YSO’s pre-show Borat song left
the sour taste of anti-Semitism
To the Editor:
I will preface this by saying that I am not Jewish. Nevertheless, as a student of this university, I was alarmed by what I perceived as anti-Semitism at the Yale Symphony Orchestra’s Halloween Show on Nov. 1. A student dressed as Sacha Baron Cohen’s fictional character Borat led a hall full of Yale students in singing, “Throw the Jew down the well, so my country can be free.” The counterarguments I anticipate will involve claims that this performance is meant to satirize the ignorance of anti-Semites. My response is that this may be clear in Cohen’s rendition of the song, but it is far less clear when student performers attempt to imitate his humor outside of its proper context.
The YSO and Glee Club members are incredibly talented musicians, but they are not professional comedians. As far as I am concerned, they cannot claim the comedic license that might be granted someone like Cohen, and they certainly cannot do this when they perform beneath Yale’s shield, which they had the audacity to place a spotlight on shortly before this and which includes Hebrew text as a tribute to the profound impact of Jewish tradition on this institution’s history. Furthermore, I am aware that many Jewish students performing in the event or watching it found this amusing. I do not believe this gives the YSO any sanction for such a distasteful display. For my part, I left about halfway through the show when I realized that all the brilliant harmonies employed by the orchestra could not resolve the dissonance with which they opened. I urge the YSO to be more judicious in how they draw upon pop-culture influences in the future.
Scott Bandler ’08
The writer is in Calhoun College. He is a member of the AEPi fraternity.