Sunday, November 22, 2020

Anti-Semitism in the USA Today- A Conversation with Richard Hirschhaut of the American Jewish Committee


On November 21, I held a discussion with Richard Hirschhaut at our Shabbat Service on the results of the recent survey on Anti-Semitism in the USA today.

This is the link to our discussion on Facebook and You Tube.:The discussion begins at 1 and 1/2 hours into the video.

Facebook link

You Tube link

About the speaker:

Richard Hirschhaut, Director of American Jewish Committee Los Angeles

Richard has appeared for us at the High Holy Days and in the summer. He is chief strategist and principal spokesperson in advancing AJC’s global advocacy mission in Southern California. AJC is considered the “dean of American Jewish organizations.” He has been involved for over 30 years in civil rights, humanitarian, and Jewish communal advocacy, serving in senior professional roles across the U.S. with the Anti-Defamation League, Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and American Friends of Rambam Medical Center.



Below is a summary of the issues we discussed, together with excerpts from statistics from the AJC as well as the FBI reports.

1)        1)  How did you get your responses- How could you determine that it reflected a broad enough body of US public- even the election polls were off by a good amount?


2)    2): Who worries about anti-Semitism

AcAccording to  the survey


                           A Problem             Not a Problem 

American Jews  88%                    11%

General Public  62%                   33%

Asked about increase over past 5 years

 Increased        Stayed the same         Decreased 

American Jews  82%*     3%

General Public  43%         39%       14%

I can understand this- after all, we have the targets on our backs, not our neighbors. Still, 62% are aware that it is a problem.

3) This question was worrisome:

To what extent, if at all, do you think the Democratic Party/Republican Party holds anti-Semitic views?

 Democratic Party

                                A lot/Some             Not much/at all             Don't know/refused

 American Jews               37%                           61%                     2%

General Public                42%                           54%                     5%


Republican Party

A lot/Some                      Not much/at all            Don't know/refused  

American Jews  69%             28%                              3% 

General Public  52%              43%                               5%


I see a strange disconnect between the way we as Jews view each party and the way the broader public sees. More broad public see anti- Semitism in Democrats than we Jews, and more Jews see anti-Semitism in Republicans than does broader public. 

Also- I thought it was a strange choice of words- the question is about the party as a whole, rather than “many members are”  or “ most members are”.?



 4)    FBI stats on hate crimes-

We Jews are prime targets of religious based hate crimes. While media has been warning of Islamophobia, we are the favorites targets still. Also, Arabs were rarely victims, against despite supposedly anti- Muslim attitudes. Also, as I see it, the perpetrators of hate are not limited to one ethnicity or race:

 Religious bias (Based on Table 1.)

Of the 1,715 victims of anti-religious hate crimes:

§  60.2 percent were victims of crimes motivated by offenders’ anti-Jewish bias.

§  13.2 percent were victims of anti-Islamic (Muslim) bias.

§  3.8 percent were victims of anti-Catholic bias.

§  3.8 percent were victims of anti-Other Christian bias.

§  3.5 percent were victims of anti-Sikh bias.

§  Rest divided among Eastern Orthodox,Protestant,Mormon,Jehovah’s Witness,Hindu,Atheist/Agnostic bias,Buddhist,  other religions

Racial/ethnicity/ancestry bias (Based on Table 1.)

Among single-bias hate crime incidents in 2019, there were 4,930 victims of race/ethnicity/ancestry motivated hate crime.

§  48.5 percent anti-Black or African American bias.

§  15.7 percent anti-White bias.

§  14.1 percent anti-Hispanic or Latino bias.

§  4.4 percent anti-Asian bias.

§  3.5 percent anti-multiple races, group

§  2.7 percent anti-American Indian or Alaska Native bias.

§  2.6 percent anti-Arab bias.

§  0.5 percent anti-Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander bias.

§  8.0 percent anti-Other Race/Ethnicity/Ancestry bias.


Known Offenders-

    • Of the 6,406 known offenders, 52.5% were white, and 23.9% were Black or African American. Other races accounted for the remaining known offenders: 1.1% were American Indian or Alaska Native, 0.9% were Asian, 0.3% were Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and 6.6% were of a group of multiple races. The race was unknown for 14.6%.
    • Of the 5,443 known offenders for whom ethnicity was reported, 33.1% were Not Hispanic or Latino, 10% were Hispanic or Latino, and 1.9% were in a group of multiple ethnicities. Ethnicity was unknown for 55.0% of these offenders.

4)    5) What’s happening to Jewish kids on campuses?

W While we expect anti-Semitism from the lower income-frustrated  classes, we see signs of increasing acceptance of anti-Semitism among higher income, better educated as well. This was question prompted by the recent blow up over anti-Semitic attacks at USC on the student body president. Further incidents I mentioned below reinforce the concern:

See this recent release( on Allgemeiner): 

"A California high school that has been plagued by antisemitic activity was in the spotlight again in Friday after its principal revealed that students had been subjected to another wave of offensive social media posts, including Holocaust denial, homophobic epithets and threats of rape.

In an email to parents earlier this week, David Sondheim — principal of Redwood High School in Marin County —  said that the most recent social media posts “targeted our Jewish students and families with hateful messages including references to false claims the Holocaust never happened, rape and homophobia. The accounts also followed Jewish students and asked Jewish students to follow the accounts.”

Marin county is ultra-liberal- 82 % Biden- so in the heart of upscale, upper income, liberal bastion! There was also the incidents of a principal of a Florida High School who had denied parents requests for programming on the Holocaust because there were doubts about its historicity . ( He was fired and then reinstated!) Can one imagine the outcry if a principal had said he would not have programs about Civil Rights or slavery because there were doubts!( The principal in point is African-American!).


 Link to AJC survey




Thursday, November 12, 2020

The Essence of Being a Jew -Exile and Self-alienation of the Modern Jew


  The Essence of Being a Jew  -Exile and Self-alienation of the Modern Jew

Yom Kippur 2020

                I have a favorite story that is part of the repertoire of High Holy- day literature in Jewish lore. It has been recorded in a great variety of versions, from antiquity, up until modern times, but the general gist is as follows:

              A certain king had an only son whom he loved and raised in the ways of righteousness, Yet the good, he exchanged for ugly, and went after the stubbornness of his heart. His father, the king turned against his son, and. banished him.

              The son wandered for many years-his clothes became torn and tattered. His face changed till it was not to be recognized that he was the son of a king.               When many days had passed, and he had his fill of wandering, he remembered his father, the king. He yearned to return, and made his way back to the palace.

              When he came back to the palace, he cried and begged for forgiveness.But his father did not recognize him, so greatly had he changed, until he began to scream bitterly,

              “Father, father, if you do not recognize my face, you must at least recognize my voice, for my voice has not changed.”

              His father indeed recognized him, and had pity on him, and they were reconciled.

              In a later, even sadder version, the king recognizes his son, but the son has descended so low, that he imagines that he is, indeed, only a peasant. Even the memory of royalty is forgotten.

              It is the metaphor for the human condition within Judaism. The individual, betselem elohim, in god's image, a child of god, has fallen into low state because of the sins of the year. At this time, it is possible, as the theme bears out, to achieve a return, to attain Teshuva and to find wholeness once again. This wholeness, is itself, the  intention “kapparah” , as we translate in English , Atonement, a word  we use so much at this season.

              Atonement is At-one-ment, a union, a statement of completion, which we seek with God.

              The opposite of this wholeness, this at-one-ness, is alienation, to use a term of philosophy and psychology. These tales are not just tales of sin, but tales of alienation, alienation on many levels.

              That alienation is described as “karet”, as when a Jew refuses to partake of the Passover Seder, he or she denies affiliation with the Covenant of the People and God, and willfully cuts himself off. That Jew is alienated.

              We become estranged from our God, estranged from our ideals, estranged from our goals. The Jews, as a people, are estranged from the land, estranged from the ancient Temple, estranged from their gentile neighbors. Now, in a time of pandemic and lockdown, many of us have been physically alienated as well.

              Alienation, a sense of isolation, of separateness, pervades the universe in Jewish thought--the Jew is in Galut, in exile, and, as a corollary, even God's presence, the Shekhina, is in exile. In mystical metaphor, a part of God is captive, held by the sitra achara,  the other side, the realm of evil. Even the Divine becomes mired in the grind of daily existence.

              The worst alienation, however, is that alienation from our own selves,when we, as Jews, feel alien from our fellow Jews, and alien from ourselves, as Jews. That is when the child of the king forgets completely, who he was and is. That has been a well documented malaise of exile from our Jewish self in the age of modernity.

              A common Jewish atttltude was described by the Jewish poet, Heine, who converted to Christianity,for economic success.

              His attitude was, and is, common: “Doctor, the mischief take the old Jewish religion! I don't wish it on my worst enemy. It brings nothing but abuse and disgrace. I tell you, it ain't a religion, but a misfortune.”

              This Jewish struggle with not being at one, with being alienated, is itself very ancient. The constant refrain of the prophets is inveighing against the rush of the children of Israel to adopt every new foreign god and cult.

          A few weeks ago, I was with a few friends bicycling along the beach at Venice. All of a sudden, we saw a big commotion, drums, chanting, and a procession of giant wagons, decorated with Hindu imagery. I realized that we had come upon the annual Festival of the Chariots.

              It’s nothing unusual in LA to have a variety of religious experiences, certainly nothing unusual about residents of Indian origin celebrating their heritage. But,as I looked at the participants, I realized they were mostly Anglos, very few from south Asia, and probably those were spectators like us .

              The devotees, to put it simply, were members of ISKCON, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, or , in short, Hare Krishna It has long been noted that a great number of the key leaders in its founding years were Jews.  

So I ask my self—how many of these celebrants were born, not of the Brahman caste, but of the Cohen, Levi, or Yisrael caste?  

Here’s a recent story that surely takes the cake, that I have excerpted from an essay in Jewish News Service ( Jonathan Tobin)

Her colleagues and students, as well as the editors of magazines and journals where her writing was welcomed, were under the impression that Jessica Krug was a black and Hispanic woman from “El Barrio” in the Bronx, N.Y.,  fighting systemic racism and becoming an outspoken and aggressive critic of white racism who honored her African and Caribbean “ancestors” with her radical activism.    Krug … incorporated attacks on Jews and Israel in rants in which she vented her rage as an aggrieved person of color. [She] claimed that the NYPD was being trained by the Israel Defense Forces in “counter-insurgency methods” in order to harm blacks…she denounced Jews for oppressing the “indigenous” people of “Palestine.”

[By the way, she would pronounce her name as “Cruz” and often write as “ Jess Labombalera.”]

But as it turns out, Krug wasn’t black or “Latinx.” Nor was she from “El Barrio.” Instead, she was a middle-class white Jewish woman who grew up in suburban Kansas City and attended a day school.

She finally confessed to her years of fraud  [but only because she her true background was about to be made public].

Her emotional troubles made her flee her “lived experience as a white Jewish child in suburban Kansas City.”

Oh, the tragedy- to be a white Jewish girl in a Kansas City suburb!

The contemporary examples, of our young Jews, so eager to be accepted into the circles of the revolutionaries, abound. During the protests over police violence in Kenosha a few weeks ago, a synagogue had been graffitied with” Free Palestine”. If Not Now, a prominent Jewish anti-Zionist organization, tweeted a denunciation of the graffiti.

Fine and good. So what happened? They were pounced upon by their fellow protesters  forced to take down their denunciation. To object to the defacing of a synagogue was to distract from the message of the protest.

 If Not Now caved to the cancel culture.

The Jew, you see, has always been expendable in the revolution.Krug and IfNot Now are “Deja Vyu all over again.”

We have many members from the former Soviet Union, so many of you will be very familiar with what I will say.

When the Communists took over Russia, the leaders, many among the top, were concerned that the Jewish workers were not loyal to the cause. They established the Yevsekzia, the Jewish Section. This was their mission:  the "destruction of traditional Jewish life, the Zionist movement, and Hebrew culture". In other words, it was to fulfill the older, Tsarist vision, of the total Russification of the Jews. "In time, every Jewish cultural and social organization came under assault" (Pipes). Acting together with local Soviet authorities, Evsektsii organized seizures of synagogues in Gomel, Minsk and Kharkov, which were subsequently converted to clubs or Communist centers.

So, what was the reward for their great loyalty?

“ The Yevsektsii were disbanded as no longer needed in 1929. Many leading members were murdered during the Great Purge of the late 1930s, including the Chairman, Dimanstein.”

            Yes, for their loyalty to the cause of the revolution, they were axed, along with the father of the Red Army, Leon Trotsky.

              What happened to Jews in the west, happened to Jews in the Arab world. Jews in the Middle East were in the forefront for the cause of independence of the newly emerging Arab States, what has been called “ The Second Great Arab Awakening.”

              One of the most prominent figures, for Arab independence was Albert Memmi, of Tunisia. Once Tunisia became independent, though, he had a rude awakening.

              "One way or another,the day comes when you discover that you are a Jew, just as you discover that you are mortal. Sooner or later, each Jew discovers his little Jew, the little Jews he sees around him, and the Little Jew who according to others, is within him. “

            Memmi was made to leave his Tunisia, as were countless other Jews who ancestors had been there for over two millenia.

            The revolutions of the world could not allow room for Jews, whether openly Jewish, or assimilated Jewish.

            We, as Jews, are always split between two identities. We are heirs to the Torah, which was the first work in human history to propound that all humans are descended from one shared human. Yet we are also heirs to the Torah, which taught us that we exist as a “goy kadosh” a sacred nation, with a special task and responsibility in the world, but never to be lost or melt into the melting pot of the greater civilization.

            Yes, we want to be in the forefront of social justice, here or in the world. But we also are not going to be the world’s scapegoat again and again. “Im ain ani li, mi li”. If I am not for myself, who will be for me, and if I am not for myself, how can I possibly be of good to any one else, of any race, religion, ethnicity, or intersectional identity.

We need to always conscious of our part in an ancient covenant, that going back to the gathering at Mount Sinai, and even before, between Abraham and God. All Jews who have entered that covenant, whether 3000 years ago, or yesterday, are caught up and bound in it. We are all of us party to a covenant with the divine, made by our predecessors millennia ago, in our name There is a collection note due on our souls with the divine, which is called in from time to time, a divine debt which keeps us from completely assimilating, from totally merging within the anonymity of history.

              Yisrael af shehata, Yisrael hu--a Jew, even though he has abandoned his faith and his actions, is still a Jew. It is a category of existence.

              This High Holy Day season, is the season of Teshuvah, which we explain as Return; it comes to remind us reminds us that we are never so far gone, never so far removed, that return is impossible. The sense of alienation can be put to rest.

             One of the verses that stands out during this season is form the Prophet, Jeremiah. The children of Israel, Ephraim, plead to God to accepted back from captivity and exile. God responds:

Truly, Ephraim is a dear son to me, a child that is dandled! Whenever I have turned against him, my thoughts would dwell on him still. That is why my heart yearns for him; I will receive him back in love. "

May we be all be accepted in love. Amen.