Friday, August 21, 2009

Jerry Springer, C'mon Down!

I've heard through the grapevine that my Jewish Week op-ed of a few weeks ago, "Welcome To The Neighborhood, Jerry Springer," apparently didn't sit too well among Jerry and his entourage. I can certainly understand that my message might have seemed unwelcoming, especially when compared to the unbridled adulation hoisted upon him by our local newspaper and politicians. My piece posed legitimate questions as to whether the show and its host merit such adulation and how it reflects on our culture and our community.

We had a spirited discussion of the matter last Shabbat at services. This was no theoretical question, after all, but a real matter of just how hospitable we should be in this case, and whether the Springer show is good-for-the-Jews. There was no consensus, but it is clear to me after hearing from everyone that, in principle, we should be in the business of welcoming people to our sanctuary and community without precondition and exception... unless your name is Bernie Madoff, that is. My whole point in the Madoff case was not for him to be a precedent but for his excommunication to highlight the uniqueness of the damage he has done to America, the Jewish People, to Torah and to the trust that lies at the foundation of faith and philanthropy.

Springer doesn't even come close to that - even if his show has little redeeming value. And we can't go around passing judgment so glibly.

Some call him a modern day PT Barnum. Maybe we should see the freak show he puts on for what it is, entertainment, pure and simple (at least for those who liked "Hee Haw"), and an outlet for the frustration felt by so many. I'm not so sure it's that harmless, but neither do I claim to be the "good taste" police.

So, yeah, Jerry, C'mon Down! If you are free on Rosh Hashanah, I know you'll like it here. If you or any newcomers on your staff are looking for a shul, we're here for you! You might not like everything you hear from the pulpit, but hey, what I do is entertainment too. In the end, we all want our messages to have enduring value and not merely be a nice distraction from our pitiful existences and humdrum lives. Maybe, together, we can figure out how to do that better.

So, welcome to Stamford, Jerry Springer!

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