Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Yiddish Karate Kids

I ran into the following poster in a synagogue this past weekend in Queens NY.



The Yiddish heading reads as follows: "The Yiddish Karate Kids."

I would see this as an interesting example of acculturation going on even actively within the Haredi community. The fact that the poster has Yiddish and features a Haredi looking kid leads one to conclude that the group is designed for and run by Haredim. Whether or not Jacob used martial arts to defeat the angel in Genesis, karate is not part of the Jewish cultural tradition. (We shall see what happens to Krav Maga.) Nor is karate a ubiquitous part of American culture like baseball or football that it would be impossible to ignore it. I would also point out that other forms of loose clothing can be used in karate besides for the distinctively non-Jewish gi garment. If you are going to take a stand against not engaging in gentile practices and wearing their clothing, this would be a logical place.

So we have Haredim reaching out and taking a product not only from a gentile culture, but one that is actually pagan (something that, unlike American culture, actually does raise legitimate halachic issues). Far be it from me to encourage Haredim to ban things, but there are too many obvious issues for someone not to notice. I wish this group best of luck. It would, though, be in their best interest to be honest as to what they are doing so not to give the banners a chance to create a moral high ground for themselves. If you openly support acculturation then no one can use it to discredit you. Up front intellectual honesty is always the best form of self defense.   

8 comments:

Miss S. said...

Oh my...WHO came up with that spelling of 'karate' in Hebrew letters.

Elaborate on the pagan issue. Who or what is pagan. The Japanese? How so?

Izgad said...

Shintoism is a pagan religion in which idols are worshipped. This is not to say that individual Shintoists are necessarily pagans. There are real halachic issues in living in Japan because of this as the leniencies that medieval rabbis created in order to allow Jews to interact with Christians may not apply.

Life Student said...

I think there are similar problems with yoga; you have to separate out the various elements in order to make use of what can be beneficial without dragging in the extraneous religious elements. And it could be that those promoting Jewish karate don't know enough about Japanese culture to realize there's a "conflict of interest." Good news for bored kids who need to get their shpilkes out!

Shmelke said...

The original Talmudic academies are described as having the same set up as dojos. "Rav" literally means "master" the same as sifu and sensei. Studens sat in rows according to their rank, and they sat "al ha'kirayim" "on their legs, in seiza position, while the Rav stood in front. In dojos in the East, the diety's shrine has center stage, whereas today in the Yeshiva, it's the Aron Hakodesh. The Bible states that Abraham sent his other sons (besides Issak) to the East with presents, despite the fact that he had given all his material possessions to Issak.

Shmelke said...

As far as the Hebrew spelling of "Karate," it's actually Yiddish, so it's completely phonetic.. that's probably how they pronounce it... I would write: קאַראַטי or even more accurate קאַראַטיי would be more like the Japanese. Check out http://yiddishacademy.com/learn-yiddish-online-read/yiddish-reading-basics/ for info on how to write in Yiddish.

Anonymous said...

Izgad, you're misinformed about Shintoism. Shinto people are not at all idol worshipers. At the center of most Shinto shrines are mirrors that are considered sacred but are not worshiped as gods. Shintoists basically never have images of their gods in their shrines. Buddhism (a big religion in Japan), however, does. It's crazy how misinformed Judeo-Christians and Muslims are about religions that do have idols, like Hinduism or Buddhism. In those religions, idols are not seen as actual gods but as vessels for a kind of shchinah of their gods. This is essentially identical to the Aron HaKodesh on which Hashem Yisborech's shchinah rests. The Aron HaKodesh in the Kodshei Kdoshim is like the mirror in the inner room of a Shinto shrine. Also just like the Kodshei Kdoshim, no one is allowed to enter the inner room of a Shinto shrine except the head priest/priestess on certain days, like the Kohen Godol on Yom Kippur. People like to think their religion's special but in reality most religions have much in common with one another. Jews often claim, for example, to be the first monotheists but this is simply not true. Zoroastrianism, a monotheistic religion, is by many considered far more ancient (not that ancientness really matters).

Izgad said...

I assume you are referring to: “So we have Haredim reaching out and taking a product not only from a gentile culture, but one that is actually pagan (something that, unlike American culture, actually does raise legitimate halachic issues).” I was not making a categorical statement about followers of Shintoism being idolaters. I recognize that one can be a monotheistic Shintoist, who interprets Shintoism along philosophical lines. Such a person would be spiritually superior to many Haredim who, for all intents and purposes are idolaters. That being said I would see Shintoism as a pagan culture based on a perception that the religion in practice tends toward paganism in practice. By this I do not mean that people believe that their idols are literal gods, but that images are used in a way that is inappropriate. (Keep in mind that I believe that Chabad has also crossed a line in their use of rebbe pictures.) This raises certain questions regarding living in Japan above and beyond living in the United States. We have over a thousand years of halachic maneuvering to allow Jews to do business with Christians. These leniencies would not necessarily apply to Shintoism.

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