Let me teach you one of my favorite rabbinic phrases.
“Ad k’dei kach?”
Translation: “Has it really come to this?”
The other day, I was preparing to go out to do some errands, and I put on a mask that was decorated with stars of David.
Would it be safe for me to wear that star of David mask?
“Ad k’dei kach?” Has it really come to this – that I would need to question the prudence of being visibly Jewish in America?
It is time to speak of that ubiquitous term: “woke.”
I embrace being woke. Wokeness is a deep encounter with the underbelly of America.
It is now time for American Jews to get “woke” to our own situation in this country.
I am thinking of the antisemitic incidents that have occurred recently — in this country alone — a list that becomes dated on a daily basis.
- In the Diamond District in New York, pro-Palestinian protesters threw a firecracker at Jews.
- Not far from there, outside a bagel shop in midtown Manhattan, two Jewish men were attacked.
- In West Hollywood, California, at a sushi restaurant, a group of keffiyeh-clad men asked the diners who was Jewish, and then pummeled them.
- In the same neighborhood, two cars draped in Palestinian flags chased an Orthodox man.
- In Skokie, Illinois; Tucson, Arizona; Salt Lake City, Utah – synagogues were vandalized.
To quote the late David Bowie: “This is not America.”
Maybe this really is America, and we have been too happy, successful, and sleepwalking to notice.
You think this is about the occupation, Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and grievous Israeli missteps in policy and sensitivity?
Jew-haters don’t know or care all that much about what Jews do.
It is that Jews are.
You think this is about 1967 – the aftermath of the Six Day War?
Guess again. This is about 1948 – the creation of Israel itself.
Perhaps this is about 1948 BCE, which is when Abraham lived. Our Jew-haters wish that Abraham and Sarah had just toughed it out in Ur, in modern-day Iraq.
No call from God. No Israel. No Jews.
That would have made history easier.
Consider “micro-aggressions.” That is when someone – unknowingly, unthinkingly, insensitively – says or does something that is hurtful to a dis-empowered person.
Jews inflict micro-aggressions on themselves .
Every. Single Day.
Consider those Jews who begin every defense of Israel with these words: “Yes, of course, Israel is often wrong and often makes mistakes.”
Do you think that disclaimer is the entry ticket into the imagined, restrictive moral country club of the nations of the world?
Do you know any other group in the world that defends its very existence by first admitting to its failures?
That is called self-erasure. And, it wins Jews no respect.
Consider those public figures who say: “We condemn antisemitism, as well as Islamophobia and other racial hatreds.”
That, too, is a micro-aggression.
That is like mourning the first anniversary of the death of George Floyd, as we did this past week, and rushing to say that “all lives matter.”
Blacks are allowed to have their own pain — and so are Jews.
Oh — and that partial list of hostile moves against Jews, just over the last few weeks?
There was not a single micro-aggression in that list.
Those were not accidentally insensitive. Those were not like saying that “you Jews are so good at business.”
Those were macro-aggressions.
Consider a second term — “triggering.”
I try hard o be sensitive to the various dings that appear in the psyches and souls that I encounter, and that I might even carelessly cause.
About that group of diners in West Hollywood.
A crowd of Jew haters comes at them, demanding the Jews.
Let us imagine a grandchild of a Holocaust survivor in that group of sushi eaters.
That single moment might have – yes, triggered – the epigenetic memory of the grandchild of that survivor. In fact, it might have propelled that grandchild back to Berlin, 1938.
What about the crowd yelling “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free?”
That “river to the sea” thing is a code phrase. It means no Israel.
Imagine how Israeli Jews hear that phrase. Yossi’s family fled Baghdadl after the farhud, the massive pogrom that destroyed Jewish life in that ancient city — which happened exactly eighty years ago this week.
By the way: that pogrom had nothing to do with Israel. It would not be created for another seven years.
You think that Yossi’s old family home in Baghdad is ready and waiting for him?
Then, there is Boris. Boris was fortunate enough to be able to get out of Moscow, where teaching and learning Hebrew was enough to get you a one-way ticket to Siberia.
You think that Boris’s old flat in Moscow is just the way he left it?
Are they “allowed” to be triggered? Or, does that not apply to Jewish pain?
Let me “trigger” some memories of the SATs for you.
Remember the analogies questions?
Racism:the United States::antisemitism:
If you think that racism is an intrinsic part of the American narrative, then you might want to consider that antisemitism is its equally ugly cousin. Antisemitism is the “racism” of Western civilization. It is simply there. It lies beneath the surface.
And, if someone says that she really doesn’t care, because most Jews are successful and smart and powerful?
That person might just be a Jew hater.
Like I said earlier: ad k’dei kach? Has it really come to this — that I need to explain some of these basic truths?
Apparently, it has.
It is time for Jews to get “woke” – this time, about the Jewish condition in the world today.