Thursday, September 16, 2010

Jewish graffiti


Jewish date:  8 Tishri 5771.

Today’s holidays:  Ten Days of Repentance (Judaism), Feast Days of Cornelius and Cyprian (Roman Catholicism), Paryushana (Hinduism), The Day That Shall Not Be Named (Church of the SubGenius).

Worthy cause of the day:  “Got Science?”.

Topic 1:  Jewish outreach gone wrong.  In practically any religion, getting the message out, at least to the members, is of value.  Thus outreach in some form is to be expected.  And anything which can be done right can probably be done wrong, too.  And Jews are no exception in this regard.

The most famous Jewish group engaging in outreach is Lubavitch, known officially as Ḥabbadh (Chabad).  This group of Ḥasidhim are famous for setting up tables in public settings and inducing men to put on tefillin, and I did see a few instances of this.  Lubavitchers are also famous for many of them thinking that their last rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, is Mashiaḥ (the Messiah), despite the inconvenient fact that he died in 1994.  And this belief featured almost always in Lubavitcher signs which I saw in Israel:

The top caption reads “May our lord, our teacher, and our master, king, the Mashiaḥ live forever and ever."  The lower caption reads “Mashiaḥ promises—not even one Jew will remain in exile!”

What really struck me is that the religious advertising, both Lubavitch and of other groups, was not limited to legal signs.  There was also a sizable amount of graffiti.  How anyone rationalizes petty vandalism is unknown to me—graffiti is a form of damaging the property of other people or the public in general—but they do it anyway.

This illegal poster reads “The anointed king (= Mashiaḥ) will live”.  All the Lubavitcher vandalism I saw was in the form of posters.

Less famous for outreach, but clearly working hard at it, are the Breslover Ḥasidhim.  This is one of the groups featured in the Israeli film ’Ushpizin.  During my trip, some of them repeatedly set up a station at the end of Ben Yehudhah Street in Yerushalayim and played loud music with the intent of attracting people.

Notice the poster, which bears the caption “Na Naḥ Naḥma Naḥman from Uman”.  Rav Naḥman was a Breslover rebbe, and he is buried in Uman, Ukraine.  This caption was revealed in a mysterious note in 1922, and some Breslovers use it as a mantra.  And they have been hard at work trying to spread this mantra by spreading it all over Israel, often in the form of graffiti.  There were some posters, but a lot of the copies of mantra were written by hand:

Religion often blurs into politics, and so it should be no wonder that religious vandalism also can have a political aspect.  To give two diametrical examples:

This sticker proclaims “Today all know Kahana’ [= Meir Kahane] is right!”, referring to the angry Zionist political activist whose activities went beyond peaceful protest and civil disobedience into violence.  In opposition to this, we have this unacceptable accusation:

The writing reads “Zionists = murderers” and was probably written by someone of a Neṭure Qarta’ or Satmar bent.  The writer definitely has no grasp of what the Israeli government or Zionists actually do.

Anyone with any information on how anyone rationalizes the sorts of petty vandalism documented in this post, please let me know.

Topic 2:  For today’s religious humor:  “Kitteh Komic of teh Day: Gods n Goggies”:
funny pictures of cats with captions
This comic, of course, reflects very primitive notions of godhood.


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