Better to Remain Silent and Be Thought a Fool…

So John Kasich – remember, he’s supposed to be the sane Republican – is getting the horse-laugh for trying to teach Torah to a bunch of haredi Yeshiva students in Borough Park. (The term “goy-splaining” has been used.) I have to say that I’m a little bit distressed.

Now, it’s not that Kasich didn’t make himself look like a complete doofus. (Watch for yourself, if you can stand it. It’s really rather painful.)  What I don’t like is that this is getting played as “Non-Jew lectures Jews about the Old Testament,” as if the goyim didn’t have an equal claim to that text.

It seems to me that Kasich should be criticized not for crossing an ethnic boundary, but for lecturing experts on their field of expertise, as if he’d gone to CalTech and explained quantum theory to the physics grad students. He also ought to be knocked for displaying a frightening level of confidence in ill-formed judgments (e.g., about the relative significance of Abraham and Moses) and a degree of Biblical ignorance that raises questions about the adequacy of his Christian education.


Of course you wouldn’t expect any of the people making fun of Kasich to understand that yeshiva students know a lot of Talmud, but don’t actually spend much time reading and arguing about the Tanakh. Still, they do probably know the story of Joseph.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

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Mark Kleiman

Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at the New York University Marron Institute.