God Bless the Hillel Rabbis

Published: 2000-01-03

Dream that I’m shot in the head, then the heart. The hit to the head is accompanied by a tremendous blast of hot air. I see everything blowing apart. The shot to the heart is a little high and to my left. It’s an unnecessary follow up. The dream half wakens me and I lie under the covers in the dark, the heart pounding.

The bedroom door clicks, opens slowly and I sit up in the dark in a frozen blaze of fear. It’s Alicia. A moment before she must have been in bed beside me. Now she has her robe on and is in the doorway.

In Spanish I say: “Where are you going?”

“To the sofa,” she says. “Sleeping with you is like being in a bed full of restless donkeys.”

I’m awake now and I turn on the light. Maybe I’ll read something. I can’t focus my attention on any of the titles on the nightstand. There’s been some new telephone threats, some of them by a repeater who says he’s going to shoot Marisol and Paloma as well as myself. He’s upset about one of my ads that’s been printed in a student newspaper in New York. Threats to kill me are old hat, but men calling to tell me they are going to murder the kids too is a new wrinkle.

Reporters want to know how I feel about the fact that so many professors and so many spokesmen for the Jewish community publicly condemn me. Scores of articles, interviews and opinion-pages, more like hundreds I suppose, have condemned me as a racist, an anti-Semite and hater. Editorial writers and reporters for all the top papers, the presidents of universities, spokespersons for Jewish organizations, and professors everywhere have indulged themselves with slandering me. I find the attention interesting and encouraging. A reporter for the New York Times writes that my wife has to clean houses to help me make ends meet. Angry people, some who identify themselves as Jews, call me and write me letters saying that’s what I deserve, a wife who’s a cleaning woman. Where’s the connection?

I accept the ridicule, the charges of being a hater, the contempt. That’s part of what the work is. Bringing those charges against me publicly is the first halting step taken in my direction by those who most need to be in better relationship with me. It’s been suggested that my sensibilities have been coarsened over the years by the anger others feel toward me, that that’s why I am so accepting of being a target for it. I believe such attacks make me more sensitive toward others, not less. It isn’t the acceptance of anger that coarsens sensibilities, but the rejection of it. Any rejection of relationship is stasis. Acceptance is action.

A few years ago there were very few in the Holocaust Industry who felt they had to condemn me personally for my views. Revisionism didn’t count. Now revisionism does count, and there’s a contest going on among the cultural elites to discover who can express contempt for its spokesmen most effectively. The outrage expressed over the Campus Project is one sign that the game is starting to play itself out in the theater of public life. That the contest is joined. All the forces of the Industry’s lobby are being brought to bear to stop the work. The difference between myself and those who condemn me is that I look forward to the play. I’m not angry with the other players. I’m pleased that the curtain is going up at last on this great spectacle. I await the unfolding of the dramatic line with eager attention. I don’t much care who wins and loses. With me, the play itself is the thing.

When I run an advertisement in a college newspaper I expect to be taken to task (to not put too fine an edge on it) by the administration, its faculty, and the special interest organizations on campus. Among the latter, the Hillel rabbis are the most energetic, the most persevering. Here and there a university president, a member of the faculty perhaps, will defend the ideal of an open press, even if that means printing something a revisionist has to say. The Hillel rabbis? Never (well, almost never)! I thought they would be more understanding, being so close to God and so on. While they don’t have much influence among Jews at large, on university campuses they know how to put the fear of the Almighty into everyone else. Wherever I rear my ugly revisionist head, the Hillel rabbis are there to crush it. They think they’re back in the Garden, jousting with the Serpent.

Hillel is the leading private Jewish policing agency on college campuses dedicated to serving what it believes are Jewish goals, mistakenly. The rabbis talk of hate, without let, never seeming to tire of it. They almost convince me they think it a gesture of love to slander those who expresses doubt about any part of the orthodox Holocaust story. While they appear to have a broad cultural and political agenda, there is no evidence they have a spiritual one. The Hillel rabbis have become the Jimmy Swaggarts of the Holocaust Industry. Ignorant of what they profess to be experts in, sweaty with self-righteousness and bad faith, they are ever ready to argue against intellectual freedom, and to slander those of us who argue for it.

Sitting on the sofa tonight watching Oliver Stone’s The Doors. Jim Morrison needed to feel a passion in his life. He was very young and very talented and he probably mistook stimulation for passion, which is what the very young often do. Nevertheless, the film makes me aware that I have no passion for the work I’m doing. The work has my attention, it keeps me busy day and night, it’s worthwhile work, but I have no passion for it. It’s the contest as much as anything that keeps me going. The odds. It’s a million to one I won’t be able to accomplish anything significant. There’s something about those odds that excites me. There’s something boyish in that excitement, like there was something boyish in Morrison’s talk about needing to risk death. The difference is that Morrison was a boy when he talked like that and I’m old enough to be his grandfather.

Doctor Franklyn is here to check Mother’s vital signs. She’s only half conscious. Her mouth is open, her eyelids half closed with the eyeballs rolled up in her head. He gives her a couple injections, then we step into the kitchen where he says she might die today.

“She looks like she might,” he says. Then he adds: “She has no fever though.”

“I gave her three Tylenol. I didn’t think it was enough so I gave her two tablespoons of liquid Tylenol too.”

“If you give her too much of that you can damage her liver.”

“The truth is, I gave her three tablespoons of liquid Tylenol. I could have blown her liver right out of there.”

“I’m not sure what you want me to do if there’s a crisis.”

“Nothing heroic. I’m ready for her to ease on out of this affair. I’m ready.”

“I’m not suggesting we let her die.”

“No. I understand. Don’t worry.”

“It has to happen some time.”

“Now’s a good time,” I say.

I tell Alicia what Doctor Franklyn said about how Mother looks like she might die today. Alicia doesn’t say anything but after a moment tears roll down her cheeks. Later this morning I see Marisol sitting at Mother’s bedside holding her hand and crying. Mother is unconscious. Later Alicia is frowning grotesquely and crying while she helps Paloma trim the Christmas tree. Paloma wants to know why her mommy is sad. Alicia distracts her with a box of decorations, the tears dripping off her nose. For my part, I feel pretty good but I need some shut-eye.

It’s 4am and I’m sitting on the toilet with a bad stomach. I’ve been up with Mother most of the night. I feel a sudden surge of anxiety. Thought has recalled a passage from a biography of Gandhi. Gandhi’s father was sick and Gandhi was nursing him attentively. One afternoon he began thinking about his wife and after a while he got up from his father’s bedside and went to his wife and gave her a tumble and when he returned to his father the old man was dead. It wasn’t too long after that that Gandhi gave up sex entirely. I finish in the bathroom hurriedly and go to Mother’s bedside. She’s resting comfortably. She’s all right.

All the women in the house are sick. Marisol has the flu and Paloma and Alicia have colds while Mother is prostrate. Dante carelessly left out of his poem that level of Hell where one man is doomed to live alone with four sick women spanning three generations.

One morning in the Mekong beneath a dark, heavy sky I was hiking through the countryside with a young man from Saigon. We passed mud and brick forts with little guard towers. Vietnamese boys stood guard in them with red kerchiefs tied about their throats. Beau Geste in the tropics. We walked the narrow roads through the paddies, passed villages, crossed canals with men sitting on the banks beneath coconut and banana trees repairing fishing nets. The men greeted us with loud rough shouts as if they were pissed. That’s how farmers greet each other in the Mekong.

The sky grew heavier and darker and thunder began to roll. We asked permission to enter a farmhouse. Inside, the large room was clean and tidy. The storm broke with a roar. Three workers came in from the paddies drenched and laughing. Two women came in from the lean-to kitchen at the side of the house. We men sat on a mat and chatted and watched through the one wide window opening as the water poured down, obliterating the view of the canal only a few yards away.

Suddenly a wind came up and blew the rain inside the house. Two of the women went out in the pouring blowing water to remove the sticks propping up the woven shutter over the window opening. They laughed as the wind blew the shutter out of their hands. They were already drenched. Their drenched clothes clung to their strong bodies. Their hair blew in strings over their laughing faces. They looked at me when they laughed. The rain splashed on their white teeth. Inside the room, warm and dry, I shivered watching the two drenched laughing bodies. The men in the room laughed with me. They were probably the husbands and brothers.

Older people were in the room too. With the shutter down, closing off the room to the blowing storm, an older woman set about heating water on a brazier. A little food appeared. The storm thundered and poured down on the roof. We chatted about this and that. I happened to look at the back of the room and for the first time saw the tiny old woman lying on the mat on her side, her temple resting on a polished mahogany wood pillow, watching us silently. She was immaculately dressed in a simple lavender sheath dress. I could see the swell of her little hip. They never lose that line. It’s structural. The old woman was dying, someone told me. I glanced at her again. Her gray hair was immaculately combed. Her dress was immaculate. The mat she lay on and her pillow were immaculate and she was perfectly still. Our eyes met and I nodded once. Her eyes didn’t leave mine but there was no recognition in them. I turned back to the others.

Mother is past 90 now. She has multiple sclerosis and hasn’t been able to walk for about 25 years. She lost control of her bladder and bowels years ago. We use a sling with a lift to get her from the bed to her wheel chair. She hardly eats any more but when she did still eat there was shit everywhere. She’d soil her sheets while she was asleep, sometimes two or three times during a day and night. She’d soil the floor while we were transferring her from the chair to the bed and back again. One time, during a transfer, she dumped on Marisol’s bare foot. Marisol didn’t know what hit her.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “But there it was. It was hot. It was confusing. What the hell is that, you know? Afterwards I thought, now I’ve experienced everything.”

“You think you’ve experienced everything,” I said. “I don’t think so.”

Sometimes when I’m cleaning Mother I recall the tiny old Vietnamese woman who was dying so immaculately in the little thatched house surrounded by rice paddies in the Mekong Delta during a war that was out of control and how much care her family must have been giving her and in that respect how, in their hearts, they must have been immaculate themselves.

A young man calls from Los Angeles asking about the scandal I’ve set off at a University in New York. News travels fast. He thinks it incredulous that asking for an open debate about an historical controversy could create such a fuss. Tonight I dream that when we are at the dinner table the young man appears at our window and peers in at us. He’s a homely little Jewish guy. I invite him in, introduce him to everyone and put a place for him at the table. We talk about many things but don’t get around to the Holocaust story. Later he says: “When you invited me in—that was heavy.”

When I wake, thought recalls the Admiral Peary advertisement soliciting companions to trek to the South Pole: “Wanted: A few good men. High risk. Low pay.” That’s the kind of advertisement I need to place in college newspapers. Needed: A few good Jews. High risk. No pay whatever. It’s Jewish students who will be among the first to give themselves permission to do what’s necessary about the Holocaust story. They won’t be alone, but they’ll be among the first.

When Rabbi Meir Mitelman, executive director of the University of Hofstra Hillel, learned that the Hofstra Chronicle was going to insert the first issue of The Revisionist in 5,000 copies of the paper, he apparently thought to let it go. I don’t know what he thought, but he did not rush out into the quad to exterminate the revisionist serpent. The majority of those on the Chronicle staff, a number of whom were Jewish, voted to run the ad. Maybe Rabbi Mitelman thought that the time had come to test the waters, that maybe it would be good for there to be an open discussion of an historical controversy on a university campus. There are many rabbis who believe that intellectual freedom is more a more important principle than defending on principle every twist and turn in the Holocaust story. I believe there are. The rabbis are pressured to keep their mouths closed, just as priests and pastors are. It’s no longer a Jewish problem, but a cultural one.

Maybe it occurred to Rabbi Mitelman that when The Revisionist appeared on campus, the Hofstra professors would be able to handle it. Certainly the professors were better prepared to argue the truth of the Holocaust story better than some so-called revisionist with no academic training, no credentials, no published papers on the Holocaust. No nothing. I’d like to think that that is more or less how Rabbi Mitelman thought about the coming distribution of The Revisionist when it was brought to his attention. A bother perhaps, something of an uproar perhaps, but at a university all in a days work.

Then—it hit the fan.

In a public forum called to denounce The Revisionist, Smith, and revisionist theory, and to denounce the Hofstra staff and particularly its editor, for having voted to publish the ad, Hofstra Vice President for University Relations Michael DeLuise turned on Rabbi Mitelman and berated him in public for not informing the university’s administration the moment he heard about the impending distribution of a revisionist publication. Hofstra Provost Herman A. Berliner told the Jewish Chronicle that if he had been informed of the coming distribution of The Revisionist, he would have asked the Chronicle to reconsider. If that didn’t stop the distribution of TR, he would have taken out an ad in the same issue of the paper to say that the Chronicle staff had shown poor judgement. Good judgement, you see, would have been to suppress The Revisionist.

Now that Rabbi Mitelman was outed publicly for not having done what he could have done to stop the distribution of TR to Hofstra students, he was eager to clear his name. He was caught in the dilemma that typically Hillel rabbis snare others with. He folded up like a cheap metal chair. He drafted a written statement apologizing for “the error in judgement in not taking more aggressive actions before the paper came out (a tip of the hat to Stalin if you will).” If he had not forgotten, even for a moment, that Hillel is dedicated to the censorship of revisionism, he would not have made such a clumsy and self-destructive error.

So Rabbi Meir Mitelman reverted to form—the form that Hillel rabbis have developed over the past couple decades, have nourished and promoted—he fell back on that old Holocaust Industry standard—slander.

“However,” Rabbi Meir Mitelman told the public forum, “it is essential to focus on the real issue at hand—to make sure we expose the lies and hatred in Bradley Smith’s ads.” The good rabbi did not mention which “lies” he was referring to. He did not quote from any of the text in the magazine to demonstrate where the “hatred” is. Slanderers do not do that. Slander is a means and an end in itself. So there you are. Another good man—and I am sure Rabbi Mitelman is a good man—goes down.

It’s interesting to watch a Hillel rabbi squirm under the cultural pressures Hillel rabbis have helped create for everyone else on campus. When revisionism raises its satanic head on a college campus, it won’t do to pause and consider what is actually being said. It won’t do to put intellectual freedom before Hillel’s own special agenda. Rabbi Mitelman forgot that for one moment, then found himself pilloried just as Hillel rabbis pillory others for expressing doubt about what they insist everyone believe.

What a disaster these rabbis are for students. Sex isn’t the Achilles heel of these Holocaust fundamentalists. Pride is, and a lust to control the thoughts of others. They’re helping to turn the Holocaust story into a quasi-religious cult, complete with an immense crank literature of infallible texts, crazy miracles, saintly eye-witness tales of miraculous escapes from nazi devils, all of it protected by taboos and media witch trials that condemn as heretics those of us who say we no longer believe what we no longer believe.

The Hillel rabbis act like they believe they’re living in a culture foreign to them, pressuring students and others into the service of a cult committed to the undermining of American idealism. Rabbis who work to destroy those who argue for open debate on the Holocaust stories represent a New Inquisition. These Jewish Torquemadas have the media rack waiting for all who disagree with them about the truthfulness and historical accuracy of their sacred writings. Revisionist theory is on the Hillel index of forbidden thought. In 20th century America the rabbis believe the proper punishment for expressions of doubt about what the rabbis believe is public disgrace and financial ruin.

With guys like me, the Hillel rabbis have an insoluble problem. Disgrace means nothing to me and I have no money. I’ve been disgraced now for years. As a man of action, I accept disgrace. As a pragmatist, I accept poverty. The rabbis, full of their lust for dominion, don’t understand that inwardly they’re trapped. They don’t understand yet that I’m here to help free them, to help point the way to a new freshness of spirit.

In the old days some Jews felt in their bones that pride goeth before a fall. Today’s Hillel rabbis have no sense of that. They’ve put all their eggs in one basket. Influence means everything to them, liberty nothing. They’re living in another, psychologically more primitive era. They remember (never forget!) the tragedy of the ghettos of Eastern Europe but haven’t yet opened their eyes to the wonderful vistas in America of liberty and intellectual freedom. I’m going to help fix this for them. I’m going straight ahead working for an open debate on the Holocaust story. I’ve accepted the responsibility for helping our rabbis, no matter what their religious background, no matter what profession they follow, to get a hard look at American idealism. That’s how men of action put it together. I’m a door through which the culturally unassimilated arrive in the real America. Hallelujah!

It’s 2am and I can’t sleep. I’ve been too busy spreading the good news about Holocaust revisionism to do much walking and when I don’t exercise I sleep poorly. I put on my long sleeved padded jacket and lie on the sofa under a blanket with Andrew Harvey’s The Hidden Journey. Harvey is an Englishman born in India who’s become a Hindu religioso. He’s been spiritually awakened through sitting darshan with a young Hindu woman called Ma. She’s an interesting religious phenomenon in that she doesn’t preach and has no rules. That’s my kind of religion. While you sit, she takes your face in her hands and peers into your eyes in silence and if you’re receptive, light and radical understanding begin to flood your daily life. So Harvey says.

One night while walking on the beach at Pondicherry, Harvey heard a voice speak out of the darkness: “You can not transform what you have not blessed.” After a moment the voice said: “You can never transform what first you have not accepted and blessed.”

The words strike a deep note in me. I’m not sure why. I think once more about how useless it is to search and how valuable it is to be aware of where you are and to remain open. Everything is coming to you all the time. Then thought recalls how Jesus taught that it’s a virtue to love our enemies and I see the relationship between that idea and the necessity to accept and bless what you want to see transformed. I’ve got to bless the Hillel rabbis and dismiss my contempt for them. Not them, but their behavior. Turning the other cheek is not an act of meekness in the face of societal brutality. It’s an act of courage directed at the inner life. It’s a concept of radical cooperation. It’s only a gesture but it stands on rock. The Hillel rabbis, literally, know not what they’re doing. They can’t help themselves. There must be exceptions here and there. Apparently there was an exception at Hofstra University—for a moment.

When the Hillel rabbis denounce me as their enemy, sometimes I return the favor with some smart-ass reply. I have a clever talent for that sort of thing. Later, I always regret having used it. There’s a time in life when every one of us is blessed, while those who age and look for enemies and avoid painful truths and disseminate falsehoods are already burdened with a terrible weight. Maybe I can be counted among such people; certainly the Hillel rabbis can. From this night on, while I will not accept their bad behavior, I am going to accept them as men and women (if there are women among them) and bless them with my good will, my patience, and my radical cooperation.

Additional information about this document

Author(s) Bradley R. Smith
Title God Bless the Hillel Rabbis
Sources The Revisionist # 3, Mar. 2000, Codoh series
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Dates published: 2000-01-03, first posted on CODOH: March 30, 2000, 6 p.m., last revision: n/a
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