Does Judaism Preach Racism?
Dear Rabbi Jacobson
Why is it that the more religious/observant many Jewish people become,
the more bigoted they become? I grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa
where the Orthodox and the Lubavitch Jewish community were shameful
in their treatment of black people and in their attitudes towards black
people. It brought out an unacceptable face of religion that has made
me skeptical to this day. I see similar attitudes in the Lubavitch and
Orthodox Jews of London and New York. If religion is about making people
so narrow, it makes we want no part of it. I know you say we have to
distinguish between the system and the people, but I think the problem
cannot so easily be brushed aside. For me it raises a number of problematic
questions, such as: Is the system being taught/ interpreted in such
a way as to produce bigoted and racist Jews? Are the majority of the
Jews who are attracted to orthodox/ Lubavitch conservative in the first
place and so bring all this baggage with them?
Hard as it may seem, we must distinguish between the system and the
people. This is one of the unfortunate results of a world where there
is a dichotomy between G-d and the universe, between the soul and the
body, between the purpose of our existence and our existence, between
our inner and outer selves, between who we (really) are and what we
do -- a result of the holy Temple's destruction.
I should add, that distorted religion could, in a perverse
way, cause one to become more corrupt and bigoted than a faithless person.
Because the religion justifies and allows one to feel that
G-d is condoning and even encouraging the bigotry. No greater distortion
is possible in my eyes. But this is the sad result of a soulless religion,
one that has become relegated to a technical, dogmatic bureaucracy,
rather than a G-dly, divine and sacred experience.
Yet, as I discussed, this isn't merely a tragic end in itself; recognizing
this dichotomy and schism, allows us the opportunity to begin the healing
process through baseless and unconditional love. This is the challenge
of our times. For those of us who can see -- and clearly you see with
your sensitivity to this bigotry -- we must deal not with the symptoms
alone, but with the causes. We must get to the root of the issue by
reintroducing a spirit of soul -- and the resulting love -- into our
society. And your challenge is not to remain angry or bitter and skeptical.
Let us do something constructive with this tragic realization of so
much bigotry even amongst our brethren. We only have that many years
in our lives; why squander them in skepticism and negative feelings,
which only perpetuates the resignation. We must generate positive energy,
by taking forceful and productive measures in introducing a sense of
purpose and spiritual focus in our lives.
This is the only approach and frankly, the only positive way I know
of to channel our anger and disappointment in the people we know. We
can either remain detached and skeptical, which I believe is some form
of victimization, or we can take the initiative, the bull
by the horns, and make a change. Let us not be intimidated by the number
of bigots and racists. Each of us can make a difference and change the
tide, especially when we join together.
You may want to check out the transcript of my radio show on Racism
which deals with the topic in more detail.
|I have family members that are jewish and black. I live in israel in a charaidi area and sometimes i encounter racism.It is extreamly painful. I ask one thing, put yourself in the other mans shoes.How would you feel to be stared at or asked stupid questions? Just because your ashkenasi or sefardi it doesnt give you any right to marginalize me.
Racism toward non-jews
|I am interested in people's thoughts on Jews attitudes toward non-Jews, regardless of skin color. I am married to a Jewish man, who had decided not to be observant long before I met him. His family that were more observant tried to convince him not to marry me or be with me, without ever having met me or even knowing whether I had any interest in Judaism. I very much love my husband, but it troubles me that his family thought I was such a terrible choice because of my parentage (I love my parents too). It troubles me when my Jewish (non-observant) friends describe incidents in which Rabbis have actively recruited them--trying to bring them back to the fold as it were--but would never consider reaching out to someone who they did not think had Jewish lineage. I have heard that somehow those of use who did not grow up with any connection to Judaism are somehow supposed to be inspired to seek it out, but when all we see is that we are actively shunned, it seems that conditions are not particularly welcoming. And when we see that those with Jewish names or some indication of Jewish lineage are actively recruiting, it is all the more disturbing. It certainly leaves one with the impression that this religion is based on race or tribe, and that if one is not of that race/tribe, one is not welcome. If someone could explain this apparent contradiction, I would be very grateful. |
racism and the Orthodox community
|re: liberal Antisemitism
How much of it would exist if the Israeli left wasn't so anti-Israel? If they weren't constantly making up stories of IDF brutality? or claiming 'settlers' are murdering Arabs? Some of it would seep in no doubt due to the American left's near worship of Europe, where ISrael bashing serves as a nice escape from the fact that so many of their governments, broad casting companies, schools, etc have for decades been run by Nazi war criminals whom they refuse to prosecute, but we haven't done much to counter-act the Israel bashing. Over and over again we talk in circles about Israel's need for secure borders, without addressing the fact that we are indigenous to Israel and that the Arabs are there as a result of Turkish and even more so British colonial policy. and the extreme racism in the Jewish community doesn't help the case for Israel, since we try so hard to act like white people we sort of play into the image of racist colonizers.
Which is the next issue: American Jews are still trying to hard to fit in. I think it is not just racism, but also the classism in the Jewish community that results from this. We seem to be stuck in a stereotype Leave it to Beaver vision of what it means to fit in in America, even in the frum world. We are afraid to think for ourselves, to 'stand-out', to in anyway give the world a hint that we're not really just like the white majority. So, we're still clinging to the racism displayed by American whites decades ago. Except- they seem to be getting over that attitude (at least in large enough numbers to nominate Obama), and we haven't bothered to catch up.
re: South Africa
Regardless of the attitudes of most Jews in South Africa, the fact is Israel would not divest and blacks in America and Africa are angry about it. Israel supported a white supremacist government whose Afrikaaner PArty had supported the Nazis. Also, MAndela is or was a Communist, and the Soviets always supported teh Arabs, in every war against Israel and in every UN vote. the majority of Africa, whether because they are communist or because they are Muslim, support the Arabs. I am not saying it is right, obviously it is wrong, but again- the official Israeli attitude towards South Africa in the past gives us nothing with which to counter these tendencies. Had Israel fought apartheid, we would at least have a card to play in trying to win South Africa's support now.
my racist experience in converting
|I think it is particulary sad that the Rabbi and others in the community who particpate or tell you (as a Black person) about the racism are telling you in the hopes and expectation that you will and should accept such treatment (like basically being told that no one would want to marry you-- not becasue of your convert status which no one should really care about as you should eb equal) but because you are Black. I you were white, it would be different, is what I understood. Is this Mitzvot? I think not. I think something is tragically wrong in the Jewish community. And also, one chooses to be racist. It would seem insane for a person to even think about hating and despising all white men because of Charles Manson or the unibomber or supporting the anti-suffrage movement (for example) but it is okay in people's minds to carry resentment and hatred for all other groups-- including your Jewish brother and sisters who are not european. It makes me very sad and worried as I start my conversion.|
racism & Orthodoxy
|I do have to agree with Moshe. It's a shame to see so much discrimination in the Torah world. And yes, it would be ideal if after each commment (I am an African American Orthodox Jewish female), I could just separate the person from the system, but it can be hard when it happens all day long every day, especially in regards to shidduchim. Moshe is right. People tell me that they know the perfect shidduch and then can only recall that the guy has dark skin. What about mitzvot? Torah learning? personality? anything? I really think it's time that the Orthodox community wake up and it's the whole community - modern, conservative, chareidi, etc. IY"H, people will wake up and realize that Hash-m made Jews of every color and that they are all welcome, even to marry.|