Of Nerve and Nerves

The overwrought and hyperbolic response of some American Jewish organizations to the series of threats against JCC’s across the country should now be met with apologies of similar passion. The repeated accusations of misconduct and outright Jew hatred leveled against the Trump Administration should now be withdrawn and must engender forthright and unrestrained contrition. For all the talk about dog whistles, faint signals, hints, alt-right, alt-white supremacists and neo-Nazi nationalists lurking outside the Oval Office, well, it turns out that, no, it wasn’t Steve Bannon, after all, calling in bomb threats to Jewish institutions. Imagine that. Who would have thought??

The news that an Israeli-American Jew, probably a tad off, has been arrested in Israel for orchestrating dozens of phony bomb threats to US centers should put American Jews at ease. But of course it won’t, because the narrative of “rampant Jew hatred fomented by the right-wing government” is too precious to abandon. So far, two people have been arrested for this “anti-Semitic” wave: a black supremacist, anti-Trump journalist with ties to left-wing organizations and an Israeli-American Jew. Only in America!

Come on: will the white supremacist, Trump-supporting, flag-waving American from the boondocks of Kentucky who hired both of them please identify yourself and surrender to the authorities? The concern here is that until the narrative is satisfied, Jews of a certain temperament and political persuasion will not move on. But they should, as should we all, and try to recover some semblance of normal political discourse. Like the resident of Chelm who kept looking for the lost object under the street light “because it’s brighter there,” there are Jews who are obsessed with finding Jew haters in America, the Trump administration, the government and everywhere but where they can really be found.

It should have been noted that we are not living in an age of terrorist threats but of terror, period. Today’s terrorists do not warn their victims. Hoaxes, rare as they are, serve to win attention, disrupt lives and upset the daily course of business. The professional terrorist does not warn because the possibility of detection is almost guaranteed and his real aim – terror and mayhem – will thereby be thwarted. Those who warn are usually psychotics who do not mean to cause any real harm but only seek their moment of infamy when they are caught. That is the pattern notwithstanding that it remains prudent and appropriate to investigate every claim and threat. Fortunately, they were investigated and resolved, albeit not in the way that will calm the nerves or serve the interests of Jewish Trump-haters.

What was imprudent and inappropriate, which is not to say unsurprising, was the avalanche of condemnation of the Trump administration, blaming it for the attacks either directly or indirectly, and accusing it of fomenting Jew hatred, being dismissive of Jew hatred, and then labeling Trump’s denunciation of Jew hatred “insufficient,” “too late,” and indicting him for leading an administration that is “infected by the cancer of anti-Semitism.” When Trump suggested, in his inarticulate way, that the threats might be “the reverse,” he was castigated again, and not for the lack of clarity. But he was right, and maybe that’s what he meant. The media and the Jewish establishment primed the pump for an angry, bitter, anti-Jewish, anti-immigrant, unemployed white man. That was woefully wrong; it was the “reverse.”

Now it turns out that these threats were not at all related to Jew hatred but the product of one sick mind who was trying to win back his Jewish ex-girlfriend and another – a Jew – of equal derangement but unknown causality. In other words, the “reverse” of what people expected. Can we now expect apologies from the Jewish organizations that were so quick to condemn? We should insist on it.

There is something ennobling about accepting responsibility for error. It is mature, cathartic and humbling. It adds credibility when real problems arise. Jewish organizations that cry “anti-Semitism!” too frequently forfeit whatever credibility they still have. America is a country remarkably free of Jew hatred and Jewish life here has been blessed. That is not to say it will always remain so – the exile is the exile – but to pretend it is a cauldron of Jew hatred is false and offensive.  Forget the “statistics” and walk the streets, breathe the air, shop in its malls and meet its people.  Stop looking under the streetlight. Repetitive, false accusations of Jew hatred against innocent people with whom one has a legitimate political disagreement will eventually foment Jew hatred. To accuse government officials of Jew hatred because of political disagreements is repugnant. It must stop. The promiscuous use of the “anti-Semitism” charge is a sign of weakness, not strength, and whatever potency it had at one time has already been diluted because of the flippancy of its flingers.

Let’s be clear. Are there non-Jews who might not like some Jews? Sure. Even more clear: are there Jews who don’t like some other Jews? Sadly, yes. Neither is “Jew hatred,” the irrational passion that has infested too much of mankind since Sinai. Let us then make sure that those accused of Jew hatred have real animus against Jews. That requires left-wing Jews to reconcile themselves to the reality of President Trump and disagree with him civilly. Without animus. Without unfounded accusations. And without conflating immigration or health-coverage policy disagreements with Jew hatred.

The Coalition for Jewish Values (where I serve as Senior Rabbinic Fellow) earlier this week – even before the arrest in Israel – condemned the specious accusations of Jew hatred being lodged against good Americans. We must realize that politics comes and goes but the Torah’s values are eternal. All Jews need to return to the values of Torah – of respect for others, of a commitment to justice and self-preservation, of the dignity of all people and of a relentless fight against evil.

It is unseemly, disgraceful, immoral and counter-productive to hurl unfounded charges of Jew hatred, and that applies to both liberals and conservatives. Worse, too many Jews have developed the tendency to deny obvious Jew hatred in front of their eyes because the sources of that Jew hatred are favored or fearful groups, or political allies, and, instead, falsely attribute Jew hatred to their political foes in an attempt to score points and diminish their influence. Jews should really stop doing that – both because it is simply wrong and because it is completely ineffective and self-defeating.

A good start would be if all the Jewish organizations that lambasted the Trump administration, whose statements, in the end, did not matter one whit in terms of these particular crimes, would just apologize for overreacting and pledge to be more responsible in the future. If for nothing else, when and if a real white-supremacist Jew hater ever emerges again r”l, their claims will be taken more seriously.

And Jews all over should just calm down and prepare for Shabbat and Pesach.

7 responses to “Of Nerve and Nerves

  1. Phillip Slepian

    Well said, Rabbi.

    This also might be a good time to discuss the difference between Jew-hatred (an emotion), and actual attacks against Jews (crimes). It has been said that the remedy for offensive speech is more speech. I frankly don’t care if people hate me simply because I am a Jew. I do care, however, if someone paints a swastika on my car – not because it is “anti-semitism!”, but because it is the criminal destruction of my private property. The “hate crimes” industry is really the camel’s nose under the tent for the goal of the Left – thought control. As long as the law is equally applied to all in our country, I am not afraid of anti-semitism. However, when the law is no longer equally applied, when, for example, the one who painted that swastika on my car is exonerated in court because “Israel oppresses the Palestinians”, or something, then it is time for the Jews to leave (as is the case today in much of Europe).

    So, yes, apologies are in order, although I doubt you will hear anything besides crickets chirping.

  2. Rabbi Pruzansky,

    This entry was masterfully written and addresses so many areas and ideas in which many people fall and fail. Thank you for being a voice of reason and ration in this chaotic world. If only more would think before speaking and acting, we would all be in a better place.

    A Good Shabbos.


  3. I’ll be more specific. The hacks for the Democrat Party that claim to represent the Jewish people are just political arsonists and are still crying bitter tears that the grossly corrupt woman who, among other schemes, sold American uranium to enrich herself isn’t sitting on her golden throne in the same office her faux-husband besmirched two decades ago.

  4. Dr. Saul & Carol Kahn

    Thank you for the very brilliant, honest prospective of what’s really happening in the Jewish World. It helps me to look at things differently.
    Carol Kahn

  5. Write on Rabbi!
    Such a sense of humor! You should let loose more often. Maybe a play somewhere down the line. Move over Neil Simon.

  6. Groups like the ADL make their money off of scare-mongering, so nothing they’ve done surprises me. What does bother me is how some orthodox Jews, who should know better, have bought into the hysteria. At meetings for various community boards I sit on, there are always those advocating for more “security” – more police in our shuls and schools, more cameras etc etc etc. They justify themselves by bleating about “bomb threats.” I always argue against it – and this is before the news you describe came out – but I don’t always win (though always I get congratulations afterwards, privately, as though for some inexplicable reason some people are embarrassed to say publicly that we’ve gone too far down the “security” road.)

    To some degree this is a peculiar Jewish manifestation of the general divide between nanny-staters, who want people’s lives to be safe from any possible catastrophe, even if that makes people’s lives miserable by so doing; and the libertarians, who believe people can take care of themselves. There are those who make a fetish out of “safety”, and “security” is just one subset thereof. Opposing the push for more and more security measures doesn’t mean one is naïve enough to think we will ever be perfectly safe – no one ever is. But I do not like having to see uniformed policemen every time I go to shul, nor do I want my children growing up in such an environment. We are NOT in France.

  7. Exactly!
    I said something similar on Facebook but not as eloquently. While I voted for Trump since I just could not vote for Hillary Clinton I did not want him to win the nomination and I am not thrilled with him now ( I supported Rubio ). But he is the president we got. These nonsensical accusations of Trump being antisemitic or causing an atmosphere that emboldens antisemitism are ridiculous and have to stop. The left is hysterical and out of control.