Probably dozens of times a year, you'd find parents in Orthodox neighborhoods deciding to pick that name for their newborn baby girls.
But Tom and Katie?
Yes, that Scientology movie star couple of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes picked the name Suri for their new daughter.
They did, they said, because Suri has its roots in biblical Hebrew, is a variant on the name Sarah, which means "princess."
That followed by a few weeks, the decision of movie star Gwenyth Paltrow to name her new son, Moses. As in, well, Moses.
Somewhere in between the births of baby Suri and baby Moses were the debut of a new cable TV reality series, titled, "Shalom in the Home," in which a rabbi gives marital advice to couples; and the selection by President Bush of Joel Kaplan to be his new Karl Rove, namely his chief advisor on policy. Kaplan was named deputy chief of staff. Couple weeks before that, Bush chose Josh Bolten, nice Jewish boy, to be his chief of staff.
Meanwhile, over in movie theaters, we had the premiere of a major motion picture named, "When Do We Eat?" which is all about a Passover seder. In a couple weeks, it will be joined on the silver screen by "Keeping Up with Steins," which is all about bar mitzvahs.
Which leads me to one question.
What in the hell is going on? Or, to put it more delicately, when did the whole world become Jewish?
Truth is there have been warning signs. Madonna studying Kabbalah, not holding concerts on Shabbat, visiting Israel for Rosh Hashanah. Roseanne saying she was planning a bat mitzvah. Rabbi characters showing up on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien." Two Orthodox contestants on "The Apprentice." A top pop star recording a hipped up version of "If I Were a Rich Man." Mattisyahu, clad in black hat and tzitzit, atop the rap music charts. And more. So much more.
All leading to one inescapable conclusion. Jewish is cool.
Don't know how it happened, but it clearly has. When one of the biggest stars of all decides to name his baby Suri, when the hottest trend in TV, the reality show, stars a rabbi, when a White House under Bush, one of the goyest presidents ever, is being run by two Jews, when MTV is constantly playing videos featuring a Lubavitcher Chasid, we clearly are where it's at. Big time.
I find that fascinating. I find that particularly fascinating in that we have done absolutely nothing to make it happen. Indeed, a good case can be made that Judaism has gone out of its way to not be relevant, not be with it, not keep up with the times, not be cool. No how, no way.
There is a reason that so few young Jews find Judaism appealing. It's because we have done nothing to make it so, still rely to an obscene extent on that holy trinity of Jewish life, the Holocaust, Israel and anti- Semitism, to make Jewish life go.
Problem is that those three things are so 20th century.
Sad thing is that Judaism itself is ever fresh, ever relevant, ever full of appeal, ever able to renew itself, bring meaning to the life of an individual, every individual.
It is a clear demonstration of the powerful beauty and wonder of Judaism that Judaism is so cool today, that top stars connect to it, that artists reference it, that people find wisdom in it.
It is a clear demonstration of how messed up the Jewish world is that Jews, of all people, aren't able to do that. Still feel the need to see anti- Semitism where it doesn't exist, to make like Israel is about to disappear at any moment, to make like a second Holocaust is likely to occur at any time.
Jewish life, amazingly, continues to be much too much about attempting to keep Jews Jewish by frightening them, by overblowing anti-Semitism so we feel hated and so will feel Jewish; by overblowing any threat to Israel so we feel vulnerable and so will feel Jewish; by keeping the Holocaust not part of our history but making it seem like right around the corner.
Meanwhile, in the real world outside the Jewish world, they're using Jewish names, singing Jewish songs, listening to rabbis.
We're cool and for good reason, yet we seem not to know it. Or act accordingly.
Indeed, sometime you just got wonder about the Jewish people, wonder what in the hell is wrong with us.
Take just the last week or so for instance. While there was all that uplifting, positive Jewish news outside the Jewish world, inside it we were acting like jerks.
Consider. After prime minister, there is no more important position in the Israeli government than defense minister. Among the matters the defense minister must deal with at this moment are, according to a JTA story, how to deal with Palestinian terrorism under a radical, Hamas-led Palestinian Authority that refuses to condemn attacks; how to prepare for the challenge posed by Iran's nuclear program, which is led by a regime that talks about wiping Israel off the map; how to accelerate completion of Israel's West Bank security fence, delayed in part by bureaucratic bottlenecks in the Defense Ministry itself; and how to facilitate a major West Bank evacuation with minimal friction between the army and evacuated settlers.
All kinda important.
And so who has Prime Minister Olmert chosen to be his new defense minister? Why none other than Amir Peretz, in one of the most disgusting displays of how sick Israeli politics is and how much it puts the national interest in back of craven political deal making.
For Peretz, you see, has never held a government post. Never. Ever. He knows nothing about the military, about security, about defense. His whole life, he's been a labor union leader, dedicated to getting higher wages for his workers. Nothing wrong with that, but what it means is that it would be like putting Jimmy Hoffa in charge of the Pentagon.
Consider. A new report found that incidents of violent anti-Semitism decreased around the world in 2005. Decreased. As in went down. That follows another report that found that incidents of anti-Semitism decreased in the United States in 2005. Decreased. As in went down.
Did you know that? Did any Jewish organization make a big deal out of that? Do you feel less scared and more secure because of that?
The institute that did the study on world anti-Semitism said it declined because of international efforts to crack down on anti-Semitism through law enforcement and education. Do you hear that? I think it's fair to say most Jews don't. We'd rather be scared and feel bad than hear the truth and feel good.
Consider. As a story on page three of this newspaper reports, Poland is attempting to change the name of Auschwitz.
Seems it feels uncomfortable because that name so embodies the horror of the Holocaust. Perhaps they figure change the name and history will go away.
That's sick, of course, but what's really sick is that some Jewish organizations support the effort to have UNESCO, the U.N. cultural organization, change the name of the site from "Auschwitz Death Camp" to "former Nazi German Auschwitz- Birkenau Death Camp."
Yes, that may be more historically accurate, but it also whitewashes the Polish complicity in it all, all the Poles who made the place work. It also dilutes the simple, poignant power of Auschwitz Death Camp, all it conveys, the way those three words make one's skin crawl.
That Poland wants to change things, I don't like but I do understand. That there are Jewish groups that support the effort, I don't understand, find tragically sickening.
What in the hell is wrong with the Jewish people?
Look inside the Jewish world and you see that a lot is.
Look outside the Jewish world and you see how good things can and should be.
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