Sunday, July 9, 2017
Anti-Semitism Sneaks Up On You. It Showed Up In Chicago.
When Chicago Dyke March Bans a Jewish Pride Flag, Jews Should Feel Unsafe
During last month’s 2017 Chicago Dyke March, the true face of “inclusion” among “progressives” finally surfaced. According to the Chicago based newspaper Windy City Times, the march proceeded calmly with people “of all races, genders and gender identities” attending, until “the Dyke March Collective ejected three people carrying Jewish Pride flags (a rainbow flag with a Star of David in the center).”
“It was a flag from my congregation which celebrates my queer, Jewish identity which I have done for over a decade marching in the Dyke March with the same flag,” said ejected participant Laurel Grauer to the Windy City Times.
The paper also reported that “one Dyke March collective member asked by Windy City Times for a response, said the women were told to leave because the flags ‘made people feel unsafe,’ that the march was ‘anti-Zionist’ and ‘pro-Palestinian.’” So much for inclusion.
Eleanor Shoshany Anderson, another one of the ejected participants, lamented, “I felt that, as a Jew, I am not welcome here.” She’s right. Jews are not welcome among progressives, liberals, and leftists. In the near future, this will become increasingly perceptible, and for a very good reason.
An “Oddball” Among the Nations
Antisemitism does not appear out of the blue. It has followed our nation since its inception and is tied directly to our common vocation.
From the very beginning, our nation has been an “oddball” among the nations. In fact, we were not only odd, but usually at odds with those around us, often with the people closest to us. Abraham was at odds with his father, who had him tried and sentenced to death by Nimrod, King of Babylon. Isaac and Jacob were at odds with their brothers, and Joseph was at odds with his brothers, too. Moses was in agreement with his family, but for the most part, at odds with the rest of the nation.
After the nation was established, its members were still often at odds with each other, but now also at odds with the rest of the world. Wherever we went, our hosts hated, tormented, and finally expelled us, if not altogether exterminated us. Even countries that initially welcomed us into their midst ended up ruthlessly expelling us.
Today, hatred toward the Jewish people and its nation state, Israel, is once again increasing. If, until today, Jews on the left side of the political map could tell themselves that their progressive views and support of Israel’s enemies would spare them the vitriol slung toward the Jewish state, I hope that the event at Chicago Dyke March will be the beginning of the realization that the entire Jewish people are in peril today.
How Judaism Began and How Its Downfall Created Antisemitism
When Abraham—the inquisitive elder son of an esteemed statue maker in Ur of the Chaldeans, Babylon, who occasionally stood in for his father at the shop—noticed that people at Ur were growing unhappy, it troubled him. According to various sources such as Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah and Midrash Rabbah, Abraham began walking around the city and the country trying to understand why people were miserable.
After many sleepless nights, and many days observing nature, he realized that all of the reality maintains its stability through the balance between two opposite elements: giving and receiving, altruism and egoism. But what was true of all of the reality, was not true of humans. People, so he learned, are selfish to the core. Some three centuries later, Moses captured the essence of Abraham’s insights concerning human nature through such verses as “The inclination of a man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21), “Sin crouches at the door” (Genesis 4:7), and “Great is man’s evil in the land; all the inclination of the thought of his heart is only evil the whole day” (Genesis 6:5).
Abraham did not keep his discoveries to himself. As soon as he realized the selfishness of human nature, he began to develop a correction method that would enable people to rise above their hatred and thereby install the positive element that exists everywhere except among humans. According to Maimonides, King Nimrod persecuted and finally expelled Abraham from Babylon precisely because he wished to share his ideas, which seemed to threaten the hegemony of the king. Yet, as Abraham wandered toward what was to become the Land of Israel, he wrote books about his method, and he and Sarah taught every person who wanted to learn the method of unity.
Although Abraham intended to share his method with all the Babylonians, because he was expelled from his homeland, he had to settle for teaching only those who followed him, leaving the rest of what we now call “the cradle of civilization” to wallow in self-centeredness and hatred until their empire crumbled and they dispersed.
The book Pirkei De Rabbi Eliezer (Chapter 24) describes the situation in Babylon in its depiction of the alienation among the builders of the Tower of Babel. “If a man fell and died, they would not pay him any mind,” the book writes. “But if a brick fell, they would sit and wail, ‘Woe unto us; when will another come in its place?’” As their alienation escalated into hatred, they “wanted to speak to one another but did not know each other’s language. What did they do? Each took his sword and they fought each other to the death. Indeed, half the world was slaughtered there, and from there they scattered all over the world.”
Mishneh Torah writes that Abraham bequeathed his knowledge to his disciples and to his son, Isaac, who then bequeathed it to Jacob. Jacob, in turn, taught his son, Joseph, who wished to unite his brothers. Despite the initial rejection he had suffered from his brothers, Joseph eventually united them around him and they flourished in the land of Egypt.
Yet, as soon as Joseph died, the Hebrews wanted to abandon the method of correction of the ego and assimilate among the Egyptians. “When Joseph died,” writes the Midrash, Shemot Rabbah, the Hebrews said, “Let us be as the Egyptians. Because they did so, the Lord turned the love that the Egyptians held for them into hatred, as it was said (Psalms 105), ‘He turned their hearts to hate His people, to abuse His servants.’” The enslavement and persecution of the Hebrews in Egypt was perhaps the first case of distinct antisemitism. The events that followed are written in the Torah and have become the symbol of man’s struggle for freedom.
Yet, initially, the Egyptians gave Israel the best land and royalty treatment. So it is vital to remember that their persecution of the Jews began not because the Egyptians suddenly became Jew-haters. It happened because the Jews themselves had begun to reject the way of unity and strove to become like the Egyptians: egoists and self-centered.
To triumph over the Egyptians, Moses did not incite the Hebrews toward violent rebellion. All he asked of Pharaoh was a chance to be together, the entire people. Once they escaped from Egypt, Moses turned the Hebrews into a nation by their pledge to unite “as one man with one heart.” And to make certain that they did not forget that they must convey the method of correction to the entire world, the newly emergent Hebrew nation was immediately tasked with being “a light unto nations.”
Since that day, the world has been ambivalent toward the Jewish nation. We are always held to a higher standard than the rest of the world. At the same time, we are accused of every blow that strikes the nations. What we call antisemitism is actually the nations’ accusation that we are not carrying out our vocation of showing the world the road to unity. By avoiding it, we are causing them to keep hating each other, hatred that is the source of every pain and suffering since the dawn of history.
Just this weekend, another antisemitic act reminded us of the nature of the nations’ blame as vandals covered a Holocaust memorial site with a sheet carrying the inscription, “Hebrews will not divide us.”
The most notorious antisemite in American history, Henry Ford, recognized the role of the Jews toward society in his book The International Jew—The World’s Foremost Problem: “It is not forgotten that certain promises were made to them regarding their position in the world, and it is held that these prophecies will be fulfilled. The future of the Jew is intimately bound up with the future of this planet.”
After their commitment to unity and the inception of the nation, the Jews experienced numerous conflicts and reconciliations. However, they were all part of learning to balance the ego with altruism. The Book of Zohar writes about it (portion, Beshalach): “All the wars in the Torah are for peace and love.” This method is why Jews conceived such sublime concepts and as charity, mutual responsibility, and concern for the stranger long before any other nation developed any tendency toward compassion and consideration.
Until approximately the ruin of the Second Temple, we (more or less) held on to the method of correction. But around that time, the hatred between us overtook the nation and separated us entirely. This is why our sages point not to an external enemy as the cause of our exile and the destruction of the Temple, but to unfounded hatred among us.
Since then, we have been growing increasingly alienated and hateful toward one another until today the entire world cannot stand us. As individuals, people may not dislike Jews. There are decent people among us just as there are decent people everywhere. But as a nation, the stark contrast between the unity that we are meant to project and the abhorrence for each other that we are projecting de facto is the cause of the nations’ hatred of the Jewish nation and the Jewish state.
Even Adolf Hitler did not hate all the Jews. His company commander during World War I was a Jew named Ernest Hess, and Hitler instructed Himmler to protect him. As a result, in August 27, 1941, Himmler instructed the secret police to grant Hess “the relief and the protection as per the Fuhrer’s wishes.” Yet, this did not help the Jews as a nation whatsoever once Hitler had determined to execute the Final Solution.
Looking for a United Society
In search of a remedy for the ills of society, humanity has adopted and abandoned almost every ideology and every form of governance. Yet, all have failed because in order for society to maintain stability, we must first balance our egoism with unity. Until we achieve this, eventually the ego will always take over, and every governance and ideology is bound to decline into fascism or Nazism, or both.
Keenly aware of the faults of society, Henry Ford sought answers from the Jews. When he could not find them in present day Judaism, he searched and found them in our past. “Modern reformers, who are constructing model social systems, would do well to look into the social system under which the early Jews were organized,” he wrote. At the same time, he detested present-day American Jewry, which is fraught with divisiveness and egoism.
For lack of unity, people conceive all sorts of notions, such as intersectionality. They hold marches that celebrate inclusion, but they exclude the Jews from them because the division among Jews is the reason why they cannot stand each other in the first place. Subconsciously, they are telling the Jews: “Leave us and unite among yourselves! This is what we need from you!”
In his book The Jews in Weimar Germany, Donald L. Niewyk writes that in 1929, Dr. Kurt Fleischer, leader of the Liberals in the Berlin Jewish Community Assembly, pointed out the connection between antisemitism and Jewish disunity: “Anti-Semitism is the scourge that God has sent us in order to lead us together and weld us together,” he noted. How tragic it is that the Jews back then did not follow through on this observation.
In the wake of the reignited dispute around the Kotel [Wailing Wall] prayer areas, David Friedman, US Ambassador to Israel, made a strong appeal for unity among us. Yet, as Caroline Glick noted in her column, “The real problem here is that while everyone involved speaks of the need for Jewish unity, no one involved in the conversation seems to be motivated to work toward that goal.”
Today, I think we must unite regardless. Of course we are not motivated. How can any reasonable person want to unite with a person he or she hates? Yet, it should now be clear to us that our hatred of each other is inciting the world against us.
Midrash Rabbah writes, “This nation, world peace lies within it” (Beresheet Rabbah, Chapter 66). But if there is no peace among us, how can there be peace in the world? In his book Orot (Lights), the Rav Kook wrote, “The construction of the world, which is currently crumbled by the dreadful storms of a blood-filled sword, requires the construction of the Israeli nation. The construction of the nation and the revealing of its spirit [of unity] are one and the same, and it is one with the construction of the world, which is crumbling in anticipation for a force full of unity and sublimity.”
Indeed, we cannot say that we did not know: Our safety and acceptance among the nations depend entirely on our willingness to be a light of unity unto all nations.