Tuesday, January 18, 2011
The tragic Gabrielle Giffords shooting only underscores the need for Jewish public officials to confront anti-Semitism, argues a former White House of
New York - While it is inappropriate to try to blame mainstream political movements for the tragic shooting of Rep.
Gabrielle Giffords, there is at least some suggestion that one decidedly non-mainstream and troubling phenomenon—anti-Semitism—was a factor in the attack on Arizona’s first Jewish congresswoman.
The deranged alleged shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, was apparently a fan of Mein Kampf and belonged to an anti-Semitic group, which may have helped inspire his deadly rampage.
For Jewish officials in public life, the shooting raises the important question of how and whether to acknowledge one’s religion in a world where many people, for a variety of personal and political reasons, want to do Jews harm.
I recently wrote an essay for Mishpacha magazine in which I talked about my own experiences as a Jewish senior official in the Bush Administration.
I also discussed the prevalence of Jewish elected officials in the U.S. Congress, including the new House majority leader, Eric Cantor. In response, one reader offered a cautionary letter in which he warned against getting excited over having Jewish officials prominently featured in public life.
The correspondent cited the Meshech Chochma, written by Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk, Latvia, who wrote in the early 20th century that Jews should be wary of getting too comfortable in a country, lest the native population be reminded of the Jewish people’s otherness and expel them, or worse.
Simcha’s words are even more haunting in light of Jewish history. In his lifetime, Germany, not the United States, was seen as the safest place for Jews to live.
Germany was a cultured and advanced society in which Jews had existed, mostly peacefully, for a thousand years. During his lifetime, few would have believed Germany would be the driving force behind an atrocity like the Holocaust.
Thus, one cannot blithely dismiss Simcha’s views as the equivalent of the mousy sentiment, “shah shtil fur de goyim”—don’t make a fuss about your Judaism in front of the non-Jewish population.