Monday, October 09, 2006

Transcript of Rushkoff ETFF Hanukkah show

My second transcript for Equal Time for Freethought is now online: from last year's Hanukkah season, Barry Seidman's holiday interview with Douglas Rushkoff.

The interview started off with a subversive look at the historical origins of Hanukkah, based on Rushkoff's treatment of the subject in his book Nothing Sacred: The Truth about Judaism. The role of circumcision led to a discussion of the modern Jewish take on the practice. The holiday also led to the issues of assimilation in general, and of Passover as another holiday which Rushkoff had an alternative take on. The touchy topic of what a humanistic secular Jew should think about the Israel situation was dealt with. Even technical difficulties were an opportunity for discussion: when noise interfered with the reception as he was discussing Passover being a de-idolization of the Egyptian gods, he said "I hear strange and exciting sounds" and "It's those gods coming back at me now". After the interview was over, Barry said, "Very interesting concepts. I was born and raised and grew up Jewish and didn't know half these things he talked about, myself."

Rushkoff on Judaism:
In some ways, I see [that] Judaism at its best is really just civilization. It's really just a set of ethics and laws and reminders that human beings should matter to one another. And you get your idols out the way, so that you can appreciate one another instead of these idols. Whether they're ancient gods, or modern gods like money and power and fame and those sort of things.
and on how his interpretation is out of sync with more traditionalistic ones:
[I]t's gotten to the point where I don't talk about Jewish issues, Judaism, as Judaism, anymore. Because current, modern Judaism as practiced, for the most part, is so antithetical to what I see as the humanism underlying Judaism that I think it's easier to do humanism as humanism. It's easier to make the world a better place without, in some cases, being so publicly affirmative of where it might have come from for me. Because other people get the opposite message from it.... I'm finding when I do a talk or an event under a Jewish banner, people in attendance generally are less willing to engage with Judaism for real, than people are if I just go speak at a Barnes & Noble or somewhere about media or culture or something else.

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