Hi, I’m MaNishtana.
Abraham Joshua Heschel. Abraham Joshua Heschel. Abraham Joshua Heschel. Abraham Joshua Heschel. Abraham Joshua Heschel. Abraham Joshua Heschel. Abraham Joshua Heschel. Abraham Joshua Heschel. Abraham Joshua Heschel. Abraham Joshua Heschel. Abraham Joshua Heschel. Abraham Joshua Heschel. Abraham Joshua Heschel. Abraham Joshua Heschel. Abraham Joshua Heschel. Abraham Joshua Heschel. Abraham Joshua Heschel.
I know I am.
Because it seems like one can’t ever talk about the racial divide between Blacks and Jews—”Blacks and Jews” obviously always meaning “non-Jewish Blacks and non-Black Jews”, of course—without someone (
usually always White and Jewish) throwing Heschel’s name into the mix.
It’s impossible for Jews to be prejudiced towards Blacks, because Heschel.
Jews and Blacks have always been allies, because Heschel.
Social justice for Blacks has always been important to Jews, because Heschel.
Blacks are responsible for the deterioration of the relationship between Blacks and Jews, because Heschel.
It’s Martin Luther King Day? Let’s talk about how Heschel marched with him that time.
Don’t get me wrong, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel was a remarkable figure and did indeed do remarkable things in the Civil Rights Movement. And ever since then American Jews have been running on the fumes of that brief moment in time when a Jewish leader and religious clergyman stood his ground, protested injustice against African Americans, and not only talked the talk, but literally walked the walk. Ever since then, American Jewry has been that star quarterback on the high school football team who never made anything of his life but keeps talking about that one-time he scored five touchdowns in one game.
More egregiously, American Jewry continues to withdraw from a goodwill account which is nearly, if not wholly, dried up.
“Where Do Blacks Stand In The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?”
“Why The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Should Matter To Black Americans”
“How Should African-Americans Feel About the Gaza Situation?”
These are but three of the many articles in the wake of the recent Middle Eastern conflict which called upon Black America—inexplicably above and beyond, say, Japanese America, or Italian America, or Irish America, or Indian America—to make a stand on the world podium concerning Israel and her neighbors, to march in pro-Israel rallies, to stand with Israel.
I assume to invoke some Lord of the Rings-esque callback to days past: “An alliance once existed between Jews and Blacks. Long ago we fought and marched and died together. We call upon you to honor that allegiance. What say you?”
And to that I reply: “An alliance? Where were the Jews when Michael Brown was shot? Where were the Jews on radio shows and news programs and Twitter decrying the police brutality? Where were the new Heschels when our enemies closed around us in Ferguson?”
And where are they? It would seem to be a certain type of entitlement and arrogance to call upon a people to stand with a country half a world away which they largely have no connection to, yet ignore that same people’s plight with injustice in the country which you share with them; to be completely absent from the calls for justice in Ferguson. For all of the invocation of Heschel’s name, you’d think that when a chance arose to renew that relationship, to get involved on the ground floor of yet another civil rights opportunity, Jews would report front and center, not rest on fifty year old laurels.
But nary a peep from the Jewish quarter. Not one Jewish voice has emerged as vociferously in protest of Ferguson as Jews received Black support for Israel in the form of Chloé Valdary.
Well, not completely.
After all, there’s Hedy Epstein, the 90-year old Holocaust survivor arrested for protesting Michael Brown’s murder in Ferguson. I’m sure time will eventually cast her into the role of Heschel as well, but as for the present, when a member of the unviolable Holocaust generation feels the need to take a stand—after all, is not a hallmark of American Judaism the veneration of the Holocaust to the exclusion of all other Jewish tragedies (especially those of non-European Jewry)?—perhaps it’s time to step back and look at things. When the premiere result of a society that says nothing when wrongdoing is inflicted upon a segment of its population feels the need to stand up, then you should question why you’re being silent.
And if you’re one of those myopic types who feel they’re being nationalistic and chock full of Jew-pride when they say things like, “Well, as Jews we need to look out for our own first. Let other people worry about their own problems,” then I challenge you.
Forget the fact that you’re a sorry excuse for a human being if you can’t find it in you to empathize with another oppressed people, let alone a terrible Jew.
If you think Ferguson isn’t your problem because it’s not a Jewish problem, then I say, really?
Are you sure?
Are you sure that the violence directed towards the Black population in Ferguson doesn’t affect Jews?
Are you sure that not Jews who, y’know, might also be Black are being affected by the unrest and martial law there?
You’re sure there’s no Jewish families in Black Ferguson?
Well, you’d be wrong.