In this season of light, let us meditate on what joins us together. Take, for example, the Hungarian anti-Semite I met on Sunday in a Budapest pub. He and I shared, to be sure, relatively little. He was fat, and I am thin. He was fiftyish, and I am 24. He believed that the Jewish lobby has pressured Obama to cut foreign investment to Hungary, thus worsening the (dismal, Jewish-banker-controlled) Hungarian economy, while I just felt lucky to have stashed my yarmulke in my pocket. Yet, as far as I can tell, there was one point on which we agreed. Had we been asked to list the “Top Ten Issues Affecting Jews in 2012,” I believe that neither of us would have included the fight over whether to hold, at this summer’s London Olympics, a moment of silence for Israeli athletes murdered forty years ago at Munich.
The Anti-Defamation League, apparently, thinks differently. On their newly released list, the Olympic brouhaha clocks in at number eight, right between “Primary Presidential Candidates Mix Religion and Politics” and “U.S. Jewish Community on Alert As Year Begins, Ends with Anti-Semitic Incidents.” That last entry, in its mixture of real threat (“the January 11 firebombing of Congregation Beth El in Rutherford”) and ephemera (a menorah at Northeastern University, it seems, was vandalized), is typical of the list as a whole.
Because, to be clear, I am not saying the Munich athletes did not deserve a moment of silence. They did, and shame on the International Olympic Committee. I am saying that, when the unabashedly anti-Semitic Jobbik party wins 16 percent of Hungarian voters, and Jobbik MP Márton Gyöngyösi calls for a list of Jews in the Hungarian government, surging European anti-Semitism (number one) should not have to share a list with the I.O.C. The first, for Hungary’s roughly 100,000 Jews, is deadly serious; an Orthodox rabbi I heard speak said that when he finds a job abroad, “I will be gone in ten minutes.” The missing moment of silence, by contrast, is symbolic politics.
And here’s what really gets me. When the ADL mixes serious, weighty trends with these teapot tempests, they ignore real Jewish issues. Yes, “Kennedy's celebrated speech on separation of church and state” made Rick Santorum “want to throw up.” No, I do not think that signals a threat to the future of Jewish religious liberty. You know what threatens Jewish religious liberty? That Reform rabbis still cannot perform conversions in Israel, and that the Chief Rabbinate still monopolizes certifications of Jerusalem restaurants as “kosher.” Sure, conspiracy theories about the supposedly Jewish backers of the “Innocence of Muslims” are terrible—but in September 2008, when the Clarion Fund, a shadowy political group linked to Orthodox outreach group Aish Hatorah, actually did produce an Islamophobic movie and mail it to 28 million swing-state voters, why didn’t that make the ADL’s top ten? I am sorry about the vandalized menorah, but frankly, I am more concerned about the Jews who beat four Palestinian teenagers half to death this summer in Jerusalem.
In other words: Why, sixty years into the era of Jewish statehood, do eight out of ten of the ADL’s issues feature Jews as passive objects?
Thank God, Jews control our own destinies in America and Israel. Including our persecution with Hungarian Jews’ isn’t just indecent to them—it’s dishonest about us. I am a Zionist and an American patriot because I believe that Jews should not have to live as they do in Hungary, stashing their yarmulkes in their pockets and living at the mercy of right-wing thugs. But I am also a Zionist because I care about how we affect issues, not just how they affect us.
As I light my Hannukah candles this evening, celebrating the Maccabee warriors and their holiday of Jewish power (and thus Jewish responsibility), I invite the ADL to join me.