November 22, 2019

CA Man’s Poem on Trump’s ‘Disloyal Jew’ Comment Picks Up Following

On the morning of Aug. 21, Reb Irwin Keller woke up with poetry in his head.

“I grabbed my phone and started dictating. I then checked online to see what creative responses had emerged, and I didn’t see any,” Keller said to the Journal via email. “So I cleaned up a few lines and just posted it. It barely felt like it came from me; it felt like it came through me, including lines emerging right from my dreams.”

This poem was in direct reference to President Donald Trump saying that Jews who vote for the Democratic Party have “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty” on Aug. 20.

“I felt a strong call to put words to my feelings about the president’s comment,” Keller said. “I know in some ways it is not a good use of time to respond to every affront that issues from him. But this one hit hard. It was an invitation for white nationalists to act on their hatred of Jews. It was a provocation to divide Jews from each other and from our natural allies in the US, which includes the Muslim community. And hearing a presidential invitation to Anti-Semitism, complete with the old trope of Jewish split loyalties was haunting. It chilled my heart.”

In a few short hours, his poem had picked up momentum, being shared throughout online Jewish communities all around the country.

“When it instantly started traveling the internet, I realized I was hitting a nerve, tapping into something Jews were feeling deeply. Something about being manipulated, used, and targeted. A lot of our Jewish justice work has been empathetic – that is, we are protecting the rights of others because it’s our duty and our privilege. But this was such a dirty thing, aimed right at us. I felt people waking up who hadn’t previously had words.”

Read his poem below:

I am a disloyal Jew.

I am not loyal to a political party.
Nor will I be loyal to dictators and mad kings.
I am not loyal to walls or cages.
I am not loyal to taunts or tweets.
I am not loyal to hatred, to Jew-baiting, to the gloating connivings of white supremacy.

I am a disloyal Jew.
I am not loyal to any foreign power.
Nor to abuse of power at home.
I am not loyal to a legacy of conquest, erasure and exploitation
I am not loyal to stories that tell me whom I should hate.

I am a loyal Jew.
I am loyal to the inconveniences of kindness.
I am loyal to the dream of justice.
I am loyal to this suffering Earth
And to all life.
I am not loyal to any founding fathers.
But I am loyal to the children who will come
And to the quality of world we leave them.
I am not loyal to what America has become.
But to what America could be.
I am loyal to Emma Lazarus. To huddled masses.
To freedom and welcome,
Holiness, hope and love.

Reb Irwin Keller lives in Sonoma County California and is a student member of Ohalah, the Association of Rabbis for Jewish Renewal. Learn more about his website here.