January 18, 2019

When Jews Turn On Each Other

Arguing is part of the Jewish DNA, from the time that Korach stood against Moses. The Talmud devotes far more space to disputes than to agreement.  Sessions of Knesset never, ever can be misconstrued as the local chapter of the Oxford Debating Society. Jews are used to arguing with each other. They can’t be expected, however, to politely cede the mike to those working – intentionally or not – for our undoing.

Suddenly we’ve experienced some developments where Jews may be endangering our collective future. No,​ we speak not of lunatics like Neturei Karta, who kiss-up to Iranians working feverishly to nuke Israel.

But rather we are experiencing the drilling of holes under the collective ship of the Jewish future.

First example: A Jewish summer camp. Traditionally, camps have provided our kids with exposure to Jewish values – and many other things that inspired Jewish novelists and filmmakers. Many camps have strong ideological bents that differed entirely from the next one down the rural road. That was part of the “differences-within-the-family”. But no one – until recently – trained​ young Jews to work for the weakening and possible destruction of the Jewish State.

But it’s happening now. IfNotNow hosted counselors from around the country on May 27 to teach the occupation and Palestinian narratives. They tweeted: “Today counselors from 8 Jewish summer camps are coming together for a first-of-its-kind Camp Counselor Training on the Occupation. These courageous leaders are committed to teaching the Occupation and Palestinian narratives to other staff and their campers this summer. Following ongoing Israeli violence on Palestinian protesters in Gaza, this education has never felt more urgent.”

Another example: When a Chabad outreach worker offered to put tefillin on a passerby at Ben-Gurion Airport recently, one person readily agreed. According to this man’s Facebook page, “a woman with a crazy look jumped up and began to abuse, harass and disturb!” The woman was Professor Penina Peri, who teaches at the Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studies at the University of Maryland, and the American University in DC. She is an expert on multi-culturalism and authored, Education in Multi-Cultured Society: Pluralism and Congruence Among Cultural Divisions.  Her husband, who directs the Institute, is a former head of the New Israel Fund.

Apparently religious Jews didn’t make the cut in Peri’s universe of multi-culturalism. Should our young people be exposed to this especially in an Israel Studies department?

Third example: Hebrew Union College (HUC). Its leadership is anything but anti-Israel. Which is why it is impossible – not just difficult – to understand why it invited – (and then defended) – Michael Chabon to deliver the commencement speech to its graduates. Chabon is a well-known author and Israel basher. He shared his core beliefs with HUC and the Jewish world. He used the lectern to sermonize on the evils of Israel, mock the Bible, and advocate that Jews should preferably marry non-Jews. One graduate walked out, and wrote about the event in the Jewish Journal, “As I heard Chabon’s simplified takedown of my country, the room began to spin. I turned back to look at my brother, who served in a combat unit in the Israel Defense Forces. He looked sick to his stomach…I asked my mother if not seeing me graduate would disappoint her. She responded that she would feel ashamed to see me walk on that stage after what had been said. We stood up and left the sanctuary. Standing outside, I was nearly brought to tears as I heard the crowd of Jews give Chabon a thunderous applause.”

Perhaps the most shocking example was the recent gatherings of young Jews to say Kaddish for Hamas terrorists trying to topple the international border with the Jewish State. Hamas has made clear the goal of their riots are not about “occupied territories” but murdering Jews in Israel proper.

Today, these Jews abandon the world’s largest Jewish community, with the largest number of Shoah survivors and their families. They no longer share the destiny of the Jewish people.

Without realizing it, those who said Kaddish were not saying it for innocent, peaceful Gazan protesters. They were saying Kaddish for themselves – and the others like them, who have traded a proud legacy for the vagaries of self-loathing, and compromising the safety of their brothers and sisters as well as the Jewish State. We weep for their loss—and for ours.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper is the Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action for the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein is Interfaith Director for the Simon Wiesenthal Center.