MAILBAG: Send In The Clowns

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I once criticized a Jewish friend of mine for verbally attacking other Jews with the offhand comment that he was an anti-Semite. “If so, I come by it honestly,” replied this educated, observant man. And his reply gave me pause—a pause I’ve returned to again and again. Honest anti-Semitism—what does that mean?

After saying modeh, I skim the headlines. Especially during the pandemic, there’s an aspect of doom-scrolling, but the changing nature of COVID makes being informed a component of remaining safe. I check to see what’s occurring with my brethren around the globe. Lockdowns and restrictions in various Jewish communities concern most of us and we also seek to see how our leaders are responding. But leadership is a funny thing and, unfortunately, the loudest among us get the headlines.

Enter Heshy Tischler and Yitzchok Smith.

Born to entertain, Borough Park’s Tischler has begged for the spotlight since grease turned black. I recall watching him a decade ago as he stood atop a milkcrate in front of Amnon’s Pizza on 13th Avenue screaming about how he would rid the community of New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind and New York State Senator Simcha Felder. He was running his post-pubescent sons against the long-standing elected officials and stumped for days, always loud, always entertaining—a borscht-belt vaudevillian just a century or so behind the times. Then you’d run into his two sons handing out leaflets—nice kids who seemed embarrassed by the spectacle. It wasn’t fair to call the Tischler boys clean-shaven—I don’t think they’d actually started shaving yet. After the election, in which they received enough support to barely make a minyan, they disappeared from politics. But the father remained.

Tischler’s run for City Council in 2017 served to lighten the atmosphere created by the tense rivalry between the more serious candidates, Kalman Yeger (who won) and Yoni Hikind, son of the Assemblyman. Tischler, untucked and slaphappy, brought his stand-up routine to a public debate sponsored by The Jewish Press. The candidate finished third in a field of three.

There’s something to be said for badchanim, especially if they make you laugh. I prefer when they can juggle, but that requires coordination.

Recent headlines make it clear that Tischler is no longer concerned with bringing down the house. He wants to bring down his whole community. His go-to gag is telling people (and reporters) that COVID isn’t a big deal; his fans burned face masks at an anti-Cuomo demonstration and chanted, “Jewish Lives Matter,” because, you know, monkey see, monkey do.

Sadly, Tischler was upstaged at the recent Trump rally in Woodmere. At a street fair, the organ grinder’s monkey usually garners the most attention. Center-ring at the Orthodox MAGA Fest was little-known (but trying hard!) comedian Yitzchok Smith, a rabbi, or so he tells us, from Passaic. Pining for a gig on Late Night, Smith basically told the assembled Long Islanders that face masks are for Halloween.

“Are you willing to demand that your children be free of medical testing?” he asked. “Are you willing to set an example in a world gone mad that we don’t wear masks because no human being should be forced to wear a mask? Are you willing to pull your children out of schools that demand daily health affirmation, that put masks before children’s breathing, that teach that God is wearing a mask … and that are brainwashing our kids right now every day into taking a vaccine — are you willing to take your kids out and build a new option?”

Smith didn’t have time to finish expounding upon his flat earth theory. His act was cut short by former New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who failed to see the humor in Smith’s rhetorical questions (he really needs a better writer). Hikind’s half-century agenda, which can be summed up as protecting Jews, has no room for badchanim.

“It is not the biggest sacrifice in the world to wear a freaking mask,” said Hikind. “Even if you don’t think it works, maybe you’re protecting someone else,” he explained before turning to the subject he came to discuss. “But that’s not why I’m here. I came to talk about the future of this country and the person who has possibly been one of the greatest presidents ever…”

Smith returned to Passaic, reportedly met by a standing ovation from his followers, both of them. Back in Borough Park, Tischler continues to scratch for attention. Publicly, the issue is face masks, but insiders know better. Attention is a coveted possession to those who need their daily fix, especially comedians. Family, community and chilul Hashem are important, sure, but compared with Twitter followers?

And the public, both Jewish and not, observant and not, is made to believe that the antics of these badchanim are representative of the Jewish community.

Want a formula to create honest anti-Semitism? Send in the clowns.

Yehudah Meth is a former senior aide to Assemblyman Hikind and Senator Felder

NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN.

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30 COMMENTS

  1. Even if I can agree with much here, I am appalled that this was accepted for posting in a public forum. It becomes a personal attack against two people, and that has no place in a frum website. I can feel offended at the actions of both of the targets, but the personal attacks would anger the Chofetz Chaim greatly. I would hope that this post gets taken down.

  2. Comparing the two is totally unfair. Tischler has a mehalich to draw attention to (himself and) worthy causes. Its part of his schtick. And sometimes we need a clown to bring bolt cutters to the park. Yitzchok Smith is a dangerous, unlettered, lowbrow marauder.

    And I assure you, Dov Hikind and Simcha Felder created many more anti-Semites than either Tischler or Smith if only because their exposure and power is wider and more far-reaching. I reject, wholeheartedly, any suggestion that Jews bring anti-Semitism upon themselves. A person who looks at Smith, Tischler, Hikind or Smith and projects his ill-feelings towards that individual against all Jews is simply a hateful, anti-Semite using the particular person he hates as a pretext to justify his black heart.

  3. So I guess the author is not supportive of the Clown-in-Chief. I don’t ordinarily mind when yidden consciously decide to acts as clowns and make fools of themselves in a circus ring limited to the local tzibur. This idiot is more dangerous because he seeks attracts wider attention (and briefly gets it) so that his mindless and reckless antics become the face of yidden on the national media. He has his first amendment rights to make a fool of himself and there is little we can do to avoid being dragged along side him other than to ignore him and distance ourselves as the author of this letter has done so elegantly. Yasher koach.

  4. BS”D
    Judging from the comments to Jennifer Millman’s article, “Unmasked Heckler Wrecks Havoc…..,” Heshy Tischler did not create any anti-Semitism.
    Read them.

  5. The article has some good points but the name-calling is out of place. There is no need to resort to Trump-like tactics when criticizing the supporters of Trump. The Non-MAGA world has facts and evidence on their side so mockery and slander are unnecessary. Trump rallies have given a platform to those who spread misinformation just as Trump does. The non-MAGA world needs to point that out in a clear and lucid fashion.

  6. Yehuda Meth has written a brilliant op ed about the clowns, but there is another clown hailing from Marine Park who’s planning an anti mask Trump rally for Sunday despite the fact that there is no possibility that Trump could ever carry this state.

  7. When there is a vacuum of legitimate leadership the clowns step in, period.
    By the way I agree with every word Rabbi Yitzchok Smith says. Why is the state not disclosing updated numbers, why can other groups gather by the thousands but we can’t gather for more than a Minyan.
    Yehudah please do not defend the deep state. It is so blatantly obvious that the government is trying to beat us into submission.

  8. Wow what an ignorant article full of snarky ad hominem attacks, without addressing the facts, how evil to take from the radical liberals playbook. the fact that felders and hinkind’s office put this out via Yehudah Meth proves heshy and smith are a real threat to them or they would just ignore them. heshy is to brooklyn what trump is to america and the silent majority will speak loudly

  9. VIN should be ashamed of themselves for making fun of two people who have different views than liberal mainstream meida and liberal politicians. To call them clowns is disgusting, people are aloowed to have different views. What is this, communism? Whatever you want to call the shutting up of dissenting opinions, it is certainly against the Torah to make fun of people simply becaue you don’t agree with their messages.

  10. Sorry, I meant the yeshivaworld, not vin, should be ashamed of themselves for writing like that. I guess I forgot I’m reading the “yeshivaworld” because I’m not used to them spreading loshen hora nad making fun of people for their different opinions.

  11. “…is a former senior aide to Assemblyman…”

    If you would have put this on top of the article, I would have known better than to bother reading this.

  12. I don’t quite approve of Tischler or those that follow him and his ways. Personally, I barely know who Tischler is, barely ever heard of him. But from seeing his actions online the past several months, I know his way is not the Yiddishe way.

    Having said that- I haven’t the foggiest idea what this article is attempting to accomplish besides besmirching a Jew for no reason. Sorry, I can’t find the purpose in this letter full of satire. I doubt the Chofetz Chaim would call this anything but horrible Lashon Harah.

  13. No, those who bash this article are wrong. It is extremely important to point out that these views are nowhere near mainstream Orthodox Jewish norms. And this is true, despite the naysayers in the comments.

  14. Some comments here are wondering what the purpose of this article is?

    I’ll tell you what, it’s to be mefarsim & publicly denounce two clowns who are besmirching the frum community’s reputation!
    While these two are making a Chillul Hashem, someone needs to stand up and say “No! These Clowns DON’T Represent Us”. Apparently not many Rabbanim or Askonim have had the courage to “step up to the plate”.

  15. Why are you prejudiced against clowns? We have them running the government, including both political parties and most of the “third” parties. They are really quite amusing (cf: Marxism, as in Groucho). You should spend more time learning, realize this world is only a fake one, and in your spare time (such as when going to the bathroom) enjoy the antics of the clowns.

  16. @UncleMo Thank you for expressing my feelings about this despicable TRASHBAG article. Once upon a time, I migrated from VIN to YWN expecting it to be a kosher news site, well, unfortunately, I don’t have those expectations of YWN anymore. Sad.

  17. A response more similar in tone to the author’s might be:

    Rudolf Kastner was politically well-connected, like the author of this shameful and mocking piece.

    It’s too bad that people were fooled by Kastner, back then.

  18. So this writer claims Dov Hikind protected Jews unlike Tishler and rabbi Smith. Baloney. Dov Hikind ran a pro BLM rally for Floyd on Ocean parkway. Dov Hikind was against Trump in 2016. Some protector. Sounds like Schumer the Shomer.

  19. I listened to Rabbi Smith on that speech your quoting. He did not mock anyone. But the Boro Park politician made fun of him. If you need to make fun of someone to get your message across, then you dont have the truth on your side.