Abe Foxman gets paid to worry about anti-Semitism. He worries about cemetery vandalism, about Jewish cadets feeling uncomfortable as tiny minorities at their academies, about the Pope saying or not saying the things Abe feels he shouldn’t or should. Most recently, Abe was heard demanding an apology from James Dobson for his over-the-top comparison of stem-cell research to Nazi death-camp experiments. (An aside: Given his touchiness about anything Nazi-related, will Abe also be demanding an apology from the IDF for expulsion exercises — televised in prime-time — in which soldiers wearing talis and tefillin, to resemble Gaza residents, were violently assaulted by Border Police?)
The list goes on, but the point here is not to debate the merits of whether these are things Abe is right to get exercised over. The point is, instead, that the things Jews themselves are saying and doing — and beyond specific words and deeds, that which Jews as a whole have likely come to personify in the minds of many Americans — ought to be a far greater source of concern in regard to our community’s future in this country.
Here’s a small sampling, culled from recent news reportage, of things that Abe ought really to be worrying about:
— The refusal of various American Jewish organizations to publicly promote the until-now embattled candidacy of John Bolton for U.N. ambassador. Despite direct pleas from the Bush administration to help overcome the Democratic filibuster of Bolton, these groups did little, and some did nothing, on his behalf.
A White House official expressed surprise at this lack of response, given that Bolton, in addition to being a vociferous critic of the U.N. and its long-standing anti-Israel bias, has a strongly pro-Israel record. Indeed, he was one of the architects of the 1991 repeal of the U.N. resolution equating Zionism with racism.
Why have these groups been so reticent about a man who, logically and morally, should be a shoo-in for their vigorous support? The Forward and JTA both suggest that the fact that Jewish organizations have an abundance of liberal supporters makes it uncomfortable to offer high-profile support for the President over Democratic opposition. As one unidentified Jewish organizational operative put it: “We don’t want it to look like we are the lackeys of the Republican Party.” That’s the same party whose leader has been, for what it’s worth, one of Israel’s stauncher allies in the White House.
The resultant image is one of Jews as untrustworthy ingrates, who whine for others to excoriate the slightest semblance of anti-Semitism and supplicate them to support Israel to the hilt. When those requests are honored, and a small gesture of reciprocity is asked for, like lobbying senators to confirm a man who, in any event, would be Israel’s good friend, the Jewish response is a flat-out thumbing of the nose, for no reason other than slavish subservience to the Democratic left-wing.
— From far too many media stories to enumerate, there emerges a picture of Jews as, at best, bent on banishing every trace of G-d and religion from the public arena, and, at worst, as sworn enemies of America’s majority religion.
Exhibit One: Writing about the mounting evidence that Senate Democrats, in blatant disregard of the Constitution’s “religious test” prohibition, view people of faith as inherently unfit for the bench, Opinion Journal’s Manuel Miranda notes that
Democrats savaged the reputation of Arkansas’s Leon Holmes, a devout Catholic nominated as a trial judge. Sens. Diane Feinstein of California, Charles Schumer of New York and Richard Durbin of Illinois showed invidious ignorance in mocking Arkansas’s finest appellate lawyer for an article he and his wife had published in a Catholic newspaper, in which the couple explained St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians on Christian marriage. “They don’t have a problem with Holmes,” Sen. Orrin Hatch observed. “They have a problem with St. Paul.”
While we’re on the topic: If, as so many Jewish organizations continuously declare to all who will listen, Judaism strongly favors a woman’s “right to choose,” why were nominees Breyer and Ginsburg not suspect of being incapable of impartially considering abortion cases for fear of a higher, extra-legal allegiance? There are, of course, two answers to that question, both of them true: 1) Raising the specter of a nominee’s faith is but a facade, to be used in service of the noble goal of abortion rights and discarded when it hampers that goal and 2) does anyone in his right mind truly believe that it is the Judaic creed, imagined or otherwise, rather than the liberal credo, that determines the stance of the great majority of Jewish abortion proponents?
Exhibit Two: It’s one thing when the AJC, ACLU, et al, break out in cold sweats over the implications of a nativity scene or even an evangelically-inspired Ten Commandments monument on public property. Today a creche, tomorrow forced conversions by Pat Robertson’s hordes; so the thinking goes.
But now we have the Forward reporting that Robert Freedburg, the presiding judge (and the first Jewish one) of the Court of Common Pleas in Northhampton County, Pennsylvania has called into question the legality of a Ten Commandments plaque that has hung in his courtroom for half a century — and was presented to the court by a committee of local Jews to mark the 300th anniversary of Jewish settlement in America!
Norman Seidel, who was one of the original presenters, notes that the purpose “certainly wasn’t encouraging people to become Jews,” but to “commemorate a historical occasion,” with the Commandments being particularly appropriate given their mention in the Declaration of Independence. Ellis Weitzman, son of the committee chair, asks why, “if the attorneys and judges first put [the display] up in 1955, if they thought it was okay then, why isn’t it okay today?”
The article notes that “[b]y all accounts the plaque is unobtrusive, and in the course of its 50 years on the courthouse wall, no suits have ever been filed and only one defendant has ever complained about its presence.” Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent Ten Commandments ruling found just such longtime, historically-rooted displays to be legitimate. There’s also the salient fact that, in the case of a plaque donated by Jews “nobody would presume that America is a Jewish country.”
But no matter. When it comes to that holiest of shrines, the Wall of Separation of Church and State, nothing can be allowed to stop Jews from reverentially genuflecting before it. In fact, some Jews don’t even seem to care what decision Freedburg’s panel will reach on the law. Rabbi Jonathan Gerard of Temple Covenant of Peace generously volunteered on behalf of the local Jewish community — unilaterally, it would appear — “to find another place for [the plaque] in the service of a higher constitutional principle.” Because, you see, when the protection of “higher principles” is at stake, no amount of caution, no manner of stringency, no effort at fence-building to defend against the dreaded slippery slope is too excessive to ensure that every last whiff of chometz — er, faith — is eradicated.
Postscript: Temple Covenant of Peace is, we are told, the country’s fifth oldest congregation (thereby putting it, by my reckoning, just ahead of Our Lady of Perpetual Nachas). One wonders how many, or few, of its founding members’ present-day descendants are recognizably Jewish, or at all, due in no small measure to the zealousness of Gerard’s predecessors in safeguarding the “higher principles” (and the imagined penumbras thereof) of some 18th century guys in funny wigs at the expense of those of Moses.