Navigate to News section

Human Rights and Blockbusters: Letters to the Editor

Comments from our readers about the government in Azerbaijan and why seeing ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ is a Jewish imperative

December 18, 2015

Editor’s Note: On Fridays we publish a selection of letters our readers have sent in regarding articles and podcasts published the week prior on Tablet.

On Liam Hoare’s “The Azerbaijan Conundrum

I have been tracking this troubling trend—of pro-Azerbaijan coverage from members of the Jewish community—for a number of months. There are, unfortunately, even more examples other than the three to which Mr. Hoare refers: the dangers actually run deeper, including strong ties with the defense industry and other strategic and economic interests (see, for example, earlier controversies surrounding Israeli professor Brenda Shaffer).

Thank you for being the brave ones to bring this to light. Along with the recent release of activists Leyla and Arif Yunus from prison, and efforts this week by the U.S. Congress and the Council of Europe to examine Azerbaijan’s human rights record, perhaps there is greater hope that the Azerbaijani government will finally be held accountable in its efforts to silence critics—and that the Jewish community will stop practicing unethical journalism and cynical diplomacy in defense of a repressive regime.

— C. Stern, Tel Aviv

On Rebecca Klempner’s “The Force Isn’t With Me Anymore

In Rebecca Klempner’s essay, she decides to resist the urge to see the new Star Wars move, writing: “When the Star Wars prequels let me down, I started noticing other ways movies let me down: the bad language, the gratuitous violence, the glorification of promiscuity, the objectification of women, and the preoccupation with an almost unattainable standard of living. Films romanticized adultery and promoted shallow relationships based on “love at first sight.” Movies peddled many of the values I’d turned away from in becoming an Orthodox Jew.”

I hear this kind of thing all the time. It’s basically a tenet of faith among many insular Orthodox Jews. I don’t think it’s true in most cases. I know it it isn’t true in all cases. Specifically, The Force Awakens might be the least religiously offensive movie I have ever seen. There is no bad language, the violence is not gratuitous and is pretty sanitized, there is no promiscuity, women are not objectified, the standards of living are meager, no adultery or shallow relationships either. The values and morals I saw in The Force Awakens are complimentary and consistent with Orthodox Judaism; it might be the most kosher blockbuster film released in the last few decades. Of all movies, this is the movie that Orthodox Jews should be comfortable seeing.

The Force Awakens is not merely an acceptable film to religiously sensitive people, I think it’s morally imperative that religious people watch this film. Torah is awesome. The stories and values of our tradition are awesome. But trying to teach Torah values with only Torah texts can be tedious and tiresome. Luckily, we have so many opportunities to learn good Torah values from other mediums, and film is perhaps the greatest medium for conveying deep and meaningful messages. Star Wars is modern mythology that illustrates the internal struggle of what is good vs. what is easy, and acting out of love vs. acting out of hate. This is Torah. This is Judaism.

Go see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Don’t see it because it is frivolous, guilt-inducing, vapid entertainment. See it because it is Torah.

— Eliyahu Fink, Los Angeles, CA