145 Broadway, Newark, New Jersey 07104
President: Eric Freedman, 201-988-3799
Rabbi: Simon Rosenbach 908-591-4037, firstname.lastname@example.org
SHABBAT SERVICES STARTING TIME
Please note: services this Saturday morning, February 16, 2019, will start at nine o’clock in the morning. We are going to be short some regulars this week. If you have nothing to do on Saturday morning, consider coming to Ahavas Sholom and help to make our minyan. Your presence will be appreciated by anybody who needs to say Kaddish and you will enable us to read the Torah. Thank you in advance.
It is not too early to start thinking of Purim. We will read the Megillah on Wednesday night, March 20, 2019. We presently have three Megillah readers (Dubra, Hooshmand, and I) unless Fred shows up. Do you want to learn to read the Megillah? We will be happy to teach you. You don’t need to read an entire chapter.
ADULT BAR AND BAT MITZVAH
We are have settled on March 16, 2019, for the adult bar and bat mitzvah. On that Shabbat, we will start the Book of Vayikra, and it is also the Shabbat before Purim, Shabbat Zachor, where we have a special maftir remembering what Amalek did to the Israelites on their way to Eretz Canaan. Our goal is to have everybody chant at least three verses of Torah and a portion of the haftarah, which is among the saddest stories in the Tanakh. It recounts how God took the kingship from Saul, because he didn’t follow the Prophet Samuel’s exact directions. Our goal is also to have everybody lead a portion of the service, whether it be the preliminary service (I’m all by myself during the preliminary service, excepting Harold and Fred and Linda and Flora, and maybe a couple of people who got lost on their way to Newark and the ride didn’t take them as long as they thought), Shacharit, the Torah service, or Musaf. Don’t feel as though as you are obligated to meet the goals; you are not 13 anymore and doing it to please your parents. So come sign up, and we will teach you what you want to learn. Other people have done it before you, and you are as smart and disciplined as any of them. Don’t be scared.
We will be meeting next on Sunday, February 17, 2019, at 10 a.m. at Ahavas Sholom.
The cost of sponsoring Kiddush is $150, and that barely covers the cost of the lunch. Our goal is to have every Kiddush sponsored, so if you want to mark an event of honor a loved one, sponsor a Kiddush at Ahavas Sholom. If you want to sponsor a Kiddush, e-mail me, call me, call the synagogue, or fax the synagogue. Or e-mail Alla Eicheldinger at Alla7815@yahoo.com. Another thing you can do, which doesn’t cost any money, is shop. We have a list, we’ll tell what to buy. You get reimbursed. You can contact me or Alla. We welcome all volunteers.
The Kiddush this Shabbat is sponsored by April Modlinger. Thank you April.
Every person is sensitive to criticism about that person’s ethnicity, or religion, or even occupation. For example, insurance salesmen are offended by insurance salesman jokes. Catholics are sensitive to criticism of priests. And Jews are quick to smell antisemitism.
Recently, a freshman congressman from Minnesota, Ilhan Omar, has been saying things that mainstream, Jewish organizations and non-Jewish members of Congress describe as antisemitic. Today, we are going to examine a difference (if there is a difference) between antisemitic rhetoric and legitimate criticism of Israel’s policies.
To say the Israeli policy of building settlements in the West Bank is an impediment to peace, that argument is legitimate. Reasonable people can differ over the effect of the settlements on the peace process (what little process that exists, anyway). If you say the continuing partial blockade of Gaza is an impediment to peace, that argument is legitimate. Reasonable people can differ over the effect of the blockade given Hamas’ leadership of Gaza. So when do we have the legitimate right to attach the label “antisemitic” to comments from commentators, or elected (or appointed) officials?
Let’s review what Omar said. In 2012, before she was a congresswoman, Omar said, by Twitter, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel. #Gaza #Palestine #Israel” These comments were made during the week-long, November war between Israel and Hamas, the rulers of the Gaza Strip.
This comment reflects the theme of the Jew as the manipulator of the whole world. The most egregious example is The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which purported to be minutes of a 19th century meeting where Jews sought to create a global hegemony by controlling the world’s press and the world’s economies. Another example, which is less well known, is the Nazi film Jud Suss. In this film, which was seen by 20 million people in 1940, a duke of a principality needs money to accomplish laudable goals. To bankroll his plans the duke enlists a Jew (although Jews are barred from the principality) named Joseph Suss Oppenheimer, who is very wealthy. Suss predictably (it is, after all, a Nazi film) dominates the politics and the economy of the principality until there is a revolution and Suss is hanged. In the more modern era, we Jews are accustomed to hearing that the Jews dominate the press (the Times is owned by a Jewish family) and dominate the banks (which were virulently antisemitic until the latter stages of the 20th century). More recently, the President has blamed “globalists” for America’s economic woes. The globalists named are George Soros, Lloyd Blankfein, Jake Tapper (whom Ann Coulter described as “half Globalist”), and Michael Bloomberg (whom Congressman Kevin McCarthy mentioned along with Soros and Tom Steyer [who is, echoing Ann Coulter’s description of Tapper, “half Globalist”], all of whom are Jewish [or have one Jewish parent]. McCarthy later demonstrated the height of hypocrisy by criticizing Omar, as though he hadn’t said the same thing.). The term “globalist” has a long history of antisemitic connotations in this Country, starting in 1943. That year, an isolationist Republican labeled colleagues who advocated welcoming refugees from Europe as globalists. His speech was reprinted in full by a group that was against the substitution of the Jewish tradition for the Christian tradition. David Duke and Richard Spencer (who need no introduction to their antisemitic views) equate Jews with globalists.
So Omar’s “hypnotized” comments fell under the Jew-as-the-manipulator-of-the-world umbrella. She could have criticized Israel for being an aggressor. She could have criticized Israel for being an oppressor. But no, she criticized Israel under the age-old, antisemitic theme as the Jew as the global manipulator.
Omar’s latest criticism of Israel and AIPAC came last week. She tweeted about Congress’ support for Israel, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby [followed by a sequence of three music notes].” “Benjamins” refers to $100 bills, and the tweet was a reference to the supporters of Israel donating large numbers of dollars to congressmen to buy their support for Israel. When Omar was asked who donates the money, she answered by tweet, “AIPAC.”
Now, there are various things wrong with her tweets, and all of them are antisemitic, ranging from vaguely antisemitic to concretely antisemitic. First of all, it is not all about the money. Evangelicals love Israel (for theological reasons), conservatives love Israel (for theological reasons and geo-political reasons), and level-headed people support Israel, for geo-political reasons. Second, AIPAC is not allowed to donate to candidates or in-office politicians. Granted, this is a technical objection, because AIPAC hosts politicians at “fact-finding” missions, and AIPAC funds Israel trips, where the board of AIPAC hopes that the politicians will see the Mideast conflict AIPAC’s way. But Omar’s initial tweet echoes the old stereotype that Jews control the world by manipulating money.
And there is something else, that Omar probably knows better than you and I. I have not seen this (what I am about to write) in any article criticizing Omar.
“It’s all about the Benjamins” is a song by the rapper Puff Daddy. He first sang it in 1996 on a mixtape, and the song appeared on his debut album, “No Way Out.” The reference is not original; another rapper coined the reference in 1994. What Omar probably knew, and most people probably don’t, is there a couplet in the song that goes like this:
We See Through, That’s Why Nobody Never Gon’ Believe You
You Should Do What We Do, Stack Chips Like (Hebrews)
“Hebrews” is in parentheses, because it is often excised from the radio play of the song. I researched what the line means, and my research unearthed innocuous meanings and antisemitic meanings. I am not an authoritative voice on the meaning of rap lyrics, but if “Hebrews” is excised, there must be a reason for it, and I am guessing level-headed people in the industry think the line is an antisemitic reference to Jews being rich, or, at least, Jews being money-hungry. I am guessing that Omar knew that reference, and probably assumed people like Jerry Nadler and Nancy Pelosi, who made Omar apologize, didn’t know the deeper layers of antisemitism in the song.
Omar is not the only freshman representative in Congress who voiced antisemitic sentiments. This past January, Rashida Tlaib, reacting to the Senate’s efforts to criminalize support of the BDS movement, said, “They forgot what country they represent.” Now, accusations of dual loyalty have plagued the Jews ever since we settled in other lands than Palestine. (And the Jews are not the only people to be accused of dual loyalties. John Kennedy fought hard to overcome accusations that he would be a puppet of the Catholic Church.) Accusations of dual loyalty are an antisemitic trope, and Tlaib responded to criticism of her statement by saying, in essence, I was criticizing only my colleagues who forget the First Amendment guarantees the right to take an unpopular position. Forget that Tlaib, like Omar, support the BDS movement which, in the final analysis (and in the first analysis) promotes the delegitimization and the eventual destruction of the Jewish State of Israel. What is really important that they slyly utter antisemitic canards which just enough objectivity that they can hide behind them.
For example, many people have defended Omar because she commented truthfully that lobbyists lobby congressman and, bluntly, money talks. Many defenders of Omar said that if Omar made her “Benjamins” observation about the NRA, her observation would be both true and welcomed by the same Democrats who criticized her. But the NRA doesn’t have a two-millennia-old association with controlling the world’s money supply. The NRA doesn’t have an association with a story of Jews closeting in a secret room making plans to manipulate the entire world. If Omar had said, for example, “AIPAC has an outsize influence over Congress,” that would be a neutral statement the veracity of which people could debate. If Omar had said, for example, “I can not understand why people admire Israel notwithstanding Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians,” that would be a neutral statement the veracity of which people could debate.
But Omar (and Tlaib, and McCarthy, for that matter) cloaked their policy arguments in antisemitic garb. Not every criticism of Israel’s government’s policies is antisemitic. Successive United States administrations have criticized the building of settlements in the West Bank. But when you dress policy statements in antisemitic clothes, you may not be an antisemite, but you are spouting antisemitic themes.
And while I am at it, people saying that they are opposed to Zionism, and they are not antisemitic, bear a closer look. Omar and Tlaib support the BDS movement (Boycott [Israel], Divest [sell off holdings in companies that do business in Israel], and Sanction [Israel]). They are both Muslim, and I appreciate that they identify with their Muslim co-religionists in the West Bank and Gaza. But I could not find any statement from Omar or Tlaib about the persecution of Muslims in Myanmar. I could not find any statement from Omar or Tlaib about the persecution of Muslims in China. When a critic singles out Israel for behavior that other countries engage in, and when those critics don’t say anything about those countries’ behavior, it starts to look like anti-zionism is antisemitism.
Our reaction to antisemitism has made us very sensitive. There is legitimate criticism that can be levelled at Israel, and there is legitimate criticism that can be levelled at AIPAC, and there is legitimate criticism that can be levelled at Jews, individually, or collectively. We should not be afraid, however, to identify the antisemitic themes in those criticisms, and to rebuke the critics.