An Open Letter to John Galliano
Learning about the Holocaust is a great first step. Don't stop there.by Herschel Gluck
Once upon a time everything was great. You were king of the fashion hill, creative director for the legendary fashion house Christian Dior, the designer of choice for A-list actresses and models, and an award-winning leader in the fashion industry.
And oh you were outrageous! “I don’t feel the need to apologize,” you said. Your critics were “bourgeois people, condescending and smug.” And even if you were offensive, so what, it was “better to be talked about than not.”i
But you blew it. Two years ago you were in Paris, drunk, and told someone she had a “dirty Jew face.” You denied it – of course – but there was a video and the world heard you say, “I love Hitler. People like you would be dead today. Your mothers, your forefathers, would all be gassed.”
Natalie Portman – she wore your designs – said, “I am deeply shocked and disgusted by the video of John Galliano’s comments that surfaced today. In light of this video, and as an individual who is proud to be Jewish, I will not be associated with Mr. Galliano in any way."ii
You were fired. You went into rehab. You disappeared. But now you want to be famous again. You blamed the booze, but give me a break – in vino veritas (in wine there is truth) – everybody knows that.iii So you got chummy with Abe Foxman and the ADL, read books on the Holocaust and Jewish history, and met with Jewish community leaders as penance.iv It must’ve been hell.
Are you sincere? I hope you are. You told Vanity Fair, in your first ever sober interview, “I have been trying to find out why [my] anger was directed at this race. I now realize I was so angry and so discontent with myself that I just said the most spiteful thing I could.”v
In other words, you were miserable, self-absorbed, angry, and needed a target and oh darn, it just happened to be the Jews?
Well, that’s nothing new.
Sigmund Freud explained, "Jews are hated not so much because they killed Jesus, but because they produced him."
Hitler claimed, “I free humanity from the shackles of the soul, from the degrading suffering caused by a false vision called conscience and morality.”
A former confidant of Hitler’s said, “It is against his own insoluble problem of being human that the dull and base in humanity are in revolt in anti-Semitism. Nevertheless Judaism, together with Hellenism and Christianity, is an inalienable component of our Christian Western Civilization – the eternal "call to Sinai," against which humanity again and again rebels.”vi
Humanity rebels against Sinai?
The Talmud (Shabbos 89) uses wordplay to explain: the Torah – the source for Jewish values – was received at Mount Sinai. Sinai is similar in pronunciation tosinah (“hate” in Hebrew). God gave the Torah on a mountain called “Sinai” because sinah – tremendous hatred aimed at the Jews – emanates from there.vii
Sinai is the source for Jewish values. Jews – by embracing Judaism – embrace a moral God and values and ethics and all its associated baggage. And that embrace made them the target of those at war – be it personal or global – against morality and values.
You were angry with the Jews because you were angry with yourself. In your anger and discontent you lashed out, and who better to lash out against than the Jews? It’s a story as old as Sinai.
But why be negative? Judaism doesn’t start and end with the anti-Semitism. Look at what Jews are and have given to the world. Jews are fiercely independent, critical thinkers. They value life, love, family, and community. They believe in social action, justice, equality, charity, self-sacrifice, and peace. They believe in leadership and personal responsibility. And the Torah teaches that a relationship with God is impossible in a world without harmony and mutual respect. (And they produce pretty actresses to wear your dresses, too.) Those are great things.
The Jewish people have been around forever. And they have lasted in spite of anti-Semitism, exile, and a miniscule population (the world’s Jewish population is estimated at about 14 million, or 0.2%). And in spite of those things they have had a massive impact on humanity (20% of Nobel Prize winners are Jewish, the world’s biggest religions are based on Judaism, I can go on).
Are they perfect? Of course not. They bicker and argue and use poor judgment and make mistakes like everyone else. But those aren’t reasons to hate them.
Welcome back to the real world. You have already learned a lot about yourself. Hopefully you’ll learn a lot about the Jewish people, too. And who knows? Maybe a few Jews will learn from you and investigate their heritage as well.