Sunday, August 07, 2005

To Be a Jew

Even though I've spent a lot of my academic life studying medieval and modern anti-Judaism and antisemitism, I really didn't encounter all that much of it growing up. As a kid in Boston (in the refined, cultured suburb of Newton), I occasionally encountered anisemitism of the most basic kind, viz. getting accosted, threatened or beaten by Italian or Irish toughs who decided to teach the Jews a lesson. It wasn't pleasant, but It didn't happen all that often. I dismissed it as the acts of a few neo-neanderthals. In college and graduate school I don't recall ever experiencing either antisemitic or even anti-Orthodox sentiment. Once, during my two-year post-doc at Yale, I had one encounter with 'genteel' antisemitism that was so subtle that I wasn't even sure it had happened (until I recounted the encounter to the senior faculty member with whom I was working, and he confirmed it).

Since the start of the war in September, 2000 I have spoken and written extensively on the origins of Muslim antisemitism and the devil's pact between Christian and Muslim antisemites to demonize Israel and the Jews using the grossest forms of antisemitic archetypes and images. So, of course, I'm aware of that. I wasn't, however, living in its midst (except for my two trips to Paris during that time).

Now, however, for the first time in my life, I find myself feeling constantly beset by anti-Judaism of the most virulent kind. It's not coming from the Arabs, or the Christians. It's coming from the Jews. It's spewed by the Israeli newspaper of record, Haaretz (here and here and here and here and there's more where that came from). The poison is not confined to Haaretz, it oozes out of the Israeli Left's mainstream. As Amnon Lord reports in this week's Makor Rishon, MK Avshalom Vilan is anxious for the opportunity to wipe out the Right and finally obliterate any sign of Religuios Zionism (and Judaism) in the State of Israel. The same sentiments arise in the response sections of the Israeli papers on line and in epithets screamed at religious people in the street, in airports (I just received a few of those), and all sorts of other places.

Since 1993 I have warned that Oslo and its metastases covered a deeper problem, an out and out kulturkampf. It's now upon us in full force. The very weaknesses that led us to contribute to its creation (and we do bear a good part of the responsibility), are now leaving us totally unprepared for addressing it. Religious (and traditional) Jews who grew up here have never developed the coping mechanisms that Jews in Galut had. On the other hand, how do you deal with an hysterical pathology? (And Judische selbst-hass, is a pathological disorder). Maybe, all you can do is reinforce your resolve to live a life of Torah and Mitzvot with dignity. After all, at the end of the day, it's not the slurs of the Gidon Samets, Gidon Levy's, Avshalom Vilans, David Landaus, and Yoel Marcuses that determine Israel's fate. It's God who determines it.

Maybe that's why the Rambam highlights the element of Teshuvah for Tisha B'Av, and not the element of mourning.

Rabbenu Gershom, Me'or HaGolah put it best:

אזכרה אל-קים ואהמיה
בראותי כל עיר על תלה בנויה
ועיר הא-לקים מושפלת עד שאול תחתיה
וכל זאת אנו לי-ה ועינינו לי-ה


Cosmic X said...

You wrote "the Israeli newspaper of record, Haaretz".

Haaretz is not a paper of record. It is a radical leftist rag. said...

Historically, Jewish common sense usually dictated that it was always wrong to "breat beat" and accept the blame for cauisng anti-semitism (even partly). It was always understood to be a pathology. Can you please explain why "Jewish anti-semitism" is different, and why this time the "Jews" have to accept the blame partly?

Jeffrey said...

We are partly to blame because we: 1) abandoned the rabbinate to the Haredim 2) Segregated in homogenous enclaves and, most importantly, 3) failed to create a form of Modern Orthodoxy here that could share the Torah in a way that commanded othe rspect of others. said...

everything you wrote is what the anti-semites said about the Jews in Europe (and elsewhere). They lived in segregated communities, they wouldn't share their knowledge with others, etc. etc. what you wrote could be what Haman said to Achasverosh (above and beyond what's written in the Book of Esther). What's the difference?

We have no reason to breast-beat about the irrational hatred of the left, just like we have no reason to breast-beat over irrational semitism. Breast bneating and cries of לא התנחלנו בלבבות will just harm US more than it will help anyone else. We need strong leadership now - macabee type of leadership - that is willing to say מי לה' אלי loud and clear. Not wimpy, weak leadership crying over a bit of spilt milk.

But, yes we should abandon the acceptance committee at every religious communal yishuv that still has one and allow anyone and everyone to come and live with us. On that I will agree. That is the only point where religious zionism erred - was in allowing acceptance committees for yishuvim (on both sides of the green line). and you know that the rabbi of our town has said that those yishuvim have the worst "youth problems" - as opposed to the "open" towns. I heard him say it and it is true.

Jeffrey said...

I disagree. We have an obligation, as Rambam said, to reach all Jews in terms to which they can consent. But then, I guess I'm a 'moderate Hellenizer." said...

Are you suggesting that the Rambam would have agreed to the halachic innovations of Reform and/or Conservative Judaism?!

Jeffrey said...

You don't get my point. I'm talking about a common culural language (cf. Intro to Pereq Heleq and Moren Nebuhim III, 31). All of that has nothing to do with Conservative and Reform. said...

what about the Rambam's incessant battles againts the karaites? he clearly considered them tinokot shenishba (see his statements regarding the halacha of מורידין אפיקורוס לבור ואין מעלין אותו) yet he waged an incessant battle against them.

When does secular zionism become the karaite movement of today? what re the red lines? it's not enough like RAL does to say that there are red lines - they need to be defined.