It may already be too late for American Jewry, but uniting the Jews above all the disagreements is still the only thing that can save them from a catastrophe that is now vividly in the horizon.
For more than a year now I’ve been warning that American Jews are putting themselves in danger. I said back then that when America becomes fascist, it would blame it on the Jews. Now that fascism is rising on both sides of the political map, instead of wising up, “Many Jewish leaders,” to quote commentator Isi Leibler, “concentrate more on vilifying Trump than securing and promoting their communal interests. They unashamedly abuse their Jewish institutional roles to promote far-left and liberal agendas, even labeling their opponents antisemites to achieve their goals.”
Jewish leaders and celebrities are racing one another to condemn President Trump for his initial reaction to the Charlottesville ramming. Instead of standing up for unity, they are fueling division. Actress Debra Messing quoted Holocaust survivor and activist Elie Wiesel: “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” So, speaking of taking sides, I would like to quote a comment that one of Leibler’s readers posed: “Where was all of this Jewish American outrage when that leftist shot up a bunch of softball playing Senators and Congressmen a couple of weeks ago?”
“For they sow the wind, and they reap the whirlwind” (Hosea, 8:7), the Torah warns. The more American Jews fuel the hatred, the more it will turn against them. If Jewish American leaders think that the way to tackle alt-right fascism is to defame the president, demonize his electorate, and delegitimize his administration, they have only themselves to blame when the anger turns against them. They are playing with fire.
Judaism has never been about war, and certainly not about hatred. We pride ourselves in the wisdom of King Solomon, who said, “Hate stirs strife, and love covers all crimes” (Proverbs, 10:12). We coined the tenet, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and our own Rabbi Akiva said that this is the whole of our Torah, our Jewish law. How can we call ourselves Jews as long as we exude such hatred?
We made unity above hatred our motto, our way of life, and now we are doing the exact opposite. The Mishnah tells us (Okatzin, 3:12): “God did not find a vessel that holds a blessing for Israel but peace, as it was said, ‘The Lord will give strength to His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace.’” The book Shem Mishmuel writes that “When Israel are ‘as one man with one heart,’ they are a fortified wall against the forces of evil.” So why are we fighting hatred with hatred instead of uniting like our sages suggest? Does anyone really think that patronizing half the US population will diminish antisemitism? What kind of lame policy is this?
The only thing that Jews must focus on is unity among themselves. And by unity, I don’t mean that they should unite their ranks against the president, but that they unite all factions of American Jewry: all the denominations, the non-affiliated, the intermarried, the LGBTQ, every single one. If Jews, who are always at the center of attention (and today more so than ever), show America that unity is possible, they will be a positive role model to follow, and everyone will thank the Jewish community for proving it.
The book Likutey Etzot (Assorted Counsels) specifies how we should relate to those with whom we disagree: “The essence of peace is to connect two opposites. Hence, do not be alarmed if you see a person whose view is the complete opposite of yours and you think that you will never be able to make peace with him. Also, when you see two people who are completely opposite to one another, do not say that it is impossible to make peace between them. On the contrary, the essence of peace is to try to make peace above two opposites.”
If American Jewry wants to create that “fortified wall against the forces of evil,” they must remove the walls they have erected toward their brethren. I’m not sure American Jewry has not missed the last train, but the approach of uniting the Jews above all the disagreements among them is the only approach that can save American Jewry from a catastrophe that is now vividly on the horizon.
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