After Trump complained that US Jews were not loyal to Israel and to him, a debate broke out not only in the Jewish community as to whether Trump was an anti-Semite. Whether the attack is directed against all Jews or only those who did not vote for Trump but for Biden and the Democrats, i.e. more the liberal US Jews or all US Jews, whom Trump considers less reliable than the evangelicals and Christian right, who are devoted to him , who are more closely linked to Israel as a substitute for the crusaders in the fight for the Holy Land against the Muslims, or whether, if he is not anti-Semitic, he is nevertheless fueling anti-Semitism and racism, especially in the slipstream of black rapper Kayne West as angry lack man , who recently made anti-Semitic statements, supports Trump support and the slogan White Live Matters made headlines . Good Question: Is Trump Anti-Semitic? Netanyahu, who during his term in office saw Trump as an ally without an alternative and avoided the Democrats, does not see it that way, arguing that Trump’s son-in-law and his daughter are Jews, especially since Trump has rendered outstanding service to Israel like no other US politician . At least Bibi didn’t storm the Knesset like Trump Capitol Hill, congratulated Biden on winning the election, which in turn earned him criticism from Trump, as he countered the fake news about the stolen election, and recently also appreciates the support of the Democrats and liberal Jews, with exceptions the supposedly anti-Semitic Progressive Left in the Democrats.
„Is Trump antisemitic? Netanyahu doesn’t think so
„He has a Jewish son-in-law and his daughter converted to Judaism and his grandchildren were raised as Jews: I don’t think so,“ Netanyahu said days after Trump’s apparent threat to American Jews.
By Haley Cohen
Updated: OCTOBER 20, 2022 12:54
Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday defended former US President Donald Trump, days after he appeared to threaten Jewish Americans, calling them ungrateful in recent comments on his social media app Truth Social.
In an MSNBC interview to promote his new book Bibi: My Story, Netanyahu pushed back on allegations that Trump’s comments make him an antisemite.
„He has a Jewish son-in-law and his daughter converted to Judaism and his grandchildren were raised as Jews: I don’t think so,“ Israel’s longest-serving prime minister said. „But I think it reflects his frustrations, which happens to many politicians when they feel they don’t get credit for the things they did.“
Netanyahu also noted “a certain myopia here on the assessment of American Jews” in Trump’s comments. “American Jews, by and large, and a great majority support Israel warmly, and some – especially in the radical, progressive wing – do not. But the great majority in the Democratic Party do,” he said.
What was Trump’s criticism of American Jews?
On Sunday afternoon, a screenshot of Trump’s post on his social media platform Truth Social began to circulate on Twitter, where he is banned, in which he said that „no President has done more for Israel than I have.“
„Somewhat surprisingly, however,“ he continued, „our wonderful Evangelicals are far more appreciative of this than the people of the Jewish faith, especially those living in the US.“
Making it clear that his comments were aimed solely at US Jews, he said that „those living in Israel, though, are a different story.“
He then ended his comments by warning US Jews that they „have to get their act together and appreciate what they have in Israel – before it is too late.“
The suggestion of disloyalty, which plays into the antisemitic trope that American Jews hold secret loyalty to Israel over the US, drew immediate condemnation.
A Pew Research survey released in 2021 found that 45% of Jewish adults in the US viewed caring about Israel as “essential” to what being Jewish means, with an additional 37% saying it was “important, but not essential.” Only 16% said caring about Israel was “not important.”
Despite Trump himself being banned from Twitter since January 2021, screenshots of his Truth Social post began circulating widely on the social media site, with many people voicing concerns over what they deemed to be a clear expression of antisemitism.
„You really don’t need to read between the lines much on this one,“ wrote American political journalist Mattew Yglesias, sharing a screenshot of the post. „Trump has no concept of American Jews as a community that lives and prospers here with an identity and interests that are distinct from the concerns of the State of Israel.“
White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said on Monday that „Donald Trump’s comments were antisemitic, as you all know, and insulting both to Jews and our Israeli allies.“
The head of the American Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt accused Trump of “Jewsplaining.”
“We don’t need the former president, who curries favor with extremists and antisemites, to lecture us about the US-Israel relationship. It is not about a quid pro quo; it rests on shared values and security interests. This ‘Jewsplaining’ is insulting and disgusting,” he wrote.
Others pointed out that Trump’s comments come suspiciously soon after rapper Kanye West – a known supporter of the former president – went on multiple antisemitic rants of his own over the last few weeks.
„Here’s Trump adding fuel to the antisemitic dumpster fire by demanding American Jews show loyalty to him because of Israel,“ wrote a former member of Israel’s UN team Aviva Klompas on her Twitter page.
Trump had high praise on Tuesday for West even as the hip-hop star continued to face backlash over his antisemitic remarks. Not only did Trump refuse to condemn West’s comments, but he doubled down with effusive praise, thanking the rapper for his undying loyalty and support.
Trump and Netanyahu have known each other since the 1980s, when the latter was Israel’s ambassador to the UN and the former was a real estate tycoon. Trump endorsed Netanyahu in a video posted to YouTube ahead of the 2013 election.
In the four elections since 2019, Netanyahu campaigned on his close relationship with the former president, citing that relationship as indicative of his international stature being “in another league” compared with his political opponents.
Despite long-term close ties, the two former chief executives have had some recent beef.
In an interview with an Israeli journalist released in December, Trump said about Netanyahu: “F**k him.”
Trump was disappointed in Netanyahu for congratulating US President Joe Biden on his election victory in November 2020, and continues to maintain that he was the actual winner of the election.
“He was very early,” Trump said. “Like earlier than most. I haven’t spoken to him since.”
Lahav Harkov and Reuters contributed to this report.
Some even go as far as attributing an antisemitism problem not just to Trump but to the entire GOP Republican Party, ever since the alleged anti-Semite Nixon appointed German-Jewish Henry Kissinger as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State:
“The GOP has an antisemitism problem – opinion
Neither party in the United States has a monopoly on antisemitism. Jew-haters can be found on the extremes of both parties, but the GOP seems to attract a disproportionate number.
By Douglas Bloomfield
Published: SEPTEMBER 29, 2022 04:51
Neither party in the United States has a monopoly on antisemitism. Jew-haters can be found on the extremes of both parties, but the GOP seems to attract a disproportionate number.
White nationalists and xenophobes are firmly entrenched in today’s party mainstream. And for many in another major pillar of today’s GOP – the Christian Right – an affinity for Israel and a fascination with Jewish religious symbolism conceal motives steeped in “end-time” prophecies and the conversion of the Jews.
The core of the GOP revolution centers on racism and xenophobia, and antisemitism is the inevitable partner of these malignant forms of bigotry.
Southern Democrats had a long reputation as racists, dating back before the Civil War, but that changed dramatically in the 1960s with the enactment of historic civil rights legislation, led by Lyndon Johnson and Congressional Democrats.
Richard Nixon quickly sought to capitalize on the expected backlash with his Southern Strategy, targeting a “silent majority” – really thinly disguised buzz words to call racists to cross over to the Republican Party. It worked.
The GOP energetically appealed to whites who wanted to preserve segregation and their “way of life.” Their appeal may have been largely anti-black, but it was also anti-Hispanic, anti-Asian, anti-immigrant and antisemitic. Nixon himself was a racist and an antisemite, as his tapes revealed.
Many Democrats followed South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, who called themselves Dixiecrats, and became Republicans.
Where did the political polarization come from?
Today’s polarizing politics can be traced back to the revolution led by Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia) in the mid-1990s. He infused the GOP with the idea that the Democrats were the enemy and no longer just political rivals. What ensued has been insurrection, authoritarianism and tribalism in his party. A central tenant has been, as Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank noted, “stoking fears of minorities and immigrants.”
Jews are barely 2% of the US population but targets of 60% of all religiously motivated hate crimes, according to an FBI report cited in The Jerusalem Post. All indicators show it is getting worse.
Bess Levin notes in her Vanity Fair column, “Republicans have never been accused of embracing people from all walks of life regardless of their race, religion, gender, sexuality or country of origin,” but lately they’ve “ramped up their attacks.”
Republicans complain about “cancel culture,” but theirs is the party that wants to cancel church-state separation, abortion rights, teaching about racism, gay marriage and the investigation of the January 6 insurrection.
One of the most disturbing cancellations for Jews is the movement among Republicans, supported by conservative Supreme Court justices, to tear down the wall between religion and state. That protection has been vital to Jewish survival and success in the American democracy that is so threatened today.
Among those trying to destroy the wall is Rep. Laurent Boebert (R-Colorado). “The church is supposed to direct the government, the government is not supposed to direct the church. I’m tired of this separation of church and state junk,” she has said.
CNN has reported public opinion polling shows support for Christian nationalism is growing among Christians.
Extremism on the rise
Another strident voice for that cause is Marjorie Taylor Green (R-Georgia), a self-declared “Christian nationalist.” She often shares platforms with Donald Trump as well as with notorious antisemites, compares COVID-19 restrictions to the Holocaust, has been a QAnon conspiracy follower and is best known for revealing that California forest fires were ignited by Jewish space lasers.
After the president’s address at Independence Hall about the threats to democracy, she tweeted, “Joe Biden is Hitler. Nazi Joe has to go.” The response from GOP leadership was its usual acquiescent silence. The American Jewish Committee called her tweets “vile, offensive.” Haaretz reported her comments “were echoed by conservative pundits.”
In an interview at the far-right Turning Point USA Student Action Summit in Florida in July, she declared, “We need to be the party of nationalism and I’m a Christian, and I say it proudly, we should be Christian nationalists.”
The problem permeates the House Republican leadership. When someone like Greene is particularly outrageous, the invertebrate House GOP leader, Kevin McCarthy, announces he will have a private chat with the alleged offender and then reports that the problem has been solved. Green and Boebert are increasingly seen as the new voices of the Republican party, and if Republicans control the next House they can expect high profile and more vocal roles.
Antisemitism is a central element of the Right’s warnings about the Great Replacement Theory. They see themselves as threatened by foreigners, notably non-white and non-Christian, who want to replace good old white Americans of western European descent.
White Christians fear that they will no longer be the majority in this country in another generation or so, and in their view “any Democratic victory will irrevocably reconfigure the nation,” making them a minority, Ron Brownstein wrote in the Atlantic.
In some races this year, a candidate’s Jewish heritage is a target for attacks. Doug Mastriano is an election denier who showed up at the Capitol on January 6 and is now the Republican nominee for governor of Pennsylvania. He accused Josh Shapiro – the state attorney-general, and now Mastriano’s opponent in the race for governor – of sending his children to a “privileged, exclusive, elite school” as proof of “a disdain for people like us.”
Of course, he didn’t mention that it is a Jewish day school and the same one their father had attended as a boy. The attack was the work of Mastriano’s campaign consultant, Andrew Torba, a rabid antisemite who runs Gab, the social network widely popular among antisemites, white nationalists and neo-Nazis. Mastriano eventually and quietly tried to distance himself from Torba.
Some of the antisemitic dog whistles are subtle, like the rants about the “war on Christmas” and accusations that people are afraid to say, “Merry Christmas.” Others are as clumsy as a Jewish space laser and day school tuition. But you won’t hear much, if anything, critical of them on Fox News, One America News Network or Newsmax, or read about them in the Daily Caller, the Washington Examiner, Gab or the Daily Wire. As Trump reportedly said about the white supremacists at Charlottesville, “they’re my people.”
Trump’s comments lead to a fundamental debate in the Jerusalem Post about what a bad jew should be. There is now also an interesting book of the same name „Bad Jews-A History of American Jewish Politics and Identities“ that shows that in US and Jewish history there have always been disputes within the Jewish diaspora and also between the political parties, what a good and a bad Jew is, what being Jewish and Jewish identity actually means, with whose author Emily Tamkin the Jerusalem Post conducted a very enlightening interview. On the question of whether Trump is an anti-Semite, she said:
„Let’s focus on Trump for a second. Basically he said Jews who don’t put Israel first in their political thinking are not only ungrateful to him but are, essentially, bad Jews. What was your take?
I think it displayed a deep lack of understanding about most American Jews. Most American Jews do not vote with Israel as their top issue. Most American Jews lean liberal, and especially younger American Jews are more critical of Israel. The part that was antisemitic is this idea that if you’re an American Jew you are supposed to have loyalty first and foremost to another country, but also that your status as a good Jew is contingent on your loyalty to a political party. Like, no: We’re Americans, whether or not we vote for Donald Trump. „
Here is the interview in its entirety, which is well worth reading:
“‘Bad Jews’ describes a history of American Jewish infighting
By ANDREW SILOW-CARROLL / JTA
Published: OCTOBER 21, 2022 02:11
The history of Jewish identity and politics in America has been told as a triumph of spiritual renewal (“A Certain People,” Charles Silberman, 1986), as an overdue flexing of political muscle (“Jewish Power,” J.J. Goldberg, 1996) and as a series of clashes between denominations and world views (“Jew vs. Jew,” Samuel Freedman, 2006).
Emily Tamkin takes a different tack, tracing the history of American Jewry through the ways Jews on one side of social upheaval seek to discredit the very Jewishness of those on the other side. In “Bad Jews: A History of American Jewish Politics and Identities,” Tamkin writes about key moments in American and American Jewish history — the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement, the rise and fall of the labor movement, the internal debate over Israel. Jews didn’t just disagree with one another during these debates, but charged that their Jewish antagonists were “self-hating,” “kapos,” “radicals,” and “antisemites” — in short, bad Jews.
But her goal, Tamkin writes, is not to reveal Jews as hopelessly divided or judge who is and isn’t a “good Jew,” but rather to describe how these debates are part of a constant conversation about “who is Jewish, and how to be Jewish, and what it means to be Jewish.”
In fact, Tamkin, 32, calls “Bad Jews” a “love letter to Jewish pluralism,” celebrating the many ways Jews have come to define themselves, as well as a corrective to historians, journalists and politicians who treat Jews as a social and political monolith despite their diversity.
If some of these expressions make readers uncomfortable — Tamkin writes about Jewish anti-Zionists, Trumpists, atheists, religious zealots and the proudly intermarried — that, she writes, is the price and glory of being an American Jew. “Somebody wrote that she thought this was going to be a new framing about who was a bad Jew,” Tamkin said in an interview from her home in Washington, DC “And actually, it seems like I was talking about all the ways that people try to be good Jews.”
Tamkin is the senior editor, US, of The New Statesman, and author of “The Influence of Soros,” a 2020 study of the Jewish philanthropist’s liberal causes, business legacy and the vitriol he draws from the right. She has her master’s degree in Russian and Eastern European Studies from the University of Oxford, and a bachelor’s degree in Russian literature and cultures from Columbia University.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Jewish Telegraphic Agency: Let’s start with the genesis for the book: What’s the problem or challenge that you saw and that you felt the need to address?
Emily Tamkin: Well, I’ve been saying that my villain origin story for this is that my last book was on George Soros. And one of the things that came up quite a lot as a sort of defense by his critics accused of being antisemitic that, well, it can’t be antisemitism because he’s not really Jewish. “Look at his relationship to Israel, look at his relationship to religion,” they’d say. And this really upset me.
Because he was critical of Israel, for instance, that made Soros a bad Jew.
Exactly — that he’s somehow not Jewish because he doesn’t check a certain number of boxes. What was upsetting me was not only the treatment of this billionaire, but I was having a personal reaction to it as well. Also, all of this was happening in the Trump years where it felt to me like the label of “bad Jew” was being tossed back and forth across the political aisle. And I thought that it would be useful to put that moment in historical context. I saw a tweet at one point saying there’s a Jewish civil war going on. And I don’t disagree with that, but it’s been going on for at least 100 years in this country. And I think sometimes it’s useful to let that inform our present discussions and debates.
When you said personal: What personally triggered you when Soros was being labeled a “bad Jew”?
As I write in the introduction, I really went back and forth on whether or not I could write this book — because my mother had converted to Judaism before I was born or because my husband isn’t Jewish or I’d never been to Israel before writing this book. I didn’t go to Hebrew school — on and on. And I came to conclude that [my biography] is a very useful framing for thinking about authenticity. Obviously, one needs to have a certain amount of knowledge to write any book, but the idea that there’s a certain set of preconditions that you have to hit to be considered Jewish or sufficiently Jewish? I think that’s really wrong. When I started writing this book, I probably would have used the label “bad Jew” half-jokingly about myself, but I don’t do that anymore.
Let me just clarify the title for people who haven’t read the book: You’re not calling yourself or others bad Jews, but you’re describing the ways the term has been repeatedly weaponized by various sets of Jews against other Jews.
Exactly, or against ourselves, because it’s quite internalized as well. I have had a couple of people say to me, “Well, how could you call a book ‘Bad Jews’ at this time of rising antisemitism?” And to this I would just say that, actually, a time when our political leaders are speaking about American Jews as though they’re bad Jews is exactly the time to have a book called “Bad Jews.”
You describe a number of Jewish internal battles in the book, including deep schisms over Israel, civil rights and interfaith marriage. Is there one that really encapsulates how Jews use “bad Jews” as a label against each other?
The back and forth on intermarriage is a good example. It is wrapped up in the debate over who we’re supposed to be in this country and how we’re supposed to relate to the United States and to what extent do you assimilate to a culture. What sometimes gets lost, not just in the debate around intermarriage, but generally, is that there are many ways that people can explore Jewishness in a way that’s meaningful to them. And we lose sight of that, when we’re focused on “Oh, I’m doing this right. I’m doing this wrong.”
In the book you include a critique of the Jewish philanthropic establishment by suggesting the debate over intermarriage was a not-so-implicit attack on Jewish women who “are not having enough babies,” as a critic of the organizations tells you. Can you expand on the ways you feel the establishment sort of weaponized what they came to call the continuity debate?
As you know, I’m not inventing this research — especially women in Jewish Studies have made this case. Basically, the idea is that Jewish organizations went out and paid for studies that sort of told them what they wanted to hear in terms of how threatening intermarriages are. And in one case, [sociologist] Stephen M. Cohen, this was being done by somebody who has been accused of sexually harassing women. I think it’s important to draw attention to the episode in which people said. “Okay, can we look at how to be more inclusive of Jews who are marrying people who are not Jewish?” And how instead they were told, “Let’s focus on the core and not the periphery.” People sometimes say, “Well, you know, Jews are more likely to raise Jewish children if they marry other Jews.” Well, if you’re talking about people who don’t marry other Jews as the “periphery,” how welcome are they going to feel in Jewish life?
It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Yes. Like, how welcome are they going to feel to explore the different ways in which Jewish life can be meaningful? More generally, something we have seen throughout American Jewish history, or at least the last century, is that American Jewish institutions tend to be more conservative than American Jews at large. Which is fine, except to the extent that these same organizations, the same donors, purport to speak for all American Jews — which they don’t and in fact can’t because it’s such a pluralistic set of communities. I hesitate to say that there is an American Jewish community — certainly not one that can be spoken for by a single institution or set of social scientists or what have you.
I want to push back a little on the intermarriage front. You portray attitudes over intermarriage as coming top down from communal organizations that were freaked out especially by the 1991 National Jewish Population Survey that put intermarriage rates at 52%. There was also legitimate grassroots upset over intermarriage, and I wonder if putting so much on the Jewish organizations removes agency from a lot of Jews at the grassroots level. I know and interviewed plenty of Jews who wanted their kids to marry Jews not because they were racist or anti-feminist, but because they felt they were given a valuable inheritance that they wanted to pass on to their children and grandchildren.
I hope that it doesn’t come across in the book as though individual American Jews aren’t also concerned with intermarriage. I quote a young, Modern Orthodox woman who said to me that [intermarriage] is the worst thing you can do because it means that “you love [gentiles] more than you love us.” Nobody told her to say that. But I think it’s difficult to separate out what you’re hearing from the establishment from communal American Jewish life. And I would also say that Jewish ethnicity manifests very differently in my life than it did for my parents, grandparents and great grandparents. I understand that there are many American Jews who feel differently. And as I write in the book, I think sometimes when you try to hold on so closely to something, you end up breaking it or pushing it away.
Increasingly, the reality is that American Jews are marrying people who are not Jewish. There are also studies that suggest that this has made the Jewish partner get more into their own Jewishness because they have to be more intentional about it. So we can look at this as a real opportunity for younger American Jews to explore Jewish life in a different but still meaningful way. But that is very difficult when you have people like the head of Hillel’s Board of Governors saying intermarriage is keeping him up at night.
There’s a lot of discussion about whiteness in “Bad Jews.” I know you draw on and credit fully Eric Goldstein’s “The Price of Whiteness” and Karen Brodkin’s “How Jews Became White Folks….” They argue that while Jews were not quite accepted as wholly American by other, non-Jewish whites, they nevertheless benefited from policies and structures that enabled people who presented as white to become upwardly mobile, while people of color were intentionally left behind. Why is it important to understand the history of American Jewish identity in terms of race and whiteness?
I think because it’s American history. And because so much in this country comes back to race. Interracial hierarchies tend to favor white supremacy. To understand Jewish history in the United States, for better or for worse, you need to understand how it relates to race and racism. I think that’s particularly important to do now for two reasons. The first is that we’re in, unfortunately, a moment of pretty blatant white supremacy for many political quarters. And I think it’s important that American Jews, most of whom go through life as white people for all intents and purposes, understand the ways in which some of us have upheld some of the racial hierarchies in the United States.
And the second thing is that the face of American Jewish life is changing. I’m not a Jew of color. I don’t try to speak for Jews of color. But I do think that it’s important to understand that the majority of American Jews historically have had a very different experience and different relationship to whiteness in America than Jews of color.
Maybe it is no coincidence that the biggest Jewish conversation right now is a tweet by Donald Trump that was perceived as antisemitic and comments by Kanye West, a Black rapper, which I would say were blatantly antisemitic.
I mean, [Kanye’s comments] were, like, pretty textbook. I don’t know that you can get more antisemitic than saying “a Jewish agenda is ruining my life.”
Let’s focus on Trump for a second. Basically he said Jews who don’t put Israel first in their political thinking are not only ungrateful to him but are, essentially, bad Jews. What was your take?
I think it displayed a deep lack of understanding about most American Jews. Most American Jews do not vote with Israel as their top issue. Most American Jews lean liberal, and especially younger American Jews are more critical of Israel. The part that was antisemitic is this idea that if you’re an American Jew you are supposed to have loyalty first and foremost to another country, but also that your status as a good Jew is contingent on your loyalty to a political party. Like, no: We’re Americans, whether or not we vote for Donald Trump.
I did see some Republican Jews or conservative Jews who came out and said no, Trump is right. The second-to-last chapter of my book looks at Jews who were supportive of Trump and said that those who weren’t were bad Jews. Obviously, I think that that’s wrong and that it’s not helpful. But conservatism is also a strain of American Jewish thought, just like liberal pluralism is a strain of American Jewish thought.
Trump’s comments also hit on what’s always a third rail in American Jewish communal life, and that’s support for Israel. In the 1980s and ’90s, when I was first reporting on Jewish life, liberal Jewish Zionism meant there was no question that Israel had a right to exist and was a legitimate state, but that more had to be done to accommodate the autonomy of the Palestinians, including a two-state solution. That’s what liberal Jewish Zionists believed, and they were considered the “bad Jews” of the era. But the most vocal younger Jewish activists today call Israel’s very legitimacy into question, or embrace the one-state solution. As a result, we’re not talking about different visions of what Israel could be, but whether there should be an Israel or not. And I wonder if that divide among Jews is even bridgeable.
Most American Jews still do feel an attachment to Israel. But there’s the Zionism of the [hardline, pro-settlement] Zionist Organization of America and then there’s J Street and Americans for Peace Now [which support a two-state solution]. Now you if you are an anti-Zionist, you might think all of those organizations are morally indefensible.
Having said that, yes, younger American Jews are increasingly critical of Israel, even if the number that would identify as anti-Zionist is still quite small. I think that’s different for American Jews who perhaps immigrated to the United States later on, whose families more immediately saw Israel as a place of potential refuge.
You mean the Russian-speaking and Persian immigrants you write about in the book.
Right. But for the most part, the younger American Jews have come of age at a time where there has really been very little movement in the direction of — well, forget a state: just about anything that would offer Palestinians the opportunity to live with more dignity, to live more safely.
And while American Jews’ political trajectory is by and large a liberal, democratic one, Israeli politics are not moving in that direction. And so we are, I think, moving farther apart.
Is that bridgeable, either between American Jews and Israel or between American Jews of younger and older generations? Honestly, I don’t know. What I do think is that it is profoundly unhelpful in the debate to say that “if you don’t agree with me, you’re not Jewish, or you don’t really value Jewish life.”
But what if anything binds Jews as Jews? Like you said, it’s probably idealistic to talk about a single Jewish community, but your book has this great quote from Vivian Gornick, who was born in 1935. She writes, “The dominating characteristic of the streets on which I grew was Jewishness in all its rich variety.” (She was born in the Bronx.) “We did not have to be ‘observing’ Jews to know that we were Jews.” She grew up at a time where Jewish ethnicity was taken for granted and you lived in Jewish neighborhoods and married other Jews because you really had no choice in some matters. So what today lets us know that we are all Jews, if our politics, if our religious practices, if our beliefs, our family structures are so different?
I love that quote so much, but I think there are probably people who would disagree with her at the time. A more religiously observant Jew might have looked at her and said, “What do you mean, you don’t have to be a practicing Jew to know that you’re Jewish? We have all these rules. You’re supposed to be in shul!”
I think we can overstate not just the differences now, but the commonality then, and we do live in a wider world, no offense to Vivian Gornick.
What keeps us together, we still do have a shared history, we still do have a shared religion, we still do have shared practices, but we interpret all of those differently. We take different parts from them. I do still think that they hold us together. I love the quote in the book from Rabbi Angela Buchdahl [of Manhattan’s Central Synagogue] about how Jews are a family. Some people are born into the family, some people marry into the family. The other reason that I think it’s useful, and I’m not sure that she intended this, is that I don’t like all of my family members — but we’re still family. Maybe we don’t speak, maybe we do. But those ties are still there. I joked about this in a discussion with somebody who disagreed with me. I was like, “It’s too bad. You’re stuck with me.”
Fighting antisemitism used to be a great unifying force among Jews – but today the right insists the anti-Zionist left is the biggest threat and the left says white supremacy is the biggest threat.
Yes, Jewish people define it quite differently. I thought that what Trump said was antisemitic, and there are conservative Jews who disagree with me on that. There are criticisms of Israel that I don’t consider to be antisemitic that others consider Jew hatred.
Having said that, this is not a book about antisemitism. Because antisemitism, it’s about Jews, but it’s also not about Jews, right? It’s about antisemites, and I think American Jewish history is so much bigger and richer than the people who hate us.
You write something at the end of the book I’d love you to expand on: “your favorite part about being an American Jew.” What is that?
It starts with something I heard a lot in Israel: “We don’t have to think about being Jewish.” That’s not totally true. There are debates on how to be Jewish in Israel, even if they’re quite different, but I think someone said to me, like, “We’re not paranoid about it like you.”
But I love my paranoia. I love gazing in my own navel and thinking about what it means to be Jewish and what it means to be Jewish in America and changing my mind about what that means to me and rethinking it. I didn’t think that I would be a person who grew up to belong to a synagogue and then I did. I didn’t think that I would be a person who takes Yiddish classes in my free time and now I am. I really didn’t think I would be a person who writes about these issues in print, and here I am.
I think there are many things that one can do in life and point to and be like, “ah, that’s Jewish.” Just asking these questions, even though there’s not an answer, is a part of Jewishness and Judaism that I really love.
I do hope that comes across in this book. It’s a love letter to Jewish pluralism in some ways. I love being an American Jew. And I would hope that despite the title and despite the infighting and despite the self-doubt, that comes across to readers and invites them to think, “What do I love about it, what is significant to me, what parts of the American Jewish experience can I latch on to?” The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JTA or its parent company, 70 Faces Media.
In a quite culturally pessimistic contribution „Why the Golden Age for Jews in America is coming to an end“, the author Adam Milstein does not see the US right, GOP and white supremacists as a danger, but above all the so-called Islamo left, which is anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist, with anti-Semitism increasing sharply in the USA and Europe and support for Israel declining, although it remains unclear to what extent he considers Kitiik’s policies of the Israeli government, especially the Likud and the Israeli right, to be anti-Semitism.
“Why the Golden Age for Jews in America is coming to an end -opinion
The decline in the favorability of mainstream American views toward Israel has coincided with a rise in antisemitic violence, particularly in large metropolises, promoted by Islamo-Leftist groups.
Published: OCTOBER 19, 2022 11:12
Updated: OCTOBER 21, 2022 04:58
Is the Golden Age for Jews in America is coming to its end
(photo credit: Adam Milstein)
By now, we have read countless articles warning of the coming end of the Jewish golden era in America. The dwindling number of Americans identifying as Jews (now around 4.5 million—half of all Americans of Jewish descent), the passing of the Holocaust generation and the fading memory of the Holocaust itself, ideological polarization and illiberalism are just a few of the reasons discussed.
Over the span of Jewish history, across centuries and continents, the Jewish people had many periods of prosperity. Most well-known was the Golden Age in Spain from the mid-12th century until the end of the 14th century. Under the rule of the Muslim Umayyad Caliphate, “Al-Andalus”—modern day Spain—became a haven for Jewish culture in which art, literature, philosophy, and theology. This peaceful period ended abruptly in 1492, when all Jews of Spain and Portugal were suddenly and forcefully expelled or converted to Christianity.
Hundreds of years later, around 1950 to the turn of the 21st century, Jewish life experienced another Golden Age, this time in the United States and Israel. During the post-World War II-era, as many survivors, as well as Jews expelled from Arab countries, immigrated to the Israel and the United States, conditions in America improved dramatically for Jewish Americans. Antisemitism rapidly decreased, and the Jewish community became one of the most successful immigrant communities in the United States.
What does Israel have to do with the American Golden Age?
The establishment of the state of Israel in 1948—and Israel’s military victories over larger Arab forces in 1949, 1956, 1967, and 1973, fostered a surge of pride in Jewish Americans. From antiquity until the creation of the Jewish State, Jews were largely people of the book, merchants and scholars. The creation of Israel unified them into one strong peoplehood, with a homeland and with an army committed to defending the Jewish people worldwide. For the first time in centuries, Jews around the world were no longer victims but architects of their own secure haven that they could flee to in crisis.
From the establishment of the Jewish State until the beginning of this century, Zionism came to replace religious observance amongst secular American Jews as a core element of their own Jewish identities. That started changing around the year 2000, when the Palestinians launched a terror campaign against the Jews in Israel known as the Second Intifada. Support for the Jewish state began to wane at the fringes of the American Jewish community.
The “New Antisemitism,” also known as anti-Zionism or hatred of Israel as an acceptable stand-in for the classical hatred of Jews, initially gained currency in universities and in leftist intellectual circles. It has since metastasized to much of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Today, several U.S. congresswomen have claimed that Jewish Americans have dual national loyalties. These elected leaders call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions of Israel with a vehemence they reserve solely for the state of the Jews
And as American Jews are severing their alliance with Israel, the second Jewish golden age is now coming to its end – and soon. Antisemitism is rising. American Jewish communities are divided, disengaged, and declining in membership. For the most part, this change has been driven not by a decline in material conditions, but rather a change in the way Americans Jews think about their Jewish identity and their relationships with the homeland of the Jewish people.
The New Antisemitism is becoming violent
The decline in the favorability of mainstream American views toward Israel has coincided with a rise in antisemitic violence, particularly in large metropolises, promoted by Islamo-Leftist groups. In New York City, more than half of hate crimes in 2019 targeted Jews. During the last major conflict between Israel and the Palestinians in May 2021, terror groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad launched more than 4,000 rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians. At the same time, we witnessed stunning and unprecedented scenes in New York, Los Angeles, and other American cities of Jews being assaulted by mobs of anti-Israel activists. This surge of anti-Jewish hate also included harassment, vandalism and online abuse.
With many Jews in America now fearing walking the streets in their kippot or wearing other items that identify them as Jewish or Zionist, or even speaking Hebrew in public, we are sliding in the direction of our European Jewish brethren—in fear and under siege, requiring more and more layers of security.
Meanwhile, many American Jews serve willingly as useful idiots for groups that despise us, divided our community, and weaken our resolve, under the pretext of legitimate critique of the Israeli government policies.
The end of the story for American Jewry?
While we undoubtedly face grave challenges as American Jews, we must not give up. Until now, due to lack of information and fear of rejection and persecution, many American Jews have been complicit as anti-Zionism morphs into the new antisemitism. Now is the time to stand up, fight back with all our remaining might and hold antisemites accountable.
We must form alliances with groups that share the same Judeo-Christian values of freedom and democracy, inspire today’s Jewish youth to be proud of their people and the Jewish homeland, and bring Israel back to the center of our Jewish life in the diaspora.
We must embrace Zionism as an integral part of our Jewish identity. We must engage in renewed efforts to strengthen the homeland of the Jewish people, ask Israel to empower and defend Jewish communities worldwide, and take stock of the strength our community possesses.
We must collectively demand a rejection of all forms of antisemitism, including and especially anti-Zionism.
But not only in the USA or Documenta-Germany Jewish commentators sees dangerous anti-Semitic tendencies, but now also in Putin-Russia since the war is no longer going as planned and scapegoats are being sought. Initially, Putin’s propaganda made use of references to the anti-Semitism of Ukrainian nationalism, which had cooperated with Nazi Germany, including in the extermination of the Jews, which is why the Zelensky government and Ukraine were a Nazi country. However, since Selensky himself is of Jewish descent, does not fit into the image of the Nazis so ideally, and there are no successes in the war, unpatriotic scapegoats are now increasingly being sought, for which, according to the Jerusalem Post report, Jews are increasingly often and strikingly named. Putin is credited with the fact that he used to suppress anti-Semitism consistently and differently than Yeltsin, especially since many oligarchs and parts of the intelligentsia are Jewish,but thissort of protection is now apparently changing and Putin has recently made tactical concessions on anti-Semitism in order to keep support from racist and nationalist hardliners . Conversely, reference is also made to Russia’s long anti-Semitic tradition, which invented the word pogrom and also the „Protocols of the Elders of Zion“:
“As Putin’s war sputters, antisemitism seeps into the Russian media
As Russia’s war effort in Ukraine flounders, openly anti-Jewish rhetoric is entering the country’s mainstream media.
By CNAAN LIPHSHIZ/JTA
Updated: SEPTEMBER 30, 2022 00:55
Soon after he rose to power 22 years ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin cracked down on the open antisemitism that nearly all of his predecessors had either encouraged, tolerated or ignored.
Now, as Russia’s war effort in Ukraine flounders, openly anti-Jewish rhetoric is entering the country’s mainstream media, with a popular talk show host naming Jews on air as being insufficiently patriotic and a think tank accusing a prominent Jewish philosopher of siding with Ukraine out of greed.
The shift in rhetoric about Jews in Russian media began about two months ago, according to Roman Bronfman, a former Israeli lawmaker who is writing a book about post-Soviet Jewry. That was around when news emerged that Ukrainian troops had successfully stopped the advance of Russian forces on Ukrainian territory; since then, they have repelled Russian troops from some areas the Russians had captured.
“At a moment when the regime’s stability was threatened, a Jewish target was selected,” Bronfman said. “In many ways this is a repeat of multiple episodes in Russian history, including the final days of Josef Stalin’s time in power.”
Putin’s past tough stance against antisemitism
In a country where persecution of Jews had been policy for many decades prior to the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1990, antisemites faced harsh sentencing under Putin— one man in 2019 was jailed for two and a half years for scrawling antisemitic graffiti — and vigorous policing. In another notable instance, in 2020, police in the southern Russian city of Krasnodar had a rabbi fake his own death to trap two terror suspects.
This tough stance, which contrasted with the more laissez-faire approach of his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, has been politically useful to Putin, who has cited alleged antisemitism by Ukrainians as one of the reasons for his invasion of Ukraine in February. (He may well have warm sentiments for Jews or Judaism on a personal level, as well.)
But Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has left him isolated on the world stage, with his claims of Nazis in Ukraine largely dismissed as a fabrication, making a strong stance against antisemitism less useful. And as Russia’s war machine stalls in Ukraine — Putin this week announced a draft of 300,000 reserves soldiers for the war — there are mounting signs that the Putin-era taboos on displays of antisemitism are falling.
In July, Vladimir Solovyov, a popular talk show host who has Jewish ancestry himself, listed on air the names of Jews whom he faulted for lacking patriotism. That was around the same time that Russia began seeking to end local activity of the Jewish Agency for Israel, which facilitates emigration of Jews to Israel. A court case on the matter is pending.
Is antisemitism resurfacing in Russia?
In recent weeks, the rhetoric appears to be accelerating. In a Sept. 18 article in Moskovskij Komsomolets, a highbrow Russian daily, a senior and veteran writer named Dmitry Popov compiled a list of well-known Jews whom he called “foreign agents,” a term that the Russian government frequently applies to its perceived enemies. He added sarcastically that the Jews might one day form a government in “the beautiful Russia of the future” — ostensibly after Putin exits office.
The article shocked many readers, including Yulia Kalinina, a former longtime writer at the paper who had worked closely with Popov. (It was later revised to omit the apparently antisemitic passages.)
“Antisemitism has returned: Jews are blamed for the ‘beautiful Russia of the future,’” Kalinina, who has Jewish ancestry, wrote in an article published last week in the Novi Izvestiya website.
Speaking anonymously, another former or present employee of Moskovskij Komsomolets told Novi Izvestiya: “Russian antisemitism is much older than the Soviet Union. One of the three Russian words that have become an international term, in addition to vodka, is pogrom.”
More evidence of a shift in tolerance for antisemitic rhetoric came last week as Bernard-Henri Lévy, a prominent French-Jewish journalist and philosopher who is a vocal advocate of Ukraine, visited the war-torn country.
The Strategic Culture Foundation, a Russian conservative think tank that is often cited in mainstream media in Russia and beyond, published a screed about Lévy that used language reminiscent of the classical antisemitism of the 19th and 20th centuries.
“This 74-year-old French citizen, born in a family of Algerian Jews, smells blood with his nose and, without delay, flies to lap it up — and for good money,” read the article, which was signed by Agnia Krengel, a frequent contributor for the think tank.
The uptick in antisemitism adds to the forces that have caused tens of thousands of Russian Jews to leave their country since Putin invaded Ukraine. About 20,000 people, or 15% of Russia’s estimated Jewish population, have emigrated in 2022 from Russia to Israel under its law of return for Jews and their relatives — and authorities in Israel are preparing for many more now that Putin has begun mobilizing troops to sustain a war he is widely understood to be losing.
The mass exodus of Russian Jews could exacerbate the perception that they are not patriotic. Already, Russian media has noted that Chabad of Russia has appeared to speak of the war critically at a time when all other prominent clerics of state-recognized faiths have endorsed it. Meanwhile, reports have noted that multiple highly-visible Jewish oligarchs — including Roman Abramovich, Viktor Vekselberg and Michael Friedman — have left Russia since the war began. Those reports “led to an optic of Jews abandoning ship when the going gets hard,” Bronfman said.
Bronfman said he doubted that the rising antisemitism came directly from Putin himself. Instead, he said thought it reflected the zeitgeist at a time when ordinary Russians are experiencing privations and even danger because of Putin’s war in Ukraine.
“The antisemitic rhetoric we’re seeing now, the loosening of the taboo around it, are probably not directed directly by Putin’s government. Nor was the perception that Putin cares for Jews. These are matters of a general atmosphere,” Bronfman said. “Officials and the general population are reading between the lines on how they should treat the Jews. And the message is changing.”
In any case, the increasing division and polarization of society is also a symptom that Israeli society also has. At the latest with the assassination of Rabin, after the Likud had protested against him with posters of Rabin in Nazi uniform and a right-wing assassin murdered him, the social erosion of Israel has continued to increase, which can be seen in the constant new elections and the inability of the political system to have stable government majorities or a to achieve a common program and sees quasi-Italian conditions which, according to one Israeli commentator, will continue to exist and will continue to deteriorate, and will not even dissolve by the 75th anniversary of the founding of Israel.
“Israel has been through 4 years of social corrosion and it’s not yet over
It is one thing to have to go through this once every four years. Now imagine you are an Israeli and this has been your environment for four years straight. Four long years.
By Yaakov Katz
Published: OCTOBER 20, 2022 22:00
Updated: OCTOBER 21, 2022 08:35
It is hard to remember, but it was December 2018 when Israel began the first of the last five rounds of elections. Then, the declared impetus was the IDF draft law, which – not surprising – is still not resolved nearly four years later.
In addition, then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu wanted to try and get ahead of the indictment that was on its way to being filed against him. His plan was to first get reelected, then get indicted. That didn’t exactly work, since he failed to form a coalition and Israel went to a second election in September 2019. While the indictment eventually came down, three years later, that trial, too, is still far from being over.
In the four years that have passed since Israel went to the first of these elections, the country has been stuck in a constant corrosive state of mind. It is a natural consequence of an election campaign when people are pitted against each other and politicians are constantly yelling and attacking their rivals, explaining why they and their followers are wrong.
It is relentless – with one side arguing that it is right and why the other side is wrong. Just think about your recent family holiday meals. Politics almost definitely came up at one of the dinners where the anti-Bibi camp made its arguments and the only-Bibi camp made its rebuttals.
It is one thing to have to go through this once every four years. Now imagine you are an Israeli and this has been your environment for four years straight. Four long years.
Sadly, when considering where Israel is headed and how it got here, the chance that this ends is unlikely. The last four years have basically been an endless cycle of division, polarization, arguing for Bibi and against Bibi, for Ra’am in the coalition and against Ra’am in the coalition while – all the time – trying to weed through the fake news and the endless political spin just to understand what is even real.
While the so-called “Change Coalition” established by Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett can take credit for replacing the prime minister and ousting Netanyahu after 12 consecutive years, in the end their experiment failed. While bringing parties from across the political spectrum together was a nice idea on paper, in practice, it did not work, and the narrow government they formed last June collapsed exactly one year later.
Does that mean that the idea is impossible to repeat? I certainly hope not. Israelis should want to see their government represent the broadest spectrum of society as possible. They should want to have a government that represents the largest and most diverse swath of the public, even if it might come at times with an ideological cost.
But even their biggest success – ousting Netanyahu – did not remove his hold over the country and our political discourse. Even from the opposition, Netanyahu regularly set the national agenda, the tone of debates and constantly had the government on its toes. He might not have been making the decisions, but he was without a doubt influencing them.
When considering what can happen after the election on November 1, the options are not great. On the one hand, there is a possibility that Netanyahu and his bloc will reach 61 or even slightly more. While this bloc has large public support, it will be a government with the potential to change Israel and its democratic character, not for the good.
A government in which the leader is focused on evading trial and top ministers are messianic, anti-Arab, anti-progressive Jews and anti-LGBTQ, anti-women and anti-religious freedom is a government that will not advance Israel.
Many staunch right-wingers know this and are torn. These are people who want to see a right-wing government in Jerusalem, but not one that is going to take Israel backwards in terms of civil liberties, women rights, gay rights, Arab rights and more.
This is why, for example, there are people who are debating between voting for Bezalel Smotrich and Benny Gantz. In normal times that wouldn’t make sense but then again, these are not normal times.
Instability for the people
People don’t know who to vote for and that is how they can one day support Smotrich and the next day move over to Gantz. The fact that the two couldn’t be more ideologically opposed to one another doesn’t mean much in troubled times like these.
Another option is that somehow Lapid succeeds in forming a government. How exactly, remains a mystery with the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) boycott still in place. One idea is relying on the Arab parties but that is unlikely to fly with people like Gideon Sa’ar.
Lapid has a good answer when he is asked how he will form a government. First, he says, he will wait for the final results and then create a plan. Then, he reminds people where he is currently sitting – in the Prime Minister’s Office: “People never thought I’d get here and I did,” he explains, an argument with which it is tough to argue.
And then there is the more likely option – the one people are afraid to speak about now, but know is looming out there – Israel heads to another (sixth) election. This will become the most likely scenario if the right-wing bloc fails to get 61 seats and the haredi boycott of sitting with Lapid remains in place.
While Gantz has aspirations to somehow coerce a premiership on Lapid and the haredim together, the chances of that happening are not great. First and foremost is the fact that we just had a government with a prime minister whose party had a small number of seats. Doing that again is not the best idea.
What does this all mean on a deeper level? That the social corrosion will continue, that the division will carry on and that the polarization in society will only get worse.
Studies have shown the corrosive impact election talk can have on society. One study showed, for example, that when Donald Trump claimed the elections were stolen, peoples’ confidence in elections were undermined.
Another study showed that fake news does not even have to be believed by those who read it to have a negative effect on democratic institutions. Instead, the fear that others will believe the stories is more than enough to cause damage to the democratic process.
This situation is unhealthy for any country, let alone a place like Israel where there is already a tenuous relationship between different sectors in society and the way groups view civil rights and what it means to be a democratic state in which equality is a fundamental principle.
So as you consider how to vote in 12 days, here is one thing to keep in mind: If the November election fails to lead to the establishment of a new government, the next election will take place sometime in April, right around when Israel marks 75th years of statehood.
t least now the discussion about the Jewish identity, the Jewish character of Israel based on the new elections and what a Bad Jew is is breaking out. Yitz Greenberg, for example, warns in the Jerusalem Post against voting for the Religious Zionist Party Bezazel Smotrich or the Israeli right-wing radical Ben-Gvir, even giving them ministerial posts under an Israeli government, since this would be threaten US support, and thus Israel’s security, as well as the Character of the pluralistic, secular state:
“Smotrich, Ben-Gvir are damaging Israel’s Jewish character – opinion
If Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir become ministers, this could seriously damage support for Israel in America – maybe permanently.
Published: OCTOBER 20, 2022 20:30
Updated: OCTOBER 21, 2022 08:58
During this election cycle, several columns were published in The Jerusalem Post calling on Anglos to vote for the Religious Zionist Party. The main argument to support the party is to protect the Jewish character of the State of Israel.
Actually, the surge of the Religious Zionist Party in this election is a great threat to Israel’s Jewish religious character. I call on my fellow religious Zionists to stop the party before it damages Israel and its Jewish character.
Religious Zionism looks different today
Historically, the party of religious Zionists (then called the Mafdal, the National Religious Party) drew upon Jewish teachings and advocated human rights and social care for all. Mafdal was a force for unity (working with secular Jews, supporting the rights of Arabs and other minorities) and for moderation (seeking peace and supporting war only as a last resort).
The present Religious Zionist Party is extremist, intolerant of secularist people and culture, anti-Arab. It is divisive (demeaning the Left and delegitimizing cooperation across Israel’s polarized lines). This election cycle, it merged with the Otzma Yehudit party, which is inspired by Meir Kahane and is out-and-out racist. (The party disguises its views a bit out of fear because Israeli law prohibits openly racist parties from participating in the political process.)
The Torah that the Religious Zionist Party teaches is inhumane and anti-democratic. The Talmud says that if one is worthy – that is, approaches the Torah in a proper spirit – it becomes a healing life medicine. If one interprets the Torah in an improper spirit, it becomes a poison (Yoma 72B).
Otzma Yehudit is shaped by Kahane’s use of Maimonides’ rulings on ger toshav (non-Jews living permanently among Jews) to treat them as of second-class status and lacking citizenship rights. Their loyalty is impugned and they are constantly degraded, provoked and reminded that they are not Jews. This is just how dhimmi (including Jews) were treated in Muslim lands in pre-modern times.
The Religious Zionist Party leadership usually spins their words to say that they are only talking about disloyal Arabs. But they blatantly violate the Torah’s instruction to Jews not to oppress the ger/outsiders in our midst, because we remember how we were mistreated as outsiders in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 23:9).
The Religious Zionist Party leadership has proclaimed that they would pass laws to let Benjamin Netanyahu off the hook from his trials for breach of trust and corruption – even though the Torah says that the king must also be ruled by the law (Deuteronomy 17:19) and that all citizens should be equal before the law. “There shall be one [standard of] law for you [the citizens, Jewish majority] and the outsider among you” (Numbers 9:14, 15:15).
DEPUTY RELIGIOUS Services Minister Matan Kahana proposed two positive reforms. One was to encourage a diversity of hechsherim (kashrut authentications) to increase competition. This would limit the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly, which has led to overcharging for supervision and corruption in the process.
Secondly, the Chief Rabbinate has run a very restrictive conversion program that has left almost 400,000 Russian Jewish olim – even those who serve in the IDF – with the status of non-Jews. This creates a huge intermarriage problem for the next generation.
Kahana proposed to give additional municipal rabbis authority to do conversions and bring in a more liberal conversion process. This would increase the numbers converted. The Religious Zionist Party joined the haredim in opposing these improvements.
There has been a massive shift in public opinion on homosexuality. This is due to the development of scientific evidence that same-sex attraction is normal and based on genetic/hormonal factors – albeit this is only a minority sexual orientation. Israel is a world leader in protecting the rights of LGBTQ people.
Many modern Orthodox rabbis are seeking to welcome religious LGBTQ people, and treat them respectfully in the community.
However, the Religious Zionists incorporated the Noam party into its list and gave it an MK seat, although it is uncompromisingly homophobic. Bezalel Smotrich continues to denounce gay people as “deviants,” thus violating the halacha of lo’eg l’rosh [literally mocking a poor person] i.e. verbally abusing a person who cannot change the condition for which they are being attacked.
The low ethical and humane standards that the Religious Zionist Party exhibits constitute a chillul Hashem, a desecration of God’s name, because they fall below the standards of the decent opinions of mankind. Such behavior by haredi authorities, in the past generation, drove people away from Judaism and led them to disrespect the Torah.
Over the next generation, the Religious Zionist Party’s policies can lead to rejection and degradation of Israel’s Jewish character.
The Religious Zionist Party platform is a major threat to the security of the State of Israel. The primary foundation and strongest basis of the US becoming Israel’s greatest ally and international protector is Americans’ conviction in our shared values. Israel is seen as a high-quality democracy, as is the US. The American public overwhelmingly supports the Jewish state because it is seen as an embattled democracy.
Implications of electing the Religious Zionist Party
The Religious Zionist Party will enable a government that discriminates, that imposes religious coercion, that mistreats its non-Jewish minorities. If Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir become ministers, this could seriously damage support for Israel in America – maybe permanently. This loss of support could cost many Israeli lives if Israel has to fight alone for its existence. Halacha says that pikuach nefesh (saving lives) is the highest overriding principle in the Torah.
EVERYONE WHO wants to protect Israel’s Jewish character should withhold his/her vote from the Religious Zionist Party. It is equally important to reach out to your friends and neighbors and convince them not to support this party. At present, the party is polling at 12-13 mandates, which could enable it to play a central role in creating an anti-democratic coalition.
To those who say that they will only vote for a party with policies on the Right, there is the option of Benny Gantz and Gideon Sa’ar’s National Unity party. To those who make a state for the Palestinians their red line politically, the option is to recognize that Yair Lapid will enable a two-state solution only if a new democratic Palestinian leadership (that accepts Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state) emerges. This will not happen without a fundamental change of heart and a repudiation of terror by the Palestinians.
In the meantime, save us from a chillul Hashem, from a degradation of Israel’s democracy and a security catastrophe by checking the Religious Zionist Party before it wrecks the cause of religious Zionism and Israel’s reputation.
The writer is an American oleh. In the US, he was a leader in the modern Orthodox rabbinate and in the work of linking American Jewry and Israel. He was founding president of the Jewish Life Network/Steinhardt Foundation, which led in the creation of Birthright Israel.
In any case, there still seems to be a kind of minimal consensus among Americans and Israelis on what a Good Jew should look like—here using the example of Israeli model Orin Julie, the IDF’s Queen of Guns:
“Meet Israel’s Queen of Guns: Orin Julie, IDF reservist and model
Orin Julie, who has hundreds of thousands of followers on social media – over half a million on Instagram – where she models for different online campaigns.
By MAARIV ONLINE
Published: OCTOBER 22, 2022 00:59
Orin Julie, women’s rights and gun rights advocate.
(photo credit: IDAN COHEN)
She is known as the Queen of Guns. During her military service in the IDF, she made international headlines when she started posing for provocative photos with different weapons.
Orin Julie, who has hundreds of thousands of followers on social media – over half a million on Instagram – where she models for different online campaigns – has donned her uniform once again to rejoin the IDF and undergo officer training as a reservist.
„I enlisted in the army in 2012 as a scared, spoiled and traumatized girl with a medical profile of 64,” Julie wrote on Instagram this week. “For the first time in my training, I held a weapon and felt like I belonged, I wanted to be a fighter. A year later, I transferred to a search and rescue unit, which I really wanted.”
A dream come true
But then, during a training course, Julie was injured and had to fight to remain in a combat role. “When I heard that my commanders recommended me to be an officer, I cried with excitement. A dream that had already gone down the drain suddenly came true,” she wrote, explaining her decision to rejoin the IDF now at the age of 28.
“For the first time in my training, I held a weapon and felt like I belonged, I wanted to be a fighter. A year later, I transferred to a search and rescue unit, which I really wanted.”
Profiles of Julie have mentioned her “passing resemblance to the iconic Tomb Raider character Lara Croft.”
Orin Julie, an Israeli social media star who has decided to rejoin the IDF. (credit: ORIN JULIE)
Today, Julie is both an ardent women’s rights activist and a gun rights activist. “Americans love the story of the nice Jewish girl in the army,” she said.“