MENKEN: Secular Jews Claim They Don’t Exist To Spite The President

Congregation Am Chai's Rabbi Michael Tillman locates a passage in the congregation's Torah, loaned to the synagogue from its late Rabbi, who rescued it from concentration camp survivors in Poland after World War II, ahead of the High Holidays service held at St. Raymond de Penafort Catholic Church on Sept. 9, 2018, in Mt. Prospect, Ill. The congregation is dissolving after the holidays due to low enrollment and will donate the Torah to the Chicago Holocaust Museum.
Mark Black/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Leftists have truly gone insane. The president just announced a smart and necessary policy change to protect Jews at America’s colleges and universities, and the Left would have us believe this important move to combat anti-Semitism was itself anti-Semitic.

The president said Tuesday evening that he will sign an executive order that will call Jews a nationality, and thus eligible for protection under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin. Since religion is not one of the listed categories, Jews have been denied protections that other minority groups have enjoyed for decades — and anyone familiar with the situation on campus today knows that Jews urgently need those legal protections.

In an instant, leftist Jews abandoned the concept of Jewish peoplehood, the idea that we are a nationality, in order to claim that the president’s statement is wrong and even hateful. Only an anti-Semite would call the Jews a nationality, they argued, in order to dredge up the old trope of “dual loyalty.”

This is true to pattern. Just this past summer, leftist Jews abandoned overnight the universal and obvious belief that comparing Nazi death camps to anything short of genocidal death camps was minimizing the Holocaust and morally reprehensible, simply because the progressive darling, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), did precisely this on a shameful video. Now they would abandon the idea that the Jews are a people simply because the president acknowledged that we are.

It seems that there is truly no limit. If the president were to convert to Judaism tomorrow, leftists would attempt to explain that he was doing so for anti-Semitic reasons.

One who claims the Jews are not a nationality demonstrates complete ignorance of the Bible and Jewish history. Seriously, this is embarrassing. Do they think an affinity for bagels makes a person an authority on Jews?

How many times do the Five Books of Moses, the Torah, refer to Am Yisrael — the nation of Israel? It is a constant. The Book of Exodus teaches us that G-d took the Jews out of Egypt to be His nation.

In fact, the phenomenon of a “secular Jew” owes its existence to the fact that we are a people, rather than (exclusively) a religion. The idea of a “secular Christian” or “secular Muslim” is preposterous. But according to an AJC survey from earlier this year, nearly 60% of Jews describe being Jewish as mostly a matter of ethnicity and culture, rather than religion. Secular Jews claiming we are solely a religious group would write themselves — and most American Jews — out of existence.

There is nothing inherently anti-Semitic in claiming that one can be part of the Jewish nationality while being a loyal American, any more than Italian, Irish, and Swedish Americans are suspected of disloyalty to America. Several of the president’s closest confidantes, including his daughter and son-in-law, are observant Jews who advise him on American policy.

Meanwhile, the administration is addressing real anti-Semitism, which is flourishing in so-called “progressive” circles on college campuses. Organizations like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) are treated by students and administrators as “human rights organizations” while they hold events celebrating terrorism. The administration of New York University gave the “President’s Service Award” to a SJP chapter that honored a butcher who murdered 38 innocents, including 13 children. Is more evidence needed that something needs to be done?

Recognizing Jewish peoplehood offered the fastest and most effective route for the president to do that which Congress — paralyzed by a ‘Squad’ spouting the same anti-Semitic tropes that are the lifeblood of SJP — was helpless to accomplish.

There is one other place where anti-Semitism is clearly running rampant: Brooklyn, New York, home to the highest concentration of Orthodox Jews in the United States. Coincidentally, a survey of the Orthodox community’s attitude towards the president was just completed by Ami Magazine, a Brooklyn-based Orthodox weekly.

According to an earlier survey conducted by the AJC, 54% of Orthodox Jews voted for the president in 2016. One year later, he had won the approval of 71%. By 2018, Ami found 82% of the Orthodox planned to vote to re-elect the president in 2020 — and in the most recent survey, 89% approved of his job performance. Offered the opportunity to identify the president who, since 1980, has done the most for the security of Israel, more than four out of five chose Donald Trump.

In other words, the Jews who know the most about Judaism and who are also those experiencing the most anti-Semitism believe that President Trump is the best friend Jews have had in the White House — possibly in history, but certainly in the modern age. They will universally perceive this latest move as yet another demonstration of simple fairness, as well as friendship towards the Jewish community.

The Jews who would write themselves out of existence simply to spite the president would do well to take note.


Rabbi Yaakov Menken is the Managing Director of the Coalition for Jewish Values.

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