Recently there was a blog post in the Times of Israel entitled Wearing Jewface. It caused quite a bit of controversy and I am glad it did because there is a discussion here that I think is worth having. What does it mean to be a Jew in 2019 as we face a rising tide of antisemitism, whether in its traditional form or its newer anti zionist format?
In the blog post I mentioned, the author Debbie Hall talks about how people on the far left who are not Jews, but have a connection of sorts to something or someone Jewish, speak “As a Jew” and invariably follow it with anti Israel rhetoric. After reading her blog post and the responses to it, I began to ask myself what does it mean to be a Jew, as opposed to the question of who is a Jew.
I am a Jew because I was born to a Jewish mother. I didn’t have to think about it or decide anything. I am a Jew. It’s how I see myself. Being Jewish is not a fragment but rather a whole identity. What of the convert? We are told that every Jew, including future generations, was there at Sinai when God revealed himself to us by giving the people an owners manual if you will. So too is the convert when he has completed the conversion process. He becomes part of the Jewish people because to be a Jew is not only about the mitzvot or commandments, but it is also being a Jew in the sense of Jews as a people. They are not two separate things regardless of how many mitzvot you observe or do not observe. Nor should we allow ourselves to be subdivided into religious streams, skin color or by the places we were scattered after our exile.
We are one.
This same idea that being a Jew is some kind of fragment also hit home for me when thinking about the Women’s March. Should we march or not ? As I write this post the news has hit that Tamika Mallory and Bob Bland, in an interview on The View, would not condemn Farrakhan for his hate filled lengthy list of antisemitic teachings. The Women’s March leadership also includes Linda Sarsour who accused Israel supporters of disloyalty to democracy itself.
As I thought about how to answer this question I was hit with two articles on social media. One article was Why Jewish Women Must Not Quit the Women’s March and the other, Caught in the Crossfire: Jews Torn as Next Women’s March Nears. These articles didn’t change my view, they sharpened it. We are framing it wrong. The real question is not whether I should put Jew hate aside so we can stand together on important issues. The only question is why the leaders of the march cling to a teacher of hate over the important issues of the march.They own the crisis much like Trump owns the government shutdown.
My stand means taking a seat and putting up my feet. I would not march. Supporters of antisemitism don’t hate part of me, they hate all of me. Antisemitism does not make exceptions for skin color, country of birth, religious stream or political view. The leaders of the march cling to an antisemitic teacher and however carefully they word it, they cannot cover it up.The emperors leading the march have no clothes.