Monday, May 29, 2017

Tale Five: Chosen Family - Just A Very Little Bit More

We begin with an antisemitic lecture by Miroslav Zuckerman-Rabinovich. Since 1980, Professor Zuckerman-Rabinovitch has been a Professor of Marxist Theory at the University of Bratislava. In the mid 1980s, he rose to prominence in Czechoslovakia for refusing to sign his name to a document condemning thirty-two of his colleagues already fired for counterrevolutionary tendencies, though recent evidence has shown that he was in fact the author of the document. In 1993 he was appointed Distinguished Professor of Sexuality at the Freiuniversitat of Berlin on account of his treatise on perversion: Die Geschichte der Perversionen von der urzeit bis zum Dritten Jahrtausend und von der Sa├╝lingsalter aus dem Totenstarre. Eine historische und soziologische und psychologische betrachtung ├╝ber die Ursachen und Wirkungen und so weiter which became an international bestseller. In 1999, he was appointed Distinguished Fellow of Lacanian Fetishism at the Ontological Institute of Social Action at the London School of Economics following the runaway success of his second best seller - Capitalism: A Degenerate's Instruction Manual. In 2003, he was appointed Professeur Distingueat the Sorbonne for his French bestseller: La Dialectique, l'autre, et la jouissance dans Bush, Saddam, et Jerry Lewis. The book did not do as well in translation. In 2006, Columbia University appointed him University Professor, their highest Professorial chair given to only twenty people throughout the history of the school. In his case the Robert Guccione University Professor of Pornographic Cinema on account of his third international best-seller: The Phenomenology of Ejaculate. 

In the last ten years the Professor has written no less than fifty books, none of which contain footnotes. He gained particular recognition in May 2013 when in the span of a single week, he submitted four books for publishing under the titles:  Harry Potter and The Epistemological Break, Revenge of the Sith at The End of History, The Dark Knight's Historical Unconscious, Tokyo Drift: The Fast and The Furious and the Sublimation of the Death Drive - but he was thereafter sued by MIT publishing because all four books contained the exact same text. The Professor's defense attorney claimed he intended it as a heuristic statement.

While Professor Zuckerman-Rabinovitch describes himself as an unreformed Marxist, he's also had something resembling a second career as a copy editor for the J Crew Catalogue, ensuring that all of its catalogue descriptions have a self-reflexive, ironically knowing, and implicit Marxist critique of itself which allows consumers from the bourgeois elite to congratulate themselves for their awareness of their imminent demise due to the superstructure and everything the superstructure tells them to hold dear drawing ever closer to collapse with every shirt purchase. The Guardian recently reported that Professor Rabinovitch is paid $40,000 per issue.

In 2014 the Professor also found himself embroiled in simultaneous paternity suits from graduate students at every Ivy League University. Each case was settled out of court, but Professor Zuckerman-Rabinovich used the experience to write a controversial book on feminism in which he argues there can be no true feminism until feminists recognize the inherent right of every woman to choose to subject herself to exploitation. It was hailed by Jacobin magazine as a ground breaking work of social theory. Z Magazine called it the greatest revelation in feminist thought since Stan Goff. The eighty-page book can be found in stores everywhere for $34.95.

Professor Zuckerman-Rabinovich has occasionally been mentioned as a socialist candidate for President of the European Union Council. He has, however, stipulated that the dissolution of the EU is a precondition of his accepting the job. In the past two years, Zuckerman-Rabinovich became a surrogate speaker on campaign trails for socialist candidates like Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, Jeremy Corbyn, and Jean-Luc Melenchon. Each campaign refused to disclose how much the Professor was paid for his assistance, but the Professor assured the public in an interview with Russia Today that he was only paid what every person should earn in properly administered social democracies. Tune in tomorrow to hear the antisemitic insights of one of the intellectual giants of our time. 

"I would like to begin this lecture by addressing the obvious question which it poses. I call this an antisemitic lecture. Why? Because there has been an unfortunate stigma in recent history surrounding antisemitism and I feel it is very important to consider the benefits of antisemitism as well as the disadvantages. To state this fact is not, my god, to condone acts of antisemitism, but to defend the very useful concept of antisemitism itself from the threat of its disappearance.

I find the concept of antisemitism very interesting because it is grounded in certainties that should be obvious to all of us. First thing: Through an accident of history, Judaism was positioned at the center between Europe, Asia, and Africa, a center through which ideas could travel with a facility which is impossible elsewhere. Monotheism may have been invented twenty or three-hundred thousand years before Judaism in Myanmar or Peru, or discovered millions of times in millions of places, but in an age before mass communication or transit, the widespread exportation is impossible in any place but Israel. In an age before monotheism, no legal codes could be binding because all legality was grounded in holy protection, and no god of one region could have binding authority in another. But when there is one God, law becomes universal. The necessity of records becomes permanent.

Second Thing: The greater organization of the Hebrew people enabled an accelerated human rate of development. Their empire under David and Solomon rose to eminence at far greater speed due to their greater intellectual and organizational development, but the newness of their techniques and outlook also facilitated a decline just as sudden.

Why? Because until their empire, the Hebrews were a tribe of bedouin refugees, absorbing the influences of the Canaanites, of Egypt, of Mesopotamia, and not only was the encirclement what sealed their sudden decline, it was also the newness of their outlook that threatened the superstructure - in places where values are less universal, organization is less necessary. The Hebrew Empire declined so quickly that its subjects never forgot how to live as refugees.

What I find so interesting about this is the ideological roots of Judaism in a pre-ideological era then causes Judaism to forever walk its certainties back. It is the original Hegelian dialectic. Everything in the world is ideology, and Judaism commits the original sin in believing that ideology can be transcended. It arrives at the universal superstructure, but believes that by study and reason and statistics, we can limit ideology and dogma by arriving at an interpretation of dogma that is more flexible and humane. But humanity does not need a humane dogma, it needs ruthlessly correct dogma and ideology applied to all things.

Third thing: the malicious original sin of Judaism is that by accepting incorrect ideology, it perverts incorrect ideology into something humane and livable, a practical and pleasant temporary solution that can only work for a few thousand years rather than forever. And there is therefore a direct line from Judaism to capitalism, which prevents the enactment of permanent solutions, and it is Judaism that prevents seeing the incorrectness of of capitalist ideology which sanctions inequalities.

The misnomer is that any circumstances exist outside of the ideological superstructure. There is no perception that exists outside of ideology. Therefore, the ideology which controls our lives is capitalism. Why? Because capitalism is the ideology that allows for individual differences that allow for inequality and authorize murder, torture, rape, exploitation, capitalism and Judaism. Many people like to point to the relative inequalities of capitalism that make inequality tolerable. These capitalists point to statistics that demonstrate the apparently relative inequalities of the capitalist hegemony. Why? Because statistics and facts are an incorrect ideology that require theological faith to believe, and therefore contorts dogma into intolerable ambiguities that prevent permanent solutions.

In every historical era of history the Jews had an opportunity to reach dialectical fulfillment. What do I mean by dialectical fulfillment? I mean that the ambiguities of Judaism could become the theological certainties of Assyrianism Babylonianism, Hellenism, Romanism, Christianity, Islam, Spinozism, Philosophism, Marxism, and Critical Theory. Each of my last six examples, the intellectual tradition of Judaism is clearly the ontological foundation upon which they base themselves, and in each of the first four, the permanent records of Judaism, created from their own ontological formation in Egypt and epistomological foundation from Mesopotamia was clearly the epistomological foundation upon which these classical empires based themselves.

Why does each become a dialectical fulfillment which Judaism is destined to reject? Because the ontological and epistomological foundation of each is based in Judaism's teleological didactics. Judaism survives to each era because its teleology refuses to accept a permanent dogma that views the world as an ideology that cannot be debated. It is only by the unquestioning mass obedience of the whole world of a utopian fulfillment that we can move to the next historical phase of utopian didactic. Nevertheless, Judaism insists on individuality and debate.

With the isolation enforced upon them in exile, the Jewish people had to assume all those characteristics which they were assumed to possess - thereby becoming the simultaneous possessor of the greatest and worst of humanity's qualities, at all times inhabiting the spirit of both Jesus and Caiaphas in dialectic, and in doing so become humanity's most perfect victim and most perfect predator. No sooner are they granted communities and countries of their own than they resume the detestable intolerance which has always been their modus operandi, an intolerance which they then taught to Christians and have no one to blame but themselves for the revisitation of the persecution they perpetrated upon Christians then upon themselves, however many thousandfold times more severe. In traumatic and dangerous circumstances, they developed their most particular qualities to the greatest extremes. They developed intelligence to such an extent that they turned it into pedantry, and similarly turned criticism into intolerance, industry into greed, altruism into fanaticism. The most fanatical champions of capitalism and communism, inventors of the Church and the greatest champions of liberalism and pluralism, the first to spread the Gospel in West and the last to deny it. the most influential monotheistic thinkers like Solomon and Jesus, and the most influential atheisticals like Marx and Spinoza. They even became extreme, and perhaps especially extreme, when trying to pursue moderation. So preoccupied with dogma and the elimination of ambiguity that they perpetually dwell in an ambiguous neither region between dogmas, where mankind cannot transcend the dogmas of its human condition into any greater state of being. It is, through an accident of history, Judaism, which at first glance looks like such a blessing, yet is clearly humanity's greatest impediment.

AC Charlap: Alright we've heard enough. I can't let this keep going.

Rabbi Swamley: Let the speaker finish!

AC Charlap: Let the speaker finish?

Rabbi Swamley: He's a famous thinker!

AC Charlap: I would think you'd be a hundred times more offended by this antisemitism than I am.

Rabbi Swamley: I go to all this to book a famous speaker you won't let him finish?

AC Charlap: You said it was no problem!

Rabbi Swamley: No problem! Of course it's problem! I make a dozen phone calls and and promise him a percentage of the show!

AC Charlap: You promised him a percentage of the show's profits????

Rabbi Swamley: It was the price he wanted!

AC Charlap: Why the fuck would you do that?

Rabbi Swamley: We don't make any money!

AC Charlap: But what if we do? Why the fuck would you promise him a gross percentage?

Rabbi Swamley: Why the fuck do you ask me to book better speakers?!

AC Charlap: I just wanted a speaker who wouldn't hit me with a 2x4!

Rabbi Swamley: This one's a pacifist!

AC Charlap: You hate pacifists!

Rabbi Swamley: A-ha but you don't!

AC Charlap: What the fuck is this, are you just trying to trip me up???

Rabbi Swamley: I just thought that's how you like to talk!

AC Charlap: Is there a single thing you don't screw up?!?

Rabbi Swamley: Oh, Charlap is now going to tell me what a screw up SOMEONE ELSE is???

Professor Zuckerman-Rabinovich: Ach. Typical Jewish dialectic.

AC Charlap: Rabbi. Get this guy the fuck out of my studio!

Professor Zuckerman-Rabinovich: He won't do that.

AC Charlap: What?

Rabbi Swamley: I promised him a series of lectures on our podcast. If he doesn't...

(ambulance noise, followed by entrance of lawyer and associate)

Roy Fagan: Mr. Charlap my name is Roy Fagan, this is my associate Mr. Ivanov, and we're here to warn you that you are dangerously close to breech of contract for which you will be subpoenaed, held in contempt, possibly face jailtime and a fine of 500,000 dollars.

Mr. Ivanov: If I were you tovaresh I would let the Professor finish...

AC Charlap: ...Alright...

Professor Zuckerman-Rabinovich: I will finish another time, in the meantime let's let these Jews learn some obedience. (the three leave, drive away in an ambulance)


(cue Psalm 5)

Charlap: What is the old new land. Where is the....

Swamley: Kharlap? Really? You gonna do this now?

Charlap: What?

Swamley: The Old New Land beginning stuff is gantzeh khopteh that's stupid and gets more pretentious every time you do it!

Charlap: You're gonna tell me it's pretentious?

Swamley: What? What's the problem?

Charlap: You're trans-religious like Rachel Dolezal's black and you're telling me what I do is pretentious?!?

Swamley: Oh so you're going to bring that up every time I say something you think is stupid?

Charlap: It's a pretty big fucking thing!

Swamley: You don't have to swear!

Charlap: You've already sworn in this cast!

Swamley: Oh so now you're gonna remind me of that too!

Charlap: I don't have to, you're still faking being Jewish, faking that stupid Israeli accent, acting like you're a scion of the Skverer fucking Rebbe when you're from Duluth fucking Minnesota!

Swamley: Alight, well you don't have to rub it in.

Charlap: Oh my god....

(cut to tale)

In order to tell the tale of Clarissa Johansen, we must tell the tale of her mentor, the warm and wise and perceptive and ceaselessly self-draining Bethany Katz, blessed and cursed by nature to always protect whether or not she's protected in return, to give without being given. Bethany's is the story of love - spiritual love, humane love, public love, personal love, the strength which love gives, and the bridges love cannot cross. The only love she never possessed is self-love. There always seem to be certain women with a preternatural intelligence for protection, and where there once was sand, they build whole cities of people blessed to come into their orbit, yet the only person who could bless them is themselves, and they are too busy blessing others to ever know how. They are not only masters of protection but also persuasion. One well-placed word can make a hundred people realize they've always liked is someone they hated or that someone they always liked is an asshole. Were they different sorts of people, the gift could make them President of the United States, but the heart matches the brain, and they become determined to use their perceptive, persuasive, protective powers for virtue, yet always underestimate just how difficult the world makes it to be virtuous. Bethany works, and she works, and she works, and she waits, and she waits, and she waits, but we're always thrown out of the Old New Land.

"It's like you get five religions in one" is what Barack Obama's grandfather said about Unitarianism. Unitarian Universalism, that great leveler of Christ, the great hope that religion and modernity can mix, that you can tame religion and all its demands for Holy War into a domesticated pet that lets you experience the holiness of divinity without recognizing its primacy, lets you feel connected to the oneness of all things while still feeling yourself important enough to love and be loved, guiltlessly binding the best of all religions together without considering how the people to whom these practices are life itself might feel it desecration.

And yet, Unitarianism is the best of us: The Adamses, the Alcotts, Barack Obama's family, Susan B. Anthony, Bela Bartok, Ray Bradbury, e. e. cummings, Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Buckminster Fuller, Horace Greeley, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Thomas Jefferson, Tomas Masaryk, Hermann Melville, Isaac Newton, Paul Newman, Keith Olbermann, Linus Pauling, Joseph Priestley, Christopher Reeve, Paul Revere, Benjamin Rush, Arthur Schlesinger, Albert Schweitzer, Pete Seeger, Rod Serling, Robert Gould Shaw, Adlai Stevenson, William Howard Taft, Kurt Vonnegut, Daniel Webster, William Carlos Williams, Joanne Woodward, Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Wright.

There are less than 200,000 members of Unitarian Churches in the entire world, and less than 900,000 people who identify as Unitarian. No religion, not even Judaism, ever did so much in so short a time by such a large percentage of adherents to advance the causes of freedom and justice and beauty in the world. It is the religion of true miracles, in which the divine works are made manifest not in the skies, but here on earth - the place where in the end we find our happiness, or not at all.

At fifteen years old, few were happier than Bethany Felicity Katz; younger daughter of the Reverend Mary Katz, Senior Minister for the last three years of the First Unitarian Universalist Church and Center in San Francisco at the intersection of Geary Blvd and Franklin Street, herself the daughter of Matthew Williams, for thirty-seven years the Senior Minister at First Parish in Concord, himself the second son of The Very Reverend Frank Williams, who was Senior Minister of the Church of the Larger Fellowship, the flagship Unitarian Church on Farnsworth St. in Boston. After fifty-two years, Reverend Frank was succeeded by Very Reverend Frank Jr., whom until then was Senior Minister at All Souls Unitarian Church in DC on Harvard St. and ran the Unitarian Lobby, DC Unitarians for Social Justice. Frank Sr.'s third son, Burke Williams, fried his mind with hallucinogenics in 1950's San Francisco and lived in a group home for thirty-five years for the mentally disturbed before the San Francisco Chronicle published an expose about fifty years of physical abuse perpetrated on their patients - choke holds that killed multiple patients, illegal frontal lobotomies, deliberate misdiagnoses to justify violent restraints, not notifying next of kin of about shock treatments, solitary confinement for weeks at a time, ice cold high pressure water jets, and untold numbers of unreported sexual assaults. Frank Jr. and Burke had not seen each other in forty years. Burke was a stranger to the family who had last been mentioned by anyone when Mary was a teenager.

On one sleety day before Christmas of 1990, Mary was summoned into Frank Jr.'s office where she was informed that she would not in fact take over her father's parish but was, rather, being reassigned to San Francisco. Frank made it clear to his niece that she would be expected to look after Burke, who'd been moved to an assisted living facility, and as a woman, was the family member best equipped to provide the nurturing Burke needed. Six weeks after their arrival, Burke hung himself in his new room, but the Katzes had already put so much effort into making the best of their new life that they decided to stay.

Bethany was also the younger daughter of Bob Katz, the most expensive, and therefore the best, invasive cardiologist practicing at Mass Gen, who left both his hospital and his still more lucrative private practice in Concord to live in a Victorian townhouse on Steiner St. across from Alamo Square Park that he joyfully repainted with bright primary colors when their new neighbors suggested that the Katzes turn the last remaining house on their block into one of the Victorian Painted Ladies. In his new practice, he worked thirty hours a week rather than seventy, and he didn't need any more money than he had. His fiftieth was around the corner, and he had more than enough money to keep his family living handsomely in San Francisco's best neighborhood while his mother was safely in the Boston Area's best Assisted Living facility. If there was anything serious, his sister could drive down from Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

When Bob started dating Mary Williams, his parents were livid. Not just a goyisher girl but a textbook shikseh, not just a textbook shikseh but the daughter of a minister, not just the daughter of a minister but a divinity student who'll be a minister herself. You can forget about Jewish grandchildren. There'd be a tree in the house every year, some years they wouldn't even be at the Seder because Easter would fall on the same days, and there's no question who'd win in a contest between Sunday and Hebrew School. It's not that Phil and Essie Katz particularly cared themselves whether Robert married a Jewish girl, but they knew that both their widowed mothers would be furious.

Bob's bubbies: Flora Katz (born Blumeh Levinson) and Mildred Spivak (born Menukhke Braverman) - didn't much care for each other, but both of them doted upon their goldene eynikle who went to Harvard Medical as though neither had five other grandchildren. They didn't become slaves to the kitchen and the corner store and the schmatteh factory and the supermarket and the nursing home just so their spoiled kinder and eyniklach could become accountants or podiatrists or go into their father's business. They both vanted a r-r-rich doktah, and they finally had one. Bob was a naches machine. You would never know this nice Jewish boy was brilliant if you spoke to him, but he was valedictorian at Boston Latin, Summa Cum Laude in Harvard undergrad, and soon to be the speaker in his year at its med school graduation. If only they would live to see Bob deh cahdiologist ver makhten zechs hundert teusend thaler a jahr. And sechs hundert teusend thaler a jahr was what Bob would make in his new practice, in Boston he would bill with an eye to clearing the million dollar mark, some years he made it, one year he didn't but his partner did and never let him live it down. When he was leaving, his partner, Sunil Malhotra, shrugged and jokingly said 'more for me.'

 His parents thought they could keep both their mothers in the dark about the relationship which their goldene eynikle who attends Harvard Medical School embroiled himself. It would be at least a good three years before they'd have to talk about marriage, and at some point Bob would realize, as he always eventually did, that he wasn't doing the sensible thing. Eight months into the relationship, Blumeh passed away. On the first anniversary of their first date, the lovebirds announced their engagement to the family. Menukhkeh passed a week after getting the news.

They moved to San Francisco when Bethany was twelve and her older sister was sixteen. Bethany's older sister, Marian, was bitter about the move and let her parents know in no uncertain terms. She had a boyfriend in Boston she had to leave, seemingly hundreds of school friends, and was determined to hate every minute of her years in San Francisco. When it came time for college, she applied only to schools in Boston, and chose Northeastern. Six months after graduation she married her high school sweetheart, had four children, stayed at home to take care of them, and is now that the younger two are teenagers is wondering what to do when everybody leaves the house. Maybe she'll get involved with politics - she fancies that she always wanted to care about things, or maybe she'll just take an art class.

Bethany, however, was the type who knew how to be happy wherever she went. If Bethany's parents always figured that Marian would become a doctor, it seemed absolutely obvious that Bethany was destined for a life of service. Like Marian, she was the most popular girl in her class at Cambridge Friends School, but unlike Marian, her popularity was not based on fear, and when she enrolled in San Francisco Friends School, she quickly became the most well-liked girl in her class - her teachers commenting on what a lovely effect she had on the other kids. A relatively unruly class of kids was suddenly nicer to each other, better behaved in class, and even the picked on kids who were falling behind were accepted by others because Bethany accepted them. In the case of the most particularly picked on and learning disabled kid, she would cheerfully volunteer to partner with him on group projects and gently ministered with patient help and explanations to get him caught up with the class.

There was no third sibling, but as seemed tradition from time immemorial in every branch of the Williams family, Bob and Mary would board a new student every year. In generations past, it would be divinity students, but in Jet Age of the late 20th century, it seemed especially exciting to host a foreign exchange student. So every year, Bob and Mary Katz would host a new foreign exchange student to Cambridge Friends School, and when they came to San Francisco, promptly founded a foreign exchange program at San Francisco Friends School.

Marian was, perhaps understandably, a little bitter about the experience of having to learn to communicate with strange people. When she was fourteen, one particular male exchange student from Argentina would make a pass at her every day while living under their roof, and twice was waiting in her bedroom for her when she came out of the shower. Her parents never seemed to take her complaints about the students particularly seriously, but after that experience they generally made it a practice of taking female exchange students.

Bethany though, would take it upon herself to learn as much as she could about her new siblings' language, their cultures, their hometowns, their families and friends back home, and would stick to them like glue in public to make sure that their transition to America ran as smoothly as the day is long. After they went back to their home countries, she would write them long letters full of hearts to make sure they knew how they were missed and how much love they added to the Katz family, inevitably ending with ample promises to visit them back home.

When Bethany was seventeen in 1993, the exchange student was Kristina from Dresden - a new adventure. Blond, five-feet eleven, friendly and outgoing, fluent and accented English full of wonderful malapropisms, and hilariously unable to get jokes. Every attempt to turn her smile into a laugh would be met with a brow that frowned while the smile stayed pasted on, and two seconds later an explanation as to why the statement Bethany just made was not true. It caused Bethany no end of delight. Kristina's father was once a member of the Communist party, his father before him a member of the Nazi party. Other various indirect ancestors were members of the Deutsche Reichspartei, the SPD, the Stazi, and the Waffen-SS.

But you would never know from such a troubled past by looking at Kristina, who resembled life itself. Nothing was too adventurous for Kristina, who insisted on taking Bethany, indeed the whole Katz family, all along the trails and rivers of Northern California. The Katzes thought they were an outdoors family until Kristina took them to a new outdoor habitation every weekend.

It was during one of these outdoor habitations that a series of a dozen-and-a-half vans pulled up to the next door house. Driving through the entire block is prohibited, so traffic was blocked for half-a-mile in each direction. Ten children emerged with two parents, and forty other men and women (mostly men) helping them move into the two houses to the east of the Katzes. The men wear dark suits and black hats which they only take off for the severest of labors, the women never take off their long sleeves or their long dark dresses or the hats atop their heads. The few women who show any hair look as though theirs is completely synthetic.

Within seven hours, all the furniture was properly deposited, along with an extra sink properly drilled and plumbed, two refrigerators installed, an extra oven installed with the previously installed thoroughly cleansed, two microwaves, two toasters. All able to be done because the wall between the two townhouses was thoroughly knocked down so that two townhouses become one large townhouse in the middle of the San Francisco Victorians. The multicolored hue of the Victorian paintjob was next thing taken care of, repainted not as a many-colored cloak but as a simple Blue and White, with a painting on the third floor of an old man's face with a very long, almost completely square beard with four Hebrew letters underneath that read "Mem, Shin, Yud, Khet." Moshiach.

San Francisco is always looking for a cause to protest, the more senseless the cause, the greater the agitation. No sooner had every townhouse on the Painted Lady block become Painted Ladies than two of them were desecrated completely. There could be no more perfect storm for San Francisco.

If Unitarian Universalism is Christianity without the Messiah, then Chabad is Judaism with it. The Chabadniks, or Lubavitchers, believe that Moshiach has already arrived, but he unexpectedly died in his nineties, and we await his second coming. Who is this great Messiah? He is the seventh Rabbi of Lyubavitchi, Menachem Mendel Schneerson of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, great-grandson of the Third Lubavitcher Rebbe, also named Menachem Mendel Schneerson, and son-in-law of the Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Yosef Yitzhak Schneerson, who was accompanied on his journey to America by none other than A. C. Charlap's great-grandfather, Yehuda Leib Gordon. There were six Lubvitcher Rebbes before this Rav Schneerson, and there will never be another.

In a letter from Rabbi Schneerson to Israel's longest-serving President, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, Schneerson wrote "From the time that I was a child attending Cheder, and even before, the vision of the future Redemption began to take form in my imagination -- the Redemption of the Jewish people from their final Exile, a redemption of such magnitude and grandeur through which the purpose of the suffering, the harsh decrees, and the annihilation of Exile will be understood."

But the harsh decree came immediately from the San Francisco community, which no amount of repentance, prayer, or charity could cancel. One would think that the outrage generated by the most expensive city in America, with its roughly 7,000 homeless residents - care of which can cost up to $150,000 a year each, its chronic water shortages, pollutants in the Bay, proliferation of dog shit, endless bridge traffic, and income disparities that make the gentrification of the East Coast as relatively threatening to people of color as a gentle breeze would have finer targets. But the luxury of privilege is to direct your rage on whatever catches your attention, and if Chabad wanted to direct attention to themselves, they could not have done better than destroy the facade of two Victorians. 

Bob was, of course, the opposite of joyful to have neighbors like these, even if he thought the carrying on of the protestors was a bit much. He didn't pay for the most expensive townhouse in America's most expensive city during this dot com boom just to hear vaguely antisemitic chanting every day from his home office. So perhaps he was inclined to a bit more sympathy for these Jewish embarrassments than he would have been. But when Mary and Bethany told him they were gonna bake a Babka and go over to the new neighbors to welcome these animals, there was no way in hell to make him go with them. He knew that they knew this would annoy the crap out of him, and as always, he wondered if that's why they did it. He wanted to scream at them that this was the worst idea they'd come up with yet. Once you get these people involved in your lives, you can never get rid of them. 

This would become yet another campaign of two, Mary and Bethany, to make Bob a better, friendlier, more positive person. And Bob knew they were right, eventually he'd always go along, with an inevitable complaint along the way that his wife and daughter would always make fun of him for. And because he had much more sympathy with Marian's skepticism, he became the family disciplinarian who would shout at his cynical older daughter every day for pointing out everything stupid about what her mother believed people could do. God knows Mary was too cheerful to ever discipline anyone, and Mary somehow created a perfect image of herself in Bethany, who seemed, as if by grace of the God his own parents still pretended to believe in, to be the perfect daughter. 

God knows Marian would be all too happy if she ever heard him talk out loud like this about their family, but one day Marion'll see that he was right that they were right. One day... one day... one day this crusade of positivity will go much too far... and something this stupid just might be it. They don't know these people, but they'll learn very quickly, and I don't know if it'll be for the best. It might curb their good cheer to better causes, on the other hand, it might totally ruin their exuberance. But giving Mary and Bethany the freedom he never permitted himself gave Bob more happiness than any Katz ever thought possible. For twenty-five years, it went against every instinct in his innards to let Mary pursue whatever wacky scheme to make the world a better, brighter place without telling her that any one of these plans could have backfired horrifically, and one day, one of them probably will. And yet she proved his instinct wrong every time. He'd had these moments of subtle panic every time she had an idea which made him worry, which was just about every day, yet she was always right. Maybe, just maybe, she'll prove him wrong about frummies. 

So the next Sunday, two of the three Katz girls knock on the door of their new neighbors. The door is opened by a short sixteen year old boy with a faint wisp of a beard. 

"Hi there? I'm Mary Williams Katz and this is my daughter Bethany. We're so happy to welcome you to our block and neighborhood."


"Yeah. I'm Mary Williams Katz."

"Just a minute."

The boy walks further back into the house. He has stooped shoulders and seems to sway from side to side as he talks. As they get to know him better, they'll realize that he did not look them in the eye at the door, because he never does. They hear conversation from the next room that sounds like whispering, but it's so loud even so that they can't help but hear every word. Mary's spent enough time around Bob's extended family to know what Yiddish sounds like, and Bethany, insisting that Kristina help her start learning German, just figures that's what she's hearing. Neither though can understand what's being said, except one word out of every ten: 


After three or four minutes of this, what appears to be the father and mother come out but they don't open the door. The father simply says:

"So pleased to meet you I'm Yaakov Albrecht the new Chabad Rabbi in town is there any way that we can come to you later this afternoon?"

"Um... Yeah I guess."

"Great we'll be by in a half-hour!"

I work as a minister at the 

This family, the Albrechts, were a kind of Chabadnik royalty with the yichus that comes from tracing its roots past the entire lineage of all six Lubavitcher Rebbes to the very mouth of the Chasidisher river, the the Baal Shem Tov himself. The Baal Shem Tov, Besht for short, Yisroel ben Eliezer, Master of the Good Name, founder of Chasidic Judaism, the mystical mid-18th century counterenilightment of Jewish Russia pitted against the German Jewish Enlightenment, Haskalah, of Moses Mendelssohn. "Whosoever believes all the miracle stories of the Baal Shem Tov is a fool," so wrote the Rebbe Schlomo Rodomsk, "but whoever denies he could have done them is a heretic." Of him, Rebbe Mordachai of Neshimsk wrote "Even if a story about him never occurred, and there was no such miracle, it was in the power of the Baal Shem Tov. May his memory be a blessing in the life of the World-to-Come, to perform everything." 

Moses Mendelssohn told rural Jews to move into cities, make money, learn the language and culture of the goyim, stay Jews but become citizens of the world. Nice idea, but who wants to stay Jewish when you can be a citizen of the world? The Baal Shem Tov saw that the urban Jews weren't making money, so he told them to get out of the city and become farmers. Live together in small communities, educate their children together. It was Kibbutz Zionism a hundred years before Zion was an option. He emerged like another beloved Holy Figure of Zion in the last third of his life: expelling shaydim and dybbuks, curing the incurable, writing amulets. He claimed to have reached Devekut: a state of soul so holy he could speak with the Messiah himself and intercede on our behalf with Yahweh. Orphaned at three, widowed at sixteen, emerging at forty from a quarter-century of living in the woods - teaching children their prayers, digging clay and lime for income, learning how to use herbal remedies, experiencing visions of the Achiya HaShiloni, prophet of the Solomonic era. 

It all sounds a bit familiar. Indeed, he taught that we have to pray for salvation, regarding the Torah as a sacred relic - the mere glance upon which elevates the soul. In place of the Devil, the Baal Shem Tov has Amalek, a tribe so terrible that Hashem ordered its genocide down to the very last child. "Amalek is still alive today" he warned "Every time you experience a worry or doubt about how Hashem is running the world -- that's Amalek. Amalek launching an attack against your soul. We must wipe Amalek out of our hearts whenever--andwherever--he attacks so we can serve Hashem with complete joy." 

Moses Mendelssohn ordered a modern skepticism and irony, the Baal Shem Tov ordered genocide of fear and doubt from the soul, and in its place, joy, joy, joy. From such joy came all the great Chasidic Dynasties: Chernobyl,Chortov, Machnovka, Skver, Fatichan, Vizhnitz, Savran, Hornsteipl, Satmar,  Belz, Bobov, Boston, and Bretslav. All, like heretical monarchies, tracing their lineage to the Baal Shem Tov, with tens of thousands of followers at least proliferating through Eastern Europe and the Eastern US and Israel, and virtually all threatened with irrelevance by the new and growing dominance of the Lubavicher line. The older Rebbes of the Lubavitch line were given names like the Alter Rebbe, Mitteler Rebbe, Tzemach Tzedeck, but Menachem Mendel Schneerson was known as the Lubavicher Rebbe, or simply, the Rebbe. He was the culmination, the zenith, and there will never be another to take his place.

What was his great contribution? It can be explained fairly simply: Ben Gurion wanted Jews to come home to Tzion, that place between Jordan and Egypt the size of New Jersey. The Rebbe wanted Jews to come home to the infinite Tzion of the neshama, the soul. 

Paul preached to the heathens, Schneerson apparently preached to those who might as well be heathens in English, Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian, French, German, and Italian. Direct marketing hopes that one in fifty mailings will show interest and one in fifty of those will result in a sale. Chabad is direct marketing for Jews to be Jewish again. He wanted every Jew in the world to do ten basic mitzvahs, and sent out an army of Yeshiva Bochers to fill the streets of every major city in the world, combing the streets for men for big nosed to harass so they'd lay tefilin. Special Yeshivas of education in Torah for women. Seemingly founding Yeshivas in every city that observant Jews were not or no longer found. Sponsoring the widescale emigration of Iranian Jews after the Ayatollah's Coup. When not begging Jews to come back, he preached to his converted flock for hours at a time. 

This was the Moshiach whose picture the Albrecht family painted over the two Victorians they'd made into a duplex for a family of Jews who believed in a Messiah's second coming, living next to Mary Williams, minister in a Christianity which doesn't even believe the Messiah came once. 

Blume, Etteh, Levi, Yitzhak, Shimon, Rochel, Chava, Tzipporah (or Feygeleh), Maishel, Hershel, and Noam. Noam was the 

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