As I said in my previous post, this has been an amazing year for me as a blogger. After the post about Chaya, I had found my unapologetic voice, and it was time to strut it out. Below are not necessarily my favorite, but the most significant posts for me since “On Respecting Chaya”.
And just a note: each header is a link to the original article.
“Matisyahu’s Public Transformation”
While “On Respecting Chaya” was the most popular post on Pop Chassid, this post became one of the most popular I had written outside of the blog.
This post, for those who don’t know, was trying to explain to the world why many Orthodox Jews were so broken up about Matisyahu taking off his kippah. It was an interesting piece for me after I had defended Matisyahu and his beard, but I felt like so many of us had spent so much time defending Matisyahu that many didn’t understand our own emotions over his transformation. It felt to me as if many, including many Orthodox Jews, had decided that we shouldn’t just defend him as a person, but we should defend all his decisions. That didn’t feel right, which was why I felt this piece had to be written.
What I found fascinating about this piece was that the vast majority of people that shared it and talked about it weren’t secular folks. A lot of secular fools commented on the article on Huffington Post, showing just how few of them were able to understand the basic point behind it. But the people who shared it and talked about it were, for the most part, not my intended audience, but Orthodox Jews themselves.
Why was that? I think that sometimes, people are frustrated that their voice isn’t being heard, and a piece like this simply gives them hope that someone is listening. It puts into words the difficulties they are facing, and to just have it in writing in a place like the Huffington Post, can help a person deal with their emotions.
This was a very valuable lesson for me. It helped me understand that sometimes it’s more valuable just to give a voice to people than to try to convince others.
“Jews DO Control The Media”
Wow, this piece. I’ll never forget this piece. In case you don’t know what it’s about, I wrote an blog post in July for the Times of Israel about the fact that Jews really do have control over the world in a very special and unique way. The goal wasn’t too encourage an anti-semitic trope, but to encourage people to stop being afraid of accepting who they were, and to understand that there is something more to antisemitic hate than just a misunderstanding. That there is something very valuable within us as Jews that they, consciously or subconsciously, want to destroy.
I had spent the week before that debating whether to title it “The Antisemites are Right” or “Jews DO Control the Media”. I figured the first one was too inflammatory, and so chose the second one, believing it would be less upsetting to its readers. Oh, the irony.
Within minutes after the article was published, it started a heated discussion. Many liked the article, but not the title. Others said I deserved to be killed by antisemites for encouraging their hatred.
That was all fine and dandy. I had gotten used to writing controversial pieces by that time. But I was not at all ready for what happened next.
While checking the visits to my site, I noticed a link that I had never noticed before. A website called Stormfront had linked to Pop Chassid. At the time, I didn’t know who they were, so I went to the sourced link.
Stormfront, for those who don’t know, is a hotbed of antisemtism and hate. It’s perhaps one of the most popular antisemitic sites in the world. Someone had posted my article there, along with my picture and a link to Pop Chassid.
At first I thought nothing of it. I figured that whoever was crazy enough to think this article justified their hate could go ahead and convince themselves.
At the time, I had no idea how strong antisemitism really was.
Shabbos rolled around, and I didn’t think anything more of it.
When I logged in that Saturday night and checked Pop Chassid’s stats I noticed people visiting Pop Chassid from other hate sites. Slightly worried, I Googled my name.
It was everywhere. Blog posts were written, forums were abuzz. The haters had clasped onto the article and were waving it around, not reading the content, and saying, “Hey, look a Jew just said that Jews control the media!”. The comments on the original article had reached hundred the hundreds, and the vast majority were from antisemites.
I’ll never forget the few days after that. Finally convinced I had done something wrong, I asked the editors of the Times of Israel to take down the article. They refused. I tried to explain to them that I believed I was in danger, and that they had a responsibility to take it down, both for me and any other Jews who might be affected by what I wrote. They still refused, but offered to change the name on the byline. Since the article was still at the beginning of exploding, I agreed, not knowing what else to do.
It took almost a week to finally feel like I wasn’t in danger. There’s something terrifying about seeing your name, picture, and neighborhood you live in being posted on every hate site on the web. Seeing thousands of people talking about what a “dirty Jew” you are.
When the Times of Israel changed my name, a slew of new blog posts came up, trying to understand the Jewish conspiracy that had led to the name change. Many theorized it was because the Jews were angry at me for letting the word out about their precious secret. No one thought for a second that it was because of their own hate.
I learned countless lessons from that experience. I learned that writing has more power than anything in the world, for good and bad. I learned that your work is never safe unless you have your own homebase for it. I learned that you can’t trust editors. I learned that even if the article had been taken down, while it would have made me safer, its affect and presence couldn’t be stopped. I learned that titles matter.
The most difficult lesson, though, the one that gave me sleepless nights and disturbed me more than the danger I thought I might be in, was the realization that there is evil in the world. I had grown up my whole life believing that everyone had the potential for good, that there was beauty in all things and people. I had never been exposed to any direct antisemitism.
And suddenly, to have what felt like every antisemite in the world focusing their ire on me shattered that worldview. Evil was real and it was staring at me in the face. This change of worldview laid the seeds for future pieces, including my recent “Eric Harris, Adam Lanza, and Evil.”
“Atheism Is a Religion”
A week before I published “Jews DO Control the Media”, I submitted a post to the Huffington Post called “Atheism is a Religion”. It was an arrogant, mean-spirited mockery of atheism. Before “Jews DO Control the Media”, I was getting a kick out of upsetting some of the people I felt had insulted me and my beliefs, and so I felt like this would be a fun article to write and publish.
Unfortunately, after the hullabaloo over my Times of Israel piece, I totally forgot about this article.
A week or so later, the post was published, and, again, I was caught up in a firestorm. This time I had upset what seemed like the whole atheist community. Many of them correctly defended themselves by pointing out that the atheism I was talking about was more correctly defined as anti-theism, a belief that specifically denied any possibility of G-d, while most atheists simply believe that the chance is so low that they refuse to follow any specific religion.
Battered and bruised from my antisemitism piece, I begged Huffington Post to take down the piece. I wasn’t emotionally ready to handle the firestorm I had brought upon myself, and simply wanted nothing more than to be left alone, and to leave others alone.
Gratefully, they took down the piece, and the storm died down a bit.
At this point, I was so sick of wriitng, so sick of people, and so sick of the internet, that I decided not to write for a while. I took down Pop Chassid for a week, started a new job, and, for the most part, ignored my writing.
Calling All Creators
But anyone who has the itch to be creative, to tell the truths they feel in themselves, know what it is like to feel pent up, to hide their truth from the world.
I strongly believe that, if only for our own health, we need to express that side of ourselves. That most people who have something deep to say are also the most vulnerable, the most afraid, the most liable to run away from their mission.
So for two weeks or so after “Jews DO Control the Media”, I stewed quietly, trying to convince myself that I shouldn’t have been so mean, shouldn’t have been so arrogant, that I was foolish. But deep inside, I knew it wasn’t true. I knew that I needed to write again.
And while the pain was still there, I knew decided to keep forcing myself to write, even if it hurt. I published a piece called “Calling All Creators”. It wasn’t my most popular piece, but it said everything I felt about my experiences, about Pop Chassid, and about the people who I believe value this blog.
The majority of people who have tried to express their inner truth have screwed up somewhere along the way. They said too much or too little. They violated their own beliefs. They upset the very people they were trying to connect with. And even when they didn’t do the wrong thing, others thought they did. They were attacked. Or maybe just one person said some snide comment and they, being sensitive creators, couldn’t take it and didn’t write, make music, or create anything for weeks, months, years, their whole life.
To me, Pop Chassid isn’t a place that’s meant to show perfect truth. It is simply a place for creators to gather, for people who believe they have something valuable to share with the world to learn and to grow together.
I learned a lot this year, and I hope to learn more. I believe that if more people join me in expressing the truths they hold to be true, no matter how much others might attack them, no matter how much they screw up or fail, the world will be a more beautiful place for it.
If you’re one of those people, you belong here. You’re a Pop Chassid. And I can’t wait to see what you create.
Thanks for reading.