Who is the most evil: the Nazis or followers of radical Islam, white supremacists, or Louis Farrakhan and Linda Sarsour? This is the great American Jewish debate.
The not-so-hidden rationale for this passionate debate is to justify loyalty to one political party and slam the other. Truth: They are all horribly evil. The question remains: Is finger-pointing where American Jews should spend their angst and energy? In lieu of this waste of time, allow me to propose four very basic steps to fight Jew-hatred. Pick any one of them or all of them, but please get busy and don’t become complacent as the memory of Pittsburgh fades.
Fight the incitement. The Nazis who murdered our brothers and sisters in Pittsburgh did not just wake up and become a murdering Nazi. Louis Farrakhan’s followers had never equated Jews and termites until he spoke those words. Ari Fuld’s murderer wasn’t born a radical Islamic Jew-hater. In Israel, we understand the incitement challenge only too well. We are blessed to have the incredible Israel Defense Forces and other security forces. Yet the core problem is still certain Arab political and radical Islamic leaders educating people to hate and inciting them to kill Jews. (The result is that more than two-thirds of Palestinians polled believe that it is perfectly fine to murder Jews.)
Unfortunately, the Anti-Defamation League has lost its political objectivity and the focus on its core mission. As an example, recently they filed litigation challenging one state’s adoption procedures. Fortunately, there are other organizations that are having tremendous impacts with very limited budgets. One example is theycan’t.com. Whether it’s radical Muslims dehumanizing and inciting violence against Jews in Israel or Nazis broadcasting their propaganda in the United States, theycant.com fights the battle over the Internet with great success in having thousands of Jew-hating incitements removed from social media. And they fight the battle in several languages.
Protect yourself physically. Israel has had few mass shootings of late, thank G-d. One reason is there are plenty of Jews in Israel who are armed who are generally in close proximity. There is no honor in being a victim if it could have been prevented. Do many of us wish gun laws were a little stricter in the United States regarding who can own a gun as they are in Israel; sure. But this is the situation. American Jews need to buy guns for protection, get trained on using them and apply for carrying permits. They also need to make sure that schools and synagogues are better protected.
Protect yourself spiritually. If you’re going to persist in self-identifying as a Jew—and be hated for whatever reason the anti-Semites can come up with this year—why not better understand what you are fighting for? What does it mean to be a light unto the nations as individuals or as the nation of Israel? Why not use this as an opportunity to delve a little deeper? If we want our children to persist in the battle, why is it worth their effort? By contrast, in the book The Pity of It All, we see how the Jews of Germany for two centuries prior to World War II wanted to show how they could out-German the Germans. They declared Berlin is “our Jerusalem.” One can feel the irresistible force of assimilation throughout the book. The antidote is to strengthen our families spiritually. We need to strengthen our connection to Judaism and our understanding of Judaism, so that we know why we are fighting and can explain it to our families.
Strengthen your connection to Israel and our people. We aren’t just a religion, we are also a nation and a people. More than half of us now live in our historic homeland. We have limited time. Yes, it is important to spend time caring for others, including other minorities, and in fact, it is our mission. But please spend time with our own family—your Jewish family. Most importantly, please understand and support what your brothers and sisters are doing to protect and strengthen our homeland, Israel. There’s a lot of inaccurate and heavily biased reporting on Israel, particularly in the major media outlets. Look for truth in finding ways to support Israel. EMET, the Endowment for Middle East Truth (emetonline.org), is a great place to start. Explore our connection to Eretz Yisrael through sites such as thelandofisrael.com. Best of all, come visit and visit often.
Finally, please understand where we appear to be in the history of our people, our nation and our land. It seems that by “remarkable coincidence” systematically, nation by nation, somehow Jews from around the globe have returned to our homeland; most, not by choice. Do we really think that America will be different? G-d willing, American Jews will not face what Jews in other lands have faced. Nevertheless, there are clouds on the horizon. We are blessed by God to have a homeland. Please consider Israel in your plans. While many American Jews have family obligations, kiruv obligations or would have challenges making a living in Israel, many more should be making plans to come home. Israel awaits you.
So American Jews: Don’t be complacent as the memory of Pittsburgh fades. Please stop finger-pointing … and get busy!
Gary Schiff is a Jerusalem-based natural resource consultant connecting Israel and the United States.