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Fighting Antisemitism by Owning Our Success

Jews are getting squeezed from all sides. White supremacists hate us because they think we run the country; the woke hate us because they think we’re the epitome of white privilege. We’re either too white or not white enough. Either way, what ties the haters together is a shared perception that Jews simply have too much power.

We’re too darned successful.

Maybe that’s why it’s counterproductive to play the victim card whenever a Jew is attacked. Who are we kidding? Jews look like the very opposite of victims. That’s not just perception—it’s reality. Whether or not we like to admit it, Jews have long punched above their weight, achieving an extraordinary level of success in their long and often arduous American journey.

The fact that Jew-haters try to turn that success against us is twisted and perverted, but that doesn’t make the success any less real. Trying to counter the hatred with, “Hey, we don’t have that much power!” or “We’re not that white!” or “Look at the rise in antisemitism– we’re victims, too!” is not just useless; it makes us look weak and pathetic.

I’d much rather be envied than pitied.

I’d much rather be envied than pitied.

And don’t kid yourself: Every time we call out another act of antisemitism, we look like whiners. It doesn’t matter if we use aggressive language like “condemning,” “fighting” and “eradicating”—the body language is the same: we’re reacting to the haters. We’re dancing to their tune. They hate, we respond. Rinse, repeat.

The old spin that Jew-hatred is also bad for non-Jews– the “canary in the coal mine” argument– feels like a tired attempt to universalize our beef. For all its merit, it’s too indirect and speculative to have any real impact.

Even the global standard of atrocities—the Holocaust— doesn’t help us fight antisemitism. It buys sympathy for the 6 million who perished, but that singular darkness eight decades ago in another continent is very far removed from today’s America.

When we try to make the Holocaust “relevant” by claiming that, “It can happen again anywhere—even here!” it lacks credibility. We may believe the danger is real, but for the average American, the calls of “never again!” don’t feel real. It simply doesn’t compute that the Holocaust can reproduce itself in the America of Bernie Sanders and Larry David and Sarah Silverman and Chuck Schumer and Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Billy Crystal and the millions of other Jews who permeate every aspect of American society.

As a community, we’d be better off making the Holocaust message, “Look how far we’ve come!” than, “Look how horrible we had it.”

As a community, we’d be better off making the Holocaust message, “Look how far we’ve come!” than, “Look how horrible we had it.”

In short, it’s time to own our success.

Indeed, “Look how far we’ve come” is an ideal rallying cry for owning our success. That won’t just stick it to the haters, it will instill Jewish pride in our people, the kind of pride that comes from genuine accomplishment, from prevailing for millennia against all odds, from “doing” Jewish.

“Doing Jewish” means leaning into our tradition and engaging with its spiritual and intellectual richness, but in America, it also means giving back to the country that’s been so good to us.

Any minority that is struggling can benefit from our experience and know-how. It’s not enough to show compassion for the oppressed; we must help them rise out of victimhood and into a better future. It’s also not enough to lobby the government; we must ask what we can do ourselves.

I have a dear friend, a Reform Jew, who has spent the past few years working in the inner-city teaching kids what they’re not learning in school– financial literacy. From what I hear, the course is changing lives and he’s now expanding it.

There are countless other Jews throughout the country doing similar good deeds and paying it forward. We must honor them and elevate them as Jewish role models who are bringing hope to those who need it most– regardless of race, religion or ethnicity.

I know there’s a justified instinct among many of my friends to make Jew-haters “pay” for any act of hatred. To the extent we can do that, we should, but let’s never forget what we’ve learned the hard way: Jew-hatred ebbs and flows but it never goes away, price or no price.

Let the haters hate us because we’re too successful. While they waste their energy on hate, let’s run with our success. Yes, this is how far we’ve come: Jews have done so well in America that we can now help other Americans succeed as well.

The simple truth is that America is good for the Jews, and the Jews are good for America. Doesn’t that sound better than “Stop hating us?”

Source: Jewish Journal

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