HomeJune 2023Priority: Unity

Priority: Unity

An attack on a single Jew is an attack on us all.

    Just before this year’s Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), a horrifying, and not at all surprising, report came out of Tel Aviv University (TAU) called “The Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide–2022.” The study found that there were roughly 3,700 attacks on Jews in the United States last year. The year before that, 2021, saw 2,717 attacks. Each set a record for attacks on our people. The incidents included beatings, being spat on, having objects thrown at people, verbal abuse, etc.
    The most common subjects of these attacks? Orthodox Jews, or in more obvious terms, Jews who are the most visibly Jewish. Which also partially explains why the world capital of antisemitism isn’t Warsaw, Berlin, London or even Jerusalem; it is New York City(with London being Europe’s worst offender).
    The solution to this problem, posed by professor Uriya Shavit, head of the Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University, is “effective policing, indictments and educational campaigns in a small number of urban areas in various Western countries (which) can lead to a significant reduction in the number of violent antisemitic attacks.”
    I agree that effective policing, in ALL of our urban areas, would greatly reduce crime against everyone, not just those of us in the Jewish community. But “educational campaigns”? Educating who? About what?
    Clearly, collegiate-type courses about ethnicity, race or nationality are not the answer. If they were, one of the most pernicious forces driving antisemitism wouldn’t be the “boycott, divestment and sanctions” (BDS) movement. It originated, and flourishes, on campuses across the Western world.
    In fact, BDS (and campus antisemitism more broadly) would not be possible without massive support from academia. (I cut all ties to my own undergrad institution, the University of Southern California, precisely because of its increasing embrace of vitriol toward Israel, and continuing acceptance of the targeting Jewish students by antisemites.) BDS exists precisely because of “education.”
     However, if by “education” Shavit means educating non-Jews about why we are different, and why antisemitic tropes are among the last acceptable forms of bigotry, I am confident that could be a significant weapon against antisemitism.
    But that is a solution for changing minds from the outside. What about from the inside?
    Education is critical in that regard, too, and it is possibly our greatest weapon against those who hate us. As I mentioned in my last column, antisemitism is a serious subject and can be depressing, but being a Jew is the greatest gift in the world.
    Our children must be taught to feel and know that being born Jewish is like winning the biggest lottery imaginable. But for that to happen, we must teach kids why being a Jew is such an amazing thing. They need to be taught the endless stories of Jewish heroism, self-sacrifice and victories over those who would destroy us (G-d forbid).
    They need to be taught that we’ve survived every possible type of adversity, and more importantly: we always will. In other words, there is nothing to fear as long as we are proudly Jewish and behave like proud Jews.
    That attitude brings with it another key ingredient in the battle: unity.
    What duty does each of us have to our fellow Jews, whether they are Orthodox and/or visibly Jewish, or not?  What is it about us that makes the usual suspects even contemplate that it’s a good idea, let alone a safe one, to attack a Jew? What can we do, right now, to turn the negative of anti-Jewish hate into a positive? 
    What drives antisemitism more than any other single factor? Lack of unity. It is a national poison that has always ended badly for us in the past. So then, let’s avoid the mistakes of the past.
    Our attitude as a nation should be that a Jew is a Jew is a Jew, and ANY attack on one of us is an attack on each of us, and that there is no such thing as a “religious Jew, or a non-religious Jew.” Those terms are an illusion. We are all just Jews. An attack on an Orthodox Jew is also an attack on the most tree-hugging, left-wing, non-observant Jew. An attack on a more secular Jew is an attack on an observant Jew.
    There is no “us and them” within our people. We are ALL the “us.”
    Unequivocally, Judaism itself views the Jewish people as a whole, a single body. You cannot attack part of the body without attacking all of it. Each of us may be an individual, but like the parts of a human body, we are all inextricably connected. Each of us plays a role in the Jewish story, and each of us is a critical component of that story.
    That idea runs so deeply that the word “Yisroel” can be seen as an acronym for “Yesh shishim ribui osios latorah,” which means that “there are 600,000 letters in the Torah.” If even a single one of those letters is damaged, the entire scroll is invalid.
    Why “Yisroel” then? 600,000 is also the number of Jews who came out of Egypt—the moment we coalesced into a nation. This teaches us that every single Jew is an absolutely necessary component for the completeness of the Jewish people.
    Every single one of us matters.
    Our primary duty then must be to the wellbeing of our people. Obviously, that isn’t always easy. But politics, observant/non-observant, diaspora/Israeli, etc., are all meaningless “divisions” compared to our responsibility, and ability, to always make Jewish unity a priority. 
    There are no “types” of Jews. There is just our people: the Jews. We need to stop viewing black hats as different than secular Jews, or secular Jews as different than Haredim. We need to stop spending inordinate amounts of time and energy arguing about things that are ultimately unimportant.
    Unity is our strength, and antisemites seem to always know that. The Talmud warns us that the Second Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed because of “baseless hatred.” Meaning the hatred of one Jew for another. So, let’s try some “baseless love” for our fellow Jews!
    Whether you are observant or not, this quote from Tanach should touch your Jewish soul: “Do not be afraid of sudden terror, or of the darkness of the wicked when it will come … for Hashem is with us.”
    We live in a very special time; for the first time in almost 2,000 years we can live and worship as Jews in our own land. We have an astounding history, and are each part of a story that is, literally, amazing.
    When our enemies see that we are united THEY will be afraid, because Jewish unity is the strongest force on earth.    

Joshua Namm is a longtime Jewish community pro, passionate Israel advocate, and co-founder/co-CEO of Moptu, a unique social platform designed specifically for article sharing and dedicated to the principle of free speech.

 

 

 

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