The Antisemitic Uneducated Jew

America has long been a welcoming home for minority religious groups, observant Jews being a notable example. In addition to synagogues, day schools and yeshivahs, growing demand is such that most sizable Jewish communities support at least one kosher grocery store with larger ones having multiple supermarkets carrying exclusively kosher foods.

Shoppers will find baked goods, produce, soda and so on, as they would in a Kroger or Publix supermarket, or Whole Foods Market, except that all items are kosher. But here’s what they will no longer find: Ben & Jerry’s. In response to the company’s announcement last month that selling ice-cream to Jews in Judea is “inconsistent” with its “values,” there isn’t a kosher supermarket or grocery store in the country willing to carry its products.

The Orthodox community clearly does not regard this corporate decision as a mere political matter. Few would go out of their way to boycott ice-cream if this were, in fact, solely about a geopolitical conflict, let alone one occurring thousands of miles away. What the Orthodox community instead perceives, rightly so, is a manifestation of the millennia-old hatred that we now term anti-Semitism.

Revealingly, a plethora of increasingly influential left-wing Jewish organizations disagree. The views of Moriah Richman, who is part of the national communications team for J Street U, are emblematic. She claims that Ben & Jerry’s actions are “principled and commendable,” a brave stand to combat “the systemic injustice of occupation.”

J Street is far from alone in adopting a stance foreign to that of the Orthodox community. Dozens of proudly progressive Jewish groups signed a letter claiming that AIPAC falsely accused Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) of supporting hate. The more than 1,500 observant rabbis of Coalition for Jewish Values, for which I serve as managing director, attest that there was nothing false whatsoever about AIPAC’s “accusation.”

How, then, do we explain this split in the Jewish community? Why do self-proclaimed “progressive” Jews defend Ben & Jerry’s policy and Omar’s rhetoric when practically all observant Jewish Americans, like the vast majority of Israelis, consider them anti-Semitic?

The difference between the Orthodox community and the secularist (and increasingly anti-Zionist) Jewish left can be summed up in one word: education—meaning, the Jewish sort. What the leaders and members of groups like J Street, IfNotNow and Jewish Voice for Peace share in common is an unwillingness to seriously engage with Jewish history, Jewish ideas and Jewish texts. In short, they have little connection to anything authentically Jewish.

No one imagines that a person can gain expertise in, for example, medicine, mathematics or literature by accident of birth. Yet these progressive groups lay claim to Jewish wisdom—and, specifically, “Jewish morality”—simply because many of their members were born to Jewish parents. This is, in essence, a racialist appeal for credibility.

“Anti-Semitism” is a German euphemism for a much, much older form of hatred. In every generation, it has found a new, socially acceptable facade. To combat it honestly and effectively, one must be educated in its underlying signs and symptoms. For thousands of years, observant rabbis have educated themselves to pierce the veil and identify the hate festering beneath. No one is born with this knowledge or the ability that attends it.

Here, however, is a brief primer: Anti-Semitism has always begun from the false belief in a vast Jewish conspiracy to steal, defraud and harm. The same bigoted myth of Jewish control of banks found in the fabricated The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Hitler’s Mein Kampf is at the core of accusations that Jews are “occupiers” for moving back into the vicinity of the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, and the Old City of Jerusalem where King Solomon built the Temple, after they were ethnically cleansed from these holy sites by Arab mobs and the Jordanian army in the early 20th century. Anti-Semitism today involves, as it always has, a hateful inversion of reality.

Since economics are at the root of the imagined crimes of Jews, they provide the first “reprisal” as well. This is why Jews were herded into ghettos and prohibited from owning property outside them during the Middle Ages. It is also why the first Nazi edict, in 1932, was a boycott of Jewish businesses, which the Arab League then adopted as a boycott of Palestinian goods in 1945. (In 1945, “Palestinians” referred exclusively to Jews.)

Proponents of the anti-Semitic Ben & Jerry’s boycott, subsumed under the “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” movement, believe that reprising this ancient animus and Nazi tactic will eventually force Israel to abandon its defensive posture. Omar Barghouti, the founder of BDS, has declared that “no Palestinian … will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.” BDS’s goal is to deny Jews self-determination. As a result, BDS, contrary to its stated purpose, drives Israel away from the negotiating table not only because it demands Jews compromise their safety and the safety of their children, but because it is redolent with Jew-hatred.

In other words, none of this is complicated, but it requires adequate grounding in the nature of anti-Semitism and the way that it mutates to hide in plain sight.

Those without a substantive Jewish education cannot understand this. Nor can they speak for Jewish morality; their words are liable to do more harm than good. As the late Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said, “Most anti-Semites do not think of themselves as anti-Semites.” This is all the more true when the anti-Semites are of Jewish ancestry.

Published by Jewish News Syndicate.

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5 Responses

  1. D K says:

    Very well written and clear article.
    In addition to the underlying anti-Semitism that pervades the actions and attacks of the lefty secular Jews because of lack of proper education, we must not forget that that the Orthodox branch that leans left (more individuals than groups) err differently. Their confusion is not from lack of proper education, many having been educated in the finest Orthodox institutions, but from the lack of Daas Torah guiding their thought process which consequently has them erroneously turning good into bad and bad into good.

  2. Robert says:

    The lack of Jewish education is only a symptom of the real problem: the people who raise a Jew as an am haaretz or tinok shenishba themselves have no affinity for Jewish teaching, Jewish life, or Jewish values. Even a well educated Jew can become an apikoris; it is the desire to avoid things Jewish that defines them all. Value of Jewish education starts with love of Judaism and Jewish identity.

    The value of and desire for Jewish education generally starts from the example of parents who sacrifice time and money to learn Torah, to live a Jewish life, thus conveying that it is of sufficient value to be worthy of giving something up. Driving to McDonald’s with the family on Shabbos and then attending supplemental Sunday school while mom and dad are golfing will result only in cognitive dissonance from hypocrisy and rejection of Judaism regardless of how much education one gets.

    Proof about the importance of Jewish education: No mass campaign of Jewish education would attract enough ignorant Jews to give them enough logic and information to counter the manifestation of undereducated Jews’ relationship to the Jewish state. If it was just a lack of information then just a pamphlet would fix things.

    A Jew can’t love the Jewish nature of Medinat Yisrael without affinity for Eretz Yisrael that comes from Torah and the unique Jewish relationship to Torah and the Jewish people which starts with a firmly inculcated Jewish identity that is separate from all other identities.

  3. Bob Miller says:

    While genuine information on Judaism is readily available, Jews brought up and educated in the socialist religion or other alien isms are unlikely to seek it out. In the US, they typically have little, if any, direct contact with practicing traditional Jews either. One model for informal, amateur kiruv involves our making the best of day-to-day encounters with the uninformed. What do we do instead when these aren’t happening?

    There’s also been a lot of secular cultural/political seepage into the thinking of some Orthodox Jews, which relates to DK’s thought above. Don’t think all our schools and communities are immune to types of wokism. The whole “Torah U’Madda” ideal depends on uncorrupted Madda.

  4. mycroft says:

    J Street is far from alone in adopting a stance foreign to that of the Orthodox community.

    J Street engages in false advertising -they are not Pro Israel and never have been. There are liberal Jews who are pro Israel but not pro settlements but J Street will always find something to attack Israel

    Dozens of proudly progressive Jewish groups signed a letter claiming that AIPAC falsely accused Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) of supporting hate
    In fairness there are liberal Democratic Jewish Congressmen who have criticized Omar on her actions see eg
    “The statement criticizing Omar was also signed by Reps. Jake Auchincloss, of Massachusetts; Ted Deutch, of Florida; Lois Frankel, of Florida; Josh Gottheimer, of New Jersey; Elaine Luria, of Virginia; Kathy Manning, of North Carolina; Jerry Nadler, of New York; Dean Phillips, of Minnesota; Kim Schrier, of Washington; Brad Sherman, of California; and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, of Florida.”
    Note one of Reps is from district right next to Omars, another is from a district Jewish population about 3 in a 1000. Discuss there should have been more signing fine but there are liberal Jews who are committed to Judaism

  5. Steven Brizel says:

    An excellent article Unfortunately Jewish anti Semitism owes its origins to Esau’s rejection of his birthright and enduring enmity against Yaakov in various ideological forms which today is evident in culture academia and politics in the US in the secular Jewish left

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