Category Archives: Anti-Semitism

Erratum

A reader has informed me that, contrary to what I had written in an earlier posting, NRA chief Wayne LaPierre did indeed mention the names of a number of non-Jews in his speech to CPAC.  He is correct, and I have amended the piece accordingly.  The new version is here.

My apologies to all my readers for my inadvertent error.

Seeing Through the Eyes of the Other

Indiana Republican Congressman Todd Rokita is calling on the House of Representatives to condemn “Nation of Islam” leader Louis Farrakhan.

Most of us are familiar with the racist demagogue Mr. Farrakhan’s more memorable rantings, like “The white man is a devil by nature”; “Hitler was a very great man”; “We know that Jews are … plotting against us as we speak.” The calypso singer-turned-“reverend” has denied the Holocaust, blamed Jews for the 9/11 attacks, and said that white people “deserve to die.”

And just to make sure no one thinks he may have gone soft (or sane) in his dotage, just last month he railed that “powerful Jews are my enemy… responsible for… filth and degenerate behavior.”

As it happens, a resolution similar to the one Mr. Rokita proposed was passed overwhelmingly back in 1994 by a Democrat-controlled House. What motivated Mr. Rokita now was the fact that several current House Democrats – including Democratic National Committee Deputy Chair Keith Ellison, Danny Davis and Gregory Meeks – attended a dinner where Farrakhan was present or expressed respect in the past for the hatemonger.

Politics, though, is an unpleasant business, and associations of a sort with abhorrent people who have sizable followings is more common than the more innocent among us may realize. A photo of then-Senator Barack Obama posing for a “grip-and-grin” with Farrakhan in 2005 recently came to light. It took a while for presidential candidate Donald Trump to finally disavow the support of David Duke.

What’s more, part of the American black community looks at Farrakhan and sees only a preacher of self-reliance and black pride. The man’s ugly hatred of others is, to them, just static. No, that should not be, but “should not” doesn’t change an “is.” That segment of the populace, moreover, bristles at being chastised for embracing whom they do, even when the embraced is morally decrepit.

As long-time Representative Charlie Rangel, a friend of the Jewish community – he flew to Israel when he was 85 for Shimon Peres’ funeral and headlined a 60th anniversary bash for Israel at Harlem’s Apollo Theater – put it in 1985, Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism is “garbage,” but “there is a lot of concern among a lot of blacks that they don’t want to be told what to do.”

The aforementioned Mr. Obama for years attended the church of a Farrakhan-like character, the infamous preacher Jeremiah Wright. When some of the latter’s more offensive oratory came to light in 2008, the then-presidential candidate disavowed his relationship with the preacher, left the church and called Wright’s comments “ reprehensible,” saying they provided “comfort to those who prey on hate.”

Messrs. Ellison, Davis and Meeks likewise all eventually condemned Farrakhan’s hateful rhetoric.

Mr. Ellison, who defended Farrakhan back in the 1980s and 1990s, has long expressed regret for doing so, calling it, as he titled a 2016 op-ed, “The Mistake in My Past.”

“These men organize,” he wrote of Farrakhan’s group, “by sowing hatred and division, including anti-Semitism…”

“They were and are anti-Semitic,” he once stated, “and I should have come to that conclusion earlier than I did. I regret that I didn’t.”

And Mr. Ellison has in fact enjoyed good relationships with his Jewish constituents and with Jewish members of Congress.

For his part, Mr. Davis said “Let me be clear: I reject, condemn and oppose Minister Farrakhan’s views and remarks regarding the Jewish people and the Jewish religion.”

The touchiness that Mr. Rangel referenced, though, was evident in Mr. Meeks’ comments. While he called Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic messages “upsetting and unacceptable,” he added that he is “still waiting for [right-wing blogs] to condemn [President] Trump’s racist remarks.”

Whatever one may think of the current occupant of the White House or his policies, though, he has never called any faith a “gutter religion,” praised a genocidal mass murderer or referred to any ethnicity as “bloodsuckers.” Mr. Meeks is free to criticize Mr. Trump all he wants. But placing him in the same universe as Farrakhan is madness.

Jewish-black relations have generally improved over the years. And on many domestic issues, the two populations are natural allies. Growing any relationship, though, requires a determined, honest effort to see through the eyes of the other. We Jews need to try better to understand why some in the African-American community could be temporarily oblivious to an ugly radical’s hatreds; and to raise our children to see people, not melanin.

And the black community needs to recognize and openly espouse, as the former president and the current House members have done, the grave injury done – not just to Jews but to humanity – by the presence of demagogues in its midst.

© 2018 Hamodia

We The People, They The Elites

I’m not one to spy anti-Semites hiding under the bed. When I was a high school Rebbi, sometimes, when erasing the blackboard (remember blackboards?), I lost control of the wood-and-felt eraser and it landed on the floor. I would look down at it and growl “antesehMIT!” – not just as a joke but as an indirect lesson to the class that not every obstacle a Jew might face is necessarily sourced in Jew-hatred.

But my antenna for subtle prejudice against Jews nevertheless functions well. And a recent speech by longtime National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre set it vibrating intensely.

The NRA boss was addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), and he didn’t mention the words “Jew” or “Jewish” at any point. But my radar strongly registered his words all the same.

The speech was a fiery one, an ultra-conservative cri de coeur that went far beyond defending gun ownership and opposing even reasonable gun control measures. It was a call to arms (maybe even literally – I’m not sure) for patriotic Americans to resist liberal societal forces – “European-style socialists,” as he called them – that he accused of being determined to destroy America from within.

Deriding recent efforts at tightening gun restrictions, he asserted that “The elites don’t care, not one whit, about America’s school system… For them, it is not a safety issue. It is a political issue. They care more about control and more of it. Their goal is to eliminate the Second Amendment and our firearms freedoms, so they can eradicate all individual freedoms.”

“History proves it,” he asserted. “Every time, in every nation in which this political disease rises to power, its citizens are repressed, their freedoms are destroyed, and their firearms are banned and confiscated.

“It is all backed in this country by the social engineering, and the billions [of dollars], of people like George Soros, Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer, and more.”

He went on to single out Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer as one of the Democrats who, he claimed, are anti-American and “liars to the core.”

And, for good measure, he namechecked Karl Marx, Bernie Sanders and 1960s community organizer Saul Alinsky.

“These intellectual elites,” he charged, “think they’re smarter than the rest of us. And they think they’re better than we are. They truly believe it… They think they deserve to be in charge of every lever of power.”

“But you know what?” he challenged his listeners, “We the People are in charge of this country!”

He characterized the Democratic Party as “infested with saboteurs,” and the student-propelled resurgence of gun-control advocacy that followed the Parkland, Florida school shooting as a “shameful politicization of tragedy… a classic strategy right out of the playbook of a poisonous movement.”

Then, noting how there are armed guards at some jewelry stores and sports stadiums, he asked his listeners, “Do we really love our money and our celebrities more than we love our children?”

Practically every sentence he uttered drew resounding applause.

Now, few if any of us Orthodox Jews are fans of George Soros or Saul Alinsky, and we certainly have no sympathies for Karl Marx. Most of us, moreover, are politically and socially conservative. But is it unreasonable to be concerned by the fact that so many of the names Mr. LaPierre cited, especially the non-elected officials, are of Jewish ethnicity?

To be sure, Jews are prominent in American philanthropy and politics, and, whether or not we like it, most American Jews are of liberal bent.

But billionaire gun-control and “social engineering” proponents also prominently include people like Bill and Melinda Gates and Jeff Bezos. And, in Congress, many similarly non-members-of-the-tribe, like Senators Jack Reed and Richard Durbin, and Representative Carolyn Maloney, are at the forefront of the effort to enact gun control legislation.

Mr. LaPierre likely has no great affection for those people or others like them. Why did he omit them from his jeremiad?

And why did his gun control enemy list not include “usual suspects” like the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence or The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops?

Why did he choose instead to reference so many… people known as Jews?

Mr. LaPierre may be no more anti-Semitic than my old blackboard eraser. Maybe I’m reading into his recent screed’s references to Jews something that isn’t really there.

But my antenna won’t stop buzzing.

© 2018 Hamodia

NOTE: This column has been corrected to not claim or insinuate that Mr. LaPierre referenced only Jews in his speech.

Amusing, And Then Again, Not So Much

You’d think it was a Purim joke. But, no, “Operation Schtickle Pioneer” is a thing.

At least in one person’s mind.

Did you know that a Jewish cabal is planning to make “large areas of public property… [into] extension[s] of private Jewish households,” and that concerned citizens are, as a result, “under siege by members of religious groups backed by the Agudath Israel of America”?

Neither did I. But one anonymous New Jersey activist, the baal habayis of a new website, knows better. He informs us that the Agudah has “instructed its followers to start taking over areas within 1.5 hours of Manhattan in an attempt to ‘convert’ them to the Hasidic way of life.”

And that the national Orthodox organization has named its nefarious plot, yes, “Operation Schtickle [sic] Pioneer.”

A moment’s thought and a bit of imagination yield the realization that that Mr. NoEruv is referring to the scandalous practice of putting pieces of plastic piping on some utility poles to serve as lechis for eruvim. Indeed, he christened his site “NoEruv.” And he has a warning for us plotters: “We have you and know how you operate.”

Confused? Let us, as the Chinese saying goes, feing ohn fun der unfaing, or start at the beginning.

That would be Agudath Israel 93rd national convention, which took place in 2015. At one of the many sessions during the multi-day event, long-time Agudath Israel Vice President for Community Services Rabbi Shmuel Lefkowitz addressed the topic of the Orthodox community’s “Growing Pains” – the unaffordability of housing born of the tzibbur’s growth.

Rabbi Lefkowitz made a radical (well, to some) suggestion, namely that people who were raised in places like Borough Park, Flatbush, Manhattan or Lakewood consider living in somewhat off-the-beaten-track locales. He didn’t go quite so far as I once did when I suggested establishing Satmarer in Sioux City, moving Telshers to Tuskegee and Y.U.ers to Wyoming. More modestly, he simply asked his listeners to consider buying homes in outlying boroughs and suburbs in New York and New Jersey.

And he said, several times, without a hint of ominousness, “You can be a shtickel pioneer.”

Thus – under the direction, presumably, of the Elders of Zion – was born “Operation Schtickle Pioneer.”

Our anonymous anti-eruvite managed to mangle, if only in his heady head, an innocent endorsement of Jews’ setting their homestead horizons a bit beyond their comfort zones into a nefarious plot by scheming rabbis to “instruct their followers on how to convert townships in New Jersey.”

The would-be lechi-liquidator is understandably frustrated. Several weeks ago, the township of Mahwah, New Jersey, which had halted the building of an eruv, reached a settlement that included not only the resumption of the eruv-building but also the town’s pledge to not interfere in its maintenance and upkeep, and to provide a police escort for any such work (as vandals had previously torn down lechis).

It also agreed to pay the Bergen Rockland Eruv Association at least $10,000 in legal fees.

For its part, the Eruv Association agreed to switch the white PVC pipes it had been using for elements that better blend in with the utility poles.

The settlement was the result of a lawsuit last October by then-State Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino, charging the town with violating the rights of religious Jews. Then-Mahwah Mayor Bill Laforet and then-New Jersey Governor Chris Christie supported the suit.

All of which apparently made Mr. NoEruv unhappy. He insists that the Constitution’s First Amendment, which prohibits the establishment of an official religion for the U.S., thereby forbids the erection of eruvim on public property.

But the Mahwah eruv opponents didn’t stand a chance in court, as those supporting the ordinance forbidding the eruv clearly aimed to prevent Orthodox Jews from moving to the town – rendering the question not one of establishing a religion but rather one of preventing citizens’ free exercise thereof, the other part of the Establishment Clause.

In any event, it’s pretty clear that more important to Mr. NoEruv than any Constitutional issue is the sneaky way Jews are bent, as he sees it, on… taking over and “converting” others.

I can’t know the mind of Mr. NoEruv, so I can’t opine on its state. But I’m not sure what’s more disturbing: That a man would so dislike religious Jews that he would intentionally misrepresent an innocuous statement as something devious, or that a man might actually believe that the statement is in fact devious.

Either way, and amusing as his imagined plot may be, people like Mr. NoEruv are no joke.

© Hamodia 2018

 

Poland Isn’t Denmark

 Poland has a point.

The country’s legislature passed a controversial bill last week aimed at quashing the use of the phrase “Polish death camps” for Nazi extermination enterprises built and operated by the Third Reich across Poland. The bill, which Polish President Andrzej Duda later signed into law, also bans referring to “the Polish Nation” as “responsible or co-responsible for Nazi crimes,” on penalty of fines or a maximum three-year jail term.

Poland was indeed an occupied country during that dark time. In addition to murdering 3,000,000 Jews, the Germans also killed between two and three million non-Jewish Polish civilians.

More than 6,700 Poles, moreover – more than citizens of any other nationality – have been honored as “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem for their bravery in resisting the Nazis.

So one can understand how using “Polish” as the adjective modifying “death camps” might rankle Poles today. “Nazi death camps in Poland” is a more accurate description of Auschwitz, Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor.

But Poland, all said and done, was not Denmark. The Danes, whose country was also occupied by the Nazis, famously refused to give up their Jews to the Nazis. When, in 1941, Danish authorities were told by their German overlords that a roundup of the country’s Jews was imminent, they immediately informed the Jewish community and, with the help of the citizenry, hid many Jews and spirited many more to safety in Sweden.

By contrast, and with all due and richly deserved recognition of the risky heroism of thousands of Poles during World War II, Jew-hatred was no German import to their land.

Religion-based anti-Semitism was entrenched in Polish society well before the Nazis invaded Poland. There were blood libels and widespread promotion of the stereotype of Jews as disloyal and worse. By 1939, hostility towards Jews was a mainstay of the country’s popular right-wing political forces.

My father, a”h, recalled being warned by his parents in their Polish town of Ruzhan to not venture outside around Pesach-time. Church sermons, he wrote in his memoir, “spurred our Gentile neighbors to try to kill Jews.” He and his siblings would peek through the window to see angry townspeople marching with banners, looking for victims.

Polish-born historian Jan Grabowski notes that approximately 250,000 Jews fled the liquidated ghettos in 1942 and 1943, yet only 35,000 survived the war.  His conclusion: more than 200,000 Polish Jews were betrayed by their countrymen to the Germans or the Polish police beholden to them.

“We will under no circumstances,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in reaction to the new Polish law, “accept any attempt to rewrite history.”

Yad Vashem decried the legislation too, as did a U.S. Congressional taskforce on combatting anti-Semitism, which said that the law “could have a chilling effect on dialogue, scholarship, and accountability in Poland about the Holocaust.”

Polish leaders and media expressed dismay over the Israeli and American reaction. Poles, understandably, don’t like to be tarred with the brush of anti-Semitism, neither in their past nor in their present.

A 2017 survey by the Polish Center for Research on Prejudice showed that more than 55 percent of Poles were “annoyed” by talk of Polish participation in crimes against Jews.

Telling, though, were some expressions of that dismay and annoyance.

Like those on a program that aired last week on a mainstream Polish television channel, TVP2.

The program was hosted by Marcin Jerzy Wolski, and his guest was Polish commentator and author Rafal Aleksander Ziemkiewicz. Shortly before the program, Mr. Ziemkiewicz posted a thought on social media:

“For many years I have convinced my people that we must support Israel. Today, because of a few scabby or greedy people, I feel like an idiot.” “Scab” is a Polish slur for “Jew.”

The posting was later deleted, but first thoughts are often the most revealing ones.

Then, on the program itself, Mr. Ziemkiewicz offered further wisdom.

“If we look at the percentage of involvement of countries that took part,” he suggested, “Jews also were part of their own destruction.”

Mr. Wolski emphatically agreed. “Using this terminology, linguistically,” he offered, “we could say these were not German or Polish camps, but were Jewish camps. After all, who dealt with the crematoria?”

Got that? Since Jews were forced on penalty of death to burn their relatives’ remains, their prisons were “Jewish death camps.”

It has to make one think. What in the world could so pervert a human mind to equate collaborators with victims? To compare those abetting evil with those who suffered its horrible designs?

Only one answer readily comes to mind.

© 2018 Hamodia

Statement of Agudath Israel of America on Polish Holocaust Law

February 2, 2018

 

Statement of Agudath Israel of America on Polish Holocaust Law

 

The thousands of Polish citizens who courageously hid and aided Jews during the Holocaust are legend, and deserving of the deepest admiration.

But, according to eyewitnesses and historians, many thousands of Jews who fled liquidated ghettos in 1942 – 1943 were handed over by other Polish citizens to the Germans or those beholden to them.

To attempt to legislate a ban on speaking that truth is a betrayal, too, of those victims of the Nazis, and of history itself.

# # #

 

Window on the Warped

Interested in making a quick $14.88? Well, you might want to consider writing a racist or anti-Semitic article and submitting it to “The Daily Stormer,” one of the more famous neo-Nazi websites that sprout like noxious mushrooms on the internet.

The strange remittance amount the publication, run by a deceptively baby-faced man named Andrew Anglin, offers writers is intended to honor the 14 words of the far right slogan “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children”; and the initials of “Heil Hitler” – “h” being the eighth letter of the alphabet. Those neo-Nazis are just so clever.

The site takes its name from the infamous Holocaust-era “Der Stürmer” weekly tabloid published by the notorious Julius Streicher, ym”sh, who was convicted for “crimes against humanity” in the 1946 Nuremberg Trials and hanged at Nuremberg in 1946.

Streicher’s putrid product was read by millions in wartime Germany, and regularly offered up things like a close-up of the deformed face of a man wearing a Jewish cap above the legend “The Scum of Humanity: This Jew says that he is a member of G-d’s chosen people”; a cartoon of a vampire bat with a grotesquely exaggerated nose and Jewish star on its chest; and another of a Jewish butcher sneakily dropping a rat into his meat grinder. He propagated the myth that Jews killed German young people for their blood, and advocated for the annihilation of all Jews.

Streicher famously cried out “Purim Feast 1946!” before the trap door opened beneath him on that Hoshana Rabbah. Having been apprehended serendipitously by a Jewish soldier after the war ended, in his final moment he apparently sensed something deep.

The late Nazi’s new American imitator is more subtle than his predecessor, but not by much.

The Daily Stormer’s stylebook was recently made public by a reporter, and it presents a wondrous window on warped wits.

The 17-page guide starkly states the site’s ultimate goal: “to spread the message of nationalism and anti-Semitism to the masses.” No obfuscation there.

In addition to assorted grammar and spelling rules, the guide helpfully provides long lists of offensive terms to use in the place of “Jews,” “blacks,” “Muslims,” “Hispanics” and “women.”

Still, “the tone of articles on the site,” the guide advises, “should be light,” since “most people are not comfortable with material that comes across as vitriolic, raging, non-ironic hatred. The unindoctrinated should not be able to tell if we are joking or not.”

Joking, though, Mr. Anglin is not. He states that, all kidding aside, he seriously would like to “gas Jews” – though he replaces that last word with a slur.

Astute observers of the modern (or, for that matter, not-so-modern) world have long suspected that a strange rule was being observed, one that The Daily Stormer guide declares outright: “Always Blame the Jews for Everything…As Hitler says, people will become confused and disheartened if they feel there are multiple enemies. As such, all enemies should be combined into one enemy, which is the Jews.”

“This is pretty much objectively true anyway,” the guide takes pains to add, “but we want to leave out any and all nuance.” Nuance, to be sure, isn’t much evident on the site.

“There should be a conscious agenda to dehumanize the enemy,” the document continues, “to the point where people are ready to laugh at their deaths.” Then, to simplify things for readers overly challenged by that sentence, the document boils it down: “Dehumanizing is extremely important.”

And the dehumanized, while they include other groups, must above all be “the Jews.”

“What should be completely avoided,” the guide cautions, “is the sometimes mentioned idea that ‘even if we got rid of the Jews we would still have all these other problems.’ The Jews should always be the beginning and the end of every problem, from poverty to poor family dynamics to war to the destruction of the rainforest.”

Didn’t know rainforest destruction was our doing? Welcome to the twisted world of The Daily Stormer.

Mr. Anglin claims that his site’s popularity is soaring, despite numerous internet domains’ refusals to host it. (He has reportedly moved it to the “dark web,” a part of the internet favored by the worst sort of criminal elements and accessible only with special software.)

We’re well accustomed to witnessing more “refined” forms of Jew-resentment, often cloaked in leftist “social activism,” anti-Israel rhetoric and United Nations votes.  It’s more rare to see the workings of entirely self-aware, unabashed anti-Semites.

But they’re out there, and their malice confirms the Torah’s predictions about Klal Yisrael’s galus and, ultimately, of our uniqueness.

© 2017 Hamodia

Agudath Israel on Today’s General Assembly Vote

Agudath Israel Statement on This Morning’s U.N. General Assembly Vote

The countries that voted this morning in the United Nations General Assembly to demand that the U.S. rescind its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and its plan to move its embassy there once again showed their true and ugly colors.

The General Assembly has long been a ludicrously anti-Israel forum, a grandiose soapbox where nations, including more than a few whose regimes routinely oppress, torture and murder their own citizens, wax righteously indignant at Israel’s audacity in defending herself against her many bloodthirsty enemies.

Today’s vote, however, forged a new low in the world body’s antipathy toward Israel.  Not only does the majority of the General Assembly seek to deprive Israel of the right to determine her own capital, but it seeks to prevent our own country from respecting that right.

In 1995, Congress passed a law explicitly establishing the position of the United States that “Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel,” and requiring that the American Embassy in Israel be moved to Jerusalem.  Earlier this month, President Trump announced the implementation of that law.

We are proud of the steadfast friendship toward Israel and recognition of reality that Congress and President Trump have demonstrated.  We applaud President Trump and Ambassador Haley for their courageous articulation of American values in the lion’s den of the United Nations.

And we remain ever hopeful that other responsible nations will come to recognize the special status of Jerusalem not only to the state of Israel but to the Jewish people throughout the millennia.

Agudath Israel Letter to Turkish Consul Condemning Erdogan’s Ugly Words

 

December 11, 2017

 

BY REGULAR MAIL & E-MAIL ([email protected])

Honorable Ertan Yalçın

Consul General

Turkish Consulate General in New York

825 3rd Avenue

New York, NY 10022

Dear Mr. Consul General:

I write on behalf of Agudath Israel of America, a national Orthodox Jewish organization, to register outrage over the recent reported comments of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who ludicrously called Israel – the only true democracy and humanitarian country in the Middle East – a “terrorist state” that “kills children.”

Compounding the absurdity of that charge was Mr. Erdoğan’s ahistorical assertion that “Jerusalem was ruled by Muslims for many centuries but never closed to the believers of the other religions during that time.”  It is clearly documented that, at least from 1948 until 1967, Islamic authorities and Jordan prevented Jews and Christians from visiting their holy sites in the Old City, including the Western Wall.  And it is well known and entirely evident that Israel provides access to all religious sites within its territory.  To claim the opposite is nothing less than an attempt to create false “facts.”

Mr. Erdoğan’s further assertion that “Jerusalem is the worshipping center for mainly Muslims, Christians, and partially Jews” betrays not only further deep ignorance but even deeper prejudice.

Such baseless and incendiary rhetoric has become commonplace among barbaric enemies of peace who in fact murderously target innocents as a matter of policy.  That such language now emerges from the mouth of a head of state is utterly contemptible.

Turkey for many years represented a voice of sanity and responsibility in a region cursed with delusion and violence.  It is unfortunate, indeed tragic, that recent years have seen it influenced by the worst elements around it.

Sincerely,

                                                                  Rabbi David Zwiebel

Executive Vice President

Agudath Israel of America