I get a lot of emails every day: press releases, editorial enquiries, submissions to the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin, news reports and feature stories from our wire service, news digests from Israeli and other Jewish publications, messages from readers and colleagues, and much more.
Once in a while, though, I’ll get something that is blatantly anti-Semitic. Such was the case, earlier this month, when I got an email from what purported to be a pro-democracy organization in Moscow (it was in English).
The email included a long list of what it claimed the Talmud teaches Jews, including such things as it’s not a sin for a Jew to kill a non-Jew and that only Jews are actual human beings.
It went on to say that communism was a Jewish plot under which all the banks, media, business and property in communist countries were controlled by the Jews. And the kicker was that, since the fall of the Soviet bloc, Jews have fanned out into the Western democracies and taken control. These were “the most successful countries in the world,” but are all now on the verge of economic collapse, thanks to the Jews.
This so-called pro-democracy organization has a website chockfull of strange conspiracy theories covering four focus topics: Jews; Israel; the war on terror (which, it seems, is an international scheme controlled by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu); and, for some reason, Hillary Clinton.
More than a century after the creation of infamous forgery known as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (which also originated in Russia), there are still hate-mongers sitting in little rooms dreaming this stuff up. Scratch the surface of social media and the Internet, and it’s all too easy to find.
One of the strangest such examples was earlier this month when rock star Ted Nugent – who was already well known for extreme positions on a number of issues – said on Facebook that efforts toward gun control in the United States was a Jewish conspiracy led by such figures as Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of “Jew York,” and 11 other Jewish American political figures identified by a photo with their name and an Israeli flag.
As editor of a Jewish community newspaper, I spend a great deal of time immersed in news from around the Jewish world. In addition to the articles and columns for our print edition, I edit hundreds of additional articles each month for the online Bulletin – www.ottawajewishbulletin.com – and there’s no shortage of articles dealing with resurging anti-Semitism around the world, both classic anti-Semitism expressed as hatred of Jews and of individuals because they are Jewish, and what eminent experts like former justice minister Irwin Cotler have described as the “new anti-Semitism,” in which Israel is targeted as “the collective Jew” among the nations.
So, while I’m only too well aware of anti-Semitism in today’s world, it is still disconcerting to see it flourishing in an era when so much real knowledge is so easily and so readily available.
Jewish religious pluralism in Israel
The lack of Jewish religious pluralism in Israel is an issue I have raised before in this column. Much of Israel’s Jewish religious life is regulated through the haredi Orthodox lens of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate – and with the support of the haredi Orthodox political parties in the Knesset (and currently part of Netanyahu’s governing coalition).
I have long advocated that Israel, as the homeland of all Jewish people, needs to embrace all of the Jewish denominations equally. But that wide Big Tent embrace has been slow in coming.
In recent days, though, there have been two big steps forward for Jewish religious pluralism in Israel.
As described in the JTA article online at this link, the Western Wall – regarded as Judaism’s holiest site – will soon have a much expanded and accessible non-Orthodox section in which egalitarian Jewish observance will be practised. And the section will be administered by non-Orthodox authorities.
Then, just as we were going to press, we learned that Israel’s Supreme Court had ruled that mikvahs in the country must open up to Reform and Conservative converts for their ritual immersions. Until now, only Orthodox converts were allowed to use mikvahs in Israel.
These are most welcome developments.