Please, Rep. Omar, No More Apologies

The number of victims of anti-Semitic attacks in 2018 speaks to a rhetoric in this country that has gone too far. It is tearing our country apart and from here, outside of Washington, D.C., it is concerning that these issues appear to be weaponized for the purpose of political gain.

Nevertheless, as a faith leader in Congresswoman Omar’s district, I am troubled by her pattern of blunders and apologies. It is almost counterintuitive that mere virtual characters bring us to this place.

We can be encouraged by today’s statement from Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján, Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries and Caucus Vice Chair Katherine Clark. They are telling all of us that it is clear who the Democratic party is and who the Democratic party isn’t. Republican and Democratic Members of the House and Senate continued to follow suit with their expressions of condemnation as well.

But we must all condemn Anti-Semitism—passive or explicit, in action or in veiled tropes, spoken knowingly or unknowingly. Anti-Semitism is fueled by deep-seated hate that is antithetical to the more perfect union we seek and charge our elected leaders to build daily. We need to rededicate ourselves not only to establishing Justice and ensuring domestic Tranquility, as our founding fathers charged in the Constitution, but also to eliminating such impeding hate from our land—in print, in type, in word, and in speech.

Anti-Semitism is a litmus test for a free society. In our struggle for universal justice, we cannot excuse any phobia or prejudice. We know and are encouraged that Congresswoman Omar strives to be a leader and champion for justice, but one will never be such a leader if he or she remains woefully uneducated about such a fundamental issue.

Further, the Jewish identity of the vast majority of American Jews is wrapped up in a connection to the State of Israel. One can criticize the Israeli government without necessarily being anti-Semitic. But too many use “Anti-Israel” as a mask for Anti-Semitism. It may be nuanced but must be noted that by condemning the State of Israel, one also condemns the American Jewish community—a community that is no less loyal, no less American, and no less equal than any other in this country. And we condemn those that suggest otherwise.

I was encouraged that Congresswoman Omar was moved to apologize today for her most recent tweets. But regular apologies will soon fall on deaf ears without action to self-educate.

I implore Congresswoman Omar to invest time and energy, either with the ADL or our local Jewish Community Relations Council, to learn more about how hurtful, painful, and outright misinformed her words are.

I am less concerned about Congresswoman Omar pausing, thinking, and reconsidering what she is about to tweet, and more concerned about her having those thoughts in the first place.

About the Author
Rabbi Avi Olitzky is a senior rabbi of Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. He graduated from the Joint Program at Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2003 where he was awarded a BA in Sociology and a BA in Talmud and Rabbinics. Rabbi Olitzky went on to receive an MA in Midrash in October 2007 and his ordination as a rabbi from JTS in May 2008.
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