The Beth Hillel Temple in Kenosha, Wis., a 93-year-old synagogue, had the words “Free Palestine” painted on its driveway on Aug. 25 during the protests and riots that occurred following the shooting of 29-year-old African-American Jacob Blake. Earlier this year, the synagogue had signed an interfaith letter that condemned “a broken societal system which disproportionately affects communities of color.” Incidentally, it was originally built with a gym and basketball court because, back in the 1920s, Jews were not welcome at the nearby YMCA.
One would presume that the spiritual leader of this synagogue would openly condemn the obvious anti-Semitic act done by Black Lives Matter activists as if every, or any, Jewish-identified institution or person is somehow responsible for the plight of a national movement in the Middle East. Moreover, what connection is there between “Palestine” and the situation of blacks in America except, possibly, that the flag of Israel flies under that of America there?
Instead, Rabbi Dena Feingold of this Reform congregation was quoted as saying,
“That’s a trivial matter. What’s happened these last few days is not about us and what’s happened to us. It’s about the issues of systemic racism that plague our society. About police policy, about implicit bias, white privilege and those bigger issues is what this is about. It doesn’t change anything at all.” In another interview, she stated, “I wouldn’t be looking for particular sympathy.”
T’ruah termed her “one of our incredible chaverim.” J Street retweeted the T’ruah triumphal observation that Feingold is “less worried about potential damage to her synagogue than the bigger issue: systemic racism and how to bring about change.”
And as for the youth, the IfNotNow Kaddish-sayers for Hamas walked back an early condemnation of that daubing as “anti-Semitic, tweeting: “We’d like to do teshuvah (repentance) for the ways in which our tweet’s phrasing fell short and contributed to distracting from the most urgent issues facing our country today: police violence and anti-Black racism.”
Let us establish the rabbi’s credentials. She keeps a BLM “Yahrzeit List.” She has supported Rabbi Arik Ascherman in the past and pushed the two-state solution to president-elect Barack Obama in 2008. She signed on to a joint J Street, T’ruah and Americans for Peace Now 2012 letter that demanded of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that he “cease plans to construct new settlements in E1, elsewhere in the West Bank, or in East Jerusalem.”
Oddly enough, Feingold uses a dismissive formulation I recall being severely condemned when used by Rabbi Meir Kahane in other circumstances in referring to the violence done by rioters, declaring she will “not excuse the destruction, but … understands the frustration that leads to it.” After all, she added, “one person with a can of spray paint does not speak for an entire cause.” She is an admirable example of the extreme liberal/progressive thinking of America’s rabbinate.
It would appear that we are witnessing elements of the spiritual leadership echelon of American Jewry moving into a phase of self-destructionism.
The two BLM-support letters published in June and last week contained this wish or assumption:
“When Jewish people join together with our neighbors across racial and religious differences, as we have in the past, we can protect each other … .”
Protect each other? If there is a growing outlook that views looting as a positive act, calling it reparations, and the author of a new book, someone who describes herself as a “queer Jewish activist, argues that “stealing goods and destroying property are direct, pragmatic strategies of wealth redistribution and improving life for the working class,” allow me to assume that Jews will be among the first to lose any protection from so-called “neighbors.”
A century ago, when Bundists enlisted in Russia’s Communist revolution, the result the elimination of organized Jewish spiritual life through the establishment of the fiendish Yevsektsiya, which “initiated and executed the liquidation of Jewish kehillot, the confiscation of synagogue buildings, the closing of yeshivot, hadarim, and Hebrew schools, the closing of libraries, and the banning of books. They fought the remnants of Jewish political and cultural organizations to the bitter end.”
They also contributed to the deaths of thousands of Jews faithful to their religion, language and culture.
It has been some five years since BLM has issued a platform statement. According to rumors in the media, a summary of new Movement for Black Lives platform contains no mention of Israel but that same story also notes that a representative of BLM “could not say for certain whether the full platform would include any mention of Israel.”
Whether or not there is a change in language, progressive Jews, including those above, have expressed support for a movement that promotes the trope that “Israel is an apartheid state” and it engages in a “genocide taking place against the Palestinian people.” These Jews lend themselves to the mortiferous targeting not only of fellow Jews, in a general sense, but actual brothers and sisters living in Israel. This is a moral collapse of sinister proportions.
As Jonathan S. Tobin wrote: “Blaming American Jews for the grievances that some may have against Israel, regardless of the merit or lack thereof of such complaints, is also a form of anti-Semitism.”
Progressives, in lending their support to the radical movements we witness rampaging through America’s streets, in identifying with their goals and, most importantly, in subjugating the interests of Jews to these, they increase not only the probability of Jewish community debilitation but in physical attacks on Jewish institutions as well. Physical attacks on Jews is the next stage.
When 300 anti-Zionist Reform rabbis petitioned President Woodrow Wilson not to lend support for the ratification of the League of Nations mandate for Palestine to reconstitute to the historic Jewish homeland, when the American Council for Judaism fought to deny the establishment of a U.N.-recognized Jewish state, when Breira campaigned for complete territorial withdrawal, all of these were actions—invidious and dangerous as they were—on the level of politicians and diplomats.
Feingold’s dismissal, Vicky Osterweil’s book on looting, along with the antics of IfNotNow, J Street’s back-handed support of Iran’s nuclear program, Bend the Arc’s advertisements among other efforts of the rising new progressive Jewish agenda network will result, as has happened previously in efforts to eliminate or redefine Jewish identity, in a suicidal, if not an aggressive thanatostic instinct.
If the American Jewish establishment continues to coddle them, compromise with them and even express admiration for them, then they, too, are complicit in this seemingly uncontainable march towards self-destruction.
Yisrael Medad is an American-born Israel analyst and commentator.