Earlier this morning we at The Shalom Center sent out my weekly comment on the Torah and/or prophetic passage of the week. It addresses one of the juiciest passages of the year’s Shabbat reading. I hope the combination of the touristy “spies” or “scouts” that Moses and then Joshua sent into the Land of Promise – its puns, tumble-saulting the meanings of words; its honoring as a hero Rachav the Broad of Jericho; its making sacred the fringes on our clothes and edgy fringes in our lives– all that demonstrates the best of biblical irony.
And in the wake of that celebration of Torah, I need to call out a wave of frightening attacks on American Jews.
It came in the wake of bloody attacks on the people of Gaza by the present (and perhaps about to be the last, former, walking-dead-with-no-soul) government of the State of Israel , and seem to have been an expression of rage against those attacks. But that was no justification for attacks against Jews who had no connection with and no influence in that government.
Those attacks were cruel and disgusting antisemitism. They belong to the same extended family of mindless hatred as the attacks on Muslims after the 9/11 mass murders – attacks on Muslims who had nothing to do with the destruction of the Twin Towers and their people. They belong to the same family of mindless hatred as the attacks on Asian-Americans who had nothing to do with the origins of the Covid19 virus.
This “family” of hatreds gets part of its DNA from the old-American habit of genocide, slavery, lynching. It is the worst use of power. Its divisiveness is one of the most effective ways of protecting illegitimate power from those who would challenge it. It is the opposite of the also-old-American words of equal justice -- stirring words of truths we hold to be self-evident. It is the opposite of the slow, slow, but steadfast, old-American actions of those who have worked for love, for justice as the public and official face of love.
For those whose loving hearts were horrified by the attacks against Gaza, there were other ways of changing the world. There were rallies and demonstrations – which could have been on the doorsteps of the Israeli Embassies in Washington and New York. There were Congressional bills to interrupt the flow of US weapons to the Israeli government – of which one sponsor was Senator Bernie Sanders, a Jew.
And the Jews of America could make clear that we know the government of “the Jewish State” often acts unJewishly. That we may worry about our friends and family who live there, we may honor its past welcoming of Jews under threats where they lived, we may welcome its creation of a vigorous Jewish culture in books and films – and we will not succumb to idolatry that would deaden what Judaism, the People Yisrael, the Godwrestlers are.
Shalom, salaam, paz, peace, namaste -- Arthur