Jeffrey Salkin: Martini Judaism Opinion Politics

Jews will not replace us! (And you will not replace Judaism!)

White nationalist demonstrators walk through town after their rally was closed down near Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

In the words of the late rock musician, David Bowie: “This is not America.”

On August 12. white supremacists, Ku Klux Klan members, and neo-Nazis marched in Charlottesville, Virginia.

They said they were there to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee.

But, they were really there to march against blacks and Jews. Three people were killed: Heather Heuer, the victim of a car driven into the crowd; and two policemen who were killed in a helicopter crash – as well as a black man who was seriously beaten.

The thugs were dressed in army fatigues. They carried semi-automatic weapons. They yelled: “There’s the synagogue!” Nazi websites had called for the burning of the building. The worshippers were so terrified, that the synagogue leaders removed the Torah scrolls, and told the congregants to leave by the back door.

The scum marched by torchlight. They were imitating the Nazi rallies in the 1930s, and the Klan rallies of the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

What happened in Charlottesville did not stay in Charlottesville.

In the days and weeks after Charlottesville…

  • Vandals shattered windows at the Holocaust memorial in Boston.
  • Vandals shattered windows at a synagogue in Queens.
  • Vandals painted swastikas on a synagogue in Alameda, California.
  • And on a high school on Long Island.
  • And on a high school in Stamford, Connecticut.
  •  And on a church in New York City that has shared its space with a synagogue.

This is not America.

  • This is not the America that our parents and grandparents fought for in World War Two.
  • This is not the America that offered refuge to Holocaust survivors.
  • This is not the America that we want our children to love.

But, what I cannot get out of my mind is what the thugs were screaming in Charlottesville: “Jews will not replace us!”

We have never wanted to replace anyone.

Quite the opposite.

The history of Western civilization is the history of the attempt to replace Judaism – and it has not worked

Christianity tried to replace Judaism. There is a reason why Jews don’t like the term “Old Testament.” It is a Christian term. It implies that Judaism is like your one year old IPhone – or like your operating system, which waiting for you to download as your special Rosh Ha Shanah gift to yourself.

Judaism needed an upgrade – or, so Christian theology thought.

The apostle Paul said: The mitzvot are gone. All you have to do is to believe in the risen Christ, who died for your sins.

The Church believed that God had abandoned the divine promise to the Jewish people. The Church believed that it was the new Israel, the new people of God.

Islam tried to replace Judaism. Islam taught that Mohammed was the final prophet, the greatest prophet.

Islam tried to re-write Jewish history. Why do you think that Palestinian leaders say that the ancient Temple did not really exist?

They are saying: your claim to the Land of Israel is a false claim.

Communism tried to replace Judaism.

Why was Communism so attractive to Jews?

Communism took the idea of tikkun olam, and it perverted that idea into a radical and negation of society. Communism wanted to create heaven on earth – and it succeeded in creating a hell.

Some Jews have also wanted to replace Judaism.

When people say “I’m not religious, but I am spiritual,” they are trying to replace Judaism, as a religion — with inward feeling – at the expense of everything else. That replacement for Judaism is unsustainable. It cannot last.

When people say “I’m not religious, but I am a cultural Jew,” they are trying to replace Judaism, as a religion – with vague ethnic memories, humor, attitude, and a ritualized viewing of Seinfeld re-runs. This, too, is unsustainable. It cannot last.

I worry about anti-semitism. I worry about anti-semitism—both from the Right, and from the left, where it tries to masquerade itself as anti-Zionism and anti-Israelism.

But, we have to be more than anti-anti-semites.

We have to be pro-Judaism.

What is the Judaism that I want you to affirm?

Consider the Coliseum in Rome. Jewish slaves built it. There were chariot races. There were gladiator battles. Animals were killed, and so were people.

The ancient rabbis asked: Are Jews permitted to visit the Coliseum?

Most rabbis said “no.” Because if you cannot consume blood with your mouth, then you cannot witness violence and consume blood with your eyes.

But, some rabbis disagreed. A Jew should go to the Coliseum.

Because if you go to the Coliseum, and you see a gladiator gravely wounded, with his opponent standing over him, ready to finish him off – some people in the crowd are yelling: Spare him! Others are yelling: Kill him!

The Emperor is in the crowd. If he wanted the gladiator to live — thumb up. If he wanted the gladiator to die — thumb down.

You must be in the Coliseum, so that you can scream: Let him live!

Because of your solitary scream, the Emperor might decide to spare that human life.

Even if you were the only one screaming for gladiator’s life.

The great German Reform rabbi, Leo Baeck, taught: “A minority is always compelled to think. That is the blessing of being a minority.”

I am asking you to fight racism and bigotry with every fiber of your beings – not only against Jews, but against blacks and Latinos and Muslims and immigrants and LGBT people.

I am asking you to speak of these things to your children and grandchildren.

I am asking you to remember: Jews are a minority. We are still the Other in America, and that means that we have to think about our role in society.

It is to enter the Coliseum of our culture, and to scream out for life — life for our ideals, and for the idea of America itself.

 

(as preached at Temple Solel, Hollywood, Florida, on Rosh Ha Shanah morning).

 

 

About the author

Jeffrey Salkin

Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin is the spiritual leader of Temple Solel in Hollywood, Fla., and the author of numerous books on Jewish spirituality and ethics, published by Jewish Lights Publishing and Jewish Publication Society.

54 Comments

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  • Yes, This in Not AMERICA!: Ezekiel 36: 22-27

    “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

    And what land is that brothers and sisters? David Bowie is right This is not America. America is not the promised land. Even if you will i to be.

  • The question in my mind as both a gentile and a Christian; Is the Judaism of today even at base reflective of the practice of the religion and faith of ancient Israel? In my own limited studies I have discovered what appear to me to be divergences that do not necessarily represent spiritual maturation. However, live and let live is a reasonable standard to live by, in the end Yahweh, or as I believe, His Son Y’shua, whom Yahweh has appointed as both Savior and Judge will measure each one of us.

  • Well, Judaism cannot be the same as the religion and faith of ancient Israel. There is no Temple and no sacrifices. The rabbis and sages that came after the Temple’s destruction had to make changes. I think they were good changes and do represent spiritual maturation. Torah study, prayer and good deeds replaced the Temple sacrifices. It also democratized Judaism. The home became a portable Temple. Judaism were never have survived without these “divergences.”

  • I wish Jews would replace these racists – it would be a vast improvement. Are they claiming to be Christians with that ‘replacement’ statement or is there another meaning that I don’t see?

  • “..,in the end Yahweh, or as I believe, His Son Y’shua, whom Yahweh has appointed as both Savior and Judge will measure each one of us.”

    In your mind. Jews, atheists and other non-Christians certainly disagree with you.

    “…divergences that do not necessarily represent spiritual maturation.”

    In my opinion, mainline Judaism has evolved to a greater extent than mainline Christianity. Christianity, in 2000 years, has splintered into thousands of different denominations and sects – a product of a confused and chaotic god.

  • But education and rational thinking will eliminate all religions. To make it easy on you at no cost and just a few minutes of your time:

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    • A constant cycle of reincarnation until enlightenment is reached and belief that various beings (angels?, tinkerbells? etc) exist that we, as mortals, cannot comprehend makes for a no on Sikhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    “The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

  • The persecution Jews have received from Western Civilization has for centuries been horrendous. But regardless of how horrendous it has been, the history of Western Civilization is more than a history about ‘replacing Judaism. Western Civilization is about colonizing and dominating all others including Westerners from different nations.

    As for the Church, if we understand what Paul wrote in Romans and Galatians, we find that Christianity creates the unity between Gentiles and Jews who believe in Christ. Those Jews who do not believe are not being replaced. However, the Church has, for centuries, sinned greatly against Judaism.

    As for the white supremacists and their chant ‘Jews Will Not Replace Us,’ the response should read ‘replace them at what?’ Who wants the position in society that white supremacists have? Judaism contributes to society in many positive ways, white supremacists do not. The basic notion that one ethnic group or race should rule over all others in any nation is wrong. And though there are opposing opinions about that among Jews pertaining to Israel, there is no question about how that should play out in the rest of the world.

  • You are right. This is not the America that accepted holocaust survivors. Because we didn’t.
    Sure we took a small amount. But antisemitism left the majority on a ship in New York Harbor until the governments of th U.S. and England could decide what to do. Terr solution was to displace millions of Palestinians. Oh how quickly we forget

  • Unfortunately the speech police won’t let you cry out if they don’t like your position. Also, what does being Jewish mean today. Some believe what the Tenach says, so for them it would be impossible to cry out for the LBGT communities. Even Lesbian Jews were prevented to march in a parade because they carried the flag of Israel. What are we going to do with the Washington monument and Jefferson memorial in DC? Should we tear them down becasue they owned slaves? And let’s not even get into taking a knee at football games or other sports events. This division in the US will not be healed by name calling. Did you ever see or hear Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. do that? Respect for others and commitment to your own ideals is what is needed, not the violence of racists and Antifa or the curtailing free speech by the Left. That’s what Stalin and Hitler did. Should Jewish people do the same when we’re called to be the light to the nations? That’s my two shekels.

  • You’re right, but if Queen Hillary had won last year, Israel would have been in big trouble. Both America and Israel dodged a bullet, honestly.

  • I’m not Jewish of course, but that was a well-written message there. Clearly designed to make a person think.

    I never think in terms of “replacing” the Jews. But I have occasionally risked publicly asking — and answering — the question, “Can a Jewish person be saved without having to trust and accept Jesus (or Yeshua), by faith, as his or her Messiah and Savior?”

    Risky question — and it IS an important, implicit part of Salkin’s message.

    How should Christians answer that question if asked? After all, we don’t wanna turn people off or make them mad, but we don’t want to ditch our Bibles either (although for some mainline seminaries, that’s pretty much happened already.) Opportunities are rare, and people want honest answers. So readers, what’s your response?

  • Readings 9/13 Include Yom Kippur & Jesus cursing fig tree.

    “Jesus Curses the Fig Tree
    Matthew 21.18 In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he was hungry. 19 And seeing a fig tree by the wayside he went to it, and found nothing on it but leaves only. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. 20 When the disciples saw it they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” 21 And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and never doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will be done. 22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.””
    https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu//daily.php?year=A#id161

    “The Church believed that God had abandoned the divine promise to the Jewish people. The Church believed that it was the new Israel, the new people of God.”

    Gene Faulstich debated Herman Otten on “Replacement Theology” in Rossie,Ia. http://siouxcityjournal.com/news/local/columnists/gallagher/gallagher-despite-sign-little-rossie-iowa-rides-one-horse/article_9089287d-ff00-56a0-b8f9-cbe356d175b2.html http://biblechronologybooks.com/ http://ichabodthegloryhasdeparted.blogspot.com/2008/12/herman-otten-accidental-editor-who.html

    Gene believed that his study of Bible Chronology connected Hebrew Scriptures with modern Israel.

    “In May 1990 I(Gene) held a public debate with Otten at Chronology History Research Institute in Rossie, IA. Its purpose was to demonstrate that the chronology of the nation Israel is too precise, and the destiny of the nation is too indestructible to support his “replacement theology” views. ” http://biblechronologybooks.com/scientificmethod.html p 10 Atheistic Iowa State University engineering professor drove up from Ames for debate and thought Otten won.

    Gene was kicked out of Jewish Christian Dialogue by Catholic theologians because of differences on chronology and rec’d letter of apology from Rabbi Max Shapiro, Director of the Center for Jewish-Christian Learning at the College of St. Thomas.

  • To your 1st point, of course, “in my mind.” That makes me no different than any other thinking individual who has framed a belief system of whatever nature. I’m quite aware of the differences of opinion that exist in spiritual matters, otherwise why would any of us spend our time discussing and debating these questions. As to “your opinion, ” you are equally entitled to it, and naturally free to state it, but I would suggest you read fully (which I suspect you have) the growing divergences among the various strains of Judaism which are regularly reported on this pages, doubtless a product of the same God, at least initially and in the historic past. I note further, according to my impression, the bulk of your arguments are directed specifically at Christians; not Jews, Muslims, other faith traditions. That is an interesting consideration in my opinion.

  • Granting your thesis, what then will be the event, if and when Israel is able to accomplish the stated goal of many Orthodox to rebuild the Temple? Would that not create greater onus to return to the ancient practices of the Jews for all Jewry, with some sensible accommodation to modernity absent violence to the Levitical Code?

  • Edward, your question is best posed to those among us who actually believe that the Temple should be rebuilt. From Susan Stein’s comments, it’s clear that she doesn’t think so. Neither do I. Nor do most religious Jews of our times. I think it is important to honor the written Torah and its ancient Temple as a stage in the beginning of our people’s long religious history, but not as the model for its future. If the language of Temple is to be used at all, I would want to share a vision of the very Earth as God’s Temple in which all of us and all Creation dwell. It is to that Temple that we need give our devoted attention, not to any man-made building regardless of where it is.

  • Well, some Jews think we should wait for the Messiah to come to rebuild the Temple, but I agree with the rabbi that I don’t think it should be. The Temple was once needed when everyone was using sacrifices and human and child sacrifice existed. I don’t think it’s needed now. Also, there is now a mosque on top of the Temple Mount and destroying it and creating a new Temple would start a war. Saving lives is supposed to be the supreme value in Judaism.

  • They didn’t carry the flag of Israel. They carried LGBT rainbow flags with the Star of David on it. I think that’s even worse, because they thrown out for being visibly marked as Jewish. Those statues were not built after the Civil War. They were built after reconstruction ended and in the 1920s when White Supremacy ruled.

  • I don’t think education and rational thinking will end religion. It might change how people will be religious. For example, you can be religious and accept evolution.

  • The Pope has said that Catholics should not try to convert Jews. It is not necessary, at least partially because the original covenent still stands. You could look up his exact statements on the subject.

    There is a term supercessionism. It means that Christianity has replaced Judaism and is morally and spiritually superior to Judaism. Someone on this website called Christianity Judaism 2/0.

  • They’re not claiming to be Christians, in fact many of the leading names in the alt-right/white nationalist movement are specifically Nones or atheists. They are asserting that The Jews (along with the Freemasons, Illuminati, Reptilians, Zionists and I’m sure other assorted rogues) are the prime organizers of “white genocide.”

  • To answer your question, bear in mind that Judaism understands “salvation” in a very different way than Christianity. There is no concept of personal salvation from sin in Judaism. There is atonement, repentance and redemption, but these are very different concepts than the idea that one must believe in someone as your savior in order to go to heaven.

  • If you examine Orthodox beliefs on this subject closely, you will find that the rebuilding of the Temple is tied to the messianic age. For example, while the first two Temples were built by human hands, the third will be built by God. The entire world will be filled with peace, even between the wolf and the lamb, cf. Isaiah 11. So there would be no need to accommodate modernity. The whole world will be filled with knowledge of God. But- until all that happens, all we can do, even the Orthodox, is study the ancient practices. We cannot return to them, as they cannot be performed.

  • Your two shekels included the curtailing of free speech by the left. So right now, it’s worth one shekel.

  • Bend the knee in current events & this week’s lectionary.

    “2:9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,

    2:10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

    2:11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
    https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu//texts.php?id=161

    The Gospel this week includes “replacement theology” of Jesus.

    https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+21.23-32&version=NIV

    Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

  • Oh, I’ve seen the Pope’s statement, in fact I think an RNS article featured them at the time. Quite a while ago but I remember.

    And there’s the rub of course. If “the original covenant still stands”, then neither Jesus nor the Cross is necessary for salvation, is it?

    And not just for Jews — one could easily extend the argument, and argue that if Jesus’ sacrifice isn’t necessary for one group of humans, then it’s not necessary for any and all OTHER humans either.
    (Hmm — as I recall, the Pope stayed VERY quiet about this aspect.)

  • Yes, that is key. But I thought the comment implied that we didn’t take a lot of survivors. We did. What we failed to do was open our borders enough to take in those Jews who were fleeing the N#zis before the war.

  • So, if I may ask, given there’s no concept of personal salvation from sin in Judaism, why is there even a need for “atonement, repentance, and redemption” at all? What exactly is a person being “redeemed” from, since sin doesn’t require personal salvation anyway?

  • Are we still putting any credence in the sayings of Paul?

    Anti-female comments in “Pauls” epistles.
    8 I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
    9 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;
    10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.
    11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
    12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
    13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
    14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
    15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.
    ( Timothy 2:8-15 KJV)”
    “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:34-35)”

    “He (Paul) feared the turn-on of women’s voices as much as the sight of their hair and skin….. At one point he even suggests that the sight of female hair might distract any angels/ “pretty wingie talking fictional thingies” in church attendance (1 Cor. 11:10). (from Professor Chilton’s book Rabbi Paul).

    Jesus was an illiterate, simple preacher man. His words were expanded, embellished and “mythicized” by the likes of Paul, Mark, Matthew, Luke and John in order to create a new religion/cult and to bypass the Jewish leadership that controlled Judaism’s coffers and temple. And of course having a declared messiah’s words to lead the gentiles and Jews to the promised land of heaven sure helped in gaining converts (and money) as did Paul’s prophecy that Jesus would return sometime in Paul’s life span. Still waiting for that bit of fortune telling to occur.

  • And is Matt 21:32 authentic? It is not according to the following exegetes, Professor Gerd Ludemann in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, pp. 218-219 and The Parables of Jesus: A Commentary By Arland J. Hultgren, pp. 223-224. For the latter, see also

    https://books.google.com/books?id=P2UvmRVLF18C&pg=PA223&lpg=PA223&dq=is+Matt+21:32+authentic&source=bl&ots=gRWK4af2-q&sig=6I-2qJOjkPgo3UhWallFFDzTXAw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjjj9KC68PWAhUIJcAKHbUsBWoQ6AEIRDAG#v=onepage&q=is%20Matt%2021%3A32%20authentic&f=false

  • Certainly there is sin in Judaism, many sins in fact. The difference is that it’s not seen as some irredeemable breach between God and man, caused by original sin, that can only be repaired by a personal savior. Rather, repentance is in human and divine hands. This will lead to redemption on an individual level and perhaps for all of us as well.

  • The Messiah’s coming is supposed to bring universal peace and love to everyone and to the Jewish people in particular, but we don’t believe that the Messiah is a personal savior. We believe that God is our only savior. I should point out that Jews don’t believe in original sin, so we don’t need to saved from that. The Hebrew expression we use to confess our sins means to have missed the mark. The word for atonement comes from Hebrew word for return. I realize this isn’t a complete answer. I will need more time and maybe help from others.

  • Then you discount the likelihood that a 3rd. Temple of human construction will be raised near or upon the Temple Mount?

  • If you wrong another person, you are supposed to make things right with this person and apologize if it is possible. That is atonement and repentance for Jews. You ask God for forgiveness for sins against God. I don’t understand why I should need Jesus if God is my savior.

  • Thanks for your reply. Interesting verse. Never thought about it before. https://www.google.com/search?q=10+It+is+for+this+reason+that+a+woman+ought+to+have+authority+over+her+own%5Bc%5D+head%2C+because+of+the+angels.&rlz=1C1CHFX_enUS520US520&oq=10+It+is+for+this+reason+that+a+woman+ought+to+have+authority+over+her+own%5Bc%5D+head%2C+because+of+the+angels.&aqs=chrome..69i57.17853583j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

    Are you a man or woman?

    “Are we still putting any credence in the sayings of Paul?” You mean in current feminist culture?

    Is your bio of religious journey available? It seems like it would be interesting.

  • Thanks for reply.

    You seem very educated. Is that basis for your non-belief?

    For your link see footnote 17.

    The prostitutes today seem to be the ones running the store/church. See Revelation 17 & 18. Romans 9-11.

  • “I don’t understand why I should need Jesus if God is my savior.”

    Only because God is Jesus. Replace “Jesus” with “Torah” might help you understand.

  • This is somewhat poorly written.. It struck me upon reading that 3 people were killed and oh, some poor unnamed black guy also. I understand catering to a genre (People of Jewish faith in this instance) but overall if we cant recognize each other as ONE then we are simply playing into the Trump tactics that brought about this entire fiasco. We’re all stronger together, as a country and as a global community. Justice knows no denomination ✊✊

  • I’ve read several stories that say they were chanting “You will not replace us,” not “Jews.”

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