Jerry Klinger
Shaping the Future by Remembering the Past

A Rabbinic Perspective on Anti-Semitism

Most American pulpit rabbis, to keep their jobs, must be P.C. Freed of the pulpit, a “teacher” can speak.

Saul Goldman is quick to remind me, “Jews are not saints.”

But…

Shared by permission of Rabbi Saul Goldman:

The Courage to be Alone Together

“There is the kind of anti-Semitism that is open and violent.  Then there is a new, more subtle kind of anti-Semitism appearing to be humanitarian in outlook.  It is expressed not as hatred of the Jew, but as concern for the human rights of those trying to murder Jews.  This kind of anti-Semitism does not belong to skinheads, Klansmen, or Hamas.  They hate openly.  This kind of anti-Semitism is expressed not in violence, but in the charade of nonviolence.  It is constructed upon a perverse interpretation of human rights in which the Jew as poisoner of the wells reappears as a human rights-violator.”

April 2018.

American, as well as European Jewry, are being granted yet another opportunity to re-evaluate and to re-invigorate themselves.

Jewry has long struggled against the “accusation” that Jews are a distinct nation within a nation. Hence, no country can trust them. In reaction to these allegations, Jews attempted to deny these charges. They became more American or French or German hiding their Jewishness behind the veil of political correctness. They meekly accept those who charge Israel with racism and proclaim that only the Zionism, the liberation movement of the Jews, is evil. They eagerly try to assimilate. Yet, historically and existentially they are as Balaam observed a “nation that dwells apart”.

Not being in the “political in-crowd” can be disconcerting but it can also be stimulating and valuable. The obstacle Jews face (including Israeli Jews) is that to become what they were destined to be, they must to some degree live apart; appreciate their uniqueness and the demands of being alone in order to be witnesses, to speak the truth to power.

Leaders, whether in government, the military or politics must lead but “not from behind”. They must lead out front and that place is lonely. But, leadership also requires courage.

Looking back on 30 years as an American rabbi involved in Jewish education for both children as well as adults, I can sadly say that “courage” was not in the curriculum. Although we attempted to teach morality and theology, we never even attempted to develop a courage curriculum. We based our education on the misconception that the prime commandment of Judaism was “be nice”.

Actually, the first statement in the decalogue deals with being free both intellectually as well as physically.

In the face of the current and tragic anti-Semitic episodes, Jews reacted in a less than a brave manner. They sought to lay the blame on either the right or the left, which is ludicrous.

Jew hatred, Josephus documented in Against Apion, can be traced to Rome. It is not about leftist or rightist politics, but about a primal hatred that can only be explained as a profound spiritual reaction to the disappointment of not being God’s Chosen.

And here I would borrow Hilary Clinton’s comment about the “deplorables” for anti-Semites are rather deplorable. But, they are not not beneath us. The delusional way of responding to anti-Semites has been to avoid them and refrain from “getting down on their level”.  That did not work in Germany 1933 neither has it worked in France in 2019. It won’t work in America either.

The fact is that we are alone and our hope reposes upon our willingness and ability to be “alone together”.

June 2019.

Haifa

About the Author
Jerry is the president and founder of the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation, www.JASHP.org. He is the son of Survivors of Buchenwald and Bergen Belsen. He is a former Yeshivah student and served with the IDF in the Sinai. He is the author of over 100 articles in publications ranging from the Jerusalem Post to the Prairie Connection to the San Diego Jewish World. Jerry is frequently interviewed on T.V. and Radio about the American Jewish experience. The Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation has completed projects in 37 US. States and in 5 countries. Over 7,000,000 people annually benefit from one of JASHP's projects. JASHP has completed seven projects in Israel. Most recently, the first ever historic memorial to the Exodus in Israel, July 2017. The Exodus was known as the "Ship that Launched a Nation". December 2017, the Machal Memorial in Jerusalem to the 5,000 Jewish and non-Jewish volunteers who came to Israel when they needed her most during the War of Independence.
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