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"Old" "Hat"

01/27/2022 10:20:11 AM

Jan27

Rabbi Scott Hausman-Weiss

For some of you, this will sound like “old hat.” And for some of you, this will sound like something you believe you know (or you knew) but haven’t paid so much attention to, and  perhaps you could use a primer.  But for not a small number of you who are reading this blog, I believe—based on experience and at least the sin of omission by our educational institutions—this is something to which you really need to pay attention if you are to have a clear understanding of what occurred in Colleyville just shy of two weekends ago (and in Pittsburgh in 2018 and in Poway and in Paris and, and, and…)

Antisemitism is real.  But it hasn’t always been called that. For the majority of Jewish existence, it’s been just plain Jew hatred—in the early church as edicts from the Roman court; in libels of false accusations by the Crusaders; in “philosophic disputations” between medieval scholars for the sake of entertainment that always ended in the defeat of the Jew; in barring Jews from owning land or businesses, limiting them to the profession of usury (lending money with interest to the nobles), and then the nobles siccing the peasants on the Jews when “the Jew” was no longer tolerable in their midst, and then accusing the Jews of being “money grubbers”; in prosecutions for owning land and persecutions for not having land of our own; for impoverishing and disempowering us in the Pale, and yet holding us responsible for all that had failed; in limiting us to professions in the new world, and then holding us responsible for the degradation of society through moving pictures on the screen that often ironically painted the softest pictures of that same society; closing to us harbors and swimming pools, schools and cafeterias, denying we were dying in the camps, and still asking to see our horns.  Jew hatred has been as favorite a pastime in the history of the Western world as baseball in America.  It's in the soil, and let us not be shocked when it rears its head on the right AND the left. 

And I get it. I mean, kind of…For centuries, we Jews have been a thorn in the side of megalomaniacs, cultural tyranny, and societal genuflection.  The Torah launches significantly as a polemic against the polytheistic-driven culture of the ancient Near East and by virtue of its insistence that God is the only actual purveyor of truth— a truth with a capital “T” that no one can fully know with a “capital K”—, it has stood as a bulwark against bigots, chauvinists, and bullies whose primary source of power is violence-driven religious and cultural “truths.”  Too often we Jews have thrown up our hands, confused and shattered because we ostensibly don’t understand why everybody hates us.  But to me, more and more, it's clear.  We continually have been the “party poopers,” all the more so to those who have drawn their legitimacy from our central text and religious tradition.  Only we just kept refusing to get on board with their “reads.” 

Haman, the archetype for Jew hatred,  is obsessed with one thing—that all people, particularly the Jews, bow down to him.  Mordechai’s refusal to do so, and his proclamation that we only bow down to the True God, must have put a wrench in his kishkes.  And there have been so many Hamans since and prior, many have stopped counting.  Others have presumed there must be a rationale:  “We still hate the Jews?  Wow, there must be some truth there.”  And many, many just don’t care.  Why?  We comprise under two percent of the U.S population, and just half a percent of the world’s.  And so, they rationalize, if there really are so few of them, but their impact on the world is so out of proportion to their numbers, something is off.   There must be something else…and they don’t like Christmas? 

To be crystal clear:  A Muslim man from London boarded a flight to DFW, because he wished to free his friend, serving an 80+ year sentence for opening fire against American soldiers.  How did he plan to free his friend?  The Jews, of course. Because according to the “trustworthy and scholarly” text entitled The Protocols for the Elders of Zion, our own book, they say… written ostensibly by our hands, Jews control the world’s banking and financial seats of power.   Oh how, at times, I wish it were true! 

But alas, here is the question: Why is it a problem that some don’t imagine that this was an act of historical Jew hatred?  Because this is the actual intention of the scurrilous volumes of lies perpetrated against we Jews... that the leaders don’t have to do the dirty work.  Just disseminate untruths about, as Haman called us, a “certain people whom Your Majesty shouldn’t be bothered with” and the distraught and the hopeless and the desperate, and too often the power-hungry and despotic, will have us there always, ready to be the voodoo doll they need at a moment’s notice.  There is a direct line from all of this to the Colleyville gunman. 

But there is an upside to all of this.  This didn’t happen by accident.  Anti-Semitism, Jew hatred, is a legacy bequeathed generation to generation.  It is something that no person and no new generation would discern of their own accord.  Like every other hate and bias, it may be in the water, but it is not in the blood.  We are not wired to hate, but connect.  We are not intended to disrupt, but to mend.  Disconnection and disruption serve those who believe that power is derived only from wresting it from others.  But real power is that which serves the oneness professed by the Shema.  That in God’s oneness, we are One.  United, determined, committed to the best of the Torah’s principles.  Accessible to all… but not by virtue of the language or symbolism or ritual expression an individual singularly employs.  Rather, by the “simple” recognition that we deserve decency by virtue of being alive.  We are, each and all of us, God’s children.  This is the essence of Jewish philosophy and practice.  Its most bullish expression is the humility it insists upon.  Shema Yisrael, Listen up Jewish people!  God is the unity at the core of our creation, but only when we affirm that oneness, can that oneness be achieved.  If you want to know what is at the core of Judaism, that is it.  I write these words to you: to my folks, to those who don’t know what to think; and to those, whose freedom of thought was stolen from them long ago.  

We, the Jewish people must wake up to both what makes our tradition so very beautiful and apparently, what is so challenging to others.  Whether it’s our stubborn insistence NOT to disappear or that of our commitment NOT to bow down before schools of thought that undermine our central teachings, or just aversion to throwing old idols away, we cannot pretend that Jew hatred is dead.  We must be lovingly vigilant for the sake of our people, and stridently kind to those “fourth children” who may not even know what to ask.  We can indeed make a difference. 

What can you do now?

  • Join us for 3M as we commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day (sign up here if you don’t already receive the link).
  • Attend the Bystanders Training Program tomorrow at noon. Click here to sign up.
  • Commit to having difficult conversations with people who are open to talking
  • Seek out and create allyships because we do indeed live in a world in which we are not the only ones hated.  We’re just the historical model for how it can be done.
Wed, October 5 2022 10 Tishrei 5783