I really couldn’t help myself on that post title. There must be a little of the Hollywood Variety headline editor in me. At any rate, Jewish Week reports that Birthright tour impresario Shlomo “Mojo” Lifschitz, whose Oranim Educational Initiatives hosted more trips (50,000 “satisfied” customers) than any other tour provider, has parted company with Birthright.
For some odd reason, a guy who helped coin and market the term “sexual Zionism” has hit a wall. I guess his hard-sell proselytizing for making Jewish babies and aliyah is no longer in favor.
I really couldn’t believe this 2005 Forward profile of Lifschitz till I sat down and read it. It includes this passage:
Zionism always has had a sexualized aspect to it, [Habonim Dror’s Alex] Sharone said, evoking a beefcake image of Israel’s early years. “The strong, bare-chested men working the land. All that talk of ‘blooming’ and ‘bearing fruit’ is so Freudian. And today, all the soldiers protecting the motherland. It’s definitely sexy.”
…A spry 21-year-old [American Jewish woman] who described herself as having been “made in Israel, born in America” — met her sexy soldier boyfriend, Elon, on one of Momo’s Birthright trips. “The whole idea of Sexual Zionism became a main point in my life,” [she] remembered, who prior to the trip had dated only non-Jewish boys. “I came to [Israel], and I felt that my heart was completed.” Cut to [her] now living in Israel, plugging away in the Oranim office, working as a “Momo Propagandist,” preaching the big man’s message of Jewish life, love and fraternity.
Oddly enough, this was never an aspect of Israel or Zionism that appealed to me when I was this age. My idea of being a good Zionist was reading Arthur Hertzberg’s The Zionist Idea. Now I see what I was missing!
In his happier days, he and Birthright actually believed that stoking a 15 year old Jew with tales of Zion, the scent of sex and plying him or her with liquor would sell aliyah and somehow create a proud Jewish identity. He was also known to lecture his charges on the “unsurpassed beauty of Jewish women.”
This is precisely my problem with Birthright. It is a cheap, by the hour, Motel Six version of Jewish identity. There’s a vague tie to the land of Israel but little else. No Jewish history. No Judaism. No Bible. Except as adjuncts of the Israel connection. Birthright will never learn, indeed CAN never learn that Jewish identity without Diaspora and without the deeper cultural, religious and ethical bonds is no identity at all.
For ten years, this former IDF officer has been peddling his lowest common denominator message quite successfully. Yet, in this day of settlement freezes and declining interest in Israel among the Jewish young, Birthright has decided that Shlomo Momo’s Mojo is passe:
He noted that Birthright had prohibited him from using the phrase “raise your children Jewish” or encouraging aliyah to Israel. And he said he could no longer promise his free Israel honeymoon gift to brides and grooms who had met during their Oranim Birthright trips.
With that kind of come-on, it’s a wonder Momo hasn’t single-handedly saved the Jewish people from extinction. But I really think he should’ve gone the whole nine yards and offered a free apartment, car and college education for all those future Jewish babies his alumni “basherts” would’ve produced.
Reading a bit more about Lifschitz, he seems like a petty dictator/Meyer Lansky type:
…There were complaints about Lifshitz from participants who had intermarried parents and from others who said they were made to feel like second-class Jews if they didn’t marry Jews or move to Israel.
The official also suggested that Lifshitz had become difficult to work with — confrontational and self-important.
And, quel surprise, Momo was known for spicing up his dating tips with crass shpiels consisting of right-wing Israeli propaganda:
…Some participants were put off by what they saw as his hard line on Israeli politics.
“The right-wing perspectives presented were rather unsettling, and the indoctrination was unappealing,” said a 23-year-old 2005 Oranim trip participant, who requested to remain anonymous due to his work at an American Jewish organization. “[Momo] spoke to our group, saying, ‘Some people say the Iraq war was good for Israel. Wrong. The Iraq war was great for Israel,’ representing a rather astonishingly narrow viewpoint.”
RE: SHLOMO MOMO’S MOJO
Wow! That makes standard alliteration look like child’s play.
interesting post. There’s something almost funny and light-hearted about Momo’s antics. But I don’t know, when you combine the sexual and physical with identity politics it can get dicey. So many aspects of Zionism seem to closely mirror late-19th century European racial nationalisms. In our culture (for this purpose loosely encompassing North America, Europe & Australia), supermodels and (traditionally) actresses conform for the most part to Nordic/Germanic templates of beauty and physical attractiveness, “gentlemen prefer blonds” (and blue eyes) after all, at least that’s the old saw. Even today, we have Gisele Bundchen christened the Top Supermodel by Vanity Fair, a Brazilian of German ancestry (on both sides). So many of us in the West have internalized fairly racialized constructs of beauty, particularly regarding women, and the Northern European gentile template is (still) subtly privileged in our American culture. It seems like Momo’s antics are a kind of corollary to this, an alternate universe in content perhaps, but the same basic paradigm as we see in the broader cultural assumptions. In Momo’s sexed-up Birthright iteration, we have “the unsurpassed beauty of Jewish women”. It’s the national/racial undercurrent to this sort of thing, both in the broader Gentile cultural stream of the Gisele Bundchens, Heidi Klums, Claudia Schiffers, etc., and in this particular Zionist Variation on the Theme, that can be somewhat problematic IF it becomes a nationalist project. Listen, Momo’s schtick is really old stuff, keep to your own, don’t mix with the ‘lesser’ breeds, the equation of beauty with racial or ethnic purity, etc. Jews certainly did not invent this stuff, though Schlomo Momo might like to take credit for it.
I find it supremely ironic that the “MomObama” graphic you used to illustrate this post was created by David Abitbol of Jewlicious. See http://www.jewlicious.com/2009/07/momo-and-birthright-israel-splitsville/ – is this a copyright issue? I wonder.
Richard Silverstein says
Well, first of all you’re claiming it was created by him and I see no proof of that. Second, if it was & you’d like to “report” me to him you’re welcome to do that. I’d be happy to remove the image & replace with any of a score of other Momo images available online as soon as Abitbol establishes his copyright claim.
Ha ha ha. I’m not the copyright police. The copyright information is at the bottom of the post.
Richard Silverstein says
You were right. The thought of mentioning his name & giving him credit was just too yucky to contemplate so I changed the image.
I never went on birthright from the US. Denied for valid reasons (I had been on an Israel trip with my boarding school in England).
However, they took me as one of the soldiers on the trip. We were given an introduction to what we should expect with Momo before meeting the kiddies. I wasn’t all too impressed with the ‘love’ and ‘sex’ talk … It really disappointed me how the whole trip was handled, and it’s been one of the reasons I’ve been anti-Birthright’s ‘method’ (not idea).
How I would improve birthright? Well, let’s leave that for a rainy day.
WOW! Boarding school in England! I’m so impressed!
PS. No “insinuation” or “generalization” was intended.
Richard Silverstein says
And all I got was this lousy American public school education! Actually not that lousy, but it did make me miserable & bored much of the time.
I can tell you you were educated in a lousy American public school. No “insinuation” or “generalization” here either.
Richard Silverstein says
You can’t tell the first thing about me & your presumption is offensive. I was educated in a suburban New York high school and earned honors and scholarships and it provided me entry to Columbia University. That in turn provided me entry to a Masters & PhD program. So contrary to yr venomous attitude, I’m proud of my education.
Why so snooty about American public education which is one of the finest aspects of our society? Are only private schools good enough for yr kind?
I went on an Oranim trip. Momo talked to us for an hour when we arrived, and an hour before we left. Yes he said the things you mentioned in the article.
Momo tries hard to get people to raise Jewish children because a large percentage of us are marying into christianity, etc. and we are losing our population not from wars but because we don't care to be Jewish anymore. (That was a point he made, and you cant deny there's truth to that.)
This trip despite Momo's over-the-top encouragement was an encredible life changing experience not because of Momo, but because of the place we went so deep-seated in our history, and out guide was incredible at telling us those stories.
When you said this in your article:
“There’s a vague tie to the land of Israel but little else. No Jewish history. No Judaism. No Bible. Except as adjuncts of the Israel connection. Birthright will never learn, indeed CAN never learn that Jewish identity without Diaspora and without the deeper cultural, religious and ethical bonds is no identity at all.”
You are way off base. That is ALL we did the entire 10 days of the trip: History and Judaism!!! I learned so very much about our history and am proud to be Jewish and have gotten to go on this trip.
The next time you say something like that, maybe interview more than 1 or 2 people who went on the trip. I did go when I was 26, which could explain why I got more from the trip than “we can drink here!” Maybe birthright can push back the age to 21 or 22? That would help in what you see as the problem with birthright trips. The maturity level should match what your trying to impart, and I don't think a 16 year-old could have possibly had the same experience I did.
This article is full of mis spellings and typos, appears to be written by a 7th grade student. Sliverstein is a moron, and blows D's!
Richard Silverstein says
Instead of carrying on like a schoolchild why don’t you actually point out whatever errors you think you’ve found. I’m always eager to be corrected when its warranted. If however, your aim was to be snarky & juvenile, then you’ve succeeded in impressing no one.
Come on James … how old are you?
While Richard and I disagree on things, we can do so respectfully … I'm sure you can handle that too, and if he has made spelling mistakes (I somehow doubt it), at least highlight it for him so he can make the necessary changes.
What are you a schoolchild? If there are mistakes point them out as Avram suggests instead of engaging in juvenile snark. But you've come here from Jewlicious which explains the juvenile level of yr comment since it's what you learn at the feet of your master, David Abitbol.
I'm not talking about Judaism and Jewish history as refracted through a narrow Zionist lens. I'm talking about the whole vast panoply of those subjects. Did Momo allow you to realize there is an actual Jewish history in the Diaspora? That much of Judaism also evolved in the Diaspora? I doubt that. He told you about those subjects only insofar as they further a Zionist narrative. In that, he did you a disservice.
Mollie White says
This is a ridiculous, abhorrent display of not only terrible writing ability, but also of your own 'propaganda' that you wrongly and shamefully accuse Momo of. I'm also assuming you have never been on an Oranim trip.
On my first trip in 2006 I stood up to disagree with Momo's stand on marrying Jewish. I am from an interfaith marriage, but was raised Jewish. Momo listened intently to my stand on raising my children Jewish, but not choosing who I love based solely on religion . I told him I was in Israel in memory of my father (and I swear he shed tears)and that my Jewish heritage is and always will be important no matter where life takes me. My carrying on of Judaism in my family won't be a result of who I marry, but who I am. He was very open to and understanding of my opinion, as I was of his.
It just goes to show that your quote 'There were complaints about Lifshitz from participants who had intermarried parents and from others who said they were made to feel like second-class Jews if they didn’t marry Jews ' is woefully incorrect. I don't know who you asked, but several of us on my trip were in the same situation and none of us felt the way you state. I think you need to find some factual information for your articles in the future (as well as site photos that you steal from others).
If I had felt imposed upon, pressured, or disliked there would have been no reason for me to return as as a staff in summer of 2008. Oranim was as much home to me as Israel. It is a community that is untouchable by any other in the birthright network.
However, I am angered the most untruthful, and disgusting quote of all. In fact I plan to file a complaint with the site to have your article removed for it. 'In his happier days, he and Birthright actually believed that stoking a 15 year old Jew with tales of Zion, the scent of sex and plying him or her with liquor would sell aliyah and somehow create a proud Jewish identity.' First of all, you must be 18 years old and a high school graduate to go on a birthright trip (such a simple fact to find on the birthright website). Additionally, sex was NOT encourage but interacting with others our age that were also Jewish (and not 15) of course was an added plus of the trip. And worst of all, drinking was not encouraged, nor were we 'plied' with liquor. We were very busy learning about Israel, so drinking only occurred at night when all activities were complete, and drunkenness was FORBIDDEN. Being caught drunk meant being sent home IMMEDIATELY. Momo was clear about this. And while many people manage not to get caught, drinking is NOT encouraged by Oranim or Momo whatsoever.
You should be ashamed of yourself. Not only do you have limited writing abilities, but you don't even bother to check your facts, but rather toss out crazed falsehoods in order to make your writing sound like something it's not. good.
Richard Silverstein says
It appears Abitbol has sicced his readers on us. What an honor. But anyone reading this thread should understand that Momo’s defenders are descending on us fromo the lair of Abitbol.
Let’s also note that Mollie has a conflict of interest since Momo pays her paycheck.
The problem with Momo’s defenders is that they’re blaming me for comments made by real live Jews who attended his tours & hated them. I didn’t make the quotes up. In fact, they all come from the Forward. And you naturally didn’t spend the time here to note that fact. You merely did what you were told to do by yr Master Abitbol and believed whatever he told you to believe about me and this post. But perhaps you might actually think & read for yrself next time instead of letting some other person do yr thinking for you. If you have a quarrel w. the Forward stories take it up with them. In attacking me you’re blaming the messenger.
BTW, you can’t say a quote is woefully incorrect about Momo’s stance on intermarriage since the person actually said that statement & attended the tour. Again, the Forward reporter actually interviewed them & documented their attendance on the trip. You may disagree w. what the person said but to deny that they said it is ridiculous.
Be my guest. I own the site. So file your site with me and I’ll act accordingly.
Isn’t this a bit of a contradiction?
So there was drinking, but no drunkenness? Or there was drunkenness but they weren’t caught. It’ll take me a while to parse that. 18 year olds in Israel without their parents & in the presence of a peer cohort and they drink but don’t get drunk. Really. In fact, binge drinking is a prevalent phenomenon on Birthright trips. YOu may not recognize the issue but Birthright itself does & is attempting to end it. I didn’t mean to say that Momo personally plies his charges with booze. They manage to ply themselves with it.
Seems to me that you’re the one that doesn’t bother to actually understand what you read & charging me with inventing quotations written in The Forward is a crazed falsehood that you might want to own up to.
Once again, You have proven your inability to justify your article but instead make childish jabs such as ‘Mollie has a conflict of interest since Momo pays her paycheck.’
Wow, that’s seriously funny, since staff members get paid what is equivalent to 50 dollars in USD to go on the trip. If I have biases Mr Silverstein, it is not for any paycheck but for my experiences with Oranim. But, for the sake of being fair we could also say you are biased against him because you did not have the honor of getting that paycheck. Or in other words, did not experience an Oranim trip yourself
First of all, I DID NOT come from Abitbol. Yes, I did reference the photograph issue, but I found that via your blog (funny how things work out isn’t it?) I am not a reader of Abitbol’s. And since you’re just blaming another ‘messenger’, The Forward. I also plan to read their article as well.
Secondly, while you claim these quotations are ‘true’ , ‘ the person actually said that statement & attended the tour’ You are generalizing one person’s words to 46,000 alumni. You are forgetting that not everyone can be happy on a trip, and I’m sure that when you service as many people as a trip organizer for birthright does, you’ll get a few unhappy ‘customers’.
Also, I don’t consider my statement about drinking to be a contradiction. Although it is apparent you are far to old to understand. ’18 year olds in Israel without their parents & in the presence of a peer cohort and they drink but don’t get drunk.’
First, I thought they were 15! Right? I mean you don’t even have the age of the trips correct, and don’t even give credit when corrected. An old dog doesn’t learn new tricks I suppose.
Heres what I mean. Many 18 year olds go on birthright and drinking is is legal at 18 in Israel. And just like you said yourself you put people the same age together without their parents and there will always be a few that get drunk, sometimes more than others. Yet, the staff keep a watchful eye, and being caught drunk means you go home. End of story. That’s not a joke either, I have seen individuals sent home, and believe me I’m sure it wasn’t a fun reunion with mommy and daddy because they also have to pay for the trip. Also, your quote ‘ In fact, binge drinking is a prevalent phenomenon on Birthright trips.’ Wait.. Binge drinking is a HUGE problem for this american age group ANYWHERE. There are some that could be in the woods in Maine and manage to wrangle in a 10 dollar bottle of vodka. However, I am happy to say that the majority of participants I encountered were not there to drink.
And I’m sorry but no matter which way you slice it this quote, ‘In his happier days, he and Birthright actually believed that stoking a 15 (again 15..) year old Jew with tales of Zion, the scent of sex and plying him or her with liquor’ insinuates that someone (‘he’) was ‘plying’ which according to Merriam Webster means ‘to keep furnishing or supplying something to’ Even the sample sentence from the dictionary justifies the interpretation of that quote. So who is the ‘he’ in that quote that is ‘plying’ or rather supplying (which is the word of orgin) that liquor? Or what meaning did you intend plying to have?
Finally, I understood what I read exactly. I read nothing that even a hint of what is largely the greater feeling of Oranim participants and staff. You have based your article on the feelings of few rather than many.
p.s Please click on your contact link. There wasn’t anything listed on it, and I’d love to continue this in email.
Richard Silverstein says
Accusing you of having a conflict of interest is not “childish.” It’s actually a tenet of American ethics that the credibility of people who accept money fr. someone & then turn around & do something in the interest of their employer/patron may be questioned. I’ve questioned yours in this regard. Don’t like it? Too bad.
As for my bias, now look who’s being childish. I wouldn’t accept a paycheck fr. Momo…well, if you paid me. I had no bias against him till I read about his divorce fr. Birthright in Jewish Week (I think it was there). I wouldn’t have known him from Adam before then.
There has been an influx of negative commenters since Abitbol posted with his juvenile prank which he believed was at my expense. You came here as well. I surmised you were one of his readers. And I’m still not convinced even if you aren’t one of his readers that you didn’t come here through some indirect connection to him, his blog or one of his readers.
Mollie, you’re not reading what I wrote carefully. Read it again slowly & carefully:
Can you show me where in this statement I said that Momo physically provided liquor to anyone. You can’t because I didn’t. What I meant & what any reasonable reader would take away from this is that Momo knows what it necessary for a successful Zionist tour experience. If sex & drinking provide that then he doesn’t have a problem with it. You’ve noted that Momo accepts drinking by trip participants. This would indicate that he believes it is beneficial to the overall quality of the trip experience.
I also just wanted to clarify that Oranim does-not condone drinking in any fashion. Really if you’re seen drinking even then you go home. Drunkenness however.. thats another story altogether, that is an immediate dismissal from the trip and you PAY for your ‘free’ trip. Of course there is always some participants that manage to get away with it. But if Momo is around he never turns a blind eye to it. I saw your reply saying that our posts were conflicting, and I wanted to clear that up.
I was just wondering. I would like to know WHY you are so biased against a man you’ve never met?
Momo didn't have anything about the Diaspora, correct. It wasn't like he was with us during the 10 days preaching Zionism. We saw him 2 out of 240 hours spent in Israel. We were with a tour guide, taking us around to Masada, the golan heights, the military cemetary, Yad Vashem, and many other places and told us the stories of those locations. The trip wasn't anti-Diaspora evoling Judaism, it simply wasn't brought up because there wasn't a good platform to talk about it. We learned all about Israel, because we were in Israel.
The USA is what it is today because of everything learned in other nations from immigrants. Do we teach tourists about them when they come to America? No, we talk about America…I think you're asking a lot to have them talk about non-Israel sbjects on a tour through Israel. There a ton more they COULD teach us about. You have a point, I just don't see how you can ask Taglit Birthright Israel, sending kids to Israel, key word Israel, to bring more to the trip. Do Hillel trips teach about the Diaspora, or other organizations that have Birthright trips?
BR alum says
I know Momo's speach in and out. It is pretty obvious that you have not heard it yourself and that you are just piecing together relayed information. This is perhaps why your information has to reside on a blog and not actually be published.
Furthermore, I was not aware that listening to someone speak about their opinions, no matter how passionate they may be, was considered instructions on life. If you are that manipulated by a speech then I pity you.
Richard Silverstein says
You do realize that a blog IS “published,” don’t you. Clearly I know a lot more about Momo than you know about blogging. As for publishing this in a newspaper which is I presume what you meant–I don’t have to. The Forward already dug up this dirt on Momo & published it which was how I discovered it.
Actually were were given that information. We learned of the whole evolution of Judaism. We even viewed archeological sites that date back to the time of Jesus. Actually, most of our education was focused upon the past of Israel, dating long before the creation of it's state. Not only did we learn about Jewish history, and Israel's far shorter history, but we even touched upon other religions that reside in Israel, such as the Bah'ai faith which has it's holiest sight in Israel. No other trip organizer visits that site. So much for your opinion of a closed lens perspective.
Not to mention (once again). You. havent. been. on. an. Oranim. trip!
Richard Silverstein says
So let’s take a little quiz on Jewish history. Without resorting to your friend Google, let’s see how much Momo taught about Diaspora Jewish history. Send me a line of two about the following & we’ll see how well Momo taught you:
1. Yochana ben Zakai’s flight from Yavneh
2. Napoleon’s grant of citizenship to French Jews
5. Emma Lazarus
6. creation of Reform Judaism
7. medieval Spanish Jewish life
What’s that you say? He didn’t say anything about any of those things? But you said you learned about Jewish history, didn’t you?
I will take the time to point out your multitude of errors..
1) You have not heard Momo’s speech so yes, I know this because you have not been on Birthright
2) Momo gives a speech about his passion and personal belief. The country of Israel, the sites you see, the guides on the trips and the guides at the sites do more then enough to express different views about Judiasm and Diaspora.
I unfortunately cannot find any further factual information in your blog to dispute. You appear to be choosing specific opinions and using a strong bias to do so. However, what you are then doing is taking these opinions as fact and then further analyzing them. I encourage Momo to come to Seattle and meet with you so that you can provide your criticism to him in person. However, I do see that you have cleverly removed all methods of contacting you.
Richard Silverstein says
None of the items you mentioned are “errors” so I’m not sure what your claim is: that only those who attend a Momo tour are allowed to criticize him? That no one else can possibly understand what goes on on such a tour?
As for contacting me, there is a Contact link in my sidebar. It’s always been there. I get e mails from readers virtually every day. So much for “cleverly removing all methods of contacting” me.
Ah, lastly, I also know that the writers from Forward magazine have also not heard Momo speak, they also used alumni opinions and maybe interviews with Momo outside of the speech that he gives. There have been MANY alumni of Momo’s programs that have gone back to Israel to study in Yeshiva. This is because it is not a speech from some guy that makes you feel a connection to judiasm, it is being in Israel.
Richard Silverstein says
And why would you think that this was the arbiter of success for Momo’s tours?? Is the only way of being a Jew making aliya and studying in a yeshiva?
You are a funny man Mr. Silverstein. But I will indulge you if only in the hope that you learn some humility. As was mentioned before, Momo speaks to groups twice for about an hour at a time. The first talk welcomes everyone to Israel (“Welcome Home!”) and outlines the strict rules about how Oranim operates – including a warning that as adults, participants are allowed to drink, but that anyone found to be inebriated will be kicked off the trip immediately (“Drink. Don’t get drunk.”). His second talk focuses on his “ideology” and here he speaks like the Jewish grandfather that he is, worried about the continued viability of diaspora Jewry in an era where Jewish literacy is at an all time low and intermarriage is the norm rather than the exception. He is a straight talker and doesn’t couch his opinions in politically correct jargon. These two hours represent less than 1% of the 240 hours that make up the trip. During the rest of the very brief trip, participants are in the hands of madrichim (counselors), tour guides, Israeli mifgashim (young Israelis who travel with the participants) and the occasional speakers. The focus is on the land of Israel and the hope is that the trip will inspire curiosity, passion and further study after the trip.
Your questions are thus kind of disingenuous. Doctoral theses have been written about each and every one. Do you really think a 10-day trip to Israel can do justice to any of these?
Lets look at “Napoleon’s grant of citizenship to French Jews” for instance. This began the period of Jewish emancipation in Europe that saw states granting Jews full rights as citizens for the first time. This helped usher in the establishment of Reform Judaism for instance, characterized in part, by the desire to make Judaism less foreign to non-Jewish fellow citizens. Gone were references to Israel in the liturgy (dual loyalties!), the use of Hebrew in prayer (too foreign!) and in were Temples designed to look and sound like Churches and Rabbis dressed like clergy. And when discussing emancipation, how can one not mention the Dreyfus affair that exposed lingering anti-Semitism in France 100 years after the granting of equal rights? And how this inspired a young Viennese journalist named Herzl, who attended the trial, to found the Zionist movement which then led to the creation of the State of Israel.
Did that last paragraph contain gross oversimplifications? Yes it did. But what do you expect from a paragraph? What can you expect from 10-days? All Birthright participants go to Yad Vashem and Liberty Hall. Many also go to the Diaspora Museum. Most of the issues you touched upon are addressed there, though not in the same depth that they would be addressed in even an undergraduate course. Professional educators are tasked with piquing the curiosity of participants and having them think about broad issues. And the discussions that result from these activities are usually quite good and interesting. Hardly anyone emerges from an Oranim or any Birthright trip unaffected and unchanged.
Your characterization of these trips as bacchanalian binge drinking fests is grossly inaccurate. It belies your bias against anything or anyone who does not think exactly like you. More importantly, it represents a grievous insult against the intelligence of the vast majority of those who participate in and help run Taglit Birthright Israel trips. It demonstrates a world class level of arrogance and hubris. I for one don’t need David Abitbol and Jewlicious to point that out to me. It’s all readily apparent.
Richard Silverstein says
This is an entirely jaundiced view of Diaspora Jewry. I would suggest that Momo doesn’t have a clue what Diaspora Jewry is. An obsessive focus on intermarriage is characteristic of old line Zionist thinking and old-line American Jewish thinking. And it is this obsessiveness along with Israel’s unending wars with its neighbors that drives young American Jews away fr. Israel as proven by Jewish opinion surveys.
Your biased characterization of Reform Judaism is about 20 yrs out of date. The movement has left those attitudes long behind. And I’m not even a Reform Jew! How long has it been since you actually knew anything about Reform Judaism or visited a Reform synagogue??
And it’s your claim that Momo’s tours are run by professional educators? I seriously doubt that is the case.
Actually, the only reason you’re here is because David Abitbol DID point that out to you.
Maya Zachodin says
I do not know who you are, but you have illegally used my name in an article that was not approved, nor was i quoted correctly or even interviewed for this article. I have ZERO association with Momo Lifshitz and Oranim Educational Initiatives and being that i do work in the Jewish world, you are presenting a message which is not my message and is detrimental to my career in the Jewish Community. I am ready to press legal action if you do not IMMEDIATELY remove my name and any content related to it as this is libel. If you have received information associated with my name, then that is likely libel as well as, again, i was never interviewed for ANY article about sexual Zionism.
Richard Silverstein says
I don’t know who you are.
You were quoted in a story in The Forward for which you certainly must’ve been interviewed. I don’t know you & certainly wouldn’t manufacture a quote by you for that reason. So if you have a problem with the quote attributed to you take it up with the journalist who interviewed you. By the way, the article came out several years ago. You could’ve complained then. Why is it bothering you now all of a sudden?
Do you know how to read a blog post? Do you understand that if a blogger quotes someone and there is a link associated with the quotation that this means the quotation is from the original source and not the blog itself?
If you still want to sue me let me know and I’ll send you the name of my attorney with whom you may file papers. Or perhaps you’d want to sue The Forward which provided the quote from you in the first place? I probably can get their lawyer’s name for you if you need it.
Of the making of many lawsuits there is no end (Kohelet, approximately)
Over the past 10 years he’s been instrumental in getting 50,000 young diaspora Jews to come to Israel. And that doesn’t include the countless Federation and Community trips he’s run as well as his MASA programs. He travels extensively and visits multiple cities in the US. His visits are spent mostly interacting directly with his alumni. Frankly, I really don’t know anyone that has as much direct contact with young diaspora Jews as he does. If what he sees in his travels and talks is a healthy, vibrant and secure Jewish future, I don’t think he’d be as singularly obsessive as he is. I am in Israel now, but back home the numbers cited by the old-line are if anything, conservative. Most of my friends are unaffiliated and most are dating or have married non-Jews. Their levels of Jewish literacy are indeed rather low and their participation in any aspect of the organized Jewish community is infinitesimal. This story repeats itself all across the US with a few exceptions in pockets like NY and LA. Why are these kids alienated from the Jewish community and any manifestation of Judaism? Because they simply don’t know any better. Not having received any significant Jewish upbringing, they have no idea what their options are. However, amongst my friends who are similarly unaffiliated but have benefited from a trip to Israel with Birthright, there is a significant increase in activity, awareness and affiliation. As to those kids who feel alienated by Israel’s state of conflict, those seem to represent a tiny insignificant minority. As an example of this, 215,000 participants have gone on Birthright Israel. Maybe 150 have availed themselves of the opportunity to go on Birthright Unplugged. if you don’t believe me, check with the ISM yourself. And by all means link me up with these universally accepted, completely unbiased or unproblematic surveys you are talking about. I hadn’t realized that these conclusions were accepted as fact. Because they sure do not correspond to my reality.
The Temple my family belongs to that I don’t attend anymore is a Reform Temple. I have several friends studying to be Rabbis at Hebrew Union College and I am friends with members of Rabbi David Ellenson’s family. But none of that is meaningful at all because in your haste to engage in one upmanship you seem to have failed to actually read what I wrote. “Did that last paragraph contain gross oversimplifications? Yes it did. But what do you expect from a paragraph?” I wasn’t even remotely attempting to offer a comprehensive history of the Reform movement, I was simply making reference to your own question: “6. creation of Reform Judaism,” not “creation and evolution of…” Of course the Reform movement has evolved! All Rabbinical students now have to spend a year studying in Israel and take intensive Hebrew language classes. Only a handful of Reform congregations remain that hold their services on Sunday. I can write volumes about Reform Judaism, but what I can’t do is cure you of the arrogance and bias that seems to blind you.
Based on what exactly do you doubt this? All Birthright Israel trips have to be led by experienced and certified tour guides who have to undergo years of training before they can be licensed. The required components of each trip were designed by Professional educators and typically it is professional educators who lead discussions at Yad Vashem, the Diaspora Museum, Liberty Hall and on evenings designated for education. That’s a little more professional education than one would find in say a Club Med Getaway…
As for David Abitbol and Jewlicious, I wanted to see the instance of alleged copyright violation and its repercussions. I came to my own conclusions about your writing and ideas. I do have a brain you know. I am a big girl and I can make up my own mind. See what I mean about arrogance? And presumptuousness?
Richard Silverstein says
Then you travel in a very narrow circle. Momo interacts with an extremely narrow slice of Diaspora Jewish youth. What percentage of Jewish youth overall have been to Israel, let alone taken a Birthright trip, let alone a Momo trip???
Momo is a classic right wing Zionist. He sees in his travels what he wants to see. That’s the problem w. a classic Zionist viewpt. It sees the Diaspora as a last gasp of Jewish existence outside the Jewish homeland. It sees the Diaspora as a hopeless lost cause. Well, excuse me but the Diaspora doesn’t need help fr. Jews like this.
And you interpret yr anecdotal, personal experience as representative of the entire Jewish Diaspora? That’s mighty white (& Zionist) of you if you don’t mind my saying. And why this obsession with intermarriage? Why turn Jewish identity into a cheap focus on ensuring that there are always two Jews in every Jewish couple? This obsession is like a drug that classic Zionists are addicted to. It’s all they can talk about. It’s the only evidence they can muster for their alleged argument.
Well, sorry. As far as I and many other Jews can tell Israel isn’t kol kach ay yay yay if you know what I mean. Contrary to yr specious claim, Israel’s military adventurism has driven countless tens of thousands of young people away from not just Israel, but Jewish identity. Their parents tell them Israel is the center of Jewish identity and they respond, if that’s the case then I think I’ll go elsewhere. Many Jewish surveys bear out this finding. These are the results of but one of them. If you don’t like what I’m saying take it up with the respondents of the surveys (your fellow young Jews) who confirm my views.
If the Diapsora faces a weakening Jewish identity Israel is no less problematic. To pretend otherwise as you, Momo and other classic Zionists do means you are fooling yourselves.
A preposterous statement. They are a tiny minority of Birthright participants because Birthright’s marketing and content selects against such individuals who hardly ever go on such trips. You don’t know all Jewish youth. You know who you know. But Jewish pollsters have done scientific sampling of the very cohort you claim to know like the back of your hand, and they say otherwise.
How do you know this figure? Are you making it up? Did you actually do any research to discover whether it is accurate? I doubt it. And even if it is (it isn’t), the fact is that Birthright has millions in marketing budget fr. Jewish federations and other sources. Birthright Unplugged has no wealthy fat cats like Shelly Adelson supporting it with infusions of $70 million. If it did, I assure you BU could muster terrific numbers as well.
If you’re so knowledgeable about Reform Judaism then why did you attempt to use it as proof that American Judaism is doomed?
A tour guide, even one trained by an educator is not an educator. I asked how many professional educators lead trips, not how many design trips.
Tour guides under the tutelage of Momo would be entirely suspect in terms of their presentations about the Israeli-Arab conflict, Jewish history, Diaspora culture & myriad other topics.
Which happen to precisely ape Abitbol’s. How nice and convenient for you.
You too are done in this thread. You’ve had multiple opportunities to make yr pt if there was one. So fly back to Abitbol or Birthright or whatever other cozy little cocoon you crept from. You wouldn’t want to have yr narrow notions of Jewish identity corrupted by ideas like the ones you’ll find here.
If by “sicced his readers on us”, you mean disagreed with your analysis, and linked to your blog, yes you are correct. That’s the standard day-to-day of the blogosphere.
Also, I went on one of his trips. Momo probably did say many thing that would offend someone with your sensibilities, but that’s his prerogative, isn’t it? Just as it’s your prerogative to piss and moan about it.
One more fun fact: on my trip, we got a half an hour lecture on the Sabra and Shatila massacre while at the Golan Heights — courtesy of one of our madrichim. He didn’t spare Israel any blame.
Richard Silverstein says
No, by sicced his readers on me I meant that he smeared me as he has often done knowing this would put his readers into high dudgeon so they would visit my website to express their outrage on behalf of all the pro-Israel Zionist right-wing.
Pissing and moaning is in the eye of the beholder. What I behold is a lot of pissing and moaning from Abitbol’s hasidim like you.
As for Sabra & Shatila. Should I be impressed that your madrich criticized the murder of 3,000 Lebanese civilians under the watchful gaze of Ariel Sharon, when an Israeli investigative tribunal denounced his callous disregard fr. human life and sentenced him to political oblivion for several yrs. Was that such a courageous act on yr counselor’s part?? Now, if you counselor had been as critical of Israel’s mayhem in Gaza then I WOULD be impressed. But then again, your madrich would’ve been fired by Momo in a heartbeat.
I won’t dispute any of your points, because debating with you consistently leaves something to be desired. I’ll only point out that I’m not a Hasid — far from it in fact, and that assuming you’ve ‘pegged’ your commenters when you know little about them is not helpful to the conversation
Richard Silverstein says
You clearly don’t know what the term hasid means in modern Hebrew. It means “disciple.” I called you a hasid (actually you would be a hasidah) which does not mean Hasid when translated in ENglish. It means disciple, as I said. If you don’t believe me ask Momo.
“Hasid” derives from the term kindness, “chesed”. If there is a different meaning that I wasn’t aware of, a synonym for the word “talmid” perhaps, forgive me for not knowing. Why don’t you double check that though, for our mutual edification. Incidentally, did you delete my last comment?
Another example of intellectual dishonesty. This is so not worth the time. I’m going back to Jewlicious, where nary a reader’s comment is deleted.
Richard Silverstein says
I don’t need to double-check. I’m a fluent Hebrew speaker. You misunderstood the term and I urge you to study some Hebrew before you criticize someone in future for using Hebrew in a discussion with you.
I don’t publish comments which seek to score debating pts at the expense of one side or the other. If you want to paint the Palestinians as evil and Israelis as angels you’ll have to go somewhere else to do it. If you actually want to talk to someone w. diff. views than yours & engage in debate/discussion that isn’t sloganeering then you’re in the right place. I doubt you’re in the right place.
This is incorrect
“Momo accepts drinking by trip participants.”
You have absolutely no proof of what Momo accepts. If he even hints to think that it is even possible that a participant has alcohol on his breath, they are immediately sent home without any negotiation. You see, I KNOW this to be true because I have seen it with my own eyes. You have not seen or any proof of your point, so please remove any indication that Momo is accepting drinking, because it is a flat out LIE!!!
Also, I have heard 2 or 3 guides express their personal discontent over the removal of families from Gaza as well as the offensive a few years later. I actually remember other participants saying that the guide should not be spreading anti-Israel opinions. Momo does know this and the guide was not fired and continues to guide. So when you say they would have been fired, you must clarify and say that “You believe” they would have been fired. which is not the case, but you are entitled to think so.
Lastly, you have yet to respond to my point that you have quoted people without their permission. Do you intend to seek it or will you be removing their quotes?
Richard Silverstein says
Don’t you even bother to read the comments of yr fellow admirers of Momo? Mollie White here in this thread acknowledged that Momo said he understands and accepts that tour participants will drink. He doesn’t want them to get drunk, but he certainly accepts that they will drink. If you have a problem with this then take it up with Mollie. Interesting that two Momo devotees could have such a different interpretation of Momo’s rules. I have no idea which of you is right, but it can’t be both.
I think you are confused. YOu say some guides expressed disapproval of the Gaza withdrawal (“removal of families from Gaza” and then say that participants claimed what they were saying was “anti-Israel.” I don’t get it.
Are you out of yr gourd??!!! I quoted articles from other sources which quoted these individuals. I don’t need anyone’s permission to do that. That’s what bloggers do.
Wait, you have ZERO notion of Momo before last week. You MUST be kidding. Where have you gotten all of your information on years of Momo’s policy? How many participants and alumni have you interviewed for this article? Also, did you just sit and google or did you actually do research? I am sorry that I am not so familiar with the ethical circumstances of blogging, forgive me for assuming that you were upheld to the same standards of journalism where references first need to be cross-referenced before stated as fact.
I meant that some participants did not like that the guide made statements against Israel’s operation. Nevertheless, my point is that the guides opinion is no way controlled by Momo and you are lying when you say that Momo would fire them.
Richard Silverstein says
Which operation are you talking about? The Gaza withdrawal or Operation Cast Lead? If you’re claiming that anyone leading a Momo tour said anything critical of the Gaza war I’d like to read what they said. Even in confidence I’d like to have them e mail to inform me of what they said. I simply do not believe an honest critique of the Gaza war would be permitted on a Momo tour. How can a man who cheerleads the disastrous American invasion & occupation of Iraq condone any criticism of Israel’s war on Gaza?
How do you know what Momo would do? I assure you that if any of my left-wing Israeli readers attempted to lead any of Momo’s trips they would neither be hired nor last long if they were. Momo clearly is a highly ideological right-wing Zionist and intolerant of progressive Zionist views.
Richard, You must stop speaking of Momo as if you actually know his beliefs. You are just relaying information that you have googled or what people tell you. For you to induce his political views is foolish. Metaphorically speaking, someone told you a rock they saw in the ground has gold coloring and without ever going there, you are advertising that you found a gold mine and are about to sell gold digging excavation. Lets just say for every 1 day you even know his name, I have spoken to him in person for 30 days. Nevertheless, you’ve managed to paint a very precise description of his complete political position. If it were practically possible, I would revoke your right to vote.
In regards to your reply, Momo’s personal political opinion does not affect his decision on hiring or keeping guides. I can assure you that I know left wing guides that continue to guide.
Lastly, If you are such an expert on how to run a birthright trip, when will your start to operate. Which program will you send your children on?
Richard Silverstein says
Don’t tell me what I must or must not do.
He applauded the U.S. invasion of Iraq in print. In an interview. I can infer plenty of his beliefs from that. The fact that you spurn what any other reasonable human being would find perfectly acceptable speaks quite a bit to yr prejudices and who you need to protect.
That tells us a lot about your views of democracy. Is that what you feel about Arab Israelis too? Are there views so noxious that they should’ve vote either?
Your view of “left wing” & mine are bound to be poles apart. I dare you to even privately provide the name of one of these guides so that I may attempt to determine whether his views are indeed “left wing” or something far different.
I will send my children to Israel with a group that will present views of left right and center and will visit Israel’s Arab population and the West Bank as well. They will get a full, rounded view of the situation and not the skewed one presented by Momo and Birthright in general.
No, you are inferring far beyond a responsible judgment.
When a person is so quick to prejudge without a full education on the topic, yes, I wish they didn’t vote. I don’t care if you disagree with me, but be informed.
I would never submit anyone I know to your ridicule and judgmental interrogations. You are also avoiding to accept that you were wrong in stating as fact that a guide’s opinion has an affect on their ability to provide a well educated tour. I would like to know, how many birthright trips have you been on which gives you your information?
It is 100% up to a person receiving information on a debated topic for them to seek out both sides. I have been on many guided trips that discuss sensitive topics (in Israel and other) I always welcome the guides opinion. I rather them present their side passionately then just give me middle of the road. When I want the other side, I will seek it out. From reading your comments here, you are clearly left wing, which is fine. However, your extremism by nature makes it impossible for you to properly seek a source which provides a balanced opinion. It is human nature to choose a source that is leaning to your side rather then being diametrically opposed.
Richard Silverstein says
No, it is the responsibility of the tour leader to present both sides. Not just one side as most Birthright & all Momo trips do.
Since when does being left wing mean one is an extremist??? That tells us a lot about your views, my friend.
So Jewish Week and The Forward, which ran articles criticizing Momo’s style and substance are also extremist, left wing, imbalanced publications?
You’re done on this subject. You’ve had your 8 or 10 shots to make your pt. To protect fr a severe case of logorrhea, subsequents comments by you in this thread will be moderated.
[comment deleted because commenter either can’t read or just plain doesn’t give a crap]
Jimmy Dean says
You really don’t seem to have a clue about the Birthright Oranim trips. As a former participant, I could not disagree more with your boring article. How do You base your blog on interviews which may even be erroneous? I see your atatck on Momo because of the afflilation with jewlicious.
As I read your smut, I ask myself what your goal is? Is your goal to smear a mans name- a man who you have never met? Lets talk about real issues, not this hearsay crap that you post. What kind of Jew adds to the already anti semetic propaganda on the net? Your crap blog is pure propaganda.
Richard Silverstein says
If you know the interviews are erroneous & can prove it then by all means do so. If not, then you’re nothing but a Momo-Abitbol partisan with as much credibility as both of those hacks have.
You must’ve learned your literary stylings at the feet of the smear-master, Abitbol himself. Thanks for giving me a good reason to remove yr comment privileges.
Adam Goldstein says
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Shmuel baronsky says
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