stereotypes by making a farce of Jews and Judiasm….but doesn’t he realize he’s slitting his own neckm too? Like Queen Esther…or the Ghetto mayor in “War and Rememberance” who signed his own death warrant….if Borat’s actions really do bring on a major new wave of anti-semitism — doesn’t he realize he won’t be spared, either? If Borat is upset at being Jewish…and the restrictions being a religious Jew brings….why doesn’t he show his anger by working at a seafood restaurant that specializes in shrimp, or converting, or buying up 200 Christmas trees and applying for a job a Santa Claus! .



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Anonymous

posted November 5, 2006 at 11:03 am


P.S.: I really do feel sorry for Borat…. People, mostly, do their jobs because they need money, (although many….like clergymen and those who are in the bottom rungs of the entertainment industry, etc., do it because they enjoy their jobs more than the money they make….but even they need SOME money to survive.) Obviously, Borat sees ONLY the negative stereotypes of his own people. I guess my somewhat limited experience is still broader than his….because I’ve known people of EVERY ethnic group, including Jews. Some fit their group’s stereotypes….most do not. Like the Jewish duo of some years back, (two young men who dressed as old men, and sang the song, “We’re two old Jews…and we’re kosher as we want to be.”), it seems all that Borack THINKS he is good at is stereotyping his own people! He wants to “cash in” on other people’s stereotypes by making a farce of Jews and Judiasm….but doesn’t he realize he’s slitting his own neckm too? Like Queen Esther…or the Ghetto mayor in “War and Rememberance” who signed his own death warrant….if Borat’s actions really do bring on a major new wave of anti-semitism — doesn’t he realize he won’t be spared, either? If Borat is upset at being Jewish…and the restrictions being a religious Jew brings….why doesn’t he show his anger by working at a seafood restaurant that specializes in shrimp, or converting, or buying up 200 Christmas trees and applying for a job a Santa Claus! .



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MJL

posted November 8, 2006 at 5:14 pm


Being Jewish, is being in a minority. Minorities can point out things to each other that are funny. For us, the empty seat at Passover, our mothers effective use of guilt, our ‘JAP’s’ jewelry compulsions, etc., make us laugh but some of this is fuel for the Goyim to turn into reasons that could spark anti-semitic actions. Cohen is working to be famous and if thinks he can do this by singing about throwing his Jewish brothers and sisters down a well, will get him his fame, it’s sad. He knows Torah and it’s a shunda that he puts gelt before G-D.



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dagali

posted November 12, 2006 at 3:29 pm


semite=arab?



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dagali

posted November 12, 2006 at 3:29 pm


semite=arab?



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Anonymous

posted November 15, 2006 at 6:10 am


WHY call ANYONE a “goy”? In Hebrew, (or perhaps Yiddish), it means “stranger”. Heck…how can you label anyone a “stanger” if you haven’t really known him or her at all? Isn’t labeling all non-Jews “goyim” just another prejudicial point? Calling them “non-Jews” is bad enough….I mean, aren’t non-Jews Human Beings like anyone else????? Aren’t Jews Human Beings likI e anyone else????? I hate to say that Hitler was right in anything…..but it is said that Hitler took his “Master Race” idea from the “Chosen People” idea that the Jews are said to have!!!!!!! : ( To me, there are are only “Human Beings”…..and God, above. Or, as a self-help expert once said, “GET BEYOND TRIBAL”. I think the First Commandment says that, too: “I AM THE LORD THY GOD….THOU SHALT HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME.” Thinking your racial/religious group is better than others is, sort of, I think, making a kind of “God” of it…. If the Jews were ever “chosen” for anything, it was 1)To help God give the Ten Commmandments to the world, (5000 plus years ago), and/or 2)”Chosen” FOR helping others….NOT BECAUSE the Jews are better, (or at least that’s what my rabbi taught us.) I believe that the words “goy” and “goyim” are equivalent to any other hateful racial group words, such as “kike” (Jews), “whitey”, (whites), etc. I hate any labeling of anyone….but if you have to draw a distinction, PLEASE try not to use “goy” or “goyim”…meaning “stranger(s)”. If distinction must be made, please try to use “Gentile”….which at least has a connotative connection with the word “gentle”, or “gentleman” or “gentlewoman”. Hopefully, if we use these terms, even the most virulent anti-semites will begin to live up to them! : )



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Anonymous

posted November 15, 2006 at 6:10 am


WHY call ANYONE a “goy”? In Hebrew, (or perhaps Yiddish), it means “stranger”. Heck…how can you label anyone a “stanger” if you haven’t really known him or her at all? Isn’t labeling all non-Jews “goyim” just another prejudicial point? Calling them “non-Jews” is bad enough….I mean, aren’t non-Jews Human Beings like anyone else????? Aren’t Jews Human Beings likI e anyone else????? I hate to say that Hitler was right in anything…..but it is said that Hitler took his “Master Race” idea from the “Chosen People” idea that the Jews are said to have!!!!!!! : ( To me, there are are only “Human Beings”…..and God, above. Or, as a self-help expert once said, “GET BEYOND TRIBAL”. I think the First Commandment says that, too: “I AM THE LORD THY GOD….THOU SHALT HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME.” Thinking your racial/religious group is better than others is, sort of, I think, making a kind of “God” of it…. If the Jews were ever “chosen” for anything, it was 1)To help God give the Ten Commmandments to the world, (5000 plus years ago), and/or 2)”Chosen” FOR helping others….NOT BECAUSE the Jews are better, (or at least that’s what my rabbi taught us.) I believe that the words “goy” and “goyim” are equivalent to any other hateful racial group words, such as “kike” (Jews), “whitey”, (whites), etc. I hate any labeling of anyone….but if you have to draw a distinction, PLEASE try not to use “goy” or “goyim”…meaning “stranger(s)”. If distinction must be made, please try to use “Gentile”….which at least has a connotative connection with the word “gentle”, or “gentleman” or “gentlewoman”. Hopefully, if we use these terms, even the most virulent anti-semites will begin to live up to them! : )



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rebecca

posted December 2, 2006 at 5:16 pm


Hi, Well I finally saw some of Borat last night. After 20 minutes I was fully disgusted. The issue here is not the poor people in the movie or even Sasha himself– I think it is the audience. The heart of the matter is that MILLIONS of americans are now laughing heartily about rape, worthless women, AND Jews with horns and Jews causing problems for a country. Borat has successfully erased the last 40 years of progress by groups like th ADL and grassroots women’s lib and all people working against anti-semitism. The point is, THESE ISSUES AREN’T FUNNY. They’re serious and apparently haven’t left modern society one bit.



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rebecca

posted December 2, 2006 at 5:16 pm


Hi, Well I finally saw some of Borat last night. After 20 minutes I was fully disgusted. The issue here is not the poor people in the movie or even Sasha himself– I think it is the audience. The heart of the matter is that MILLIONS of americans are now laughing heartily about rape, worthless women, AND Jews with horns and Jews causing problems for a country. Borat has successfully erased the last 40 years of progress by groups like th ADL and grassroots women’s lib and all people working against anti-semitism. The point is, THESE ISSUES AREN’T FUNNY. They’re serious and apparently haven’t left modern society one bit.



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Mitchel Cohen

posted January 17, 2007 at 2:13 am


I see only one person got the point. Only an idiot would think that the movie is anti-Semitic; this Cohen paints a picture whereby we believe that Kazakhstan is incredibly anti-Semitic – perhaps as much as Europe in the 16th century. Furthermore, he makes fun of these muslims in a despicable way, such as the ruse with the toilet during the dinner with the Christian family, and Pastor, whereby he plays off on their desire to be accepting of someone from a different cultural background. Imagine the tables reversed, and a Palestinian were to make such a movie, touring the USA, disguised as a Jew, playing such practical jokes on people. Perhaps he would have dinner with them, and execute some stereotype, like walking back to the table, and taking the tip. Or having a running of the Muslim film-shot, where a Muslim couple with bombs strapped to their robes would do similar to his filmshot of the running of the Jews. Can you imagine how that would look for Jews? We would all be screaming foul, because it would clearly be anti-Semitic. It would be a caricature of us that plays to derogatory stereotypes that are now circulating, like Israeli oppression of Palestinians. And it is a double-standard, impossible to believe, and shameful too, that we are not screaming foul that a Jew is doing this misdeed. And he is defrauding us yet again, letting the world believe that we believe there is one standard for the Jew, and yet another for the Gentile. Shame on you Sasha. You disgrace us.



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Mitchel Cohen

posted January 17, 2007 at 2:13 am


I see only one person got the point. Only an idiot would think that the movie is anti-Semitic; this Cohen paints a picture whereby we believe that Kazakhstan is incredibly anti-Semitic – perhaps as much as Europe in the 16th century. Furthermore, he makes fun of these muslims in a despicable way, such as the ruse with the toilet during the dinner with the Christian family, and Pastor, whereby he plays off on their desire to be accepting of someone from a different cultural background. Imagine the tables reversed, and a Palestinian were to make such a movie, touring the USA, disguised as a Jew, playing such practical jokes on people. Perhaps he would have dinner with them, and execute some stereotype, like walking back to the table, and taking the tip. Or having a running of the Muslim film-shot, where a Muslim couple with bombs strapped to their robes would do similar to his filmshot of the running of the Jews. Can you imagine how that would look for Jews? We would all be screaming foul, because it would clearly be anti-Semitic. It would be a caricature of us that plays to derogatory stereotypes that are now circulating, like Israeli oppression of Palestinians. And it is a double-standard, impossible to believe, and shameful too, that we are not screaming foul that a Jew is doing this misdeed. And he is defrauding us yet again, letting the world believe that we believe there is one standard for the Jew, and yet another for the Gentile. Shame on you Sasha. You disgrace us.



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