Tuesday, December 29, 2009


On Being Black with a Liver

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

I've been occasionally discriminated against in the US. Nothing major mind you... The boss who always referred to "you people", the flight where a nearby couple went on about "he thinks he's special" for my kosher meal request, the elderly neighbors who repeatedly reported us to the Department of Children's Services for "having so many children running around they must be uncared for". Nothing major or really worth complaining about, and besides - African Americans were still underrepresented in corporate hallways and concerned by the authorities response to them just walking the street at night (and for good reason).

No, to get a little taste of African American style discrimination I had to come to Israel. In Israel, the ultra-orthodox are referred to as "blacks" (as the men mostly dress in black coats). There's a natural assumption of lower job skills and capabilities, certainly of professional experience. Many a Tel Aviv professional has never interacted with a blacky before. There are many neighborhoods where (the ultra-orthodox) blacks are not welcome to live, and schools they are not welcome to attend. Senior positions in regular political parties are not open to them.

Yesterday Israel was noted for creating a new Organ Donation policy. As a country with a low rate of organ donation, they "established a special committee, including ethicists, philosophers, religious representatives and transplant surgeons to review the problem." Well and good, and the idea they came up with a bit unusual but also sounds like a reasonable motivator, "Israel is to become the first country to give donor card carriers a legal right to priority treatment if they should require an organ transplant. Under the planned point-based system, people who have signed a donor card will be given priority for a transplant. Their spouses and other close relatives will also qualify."

But when they interviewed the leader of this committee, he stated "we have a subset of the population that doesn't believe in brain death and therefore doesn't contribute organs, but is willing to accept organs if in need. This policy will make sure they don't get priority."

In other words, the primary reason for the new policy is not the 7 in 10 secular Israeli's who don't agree to organ donation, but rather the 2 in 10 religious Israeli Jews who don't agree with doctor defined brain death as the end-of-life allowing for a still breathing person to be harvested for organs. (1 in 10 Israelis sign up for organ donation, including some but not many orthodox Jews.)

Now I'm not arguing against organ donation, or for it. There are ultra-orthodox rabbis who permit it, and those who prohibit it. The sanctity of the human body as a vessel for a divine soul is a part of Judaism with a strong tradition, as is a quick burial without body mutilation (no embalming or putting on display). (I know that most orthodox Jews in the US are surprised to hear that there is religious allowances for organ donation in Israel at all!)

I'm simply surprised at being the specific target of a national organ donation policy based on my religious belief. I don't have to wonder, yes the man is out to get me.


  1. Akiva, there is discrimination too against secular Jews or Jews who don't dress a certain way from those who decide to dress in a certain way. There is discrimination against Sephardic and Yemeninte Jews from the Ashkenazi Jews who dress a certain way. There is discrimination by those who dress a certain way to those who don't follow their derech as certainly those who don't dress a certain way are simply Jews by definition. I certainly understand why it stems towards you, not that it is right or you deserve it based on how you dress. We tend to group people into herds and base all the sheep based on how profane a herd acts. It's quite a mess. Sigh.

  2. i'm reminded of this poem:

    Moshiach's Hat
    (A Poem To Ponder)
    By Anonymous ben Kolonymous (who else?)

    'T was the night of the Geulah, -- And in every single Shtiebel
    Sounds of Torah could be heard -- Coming from every kind of Yeedel.
    This one in English, -- Some in Hebrew, some in Yiddish.
    Some saying P'shat -- And some saying a Chiddish.
    And up in Shamayim--The Aibishter decreed:
    "The time has come -- For My children to be freed.
    "Rouse the Moshiach -- From his heavenly berth.
    Have him get in his chariot, -- And head down to earth.
    "The Moshiach got dressed -- And with a heart full of glee,
    Went down to earth and entered -- the first Shtiebel he did see.
    "I am the Moshiach! -- Hashem has heard your plea!
    Your Geulah has come! -- It's time to go free!
    "They all stopped their learning; -- This was quite a surprise.
    And they look at him carefully, -- With piercing sharp eyes
    "He's not the Moshiach!" -- Said one with a grin,
    "Just look at his hat, -- At the pinches and brim!"
    "That's right!" cried another -- With a grimace and frown,
    "Whoever heard of Moshiach, -- With a brim that's turned down?"
    "Well," thought Moshiach, -- "If this is the rule,
    I'll turn my brim up -- Before I go to the next shul."
    So he walked right on over -- To the next shul in town.
    Sure to be accepted, -- Since his brim was no longer down.
    "I'm, the Moshiach!" he cried, -- As he began to enter
    But the Jews wanted to know first -- If he was Left Right or Center
    "Your clothes are so black!" -- They cried out in fright.
    "You can't be Moshiach--You're much too far right!"
    "If you want to be Moshiach, -- You must be properly outfitted.
    "So they replaced his black hat -- With a Kippah that was knitted.
    Wearing his new Kippah, -- Moshiach went out and said:
    "No difference to me -- What I wear on my head.
    "So he went to the next shul, -- For his mission was dear.
    But he was getting frustrated -- With the Yidden down hear.
    "I'm the Moshiach!" he cried, -- And they all stopped to stare,
    And a complete eerie stillness -- Filled up the air.
    "You're the Moshiach?! -- Just imagine that!
    Whoever heard of Moshiach -- Without a black hat?"
    "But I do have a hat!" -- The Moshiach then said.
    So he pulled it right out -- And plunked it down on his head.
    Then the shul started laughing, -- And one said " Where's your kop?
    You can't have Moshiach -- With a brim that's turned up!
    If you want to be Moshiach -- And be accepted in this town,
    "Put some pinches in your hat -- And turn that brim down!"
    Moshiach walked out and said: -- "I guess my time hasn't come.
    I'll just return -- To where I came from.
    "So he went to his chariot, -- But as he began to enter,
    All sorts of Jews appeared -- From the Left, Right, and Center.
    "Please wait - do not leave. -- It's all their fault!" they said,
    And they pointed to each other -- And to what was on each other's head.
    Moshiach just looked sad -- And said, " You don't understand."
    And then started up his chariot -- To get out of this land.
    "Yes, it's very wonderful -- That you all learn Torah,
    But you seem to have forgotten -- A crucial part of our Mesorah.
    "What does he mean?" -- "What's he talking about?"
    And they all looked bewildered, -- And they all began to shout.
    Moshiach looked back and answered, -- "The first place to start,
    Is to shut up your mouths -- And open your hearts.
    "To each of you, certain Yidden -- Seem too Frum or too Frei,
    But all Yidden are beloved -- in the Aibishter's eye."
    And on his way up he shouted: -- " If you want me to come,
    Try working a little harder -- On some Ahavat Chinam!"

  3. Are you a registered organ donor? If not, check out: http://www.hods.org/index.asp

  4. Zero, that poem is incredibly true. Thankyou for posting it and reminding us of that, only sadly, to forget it as quickly as we read it.

  5. A comment on the transplants;

    Last week, I posted in my blog a video from 60 minutes on growing body parts from stem cells. That may be a solution that is coming up in the near future

    Here is the link to it:


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