Below are only a fraction of the letters we received in the aftermath of the Matisyahu article Just Another Yahu that ran in CityBeat Magazine on March 8, 2006.
This piece was a real firestarter. Angry readers emailed it to friends and family and soon it was whisking across the country, inflaming people in dozens of states who then wrote us to express their disgust. There were, of course, threats of boycott. The Anti Defamation League was notified and they in turn grilled Editor Dave Rolland on the phone for publishing it.
If I have any regrets about writing this article it’s would be the damage and discomfort I caused the magazine. Yes, I took a lot of heat for writing it, but Dave and the magazine took even more for publishing it. Advertising dollars were lost because of this column meaning that it jeopordized the magazine and all those who work for it and for that, I apologize.
And now, with no commercial interruptions, edwindecker.com presents….
Dear Ed Decker,
In regards to your article SORDID TALES Hasidic rapper should have known better,
Your opinion of this artist is very narrow minded and raciest. Your points are offensive, you are not willing to judge a man based on if he is musically talented or not, rather if he looks the part and shares the same religion as you. Your article was entirely anti-Semitic and does not take any regard for other peoples beliefs.
I was apalled by your anti-semitic remarks! Are you a skinhead?
Hello to you Mr. Pecker… I mean Mr. Decker,
No, I do mean Pecker; after you called Matis a ‘twit’ (yep, it will be TWIT FOR TWAT- translated ‘wit for that,’ but I am sure you misread it). Thank you for writing Sordid Tales. Your articles was actually enlightening and meaningful, leaving readers with one curiosity. You very clearly managed three objectives with the entire article. The meaningful part-That we all know a fool when we see one, but not when we are one. Very well done< BRAVO!!
The enlightening part-That you possess a grossly immature frustrated libido. The entire article focused on sexuality regardless of the props. And the curiosity part?- readers are left wondering if you will pass the fifth grade this year? Try asking Matthew Miller for an interview next time you want to verbally assault like a first year literary shock jockey. Your disappointment in Matis is now our disappointment in you.
I enjoyed Mr. Decker’s article much better in the original German. The editing just isn’t what it was when Goebbels was on staff, but still a decent effort. I’m reasonably sure that the surname ‘Decker’ translates as ‘wanker’ in the southern German dialect, but I’ll have to check on that.
Dear Mr. Decker,
Concerning your recent article SORDID TALES Hasidic rapper should have known better
I of course feel you have the right to express your opinion, uninformed as it may be, due to your protection under the first amendment of freedom of the press. As well, I have the right to respond, protected under that same amendment, freedom of speech. And also Matisyahu Miller has the right to shake or not shake any hand he prefers, protected by that very same amendment, his freedom to practice religion.
You state in your article “At best, Hasidic Jews treat women like they are second-class citizens, at worse like diseased whorehouse gerbils that were once stowed in certain customers’ assholes”. Would you agree that women treat men as “second class citizens” for they are also forbidden by religious law to touch any man unrelated to them, and even their own husbands at times. In fact, men and women are equal, and have equal rights and protection under Jewish law. It is because of that mutual respect, and God’s unmatched understanding of the human psyche that this commandment not to touch each other has been created. I believe, that a country where women are convinced their goal in life is to star in “Girls gone Wild”, “Americas Next Top Model”, and “The Bachelor” is the real disrespect.
Jewish law always has and always adapt to the world around it within the borders of its own law. However just because you and the world around you consider it normal and respectful to shake hands, doesn’t mean he should lay down his beliefs. In fact any girl at any concert of his, many of whom are not Jewish or have no affiliation with orthodox religion are completely respectful if not inspired by his unwavering beliefs, and would be dismayed if he went ahead and violated that system.
Had Matisyahu been Amish, or from another religious sect that had similar negative commandments I am positive your article would have been very different. And yes I did just imply sordid anti-Semitism- but I can because I am protected by the first amendment.
Instead of reading about him in Rolling Stone, you should go down to a concert and see him, and speak to fans, female one preferably. But first please take a sensitivity course, on religious sensitivity or sexual sensitivity, or both.
Ari A. Burack
Decker, Man, i got to say, you come off like an ignorant dumbfuck. claiming you know shit about a religion is as funny as picturing your fat ass on an exercise bike. read up a little more on life, religion, and the like, take a high school journalism class, and then see how much you know.
Dear Ed Decker,
Thanks for standing up to the pathological hysteria of “anti Semitism”. The Jewish community is still playing the victim and lashing out in tribal response to any criticism of Israel or the Jewish community. The Holocaust was another time in another place.
My father died in a Nazi slave labor camp. Only by separating truth from fiction and learning from our history can Jews once more follow their progressive roots and contribute to the liberation of the entire human race. We are not the chosen people.
We must have compassion for others and fight like hell to save the human race from war, bigotry, fundamentalism and greed. Fortunately the American Jewish community is safe and prosperous in the year 2006.Its time they ceased their self-absorption and faced the real problems of the world. They could regain their reputation as
champions of the underdog and advocate for those who are truly oppressed.
THE FOLLOWING IS A LETTER FROM THE REGIONAL DIRECTOR OF THE ANTI DEFAMATION LEAGUE SENT TO THEIR MEMBERS AND CC’ED TO ME AND EDITOR DAVE ROLLAND:
It has come to our attention this afternoon that Edwin Decker’s column
“Sordid Tales” in CityBeat should be insulting to the entire Jewish community. We have attached a link below so you will have the chance to read this disgusting column yourself.
In it you will find a disturbing perception and rather vile portrayal of the Hasidic community’s alleged view of Jewish women. Although directed at Hasidic Jews, this negative representation affects our entire community. Our Associate Director, Tina Malka, spoke with David Rolland, the editor of CityBeat. When she told him the Anti-Defamation League had received scores of complaints, his response was that he “doesn’t care if it is offensive to Jews.” He went on to say that “progress happens through conflict” and it is the job of his reporter, Mr. Decker, to be provocative and to even offend in order to start a conversation.
We suggest that you continue this “conversation” and urge you to write a response to CityBeat. Your letter should be strongly worded but carefully written. The editor should hear from as many of your constituents as possible. You can send your response to email@example.com.
Morris S. Casuto
7851 Mission Center Court, Suite 320
San Diego, CA 92108
THIS IS A RESPONSE FROM ONE OF THE ADL MEMBERS ALSO CC’ED TO US
Sorry Morris, but although I find the style of Decker’s writing a bit over the top and colorful – but no doubt appropriate for the audience to which it is addressed — I think he makes valid points. Innocent men and women are being massacred in the illegal
Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld invasion of Iraq ostensibly waged in part because of how women are treated and mistreated by so-called Muslim fanatics. How many
Jews support that effort? How many Hassidim? In my book, all fanatics are dangerous because they are blinded by their beliefs to our common humanity (however flawed).
Matasyahu is just another nut case – hey, he’s in show business! You don’t like him? Don’t buy a ticket. You disagree with Decker’s take on Matashahu’s mixed up values, good. It promotes dialogue about fanaticism. I’m all for that. Even Jews can be flawed.
(not on behalf of Dor Hadash – but you sent it to me)
I am glad that you pointed out that Matisyahu doesn’t respect women. I went on his fan board, and all of these people are claiming that your article was anti-semitic. I like that about people in general in America right now, that they believe that calling sexism out in a culture is racist. I think the general issue here is that it’s hard to believe in someone’s sincerity to a religious cause when they are on myspace, and tour to make people money, and are in the press to make money. I like how people are so down for a white rich person to convert to something and co-opt something black. It’s awesome to me that people don’t know what sexism is (treating people a certain way because they are one gender or another is sexist). People love to be
concerned about women soooo much, and their well being, that they
accept someone not touching people because of their sex a ‘gift of glorification?’ Come on.
Imagine this scenario: So I was with my friend, and we saw some people I know, and we walked up to them. I’m shaking hands and greeting everyone, but my friend
doesn’t shake another of my friends’ hand. I go, “Why won’t you shake
his hand dude?” He says to me, “Oh, I’m sorry, I just have so much respect for black
people that I won’t touch them.”
That’s not racist? Treating people different because of race is something that is a part of anti-semitism. Treating people differently because of their sex is part of sexism. I don’t see how the assertion otherwise is made without contradicting itself immediately.
Thank You For Your Time.
Ed, you are my hero,
Every time that idiot [Matisyahu] comes on the radio I just want to toss my cookies. I do not understand what the fascination is. In fact, any time I refer to him I call him Matisjackoff or Matiswhackoff. My question to others would be if it were 10 or 20 years ago would this guy even get a sniff on the airwaves? PLEASE STOP THE INSANITY!!!!
He doesn’t even come close to a good Reggae artist such as Bob Marley or any of the music from the Ska era of the 1980′s.
I greatly doubt there’s any chance that someone who writes as venomously, vulgarly (and conceitedly) as you did in your recent article Just one more Yahu could possibly reconsider his opinion when invited to investigate the matter further, so I’m probably wasting my time suggesting you read the link to the subject of the role of women in Judaism and opening myself up to a volley of your prejudiced vitriol to boot. Really, don’t bother; it would be neither persuasive, nor even painful, if that’s your aim, to receive a predictable tirade from you.
Although I’m not all that well versed in Judaism, it occurred to me, as it apparently didn’t to you, that a Hasid’s practice of not shaking unrelated women’s hands may have something to do with encouraging sexual modesty or restraint (in the man) rather than showing contempt for women. But I suppose you have no patience for such an interpretation. You know what cultural practices really mean. Anyone who doesn’t assimilate their understanding to your Truth about how people have to live can only be a reactionary against the cultural mountain top you occupy. So if a Jew is offered pork, he can only be showing contempt for the host when he refuses? That’s the only thing that can be in his heart?
To me your article illustrates a proverb of Solomon, Do not be hastily upset, for anger lingers in the bosom of fools. Ecclesiastics VII:9
THESE ARE THE LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
I’m Jewish, and I can’t say that I agree with the Hasidic way of life, but I must tell you that this article is really offensive. You may think you’re trying to affect change, but you’re not going to do it this way – that is for sure. I can’t remember the last time
I saw something this antisemetic in a public publication in a long, long time.
“At best, Hasidic Jews treat women like they are second-class citizens, at worse like diseased whorehouse gerbils that were once stowed in certain customers’ assholes”
We have affiliate companies that advertise in your publication. Not any more. I also plan to send this article to ‘ads by google’ and let them know I am withdrawing our substantially large account with them unless they remove you from approved sites to advertise on.
I am writing in regards to your recent article about Matisyahu. I am appalled by your description of Hasidic Jews and all the nonsense Edwin Decker came up with. As a Hasidic Jew, and someone who knows Matisyahu personally, I find very little truth in this article.
As an editor, I would think it is in your interest to corroborate what’s written in an article prior to publishing it, but obviously you didn’t take the time to do so. I hope you be a little more honest with your readers in the future, and perhaps ask some Hasidic wives how they feel and in what manner they are treated+ I’m sure you’ll be surprised with the answer.
On a side note, Matisyahu belongs to a Hasidic sect called Chabad Lubavitch, they are known for being a lot more open and do a lot of outreach work. I’m sure you can look them up locally in San Diego, or online at www.chabad.org
The article by Edwin Decker, “Sordid Tales” is not only bigoted, insipid,and insulting, the author is obviously an uneducated neaderthal who has no idea what the term “respect” is.
It is a shame that your publication does not have the intelligence and moral responsibility to recognize this piece of trash for what it is, and instead opted to publish it. Shame on you.
Carmel Valley, SD
It was a real disappointment to read Edwin Decker’s angry article “Sordid Tales.” There were a number of misstatements about Judaism that went beyond the line of disrespect (e.g. “Hasidic Jews treat women [at worst] like diseased whorehouse gerbils”) to being simply hateful. It tarnishes your otherwise excellent publication.
It is not just Hasidic Jewish men and women that do not touch each other unless they are related, but all traditional Jews. These rules are, for the most part, related to “tzniut,” the laws of modesty. The Jewish way is to project oneself less externally, to develop our own internal spiritual depth. Fighting superficiality seems more relevant today than ever.
Regarding the quotes from the Talmud, without discussing which people those quote were referring to, for what time, etc., it is worth noting that there are many unpleasant things said about men. Men come off especially poorly regarding their sexual behavior and morality. And don’t forget the stories of Berurya, the wife of Rabbi Meir, who often corrected his teachings and was more authoritative on many Jewish issues.
The fact that Matisyahu has tried to find a bridge between a more spiritual life and his beliefs, and still continue his work, is the story of an admirable struggle. This effort should be applauded rather than nastily ridiculed.
Aside from the litany of insults and degradation, the article was especially upsetting in that it asserted that Judaism is disrespectul to women. This is simply not true: Judaism treasures women immensely. Judaism does not view G-d as a man as do many other religions, and we teach that G-d has both female and male qualities. With the millenia-old rights to buy and sell property or enter into contracts, Judaism has been far ahead of “Western” countries in terms of women’s rights. Marital relations in a Jewish marriage are the woman’s right, not the man’s. Every Friday night, we read Proverbs 31, which praises women for their business savvy and success. Your publication may walk a spiritual path different than that of Judaism; that is to be commended and respected. However, the slander of one of the world’s great spiritual systems, with profanity and disdain, is not the way for you to move down that path. You should recognize that is simply wrong, even if you are not religious.
San Diego, California
I am appalled that you allowed an article such as Edwin Decker’s
“SordidTales” pass your desk. Please read my email below to Edwin and pass it on to him.
I just read the pathetic Sordid Tales article by Edwin Decker. After reading Edwin’s absurd persoanl distortion of Judaism, Hasidism and the treatment of women, I am failry sure that he did, in fact, fall off his exercise bike- and cracked his head.
One of two things probably provoked Edwin to write such trash. Either he was
facing a deadline and ran out of ideas- or his own Jewish roots resulted in
self hatred, and he is squirming in his own skin.
Poor Edwin- sounds like he tries to justify self loathing by distancing
himself thru fabrication and ridicule.
Edwin needs help- and Citybeat should know better than to allow emotional
vomit to pass as journalism. Get a new writer or Citybeat will be thought of as a joke. I can’t imagine your advertisers will want to be tainted by the garbage you just printed- so lose Edwin and hire someone that can actually write the truth.
I finished reading Edwin Decker’s article, and could not contain the loud
guffaw of disbelief that emanated from my belly. What Decker writes is so far off base that it goes beyond the pale of being insensitive, rude, wrong, and bigoted (all of which is most certainly is) to land squarely in camp of being absurdly stupid and laughable.
It is amazing to me that you would allow Decker’s article — if it can be called that; a rant against Judaism is a much more accurate description — to be published. Did you not read it before your magazine went to press?
Did it not occur to you that by making such allegations, Decker would render your magazine as one with the reputation of loving sensationalism more than journalistic integrity? I am choosing to believe that you simply did not read the article, and thus did not know what sort of trash you were printing — it is a much more comforting thought than the alternative, which is that you knew full well what grotesque inaccuracies were to be printed, and you simply did not care.
Decker, in order to write with such venomous hatred against Hasidism and Judaism, must be a self-hating Jew — or else someone that a White Power group has on their payroll. I tend to believe the former, which makes your printing of this piece all the more suspect and sad. Hopefully one day Edwin Decker will take the time to get off his bike and look himself in the mirror and ask himself — what did he gain by slagging off a religion besides some free personal advertisement and a direct line to the bigots
marketing group? Truthfully, I wish him luck, because if it is self-hatred, it will come back around one day to kick him in the pants. And that will not be pretty.
A disgusted reader in PB
THE FOLLOWING 3 LETTERS ARE FROM MY FRIENDS BACK HOME IN NY – THEY ARE JOKESTERS AND NOT BEING SERIOUS. ESPECIALLY THE FIRST.
I always thought that the Black-Jew alliance was a forced marriage of convenience and my very dark indeed friend Edwin Decker has reinforced that suspicion. As a decidedly light-skinned but none-the-less chocolate tinged black of Irish descent (or so-called “high black”), I read with barely contained delight the salvos that “Black’n Decker” lobbed at our pale faced through-the-sheet-fucking counterparts. It reminded me of the fact that I hate all Jews except for the ones I know.
Every time Ed comes back to Monroe, I have to travel over there to
visit his sorry ass. The conversation inevitably turns to the subject
that Kiryas Joel is not only expanding exponentially but that they are
soaking the welfare rolls at the same time. They are now a bigger
burden to the local system than the “Newburgh Blacks”. And they have
big houses and big cars. Ed constantly defends them, to the point
where I have begun to research the Decker genealogy. Stay tuned.
I introduced Ed to Matisyahu. Therefore the Jew Times should
interview me. Ed forgot to talk about the sex through the plastic
sheets thing. Once that gets out, everyone will take his side.
Dear Mr. Decker,
Just want to point out if you want to find disrespect in the Hip Hop/Reggae music culture you’ll find much more of it in the music of the majority of artists that refer to women as “Hoes and B**ches”. Or perhaps the advantage most musicians take of there stardom and having a woman at every port. “It’s hard to be a pimp in this city” (or something like that) just won the Oscar award.
I think it’s refreshing to see an artist that has values and abides by the Hassidic custom that all ones physical contact belongs to ones spouse. Imagine how secure his wife must feel in her love knowing her husbands values. Do you think that there is music artist’s wife out there that has that same feeling of security that their husbands love is reserved for her.
Rabbi Chaim Bryski
Chabad Jewish Center of Thousand Oaks
SIMPLY: YOU ARE A FOOL, STUDY BEFORE YOU WRITE.
I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed the Sordid Tales- “Just one more yahu” from the March 8th issue. Absolutely fantastic!! hear hear, so brilliantly stated, and true, true true…and best of all you said it all with such candid humor, hilarious!. I can’t wait to share with my friends.
I happened to pick up the San Diego City Beat while on a recent mini vacation for my Mom’s birthday in San Diego area, I live with my two teenagers(14yrs and 17yrs old), in Irvine, Ca and make it my business to keep updated on the music and entertainment world, hence knowing where and what my teenagers are taking in.
They had downloaded and enjoyed Matisyahu’s song from Napster, but, yes, having some Jewish roots and knowing about all the rules, we had also discussed and wondered how he was pulling it all off….so yeah,..without coming off as disrespectful….lol…keep up the reality checks needed for some of the new up and coming music trends.
Love the way you write Edwin.
To Whom it may concern:
Regarding the article “Just one more yahu” in the San Diego Citybeat, I feel that this is nothing more than an article of hate written by someone who has obviously never been part of any orthodox Jewish society. It is further obvious that Mr. Decker has never spoken to any Chassidic women.
Now, if this article had only stated that Mr. Decker felt offended by Matisyahu following a religion which promotes sexual modesty, I would have no issue. However, when he blatantly shows his disgust for Jews and takes quotes from the ancient Talmud out of context, he has crossed the line.
First of all, the Talmud is a description of the legal system of ancient Israel, a society gone for more than 2000 years. Even if you had quoted the Talmud correctly, and it was anti female, how could you logically hold Chassidim accountable? Secondly, trying to say that Matisyahu and Chassidim in general are disrespectful of women without knowing or having lived in their community is slander of the worst kind, especially these days when women’s rights are so very important.
To conclude I want to say that there has to be room for hate in a free society Mr. Decker. I do not disagree with that. But next time please label your article as such so unassuming readers do not think that what you have written is actually correct or well researched, and instead realize that it was just the rant of an anti Semite trying to sound legitimate.
29) Dear Sir,
I am glad that you pointed out that Matisyahu doesn’t respect women. I went on his fan board, and all of these people are claiming that your article was anti-semitic. I like that about people in general in America right now, that they believe that calling sexism out in a culture is racist. I think the general issue here is that it’s hard
to believe in someone’s sincerity to a religious cause when they are on myspace, and tour to make people money, and are in the press to make money. I like how people are so down for a white rich person to convert to something and co-opt something black. It’s awesome to me that people don’t know what sexism is (treating people a certain way because they are one gender or another is sexist). People love to be
concerned about women soooo much, and their well being, that they accept someone not touching people because of their sex a ‘gift of glorification?’ Come on.
Imagine this scenario: So I was with my friend, and we saw some people I know, and we walked up to them. I’m shaking hands and greeting everyone, but my friend
doesn’t shake another of my friends’ hand. I go, “Why won’t you shake his hand dude?” He says to me, “Oh, I’m sorry, I just have so much respect for black people that I won’t touch them.” That’s not racist? Treating people different because of race is something that is a part of anti-semitism. Treating people differently because of their sex is part of sexism. I don’t see how the assertion otherwise is made without contradicting itself immediately.
Thank You For Your Time.
30) Dear San Diego City Beat,
It is difficult for me to adequetely express my shock and disgust at discovering this piece of hateful Anti-Semitism posing as journalism in your newspaper. The entire article consists of the author *laughing* at a person for his religious beliefs. Mr. Decker cannot seem to believe that a person practicing an antiquated relgion would dare raise his voice in mainstream culture. Cross-cultural dialogue should be encouarged, not mocked. Regardless of how you view the prohibtion of touching between the sexes, it is *not* meant in a disrespectful way. Mr. Decker’s article is full of innaccuries and false assumptions about Hasidic Judaism. For example, the quotes from the Talmud are at the very least taken out of their appropriate context and are quite possibly complete fabrications.
Shame on you, City Beat for publishing this hateful diatribe; shame on you, Mr. Decker, for your virulent ignorance.
David A. Schwartz
I just wanted to give you some support from a non-hassidic jew. I personally found your article very humorous and basically true. I’m not anti-religious, but I’m not into any orthodox or fanatical position on pretty much anything. Unfortunately, you pissed off a lot of people. Hopefully they’ll get over it once they realize that you really aren’t anti-semitic or a nazi-skinhead. Good luck. If you need any help from a “reformed” jew, give me a call. Tell your wife I said hi, I’m the one who kicked her butt in pool at Sooty’s 50th.
What an article! You seem upset and a bit bitter there. I have some questions about your article and yourself if you will.
Are you Jewish? Do you have any Jewish friends? I’m trying to understand where you are coming from with it. You see, I myself am a Chassidic Rabbi and I have heard many sides to your angry tirade before, but never quite like you put it. You seem to be somewhat knowledgeable in the Chassidic world, yet you failed to mentioned some of the other side of things. For example some of the nicer things the Chassidic world has to offer, such as meaning, deeper meaning to life and the like. Sometimes a glance cannot offer true understanding, and only after learning a bit more or taking a second look can you understand what’s really taking place.
If someone who never saw a doctor before observes an operation, he/she may think the doctor is hurting the person by cutting them open, when of course the opposite is true.
I don’t shake the hands of women I am not married to or closely related to, and I feel that when someone does, it may be disrespectful of the woman. Chasidim give great credence to touch and in doing so understand that it is a wonderful, powerful, gesture held only for those the Torah and Hashem allow such closeness. A Chassidic man would also avoid contact with a Sefer Torah (torah Scroll) before washing his hands properly due to impurities that may be on their hands this is not saying that people are bad or evil. Simply put, we poses impurities (due to no fault of our own) and much like you would take a physical shower we do so spiritually.
I don’t know if you are following what it is I’m getting at, but I think you should do some research on the topic then write another article this time with a bit more humor and understanding.
Thanks for your time,
Rabbi Mendy Rubenfeld