Time for pundits to stop trying to mislead the Jewish people

An avalanche of words.  A repetitive flow.  It happens every time there is a Jewish tragedy.  We Jews are being told what lessons to extract, how to react, what to think, and whom to blame.  If we dare not follow the wisdom of the "pundits," well, we have only ourselves to blame.

In the early 20th century, the Nazis were experts at it.  They excelled in developing theories blaming Jewish victims for their own victimization and getting everyone else to believe it.  Their results were devastating to the Jewish people even before the Holocaust.

Sadly, there are other propaganda experts.  In our time, just as in ancient times, there was never a shortage of cynics willing to exploit the Jewish people and our tragedies for their own purposes.  You don't need to delve too deeply into the annals of history to find countless other examples of clerics or political leaders whipping up anti-Semitic violence and then inventing reasons to blame the victims for their suffering.  It's right there – for those who care to look and listen.

It's happening again now, in the aftermath of the Pittsburgh tragedy.  The new bogeyman is President Trump.  We are encouraged to believe he is to blame for the rise in anti-Semitism in America.  He is guilty for fueling the hatred that led to Saturday's massacre in Pittsburgh, and he is responsible for everything that occurred - except perhaps for actually pulling the trigger.

I'm sorry, pundits – the history of my people, and my own personal experiences, say otherwise.  Anti-Semitism has been around as long as the Jewish people have been around and will, unfortunately, probably be around for as long as we Jews exist.

Growing up as a visibly Jewish child in Brooklyn during the Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations, I was often spat upon while walking to school.  I had stones thrown at me and was physically and verbally assaulted many, many times.  My experiences, sorry to say, were not at all different from those of my siblings and of my friends.

When Bill Clinton was president and I, as an adult, served as rabbi of the only orthodox synagogue in Dayton, Ohio, I was often awakened in the morning by a telephone call proclaiming, "Heil Hitler," and I was subjected to death threats by Aryan Nation members.

I won't ever forget the man who stopped his blue pickup long enough to throw a full can of Sprite at my 11-year-old son's head as we strolled to synagogue in Atlanta on a Friday night during George Bush's tenure.

During President Obama's term in office, while I taught Jewish subjects on college campuses, anti-Semitic incidents and threats to Jews skyrocketed.  I saw and heard many of them firsthand.  

Yet we are led to believe that before Trump became president, none of this ever happened.  Before President Trump took office, apparently, America was a happy, tolerant place where hatred and evil would never dare tread.

Sorry again. My eyes, ears, and all my Jewish senses tell me different.  President Trump has gone farther to combat anti-Semitism than any political leader of his stature in America – and probably the world.  He elevated his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a visibly observant and proud Jew, to one of the most important advisory roles any observant Jew has ever enjoyed.  His daughter Ivanka openly embraced the Jewish religion and was clearly supported in her decision by her proud father and the Trump family.  Such "nuances" don't go unnoticed by the white supremacists of America.  Richard Bower said as much on his Facebook page in his condemnation of President Trump.  He complained about Trump's love and respect for the Jewish people and was upset that Jews are in his family.  I have no doubt that he is joined by many people of his ilk in his disgust with, and hatred of, our president.    

Yet somehow, we Jews, along with all of America, are expected to believe that to American Nazis, President Trump is a hero and a role model.  We are supposed to ignore the fact that the president denounced racism in the strongest possible terms.  We are given to believe that by condemning hate, the president is encouraging haters to hate even more.

I'm sorry once more, dear pundits – I just can't fall for it.  You tried your best, but my personal experiences and the experiences of my people tell this American Jew  otherwise.

Rabbi Moshe B. Parnes is an ordained orthodox rabbi.  He is the director of the Hollywood Community Kollel, a non-profit organization serving South Florida dedicated to the study and dissemination of Jewish law, history, philosophy, and values.  He previously held pulpits in Dayton, Ohio and Sandy Springs, Ga.  He lives with his wife and children in Hollywood, Fla.  He can be reached at rabbimp@hollywoodkollel.org or 404-409-8293.

An avalanche of words.  A repetitive flow.  It happens every time there is a Jewish tragedy.  We Jews are being told what lessons to extract, how to react, what to think, and whom to blame.  If we dare not follow the wisdom of the "pundits," well, we have only ourselves to blame.

In the early 20th century, the Nazis were experts at it.  They excelled in developing theories blaming Jewish victims for their own victimization and getting everyone else to believe it.  Their results were devastating to the Jewish people even before the Holocaust.

Sadly, there are other propaganda experts.  In our time, just as in ancient times, there was never a shortage of cynics willing to exploit the Jewish people and our tragedies for their own purposes.  You don't need to delve too deeply into the annals of history to find countless other examples of clerics or political leaders whipping up anti-Semitic violence and then inventing reasons to blame the victims for their suffering.  It's right there – for those who care to look and listen.

It's happening again now, in the aftermath of the Pittsburgh tragedy.  The new bogeyman is President Trump.  We are encouraged to believe he is to blame for the rise in anti-Semitism in America.  He is guilty for fueling the hatred that led to Saturday's massacre in Pittsburgh, and he is responsible for everything that occurred - except perhaps for actually pulling the trigger.

I'm sorry, pundits – the history of my people, and my own personal experiences, say otherwise.  Anti-Semitism has been around as long as the Jewish people have been around and will, unfortunately, probably be around for as long as we Jews exist.

Growing up as a visibly Jewish child in Brooklyn during the Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations, I was often spat upon while walking to school.  I had stones thrown at me and was physically and verbally assaulted many, many times.  My experiences, sorry to say, were not at all different from those of my siblings and of my friends.

When Bill Clinton was president and I, as an adult, served as rabbi of the only orthodox synagogue in Dayton, Ohio, I was often awakened in the morning by a telephone call proclaiming, "Heil Hitler," and I was subjected to death threats by Aryan Nation members.

I won't ever forget the man who stopped his blue pickup long enough to throw a full can of Sprite at my 11-year-old son's head as we strolled to synagogue in Atlanta on a Friday night during George Bush's tenure.

During President Obama's term in office, while I taught Jewish subjects on college campuses, anti-Semitic incidents and threats to Jews skyrocketed.  I saw and heard many of them firsthand.  

Yet we are led to believe that before Trump became president, none of this ever happened.  Before President Trump took office, apparently, America was a happy, tolerant place where hatred and evil would never dare tread.

Sorry again. My eyes, ears, and all my Jewish senses tell me different.  President Trump has gone farther to combat anti-Semitism than any political leader of his stature in America – and probably the world.  He elevated his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a visibly observant and proud Jew, to one of the most important advisory roles any observant Jew has ever enjoyed.  His daughter Ivanka openly embraced the Jewish religion and was clearly supported in her decision by her proud father and the Trump family.  Such "nuances" don't go unnoticed by the white supremacists of America.  Richard Bower said as much on his Facebook page in his condemnation of President Trump.  He complained about Trump's love and respect for the Jewish people and was upset that Jews are in his family.  I have no doubt that he is joined by many people of his ilk in his disgust with, and hatred of, our president.    

Yet somehow, we Jews, along with all of America, are expected to believe that to American Nazis, President Trump is a hero and a role model.  We are supposed to ignore the fact that the president denounced racism in the strongest possible terms.  We are given to believe that by condemning hate, the president is encouraging haters to hate even more.

I'm sorry once more, dear pundits – I just can't fall for it.  You tried your best, but my personal experiences and the experiences of my people tell this American Jew  otherwise.

Rabbi Moshe B. Parnes is an ordained orthodox rabbi.  He is the director of the Hollywood Community Kollel, a non-profit organization serving South Florida dedicated to the study and dissemination of Jewish law, history, philosophy, and values.  He previously held pulpits in Dayton, Ohio and Sandy Springs, Ga.  He lives with his wife and children in Hollywood, Fla.  He can be reached at rabbimp@hollywoodkollel.org or 404-409-8293.