Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Doggone it!

Yes, I admit that the Times has made what one would call "interesting choices" over the years in their Jewish coverage...

But Jack Shafer is getting entirely too bent out of shape about the Hebrew speaking dog story.

If you haven't read it, the Times reported on Saturday about a bomb sniffing dog that the police got from Israel. So all its basic commands ("Stay!" "Speak!") are in Hebrew. The local cops (not Jews) had to learn a few Hebrew phrases so they could communicate with the dog.

That's a cute story, if you ask me.

The problem was not the story. The problem was that someone buried the lede on this.

The dog should have been front and center. Somehow, the piece got polluted into an article saying that, yes, there are Jews in Montana -- which, as Shafer rightly points out, is no big surprise. (Idaho? Maybe.)

And, honestly, once they told the basic story of the dog -- or at least broached the subject -- it wouldn't have been a terrible thing to write about the Jews of Montana. One of the reasons that the Jews have such an interesting story, is because they show up in so many different places, and yet seem to also keep their common identity as Jews. The Jews of Peru and Baghdad are fascinating stories. How these (sometimes hostile) cultures digest the phenomenon of the Jews is absolutely an interesting topic.

Montana doesn't quite make it... but I defy someone to tell me that the idea of non-Jews learning Hebrew to speak to a dog isn't a story!