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A New Low for “Occupy Judaism”

On Wednesday, the Forward published an op-ed by “Occupy Judaism’s” chief organizer in which without blushing he compares the clearing of Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan of Occupy Wall Street protesters by the NYPD to the destruction of ancient Jerusalem by the Roman army.

You read that correctly.

One might think that however far Judaism’s occupiers might take their association of Judaism with radical politics, they would stop short at saying the shechina (the Divine Presence said to have rested in the lost Temple) was with them, or comparing themselves to Yohanan ben Zakkai who, by escaping Jerusalem when it was encircled by the Roman legions and establishing his yeshiva in Yavneh, ensured the perpetuation of Judaism even after Jerusalem’s destruction. That destruction, after all, meant the death of at least tens of thousands, the enslavement of countless others, the first forced exile of Jews from the Land of Israel in a half millennium, and represented the end of any semblance of Jewish political independence for 1,878 years. On that score, alas, you would be wrong. Shame does not seem to register in the operating paradigm of these Jews.

While not surprising, it is strange that this new low would be reached now, after “Occupy Judaism’s” leaders have done a better job than anyone of chronicling
the anti-Israelism
endemic in the Occupy movement. Getting called a genocidaire for refusing to condemn the existence of a Jewish state just isn’t enough for some, I guess, to walk away from their supposed comrades.

That there appears to be a significant segment of organized American Jewry that takes seriously the comparison of the eviction of the downtown protesters and the near 2,000 year (and counting) span since the destruction of the last Jewish Temple bodes ill for its future. The total association of Jewish practice, symbols, and history with radical politics is no basis upon which to build a vibrant Judaism. It is rather a recipe for a new generation of shallow invocations of a religious tradition that is thought capable only of providing a patina of historical legitimacy to the political proclivities of most Jews.

To build an American Jewish future of solid foundations for that great majority of American Jews with little to no conception of their heritage, we will need to teach them about a Judaism that challenges their closely held convictions, not one that reinforces them. We must have the courage to learn our tradition with open minds and bring its teachings to bear on the fundamental basis with which we view the world.

“Occupy Judaism,” of course, wraps itself in the claim it is doing exactly that. But by callously equating humanity’s greatest triumph of survival with a minor inconvenience for people who live in the freest and most moral political society in history in order to gratify their adherents’ prejudices, its serves only to cheapen the tradition it claims to stand for.

American Jewry will not find the meaning in its tradition that it seeks until it is finally willing to take the fateful step of asking what Judaism has to tell it, and not what it has to tell Judaism.

 



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