Towards the end of March, on a warm, beautiful spring Washington day, I was standing on the closed street between The Eisenhower Executive Office Building and the entrance to the West Wing of the White House. The weather was perfect. The trees were blooming and my students and I had just finished a lobbying session inside the Indian Treaty Room with a few of President Trump’s aides. The seventy of us were taking pictures on the famous grounds of the “People’s House.”
Our flight back to Florida wasn’t for a few hours and for a teenager, could there be a cooler place for a selfie than the White House? I allowed my students to take their time; my only concern was their making too much noise. With kippot on our heads, we were clearly a Jewish group. We recognized that we represented more than just ourselves, we represented the Jewish people. We were on our best behavior.
All of a sudden, I felt someone tap my shoulder and ask who we were. I turned around and explained that we were a group of high school students who advocate politically for a strong US-Israel relationship. We had come to the White House to meet the new administration and express our concern over Iran, Palestinian terror and the commitment to move the Embassy to Jerusalem. The man asked my name and introduced himself as Seb Gorka.
I was momentarily stunned. Here was the man recently revealed as a Nazi sympathizer. The worst of the Trump aides, Dr. Gorka was accused of belonging to a group associated with supporting Nazis. I decided not to dismiss him immediately and discussed the issues that concerned us. I was curious to hear his views. I was surprised with his support of Israel, his strong stand on Iran and his understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He was gracious to stand outside with us, talking and taking pictures with my students. As we were leaving he handed me his card, jotted down his cell number and asked me to keep in touch.
In the weeks since, I’ve corresponded with him frequently. He’s been cordial and I’ve seen no signs of any form of hatred. I’ve only felt the opposite. I am a firm believer in doing my research. I’ve spent countless hours trying to find antisemitic statements, writings or actions by Dr. Gorka. There are none. Opinion pieces like this one by Bruce Abramson and Jeff Ballabon demonstrate how Dr. Gorka has been nothing but supportive of the Jewish people and the claims of his antisemitism are tenuous at best. I do not believe there is any evidence of Dr. Gorka’s antisemitism, because I don’t think he’s an anti-Semite. I think he loves the Jewish people and their state of Israel.
I maintain that we should call out anti-Semites when we find them. But if we start calling everyone we disagree with an anti-Semite we dilute the charge. Not only are we condemning the innocent, distancing friends from our side, but by becoming the people who cry wolf, we run the risk of real anti-Semites getting away with their hate. We’re better than this. I offer Dr. Gorka my support and hope that he can forgive those among us who have slandered him.