“Judaism is a SCAM”, my friend who is an analyst at [tier one investment bank] instant messaged me.
“How come?” I wrote back
“Well, for one thing, Jacob’s wives weren’t Jewish, right? And since all Jews are descended from him and since the ability to say you are ‘Jewish’ comes from if your mother is Jewish then none of the Jews can be Jews. So it’s a scam, right?”
“What else?” I said.
“Well, you know Jesus wasn’t Jewish,” he wrote.
“I thought Jesus was Jewish,” I wrote.
“Well, I can think of at least two women in his line that were not jewish,” he said
“Like who?” I wrote.
“Rahab,” he wrote.
“Am I spelling it right?” he wrote. “She’s the hooker from Jericho. So she wasn’t Jewish. So Jesus isn’t jewish.”
I didn’t reply for awhile. Then another text came. It was a mathematical formula.
“Judaism = SCAM”.
“I’m reading about the Weimar Republic now,” he wrote.
“What are you learning?”
But he never replied. Onto something else. We’re all busy people these days, on the twilight of 2010. We don’t know if its about to be a boom or a bust, stimulus or Weimar-style hyperinflation.
Lesson ONE: everyone has crazy viewpoints. Listen to them, but you don’t need to learn from them. They are a test to see if you can laugh.
I think back to the last time I had a conversation with a rabbi and the guy who introduced me to him. It was 11 years ago. The rabbi, Shmuley Boteach, the author of the book, ‘Kosher Sex’, had an idea for an Internet business (didn’t we all back in the glorious summer of 1999). He wanted to create a dating site just for Jews. I was excited at first but then I was thinking to myself its too niche. How could we really build it into a big business. The next morning I woke up early and was excited to listen to Shmuley go on the Howard Stern show to discuss Howard’s recently announced separation with his wife. Shmuley kept saying, “Howard, eventually, you’re going to run into her again and it will be almost like you are having an exciting affair, but it will be with your own wife!”
Howard kept saying, “That’s not going to happen, Shmuley. Lets talk about Michael Jackson.” But Shmuley kept going back to the topic of Howard’s wife. He really wanted to convince Howard that eventually Howard was going to have an exciting affair with his wife. And all Howard wanted to talk about was Michael Jackson, who Shmuley on occasion advised. Eventually they got Shmuley off the show that day. Howard was disgusted with him. I don’t think Shmuley ever went on the show again. I never heard from him again although now we’re Facebook friends. I love the world wide web. Triple-dub.
But the guy who introduced me to Shmuley, lets call him RS. RS now has a hedge fund that has one goal only. He’s in all cash until the moment Israel launches missiles against Iran. Then he will pull the trigger and make “the trade”.
“How do you know Israel is going to eventually do that?” I asked him over lunch at the Core Club in mid-2010.
“Trust me, I know,” he said.
“How will you know exactly when Israel is going to do that?”
“Trust me, I’m going to know.”
“Whats the trade you’re going to make?”
“Well, that’s the secret, isn’t it?” he said.
But lets reel it back 10 years. RS had one more person he wanted me to meet. Uri Geller, the psychic. Known for bending spoons with his mind and other fun things (including melting tanks, see below).
Uri and I were left to talk in a conference room. Just the two of us. He had a thick accent. “I want you to think of an item and draw it for me.” He gave me a three inch by two inch piece of paper and a magic marker. I drew a flower while he looked completely in the other direction. He then took out a piece of paper. “Concentrate on what you drew. I’m going to psychically figure it out.” He then drew something like a cross between a flower and a tree. When I think about it now, I guess drawing a flower with a magic marker has a very distinctive sound, the straight line for the stem, and then some squiggles for the outside of the flower. I guess you can train yourself to know what the different sounds of a magic marker drawing might mean.
He then got a letter opener that RS had gotten for us from a secretary’s desk. We stood by the heater while he rubbed it for a few minutes and he had a look of concentration. Eventually the letter-opener bent and we sat down to discuss business.
“I want to make a portal,” he said, “to help people develop their psychic powers. I’ll sell DVDs, books, etc. I can tell you are the person to help me make this site.”
“What else will be on the site?” I asked.
“There’s going to be a big button in the middle of the site,” he said. “If you push it, you’ll get psychic powers.”
Lesson TWO: everyone has something to sell, whether its kosher sex or a button with psychic powers. They just want to feed their families. You don’t have to buy it.
I didn’t invest in Geller’s site or Shmuley Boteach’s idea. Nor did I invest in several other companies RS showed me.
Why didn’t I invest in Shmuley’s idea? I don’t know if he ever started it or not. He’s certainly gone on to write several successful books. Did I think a dating site for just Jews was too niche? Was I, deep down, one of those self-hating Jews that just couldn’t stand to be associated with a company that was all about hooking Jews up? Why is this memory even coming up the second someone from a tier one investment bank IMs me a pseudo-rational argument that Judaism is a scam? Why did he feel comfortable IMing that to me anyway.
Everyone has crazy viewpoints. Listen to them, but you don’t need to learn from them. Have fun and laugh.
Everyone has something to sell, whether its kosher sex or a button with psychic powers. They just want to feed their families. You don’t have to buy it.
The only thing you need to take seriously is your ability to breathe. Everything else is just a story. Listen to them.
In any case nine years later, after much trial and error, I met my wife on JDate, a dating site just for Jews (although my wife is not Jewish). There, JDate! Feel free to use this as a testimonial!