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Richard Kronenfeld
Richard Kronenfeld
Adult Ba'al Teshuvah Ph.D. Physicist

Desperate Times call for Transcendent Measures Part I

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Introduction

It should come as no surprise to the Jewish People that we are facing a dark period in our history. As we have seen, global anti-Semitism is rising exponentially, sometimes as a stand-alone phenomenon and more often under the guise of anti-Zionism. History tells us, as Ambassador Ron Dermer reminded us in a Project Inspire webinar on June 28, 2021, that physical violence against Jews is preceded by demonization of Jews. Consequently, violent attacks against Jews are on the increase around the world, even here in America. In one especially frightening incident in which a Chabad emissary, Rabbi Shlomo Noginsky, was stabbed eight times in broad daylight outside of the Shaloh House Jewish Day School in Brighton, Massachusetts.[1]

We have even had small-scale dress rehearsals for Kristallnacht, most notably beginning in Los Angeles last May. Under the doctrine of intersectionality, the alliance of Leftists, Islamists, and radical People of Color has instituted what might be considered an escalating rolling pogrom.

The primary purpose of this article is to lead up to a discussion of how to respond to our present predicament. As a ba’al teshuvah physicist, I make no claim of expertise in this area, only to bring whatever analytical skills I may have to bear.

For a more comprehensive presentation of evidence, the reader is referred to a host of online publications from sources such as Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, JNS.org, Jewish World Review, CAMERA, EMET, Gatestone, Combat anti-Semitism, The Algemeiner, United with Israel, and World Israel News. Events are moving so rapidly that it’s difficult to keep up.

Where do we go from here?

In 2019 Rabbi Chananya Weissman wrote an op-ed, published in The Jewish Press, that postulated six stages of anti-Semitism in the Diaspora.[2] It is evident that we are at least at Stage 4, characterized by:

• Attacks on synagogues and Jewish institutions
• Serious beatings
• Children being bullied in school, with no serious consequences
• Fear of being recognizably Jewish
• Occasional shootings and murders
• Expectations of attacks on Jewish holidays, fear of assembling

He then describes the typical responses of the Jewish community:

• It’s a lone wolf
• Try to understand the attackers and their motives
• Increase security
• Train citizens in self-defense
• Train citizens on how to survive shootings
• Urge politicians to speak out
• Express shock, every single time, and insist we won’t let it happen again
• It only happens in some areas, isolated incidents, blown out of proportion

So here we are, with an Israeli governing coalition skewed toward the Left, dependent on an Islamist party to retain its majority (to be fair, Benjamin Netanyahu initiated negotiations with Ra’am to join his coalition), and an American administration populated with Obama administration retreads, many of them openly anti-Israel, in key positions. What are the establishment Jewish agencies doing? All too often, they are ignoring, even excusing, the Left. For example, Patti Munter cited her local Rochester, New York Jewish Federation as consistently inviting anti-Zionist, pro-BDS activists to speak while ignoring Zionists.[3] She further observes, “Rochester’s community leadership has become so wedded to the new ‘progressive’ ideology that it forbids community discussions, inquiries or challenges to it. Topics such as BDS, J Street, critical race theory, the Nation of Islam, Durban, Bend the Arc, Progressive Churches, black conservatism, and the Iran nuclear deal have been placed off-limits for discussion.” More broadly, she asserts that “[r]adical anti-Zionist activists and their allies are building a new religion inside of Judaism, and it has seeped inside the Jewish community’s mainstream organizations…. An increasing number of us see that Jewish organizations have been enabling and even promoting groups on the left, as well as in the black community and in the Muslim community, which are now so visibly our foes.” Examples of this phenomenon are legion.[4]

At the national level, ADL has effectively joined forces with the Jewish Democratic Council of America to deflect criticism of anti-Semitic Congressional Democrats, most notably Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rashida Tlaib, while trying to shift the blame for the upsurge in anti-Semitic violence in America from the Left to Donald Trump and the Right.4 Jonathan Tobin, writing for the Jewish News Syndicate (JNS.org), is struck by how strongly progressive Jews defend Rep. Omar in particular. Even Jewish Democrats in Congress have been cowed. Granted, she has a clever strategy. “She generates outrage by saying something offensive, seems to retreat when she gets pushback, but then almost immediately turns around and doubles down on her original comments and then counter-attacks, depicting herself as a victim and anyone who had the temerity to criticize her as a racist, an Islamophobe and an opponent of ‘justice.’ She then reaps the rewards of adulation from the leftist base of the Democratic Party and its cheering section in the mainstream media and popular culture…. one has to admire the clever way she always seeks to put liberal Jews on the wrong foot by accusing them of being insufficiently loyal to the social justice agenda that is at the core of their political identity.”[5]

Even worse, the Jewish Left, opposed to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism, which labels such tactics as comparing Israel to the Nazis, calling Israel’s existence racist and applying double standards to Israel (all of which they employ) are anti-Semitic, commissioned left-wing academics to compose a competing definition, the “Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism,” whose wording is so narrow as to excuse nearly all anti-Zionist rhetoric as legitimate criticism of Israel’s policies.[6]

True, there are organizations fighting the good fight, such as the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), the Coalition for Jewish Values, the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), Americans Against Anti-Semitism, and Americans for Peace and Tolerance. The Combat anti-Semitism Movement (CAM) seeks to be a coordinating umbrella organization. Nearly all the organizations listed above have joined CAM, along with such established names as Aish HaTorah, B’nai B’rith, and Yeshiva University. They have an impressive website listing 330 organizations and over 344,000 individual signers of their pledge, including an advisory council composed of Senator Joseph Lieberman, Isaac Herzog (the newly-elected President of Israel), and Natan Sharansky, Nevertheless, one can legitimately be concerned whether such a large and diverse organization can maintain a consistent focus.

To summarize, as Dr. Charles Jacobs, president of Americans for Peace and Tolerance, has observed in his webinar of June 3, 2021, our mainline Jewish defense organizations have, in his words, “bet on the wrong horse” in trying to appease the Left. As Ms. Munter puts it, “We Jews are in trouble. It is time to act.” [7] More dramatically, in an interview with The Jewish Press, Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein made an ominous statement: “The only prediction I make, despite my abhorrence of such predictions, is that the noose is tightening around American Jewry.”[8]

In Part II of this post, after enumerating some conventional strategies for dealing with this situation, I advance a proposal that, while unconventional, is consistent with Jewish history.

Notes
1. “Chabad rabbi stabbed outside of a Boston Jewish day school,” JNS.org, July 1, 2021.
2. Rabbi Chananya Weissman, “The Anti-Semitism Handbook for Diaspora Jews,” The Jewish Press, Nov. 1, 2019.
3. Patti Munter, “America’s failing Jewish establishment: the case of the Rochester Federation,” JNS.org, June 21, 2021.
4. For a detailed account, see Seth Mandel, “The Rot Inside American Jewish Organizations – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Antisemitism,” Commentary, March 2020; and “The Jews Who Are Complicit in Jew-Hatred,” Commentary, July/August 2020.
5. Jonathan Tobin, “Why are liberal Jews still covering for Omar?” JNS.org, July 2, 2021.
6. Stephen M. Flatow, “The American Jews know anti-Semitism when they see it,” JNS.org, June 21, 2021.
7. Munter, op. cit.
8. “A Teacher First: A Conversation with Noted Educator and Writer Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein,” The Jewish Press, September 3, 2021 print edition, p. 29.

About the Author
I'm a native New Yorker (Brooklyn, to be precise) transplanted to the desert as a teen-ager. I hold a Ph.D in Physics from Stanford and have taught mathematics and physics at the high school, community college, and university level. This year I was called out of semi-retirement to teach math at a charter high school. I'm an adult ba'al teshuvah and label myself as centrist Orthodox and a Religious Zionist along the lines of OU, Yeshiva University, and Mizrachi.
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