Wednesday, August 16, 2017


My grandparents and, perhaps, yours left, even fled, their homes in Eastern Europe for the welcoming arms of America so that they might provide my/our parents and the generations to come with all of the opportunities offered by "the land of the free and the home of the brave." America has been a place where we could worship freely and live in a place of tolerance, a place that promised tolerance and a society that rejected the institutional anti-semitism that characterized the places that they had left. My parents and, perhaps, yours suffered an anti-Jewish discrimination both blatant and latent, but they fought it side-by-side with non-Jews so that our generations would experience none of it -- we are the beneficiaries of the fights our parents and grandparent made on our behalf.

Then there was Charlottesville, where neo-Nazis, KKK, white supremacists and others marched in the dark of night, torches aflame, screaming in their rage anti-semitic screed -- "Jews shall not succeed us" -- before one of them killed an innocent counter-protestor and injured score of others. Charlottesville wasn't the act of an individual anti-semite defacing a synagogue in the dark of night, this was anti-semitism, anti-Americanism right in our faces, right in the face of America -- this was hatred and violence. It was no different than a Nazi rally in Berlin in the 1930"s. And, then, there was the President of the United States not alone finding some insane moral equivalency between those who espoused violence, anti-semitic and anti-American attacks and those who were the victims. Because of what the President in so doing endorsed, America will now reap the wild wind.

Where are the voices of those Jews so vocal in support of Donald Trump -- where are Sheldon Adelson, Gary Cohn, Jared Kushner and others? Where are the voices demanding that Trump withdraw his strident moral equivalency or at least understand that if he does not he has forfeited the moral authority that we believe is part and parcel of the Presidency -- where are their voices? To its credit, the Republican Jewish Coalition issued a statement after the tragedy of Charlottesville but before the President's raging insanity on Tuesday: "We mourn the loss of life at Charlottesville this weekend, and will continue to pray for all those impacted. Anti-Semitism and all forms of hate are anti-American, anti-Jewish, and antithetical to any sense of decency. We regret that we continue to be faced with these issues, but the RJC will never shy away from our role of standing up to racists, fascists, and Nazis." Where is the RJC now, after Tuesday? (N.B., the RJC issued a strong challenge toTrump in a subsequent statement on Wednesday.)

Ohio Governor John Kasich made it clear when he said that  there is “no moral equivalency between neo-Nazis and the KKK and “anybody else” and says “the president needs to condemn this.” Clearly outraged as he spoke from Ohio, he added, “There is no place for politics here.” And the CEO of Wal-Mart spoke for me as he resigned from a presidential advisory council:
"As wewatched the events and the response from President Trump...we too felt that he missed a critical opportunity to help bring our country together by unequivocally rejecting the appalling actions of white supremacists..."

I have chosen to try to avoid the political on these pages and when I have "strayed," some of you have pointed it out, often stridently. But what the President said yesterday was not politics for me, for us, this was about our America, about our civil society. No organization that purports to represent me/us can now stand silent in the face of the green light that the President of the United States has given to hatred -- Jew hatred, immigrant hatred...hatred -- in America. Silence in the face of this hatred cannot be tolerated. If we stand silent, we are complicit.

As the brilliant historian Jon Meecham said yesterday:
"I think that you have these moments where the extremes — the hate, the people who are giving Nazi salutes after we have spent so much blood and treasure trying to liberate the world from the form of tyranny — ... it's an extreme manifestation of an underlying reality."
This is the moment in which our generations of American Jews will be tested against the "reality" that Meecham described. History will judge us by what we say and what we do...or by our silence.



Anonymous said...

The real question is why the silence among Orthodox and right wing Jewish institutions.

It is beyond embarrassing. They put out press releases for all sorts of things but on this we all need to come together and take a stand against hate. Our President needs to hear loud and clear that we won't put up with this.

For that matter shame on Israel for not speaking out. Good that the opposition leaders are but for a country that takes every foreign dignitary to Yad Vashem the silence of the government here is disgusting.

Anonymous said...

The RCA just did. Here's the link to the article in the Forward.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Anon 12:15 for pointing out Israel's silence.
And, while we're on that subject, where are Jerry Silverman and Becky Caspi?
Given how they are compensated and the JFNA Israel Office's political clout, why haven't we heard anything?

Anonymous said...

You won't hear from Richard Sandler. He made a political calculation after the election to "give Trump a chance" and to rave about the naming of David Friedman as Ambassador to Israel. Unlike you, Richard, they view the issues raised by Trump's diatribe to be political not about America and American Jewry. Sandler and Silverman aren't worth the time of day.

As you have said: "pathetic."

Anonymous said...

Here is what Sandler just sent out -- a message from his Rabbi.
Dear Colleagues:

The events of this last week are a cause of great concern for all of us. We issued a statement last Sunday about the events in Charlottesville, but just issuing a statement is not enough. We are working with SCN and organizations throughout our network to make sure we are proactive in addressing these serious issues. Below is a message that I received from my Rabbi at Valley Beth Shalom Synagogue in Los Angeles, Rabbi Ed Feinstein, titled “One Nation Under God,” which I found very thought provoking and meaningful.

Shabbat Shalom.

Richard Sandler
Chair, JFNA Board of Trustees


“One Nation Under God”

The events in Charlottesville this week are many things - ugly, despicable, horrifying. But not surprising. Not to those who know Jewish history. We've seen this story many times before: A rapidly changing world leaves people feeling lost and powerless. An eruption of fierce nationalism vowing allegiance to "blood and soil," to "purity" of race, faith and culture. A world reduced to crude binaries - us and them; our people and those people. The mindless mob whipped into a violent frenzy. Innocent lives destroyed. In our parlance, we call this a pogrom. These events are horrifying, but not surprising. Not to us.

We Americans have apparently forgotten that democracy is fragile. That is the surprise. At the heart of American democracy is our aspiration to build an inclusive, accepting national community, welcoming differences and embracing hyphenated identities. On my street live Jewish-Americans, African-Americans, Persian-Americans, Asian-Americans, Armenian-Americans, Latino-Americans. A dozen languages are spoken in our homes. Neighborhoods sparkle with Christmas, Sukkot and Halloween decorations. We enjoy sushi, samosas, burritos and blintzes. The pluralism brings color to our community. America's great project is to bring the pluralism together into one -- e pluribus unum. This is our continuing project. It is daunting. And all the more so when we take it for granted.

The tribalism of Charlottesville is natural. It is democracy that is not natural, not part of our nature. Democracy is learned. Democracy is an expression of our sacred aspiration to rise above our nature, to rise above our reflex to fear the unfamiliar, to blame the outsider, to destroy the Other. Democracy must be taught, re-taught, rehearsed, and renewed daily. Democracy is an ongoing project aimed at reshaping our basic human impulses. It is never finished. It is always demanding more of us. And this week, after the events we have witnessed, it demands more still.

We pray for the victims. We hold in our hearts the families of Heather Heyer, and Virginia State Troopers, Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke M.M. Bates.

We pray that our children will not come to perceive any of this week's events as normal.

We pray for the strength and resolve to push back the hate and reclaim the American project of democracy. We pray that we might one day really be "one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."


Rabbi Ed Feinstein

Is this now JFNA's Statement in response to the President's strident offer of "moral equivalency?" JFNA has fallen so far it cannot be seen

Anonymous said...

While JFNA once again appears paralyzed, even ORT America has risen to the occasion:

"ORT America condemns the racism and white supremacist views of those who marched with torches in Charlottesville this past weekend. Their vile ideology, words and provocative actions have no place in American society and our land of diversity. There is no moral equivalence, and we share the concern of our fellow citizens troubled by this display of hatred, intolerance and anti-Semitism."

Aipac has issued its Statement directed to President Trump.

JFNA, the ridiculous letter of earlier today, not a Statement at all. Pitiful is too kind a word.

Anonymous said...

The response from Bibi--incredibly underwhelming. And all in English--not a single word in Hebrew.

Israeli media from all political wings (except for Sheldon's house organ) all over Bibi on this. If you can read Hebrew, those headlines are incredibly damning:

Anonymous said...

Are Silverman and Sandler so worried about losing invitations to the Trump White House for photo ops and confirmation of their own importance that they won't speak for us? That's exactly how it appears. There is no saving this $53,000,000 a year embarrassment.