Wednesday, April 16, 2008

There's Never Enough Anti-Semitism to Keep Some Jews Happy

A few months ago, I started to receive the first of a series of emails from some of my Jewish friends. The emails had slight differences but the main point of each was that any self-respecting Jew should be outraged at the behavior of the University of Kentucky.


Because UK had buckled to pressure from Muslim groups and eliminated their Holocaust Studies program. The outraged emailers invoked the memories of the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust and said in various ways that by forwarding the accusing emails to another couple hundred people I would make sure that my ancestors hadn't died in vain.

There was only one problem with the emails. The accusation was a total lie. The University of Kentucky never did anything of the kind. None of the many people who forwarded the email bothered to check out if it was true. I actually did. The false rumor had spread like a virus to the point where the university issued a news release denying it.

The initial email apparently was the work of someone who read that the "UK" was scaling back Holocaust education programs and thought the article was referring to the University of Kentucky instead of the United Kingdom. By the way, it's not even clear that the story about the United Kingdom is true. And the person who sent this lie wanted it to go to 40 million people world wide!

I toured Auschwitz last year and it was a moving experience that I will never forget. Having said that, it boggles my mind that more than 60 years later in a country where Jews are completely accepted and have access to everything in American life that so many American Jews are obsessed with making sure that the world doesn't forget that we were victims of a horrible regime in a distant country sixty years ago as though nothing had changed.

I was surprised and disappointed recently at a meeting of the Desert Caucus--a pro-Israel PAC in Tucson asked Congressman Elliot Engel (D-NY)what he and the rest of Congress was going to do about the problem of anti-Semitism in America. The Congressman could have given an honest answer which is that there is essentially no anti-Semitism in America. There ARE people who hate Jews and there always will be, but these people are reviled and marginalized by everyone--not just Jews. Anti-Semitism is present when those bigots are supported by broader society which is clearly NOT the case here.

Congressman Engel knows this but--politician that he is--he gave the pandering answer which is that he is concerned because even though things seem OK on the surface, there is no doubt that just below that surface there is a huge problem. That was just what the questioner wanted to hear but there is no evidence that is true.

What I do know is that fifty years ago, I knew people who were getting nose jobs and changing their names so they would appear to be less Jewish. There were clubs, neighborhoods, professions, and private schools where Jews were not welcome. Today, people are very proud to be Jewish. No one is changing their name or appearance anymore--at least not for THAT reason. In addition, non-Jews seem very anxious to befriend, work with, partner with, and marry us--so much so that many Jewish leaders have declared intermarriage to be a crisis.

Intermarriage is certainly a challenge, but let's be honest. The main reason that there is so much intermarriage is not because Jews are less Jewish--it's because non-Jews are so much more willing to marry us than ever before. It's because our prayers to be fully accepted have been answered in America. How we deal with it is up to us.

Let's never forget our past but let's keep it in perspective. We are blessed to live in a time and a place where unbelievable progress has been made and our people have never had it better.

I had a friend once told me there is never enough anti-Semitism to keep some Jews happy. He was apparently right. Please forward this to anyone who sends you emails about this or other subjects about which they are so outraged without at least balancing them with other facts that show how wonderful things really are in so many ways. And let's make sure that things are true before we pass them on.

No comments: