Can anti-semitism be kosher?

The Canadian Jewish News (Montreal) - - Comment - Rabbi Dow Mar­mur

Ahead­line in the Wash­ing­ton Post last month asked: “Can Don­ald Trump be anti-semitic if his daugh­ter is Jewish?” The an­swer of­fered by Kelsey Os­good, a con­vert to Ju­daism, was a re­sound­ing yes.

She wrote: “The idea that hav­ing a child who con­verts pre­cludes dis­trust or even ha­tred to­ward the child’s cho­sen faith is as facile as the idea that you can­not be anti-semitic be­cause you do busi­ness with Jews, have Jewish friends or are Jewish your­self.”

In her re­search on a book about re­li­gious con­ver­sion, Os­good con­cluded that “when a child con­verts, fam­ily mem­bers of­ten feel deeply am­biva­lent – about the per­ceived per­sonal re­jec­tion, about the child’s re­li­gious stance in an in­creas­ingly sec­u­lar world and about the child’s cho­sen faith specif­i­cally.” She sug­gested that the par­ents of con­verts of­ten feel hurt by their child’s de­ci­sion to de­part from the faith in which he or she was reared.

Os­good’s re­search tal­lies with my im­pres­sions. Hav­ing taught and coun­selled many young women and men who wished to em­brace Ju­daism, I found a lot of re­sent­ment by mem­bers of their fam­i­lies, es­pe­cially par­ents, the same kind of re­sent­ment that many Jewish par­ents have when their chil­dren em­brace an­other faith or even an­other form of Ju­daism.

But whether or not Trump re­sents his daugh­ter’s con­ver­sion, and though her Jewish hus­band is said to have joined his in­ner cir­cle of ad­vis­ers, there are in­di­ca­tions that point to anti-semitism in what he has said and in what mem­bers of his en­tourage seem to es­pouse. Writ­ing in the Kiyv Post, Alexey Bayer re­ported that Trump “has suf­fered plenty of snubs from New York Jewish de­vel­op­ers who never in­vited him into their highly cul­tured so­ci­ety.” And he’s al­legedly “in­ca­pable of let­ting go of his nu­mer­ous grudges.”

More­over, adds Bayer, “the dy­nam­ics of his regime will force him to turn against Amer­i­can Jews, and, quite pos­si­bly, to do so vi­o­lently,” be­cause he’s “rid­ing a move­ment that fits most de­scrip­tions of fas­cism.”

Amer­i­can Jews seem to sense this. Many U.S. Jewish groups have come out against Trump. For ex­am­ple, a state­ment by 200 Amer­i­can Jewish his­to­ri­ans ar­gues that Trump’s cam­paign and the af­ter­math of his elec­tion have al­ready led to an in­crease in ha­tred of Jews and other mi­nori­ties.

Is­rael’s prime min­is­ter thinks oth­er­wise. In an in­ter­view with CBS’S 60 Min­utes, Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu said the new pres­i­dent feels very warmly about the Jewish state and the Jewish Peo­ple. This re­flects the view of Is­raeli right-wing po­lit­i­cal par­ties hop­ing that Trump will al­low Is­rael to fur­ther ex­pand set­tle­ments in the West Bank and move the U.S. em­bassy to Jerusalem.

A sur­vey by the Dia­log polling firm in­di­cates that most Is­raelis “were not overly con­cerned with fears of a rise in anti-semitism in the U.S. in the wake of Trump’s vic­tory,” even though it has “em­bold­ened some racist and anti-semitic groups, part of the so-called ‘alt-right.’” It ap­pears that po­lit­i­cal as­pi­ra­tions of many Is­raelis have per­suaded them some forms of anti-semitism can be kosher.

Whereas Is­raelis tend to ar­gue that crit­i­cism of Is­rael is usu­ally anti-semitic, some seem also to be­lieve that sup­port for their na­tion­al­ist am­bi­tions makes anti-semitism ir­rel­e­vant.

To re­peat, most Jews in Amer­ica think dif­fer­ently. In re­cent months, we’ve wit­nessed many ex­am­ples of sharp dif­fer­ences be­tween Jews in Is­rael and the Di­as­pora. To the fes­ter­ing con­tro­versy over prayer ac­cess by non-ortho­dox Jews to the West­ern Wall has now been added the even more se­ri­ous dif­fer­ence in per­cep­tions about anti-semitism in the wake of Trump’s elec­tion.

Whereas Di­as­pora Jews see the anti-mus­lim slurs by Amer­i­cans and Euro­peans as ver­sions of the kind of ha­tred of Jews that led to the Holo­caust, many Is­raelis fail to see the sim­i­lar­i­ties and tend to be­lieve that at­tacks on Mus­lims im­ply au­to­matic sup­port for Jewish claims.

Dare we hope that these are only tem­po­rary ex­pres­sions of en­thu­si­asm for a pres­i­dent who seems to be much more prej­u­diced against Jews and oth­ers than his much-ma­ligned pre­de­ces­sor?

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