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May 7, 2021

EP 09: What About the N-Word?

EP 09: What About the N-Word?

Spring is in the air! Alex and Odell answer two questions from their listeners in this episode. The first involves cookouts. The second tackles the societal precepts of the N-word. Is it ever appropriate for anyone to use it? Join us as we tread carefully to avoid the explicit tag in this thought-provoking discussion! 

Alex: 

I Hear Ya podcast with Reverend Odell Cleveland and myself, Alex McFarland. We are back. And we welcome you to the podcast. We've got an exciting show today, and a guest that I'm just thrilled for everyone to meet. But I do want to remind everybody that you can like us on social media and the website for the show is iHearYa dot show. And there's all kinds of good information and other things there. We'll circle back and talk about that in a few moments. But my friend Odell, good to see you. I've been traveling. And so it's been a few weeks since you and I could visit together.

Odell: 

Yes. Good to see you. Also, Alex. You know, it's interesting that all the positive feedback that we're getting from the show, and it's just taking off, can you think about it how long we've been doing this now, man from an idea to here we are to guess what? We have our first guest today. And we're definitely excited about that.

Alex: 

Well, I am super pumped about that. And I am grateful for all the people that are listening to the show and forwarding the show. You know, Odell since you and I last recorded I've been in Columbus, Ohio, Colorado and Texas. Speaking in a number of places. I got in pretty late last night at the Greensboro airport. But people are starting to come to my speaking events, because they hear the show. And everybody's asking, where's Odell and I want to meet Odell and I said, I gotta bring him with me. So yeah, there's some traction happening.

Odell: 

Who are these people who want to meet Odell? I got to meet Odell. Why did they want to? What's the motive behind meeting Odell Alex?

Alex: 

Well, that they've met Alex. And that I guess, was a letdown. So then now they want to meet you. Yeah. But no, we're grateful for people listening. Because, you know, we talk about topics that we think are pretty important. And it is a special day that we have our first guest, and I'm very glad about that. And so I want to say, Rabbi Joshua Ben-Gideon, welcome to I Hear Ya.

Joshua: 

Thank you, Alex. And thank you, Odell. It's a real pleasure to be here.

Alex: 

Yeah, you and I did a television show part of our Truth for New Generation filming some months back. And so How's everything? Wow, it's crazy world all the pandemic and I know you're helping lead a congregation here in central North Carolina. So what's your world been like since you and I last visited?

Joshua: 

Thank you for asking. I think like most rabbis, imams and pastors of congregations, we've just been trying to really be the good shepherd over these past months, and keep everybody together. They keep the synagogue, the church, the mosque going and creatively trying to keep people together, meet the people's needs, and try to make it through this time and just thanking God and very happy to be at this point where it looks like we're going to be able to go back towards normal.

Odell: 

You know, something else. Let me jump in for a quick minute. I met this young man he a couple of years ago when he first got here we were doing scripture study together at Green Coffee off of Battleground and just amazed with him coming in and just how he is because I just got used to the last rabbi, you know, there and now was another rabbi and everything else so is working well, but let me tell you what he did once to touch my heart. In the midst of the pandemic, we were at Mount Zion we doing COVID testing and COVID vac, all this kind of stuff. And him and Bill Goebel not afraid to my shows up. And it's like, what are you doing? You know, you know, it's a pandemic, everything. They said, No, we're coming over to a Baptist Church. I mean, imagine this, a white evangelical preacher, Bill Goebel and a Jewish rabbi, come over to check on a black Baptist preacher and says, we just want to we just want to check on you. And you know, a lot of times as leaders, people don't come and check on us.

Alex: 

Yeah

Odell: 

You know, they expect us to check on everybody else, but they don't come and check on us. And so I took a picture. I took a picture of the three of us and I posted on Facebook and I said, What do you say, when a white evangelical pastor comes over? And a Jewish rabbi comes over to visit you? And check on you? And it was like, I said, Thank you. That post went crazy man, that post went crazy. People just, oh my God, people just loved it. Because it's just one of those things. Just one of those things. Rabbi, I just want to say thank you. Just thank you for caring enough to come and check on me. The good looking black guy. Thank you for coming to check on me.

Joshua: 

Well it was a pleasure and to... Anytime Bill Goebel suggests something I usually just say yes. Because that's

Odell: 

Not everything that everything we can't tell it all. We love Bill, but we can't tell it all. Most things.

Joshua: 

We were just walking downtown on Elm Street after some of the protests and we wanted to just, just walk downtown and buy coffee and just be normal. And we got to the end of Elm Street and Bill's like, let's get let's go see Odell. Okay, let's go see Odell and we went right over and you gave us great welcome a great tour of your phenomenal church. Wow. Kind of easily could fit our entire synagogue in your sanctuary.

Odell: 

But you know, it's interesting that that was the day after the protests downtown Greensboro and the bad thing about it peaceful protests sometime lead to vandalism, destruction. So you and Bill walk through the destruction. You and Bill walk through the boarded up windows. You and Bill walk through all that. And in the midst of you all walking through all that destruction, all that racial hate all that tension, you got to the other end of it said let's go see our black friend and check on him, Odell With that, I will say thank you.

Joshua: 

Well thank you.

Odell: 

You know, Alex, one of the things about what we do for a living and what God has called us to do. And rabbi, by the way, you mentioned the name God, I always think you have to help me. I always thought at that some time that Jewish people didn't say the word God or something like that. I don't know. You have to help me on that because sometimes we don't say God. So I get that all mixed up. So you know, you're gonna have to help me during the show. Can you say God, can't you say God? Do you say this and that? We can get to that. Alex, you know, a lot of times when tragedy strikes, just like in Charleston, South Carolina, Mother, you know, Mother Emanuel, the young man went and killed X amount of people, or Rabbi with the Tree of Life, you know, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, or, you know, Alex, the church, I think it was the white First Baptist Southern Spring in Texas, you know. Different cultures respond differently. The way we responded as black people versus the way rabbi, you may respond with the Tree of Life or Alex, you respond helped me understand that. And let's let's kind of flesh that out for the audience. Because the way we respond with our culture may be different. So help me Alex. Well, no let me start with our guest. Do you mind Alex?

Alex: 

Yeah, go for it. Yeah, exactly.

Odell: 

How does the Jewish community respond when the Tree of Life and stuff like that happened? Help us understand.

Joshua: 

That's a great question. Well, there are two levels of response, right? The first is the immediate, how do we reach out to them and support them? And how do we express our worry, anxiety, our anger at something like this, right? And there was a great meeting at Temple Emanuel of us. And, you know, I think that the vast majority of the people who were there were not Jewish, right, but just supporting that community and saying, this does not happen here. Right? That said, that's the immediate response. The long term response is, how do we deal with the issue of security and feeling safe in our institutions? And we actually, as a national Jewish community, we have an organization called SCN, the Secure Communities Network. And believe it or not, the way I parked in your parking lot here was actually dictated to me or told to me by the security Secure Community Network.

Odell: 

Whoa, whoa, wait a minute. Wait, whoa, whoa, whoa, the way you parked in a parking lot coming in? Yep. Wow.

Joshua: 

So that you back into the parking spot, they actually tell us to back into the parking spot, so that if we need to leave, we can leave quickly, which is a bit extreme. But

Odell: 

No, no, no, Alex does that. Alex backs in all the time. I'm the only one the good-looking black guy is the only one pulling into the parking lot. I'm learning something here today, people, the black guy has to figure out how to make a quick getaway. Go ahead, rabbi. I'm sorry. Go ahead.

Joshua: 

No problem. But the other thing that we know is that the advice they give and this is why I follow it is

Alex: 

Really? really well thought out. It's from the top security professionals in the country. They work with the FBI, and in fact, the rabbi at Tree of Life, had gone through a training just the week before.

Joshua: 

Yeah. And he says all the time that it was that training that reduced the amount of death and that enabled him to know what to do. Because, you know, in our tradition, if we're coming from a traditional like a more traditional Jewish community On our Sabbath, I don't carry or use a phone, right? I don't use electronics, we leave the lights on or they're on timers, right? The microphones are on the whole time we don't mess with. And he was convinced the week before, the week before to carry his phone on Shabbat and have it with him, just in case. it was because he had that phone, he could dial 911. He could tell the police where the shooter was. And he knew from the training, where to go and how to get as many people out as he could.

Odell: 

Essentially you would say that, so let me ask another question. I'm asking out of ignorance, not trying to be cute or anything like that. Can you all carry a concealed weapon?

Joshua: 

On Shabbat or at all?

Alex: 

You know, I'm glad you asked that. I was just about to ask that. So yeah, at all. Observant Jews, can they conceal carry?

Joshua: 

Oh, well, let me so I'm just gonna finish the previous because I think it relates which is that, I don't carry my phone, but we do have in our building a system. So I now it makes my people a little uneasy. I wear around my neck, a security button. If I hit that button, it's the police are immediately notified. They're coming. They're coming right in.

Alex: 

Sure.

Joshua: 

Well, if you're in Let me tell you, if you're in Texas, there was a famous case where a gentleman was carrying and fell asleep during the sermon did not have the safety engaged. His handgun fell out and it fired off a shot in in the middle of synagogue. That was in Dallas about 10 or 15 years ago. And in Israel, obviously people carry all the time, although they usually aren't concealed. It's usually very open

Odell: 

Oh, yeah, yeah, that's a whole nother deal.

Joshua: 

So if the issue is concealed versus open carry, I don't think there's a difference in terms of how Jewish law would look at it.

Alex: 

Yeah.

Joshua: 

But we're not really actually supposed to carry anything, except the clothes that we're wearing on the Sabbath. So we know, don't carry the phone or don't carry other things, right. It's just the clothing. It's kind of

Alex: 

Anything that would be construed as work, right?

Joshua: 

Work, or that would take you away from the spiritual purpose of Sabbath. Right? Which is to be with your family to be with your friends and to be with God.

Odell: 

But But when you deal with the anger of the killings,

Joshua: 

Yeah.

Odell: 

Because the rabbi folks just wanted to worship folks came to the synagogue, just to worship, just to worship man. And now someone's targeting them.

Joshua: 

Yeah.

Odell: 

I know, the whole thing of swasticas being painted on, you know, we get all that and we hate it. That's bad enough. But see, being Jewish is not just a religion. You know, and can you explain it because a lot I didn't understand, I didn't understand the fact that being Jewish is not just like me being a Baptist.

Joshua: 

Yeah.

Odell: 

No.

Joshua: 

No. So that's a great question. And I'll do my best to explain it very succinctly. But one way to put it is that, whereas Christianity and Islam are religions that have social peoplehood around it. Judaism is a people that has a faith tradition.

Odell: 

Wow.

Joshua: 

Right. So the way you become Jewish is by is one of two ways. Either, in a traditional setting, your mother is Jewish, and when you're born, you're a Jew. or you convert. Now, if you're born Jewish, you can believe pretty much anything in Jewish tradition, still gonna consider you a Jew might consider you a bad Jew. Right? Because there's that belonging, that peoplehood. But if you convert, you do have to have a some sort of faith and struggle with God. Although like my friend, Jay likes to say, to be a good Jew, you have to believe in one God or fewer. Right?

Odell: 

You know what? I like you, I like you, my friend.

Joshua: 

I like you, too, Odell. So, so we we're we're a people. And that means that we have people coming into the synagogue for all kinds of reasons. Because they have a sense of belonging, where when they walk around in the rest of Greensboro, they feel at home, and it's their home, it's not their people the same way. And there's a culture there's a sense of shared experience and shared journey that you get when you're together with the community. So that's a big part of it.

Odell: 

Thank you, Alex. You know, a lot of times we hate or we dislike anything that we're not comfortable with are familiar with, like food? It's like, how do you like this? Well, I don't know. I don't like that. Well, have you ever tasted it? No, but I don't like it. You know what I mean? That kind of stuff. So when you start thinking about it, as we know, Jewish people have been persecuted in so many different ways, just like other people. So, when you hear about the shooting What did you think as a as a Christian leader? What did you think? And then I'll share what I thought,

Alex: 

Well, my heart was broken. Because you know, as you said, just people going to worship, people going to worship the Lord. And it's it's unfortunate that anybody in our society should feel unsafe or

Odell: 

I don't know if Jewish people say the Lord Alex, but I don't know we got to ask them because they won't get back to the gods that

Joshua: 

It says it in our books.

Odell: 

But by you by the way, you know, now rabbi, we kind of stole your main man Jesus, you know, sometimes, we you know, we don't say Jesus is Jewish. So just so you know, we stole him, we stole him from you now. We stole him from you. He's our guy now. He's our guy.

Joshua: 

He's your leader, but he, he was born one of us.

Alex: 

That's true. That's true. So um, hey, what do you think when you see a bumper sticker? This is a famous evangelical bumper sticker. My boss is a Jewish carpenter.

Joshua: 

Yeah, yeah.

Alex: 

You've seen that. Or when Odell says we stole your guy.

Joshua: 

Yeah.

Alex: 

You know, our guy was Jewish, of course. I mean, how much do the Jewish people I'm sure you you as a clergy know, but the average Jewish people. Do you know that evangelical Christians true Christians love the Jewish people. True Christians revere the Jewish people.

Odell: 

Wait a minute. True Christians, bad Jews. Okay, y'all got to help me out. Y'all got to help cuz I'm trying to get to the Tree of Life, killing murders. I'm trying to get to Mother Emanuel murders. I'm trying to get to when the guy came in Texas and killed these people. How do we get our folks to to help on that? How do we help them through that? Because I want to talk about the anger. I want to talk about the bitterness I want to talk to when folks are mad, and they come to you and say, how can they be a God when people could come into the house of God, the house of the Lord, brother in or whatever, and do all this crime and we say just forgive?

Alex: 

Well, let me throw a dynamic in here. Excuse me. Um Rabbi, I'm sure you realize over the last 20 years, there's been a rise of what they call Neo atheism. and I was doing a lot of speaking in the late 90s. Well through the present week, actually. But you know, we we decry racism, and rightly so. but one thing that's been in the media and certainly in Western academics, that nobody much is calling out is the rise of militant secularism. kay, and I've debated a umber of the pop atheists like Christopher Hitchens, the late Christopher Hitchens, I debated on a couple of occasions. And Michael Shermer of Skeptic magazine, well, about three or four years ago in Washington was a gathering of atheists called the Reason Rally, and Richard Dawkins, who I was supposed to debate but he, he ultimately declined.

Odell: 

He was afraid afraid of you Alex. We all are afraid of

Alex: 

I don't know about that, but he told a crowd of several you. 100,000 atheists in Washington, to mock religious people. And he told and he really fanned this audience into a frenzy. He said, get in their face, mock them, people who believe in God are subversive. Now, the rhetoric of American Atheists has backed down a little bit. But here's my point, when you've got people that are on the Internet, and maybe they're a pop level atheist watching videos on YouTube, but then they morph into a shooter that goes to a synagogue, or a shooter that goes like a Dylann Roof. One, one type of hate, that must be called out. And I've, believe me I've been in the thick of, of dialogue with these people. Over the last 15 years, there has been an atheism that has grown from mere rejection of God to in many cases a seething hatred of any type of religious people, be it Christian, be it Jewish. And I'm not saying every atheist is is a potential shooter. I'm not saying that. But look, we know there are a lot of dynamics that coalesce people are loners people, something switches, and they go from being a garden variety atheist, to picking up a weapon and go into Mother Emanual or go into Sutherland or Starville Methodist in Texas. And so one of the things all that and I would love you guys to respond. Even if people aren't religious, we need to help young people understand. Many of humanity's greatest achievements came alongside religious convictions and faith. And religion and belief in God is not a bad thing. And I call on the secular academic world to stop their persecution of religious beliefs.

Odell: 

Well, you know, Alex, one of the things that I look at being the good looking black guy in the room is this. It was a time when black folk and white folk and Jewish folks I used to consider Jewish people, white people, and I was corrected that Odell Jewish people are not white, you know, and I'm like, okay, you know, I didn't know, but but let me just go back to this. It was a time when America, the country that I love, would take a black person and hang him or her in front of a crowd, meaning that they would bring a crowd and in some cases, they would douse them with some kind of oil or gasoline or something to burn them. So it's like, we have a fire, and we have you by your neck up there, and we will lower you down and let the fire and catch you, then we'll pull you up. But then our country we love, we have postcards of it send postcards, it's almost like I went to a lynching. Here's the postcard like if we went to the Eiffel Tower, or we went to Paris, we went someplace. And we sent a postcard back. So we're sending postcards of people who look like me. So I don't think the hatred that we have experienced in this country is just about religious freedom, or folks who don't believe in God. I think sometimes it is the very people who believe in God who has the hatred in them, because sometime one's belief, whether it's Christian belief, Jewish belief, any other belief, you could get to the point where it's just your belief, and everybody who don't believe like you, then something's wrong with them, and we need to destroy them. And that's where the danger comes in. That's why I think the danger comes in. So rabbi, your good looking black guy who went to, you know, I had, I had opportunity to go to the Hebrew congregation the St. Thomas synagogue. I mean, I felt privileged to stand on the floor. And I preach there for Martin Luther King, Jr. Then that Saturday, believe it or not, I did Torah study, the Baptist preacher doing Torah study, and it was just everybody was just so nice. But back to the whole hatred piece, because you cannot, in my opinion, when people are killing your people, everything just can't be forgive them, which is part of what I want to get back to towards the end with with the whole thing on Mother Emanuel people like. Oh, the black people in Charleston were so nice, they just forgave everybody gave, man, man, man, if I want to say what I want to say, man. Go ahead, help help help a brother out Help. Help a brother out help a black brother out.

Joshua: 

Wow. Well, I think it all comes down to one word. Right? Which is other. Whenever we make somebody else would disagrees with us into the other. And that relationship informs my sense of self. That's a dangerous, dangerous place to be. Right? And that's one of the problems that we've seen in past in terms of Christian theology. Right? supersessionism, which says, In a nutshell, right, the Jew is here to prove the Christian to be right. This is what the Catholic Church preached for well over 1000 years, right that we should in Europe, we should protect the Jew a little bit, keep them miserable, because that's the sign that they're wrong about not accepting Jesus as the Savior. Right. And this, you can actually a great book by James Carroll, called Constantine's Sword, kind of his own exploration of this as a former priest, going through Judeo Christian theology and Catholic theology and exploring and explaining that, right. And the one of the extreme examples of this is that until the 20th century, the beginning of the 20th century, if you wanted to become a Jesuit, you had to be able to prove that you had no Jewish lineage for three generations proceeding. Right? So that's other right that is so other because it's saying, it's so dangerous to us that you can't even have 3g within three generations. You can't have a relationship who's with a person who's Jewish, right? And in Islam in the Muslim world, Jews were called Demi's, where they were this kind of protected class. As long as they were second class, right, it was all good. And it was fine. As long as their synagogues are small, you couldn't find them, as long as they pay their taxes. And as long as every once in a while, you know, there was some violence against them, and they didn't really do much about it,

Odell: 

Meaning, keep them in their place.

Joshua: 

Exactly right.

Odell: 

So I can kind of relate to that. I've heard that song before.

Joshua: 

And that's exactly right. And I think that we see, and I agree with you, Alex, about any kind of attitude that doesn't accept another person as they present themselves and wants to live their lives as long as it's not a threat to others. Right. And so, I've counseled a number of Jewish students through college, including my own daughters. When they have to have a conversation about I've got to miss a class because of this Jewish holiday. And it's gotten to the point like I know, when I was, I think we're all kind of roughly the same generation here. Like, it was no big deal. If I told the professor, I've got this thing. They were respectful. They were cool. Nowadays, they have professors who make fun of them.

Odell: 

Wow

Joshua: 

who makes my daughter, this is hysterical. My daughter is at Brandeis University, a Jewish funded university. And one of her professors was given her a hard time because she had to stop working on Friday afternoon to get ready for the Sabbath

Alex: 

At Brandeis?

Joshua: 

At Brandeis University.

Alex: 

That is surprising.

Joshua: 

But at the same time, Alex, I think I've seen it on the other side as well, right? Where religious people say that non believers are the cause of the evil, right? Or that non believers are the ones who are gonna lead us astray too. And I think that it's both are kind of the flip side of the same coin, which is otherness, right? When we we look at someone who's different from us, can we relate to them as we are here around this table in such a beautiful way.

Alex: 

I do think it's important, another topic for another day that we help young people and upcoming generations understand that, you know, one of the beautiful things about America, although we've not always followed it, but we were based on morals, you know, we were from the Declaration to the Constitution, it presupposes what they call the Judeo Christian moral code, which includes respect for human life, Thou shalt not murder. And so we not not to demonize any one person or try to create a straw man. But I will say, having spoken on the subject of God and religion at a couple of 100, American universities, there is a certain contempt for religious beliefs among secular academics. And I think there's some negative repercussions from that, that many of the self assured agnostics 20 years ago didn't see coming. Because I mean, you look at the shooters guarantee, I mean, they may have an amalgam of twisted up beliefs, but fidelity to God is not one of them.

Odell: 

It's interesting, because you don't want to get into an arm, wrestle, post or even know what arm wrestling probably is anymore between Jesus Christ and Sigmund Freud. You know, that whole argument, but one of the things is we talk about the horrible things that's happened that we talked about what the three different faith communities is, what's the motive? You know, what's the motive Dylann Roof's motive was the fact that he wanted to start a race war. Well, that's, that's a whole nother crazy thing was like, okay, where do you go, to start to ignite a race war, you go to the black church in the black community. So the black church has been being attacked, from I remember, Rabbi, we went down to the civil rights journey, we went to 16th Street Baptist, and when we went to Israel together, and you know, you never get to know someone until you travel with them. And we traveled for 10 days together, we saw significant sites in Israel, Jewish sites, Christian sites, I almost said other sites, but I don't want to say that, you know, the word other, but at the end of the day, we ate different foods, you know, it was just, it was just a beautiful, engaging conversation in the backdrops to some of the most sacred sites that I've read about for years in my Bible to actually be there. And we're going to try to get Alex to come with us the next time and some of the listening audience also So Alex, you're coming to Israel with us, and man, it's different, it's different.

Alex: 

Count me in. Count me in. And and when. The sooner the better, in my opinion.

Joshua: 

Yeah, it's a there's something great about being in Israel together because like you said, Odell, and one of the things I've appreciated listening to your podcast is that sense of trust and love, even when we disagree, right? And when we're in Israel together and everything is so close. Right? There are not great distances between things. So you've got proximity there. And I think it helps in the personal relationships too, because we're, we're sitting there in this corner, we're like, well, right there is this place where there was a second century Christian village. And right here is where a ra- famous rabbi is buried. And we can see both of them from this corner. Right? So that

Odell: 

You got black, black Jewish people in there. Tell me about that. I mean, I went there. I was like, Hey, you got black folk in the house!

Joshua: 

For sure. Well, yeah, that's one of the things that Americans who haven't been to Israel kind of blows their mind. Right, that there are Jews from all over the world. There are Jews in India, there are Jews, North Africa, from Persia, or Iran, Iraq, right. So Jews of every color Ethiopia, everything across the spectrum. And when you're in Israel, you know, if you've only seen Jews in North America, we're even by the way, according to some to some polling, about 10% of American Jews are people of color. Right? So and we have a number of of wonderful people in our congregation, as well who are people of color. So we have that diversity locally, somewhat. But you go to Israel, it's just right there in the face. And you see that, you know what, I can't tell the difference between a Palestinian and Israeli because they look like, Andy, no one's darker than another person. And it's just such a, it's a different setting. We see these beautiful, different colors all kind of being together.

Odell: 

You know, when you go to the Kotel. That experience, Alex. I mean, it's just an experience, man.

Alex: 

The Kotel?

Odell: 

Yes, we go down

Joshua: 

The Western Wall.

Alex: 

Okay.

Odell: 

As a

Alex: 

I did not know. Why is that called the Kotel?

Joshua: 

It's just the name in Hebrew.

Alex: 

Okay.

Joshua: 

So it's "the wall".

Alex: 

Yeah, of course. Okay. I was not familiar with that term. But yes, go ahead.

Odell: 

No problem. And the good thing about it, when you go there, man, it's just such a spiritual, you know, just a spiritual experience, man, and we just love it, just just love it. And, you know, I always thought I'm one with an open mind. But I grew up in the south, where white people hated black people, and in turn black people hated white people. And we went through certain neighborhoods, folks would throw rocks at us and all this kind of stuff. I love the fact that God has blessed me to be to the point where I've experienced other people, not in the negative sense, but in a positive sense, that I didn't know. I just didn't know in my ignorance, my bias and my prejudices. That's all I had. Because that's all I knew. And then when you get the chance to meet people who are not like you, and you get to say, Well, wait a minute, I was wrong. Wait a minute, that wasn't right. Wait a minute, what I learned on grandma's porch wasn't right. And what what? Old, Uncle Willie told me was her right. And the thing about it now that you can have opportunities to correct themselves, and Rabbi correct me on this God thing, because I always thought that the word God like, Can you say, God, y'all say, God, you can't right? God? Help a brother out. Help a brother out, Alex. A brother out.

Alex: 

There you go.

Joshua: 

So in our tradition, right, we have there's one true name for God. Okay. And that's the spelled in Hebrew Y H W H.

Odell: 

Can you say that again, please?

Joshua: 

The four letters. Y, H, W, H, which if you've seen the Life of Brian, the Monty Python movie, there's a famous

Alex: 

Right. funny scene where they're talking about stoning this

Joshua: 

So that is the name that we don't pronounce. And person for having said the word Jehovah, right, which is not I mean, that's how the King James Bible vocalized it but that's not how it's vocalized. Because there's no J' sound, there's no j' in H brew. We don't know how to p onounce it, because this name was supposedly passed down from Aaron, Moses' brother, the high priests, from him to high priest to high pries to high priest, for generati n after generation, nd they were the only ones wh knew really how to pronounce it. that's the name that we don't write. Unless we're going to keep it. Right. But anything else? It pretty much. I mean, the couple exceptions we've expanded out in Hebrew, but certainly anything else in English or any other language is considered to be kind of a nickname. And it doesn't have the same kind of weight. So you can say, God, I say God all the time. You could say the Lord.

Odell: 

We can say the Lord?

Joshua: 

Yeah, I mean, it's

Odell: 

So help me on this circumcision thing. Yeah, that circumcision thing came from you, right?

Joshua: 

Oh, yeah. I mean, that's that's Abraham, right?

Odell: 

That's because I had to be circumcised before I got out the hospital. My son had to be circumcised. My grandson had to be circumcised, is we see it as a Christian thing.

Joshua: 

Really?

Odell: 

Yeah. Alex, how do you see circumcision?

Alex: 

Abraham. I mean, that was the sign that they were part of the lineage of Abraham. They were sons of the covenant with God.

Joshua: 

Exactly. Yeah. So, Abraham, right, he goes through a number actually, first, his name is Abram, right. And then it becomes Abraham. And he goes through a number of different attempts to kind of make this covenant with God. Probably a little insecure since he was the first one, right. And he also was hoping for the promise of that, which was children. So there are a couple other incidents you know about in Genesis about making this covenant, but this is the one that apparently stuck, or, or cut it, so to speak.

Odell: 

Yeah, so so what do y'all call it? Because I know it's a ceremony and only certain people can perform the ceremony?

Joshua: 

Yeah, it's called a brit milah, which is the covenant of circumcision. And it's done by someone who's trained to do only that. A mohel. Mohel exactly. Or mohel in Hebrew.

Alex: 

Is the the Jewish. That's a Jewish clergy that performs the circumcision. Yeah, they're like a very specialized role. With special tools. Right? You have to have like special tools. You just can't go get a butter knife.

Joshua: 

Oh, yeah. No, they have, you know, they have a whole surgical kit they use. They sanitize it and all the right ways. Yeah. And they're and they're usually very good. I would I always advise families, you know, if you're thinking about having a doctor because some people think, Oh, I'll have a doctor do it that'll be better and safer. Like, doctors do this every once in a while. A mohel does it all the time. That's all they do. And they're usually very, very good at it. So

Odell: 

I grew up in the projects. So public housing, so I don't know who did it. Who didn't do it. But let me say this, a lot of times with bias prejudice and stereotypes around different people. Have you ever felt that just because you are Jewish, or you are a rabbi or you wear the, help me, I don't want to say the wrong thing because I understand the consequences. So consequences. What's it called?

Joshua: 

A kippa or yamaka?

Odell: 

There you go. I was gonna say yamaka, but you said. Do you think people look at you differently when when they see? I mean, helped me or sometimes I've been with these interfaith trips, and we went from Israel to Palestine to go over to Bethlehem, I've seen folks take it off not to be a

Joshua: 

Bethlehem target. Yeah, we help us on that. Because hatred is hatred, no matter if it's in America, or Israel, or Palestine, or the rural south, or. Hatred is hatred. Yeah. So let me separate it out into two different issues. One is feelings. And the other is safety.

Odell: 

Wow.

Joshua: 

Right. And I was thinking about this topic. Actually, I was listening to your show, your podcast on cancel culture. And it was I was kind of So you're a fan of Alex and Odell. He's a fan Alex.

Alex: 

And it's and I knew I liked you, but I really appreciate you.

Joshua: 

Okay, so Alex we're gonna go down to Texas and buy me some boots at some point.

Alex: 

We're gonna do it and have brisket.

Joshua: 

There you go. So I was reflecting back on my own experiences, which were of anti semitism, or like being picked on because I was Jewish, right. And I remember one of my first jobs, the only place I could walk to and get a job was McDonald's. And I was a senior in high school. And someone said, this is a the edge of the suburb going to the rural area, and someone from the rural area who I worked with, said something about jewing someone down.

Odell: 

Wow.

Joshua: 

Right. And I was just kind of shocked, right? I never I don't think I'd ever heard that before. I knew about it, but I never heard it before. And it definitely made me even though I felt secure. Right? It made me feel uneasy. And while I was thinking about that, with the cancel culture part was today, if someone said that to me, I would laugh it off. It would be I mean, I would maybe talk to them about it, but it wouldn't make me feel any different. Right?

Odell: 

Yes sir.

Joshua: 

But for so many people, especially people of color, to hear some of the terms to hear those things just used even if it's an explanatory way, it makes you feel less than, right, because it's just a reminder. And I think that's one of things we got to be considerate of. Right? So when it comes to that kind of stuff of wearing a yamaka or a kippa in public. I, you know, I've never had a problem. So I don't know if that's because of how I look what I do, I don't know, but I've never had a problem. And the only place I've had to take it off is actually in Israel, which is kind of ironic.

Alex: 

Really, in what context?

Joshua: 

In the context of safety. So when we go into Bethlehem into a Palestinian area Because the kippa I wear can be seen not as a sign of religious observance, but one of political affiliation, especially by, you know, Palestinians who, for whatever reason, I don't think we should get into that here, but are certainly limited in their, in their own sovereignty and live in a way, especially in Bethlehem and certain places where they're under pressure, right. And so the kippa I'm wearing can be a sign of that oppression to them. So that's right. Okay. Well, I'll put on a baseball caps, no big deal. But the other place was actually going on to the Temple Mount.

Alex: 

Yeah. Oh, my word. Yeah.

Joshua: 

Right, so I, and I didn't wasn't even aware. I knew I couldn't were going up there. Because it's such a sensitive topic. You know, that the, in Israel, each religion controls their own religious sites, right. So the walk, which is the association that runs all the Muslim sites, controls, the Temple Mount. Israeli military is controlling security from outside, right. But they control what goes on up there. And they don't allow for a Jewish person to pray on top of the Temple Mount. And this is a big issue, but it's one that Israel respects is, you know, in keeping and the security people look for any Jew who they think is going up there to try to pray. And again, the yamaka that I wear is seen as the sign of someone who would want to do that. And so I wasn't wearing it, it was rolled up in my backpack, right? But going through my backpack security found it, they're like, Wait a second, and had to go through about five or 10 minutes of conversation about No, I'm not that kind of a Jew, I'm an American rabbi. And it's there, like, but I had to take it off. So that was for security or from respect. But here, you know, I'm a secure enough person, that it's not really something that would threaten me or make me feel bad, I would just talk to the person, but people who are younger people who are less secure, you know, for sure it makes them feel off.

Odell: 

You know, it's interesting, you would say that on our show, I Hear Ya. Because we're trying to get an understanding of different people's perspective, whether it's a culture, whatever it is, so that why someone does something is a reason behind it. And if not, we don't understand the reason we fill in the blank with Odell is wearing a mask because he hates all republicans or Alex won't wear a mask because he hates all democrats or something like that. And you submitted yourself to say to authorities, Jewish authorities that I'm going up here, but I'm not that kind of a Jew. You know, it's interesting that I don't think we always appreciate America, in the freedoms that we have in America to you go other places. But at the end of the day, we have to have some tolerance, we have to have we have to give each other a little bit of room to backup that we make a mistake. We have to give each other some room to backup and say, Oh my God, I didn't know I stepped on your shoes. Oh my God, I didn't know that. Now, if we meant to, that's fine. And also we have to tell the truth. I think we have to tell the truth. And what I love about my brother Alex is the fact that we can agree to disagree. But we can tell the truth.

Alex: 

Yeah.

Odell: 

We can agree that we're I'm better looking than he is you know, and we can agree on that.

Alex: 

But nobody would dispute that.

Odell: 

You took your yamaka off and you got a bald head like me. So you know Alex have the hair, he's got the hair.

Alex: 

Living at the foot of the cross. I gotta ask you this. And feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. anti-semitism, it seems like is one bias that is allowed to go about unchecked sometimes. And that that grieves my heart. That it seems like jokes about Jewish people, animosity about Jewish people. And in speaking at universities, I've had Muslim students. And I'm I try to be respectful and tolerant of everybody. But you mentioned being at the Temple Mount. We were in there six years ago at the Temple Mount. And there were these greeters or tour guides or something saying horribly unrepeatable things against Jewish people there at the Temple Mount. And so have you ever had any imam or Islamic person say, Hey, we don't hate Jewish people. I mean, I don't see the Islamic world being called out for their anti-semitism. Could you speak to that at all?

Joshua: 

That's a great question. You know, I it makes me think of a story of my life, which is that when I was in Fairfax, Virginia 15 years ago as a as a starting out rabbi 17 years ago, my dentist was a woman from Syria.

Alex: 

Okay.

Joshua: 

And the dental hygienist who worked with her was a woman from Iran. It's only in America that I could have a two Muslim, dental dentist and the hygienist working on it that we could talk to each other about these things, right? So in America, I've had incredible experiences with Muslim leaders working together on projects in I was in Northern Virginia in 2003 to 2008. And in the wake of 911, the federal government actually gave Fairfax County because it was one of the sites right because the Pentagon money to do interfaith work. And so for five years, the five years I was there, I helped to steer a group of a few mosques, a few churches, and our synagogue in interfaith conversations. And I got to meet imams from all over the world from Afghanistan, who were actually still Facebook friends with and I got to tell you, actually, he was the first person after the Pittsburgh shootings to be in touch and to say, you know, this is wrong, and I'm so sorry, I was my heart was broken to see this. And so great opportunity

Odell: 

Because it's hard, because it's hard to hate up close, because you have a relationship. And that's

Joshua: 

Exactly.

Odell: 

But sometimes we don't want to do want to have the relationship. So go ahead. I'm sorry. But I just I mean, you just fascinates me with these experiences, because I'm still an open book. I'm trying to learn.

Joshua: 

Yeah, me too. I think that's what our job is to do throughout life. Right. But I've never had that opportunity in Israel, to I've certainly had the opportunity to converse with with people who are Muslim, but I've never had the opportunity to be in conversation with an imam, or a religious leader in Israel, because it's so political, and it's so different plane.

Alex: 

Yeah.

Joshua: 

But, uh, yeah, you know, I have a friend who's a rabbi in London. And just a couple years ago, he was at his club, you know, his athletic club, kind of getting ready for yoga class or something. And some guy who's like, just said something about, like, put him down as a Jewish person and as something about Israel. And I think that that is one of the hatreds that's allowed to go by and not be challenged.

Alex: 

Yeah

Joshua: 

In cultures that are otherwise wouldn't tolerate it from anything else. But there's this accepted kind of othering of Jews. Even like, it's famous in British culture, especially in higher British culture, but we see it in a lot of places.

Alex: 

Wow, well, I want to say how much I appreciate you coming on the program. And one thing that I want to do is continue to role model and message to young people relationship helps gets us out of our bubble. You know, and it's always good to get out of our bubble. Because when you meet people, you know, we talk about in the abstract and hypothetical, but when you meet people, you're like, wow, I like this guy. I want to make friends with this person. And so we're getting out of our bubbles. You know, I've said this ever since I was a kid. Nothing beats a good conversation. I got my beliefs. I'm a Christian. I believe the the Bible is thr word of God. I believe Jesus rose from the dead. But conversation, I learned so much from this man, I really do. I'm learning from you, Joshua. I just want to encourage people, get out there and make friends with people who are different than you. Get out there and make friends. And you're going to find it is very enriching.

Joshua: 

Amen.

Odell: 

Amen. Amen. Amen. I'm like, you know, is it boy, this whole religion thing on? We steal from each other, or we borrow from each other and reshape that

Alex: 

I gotta tell ya, Joshua says, amen. Hey, the bat, the white Baptists here's about to pass the plate.

Odell: 

Jewish folks don't pass to plate Alex, they do dues, they don't pass the plate. They don't class the plate.

Alex: 

Okay.

Odell: 

Alright, so you want to do good and that was a good sermon.

Alex: 

Pass the collection plate?

Odell: 

Yeah. So So rabbi, close us out. And then Alex will close us out. But your final words and this let me say to you, how much I respect you how much I appreciate you. And I just thank you for being the person who you are. Yes, just thank you for that.

Joshua: 

Thank you. Listen, I'm here because I respect and

Alex: 

Thank you. like both of you. And I've learned from my relationship with you with each of you. I agree with your mission also, I think this is very important. It's one of the reasons I love Greensboro. I've been in other places. And this is a special place where we can have these conversations and be in relationships and it's encouraged and supported. So I'm I'm all about that. And actually I think it would be wonderful if maybe separate from the podcast. Or maybe we can work this out. I would love to have a panel conversation with you both at my synagogue, because I think there are a lot of Jewish people in that synagogue who would benefit from hearing directly from an evangelical white person who they've maybe never had a conversation with before, or at least not in this way and with a good looking black man.

Odell: 

I was waiting. Yes, we would love to take you up on that invite.

Alex: 

Hey, this has been I Hear Ya, and you can find us online. The website I Hear Ya, Y, that's with a Y A. I Hear Ya dot show. We want to say how much we appreciate our wonderful panelists, Joshua Ben-Gideon and Reverend Odell Cleveland, who you can find at Mount Zion Baptist Church. My name is Alex McFarland. We love you, folks. Thank you for listening. God bless you in all things. And thanks for listening. Please forward, please like and be in online for the next I Hear Ya podcast.

Odell: 

I Hear Ya, Alex and just thank you and Rabbi, I hear you. I hear ya Odell. God bless you, my friends.