Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Is the Lipa Video Exploitative?

First let me say that I am a fan of Lipa Schmeltzer. I know a lot of people don't like him but I do. In my view he is currently the hottest thing in Jewish music. And with good reason. He is extremely talented. In the world of Jewish music which is a genre starving for creativity he is astoundingly creative. He has an uncanny ability to combine a sincere and warm feeling about his world while at the same time poking fun at it. Lipa is one of a kind – perhaps even a genius.

But he is also a human being and he too was devastated by the murder of young Leiby Kletzky. He sat down soon after that horrible tragedy, wrote and produced a video expressing his feelings about it.

There has been some criticism of that, notably by Binyomin Ginzberg in an article in the Forward. And up to a point I agree with him. There does seem to be a bit of exploitation of that event. The Shiva had barely begun for Leiby’s family and this video was already on YouTube. After reading that article I was all set to agree that Lipa took advantage of the moment and while well intentioned ‘struck while the iron was still hot’.

But after watching that video, I have to disagree. It is a truly touching video that makes its point far better than a simple article. It is obviously done from a sense of sorrow.

Was it done too soon? Perhaps. But I do not see it as exploitation. Everyone has their own way of dealing with this. This was Lipa’s way.

As I said, I admit to having a bit of the same feeling in general that Mr. Ginzberg does. I do think that this tragedy has been somewhat exploited – even though it was done in most cases with the best of intentions. There have been many articles written about what happened and what it means. Or what we can learn of should not learn from it. I may be guilty of that myself even by writing this very essay. And though I agree with the content of many of those articles, I nevertheless feel that there is a certain amount of exploitation involved in using this tragedy for other - even good - causes while the family was still in Shiva.

The Lipa video does very little of that. But it does hit you over the head with the enormity of the loss. Mr. Ginzberg objects to that as unsubtle and insensitive. ‘Imagine if Leiby’s family were to hear it now!’ he says.

He may be right about that. It may be too soon for them to hear it now. But I think there is little chance of that. It would not surprise me if they refused to see, hear, or read anything about it. The pain must still be very great. And it probably will continue to be painful for some time to come. But at the same time, I do not believe that they would object to the content and intent of the video. It says what they already know. But it says it to the world, not to them.

Postscript: As I write these words I have just been made aware of one of the most disgusting and exploitative videos by an observant Jew to ever to hit the internet. Truly nauseating. Nothing that has been said or written about it tops this agendized exploitation of Leiby's death than what Rabbi Yehudah Levin has said. No matter what one believes about the issue of same sex marriage - to link Leiby's murder/mutilation to that is both cruel and the height of irresponsibility!