Sid Schwarz
Sid Schwarz

Calling out Bigotry, Both Right and Left

Much “ink” has been spilled in recent years over the dangers posed to both Jewish and American values by a particularly ugly version of the American political right wing. But the right wing has not cornered the market on intolerance and bigotry.

Evidence the position taken this week by the DC chapter of the Sunrise Movement, a climate action advocacy group. Sunrise DC was signed on as one of the sponsors of tomorrow’s Freedom to Vote Relay-Rally in Washington. But in a statement on Tuesday, they declared that they could not participate in a rally with Zionist organizations. Their statement, read in part: “Given our commitment to racial justice, self-governance and indigenous sovereignty, we oppose Zionism and any state that enforces its ideology.”

Sunrise DC went on to name three national Jewish organizations which are co-sponsors of tomorrow’s important rally to protect the right to vote for all Americans all across the country: The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; The National Council of Jewish Women; and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. Each of these organizations have worked for decades on issues of peace, justice and equal opportunity for all. All three are also strongly supportive of the State of Israel, although not uncritically.

It is not uncommon for individuals and organizations with widely divergent ideologies to overlook their differences in order to form an alliance to advance a very specific cause. As they say, “politics makes for strange bedfellows”. Certainly, the recent attempts in a variety of states to make it more difficult for lower income people of color to vote is a cause around which, one would hope, many organizations might find common cause. It therefore shocks the senses that an organization whose primary mission is concern for the environment felt the need to withdraw its sponsorship of this Saturday’s march because several Jewish organizations have a pro-Israel agenda. Of course, progressive orthodoxy requires that the label “Zionist” be used for a pro-Israel stance.

Oftentimes, in the world of politics, we turn a blind eye to morally problematic positions or behaviors of people and organizations when they are on “our side” of the issues. As Jews, we cannot sanction such a moral slippery slope. Intolerance and bigotry are wrong, whether expressed by the extremist right or the progressive left. And, sad to say, there is a lot of this dangerous thinking and action on both ends of today’s partisan political spectrum. Jews, who care about truth, must condemn it.

About the Author
Rabbi Sid Schwarz is a senior fellow at Hazon where he directs Kenissa: Communities of Meaning Network as well as the Clergy Leadership Incubator (CLI), a program that trains rabbis to be visionary spiritual leaders. He is the author of several books, most recently, Jewish Megatrends: Charting the Course of the American Jewish Future. He is the founding rabbi of Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation in Bethesda, MD.
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