Tag Archives: ADL

The Anti-Defamation League, American Jews, and John Bolton’s Mustache

Last month, the Anti-Defamation League held a conference at Cardozo featuring famed mustache-haver John Bolton. I am not entirely sure why Bolton was there. He is not Jewish. According to Wikipedia, he is a Lutheran. But beyond this, he does not seem to have any actual experience concerning Judaism.

This is how most people see John Bolton

This is how the Anti-Defamation League sees John Bolton

Even ignoring my concern that ADL focuses too much on Israel rather than overarching Judaism, it seems a bit odd that the ADL would invite such a divisive political figure. I could explain why this would be a bad thing, but why say when you can show: (pdf: bolton ADL cardozo fight)

Leaving out Bolton’s actual policy positions, one cannot deny that he is a divisive political figure and a living totem of the controversial cowboy style diplomacy of the Bush administration. Touting Bolton as an ADL ally sends a message to liberal Jews (aka, most Jews) that the ADL is not a the organization for them. At Cardozo, this message was put into action when someone in the audience chewed out a young woman for expressing her difficulty reconciling liberal leanings with the conservative agents supporting Israel.

I guess you could say she was defamed to a certain extent. Irony!

Right now, the ADL is riding on its history and reputation. But scandals like this, and ADL chief Abe Foxman’s own controversial moments, risk damaging this important organization beyond repair. If the ADL keeps up like this, it will lose a generation of American Jews. And that is the actual problem (pdf: Mintz ADL column):

America is slowly losing its Jewish population. If the ADL actually cared about Judaism, it would work to create an atmosphere in the United States where young Jews feel proud of their heritage. However, pride is not exactly what one feels when the ADL condemns Borat, or Jewish settlers throw stones at IDF soldiers for protecting Palestinians. If the ADL wants to help protect Jewry in the long run, it should focus on projects that help make more Jews and keep current Jews Jewish, rather than play up divisive political projects.

Certainly Israel faces threats. But Israel has done a good job standing for itself. The ADL should perhaps worry about Jewish problems at home — the problems facing the American Jews at the ADL’s own panels.

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The Lost Columns: Jews, Gays, and Paladino

The Cardozo Jurist came out yesterday. I originally wrote a column following my normal trend of addressing gay rights within the Jewish community. However, after talking with other people about it, I came to the conclusion that I’ve driven the topic into the ground. Because I have never done that before.

Furthermore, the tone of the column was just a bit too over the top. Because I have never done that before, either.

Anyways, here is the Lost Column. I’ll post the one that was actually published later.

Today is election day. As a Texan, it is hypocritical of me to criticize other states’ political systems. It is also fun and easy — the New York gubernatorial race doubleplus so.

It was only a few election cycles ago when a Cuomo was the alternative to “the homo” and Carl Paladino was a registered Democrat. Of course, barring a sudden state-wide revelation that rent is too damn high, one of the two is governor-elect by now. However, the end of the election does not mean that campaign discussion has to end as well. Notably, Paladino’s tea party rhetoric about gay marriage in an address to Orthodox Jewish leaders deserves continued discussion, especially at a Jewish institution like Cardozo.

Upon first glance, Paladino’s speech does not seem too far from expected Republican talking points: “I just think my children and your children would be much better off and much more successful getting married and raising a family, and I don’t want them brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option — it isn’t.”

Paladino even wisely omitted from his speech one especially nasty bit in his prepared text: “There is nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual.”

However, this idea that certain demographics can be targeted within our society as less valid or less successful than the overarching uberculture is a dangerous concept, especially for the Jewish community. In New York, Judaism may seem like a well integrated, or maybe even dominant, ingredient in our pressure cooker of a nation. But for those whose world does not end at New Jersey, things can be quite different.

Back in 2007, Ann Coulter revealed in a CNBC interview an attitude towards Judaism that one does not often hear out loud: Jews need to be “perfected” into Christians. From her perspective, much like gays, Judaism is not an equally valid or successful option.

It is easy to dismiss Ann Coulter as a washed-up pundit begging for attention. But Coulter’s rhetoric is echoed in secret throughout the nation. This past month, U.S. Representative Louie Gohmert [what is the proper style here?] explained in a Newsmax magazine column that the government functions best when it is run by Christians. According to him, Christians are “the one[s] God has ordained to run the country.” Apparently other people, Jews included, are not an equally valid and successful option.

The Jewish community may be comfortable in our self-imposed urban ghettos. We can feel praised as talking heads throw around the term “Judeo-Christian” as if it meant something. And the enemy of my enemy is my friend has kept ties close during the War on Terror. But every time a pundit rants about the War on Christmas or the nation’s Christian foundations, it is a glimpse at just how thin the protective bubble is around non-Christian religion and culture. This may not be obvious at Cardozo, but it is in the rest of America. And when the courts are done explaining that Islam is actually a religion, and gay baiting no longer gets out the vote, Judaism will still be a minority, no matter how many times someone uses the phrase “Judeo-Christian morality.”

The problem is not just antisemitism or homophobia, but rather the idea that demographics can be targeted and attacked as less valid or successful than the dominating norms,  with no support but bigotry. The Jewish community must draw a line at attitudes like Paladino’s, even after election season has finished. The same moral influence that has pushed Ann Coulter and Rick Sanchez off the air should stand with anyone who wants to attack minority groups to score points. And right now that stand is with the gay community. After all, we shared the same ovens.