We need to educate, not just condemn. Education creates allies, instead of adversaries.
Comedian and actress Whoopi Goldberg said repeatedly during an episode of “The View” that aired on Monday that the Holocaust was not about race.
In the episode, Goldberg said the Holocaust was about “man’s inhumanity to man” and “not about race.” When one of her co-hosts challenged that assertion, saying the Holocaust was driven by white supremacy, Goldberg replied, “But these are two white groups of people.”
She added, “This is white people doing it to white people, so y’all going to fight amongst yourselves.”
This is not a new conversation, by any stretch of the imagination. In the past, I have heard the argument about whether or not Jews benefit from white privilege and whether or not Jews are a race.
I spent some time this morning reviewing the episode, as well as Goldberg’s subsequent comments on other shows, media outlets and social platforms. I don’t think she is a Jew-hater. She is correct that much of the conversation about race in America has centered around her community, the African-American community, and rightfully so. I can clearly see how she could have come to this erroneous conclusion by painting race with a single brush stroke, instead of educating herself on its nuances.
Yet if we, as the Jewish community, respond to her with the same single brushstroke of condemnation, then we have made the same mistake. Goldberg clearly understands that we are angry, but at this point, I don’t think she understands why. I believe that this is our opportunity to invite her and folks like her to be educated on the holocaust and the Jewish community. Goldberg can become a critical ally we need during these tumultuous times.
So, to Goldberg, I say: I am Jewish, and if you and I were standing on the street next to each other, we could both clearly be identified by our race. By openly and proudly looking like a Jew (of which I don’t plan on ever-changing), I can clearly be identified by who I am. Anti-Semites do not have to spend much time trying to figure out who I am, and that is indicative of the senseless comments and encounters I experience on a weekly basis.
Yes, I speak for myself, as do you. I think one conversation could allow us both to learn from one another; there is so much I would like to talk to you about, and I bet you could teach me a thing or two about the African-American community.
If we are just going to condemn you instead of opening the dialogue of understanding and education, then, in the future, potential allies will not speak out for us out of fear of our condemnation, and their censorships and possible suspensions.
Then during times like these where anti-Semitism runs rampant across the board—when we need as many allies as possible and wonder why our friends are not defending us—we will get some help. Our vigilance is not allowing the conversation and the education to blossom.
It’s time we fight misinformation with love and acceptance. We will win more friends with honey, rather than vinegar.
Rabbi Yisroel Bernath is director at Chabad of NDG and the Jewish Chaplain at Concordia University in Montreal.
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