I’VE GIVEN SOME thought, recently, to the naming, blaming and shaming of people in the front-page worlds of performance arts, publishing and business who may have abused their relative positions by sexually subjugating others. More shocking than the tawdriness of the tales is the arrogance that led some to believe that they are important enough to wield abuse and call it “Tuesday.” In my humble opinion, “celebrities” are obliged to exercise responsibility with, perhaps, a tablespoon or two of gratitude. I do not want rock stars or actors telling me who to vote for or what to march against.
Many years ago, when I began writing for the Jerusalem Post, the Letters to the Editor page printed a stinging missive from a reader, accusing me of demeaning women, being anti-feminist and a general embarrassment to Orthodox Judaism. She finished with a suggestion that “Andrea can take her lace bustiers and fishnets and get the heck out of Jerusalem.” I hadn’t a clue what she was talking about and, inimitably, cried. Someone didn’t like me! I asked the editor if I was getting fired. “Are you kidding? There is no such thing as ‘bad publicity.’ Everyone will be reading your column from now on!”
I host an internet radio show on Israel News Talk Radio called “Pull Up a Chair” with Andrea Simantov. The engineers have informed me that the audience is comprised of many Israel-loving Christians. Each week the audience grows exponentially and in addition to reaching folks in Belgium, France, Iceland, Canada, the U.S. and Wales, the chat room receives occasional thumbs-up icons from Pakistan and Kuwait. There seem to be several gay florists in LA who enjoy tuning in as well. Point being, for many of these listeners, I am the representative Jew and Israeli and they count on me to share a perspective that may not be available in their home countries. Before I go on the air each week, I take a few moments and pray, solemnly reflecting on the awesome task that awaits. The engineer counts down three, two, one and the music starts. It is an honor.
My stalwart producer warned me that, in time, I would receive comments from a mystery listener who writes to everyone using various untraceable return addresses. Last week he crawled out from under his rock and ripped into me. He had listened to every word of every show and twisted my comments into painful untruths. It was hard to decipher exactly what his complaint is/was but I felt rattled and vulnerable.
As wacky as this may sound, I’m grateful because as a child I sang into my hairbrush-microphone in front of the mirror, imagining myself on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Even today I know I could be a great addition to Ellen DeGeneres’ line-up or give a most brilliant TED talk. I fantasized about making an impact on the world via the performing arts or writing. The little girl with the scabby knees lives in the Middle East and not only does she have a front-row seat on the unfolding history of the world; she gets to write and talk about it. Someone has a bone to pick with me? This is the price.
Being mindful of our interactions with others in both very public and very private arenas might receive less “ink” but, hopefully, garner less “stink.” I can live with that. Α
New York native Andrea Simantov has lived in Jerusalem since 1995. She is a contributing write to Jlife magazine.