Ryan Bellarose, a writer at
Israellycool, asks an interesting question in a post called ‘History Lesson’.
I see these same problems now with
young Jewish people in North America. Aside from a few, they have not been
properly taught their own history, and they have been sold a false narrative.
Instead of being proud at surviving almost ridiculous odds, and achieving
something no other displaced indigenous people has ever accomplished, they feel
shame at their people’s success.
How messed up is that? They come
from a people who, today, number maybe 14 million worldwide, yet
whose contributions to the world far outweigh their mere numbers, yet they feel
ashamed? They come from a nation that survived two thousand years of
exile, only to emerge triumphant to retake their ancestral lands from the hands
of their colonizers. Yet they are made to feel like they have done something
wrong and must apologize? No.
We need to ask: how did we
allow the twisting of the quintessential bully story?
To answer Ryan, one needs an
understanding of Jewish history and the make-up of North American Jews.
North America is host to the largest Jewish community outside of Israel. If we
were to examine the Jewish community in North American, the largest single
group of Jews is self-identified as ‘secular or culturally’ Jewish. The second
largest group, after those self-identifying ‘secular’ Jews, comes from the
ranks of ‘Reform Judaism’. I suspect the vast majority of those ‘secular’ Jews
also draw their roots from the Reform movement, but I digress.
Reform Judaism was born in Germany
in the 19th century. I am not going to go over all the ins and outs
of the Reform movement, since this history bores me senseless (and I would
rather curl up with my bio of Rav Kook) but suffice to say that Reform Judaism
rejected a number of core Jewish beliefs. Among those beliefs rejected by the
early Reform movement was a belief in the coming messiah to redeem the Jewish
people and re-establish our state in our ancestral homeland or the re-building
of our Temple in Jerusalem. Reform Judaism rejected idea that any Jew was
dwelling in exile. To Reform Jews, there simply was no Galut. Jews were
full citizens of those societies in which they were dwelling, and the only
meaningful Jewish mission was to address universal issues of social justice
faced by both Jews and non-Jews of those societies.
It was imperative to the
early Reform Jewish thinkers that Judaism became merely a religion, just like
any other religion.Nazi Germany killed off most of the
‘Reform’ Jews of Europe, and after the Shoah, Reform Judaism ceased to be a
significant religious stream of interest outside North America. The devastation
laid to waste in the Shoah did cause a serious ‘rethink’ by Reform Jewish
philosophers towards ‘Zionism’ (the movement for self-deter mination for the
Jewish people) for a time, but the kind of ‘Zionism’ the North American Reform
Jewish community was prepared to support could not have a religious nationalist
component; hence, their contempt towards the Dati Leumi movement. Concepts
based on ‘indigenous rights’ for the Jewish people in their historic homeland
conflicted with the founding characteristics of Reform Judaism.
This is why so many so-called
progressive Jewish organizations like J Street, B'Tselem or Rabbis for Human
Rights often appear to be so ‘anti-Jewish’ in nature and drawn the bulk of
their Jewish membership from the Reform community. That is not to say, all Reform
or Reform influenced Jews are ignorant of their history and/or refuse to
recognize themselves as members of Kol Yisrael, but as North American Reform
Judaism moves closer and closer to being a general religion based on
humanitarian, rather than, Jewish values, well, they risk being our lost tribe
rather than a members of our tribe.
To complicate matters further, political
progressive liberals, put enormous pressure on secular and reform Jews to
actively disassociate and divorce themselves from the community of Kol Yisrael.
Elliot Abrams touches on this in a recent article on this very theme
highlighting the Obama Administration’s manufactured outrage over everything ‘Israeli’.
The third Obama administration reason for building up this
crisis is also deadly serious: it is to use the current tension to harm
Israel’s support in the United States permanently. All opinion polls in the
last several years show a partisan edge in support: overall support for Israel
is steady and high, but its composition is changing. More and more Republicans
support Israel, and the gap between Democratic and Republican support levels is
growing. President Obama acts as if he sees this as a terrific development, one
that should be enlarged as much as possible before he leaves office. That way
he would leave behind not just an Iran deal, but weakened support for Israel on
Iran and everything else. Support for Israel would become less of a
bipartisan matter and more a divisive issue between the two parties. It is not
hard to envision Obama in retirement joining Jimmy Carter as a frequent critic
of Israel, pushing the Democratic party to move away from its decades of very
strong support for the Jewish state.
Perhaps this manufactured crisis will diminish after
Netanyahu’s speech, where he is likely to say things that many Democrats still
agree with. Perhaps it will diminish if Iran rejects any deal, even on the
terms the Obama administration is offering. Perhaps Netanyahu will lose his
election and a new Labor Party-led government will appear in Jerusalem. But
more likely, the remaining 23 months of the Obama administration will be months
of continuing tension between Israel and the United States. That is because the
administration desires that tension and views it as productive. The problem is
not Netanyahu’s speech, which right or wrong to deliver should be a minor and
passing factor in bilateral relations. The real issues are deeper and far more
serious. This president has fostered a crisis in relations because it advances
his own political and policy goals. That is what his subordinates and many
Democrats in Congress are trying very hard, and with real success, to
Jewish history is long and diverse. We
have seen this type of Jew before. They are not self-hating Jews, but
Hellenistic Jews, robed in modern garb. To modern Hellenistic Jews, the greatest
threat to their existence comes not from murderous intentions of Anti-Semites
and Assimilationists, but to the fidelity shown by the Jewish people to the
covenant of our Torah in our land.