Commentary Magazine


‘Occupying’ Judaism

To the Editor:

Jonathan Neumann’s article [“Occupy Wall Street and the Jews,” January] can be boiled down to two of the most well-worn Commentary fixations: (1) There is a Jewish left, despite the best efforts of Commentary; and (2) the Jewish left must worry about its anti-Semitic bedfellows, preferably so much that they cease to exist (and certainly more so than the Jewish right). This is the extent of the piece’s intellectual contribution; next time, Mr. Neumann might consider actually taking the practical questions involved seriously instead of simply repeating shibboleths.

Samuel Brody
Chicago, Illinois

 

To the Editor:

As a Jewish supporter of Israel who has joined the Occupiers at Liberty Park on a dozen occasions, including the beautiful Kol Nidre and Simchat Torah services, I found Jonathan Neumann’s article to be the opposite of everything I experienced. Occupy Wall Street is an inclusive movement that welcomes pretty much all comers. I have seen everyone from supporters of Ron Paul to socialists and everything in between. No doubt that includes some whose opinions are anathema to me, but the basic message that unites the people supporting OWS has nothing to do with Jews or Israel. Even firm believers in capitalism, including myself, feel that the system is in need of serious correction and that the recklessness of those in the financial sector has caused the whole nation to suffer, while they were bailed out.

Tikkun olam is a Jewish value, look it up.

Robert Mishaan
Brooklyn, New York

 

 

To the Editor:

Jonathan Neumann’s perceptive article produced evidence in city after city of the Occupy movement’s anti-Semitism. He missed, however, a major example in the nation’s capital. On a sunny morning last October, I was walking from the National Press Club to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars on Pennsylvania Avenue and came to Freedom Plaza, normally a wonderful open space with a dramatic view of the Capitol.

Freedom Plaza is also a mere few blocks from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. One of the more powerful exhibits in the museum is a room piled with the shoes of Holocaust victims, collected by Nazi death-camp guards. As I walked along 13th Street, I passed the main entrance to the new Occupy D.C. encampment and saw a large pile of shoes with signs indicating these were the shoes of Palestinian victims of “Zionist war criminals.” Other signs around the shoes castigated “U.S. war criminals,” “Zionist bankers,” and “Israeli murderers.” Numerous other such signs were scattered throughout the encampment. It occurred to me that the exhibit’s creators must have been aware of the Holocaust Museum exhibit and therefore designed theirs to purposely belittle it and the Jewish victims it represents, as Holocaust deniers routinely do.

In early December I again walked through Freedom Plaza. The encampment and the signs were almost all gone, moved to McPherson Square on K Street. The Plaza was bleaker without its autumn leaves, but it felt cleaner and more true to its name.

Leslie D. Simon
Boca Raton, Florida

 

To the Editor:

In reading Jonathan Neumann’s article about the Occupy movement, I thought it worth considering the meaning of the words Occupy Wall Street. Occupying something is not benign. It is rather an aggressive move against the object of the occupation. Occupiers want somehow to upend Wall Street, to intrude, take it over, not to let those who work in finance go about their business as usual. So why should we be surprised when Muslims won’t show up for “Occupy Islam” or Christians for “Occupy Christianity”? They know what the words mean and reasonably say, “no, thanks.” Only we Jews show up for Occupy Judaism. It’s an old story: Once again Jews can’t tell who their friends or, worse, their enemies are.

Marc Segan
New York City

 

 

To the Editor:

I am glad that in writing about Jews and Occupy Wall Street, Jonathan Neumann focused on the expropriation of the term social justice by the left. Rational thinkers, Jews, and those who identify with the Jewish people need spokespersons in politics and the media who can articulate clearly that the left, though it uses the language of social justice, stands for policies and ideas that are too often associated with tyranny and murder—frequently of Jews. One hardly knows whether to believe leftists are purveyors of knowingly malignant ideas or merely ignorant dunces playing out their psychological needs.

Whichever it is, their activities are pernicious to both Jews and American society. They need to be exposed, and there is far too little public conversation about how bad their ideas really are.

David Sager
Highland Park, Illinois

 

 

Jonathan Neumann writes:

Mr. Brody suggests that the concern of the right for the anti-Semitic currents in the leftist camp is disingenuously intended to malign that political force out of existence. Setting aside the hypocrisy of the left rebuking the right for excessive sensitivity on a matter of discrimination, the real issue is that, whereas the right has taken steps to exorcise its own demons (think Ron Paul, much of whose support comes from the left, and Pat Buchanan, who, after being marginalized on the right, found a home at MSNBC) and remains vigilant, the left makes no such effort. Instead, liberal leaders and the Democratic nobility, including the president, embraced Occupy Wall Street. It is further odd to characterize the concerns of the right about Occupy Wall Street as “shibboleths,” given these protests are a new phenomenon.

Thanks to Mr. Simon for noting yet more instances of depraved hostility toward Jews and Israel among the Occupiers; there is no shortage of examples, nor, evidently, are there limits to the callousness.

Mr. Segan is right to observe the adversative connotation of the term occupy: Just as the “Occupy Wall Street” folks wish to reform Wall Street beyond recognition (if not eliminate it altogether), so the same sentiment animates the “Occupy Judaism” crowd, who call on others to “occupy our own Jewish institutions’’ and who turn Jewish theology on its head. As for why Judaism is so much more popular a target of “occupation” than are Christianity or Islam, perhaps it is because disaffected members of the latter religions simply leave their faith (or allow their observance to lapse) rather than pursue radical internal reform.

Mr. Sager puts into action Mr. Mishaan’s resort to tikkun olam to validate the worldviews of “Ron Paul to socialists and everything in between.” If anything, Mr. Mishaan’s presumption merely betrays the current vacuity of the term, which an examination of the Jewish tradition indeed reveals to be meaningless and incapable of justifying the liberal opinions and statist policies to which it is lately attached.




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