Wednesday, May 22, 2024

What Are We Doing to Ourselves?

After a whole Yom Tov without being engaged in news, going through the news this week was very depressing, not only for the obvious reason of seeing so much tzoras Yisroel, with over 1,300 Yidden murdered in cold blood just because they were Jews and many more wounded, but for another reason as well. That reason is the chilling anti-Semitism that has been revealed here in America. One of the most concerning by-products of the tragedy of Simchas Torah is that it revealed how hated we Jews are by the amoral American intelligentsia.

Yes, we heard about the rallies in cities all over the word, including New York City, on behalf of the Palestinians. The glee and giddiness of those initial rallies over the murder and massacre of Jews in cold blood was chilling, but we cannot say it was unexpected from the audience, who were primarily Arabs. The chanting in Sydney, Australia and London, England by thousands of protestors saying, “Gas the Jews,” or, “Kill the Jews,” was disgusting, but not necessarily a chiddush to those of us who have been following the very concerning transformation of European cities, whether in France, Germany, England, far-off  Sydney, or even Dearborn, Michigan, which are inhabited by millions of expatriates from Arab lands who have not been integrated and who retain their barbaric, rabid anti-Semitism that they were fed from birth.

Sadly, we are not surprised by the moral corruption and bald-faced anti-Semitism of Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and her ilk. That is what they are and that is what they have always been.

A Concerning Trend Among the Intelligentsia

What is far more concerning is the reaction of the intelligentsia: The presidents of Harvard University, Columbia University, and many others. The anchormen and women on many mainstream outlets, such as MSNBC, CNN, NPR, the New York Times, and BBC. It took them about a day after the most brutal massacre of Jews since the Holocaust to go back to their symmetry, their clear attempts to equate the barbaric massacre of peaceful, unarmed civilians with the legitimate response to a declaration of war by Hamas.

Thirty student groups at Harvard put out the following joint statement. “We, the undersigned student organizations, hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence. …The apartheid regime is the only one to blame.”

The fact that despite the outrageous statement, the president of Harvard University didn’t distance the official university view from that of the student groups, but instead resorted to unintelligible gobbledygook decrying violence on any side; the fact that subtle messages from so many who are supposed to know better was that the “Jews had it coming to them,” is a chilling reminder about how precarious our situation is even in the seemingly benevolent golus of America.

All these young idiots on elite campuses throughout America who couldn’t even find Israel on a map but are protesting “Israeli aggression on innocent Palestinians” will, in a matter of a few years, be the political and business leaders of America. Think about what that says about our future here in golus America. They have already been almost irrevocably poisoned with Jew-hatred.

This should be a wake-up call for us here in America.

A Wake-Up Call Today…In Preparation for the Future

Fortunately, at this juncture, those leftist views are not reflective of much of the American population. This is really what I want to address in this article. How do we make sure that this cancer of unbridled Jew-hatred doesn’t spread to the rest of America? We, Yidden, especially visibly frum Yidden, have a critical role to play.

Many Americans living all over the fruited plane don’t share that rabid Jew-hatred. They are likely to see through the amoral hypocrisy of the university presidents and the intelligentsia on one condition: That we, with our conduct, do not “reitz them on,” do not give them the impression that we don’t care about them, and do not run roughshod over their sensitivities.

Let me put it in another way. We have to take stock of how we are perceived in their eyes. If they look at us and feel that we don’t care about them or their communities, and we just care about ourselves and we will do anything we can – even if it is legal and within our “rights” – to get our way, they will buy into the hatred that they see on their screens and hear at rallies.

Why Do You Make Yourselves Conspicuous?

First and foremost, even if we are successful, we don’t have to rub it in.

I have quoted the Kli Yokor in these pages before on the posuk in Parshas Devorim of “Penu lochem tzafona.” The Kli Yokor explains that the word tzafona, in addition to implying north, also connotes tzafun, hidden. He explains that the Jew in exile must constantly seek to hide himself, not stand out. This idea is even more openly stated in the Torah when Yaakov tells his sons, “Lama tisrau? Why do you make yourselves conspicuous?”

On a personal level, we are conspicuous in our dress and our manners, and therefore it is pivotal for us to avoid acting in ways that might arouse the ire of the nations.

A friend was telling me about the time he was checking out in a store. He was standing behind another noticeable frum Yid. That Yid was on his cell phone the entire time. He plunked his purchases on the conveyor belt while talking. He continued talking while the cashier tallied up his purchases. He mindlessly put the credit card into the slot to pay, took it back out, grabbed his purchases, and walked out – all while talking on his phone. The cashier, with a horrified expression on his face, exclaimed, “Boy was that rude!” And my friend had nothing to say! The damage was done.

A similar story happened with another friend, who was accosted by an irate nurse. The nurse asked, “Can you tell me why some of your people don’t train their kids and themselves how to act with others? There was a family here who were just so rude! All the nurses were grumbling, and I told them that this is not reflective of all Jews. After all,” the nurse continued, “you all know Mrs. Green. She would never let her children be so rude!”

It is really not so complicated for each of us to try our best to make a kiddush Hashem when dealing with non-Jews. Whether it is thanking the janitor for doing such a marvelous job keeping our shuls clean or greeting the cashier and thanking the people who are boxing our groceries; whether it is making sure not to leave our garbage on the floors and sidewalks or being courteous when driving on the streets, it is being mindful that we are in golus.

Learning or Not, the Lessons of History

Why do we have to arouse the kinah of the people among whom we live? Really, are we that stupid not to have learned the lessons of history, which repeats itself over and over again?

Tzafona means: Don’t act like you own the place. Don’t take over.

On a government level as well, why do we have to take government positions and be involved in legislation that affects so many non-Jews? What happened to old time shtadlanus, when we advocated for our needs through sympathetic non-Jewish politicians?

Yes, it is possible that we can win and perhaps we have every right to put in our own politicians in accordance with the law of the land, but that doesn’t mean we should utilize those rights. It doesn’t mean it is the correct Jewish response.

Similarly, what happens when we try to totally change the character of neighborhoods inhabited for years and decades by our non-Jewish neighbors? The fact that by law we can strong-arm our way into changing the character of the neighborhood and the building density doesn’t mean we should.

It is very fashionable in our circles to criticize the Israeli Zionists of kochi v’otzem yodi. People freely quote from great gedolim that the Zionists are rebelling against the gezeirah of golus and they are not allowed to. I agree. Kochi v’otzem yodi has been the mode of operation of the Israeli governments for decades, and it is terrible and should be called out.

Nevertheless, as we criticize them, we should be asking ourselves: What about our own kochi v’otzem yodi? We live among non-Jews, we live in golus, we go into their neighborhoods, and we don’t think about how we might be completely alienating them? Even if we can by law, and we do have our rights, as all Americans do, who says that we should exercise those rights?

Do we have to make our own towns so congested that it is almost impossible to drive through them? Do we not realize that our neighbors who don’t live in the “shtetel” also use those roads, and if they are frustrated, they will hate us?

“You Never Know When You Will Need Their Goodwill”

Let me conclude with a personal anecdote. My widowed grandmother, who lived in Belgium, would often come to spend Yom Tov with us in Toronto, where I grew up. One of the ways that she survived the Holocaust was because her non-Jewish neighbor didn’t masser on her, didn’t give her over to the Nazis, and didn’t tell the Nazis that my mother was hidden by a non-Jew.

When she would come to Toronto, she, in her broken English, would go out of her way to greet Mrs. Brown, our next door neighbor, a non-Jewish Canadian. Why? She told us, “You always have to cultivate good relationships with neighbors. You never know when you will need their goodwill. “

Perhaps, the reaction to the events in Eretz Yisroel by the intelligentsia should be a wake-up call for us.

The rabid anti-Semites will always be there, but there are also plenty of people who will base their impression of us and of all Jews on how we conduct ourselves with them. We must ask ourselves: Are we arousing jealousy with our lifestyle of conspicuous consumption? Are we encouraging them to hate us when we push and trample their values and decide that just because something is legal, we should pursue it?

What will happen when chas veshalom there is a tzarah? Will we be able to rely on their goodwill like my grandmother did?

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