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Tribal Sex War

In response to:

Number One from the June 4, 1970 issue

To the Editors:

In the early 1950s, Senator Joseph McCarthy was looking for communists under the bed. And in the June 4 issue of the New York Review, Gore Vidal is finding rabbis under the couch.

Mr. Vidal tells us that Dr. David Reuben “is not a man of science but a moderately swinging rabbi….” Dr. (Rabbi) Reuben, it seems, dismisses homosexuality as immature and sick. This is because, unlike Portnoy, he has not overcome “the prejudices and tribal taboos of his mother’s ghetto culture….”

The trouble with Vidal’s review is that he will not distinguish between the particular taboos of Jewish culture and the prohibitions generally enforced throughout the Western world. He is correct to say that “…Jewish family patterns, sexual taboos, and superstitions are often very different from those of the rest of the population….” He is certainly right that “fag-baiting is the last form of minority baiting practiced at every level of American society.” But he is totally wrong to suggest that condemnation of homosexuals is a Jewish tribal peculiarity.

Vidal tries to substantiate this charge by telling us of the contrast between a guilt-ridden Jewish friend of his and a liberated Wyoming cowhand. Humbug! His tale is as relevant as the self-advertisement in Reuben’s book that Vidal so justly ridicules. Christians persecute homosexuals as cruelly as Jews do. Perhaps even more so, since fag-baiting is prevalent in macho societies, and machismo is not an aspect of Jewish ghetto life. In fact, Mr. Vidal, your tribe continued to burn homosexuals for centuries and centuries after my tribe had stopped stoning them.

Christianity has been independent of Judaism for almost all of its history. Vidal ignores this when he persists in using terms like “Jewish/Christian God” to refer to the repressive side of Western civilization. On the other hand, he says that Dr. Reuben’s squeamishness is purely the result of his parochial background. Sorry, Mr. Vidal, you can’t have it both ways.

George Jochnowitz

Richmond College

New York City

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