About my love for Armenians.
I grew up in Brooklyn, in mostly ethnically Jewish neighborhoods. There were kosher restaurants galore; Irv’s Knishery in Canarsie was my favorite. There was Tina’s Bake Shop, who made the best chocolate cream pie ever. In time, I stopped patronizing them as I learned they baked on Shabbat. There was Appy’s Deli. What can I say? I miss Appy’s.
Jews everywhere. On Friday nights, a middle-aged guy down the block would wheel his television outside to his front yard, and a dozen of his buddies would congregate to watch the Yankees game. I never missed it. As soon as Sabbath meal with my Mom and sisters had ended, and we had recited grace, I hurried down the block. The men looked forward to my participating because I knew more baseball lore and data than a “walking encyclopedia.” I would have made a great baseball announcer, synergizing the best of Mel Allen, Tom Hamilton, and Vin Scully. We Orthodox Jews may not engage in employment on Shabbat, but I woulda called ’em for free. Ah, but we also may not engage electricity on the L-rd’s day. So I became a rabbi, an attorney, and a columnist.
I attended yeshiva (Jewish parochial school) for twelve years until college. “Some of my best friends” were Jews. Also all my worst enemies.
I first got to know non-Jews when I went to college. Thing is, Columbia University in the City of New York had plenty of leftists to keep me busy. My friends mostly were commies. That’s basically all I had to choose from. One kid had a beard like Trotsky. He ended up an investment banker on Wall Street. From Das Kapital to Dow Jones in less than a decade. Makers’ Mark tastes better than vodka.
In time I met more non-Jews: professors, other college friends, coworkers. I came to enjoy other cultures, too, although I best can be described as “Such a Jew what you are!” My favorite music includes a bunch of Irish songs. My favorite? This one. (And, by the way, Happy St. Patty’s Day this week: Erin Go Bragh! And … Fund the Police!)
I found that I love Italians, too. Their heritage and culture, at least as practiced in America, are so similar to Jewish culture that you almost can’t tell Lucky Luciano from Bugsy Siegel. During the 1940s — think On the Waterfront — Italian unions ran the Manhattan and Jersey City docks, and they helped Jews illegally run guns to the nascent country of Israel when Harry Truman invoked his inner Joe Biden and imposed a full ban on allowing any weapons to the Jews as they were being attacked by seven Arab countries intent on murdering the Jewish country before it even birthed. Ethnic Italians, like ethnic East European Jews, are loud, emotional, hug and kiss, what-you-see-is-what-you-get. We eat starches. We respect Mama. They do the construction stuff in Joyzee — Bada bing! Bada boom! — and we represent them in court and with the IRS. Walk softly and carry a big attaché case.
I have continued expanding my cultural horizons and ethnic fascinations. Probably my best non-rabbinic friend is an American-born attorney of Formosan (Taiwanese) descent who is depressed that his beloved Seahawks suddenly are bereft of Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner. I try to console him by reminding that, when I followed the NFL until Kaepernick ruined it for me, my team was the Jets. The Jets have been rebuilding since the 1970s. The Biblical Jews got through the Sinai and into the Promised Land sooner. Divide the Red Sea? The Jets can’t even pierce through a four-man defensive front line.
My dear friend is unaware how much he has expanded my horizons as we enter the Year of the Tiger. Like all Jews, I love Chinese food. It’s a Jewish thing. Also, it’s equally crazy — if you think about it — as Jackie Mason observed: “No Chinaman ever asks a Jew where he can find a good matzo ball.”
And then there are the Armenians.
I have come to value Armenians deeply. As a law professor of twenty years, I have taught more than two thousand students; many of Armenian descent. I love their sense of tradition, family, religious devotion, and overall ethnicity. I cannot eat their foods because of kosher rules, and I have not attended their worship, but I love their devotion to heritage. A particular divorced Armenian lady and her two grown daughters became very close to my family and to my wife, Ellen of blessed memory. Among my law students, I connect warmly with everyone: blacks, whites, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Arabs, Hispanics, Asians, Indians.
Despite my edgy writings and my humor that always risks offending, never once in twenty years and among 2,000 students has anyone ever expressed umbrage. I somehow have side-stepped cancel culture, except for two Jewish rabidly leftist professors who would destroy me if they could because I wrote that Kamala Harris leveraged her immorality to rise in California Democrat circles. Rush Limbaugh read the whole article on his radio show, and it thus got a gazillion hits, made me famous, so those two Jewish leftists tried going after me. The score is:
• For Dov — 2,000 non-Jewish students of every imaginable background.
• Against Dov — 2 whining knee-jerk bleeding-heart Jewish rabidly leftist professors for AOC and Black Lives Matter and against yarmulkas.
(Oh, and by the way: Kamala Harris rose in California Democrat circles immorally.)
In my gaining a deeper appreciation for Armenian Americans and their culture, I learned about the Medz Yeghern, something too close to the Shoah (Holocaust) that Nazi Germany inflicted on Jews. In light of Turkish dictator Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s extraordinary anti-Semitism (until last week, as it happens), my affinity towards Armenia only has increased. I always devote time in one of my last Spring Term classes to speak about April 24 and the Medz Yeghern. Armenian American students often have come to me after class or written me, even years later, that they were emotionally touched during those moments when the Orthodox rabbi with the yarmulka spoke about the evil Ataturk perpetrated and how Turkey to this day will not at least admit they sinned grievously a century ago.
It is outrageous that that the world, which now appropriately condemns Putin for disrupting the social order and sympathizes with Volodymyr Zelensky and Ukraine, never offered sympathy for Armenia as the Artsakh region faced horrific destruction only recently at the hands of Azerbaijan during the 2020 Second War over Nagorno-Karabakh. During the Soviet Union years, the region was deemed an autonomous oblast and was known as Artsakh. It is an enclave geographically within Azerbaijan, but approximately 80 percent Armenian ethnic and religiously Armenian Apostolic. In a 1991 referendum, as the Soviet Union collapsed, the population voted overwhelmingly to unite with Armenia. However, Azerbaijan launched war to assert sovereignty. The thing is, Putin and Iran — very bad players, but Armenia’s main energy suppliers — supported Armenia in the conflict while Turkey backed Azerbaijan. Amid the conflict, the Armenian Apostolic Ghazanchetsots (Holy Savior) Cathedral in Shusha, the main seat of the Artsakh bishopric and a landmark of Shusha and of Armenian cultural and religious identity, was attacked and damaged to the degree that Human Rights Watch declared it a possible war crime. Azerbaijan now has altered its historic construction. It was Azerbaijan who launched war to change the map.
Remember? Neither do most anyone else — because the media decided not to manipulate sympathies on that one. Walter Duranty of the New York Times had manipulated news of Stalin’s 1932-1933 Holodomor mass murders in Ukraine, so they passed unnoticed here. Again, the Times chose mostly to ignore the Shoah, assuring Hitler almost free rein there.
The media pick and choose “good guys” and “bad guys,” then proceed to tug at heart strings to manipulate public opinion. Similarly, they align towards Israel’s haters and therefore present the only country in the world with a Jewish majority dishonestly as “apartheid.” Consider: Jews cannot even set foot in Mecca or Medina. There is no synagogue in all of Saudi Arabia. By contrast, Arab Muslims in Israel engage in all aspects of daily public life, receive the same government benefits Jews do, hold political office, even comprise a critical component of the present governing Israeli political coalition. Arab Muslims are included among Israeli university professors, graduate students awarded government fellowships, high-ranking judges, and even receive monthly government stipends aimed at encouraging large families. When Arab terror groups strike at Israel with murderous rockets, they base launchers on rooftops of residential apartment buildings, on hospital grounds, and in school yards. Then, when Israel strikes defensively to obliterate those rocket-launch sites, the photos look awful, and the media choose not to explain. So no Ben & Jerry’s.
The left media are at war with conservatives. They manipulate others to hate DeSantis, Pence, Cotton, Pompeo, Cruz, Tucker supporters, Trump supporters, populist conservatives, Israel supporters, Armenia supporters.
Like Zelensky, we won’t roll over.
Read Dov Fischer every Monday and Thursday in The American Spectator and follow him on Twitter at @DovFischerRabbi
To attend any or all of Rav Fischer’s weekly 90-minute live Zoom classes on the Weekly Torah Portion, the Biblical Prophets, the Mishnah, Rambam Mishneh Torah, or Advanced Judaic Texts, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org