The irrational fear and loathing of believing Christians on the part of non-Orthodox Jews and their utter lack of reticence in expressing that loathing endangers Jews in America. The latest evidence: a screed attacking Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow by one Joshua Hammerman, an “egalitarian” Jewish clergyman and J Street Board member from Connecticut.
Tebow is the NFL player most vocal about his religious faith and most prone to expressing his gratitude to G-d for his on-field successes. Despite unimpressive individual statistics, Tebow has led his team to a succession of dramatic late fourth quarter comebacks, and even introduced a new verb into the lexicon – “Tebowing” – after the prayerful position he occasionally assumes at crucial junctures in the action.
Writing in the New York Federation-funded Jewish Week, Hammerman expressed his fears that the Broncos might win the Super Bowl. “If Tebow wins the Super Bowl,” Hammerman suggested, “it will buoy his faithful, and emboldened faithful can do insane things, like burning mosques… and indiscriminately banishing immigrants.” There is not one shred of evidence connecting Tebow, in word or deed, to any of Hammerman’s list of horrors. The article was out-and-out slander of Tebow based on nothing other than his evangelical faith.
Fox News exposed the Hammerman’s attack on believing Christians to tens of millions of viewers, and subjected it to well-deserved criticism. Eventually, theJewish Week removed the piece from its website and Hammerman issued the usual mealy-mouthed apology – “if I have offended anybody, I’m sorry.” But what astounds is the fact that Jewish Week editor Gary Rosenblatt did not realize in advance how profoundly offensive Hammerman’s piece would be to American Christians, including many of Israel’s strongest supporters, or how the damage would be multiplied by the title “rabbi,” which Hammerman has appropriated.
Before he finally apologized, Hammerman attempted to defend himself on the grounds that Tebow is associated with the Southern Baptists, who have spent millions of dollars on campaigns to “save” Jewish souls. (In an egalitarian aside, he admits he would also “have issues” with Orthodox Jews who expressed any concern about the state of his “soul.”)
Needless to say, I’m not enthusiastic about Southern Baptist programs to “convert” the Jews. But if Hammerman and his fellow heterodox clergymen had done more to teach their congregants anything about Judaism – instead of conveying the message that religious faith is something to be sneered at – they would have nothing to fear from “conversion” campaigns.
This article first appeared in Mishpacha.