Our Audition with the International Jewish Conspiracy

Feelings of empathy lead to actions of helping –
but only between members of the same group – according to a recent
study in the July issue of Personality
and Social Psychology Bulletin
an official publication of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology,
published by SAGE Publications.

The research, led by Stefan Stormer of the University of Kiel, is presented
in the article "Empathy-Motivated Helping: The Moderating Role of
Group Membership." The article discusses two different studies,
one using a real-world, intercultural scenario and the other using a
mixture of people with no obvious differences besides gender. Researchers
concluded that, while all the people felt empathy for someone in distress,
they only tended to assist if the needy person was viewed as a member
of their own "in-group."

from Eureka Alert

Ah, the classic "who would you help" conundrum.
It brings to mind a pivotal event in the Dowbrigade’s formative past
– our first and last chance to truly rank among the Chosen Ones.

We were 16 or 17 at the time, in a desperate race
to see if we would ride out of town on a wave of awards and accolades
an elysian Ivy future, or be kicked out of high school first, into
a future of disgrace and vagrancy.

The smart money was on disgrace, but a rich Draconian
aunt with shadowy connections deep and high in the Zionist power
structure of the day got it in her mind that we could be saved by
a stiff dose of discipline and a righteous return to our religious
roots. Accordingly, she arranged to ship us off, shortly after our 17th birthday,
to a border Kibbutz a few kilometers from the West Bank area of Israel/Palestine.

But before we could leave on what would be the
first of a lifelong series of epic adventures, missions, misadventures,
foreign jobs, narrow escapes, picaresque escapades and extended stints
as an expatriot, we were summoned into the presence of Rabbi Philip
Silverstein, the closest thing in upstate New York to a Cardinal
in the Jewish Church.

We only realized years later that this interview
was our first and last call audition for membership in the storied International
Jewish Conspiracy.

We met in the Rabbi’s office, a sunny book-lined
room cluttered with thousands of objects like some sort of eclectic museum
of Hebraica: religious relics, framed photographs of the Rabbi with
Presidents, Prime Ministers
giants of Israel’s
Zionist memorabilia, menorahs, Mogen Davids, mezuzahs, Israeli archeological
artifacts, arcane and possibly Kabalistic knickknacks.

The audition
consisted of a single question. After some ice-breaking small talk
about our upcoming trip to the Holy Land, the rabbi looked me in
the eye and his voice took on the timbre and gravitas we had previously
heard only from the pulpit on the High Holy Days.

"Now I’m going to ask you a question, and I want
you to think before you answer. You are in a situation where
two people are in grave danger, but you might be able to same one of them. One of the people is Jewish and the other
is not. There is probably not time to save them both. What would
you do?"

We thought about it. At this point in our impetuous
youth, we were a big fan of telling the truth at all cost and of saying the first
thing that popped into our head.  When these sometimes conflicting
tendencies coincided, they were almost impossible to resist.

"Well, Rabbi, it’s hard to really know, sitting
here in your office, what one would actually do in a crisis. But my
instinct is that, if the chances of saving the two people were exactly
the same, I would save the Jew. But if I had a better chance of saving
the non-Jew, or if there was a chance to save both if I went after
the non-Jew first, that is what I would do."

What an idiot! If we had a dollar for every time
we’ve kicked ourself for blowing this chance, we wouldn’t NEED to
be a member of the IJC. Of course, the right answer was, "Under any
circumstances I would save the Jew.  Even if I had hand only
a 1 % chance of saving the Jew and a 99% chance of saving the gentile,
I would go for the Jew first."

Had we known that then, and not revealed ourself
as a dastardly secular humanist who believes in situational ethics,
the rest of our life might have been very different.

However, given
that within a year of our rabbinical interview we were to be the
subject of a nationwide manhunt by Israeli security forces following
we were summarily deported from the motherland and told never to
come back, and that in the 36 years since Blogging is the closest
we have gotten to fame or influence, the Rabbi’s judgment is looking
pretty good.

Still, it’s never too late to dream

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2 Responses to Our Audition with the International Jewish Conspiracy

  1. Your old man says:

    The rabbi was Philip Bernstein but your recollection is a bit warped. However, your blog is more entertaining that the realities. Love you anyway.

  2. Robert the canadian says:

    Very nice comment and instructive for people with commonsense,

    Never be sorry for being an honest jewish man even you missed the infamous occasion you were talking about!

    Best regards,

Comments are closed.