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The Whoopi Goldberg debacle can be a springboard for necessary conversations

I’m lucky.

I have a spectacularly eclectic social media feed.

Friends from back in LA, friends from here in Jerusalem, rabbis and other Jewish leaders, politicians and pundits, artists and writers,  former teachers, former crushes,  Israelis, Palestinians, random taxi drivers, folks across the political spectrum in America, social justice activists of all minds, Black Lives Matter, BLUE Lives Matter, people from all kinds of religious backgrounds who pray all sorts of ways, folks living all over the world… even my dad… maybe even YOUR dad… I am LUCKY:  I know a lot of interesting people, many of whom care a great deal about the news.

Anyway, after seeing hundreds of comments online following the Whoopi Goldberg debacle that reflect a wide array of opinions, and after sitting with my own complicated feelings, here’s what I want to say:

1. I emphatically don’t think Whoopi Goldberg should be canceled – or even suspended, for that matter. She said something hurtful, got called out, and apologized. She then tried to make amends by inviting the head of the ADL on the show and giving him an important platform.

And that’s an essential first step toward better understanding.

In fact, this whole debacle SHOULD be a springboard for a crucial conversation we need to have.  And that is why I’m weighing in here.

2. The issue of “whiteness” and Ashkenazi Jewish people (there are also plenty of Jews of Color) is a fraught conversation. While we may present as white and enjoy white privilege in many spaces, historically this hasn’t been the case. This came to one of many MANY climaxes during the Holocaust when Hitler sought to eradicate us – NOT because of our religion, but because we were “Jews.” In fact, Jewish people who converted, the children of Jews who converted and the GRANDCHILDREN of Jews who converted were by Nazi law sent to the death camps to be exterminated anyway.

Again: It. Wasn’t. About. Religion.

Now: To be clear, I am not comparing my experience as a (dyed) blonde, blue eyed woman in America to the experiences People of Color face every single day. I have NEVER faced  that kind of discrimination by any stretch of the imagination and I wouldn’t dare to compare – although the truth is, my grandparents faced some level of it when they weren’t allowed to rent in Wisconsin the 1950s because the landlord wouldn’t share his property with “filthy Jews”

He told them he could smell them a mile away.

3. Please understand that in the wake of rising antisemitism in America – four people in a synagogue were held hostage two weeks two because the man holding them hostage thought “the Jews” had power to release a terrorist from prison; and we are still reeling from the horror of Charlottesville, the Tree of Life synagogue massacre, the terror attack at the synagogue in Poway, not to mention the pretty-much-daily random attacks where Jewish people are being beaten up while walking down the street – many of us are feeling afraid.

So this is a sensitive time.

And a little dialogue can lead to a better understanding.

4. And yes, understanding works both ways. This is something we Jews need to do, too. February is Black History Month. We should be educating ourselves just as we ask Whoopi Goldberg to learn about US. Not just in February – but every day.

Bottom line: We all have learning to do from one another.

5. Finally, when Whoopi Goldberg said “you all fight amongst yourselves,” this is not only incredibly hurtful, but also dangerous.  Here’s why:  the Holocaust wasn’t a little squabble between nazis and those they persecuted (including Catholics, the LGBTQ community, disabled people, Roma, Slavs as well as Jews…) this wasn’t a fight between equal power brokers.

The Nazis tried to annihilate these groups – in many cases (like with the Jews) on the basis of perceived race. They wanted to wipe us off the face of the earth. That’s not a “fight”

That’s extermination.

6. The truth is, being Jewish is way more complicated than race. It’s also way more complicated than religion. And we Jews often argue about allllll this amongst ourselves. I, for one, believe we are a Tribe. A Nation.

We are the Jewish People.

Some of us look white. Some of us don’t. Some of us are deeply religious. Some of us are devoutly atheist. But we ARE going through a rough time now in America, and sensitivity and empathy goes a long way.

So let’s use this as a springboard and start that conversation. I’m ready to dive right in if anyone wants to talk.

About the Author
Sarah Tuttle-Singer, author of Jerusalem Drawn and Quartered and the New Media Editor at Times of Israel, She was raised in Venice Beach, California on Yiddish lullabies and Civil Rights anthems. She now lives in Jerusalem with her 3 kids where she climbs roofs, explores cisterns, opens secret doors and talks to strangers, and writes stories about people. Sarah also speaks before audiences left, right, and center through the Jewish Speakers Bureau, asking them to wrestle with important questions while celebrating their willingness to do so. She also loves whisky and tacos and chocolate chip cookies and old maps and foreign coins and discovering new ideas from different perspectives. Sarah is a work in progress.
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