Sunday, February 23, 2014

On Crying Anti-Semitism

     This past week, I was quoted in The Photo News. Local reporter Nancy Kriz wrote this week's cover story, "It's Not About Religion," in which she interviews several Jews, myself included, in the Monroe area, on whether or not Kiryas Joel's attorney Steven Barshov's comments that Monroe residents are anti-Semitic were accurate. While local politics in my own town are probably not of great importance to readers of this blog, I'm sharing this because of the much larger issue raised.
     Does disagreeing with orthodox Jewish interests make one anti-Semitic?
     This has been discussed before on this blog, usually in the comments section when someone decides that it is anti-Semitic or anti-orthodox to criticize ultra-orthodox kiruv. We all know that I disagree. However, there seems to be an all too pervasive trend for people who disagree with orthodoxy or with opinions held by orthodoxy, to be incorrectly labeled as anti-Semitic, anti-orthodox, or if Jewish, as "self-hating Jews." Whether it happens on my blog, or in local politics, or on a global level, it is not only inaccurate to label those who disagree as anti-Semitic, it's also a bastardization of the term. It weakens the power of the word to describe actual anti-Semitism when it does occur, and it weakens the possibility of people listening and taking action in the face of legitimate anti-Semitism. The groundless rally cry of anti-Semitism turns into little more than the cry of the little boy yelling "wolf!" in the town square. After a while, people will cease to listen and heed his cry. When finally the wolf does come, those who would have protected the boy are no longer interested and ignore his pleas for help, because too often in the past, his screams were for naught.
    And so, I raise the issue here, among my readers. As people of the world, as the proverbial "light unto nations," as people with a history of discussion, debate, and study, I want to urge all of us--regardless of our stance on kiruv, regardless of our personal observance (or lack thereof)  of Judaism, to be strong in our arguments, to stick to the issues, and to not fall into the habit of claiming victim status in lieu of giving intelligent answers when hard  questions are asked of us. 

Attorney Steven Barshov


  1. An excellent post and reminder, Rebecca. I'd like to add that it isn't enough for us to not engage in name calling. We must also refuse to be silenced and speak up against those who accuse us of Anti-Semitic words and actions. Opposing kiruv is no more Anti-Semitic than the opposition of a town to a high density low income housing project.

  2. If the frummie said publicly, "Who cares what you think, you're a goy!" or "Who cares what you think, you're not frum!" it wouldn't work. So they invert it to, "You're anti-semitic!" It just means, "You're part of the outgroup, so FU!"

  3. Here's the problem with your argument. You have created a specific definition of anti-semitism (I call it the "Holocaust Position"). According to you, anti-semitism is the hatred of Jews. Period. Therefore, if the position taken has some logical reason why it might be used against other people as well who were behaving accordingly, then it is not anti-semitic. However, the actual definition is: Antisemitism (also spelled anti-semitism or anti-Semitism) is prejudice, hatred of, or discrimination against Jews for reasons connected to their JEWISH RELIGION or heritage. This means that although someone can come up with a reason why their position COULD be echoed against another group of people, the fact is that it is NOT being held about others, but rather only (or mostly) Jews because of their jewishness and no other reason. Therefore, it is not "crying wolf" at all. That is why the term self hating jew is brought up when non-observant Jews attack kiruv or other beliefs within the orthodox community. It may not be coming from an anti-judaism (read anti-semitic) position, yet it very well may be. This is the same reason why anti-Israel rhetoric is so glaringly anti-semitism wrapped in a new, more marketable package. When one country is criticized beyond all proportions it is very suspect indeed.



    1. When the Neturei Karta rejects Israel and Hareidim reject the draft in Israel, are those anti-Israel acts considered to be anti-Semitic and/or self-hating?

      More specifically, my own town is facing issues with another community that wishes to expand. Unfortunately, the proposed expansion will cause huge financial and environmental impact on the non-orthodox taxpayers. The town that wishes to annex our land happens to be an orthodox town. If they weren't orthodox, we'd feel the same way--the cost to taxpayers in this case is too high. Is this anti-Semitism?
      Are people too quick to make this judgement?

    2. In the case of your town it depends. I don't know if it is anti-semitism. All I know is that if the town was all black, then it would probably be called racism. The point is that although it may just be a Haredi reactivist response, there may actually be anti-semitic feelings that are being covered up with a good excuse. Anti-semitism is a specific prejudice against Jews for representing Judaism. Therefore, whenever there is a specific position against Jews who so outwardly display Judaism, I think that it is fair to at least be suspect, even (and unfortunately sometimes specifically if) that position comes from fellow Jews.

    3. This argument does not hold water. If a town is black and another black group tries to develop high density low income housing within its borders it is not called racism.

      When employee housing is built in resort or mining communities and landowners oppose that type of dense housing project it isn't called racism or anti semitism. It's called opposing a high density housing project.

      The problem is that the Go-To knee jerk mantra of orthodox Jewish groups is "Poor me, I'm a victim of Anti-Semitism." They know full well that most people cringe and withdraw their arguments when they're accused of racism or anti semitism, and will leave the argument rather than stand accused of it.

      The cry of Anti-Semitism is now being used as a tactic to manipulate people, not because they hate Jews, but because calling someone an Anti Semite gets them to withdraw their argument.

    4. All too often, it's like the late Joe Sobran said, "An anti-Semite used to mean a man who hated Jews. Now it means a man who is hated by Jews."

      With the chassidim and their haredi allies, I would go even further.

      Now it means a person who resists GIVING the haredi what he wants.

    5. Last I checked the majority of the Village of Monroe was not Jewish. Therefore, the analogy of one black group expanded to another city of black residents is not valid. It would be more like 1 all black town expanding into a town that was more culturally diverse. And yes, if they were prevented, it would be called racism--whether thats the underlying issue or not. The fact remains that most of the aspects of why the people of Monroe do not want Kiryas Joel to expand, is based on the religious beliefs of the people in Kiryas Joel. Their culture, behavior and religious practices to not fit with the people of Monroe. Is it anti-Judaism? Probably not. Is it anti-Kiryas Joel Judaism--most definitely.

    6. If the focus is solely on planning issues, and if the same argument would be made to proposals by any other group, then it's not anti-semitic.

      In some cases, though, it's not cut-and-dry. There will be an official argument made on neutral grounds, but there will also be some folks making derogatory comments, esp. in private conversation.

      I see some of this near me. There's a proposal to create an Islamic low-income high-rise development, in an area that's basically suburban single-family homes. Complaints that it will create far too much traffic are legitimate - all traffic feeds into one road that cannot be easily widened. But yes, I also hear people worrying about property values and grumbling about an exclusively Islamic enclave.

  4. Rebecca, I doubt that it was intentional, but in the central paragraph of your piece, you fudge the distinction between "anti-Semitic" and "anti-Orthodox." I think we can safely say that "people who disagree with orthodoxy or with opinions held by orthodoxy" are anti-Orthodox, without also characterizing them as anti-Semitic or self-hating.

    1. Good point. I was thinking of "anti-orthodox" simply in terms of another label that Jews who may oppose or criticize orthodoxy are given, usually in the same vein as "self-hating Jews" or the more general "anti-Semitic" that would cover the rest of the crowd. Thanks for pointing that out.

  5. When the town in question is well known to contain a community of the biggest abusers of government subsidies IN THE NATION, we should absolutely not suspect anti-Semitism.

    Rather, we should suspect their Jewish defenders of tribalism, and call them out as such.

  6. This is not a an issue about anti-Semitism ,its about taxes and abuse of Special subsidies givin to a group of people who know how to work the System better than they know how to be Good Nieghbors

  7. kinda weird of all people they could interview in Monroe they picked the worlds whiniest, crankiest, radiating cold shafts of broken glass Jewess they could find. Not exactly balanced reporting. Sort of like picking a member of the KKK to report on the siyum HaShas.

  8. Really Mitch, the best defense you have is calling people names?

    When you complain that the story is not "balanced reporting," do you mean you think the story should give equal space to the argument that opposing annexation qualifies as antisemitism? Because if that's what you think, you are very wrong. That isn't how it works in journalism. All sides of every story must not be presented in every article reported by newspapers. This article focuses on community members who reject being labeled anti-Semites in connection to their opposition of annexation, and includes quotes from citizens who feel this way. This is sound journalism.

    If what you are suggesting is equal space for every opposing view no one could get through a daily newspaper, never mind life. Imagine this: Girl Scouts will be selling cookies next Tuesday afternoon in front of the hardware store, but a prominent Orthodox Jewish rabbi supports boycotting the hardware store for promoting the cause of a non Jewish group, and the local chapter of the Cat Fanciers Association is concerned about growing anti-feline bias after the Girl Scouts rejected a proposal to give away a free kitten with every ten boxes of cookies sold. In related stories, the elementary school nurse is leading a movement to ban cookie sales in an effort to curb childhood obesity, and twenty three citizens have joined a class action anti-discrimination lawsuit against this paper for failing to report their opinions about Girl Scouts selling cookies in front of the hardware store next Tuesday.

  9. whatever..typical of extremists like yourself to have a poor sense of humor...(that's how you become extreme in the first place btw).

    Since you are so anti-jewish (yes anti-orthodox is anti-jewish-sorry if you don't buy it but its true), I find it odd that you spend so much time writing about the Holy Nation. Would not your talents be best used in other areas of life. Its a big world out there. Why focus on less than 2% of the worlds population. (and all the more so the Orthodox Jews are about 0.0002 of the worlds population). Why can't you just leave the holy Jews of Kiryas Yoel alone. Where else in MTV America can you have a separate seating pizza place??? Is that not the most incredible thing in the world. I am so proud of that!! I love it there. (and the pizza is also good). Why could you not tell that reporter about that? Are you embarrassed of these folks? The Jews of Kiryas Yoel are some of the best Jews in the world. Satmar Chassidim are great people.

    You should be publicly praising their holiness, greatness, chessed, love, simchas HaChaim, great families, shalom and simchadik homes. But instead you drank the kool aid of all the anti semitic Rockland Journal News articles and waste your time speaking against G-ds great people.

    Nothing new under the sun. Its always a Jew who leads all the anti semites. The gemara says that the am haratzim of the Jews are worse than the non Jewish haters. All one has to do is look at the sidebar of this page for proof of that true statement of our great Rabbis, may their memories be blessed.

    I wish you clarity, peace, shalom and pure vision unmarred by your personal pain.

      "When a person has uncomfortable thoughts or feelings, they may project these onto other people, assigning the thoughts or feelings that they need to repress to a convenient alternative target.
      "Projection may also happen to obliterate attributes of other people with which we are uncomfortable. We assume that they are like us, and in doing so we allow ourselves to ignore those attributes they have with which we are uncomfortable.
      "Projecting thoughts or emotions onto others allows the person to consider them and how dysfunctional they are, but without feeling the attendant discomfort of knowing that these thoughts and emotions are their own. We can thus criticize the other person, distancing ourselves from our own dysfunction."

      You should really read the whole article, Mitch. It may help you.

    2. Just to be sure I have this right Mitch, let me recap your last “insightful” monologue.
      1. I am an extremist, a label I presumably earned for my opinion about what constitutes a free press
      2. I became an extremist because of my poor sense of humor, as do all extremists. That really hurt because I thought the line about the Cat Fanciers was pretty good. By the way Mitch, you have GOT to let the FBI in on this thing about sense of humor and becoming an extremist.
      3. I am typical. You have seen many, many people like me and there is nothing unique or special about my point of view. I think just like other unenlightened masses of society.
      4. I am anti-Jewish. Being anti-Jewish must mean that I am anti-me, anti-my parents and grandparents, and anti- my children because according to you anyone who is anti-Orthodox is automatically anti-Jewish. Shucks, and all this time I thought I was only anti-deceptive ultra Orthodox kiruv. Although Mitch, you do make an excellent argument for being anti-Orthodox in general.
      5. I write about the Holy Nation. What the Hell is the Holy Nation?
      6. I should use my writing talent elsewhere. (OMG does Mitch think I write as well as the author of this blog? I am soooo flippin’ flattered)!
      7. I can’t leave the holy Jews of Kiryas Yoel alone, (this gets curiouser and curiouser). You mean in the same way that the holy Jews of Kiryas Yoel leave me alone?
      8. Mitch, you hit on a brilliant idea – have MTV air a piece about separate seating in the Kiryas Joel pizza joint! Let the world know about it, by golly! Don’t keep separate seating a dirty little secret. Who knows, you might even generate separate seating pizza tourism.
      9. Am I embarrassed of these folks? Yep, pretty much all the time lately.
      10. I drank the kool aid of the anti-Semitic Rockland Journal News. Gotcha. Now I finally see that the entire argument about annexation is really just a cover for my secret anti-Semitism agenda. (That and my other secret mission to take over the world). I motion that the issue of annexation and development be put on hold until such time as the matter of anti-Semitism is resolved. Second, anyone?
      11. It is ALWAYS a Jew who leads ALL the anti-Semites. The logical conclusion is that the more Jewish anyone is, the greater their anti-Semitic leadership. There must be something in here about pots calling kettles black.
      12. You got me on gemara and haratzim; I don’t know what either of those are.
      13. Thank you for your wish of clarity, peace, shalom (whatever that is), and pure vision (whatever that is), unmarred by my personal pain. I will go with the idea that you did not intend for that sound snarky.

    3. How do you know that I am Orthodox? Or actually Jewish. Sorry to surprise you but I am actually an Evangelical Christian. We love G-d's chosen people. That is why I fight for them whenever I can. It saddens me to see His own people so against His people. I know that it means in essence they are against Him. That saddens me.

      I work with fine Orthodox Jews. They are so holy they even thank G-d before they take a drink of water! I even see them thank G-d after using the restroom. They are incredible people. They help me with many of the hebrew terms I use in these writings.

      I wish you G-dspeed, love, peace, clarity, wisdom and joy in life.

      Blessings and good wishes to all His holy nation. Through you we are all blessed.

    4. That's wonderful for you, Mitch. Everyone should have a cause they support.

  10. Thanks and blessing to you dear child.

  11. bec, this new "discovery" about Mitch's identity is really a game changer, no? ;) lol


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