- The Washington Times - Monday, September 4, 2000

It was inevitable that the nomination of the first Jew on a national ticket would set off a fractious squabble among Jews. Hair-splitting, controversy and disputation are in the honorable tradition of Talmudic study. As we say in Yiddish (and Hebrew and English and German): "Two Jews always argue three sides of a question."
Or as Winston Churchill once noted: "One Jew is a prime minister, two Jews are a prime minister and a leader of the loyal opposition."
When the Anti-Defamation League told Joe Lieberman to knock off protestations of his faith in his campaign speeches, the veep wannabe declined. "We respectfully disagree," Kiki McLean, his spokeswoman, said. "Welcoming people of faith into public life is not about excluding anyone or imposing religious views on non- believers."
Naturally, this set off a torrent of words by Jews in the media, of whom there are many. Sid Zion, columnist for the New York Post, told Joe to "shut his mouth." The last time Jews went one-on-one with the Christians about Jesus, he reminded his brethren, they lost. Other Jews cheered, citing examples of the expression of faith in God contained in the Declaration of Independence, the Pledge of Allegiance, and even the motto on our money.
The arguments range over the political process and its impact on the way the Jews and their Jewish religion are perceived. Before there were so many Jewish writers in the media, newspapers were often sprinkled with anti-Semitic slurs. In fact, Joseph Pulitzer, the famous press lord at the turn of the century, was frequently referred to as "Jewseph" Pulitzer.
Jews are still sensitive about the prominence of prominent Jews. One friend of mine tells of the time a synagogue went up next door to her house. The family decided to sell and thought the rabbi would make the perfect buyer. He could walk to work on the Sabbath. But when he arrived to see the house, nestled next to the "shuhl," he exclaimed: "This already is too close." That's how a lot of Jews feel about the Lieberman nomination. This already is too close.
The controversy goes to another problem confronting American Jews, the debate of the secular Jew vs. the religious Jew. Since Mr. Lieberman has been cast on center stage many Christians have revived the age-old questions: Are Jews a religion or a race? Must a Jew believe in God? Are Jewish rituals religious or ethnic? What determines who is a Jew?
These are questions that Jews debate endlessly among themselves. The question is compounded by the historical memory of the Holocaust and the dominant interest among Jews everywhere to commemorate it. A Jewish student of the Holocaust, studying in Berlin, questions whether the Holocaust will come to dominate Jewish rituals, bonding secular Jews in a new solidarity that overruns ancient religious ceremonies.
Yitzhak Greenberg, an Orthodox rabbi and promoter of Holocaust memory, prophesied two decades ago that 1,000 years from now Jews will re-enact the Holocaust: "They will eat the rotten bread of Auschwitz, the potato peelings of Bergen-Belsen and tell the story as we now eat the matzo and bitter herb of Passover."
The on-line Jewish World Review (www.jewishworldreview.com), which follows such issues, describes a new Jewish Hero Corps comic book to be published (on paper) this fall: "The essential concept is to have a diverse group of Jewish heroes whose common enemies are assimilation ('Jewish Amnesia') and the unraveling of our collective Jewish past." One of the Heroes is Menorah Man, who can transform himself with eight flame-throwing arms. A Shabbas (Sabbath) Queen uses an electromagnetic wand to disarm television sets, computers, even electric lights, so that Jews can rest on the Sabbath as they believe they are supposed to do.
The nomination of Joe Lieberman fits right into this debate. Mr. Lieberman represents the Orthodox Jew who maintains his religious identity when all about him Jews are losing theirs.
The Anti-Defamation League is an arm of B'nai Brith, an organization founded in 1843 when there were only 25,000 Jews in America. Its stated purpose was "to reduce factionalism in Jewish culture." Ironically, with its attack on Mr. Lieberman it has fanned the fire of factionalism.
So I'll let my mother, age 90, who has had lots of experience mediating arguments at the dinner table, say the benediction here: "Enough already."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide