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Since the whole Whoopi Goldberg fiasco happened with her erroneous statement that the Holocaust was not about race and that Jews are all white, a large swathe of opinions have weighed in on the subject over the last week. One such article was written by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, claiming that Jews are not a race despite having been defined that way by Hitler.
It certainly is true that Jews have been falsely defined for years, not only by those who saw them in an unfair and dishonest light, but also by their own counterparts. One person who outlined this phenomenon was Los Angeles Conservative Rabbi Nolan Lebovitz whose article entitled, “It’s Not Up To Whoopi,” appeared in the Jerusalem Post. He wrote, “In a society, where people are free to choose their gender, their pronoun, their sexual orientation, their political affiliation, their religious affiliation, only Jews are again and again defined by others.” (2/7/22)
Although Rabbi Lebovitz probably had another interpretation in mind, the State of Israel has been one of those “others” who have been seeking to define who Jews are, what they should believe and how they should live. Those very definitions which they seek to impose have ended up being the arbitrary criteria on the matter of who is eligible for Israeli citizenship.
Consequently, if you are the child or grandchild of Jews, not affiliated with any particular synagogue, not active within the Jewish community, and someone who has intermarried, it’s more than likely that you will not be viewed as eligible for citizenship in the State of Israel.
The bureaucrats who run the Interior Ministry of the only Jewish state in the world have taken it upon themselves to determine who is Jewish enough to gain entrance into the coveted ancestral homeland – the place created as a refuge to protect our people from anti-Semitism which, throughout millennia, has risen in the form of population exile, blood libels, the loss of human freedoms and rights, pogroms, the Inquisition, the Holocaust and the vicious assault against Jews just for having been born into that ethnicity.
The one country which Jews always felt they could count on if worse ever came to worse, has been proven to be a place which will reject them if they do not fit the bill of being the kind of Jew that is acceptable to those handful of bigoted zealots who have been given the power and the authority to grant life or death as it concerns providing that safe haven.
Well, worse coming to worse seems to have caught up with us. Today’s Diaspora Jews can no longer assume their safety is guaranteed, protected and assured. To the contrary, in just the last year, anti-Semitic incidents have risen by an alarming rate. According to Times of Israel, 2021 was the worst year in a decade for antisemitism around the world. They wrote that a “Joint summary by the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency says there was a daily average of 10 incidents, with attacks in Europe accounting for 50% of the global total.” (1/24/22)
The Jerusalem Post reported that “In the US, New York saw a doubling of anti-Semitic incidents and Los Angeles saw a 59% increase compared to the same period in 2020.” (1/21/22) Couple these statistics with anti-Semitic Covid-19 sentiment which has been swirling around over the last few months. According to the SunSentinel, “Flyers containing an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory linking the Covid pandemic with several American Jews were recently distributed throughout Miami Beach and Surfside, necessitating an investigation by the FBI. The flyer listed prominent Jewish figures who work at many of the Covid-related institutions such as Pfizer, the Center for Disease Control, Health and Human Services and Moderna, among others, for bearing responsibility of the pandemic.
Of course, this is not the first time in history that disease-related accusations have been made against Jews. As author Talia Lavin wrote, “The idea of Jewish world-control, particularly also the association between Jews and disease, tracks directly back to the Black Death. Back then, pogroms swept Europe-decimating the entire Jewish population of Germany in particular – on a tide of false rumor about coordinated Jewish spread of plague. This is just the continuation of that shopworn tradition.” (SunSentinel, 1/24/22)
It stands to reason that anti-Semitic rhetoric and undertones does not seek to categorize Jews into the affiliated and non-affiliated. Anti-Jewish sentiment is an equal opportunity tool which merely looks, with a jaundiced eye, at anyone whose parents or grandparents were Jewish, thereby making them vulnerable to attack.
How does that square with the Interior Ministry bureaucrats who are presently turning away Jews from citizenship just because they may define themselves as somewhat different from the traditional Jews who are deemed to be more immigration desirable due to their religious observance?
I write about this, because I personally know of a good number of incidents where Jewish born individuals have been turned down for citizenship, because they failed to fit into a specifically defined box which is supposed to qualify them as being authentic enough for acceptance into the Jewish homeland. Specific cases were cited in my article, “Give Me Citizenship Or Give me Death,” published by Tsionizm.com, (1/13/22)
Can the State of Israel, amongst all entities, be the ones who are “getting it wrong” when it comes to who qualifies for citizenship under the Law of Return?
We can look at Whoppi Goldberg and write off her ignorance as coming from someone who knows little or nothing about the history of the Jewish people, the centuries of persecution they have endured and their diversity of color, thought and affiliation. But how can we write off the collective knowledge of the Jewish people, represented by their governmental leaders and agencies, as being ignorant or uninformed of what awaits the Jewish people who live outside the land of Israel if things continue to escalate and suddenly become irreversible?
How will we be able to face ourselves, knowing that we were indifferent to saving Jewish-born individuals who didn’t make the cut because they, just like any other people in the year 2022, had the freedom to make choices concerning how they lived their lives – choices which somehow, according to Israel’s Interior Ministry clerks, erased their birth identity.
Perhaps, if the invitation was extended to them to come home and discover their culture, people and identity, it would be the beginning of welcoming and embracing all world Jewry, whether they see themselves as part of the faith or not. If we were going to be honest, let’s face it, there is a large percentage of Israeli-born Jews who have totally rejected today’s expression of orthodox Judaism but who, nonetheless, live here and reap all the benefits that come with living as a protected Jew.
While Whoopi Goldberg can afford to get this wrong, the State of Israel and her leaders certainly can’t! It’s time to get this right before another Jewish tragedy befalls us!
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