DAYS OF CONCERN
My next-door neighbor is a tzaddik and a mensch. A prominent, successful attorney in Tulsa, he called me on the day after our daughter’s wedding to express concern about the new administration. He wanted me to know that Stephen Bannon, the presiding genius of a white nationalist news site, was anthema to him and to many of his peers. He was deeply disturbed that Bannon would be central to the new administration, and that I was not alone, now or ever. He promised he would stand with me and our community to name and oppose any threat or danger.
The call felt like both a blessing and an alarm. Like many of you, I know a lot about Stephen Bannon, and the habits of many of his disciples and supporters. There is a pro-Zionist thread that runs through his discourse, but that doesn’t begin to offset the general tone of Breitbart, the name of the little media empire he has created. It is deeply hostile to the idea of multiculturalism and strongly antagonistic toward minority viewpoints. The Anti-Defamation League calls the Breitbart community “a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists.” Just in case you’re wondering, this is not good for the Jews or (to reprise the famous poster) any other living people.
If B’nai Emunah is like the rest of the Jewish community, there are some who voted for the President-elect and many more who voted for his defeated opponent. I try very hard to refrain from criticizing those who disagree with me, and I offer my respect to those with different views. My commitment to multiculturalism goes very deep, and it includes the members of our own community.
But there is no doubt in my mind that the Bannon appointment, like many things we heard in the course of the campaign, is the sign of a grievous and fundamental misconception. We can differ on questions of big and small government. We can differ on the best way to confront ISIS or global climate change. But hatred of Muslims, homosexuals, and Jews, along with any other perceived threat to alt-right America, is wrong for the country and our future as a nation.
There are some American Jewish organizations that profess to be puzzled. How to oppose without losing access? I am not confused about this issue. Anti-Semitism and the disparagement of other minorities is plainly disqualifying and cannot be tolerated. I do not stand with the accommodationist camp and I hope that you will refuse to do the same. I hope that those who voted for the new president will make it clear that their chosen candidate has erred, and those who did not will protest energetically. Some things cannot be allowed to stand, and this is surely the time to raise our voices in opposition.
Rabbi Marc Boone Fitzerman