Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein
22 July 2019
In the week America, and much of the world, was fixated on the fiftieth anniversary of the first moon landing, President Trump chose to attack four opponents, whipping up his audience to chant “send them back”. It reminded me of Germany 70 years ago, scenes we hoped were in the past and from which the civilised world had learnt where such outpourings can lead.
Then we witnessed the cravenness of Republican politicians refusing to condemn Trump’s racist remarks, either anxious to win favour with him or a sign of their deep racist beliefs. The question of suspicion of dual loyalties should be especially troublesome to Jews… how often has this been a charge against us, especially since the birth of Zionism. Arab politicians urging Israelis to go back home to America when most originated in Poland or recently from Russia… and of course so many from Arab countries where their ancestors lived for millennia before being thrown out.
Since Biblical days Jews have been wanderers, immigrants, refugees, in many a generation, in many a country. Sadly, most of the wandering has been caused by persecution or poverty, but wherever we have settled down we have enriched that country. When expelled, that country has always been impoverished. Maybe it’s my age, but I do daily look at the obituaries in the Times. And I am convinced that at least a fifth of those so honoured have been Jewish. And so often they were refugees who have enriched this country, making contributions in all fields, science, arts, financial and humanitarian work. And lest I be accused of being chauvinistic, I also note the increasing contributions made by newer immigrants to this country who increasingly, out of all proportion to their numbers, seem to be making advances in medicine, science, journalism, and so on.
America is a nation of immigrants and we must add our voice in decrying the rhetoric of Donald Trump, and words and thoughts of those with similar views in our own country. And as we battle against the spread of anti-Semitism and other forms of racism spawned by social media, but prompted by politicians or would be politicians, we are surely aware of where such trends lead. Never again it was said… can we believe it could so easily happen again.
As Jews, the accusation of dual loyalty goes all the way back to the Babylonian exile. However, we continue to follow the teachings of the prophet Jeremiah who urged the Jewish exiles in Babylon to build houses, plant gardens and pray for the peace of the city where they were dwelling. To settle down and thrive, though always to dream of Zion, even if they had no intention of settling in Babylon.
And going back to the moon… that iconic picture of the far distant earth rising over the moon’s horizon is a powerful reminder that we all live on one planet, and of our Jewish belief that we are all equal in God’s eyes. Therefore, we must speak out against those who spout words of curse and not blessing, who encourage hatred and not love, dissension not harmony, suspicion and not tolerance.
Click here to read Rabbi Danny Rich’s Jewish News article on the same topic
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