A highly respected American rabbi named Dr. Irving “Yitz” Greenberg used to tell American Jewish audiences, whether Reform, Conservative Orthodox, “I don’t care what denomination you’re a member of, as long as you’re ashamed of it.”
I have adopted that phrase, and I apply it to religions generally. One could just as easily say to Catholics, Protestants and Muslims, “I don’t care what religion you identify with, as long as you’re ashamed of it.” Meaning, of course, you’re ashamed of what many of its members have done to it.
Just think of what has happened to much of mainstream Protestantism; to much of Catholicism, including, sadly, the current pope; and most especially, to the Islamic world.
Given the subject of this column — the destructive influence of leftism on Jews and Judaism — it is relevant to mention some of my Jewish involvement. Among other things, I taught Jewish history and religion at Brooklyn College, was the spokesman for the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, have written two books and hundreds of essays and columns on Jews and Judaism, received the American Jewish Press Association Louis Rapoport Award for Excellence in Jewish Commentary, have brought many thousands of Jews to Judaism and have lectured to more Jewish groups in the past 40 years than almost any living Jew.
So, I say this with only sadness: Many American Jews on the left, including rabbis and lay leaders, are embarrassing Jews and Judaism. I say this to ring an alarm in Jewish life and to tell non-Jewish America that these people represent leftism, not Judaism. Furthermore, I am talking only about leftist Jews, not liberal Jews. Unfortunately, however, liberalism has become synonymous with leftism both within and outside Judaism.
This past week, the embarrassing behavior of left-wing Jews reached a new level.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Jews and their clergy at various synagogues around America were gathering to sit shiva — the Hebrew and Jewish term for the seven-day period of grieving that Jews engage in after the loss of an immediate relative — because Donald Trump was elected president.
Consider for a moment how childish and narcissistic this is, using the sacred ritual reserved for the death of one’s child or parent as a way to express disappointment over a presidential election.
And of course, there were the irresponsible, over-the-top outbursts by Jewish columnists and academics. Take Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, who devoted his column after the election to writing an open letter to his 12-year-old daughter.
“As I watched the returns at Donald Trump’s celebration here Tuesday night,” Milbank began, “the hardest part was trying to reassure my seventh-grade daughter at home, via phone and text, that she would be okay.
“She had expected to be celebrating the election of the first female president, but instead, this man she had been reading and hearing horrible things about had won.”
The man’s 12-year-old daughter “feared her own world could come apart” because of the election result. He reassured her, however, that her world would be fine, especially since she would be receiving so much love at her upcoming bat mitzvah.
Milbank’s daughter’s trauma was more than matched by the reaction of a Jewish adult, Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine. On Nov. 8, he tweeted, “This is the worst thing that has happened in my life.”
Chait was 31 years old on 9/11.
A response to his tweet by a woman named Bethany S. Mandel pretty well summarized the maturity level of Chait’s comment. She said: “I took my mom off life support at 16 & dad hanged himself 3 yrs later. I’m sorry this election was so hard for you.”
I am sure Ms. Mandel would join me in paying Mr. Chait a shiva call.
Speaking of 9/11, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman said on Bill Maher’s show that Trump’s victory is “a moral 9/11.” He suggested that Trump becoming president might be worse than 9/11, for 9/11 happened to us, but “we did this to ourselves.”
Paul Krugman, Friedman’s colleague at The New York Times, wrote that he now realizes that he “truly didn’t understand the country we live in.” Never have truer words been written. It’s tough to understand those for whom you only have contempt.
Add similar comments made during the election by other Jewish leftists in the media and academia, and you get the picture.
How are we to understand this?
Here’s one explanation: When Jews abandoned Judaism, many of them did not abandon Judaism’s messianic impulse. From Karl Marx — the grandson of two Orthodox rabbis — and onwards, they simply secularized it and created secular substitutes, such as Marxism, humanism, socialism, feminism and environmentalism.
If left-wing Jews want to sit shiva, they should do so for their religion, which, like much of Protestant Christianity and Roman Catholicism, has been so deeply and negatively influenced by leftism.