Let’s review the story of Chanukah—the part that’s not taught in Hebrew School.
In Hebrew School, they’ll tell you that one day, a king named Antiochus rode into town and decided all Jews had to fully assimilate into Greek culture.
Once upon a time around 167 BCE, many Jews lived in Modiin, which is a city that still exists in the modern country of Israel. Some Jews were traditionalists, and some were assimilated—to the point where they dressed like Greeks, competed in the gymnasia and worshipped Greek gods.
Hellenized Jews convinced the Antiochus Administration to forcibly impose Greek culture on traditionalist Jews.
Hebrew School teachers also won’t tell you about the Jews’ secret weapon in the war against the Greeks—the Romans. Jews like to pretend this never happened, but chapter 8 in the First Book of Maccabees relates how the traditionalist Jews sent a delegate to ask the Romans for assistance. The miracle here is not that five Jews supposedly won a battle against the Hellenist army, but rather that the Romans agreed to help out.
Shortly after, the Romans attacked the independent Hashmonian kingdom—the last time Jews ruled themselves until the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948—and destroyed the Second Temple.
The parallels to modern-day American Jewry are startling.
It wasn’t so long ago that support for Israel was a bipartisan issue. Decades ago, when immigrant comprised a much larger population of the Jewish community, Democrats were far more welcoming to them than Republicans. Antisemites were also much more open about their hatred for Jews and didn’t pretend it was an issue of Israeli policy, so they openly lumped in Jews with other “undesirable” minorities like Italians and blacks.
It was only natural for Jews to support the Democrats, but the party’s support for the Jews has recently eroded. Just as the secular, Hellenized Jews actively turned against the traditionalist Jews in Modiin over 2,000 years ago, so too have some progressive Jews turned against the rest of the community.
Neither party calls out antisemitism among its ranks as strongly as it should, but left-wing antisemitism has become the norm in American antisemitism, and few individuals or groups dare to call it out. Frequently carried out by members of other minority groups, left-wing antisemitism is often thinly veiled as “criticism” of Israel (if the “critics” even acknowledge Israel’s right to exist).
Whether you think left-wing antisemitism is merely overlooked or intentionally brushed under the rug probably is a matter of cynicism and would vary on a case-by-case basis. Regardless, most Democrats are incapable of condemning general antisemitism without also condemning other forms of hatred, let alone when it comes from their own party.
The number of Jews involved and holding leadership positions in Jew- and Israel-hating groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, Students for Justice in Palestine and IfNotNow is appalling. It’s precisely the modern-day iteration of Hellenized Jews convincing the Greeks to violently impose their culture on traditionalist Jews.
Support for groups like Black Lives Matter (BLM) has become mainstream, despite their documented antisemitism and attacks on Israel. Several of my Jewish friends have aggressively supported BLM on social media and attended their protests, while being conspicuously absent from this summer’s rally against antisemitism.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a strong Zionist. Why haven’t today’s “Hellenized” Jews noticed that something is fishy when contemporary groups purporting to speak for the black community take the opposite stance? Why have no Jewish supporters of BLM, to my knowledge, attempted to point out that MLK frequently drew parallels between the Civil Rights movement and Jewish self-determination?
I Googled “antisemitism blm” and the first result was a list of talking points from the Jewish Council of Public Affairs. An organization with a name like that should be the very first to speak out against BLM’s antisemitism, but they have a three-page document excusing it and justifying it!
It speaks volumes that virtually all the news outlets that covered the horrifying attacks on Jewish individuals and institutions nationally, particularly in Los Angeles, by BLM rioters in summer 2020 were Jewish outlets. Democrats were deafeningly silent in response.
Perhaps Jews have latched on to radical groups that might have started out as a good idea but devolved into antisemitism because they disagreed with Republican stances. But progressive Jews’ hatred of any right-leaning person or idea has blinded them to the decreasingly subtle hatred from the left.
Either the Democrats or Republicans could be the Greeks or the Romans depending on one’s political leanings. Regardless, the Chanukah story should hammer home that Jews ingratiating themselves with any great contemporary power is perhaps the greatest danger to our community.
No matter who their current “Greeks” are, Jews who abandon their community for them—while they think they may be doing our community a favor (benefit of the doubt)—only makes us more vulnerable.
Whether assimilated or not, the war of the Chanukah story caused major destruction for all Jews in Modiin.
When a pro-Palestinian mob attacked Jews at a restaurant in Los Angeles, they didn’t stop and ask, “Do you favor Democrats or Republicans? Do you live in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood?”
In the eyes of these criminals, all Jews—even those who advocate for Palestinians more than against antisemitism—are exactly the same.
Nothing we do will ever be enough to appease enemies of the Jewish people, whether they be on the left or the right of the American political spectrum, so we might as well put that effort toward strengthening our own community. Our enemies change over time, but no matter who they are, consorting with them at the expense of the community always ends in tragedy.
If we don’t internalize what our ancestors learned 2,000 years ago, we allow them to have died in vain.
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