Beyond the Cusp

April 16, 2015

Anti-Semitism Rising Yet It Can’t Happen Here

 

Any sane person, one might think, would not doubt that anti-Semitism is rising in the four corners of the globe. While that is true, each admission of that carries an additional modifier. That modifier is the exact same modifier used by Jews everywhere from the beginning of Judaism as a major religion, “It can’t happen here.” Now, that modifier always has some accompanying rationalizations such as the following: We Jews are an intricate part of the society; we are accepted in society; we are seen as judges, lawyers, businesspeople, and are even elected to positions in government; we Jews are accepted and assimilated; and my favorite, this isn’t Nazi Germany, this is America. There is one item from the previous which has always puzzled me, how it is such an intelligent people, as Jews presumably are, can misunderstand that their being assimilated does not infer automatically that the population has assimilated them into the whole. There are other qualifiers and whatever one you can dream up is probably used by some Jews somewhere. What is really ridiculous is when there are leaders of Jewish society, the central pillar around which the community seeks wisdom and guidance, the Rabbis who when asked, “Should not the Jews leave here and seek someplace less threatening to live?” They answer, “No, of course not. Why would you suggest that? This has been our home and the homes of our families for generations. We have a lot invested in this community.” And my favorite and usually their final rationalization, “The authorities have promised to help us and keep the peace and guard against any further anti-Semitism.” Do not get me wrong, they honestly feel that these rationalizations are completely valid and hold water. They refuse to see that the actual realities have struck holes in their every argument.

 

Things in Europe are at the worse and mostly beyond the cusp range of realities; so I will stick with the queries and responses we received when we began telling the other members of the congregation with whom we had a familiar friendship. First allow me to point out that those with whom we still converse online and the Rabbi all supported our making Aliyah and gave it their blessings if not their desire that it be they who were going to live in Eretz Yisroel. But the others gave responses such as, “Why would you want to go there? You are leaving the United States? But things are so much more civil here. Aren’t you worried about the terrorism? And our favorite, you will be returning here within a year once you see what it is like in Israel. I’ve been there and I know. Those naysayers were wrong. We’ve been here well over a year and are loving it. I, myself, have never felt more comfortable and accepted as I have here and can only imagine how much more so once we have mastered Hebrew, at least master enough to, through spits and starts, get through an entire thought.

 

That little anecdotal trip down memory lane was to point out we have seen this attitude play itself out in our own experience. Of course, as mentioned, our friends all expressed their longing to make Aliyah and come to Israel and many expected to do so in the near future, but time will tell on that. Getting to make Aliyah as a Jew is no longer you show up and announce that you are Jewish, kiss the ground, and be granted immediate citizenship. The paperwork we filled out made a pile almost rivaling the stuff we brought with us. OK, that was a bit of an exaggeration. Still, the process for us was a little complicated and took over two years to complete and during that time it had its many ups, downs and why would they need to know this questions. Eventually we completed the process and many of the items we were puzzled why they were necessary proved not to be required but was stuff they gathered for statistical reasons. OK, so you were collecting mega-data, why didn’t you just say so, we’ve heard about Edward Snowden, we would have understood, honest.

 

Our making Aliyah had to do with a young nine year old boy promising himself, the worst promise you can make because it requires you to either complete the promise or let yourself down, that when the time came and all things in America were fulfilled he would retire in Israel, something the wiffie really might have preferred knowing about before we got married, but she already knew I was a bit strange, right, quite strange, well, if you insist, beyond the cusp strange! There, I’ve admitted it, happy? Still, it may have been the most advantageous thing we ever did as it changed our lives for the better and really opened up our lives much as a rose stretches out its petal to greet the morning sun and drink up the warmth and the blessed energy G0d has seen in His wisdom to provide for that rose bud so tightly shuttered to awaken stretching out revealing its beauty and spreading its fragrance for all to inhale and exclaim that this is a beautiful day. That is how we awaken here most mornings.

 

Back to the subject which is as horrific and threatening as our returning home to Eretz Yisroel was rewarding and enriching. The news we read about places in Europe such as Malmo, London, Toulouse, and numerous other places are horrific and makes us feel for those Jews residing amongst such hatreds it amazes us that they don’t simply pick up their lives and come to Israel. Surprisingly, even including all the terrorism within the Green Line in Israel, you are still safer in Israel than you are from crime in the United States or Europe, surprising but true. Yet not only do these people continue to live in places where their lives are under threat both day and night, but their Rabbis all tell them it is the Jewish thing to do to remain in defiance to the threats. Where in all that is holy is that written? Looking back over the past year or so in the United States, pulling solely from news stories, I am able to remember we have had some horrific acts of anti-Semitism. There was the Rabbi visiting family in Florida walking to synagogue in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood who was approached by two youths, at least younger adults if not teens, a brief exchange of words, the sound of gunfire and the two youths walked away calmly leaving the Rabbi sprawled out dead on the pavement. The Florida local police listed this as a robbery gone bad, as if the youths had no realization that religious Jews, which the attire of the Rabbi was obvious, do not carry money or items of wealth on the Sabbath. There have been near countless desecration of Jewish cemeteries or the Jewish section of a cemetery yard throughout the United States and ten times worse in Europe. There have been desecration committed against Holocaust memorials often accompanied by writings on such structures of “Jews to the gas,” “Hitler was right,” “Jews get out,” “Holocaust was a myth,” “We are the new Holocaust” amongst numerous other defamations of this ilk. Then there was a stretch of time where a “game” which became known as the “knockout the Jew” game where a member of a group of youths as they passed somebody sporting Jewish identifying clothing would attempt to one-punch the targeted Jew at a minimum knocking them off their feet or knocking them unconscious, scoring howls and celebratory knuckle tapping in recognition of this person’s singular accomplishment. Eventually this happening caught sufficient attention from the authorities, especially after one elderly man died from his wounds from striking his head on a curb after being struck as part of this fun game. There have been defiling of synagogues with such an event just this past week in Gaithersburg, Maryland. which is located in Montgomery County. which is heavily Jewish with a percentage of eighteen and two-tenths. That is actually a very impressive percentage when one figures in the percentage of people in the world who are Jews, a whopping two-one hundredths of one percent, for those who might be having difficulty with realizing how small a percentage that is, allow me to reference it in other ways, 0.02% which mathematically comes out to 0.0002 Jews per unit of population, one would require counting out a section of any random grouping of people from around the world a staggering five-thousand people in order to have relative assurance that there would be a single Jew in the group. Perhaps placing a bit of writing that Mark Twain once wrote about the Jewish people will be far more impressive than anything I could ever imagine up, so the rest is from Mark Twain’s essay “All Things are Mortal but the Jew”* also referred to as “The Eternal Jew.”

 

If statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of stardust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk.
His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world, in all the ages; and had done it with his hands tied behind him.
He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it.The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed; and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished.
The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind.
All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?”

 

Beyond the Cusp

 
* “Concerning The Jews,” Harper’s Magazine, 1899
The Complete Essays of Mark Twain, Doubleday [1963] pg. 249

April 9, 2014

Does Jobbik Party Electoral Success in Hungary Taint Europe?

If there would be an extreme and overt reaction to the election results in Hungary which gave the Xenophobic and Anti-Semitic Jobbik Party a three percent increase in the vote making them the third most popular party behind Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz Party and the fractious opposition center-left alliance led by Attila Mesterhazy, it would come from the European Jewish Congress (EJC). The EJC claimed on Monday the success of the anti-Semitic Jobbik party in Hungary was “a source of grave concern for Europe.” Additionally, EJC President Moshe Kantor was quoted in the European Jewish Press saying, “The gains made by Jobbik, an unashamedly neo-Nazi political party, should serve as a wake-up call for the whole of Europe. Once again in Europe we are witnessing democracy being appropriated by those are the enemies of democracy. This is truly a dark day for Hungary. It is the duty of both European leaders and voters to ensure that a strong message is delivered by supporters of democracy throughout Europe to show these racists and xenophobes that hate has no place on our continent.”

 

Of course the Jobbik Party did attempt to distance themselves from their former anti-Semitic and anti-Roma past reputation by presenting themselves as a more center of the road but “radical nationalist” movement focused on law and order and attacking corruption. Like many extreme fringe groups, the Jobbik rebranding of themselves to offer a more acceptable and affirming front in place of their former negative and hateful rhetoric required the relative silence of some of the more rabid old guard, something they were apparently quite successful. One such candidate is Istvan Meszaros, a candidate from Baja on the Serbian border, who is the leader of the New Hungarian Guard, a controversial vigilante group that has held torchlight marches in Roma neighborhoods, much like its predecessor, the Hungarian Guard, which was banned in 2009. Meszaros was quoted by AFP at his Baja campaign offices claiming, “Jobbik offers action, not just talk. Crime falls in those areas after(wards).” This was a reference to the measureable results of such marches. Of course, it is needless to point out that retaining candidates like Meszaros in “safe” locals fortifies the extremists from the old and less savvy Jobbik Party.

 

The question is what does their improved election results mean about the rise of xenophobia and racism across Europe? Similar results have been noted in Greece in recent elections with their Golden Dawn Party, reputed to be even more extreme group of nationalists than the Jobbik Party. There were also the gains made in France by Marine Le Pen’s Front National Party in recent local elections. In the eleven towns and districts which are now controlled by the Front National Party there has been debate on a sensitive issue about the substitution meals targeting mainly Muslim and Jewish students. Marine Le Pen told RTL radio, “We will accept no religious requirements in the school lunch menus.” She defended the decision saying it was necessary to “save secularism”. I have some problems that in some manner I can understand and even agree with Miss Le Pen’s as she has obviously discovered that Secularism is, if its practitioners were to be honest, a form of religion replete with commandments, deities, and a formative cannon. The religion of Secularism is, in many ways, one of the least tolerant religions and, as is often the case with any religion in its youth, and is determined to replace and subvert every other religion and place itself as the preeminent religion over all within any society where it gains a foothold. This is another reason for the advancement in election of the uber-nationalist as they are the purveyors on the front lines of exclusive secularism.

 

The rumors that religion has died in Europe are actually a false narrative used by the Secularists who claim that secularism is a political viewpoint and not a religion. They claim that it is anti-religion and purely logical and science based is one of the basic religious cannons of the secularists who make such claims to imply that secularism is steeped in unarguable facts and thus not faith based. Their argument is along the same line as the ecology anthropogenic global warming advocates who also claim that the debate is over and their definitions are the only acceptable and truthful views making everything else a form of apostasy. There is a fair amount of overlap between the secularists and the nationalist parties, especially when it comes to their exclusive and narrow acceptance of only those of similar beliefs and backgrounds and rejection of traditional religious minorities. Both groups also tend to be socialistic in their political persuasions. Their emotional attachment resembles religious fanatical observance to a rigid structure and defined cannon which rules out any debate or variance. Such a limited and rigid structure often leads to fanaticism and a developing hatred for those who are perceived as the other, those opposed to their political beliefs. For the secularists that includes the religious while the nationalists it includes all foreign groups and those religions other than the traditional religion or possibly a religion formed by the nationalists themselves which could easily be considered a secular belief. These groups, as they include greater numbers, can lead to oppressive societies which are often capable of victimizing minorities and whomever they label as the evil other, and the outsider is always evil simply because they are different and not in agreement with the rigid belief structure adhered to be such groups. The danger comes when they gain legitimate power through elections or other methods and can eclipse reason and acceptance of those who are labeled as unacceptable minorities who threaten to subvert the order and accepted mandates of the society. This will eventually lead to oppressive policies and animosity beyond normal acceptance under what is considered common custom. Europe has been down this road before in many different scenarios which always resulted in tragedies and abhorrent hate-filled persecutions. Hopefully the economic and social difficulties which are the driving impetus behind the rise of such fanatics will subside and the stresses relieved before Europe once again drives itself into another fanatical and hateful obsession.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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