I’ll refrain from posting the Senator Booker – Rabbi Boteach dance video one more time, but here’s an article from The Forward on one contretemps growing out of that Politico article about the Trump-Chabad-Putin nexus. You see, Mort Klein, supremo of the Zionist Organization of America, was quoted complimenting some Chabad rabbis’ terpsichorean enthusiasm at a wedding he had attended:
“They were dancing up a storm, these guys. I thought they were black. Instead they’re just black-hat,”
This being the current year, that’s … controversial. From The Forward:
Jewish Leader Says ‘Blacks Are Much Better Dancers’
Josh Nathan-Kazis April 10, 2017
Mort Klein, president of a major Jewish pro-Israel group, berated a Forward reporter who called to ask about a joke Klein had made about black people being good dancers in a national magazine story.
“What are you, stupid? What are you, stupid?” Klein said. “Each different peoples have different talents that everyone knows. And everyone knows that blacks are, on average, are better dancers than other people.”
Klein told the Forward that it is “simply a fact” that “blacks are much better dancers.” He added that “most people know” that Asians “are smarter on average than other people in America.”
The more “simply a fact” something is, the less you are supposed to mention it.
Klein is the president of the Zionist Organization Of America, a leading right-wing pro-Israel group. He was the first Jewish leader to formally meet with the Trump administration after the inauguration.
Over the weekend, multiple Twitter users raised their eyebrows over Klein’s quote.
Contacted by the Forward on Monday, Klein said that his joke was not racist because it invoked a positive stereotype. “That I attribute a talent that one people have over another? That’s racist? That’s a positive thing,” Klein said. “If people say that Asians are smarter on average than other people in America, that is not racist. That is simply something that most people know happens to be the case. People like you, Josh, you should really be ashamed of even calling me about this.”
Klein said that he did not consider positive stereotypes about Jews offensive. “If people say Jews are better businessmen or are very good financially, I consider that a positive thing to say,” he said. …
“I don’t even think about difference in colors,” Klein said. “Except I recognize that whites cannot compete with blacks in basketball …
From an article about Klein, who is a statistician:
The family lived in a poor black neighborhood. “Until I was 16, virtually all my friends were black,” Mr. Klein said. “I was — I am — very comfortable around black people.” He was athletic, too. “In my neighborhood, I was an average athlete, and I thought I was okay, but no better than that. And then, when I was 16, we moved to a white, Jewish neighborhood — and I realized that I was a superstar.” …
He went to Central High School in Philadelphia, the city’s academic school for boys. (As an aside, he said that he was at school with Jeremiah Wright, the incendiary and controversial black pastor whose racist, anti-white rhetoric engulfed President Barack Obama, his one-time parishioner, in a political mess during his first election campaign. “He was one of the richest kids in the school, and his mother was an academic principal of Girls High School,” Central’s equivalent. “We didn’t even see color, and yet he became a hater,” Mr. Klein said.)
One thing to note is that ultra-orthodox Jews tended to be lousy dancers: a bunch of guys shuffling around. In 2010 I pointed out how much the basic situation of Fiddler on the Roof is borrowed from Pride & Prejudice: a man has five unmarried daughters without dowries. An anthropologist friend wrote:
One note about love marriages (Pride) versus arranged (Fiddler): societies with love marriages have a greater frequency and importance of dances (ref below). This shows up in both cases: Austen’s young ladies are constantly looking forward to the next ball, which is a major arena for mate choice. And Tevye (at least in the movie) shows a shocking progressive streak by actually dancing with his wife. The lines of guys dancing with guys, women with women, that you see in the earlier part of the movie, before Tevye mixes it up, is what you generally get in societies with arranged marriages. Something for all you h-bd-ers to think about as you try and figure out which folk-dancing class to take.
The Russian Orthodox peasants are looked down upon, but they are superior dancers even at the male-only stuff:
For all male shuffle dance, nobody tops Sufi Chechens: