A retired Rabbi from South Carolina wrote an article imploring the Jewish community to address what he calls the arrogant, racist and supremacist attitudes of Jews towards non-Jews and black people he has seen over the years:
There’s a point when even a successful rabbi knows that he’s winning the battle but losing the war. I knew the tirade that marked the point of my departure, and there was no golden parachute waiting for me.
Once upon a time, about nine years into the rabbinate, I slumped into another somnolent board meeting. A pregnant moment passed before one of our Holocaust survivors looked right through me as if I weren’t there. Then he ranted at the board and officers: “Tell the rabbi that it’s enough with the goyim and the schvartzes!”
This was, of course, my crude death knell.
What had I said wrong? I spoke from the pulpit occasionally about equality and the paucity of social justice. I once conducted a debate about affirmative action. Coretta Scott King delivered a conciliatory sermon on re-cementing the relationship of African-Americans and Jews (followed by a cholent lunch at our home). A handful of gentiles, with honor and respect, attended our weekly Torah class.
“Enough with the goyim and the schvartzes!”
All right, I thought, he’s a survivor. But when the board and officers sat by impassively, not uttering a word in my defense, no words of consolation afterward, I knew my doom was sealed. I assumed that, despite the restraint and prudence of my pronouncements, it had been “enough!” for my Southern co-religionists.
It gave me a pretext, among others, to bail.
So, after my rabbinate and lay leadership had ebbed and flowed and ebbed again, I penned an editorial on Facebook about Jews and gentiles learning Torah together. In fact, it was a measured lament of how many dedicated gentiles came to study Shmuel Aleph (I Samuel) in the original text, while the Jews were conspicuously absent.
My readers were largely receptive, but one fellow Jew demurred. His words were more prudent, but they still smacked of “Enough with the goyim!” Actually, his opinion was well controlled, but it pushed my button (a la “A man who is bitten by a snake is afraid to pick up a stick”).
So, right or wrong, it piqued me enough to write the following rejoinder. I think that my words are worthy, even if their context is contentious. Thus, they deserve to be heard, even if they chew like a shtickel raw brisket.
So, gentiles attending our Nach class is a bad idea, the writer said, because it is offensive to many Jews and estranges “our people” from the class.
Should receptive, eager gentiles be barred from studying Torah in its original tongue, with Jewish commentaries and allegiance, taught by a fairly knowledgeable rabbi, with Christian doctrine off limits?
How much good could this do, by erasing so many ambiguities and misunderstandings and by reaffirming that Hashem has many, many mailboxes that receive the same message?
Shall we defer to the ludicrous idea that gentiles attending classes are just loading up ammo for proselytizing?
Ignorant Jews (I mean those who don’t know the difference between Kaddish and Kiddush) always seem to make repetitive excuses for their indifference. They are the ones, I say, who are priming the pump.
Perhaps their only fear is that the gentiles will so outshine the Jews that we will be put to shame. I already have two gentile Nach scholars proving that to be true. One consistently humbles me by his analysis of biblical “dikduk” (by the way, what is dikduk?) and knowledge of obscure “exegetes” (what is an exegete?).
Linda said to just ignore it, and she is probably right. But my ulcer is crying out for relief.
So I exhort anyone who is pelted by the barrage of fake news to stand up for mutual understanding among faith communities, whatever its form. For Jews and gentiles alike, now it is more urgent than ever to enlist in the fellowship of Hashem.
If you land within 50 miles of Shoeless Joe’s hometown, we welcome you, be you Jew, Greek or Christian (in no particular order). Remember to bring your Bible/Tanach, Book of I Samuel, in whatever language that works for you: Chez Wilson, Mondays, 7:30 to 9 p.m. And, yes, relevant tangents are always welcome.
(Note that I have not referred to gentiles as goyim. I am going to try to make that my policy. Goyim simply means “nations,” but it has taken on a derisive tone that sullies our speech. The same is even more true of sheigetz, shiksa and schvartzer, which I still hear too often — sadly, even from myself — when we are among ourselves.) (source)
Racism and hatred exists among all peoples. It’s important to call it for what it is when it appears because, as the Bible teaches, all men are made in the image and likeness of God. We are all sons of Noah, and while our roles may be varied and our faces may look different, neither what a man’s station in life is or how a man looks adds to or detracts from the fact that all are equal in dignity before God. As man’s dignity does not change with his race, neither does his capacity for sin change due to race.
When people speak about the Jews today, there are usually one of two extremes. One extreme says that all Jews are irredeemably evil and can do nothing good whatsoever and are to blame for all of the world’s ills. The other extreme says that Jews can do no wrong and that to criticize a Jew when he does something evil is a form of racism. The former one will see in the national socialist movement, which will use real crimes committed by Jews over the centuries as a basis to leverage support for nationalism and paganism. The latter one will see done by many Americans and Israelis of Jewish and non-Jewish backgrounds who will deny or justify any evils committed by Jews in the name of “defending Israel.”
Neither of these views are healthy. Jews are not irredeemably evil, and they cannot be blamed for all of the world’s ills because they are objectively not responsible for the sins of other men just as it would be for any other group of people. Likewise, many Jews have done grave evils, and to ignore this is gravely dishonest and unrighteous as it would be if the same treatment was extended to any other group.
Pursuing a balance in the midst of this is always difficult, because one must seek the narrow way of truth that is between two chasms of error. However, there is no other way to pass because the true way is the only correct way.
Last month, I did an article about the Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel- the equivalent of the Pope for Sephardic Jews- who came out and said that African people were monkeys and not human, and when asked to apologize, he refused to because he said it was true. That article generated not a small amount of resistance from those who said it was a form of discrimination to criticize the rabbi, even though his statements were objectively hateful.
Part of the purpose of man’s existence is, in reflection of the nature of God, to learn how to love his fellow man. Stirring up hatred against one’s fellow man or using differences between people as a means to leverage power at all costs is objectively evil as it is destructive. Indeed, no man is above or beneath criticism because all have sinned, and it is for the sake of mercy that we criticize each other now in order that we might learn the ways of truth lest we merit the final justice of God for our sins.