This week, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported a two-fold increase in the number of anti-semitic incidents between May 2020 and May 2021. The ADL cites that most of these incidents involved a connection with Israel or occurred at or around anti-Israel protests and rallies around the United States. The messaging and action of some of these rallies walk and sometimes cross the line of legitimate criticism; they have begun with fair critique of the policy of a sovereign nation but ended with outright Antisemitism. While many people can and should speak up against policies with which they disagree, it is clear that fair critique of Israel often turns into anti-semitic attacks.
Likewise, in our Torah portion this week, Korach, a relative of Aaron and Moses, attempts a coup d'etat for the position of High Priest and leader of the people. What begins as legitimate feedback becomes a violent attempt to overthrow Moses and Aaron. Any reader of the Torah can recall that the Israelites are expert complainers about Moses, Aaron, and the long, hot, dry journey from Egypt to the Land of Israel. On rare occasion, their complaints cross the line and God takes deadly action against them. Perhaps, the narrative of Korach and his followers, who are swallowed up by the earth, is a lesson in the difference between appropriate and inappropriate challenges against leadership.
As we often say to our politicians here in the United States, "debate the policy, do not use ad hominem attacks." Just as we would dispute and protest against policies with which we disagree here in the United States, so too can we speak up against policies enacted in Israel. The very clear line between what is acceptable and unacceptable is when words or actions are used to harm or intimidate others. As American Jews we have witnessed this frightening rise in antisemitism increase year after year since 2016 and continue to this day.
Join me at TE on Wednesday, June 16 at 12:00 to discuss the latest on the American Jewish picture, on the relationship of Zionism, and what we might expect to see going forward.