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Beyond the Myth: Mel Gibson

by Rabbi Levi Cunin


Library » Jewish Identity » Who/What is a Jew? | Subscribe | What is RSS?


For a rabbi in Malibu, it was inevitable that people were going to ask my opinion on the Mel Gibson story and the hurtful statements he made about the Jewish people.

Sure enough, it did not take long until the phone started ringing: 
"Rabbi, we really ought to make some heavy statements about this guy and expose him to the world for what he really is!"

Surprisingly, I found myself reacting with silence. I just do not agree with exacting vengeance. Vengeance hinders all of mankind from pursuing an approach that can actually make our world a better, kinder place.

I believe we should start with empathy - empathy not toward a single human being who makes hurtful statements, but toward the underlying circumstances that foment bigotry.

Gibson's statements cause profound sadness because even though we live in an age in which information and truth are readily available, mankind can still get lost in the primitive noise of the olden days.

In the olden days, the only news that was shared was the news the people in control wanted to share. In the olden days, if you were brought up in a home that hated African-Americans, you would most likely grow up being a racist.

As a member of the Jewish community, you have my forgiveness... However, with your God-given gift, you can do so much more than apologize.
In the olden days, if your local priest told you that a dirty Jew spilled the blood of an innocent child for his holiday ritual, you would believe this "news" as if you had seen it with your own eyes and join a local pogrom.

I can therefore sadly accept mass hatred in countries that are still living in the olden days, like the autocratic regimes in the Middle East.

But what is profoundly sad is that such hatred can exist today in our free and modern world.

In a free society, everyone has not only the right but also the duty to seek out the truth.

This is the deep sadness I felt when I heard Gibson's statements. My concern is not with an individual making hateful statements about Jews - our people have survived more than 2,000 years of hatred and, sadly, it comes to us as no surprise. What saddens me is how slowly our modern society is moving out of the olden days into the era of freedom and knowledge.

Mr. Gibson, God has given you an incredible gift: You are able to communicate ideas in a way that can penetrate deep into the heart of a human being.

You have successfully demonstrated that when you have an idea you want to share with the world, you can make it happen.

If only you could marry your gift with the gift of our age, where the truth about any way of life can be found at the tip of your fingers.

On my favorite Web site,, for example, truth-seeking sheiks from the Middle East log on anonymously to see what Judaism really believes about specific issues. I can tell from their shock that what they discover is so enlightening to them because of the picture that has been ingrained in their minds since childhood.

Mr. Gibson, as a member of the Jewish community, you have my forgiveness.

However, with your God-given gift, you can do so much more than apologize.

Your journey can become a lighthouse to our youth, especially those who are raised with myths they used to tell in the olden days.

I pray that in your pursuit of truth, you embrace the goodness and kindness that follows all of God's children, and that this dark moment of your life becomes a catalyst to illuminate the path for all his children, wherever and whoever they may be.

Originally appeared in the Los Angeles Daily News.


Please email me when new comments are posted (you must be  logged in).


mel gibson

Posted by: Mark Wilman, Vally Village, CA on Aug 06, 2006

I really think this article was most magnificent it is really in the boundaries of the Chabad outlook "using your intellect instead of emotion" g-d bless rabbi levy to continue growing and serving the community of Malibu with good health!

anti semitism is alive and well even in a free society

Posted by: David M Burke, Santa Monica, CA on Aug 06, 2006

While these comments may come across noble at first, I think it misses the underling magnitude of statements of anti Semitism. Mel Gibson has been surrounded by Jews for a good portion of his life. Contrary to Rabbi Levy's opinion, he has not been sheltered like those in the Middle East. I think we must come to terms with the fact that there will always be anti Semites including even in our free society. Learning more about Judaism may help some but will still leave us Jews with people who hate us similar to Mel Gibson.

Understanding the cause of hatred is not the same as "accepting" it

Posted by: Anonymous on Aug 07, 2006

I appreciate the rabbi's message that we must recognize the root of the problem and address it. However, I would like to suggest rewording one phrase in the article:

"I can therefore sadly 'accept' mass hatred in countries that are still living in the olden days, like the autocratic regimes in the Middle East."

I think it could be better put, "I can therefore sadly UNDERSTAND mass hatred...", because that is very different from "accepting" it. We cannot accept it; senseless hatred is not to be tolerated! "Understanding" circumstances that led to someone's hatred is often confused with accepting it, i.e. making it ok for them to have and express those views. After all, they are allowed to have their opinion, right? Wrong! Such an attitude validates evil.

I am sure the rabbi did not mean to imply that hatred is acceptable... I am simplying pointing out to all you "accepting" people out there that this is about understanding the cause of the hatred in order to eradicate it.

Gibson is Insignificant

Posted by: Anonymous on Aug 08, 2006

Rabbi Levi,

Your sentiments may be noble, but I am not sure that forgiveness is yours to give. Mel Gibson addressed his remarks to the entire nation and his attitude contributes to hatred against Jews the world over.

Unconditional forgiveness and turning the other cheek is a Christian value, but not always a Jewish value. At times we must realistically asses the injury caused and take steps to protect ourselves.

In this case I don't think that much injury was caused. Mell Gibson does not require our forgiveness or our revenge. I happen to believe that Mel Gibson is, at best, a trivial nuisance.

The more we talk about him the more we legitimize him. In the final anlaysis, your comments and opinions are insignificant Mr. Gibson, I really don't care if you don't like me.

Mel Gibson is not sorry

Posted by: Anonymous, USA on Aug 08, 2006

Don't sympathize with a crazy anti-semite who has been an extreme Jew hater his entire life. He is not sorry. He is a phony. He never would have made an anti-semitic film if he could have seen himself regretting it. If you sympathize with Gibson, and make the public believe that we aren't a legitimate Relgion, and let the public see movies about how the Jews are responsible for causing all of the worlds problems, you are a fool. Hitler made the Germans believe that the Jews were the world's number one problem. Gibson wants to do the same (but in a non-violent way). If we don't expose these crazy people as liars and instead we just take the blame, that means trouble

The person who "loves " everyone puts other people in danger........

Posted by: Nathan, Dorset, UK on Aug 09, 2006

It is not always good to be passive and good to everyone.It can also back-fire on you ..or on others. It bothers me that the rabbi would be so soft that he would not make a stand when there is danger. "Love ", or unconditional respect for others, does not stop anti-semitic abuse on the streets. Someone comments that this approach from the rabbi is admirable and exemplary "chabad".... Well, I think its great in theory to operate with these principles, but, for example, when Chabad Houses allow cult members (who are also Jewish) in for shabbos the shliach puts everyone in that shul in danger. There are terrible risks when an attitude of total, unbending softness is applied in the real world. Best wishes to all, Nathan


Posted by: Matthew, Santa Rosa, CA on Aug 11, 2006

It warms my heart to read Rebbe Levy's article, but sadly I don't think Mel Gibson is concerned about knowledge or overcoming his anti-semitism. He's merely after a superficial forgiveness so he doesn't have his career and 'reputation' destroyed.

He's a plastic man in a plastic society, long since removed from an example of humanity. He has sold his soul for a bigger chunk of ego and has to fuel his own self-esteem by alchohol. I don't think he deserves forgiveness or pity; as he willfully did what he did.

However, I think the Rebbe's words are healing and beneficial to everyone else. It's important for the self to forgive, regardless of the person being forgiven.

Mel Gibson

Posted by: Anonymous on Aug 11, 2006

I was raised in the Catholic church and one of the things that drove me away was each Easter they still do the passion, it is really sickening! If you heard it you would see why there are so many Antisemites in christianity as a whole.

Negative as it is there are, as everywhere, some good people. I just can't support such behavior and could not allow my children to be exposed to it!