When the Chicken Votes for Col. Sanders

By Rabbi Michael Barclay

There is no question that anti-semitism is on the rise internationally at a level that has not been seen in decades. Sometimes couched as anti-Israel, we find hate mongers like Representatives Tlaib, Omar, and Ocasio-Cortez spouting their prejudices with hubris while their party’s leadership such as Pelosi and Schumer remain silent. German Jews recognize that they can only safely exist through police protection, who park outside German synagogues to prevent anti-semitic violence. In Poland, the home of Auschwitz, anti-semitism has become so accepted that it is blatantly part of the platform of the National Democratic Party, knowns as “Endeks”, and a recent Polish weekly national newspaper ran the headline “How to Spot a Jew”.  At a political debate in Poland, one of the candidates held a yarmulka over the head of his opponent and said that “she bows to the Jews”.

Anti-Semitism is not new, and its roots can be traced back to a mistranslation in the Vulgate bible of the 4th century; through the blood libel of the middle ages; the persecutions and pogroms of the last 500 years; and culminating in the Holocaust of the last century.  It is not surprising that Omar and Tlaib quote Al Jazeera (which is trying to re-brand itself as AJ to avoid all of its jihadist perception in the West), which publishes articles denying the Holocaust, blaming Jews for the problems in the world, and supporting the destruction of Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East.

What is surprising is that American Jews are not only accepting all of this renewed anti-semitism, but in many cases are supporting the individuals and organizations who are promoting this hatred.  Did 21st century Jews learn nothing from the horrors of Nazi Germany?

But this is not the first time that Jews have been like chickens who vote for Colonel Sanders.  From 1921-1935 there was a group named The Association of German National Jews (Verband nationaldeutscher Juden), whose goal was the total assimilation of Jews into German culture, the self eradication of Jewish identity, the expulsion of all Eastern European Jews from Germany, and a radical hatred of Zionism.  Sadly, these seem like the same goals of many Jews in America who choose to deny the faith and practices of their ancestors in favor of secularizing themselves. On some level (often unconscious) they believe that if they deny their Judaism and go along with the anti-semitic rhetoric, then they will be better accepted by non-Jewish Americans.  Sadly, they have avoided looking at history. Although the German Association advocated loyalty to the Nazis, the Nazis never accepted them, and the organization was declared illegal and disbanded in 1935.  The Association thought that if they tied themselves to many other groups that were coming together in support of the Nazis, they would be accepted. Ultimately this was not only untrue, but in retrospect shows them to be leaders in their own self-destruction.

Today, many Jews have tied themselves to the world of academia and the intelligentsia, believing that by identifying with these intellectual leaders, their “Jewishness” will no longer be an issue.  Again, history shows the exact opposite.  In Max Weinrich’s classic study, “Hitler’s Professors”, he relates that “people of long and high standing, university professors and academy members” colluded with the Nazi regime.  “German scholarship provided the ideas and techniques which led to and justified this unparalleled slaughter”.  Even German Nobel prize winners like Johannes Stark and Philipp Lenard among others created “research” to justify the Nazi atrocities.  In America today, just as in pre-World War II Germany, professors in disciplines having nothing to do Judaism or Israel (such as mathematics, science, etc.) Are vocally condemning Israel and Jews, and espouse their views from an “academic” perspective, even questioning the Holocaust itself.

In Germany, there was an alliance of “outsiders” who opposed the pre-Nazi government.  But as soon as Hitler came fully to power, they quickly condemned the Jews as well, ultimately to gas chambers.  We must make certain that history does not repeat itself.  That Jews, academics with real intellectual honesty, and all people of good ethics need to not accept the words and actions of Tlaib, Omar, the Endeks, and the like.  In order to avoid another Holocaust, God forbid, we are all obligated to take a stand against these anti-Semitic hate mongers.  Let us not make the mistake again of allying ourselves with people who hate us because we think that there is a shared common goal such as a desire for different political leaders.  Those temporary allies will quickly abandon us and demonstrate their hatred as soon as they have any control of their own.

2000 years ago, the great Rabbi Hillel said, “If I am not for myself who will be for me?  If I am only for myself, what am I?  And if not now, when?”  For seventy years, there has been the chant “Never Forget!”  We need to remember not just the atrocities of the Nazis, but how they rose to power and who helped put them there. May we all have the courage and strength to stand up and act against all forms of hatred when they are expressed, especially when they are espoused by political leaders and parties.  And may all people of all faiths honestly express and live out the teachings of their traditions and create a world of true peace.

Rabbi Michael Barclay is the Spiritual Leader of Temple Ner Simcha (www.NerSimcha.org) and the author od “Sacred Relationships:  Biblical Wisdom for Deepening Our Lives Together”.  He can be reached directly at RabbiBarclay@aol.com

 May, 2019
Iyyar, 5779