Friday, October 21, 2022

An Apology

I'll be brief. In some old posts on this blog, I wrote words to the effect that Dennis Prager, a right-wing Jewish commentator, was "really" Christian or secretly "wished to be Christian", due to the overlap of his beliefs with right-wing Christian precepts.

This was wrong. I disagree with Prager on nearly every issue, including on what it means to be Jewish and the best articulations of Jewish value. Nonetheless, it is wrong to tell a Jew -- any Jew -- that they are any less of a Jew because of political or social disagreement. Jews are Jews are Jews -- including the Jews I or Prager really, really dislike. As these sorts of attacks on Jews for not "really" being Jewish become more common (and, in particular, seep into the mainstream where even non-Jews feel comfortable challenging the Jewish identities of Jews they dislike), it is especially important to practice what one preaches.

I've endeavored to delete these comments from my archives; it's possible I've missed some. Again, the practice of denying the authentic Jewishness of Jews one dislikes is wrong, full stop, and I was wrong to do it to Prager.


Matthew Saroff said...

I believe that Dennis Prager has made a career out of pandering to the right wing, and in particular by pandering to the right wing.

This does not make him a non-jew, but it does make him, as Harry Belafonte once delicately put about Colin Powell, a "House Slave."

If you wanted to use a term more in tune with Jewish culture, one could also call him a "Kapo".

David Schraub said...

I don't use Kapo either, as I also don't believe in leveraging the mass extermination of Jews against Jews (which includes Jews who are terrible people).

Gabem116 said...

Out of curiosity, how would this apply to debates over who is Jewish (for example, Jews who do not believe Messianic Jews (to the extent they claim to be Jewish) are Jewish, or Lubavitchers who believe you need a Jewish mother or specific conversion process to be Jewish)?

David Schraub said...

There is nearly universal agreement amongst Jews that Messianic Jews aren't Jewish, and I agree with this position. My view is not "anyone who says they are a Jew is ipso facto Jewish". But there is no basis -- either historical or in terms of intersubjective agreement -- for the notion that "wrong" politics renders someone who otherwise would be recognized as Jewish as not Jewish.

The issue of matrilineal/patrilineal descent, or non-recognition of non-Orthodox conversions, is harder (in part because here the community lacks significant intersubjective agreement on the right rules). But at the very least, I would say that such standards cannot be deployed opportunistically to score political points. For the most part, when I read JTA or the Forward and they do one of their "here are five Jewish chefs you have to try!" bits, they are perfectly happy to include patrilineal Jews, and they don't get a lot of pushback on it. It seems many who nominally hold to the matrilineal descent/Orthodox conversion rule are relatively live-and-let-live about patrilineal Jews/non-Orthodox converts to the extent they're living their Judaism outside of Orthodox spaces (i.e., so long as they don't come into my synagogue's minyan, I'm not going to challenge the legitimacy of their synagogue's minyan). Where that is the norm, I don't think political opposition warrants an exception.