Skip to main content

"What are you so afraid of?" A nuclear-option response to questioning a SCOTUS decision.

"What are you so afraid of?"

That's one reaction American Jews hear from some Jewish leaders when they get antsy about perceived over-intrusion of the US majority religion into the public sphere. It got airtime when American Jews expressed disgust with Mel Gibson's sado-masochistic atrocity, "Passion of the Christ" and his maniacal anti-Jewish ramblings when he was picked up for drunk driving. Then when American Jews reacted with disgust to Pat Robertson's off-handed "joke" - with a rabbi who seemed to agree with him no less - that Jews hire people to wash their cars on Sundays so they can better spend their time serving the people by polishing their diamonds. Then when a state chief justice insisted that the only deity worth constitutional protection is his specific deity. And then when a hot mic picked up anti-Semitic ramblings from a retired upper echelon military official.

The "what are you so afraid of" Jewish-leadership response is making the rounds again over the recent SCOTUS decision declaring that religion-specific prayers preceding town meetings in a town in upstate New York had not crossed constitutional boundaries.

The problem is that "what are you afraid of" assumes that discomfort equals fear: fear of being proselytized, fear of not being able to commit equally in their own (lack of, so the argument goes) religious observance and knowledge, fear of being lost in some cosmic game of religious shuffleboard.

In fact, when Jewish leaders use "what are you so afraid of," it becomes an unintended boomerang. It assumes that a minority population's concern of being swallowed up with legal approval by a majority is an insult to the majority. And since it assumes that minority populations in the US live and prosper only "by the leave" of the majority, to question that ethos is dangerous and slippery slope territory. When used by Jewish leaders, it speaks to a paranoia that fears speaking truth (lower-case or upper-case) to power because "they" will be angry and then we'll be back in trouble again.

To be blunt, for Jewish leaders to use "what are you so afraid of" to dismiss Jewish concerns, it's provocative (and not in a good way) and sublimely unhelpful.

Next time: and yet another unhelpful nuclear-option response.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

And Sarah said, "Hashtag Me Too"

#metoo Parashat Lech Lecha Friday/Saturday, October 27-28, 2017 Cantor Penny M. Kessler
Thank you to Rabbi Tiwy for giving me the opportunity to offer some words of Torah tonight and tomorrow morning.
“Hashtag me, too” is the rallying cry giving voice to millions of women who have been used and abused sexually, physically, emotionally, and intellectually for decades. From the lofty heights of show business to secretaries and janitors, women are finding their voices and declaring that their stories of abuse need to be told. Some have never told their stories, while some have come forward in the past, only to be told to shut up and show up lest their livelihoods – and in some cases lives – be threatened.
I have friends and rabbi and cantor colleagues who are telling their stories for the first time, some in decades, some who experienced abuse and harassment during their seminary experiences. And – personal disclaimer – while I am grateful that I have never been physically abused, there are m…

Nissan 1, 5778 - First the Refrigerator (Begin)

My refrigerator needs a solid Pesach cleaning. So does my stove and my pantries. Just thinking about it gives me a headache. 
Bring on the excuses: it's too much, I'm tired, I want to sit and watch more repeats of Law and Order: SVU. 
But I know that I'll feel virtuous and delighted with myself with every completed task. 
Fine. Deep breath. Change into comfy clothes and head to the refrigerator.