America’s establishment Jewish institutions are on an apology tour. Bowing to the pressure of secularists and identity politics, they have traded their coreligionists, and their role in promoting that constituency’s interests, for the praise and admiration of radical-Left ideologues. They have turned their backs on honesty and fact. Desperate to maintain a seat at the table of good-hearted virtue, they embrace the distorted rhetoric of moral relativism in the guise of tikkun olam, eagerly asserting that they recognize their crimes of being white, influential, educated, upper middle class, and co-conspirators in the Israeli apartheid. A fear of being perceived as aligned with particularistic Judaic ideals — especially support of Israel and investment in nationhood — has become rooted in the psyche of groups more concerned with their allegiance to progressivism than Judaism.
There are the obvious offenders — like the ironically named Jewish Voice for Peace — but, of greater concern are those organizations which are not blatantly extreme. These include the Anti-Defamation League and its devolution from calling out antisemitism to raising hysterics when anyone dares have a different (read: conservative) opinion, even when those they defend are guilty of anti-Jewish behavior. Though the ADL was ultimately forced to roll back its support for Keith Ellison in his bid for DNC chair, it should be shocking that the group could have ever made excuses for someone associated with the Nation of Islam and Louis Farrakhan. Unfortunately, the ADL has become so far removed from its original purpose that even a move as illogical as speaking up in favor of Ellison no longer surprises.
Another, and more recent, defector to the land of warped thinking, is Hillel International. Though its professed reason for being is to serve Jews at universities, those invited to speak at the organization’s Global Assembly to a crowd of senior Hillel educators and professionals included T’ruah and Bend the Arc. The former partners with Breaking the Silence and thinks the Central Fund of Israel funds Jewish terrorists; the latter — deeply aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement — is a project of George Soros’s son and Stosh Cotler, a woman who reportedly yelled into a megaphone during her days as an undergraduate, “You are now at an Israeli checkpoint. If you protest, you will be killed.” Cotler was the representative of the organization who spoke at the Global Assembly. These are the groups and individuals who Hillel — though supposedly still maintaining its standards of partnership rejecting demonization and delegitimization of Israel — thought necessary and appropriate to have represented at its agenda-setting annual gathering.
American Jewry ought to reject a position of meek conformity to the social justice politics of the Left, and choose instead to embrace a version of Judaism not formed by partisan views, the disease of politically correct suppressed speech, and a false equivalency of diversity with morality. Assume a stance of self-confident Judaism, rather than performing acts of witless self-flagellation. As Moses went up to Mount Nebo to die, he left the nation these parting words: “Fortunate are you, O Israel…” The final lesson imparted for eternity from the first and greatest leader of our people was that to be Jewish is a blessing. It is neither cause for embarrassment nor a crime.
True, a respect for varying perspectives is ingrained in the fiber of the Judaic tradition, but what is gained by siding with those who would exterminate Israel, our ancient homeland and the country that will likely soon house a majority of the world’s Jews? What is achieved by insisting that “#BlackLivesMatter,” when that violent movement does not extend Jews and Israelis the same courtesy? Is the American Jew’s memory so short as to have already forgotten last century’s devastation? Why make fatal these concessions?
A sycophantic attitude will not win the Left’s respect, but it will drive away young Jews looking for mentorship with a backbone and guided by common sense. There is no one correct stream of Judaism or any single optimal version of faith. After all, there were 13 distinct tribes, each characterized by idiosyncratic traits, as varied modalities of Judaism coalesced into a People. But, mainstream American Jews are in a dangerous flirtation with interests that run in direct opposition to their own, siding with parties that undermine Israel and reject the notion that there is a unique, precious Jewish nation that must be maintained and protected.
This is a proposition for extreme conviction in being shamelessly Jewish, for the sake of a Jewish nation that is in danger of sacrificing itself at the altar of assimilation and secularism. The wisdom of former Chief Rabbi of England, Lord Jonathan Sacks comes to mind: “Non-Jews respect Jews who respect their Judaism. Non-Jews are ashamed by Jews who are ashamed by their Judaism.” There is no honor won by being too fearful to take a strong position.
In “Civil Disobedience,” Henry David Thoreau wrote, “A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority…but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight.” Will a vanguard of the moral and intellectually honest recognize that establishment American Jewish organizations have gone off the reservation, and rise up with irresistible conviction?