Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Rabid Rabbi

I was watching some YouTube videos about the illegal immigration of Africans and Middle Easterners into Europe, and specifically, the past legal immigration of some of these groups into Sweden, and I noticed some of the user comments posting comments about Jewish power in Swedish media and government.  Some stated that Jews = parasites, that they owned the media companies, and that they have been on the side of multiculturalism, and have welcomed immigrants and Muslims as a sort of self-preservation insurance.  Their idea was that Jews, by promoting multiculturalism, are ultimately protecting themselves from ever being singled out as a target in the future; such as they had been during the German Holocaust.  I have to admit that I don’t know enough about European and Scandinavian affairs to leave much comment on such an accusation, but I will say that it seems unlikely to me that Jews would have such control of Sweden as to sway it’s people and politicians to do something they don’t want to do.  I suspect that if Sweden has let into their country a lot of legal or illegal immigrants in the form of refugees, then it has been their choice and their policy, given their socialistic political bent as a sovereign nation.  And to put it bluntly, there are just Jew haters in the world, just as there are people who hate anyone of any other ethnic or racial group.  The world is full of interesting and uninformed types.

Then, reading further on among these comments, which admittedly I shouldn’t have, but they are like a gawker’s block on the freeway where one has to look just once, I read people saying that Jews have had it out for Christians since time began and are trying to subvert their lives and politics.  I have to say that I literally never in my personal life have ever heard a Jew criticize a Christian for their religion.  And I have been surrounded by Jews since I was raised in a Jewish family, and I consider myself culturally Jewish.  To be clear, I am not a religious person.  The closest to that I've witnessed of any push-back of non-Jews by Jews growing up were Jewish mothers who wanted their sons or daughters to marry a Jewish gal or guy out of being old fashioned and trying unnecessarily in my opinion to avoid a dual religious upbringing for their children.  There is a reason for this.  Though most religions have been the subject of wars, expulsions, and genocides at one time or another, Jews were persecuted for their religious faith and ethnicity rather recently when considering the long millennial history of civilizations and peoples on this planet, and so I believe that Jews in particular understand that it is important to respect others’ faiths. On a microcosmic scale, my parents never cared who I was in relationships with, as long as they were good people, and I most often dated Christians.  Two of my longest relationships were with women who proudly wore their crucifix necklaces around my parents all the time.  Never a problem. 

There is a story that I want to tell about.  One Rosh Hashanah holiday, my parents and I were at that Temple Beth Hillel in North Hollywood, CA, listening to the Rabbi's sermon.  His name was Rabbi Kaufman.  He discussed something that really bothered him; that enraged and embarrassed him actually.  He was driving on the 101 Freeway through Sherman Oaks and was following a car that had a bumper sticker that read, "We Never Lost It."  These stickers were "in response" to, at that time, ubiquitously visible Christian evangelical bumper stickers that read, "I Have Found It!.” 

Our Rabbi was rabid with anger when he saw that a Jew had placed a "We Never Lost It" sticker on their car because it smacked of condescension of someone else's beliefs in their religion.  He told us that, as tongue in cheek as it might have been, it was unacceptable to have such a bumper sticker at the expense of any Christian's beliefs and that he never wanted to see such a sticker on anyone's car in our temple parking lot (not that he had, but he was being preventative).

He went on for the rest of the sermon talking about what pride in one's faith is, which is both belief in and acceptance of others' who have other faiths.  And he said that if one is condescending about another's differing faith, then it is likely that the person doesn't feel rooted enough in their own faith, or that they are seeking religious domination, neither of which was acceptable; for why else would they be motivated to criticize someone else's beliefs?  I don’t know him today, but I would bet that he would accept people of Muslim faith who practice in peace, and yet, that he would have disdain for fundamentalist Muslims who seek religious domination, let alone by force, violence and execution. I imagine that when it comes to my old Rabbi Kaufman and this issue, if he’s still alive and well, given his feelings about the respect of faith and culture that people deserve, that he is a Rabid Rabbi Rabbit on the subject of forceful fundamentalism.  Thank you Monty Python for helping to generate that image in my head, especially given that it's completely out of tone for this piece.  

That Rosh Hashanah made a lasting impression on me because the last thing I expected to hear during the High Holidays was a rabid Rabbi scolding his Jewish congregation for something that some other Jew on the freeway had done in being disrespectful to Christians.  I though that took some chutzpah on his part given that even the tickets to those Holiday gatherings were like $200 a piece per family member.  But he wanted to teach us something, and he did. 

So anyways, I tell this story because when I saw the other category of YouTube comments about how Jews have a disdain for Christians and that they want to somehow unseat them from various positions in society, I know that it is all just hate speech, and why I gave it more than a moment's thought is truly a mystery.  But since I did, all that I can emphasize is that being surrounded by Jewish family and friends from the age of five, I never in my own experience had a single incident of one of them being condescending about Christians.  My own Jewish dad seemed to know more about the Christian meanings of holidays and infrastructure than he did the Jewish one's.