September 18, 2007

Self-hating Jewish Kiwi?

I just stumbled on this blog post by googling "anti-zionist blogs." It's actually an anarchist's blog and it covers various issues but the post that came out top referred to another titled "Self-hating Jew?" It turns out the guy is Jewish and he's been getting quite a hard time from his community since being up front with his anti-zionist position:
Since I became more public with my beliefs as an anti-Zionist member of the New Zealand Jewish community, a large number of people, many of whom have known me most of my life, have seen fit to label me with that cruel epithet "self-hating Jew". This has reached the stage where I now very rarely involve myself in the Jewish community or it's activities. I no longer feel welcome at the Jewish community centre in Wellington, a place where I went to kindergarten and primary school, a place where I have spent so much of my life.

Now, I could write here about the role my Jewish identity plays in my life. I could write about how I express my Judaism, or the role Judaism plays in influencing the political activism I do (such as anti-fascist activism). But I'm not going to do that, because that would be allowing those who have smeared me to dictate the frame of the argument. I'm not going to defend myself or my beliefs, because I shouldn't have to. In a truly respectful community, we would agree on some things, disagree on others and respect each others differences. We would discuss, and we would argue, but at the end of the day, regardless of the outcome, we would continue on our seperate paths with both of us having grown from the experience, because that's what a community is about.

If you feel uncomfortable associating with me because my beliefs differ from yours, perhaps you should seek out a cult, rather than our community, because there you won't have to question yourself – everything you say will be echoed by everyone else.

If you haven't run away after that last paragraph, I'm going to assume you want to be a part of the Jewish community still. That's fantastic. Now, how about we engage in some dialogue, rather than spreading (frequently false) rumours about me behind my back.

I don't want to hear your patronising comments about how me not believing in G-d (you see, I write it that way out of respect for you, even if I may not agree) or not linking my fate to that of Israel's is a "failure of the community to properly educate". As I said in a previous email to this list a few months ago:

"Education is giving knowledge in such a way that empowers the educated to form their own opinions

In education, as long as the educated are sufficiently able to form their own opinions, you cannot fail. The only way to fail in education is if you fail to educate.

On the other hand, indoctrination is regarded as exactly what the dictionary says: "To imbue with a partisan or ideological point of view". This means teaching certain things with the explicit goal of producing a specific point of view. In indoctrination, one is considered to have failed if the recipient does not come out with the required point of view."

I hope sincerely that our community aims to educate, not indoctrinate, although sadly sometimes I'm not sure that it does.
He posted that last year. A bit later things hadn't improved. After posting a comment to a NZ message board to the effect that anti-zionism isn't antisemitism he received an email from someone he had known all his life:
Shame on you Asher.

Your Mother would turn over in her grave to read what you have just posted.
Well Asher wasn't a very happy bunny but this part of his reply must replicate in the experience of so many Jews who question or disagree with community leaders:
My Mother raised me to value my own thoughts and opinions in the knowledge that they were valid. My Mother raised me to be more than merely a reactionary spouting off talking points that I had heard on the news.

When I was young, I remember a certain Wellington Orthodox Rabbi who told me I should question everything anyone told me. Being a cheeky kid, I asked him "even things you tell me, Rabbi?". He answered me swiftly with something I remember and value to this very day. He said, "You should question me most of all, as I'm claiming a position of authority".
Ah, I do love a happy ending.


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