The Pittsburgh Protests: All Politics All the Time
The old rule — "no enemies on the left" — still applies
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
lal Yisrael is compared to a seh, a small lamb: Just as a blow to any limb of a seh reverberates throughout its body, so too a blow against any Jew anywhere in the world is felt by all Jews. At least that's how it's supposed to be.
And, to be sure, there were many reminders of that aspect of Klal Yisrael in the aftermath of the Shabbos massacre at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue, the deadliest such massacre of Jews in American history. I arrived in Manhattan early Sunday morning for a one-day conference on Jewish political conservativism, and the conversation everywhere was about the events the day before in Pittsburgh, and the mood considerably more sombre than it otherwise would have been.
Shira Telushkin in Tablet magazine described how eight members of the Pittsburgh chevra kaddisha spent many hours performing the laborious task of scraping up and preserving every drop of blood on the floors, walls, and wood benches of Tree of Life synagogue with great love. Rabbi Daniel Wasserman, the rav of the nearby Shaare Torah congregation and one of the heads of the chevra kaddisha, and Rabbi Elisar Admon, who had experience working with ZAKA in his native Israel, came to the synagogue on Shabbos afternoon to inform the security personnel that they would return after Shabbos to supervise the care of the bodies.
The two rabbis sat as shomrim for the murdered in the wee hours of the morning on Motzaei Shabbos, and over 40 volunteers responded to a bulletin from the chevra kaddisha to ensure that the kedoshim were never left unattended prior to burial.
BUT EVEN AS JEWS around the world mourned the tragedy and sought to learn something of those murdered, other discordant notes were heard. Before the blood of the gunman's victims was dry, Franklin Foer, former editor of the New Republic, wrote that "any strategy for enhancing the security of American Jewry should involve shunning Trump's Jewish enablers. Their money should be refused, their presence in synagogues not welcome."
Foer would effectively pronounce a cherem (ban of ex-communication) on at least 30% of US Jews, including 80% to 90% of the Orthodox, and close to 80% of Israeli Jews. Before taking such a dramatic step, perhaps he should first demonstrate his command of the relevant sections of Shulchan Aruch, and share a little more about the nature of his participation in Jewish communal life.
As of the day of the funerals, The Hill reported that 57,000 Jews had signed a petition of the Pittsburgh branch of Bend the Arc urging President Trump not to come to Pittsburgh. (I would wager that President Trump has more Jewish grandchildren than many, if not most, of the signatories to the petition criticizing him for fomenting anti-Semitism.)
Bend the Arc claims to be America's largest Jewish social justice group. Its chairman is Alexander Soros, George's son. Like his father, Alexander's only Jewish-centered activity is condemnation of Israel.
The response of Foer and Bend the Arc is a classic expression of the conflation of politics and religion described by Jonathan Neumann (featured in these pages two weeks ago) in To Heal the World? How the Jewish Left Corrupts Judaism and Endangers Israel. Foer's call to excommunicate Trump supporters is of a piece with the shivah rituals conducted in Reform temples in the immediate wake of the 2016 presidential election. The bottom line message is the same: The sine qua non of being Jewish is to be a progressive Democrat.
Ironically, heterodox Jews always campaign in Israel against the toxic marriage of religion and politics. Yet they have politicized religion in the United States, and turned their places of worship into centers for the promotion of progressive politics.
The equation of Judaism with progressivism has helped throw American Jewry into a demographic death cycle. If being Jewish means espousing a particular brand of politics, then there is no reason for the Jewish People to exist other than to serve those political ends. As a corollary, it makes far more sense to choose one's marriage partner(s) on the basis of their politics, which are primary, rather than their religion.
IT WAS LEFT TO JEFFREY MYERS, the rabbi of Etz Chaim, to introduce some common sense into the controversy about President Trump's condolence visit to Pittsburgh. "I'm a citizen. He's my president. He is always welcome." For that statement, Myers received death threats and hate mail.
The impulse to immediately politicize every tragedy bodes poorly for America in general, and for American Judaism in particular. But the blaming of the Pittsburgh massacre on President Trump hangs on a particularly thin reed. Never mind that the slayer, Robert Bowers, far from being an avid Trump fan, expressed his disgust with Trump, whom he views as "soft" on immigration and a "Jew-lover" to boot. The president did not trigger him.
The claim that Trump has unleashed anti-Semitic furies rests primarily on a report issued by the Anti-Defamation League that anti-Semitic incidents increased 57% in 2017. The ADL has always hyped every anti-Semitic incident — e.g., a swastika painted on a barnyard door — to keep its copious coffers filled. But under its new head, Jonathan Greenblatt, who worked in both the Clinton and Obama White Houses, it has added a new agenda of serving as an adjunct of the Democratic Party.
Among the 1,700 incidents in the ADL's 2017 report were 163 bomb calls (8% of the total incidents) to Jewish community centers placed by a troubled Israeli teenager. The ADL justified their retention in the report because of the consternation they caused to Jewish communities. In the most important category — physical attacks on Jews — there was a drop to less than half the previous year — from 39 to 17. The ADL press release trumpeting the 57% figure omitted that pertinent detail.
As Jewish News Service editor Jonathan Tobin points out, the total number of 1,700 incidents is tiny in a nation of well over 325 million people, especially compared to Europe, with its large Muslim populations. Lethal physical assaults have become, for instance, a reality of Jewish life in France, from which Jews are fleeing in large numbers. Far from living in a climate of pervasive anti-Semitism, Jews are the most admired religious group in America. Two-thirds of Americans profess that admiration.
THE ONLY PLACES in the United States where anti-Semitism is free and open is on university campuses and in certain precincts of the left. But that anti-Semitism has never interested those eager to turn the Pittsburgh tragedy into an anti-Trump rally. The old rule — "no enemies on the left"— still applies.
How many of the Bend the Arc petitioners, for instance, protested Ben and Jerry's new flavor Pecan Resist, the proceeds of which will go to groups "fighting President Trump's repressive agenda," among them the Women's March? Yet the two most public faces of the Women's March, Palestinian-American Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory, are both ardent admirers of Louis Farrakhan, and Sarsour has declared there to be no room in the movement for Zionists of any type.
Farrakhan recently proclaimed the end of the Satanic Jew, and joked that he is "not an anti-Semite," just an "anti-termite." That is exterminationist anti-Semitism: One kills termites.
In New York City, Jews are by far the most frequent victim of hate crimes, accounting for half the victims over the last 22 months, and are four times as likely to be victims as blacks. Yet, according to Steve Mollinari, head of the NYPD Hate Crimes Unit, not one of those arrested or identified as a perpetrator of anti-Semitic crimes in that period has belonged to a far-right group. The story of hate crimes targeting Jews and the nature of the perpetrators has, however, been ignored, admits The New York Times' Ginia Bellafante, because it does not conform to the narrative of a single ideological enemy.
The best evidence that the Pittsburgh protesters do not even believe their own story is the anti-Trump protest itself. If President Trump commanded a horde of rabid followers awaiting his anti-Semitic dog whistles, treating him with such disrespect would have been an act of madness, almost assured to provoke other anti-Semitic attacks.
And surely the left-wing protesters would never do anything so reckless as to endanger other Jews. For instance, supporting a president who pursued an openly pro-Iranian foreign policy, when Iran has vowed to remove the cancer of Israel from the Middle East.