Dig Hole, Insert Head

Hi, I’m MaNishtana and the other day I was reading advice columns.  Because I was clearly interested in being a middle aged housewife. But I digress.  As I was reading I came across this question:

I’m applying for citizenship and plan on moving to an American community very soon. I’m also Jewish. I didn’t really expect much anti-Semitism from the American community but, surprisingly, people have been saying things. Some simple (but still bigoted), like, “A Jewish girl will never find a good American husband,” and among the more hurtful, “K-s shouldn’t be American.” I’m already looking for a different area to move but I know that I will continue to encounter anti-Semitism anywhere I go. My question is, how do I respond to these sorts of comments? Should I respond at all? What is the American approach to anti-Semitism?

Clearly a hurtful conundrum.  And if the situation alone didn’t upset me, the answer she got back upset me even more:

Wow! Good for you. It takes a lot of courage and strength to immigrate and I am in awe of you and your choices.

What is the American approach to anti-Semitism? I’m sorry that you even have to ask such a question. It should be clear to all that racism is appalling. There is absolutely no excuse for it. It is bad character and a clear violation of the Constitutional belief that all men are created equal.

That said, Americans are still human beings and we have many flaws. There are those who cheat in business or spread malicious gossip and slander. The key is not to tar the whole community with the same brush and to judge each individual fairly. Rotten apples don’t spoil the whole bunch.

On the other hand, you may also need to guard against over-sensitivity. Perhaps the comment that “a Jewish girl will never find…” was heard incorrectly. Maybe it was meant to prepare you for a struggle rather than as a harsh statement of bigotry. Depending on how it was said, and the exact language, it is possible that the speaker was merely trying to warn you of the challenges ahead. Finding a good husband is difficult for everyone. It is harder for an immigrant and even harder for someone in your particular circumstances. Right or wrong, good or bad, that is the reality and perhaps you can cope with it better once you have a clear perspective on the situation.

I wouldn’t respond to racial slurs. Why dignify them in that way?

Amazing.  Patronizing and dismissive all in one fell swoop, topped off with the classic “Just ignore it and it’ll go away” that doesn’t even work with elementary bullies on a playground let alone in real grown up life.  Such a masterpiece of apathy that not only doesn’t answer the reader’s question but also essentially tells her to suck it up because she’s being “too sensitive”.  How DARE the advice columnist just–oh, wait, sorry, sorry. Sorry.  Wait.

THAT wasn’t the question I read.  THIS was.  On aish.com:

Dear Emuna,

I’m converting to Judaism under Orthodox guidelines and plan on moving to a Jewish community very soon. I’m also half black. I didn’t really expect much racism from the Jewish community but, surprisingly, people have been saying things. Some simple (but still bigoted), like, “A black girl will never find a good Jewish husband,” and among the more hurtful, “N-s shouldn’t be Jewish.” I’m already looking for a different area to move but I know that I will continue to encounter racism anywhere I go. My question is, how do I respond to these sorts of comments? Should I respond at all? What is the Jewish approach to racism?

– Taken Aback

And the answer back was…:

Dear Taken Aback (and Rightly So!),

Wow! Good for you. It takes a lot of courage and strength to convert and I am in awe of you and your choices.

What is the Jewish approach to racism? I’m sorry that you even have to ask such a question. It should be clear to all that racism is appalling. There is absolutely no excuse for it. It is bad character and a clear violation of the commandment to love humanity and love your fellow Jew.

That said, Jews, including observant ones, are human beings. We are, hopefully, striving to improve ourselves and get closer to God, but we have many flaws. There are those who cheat in business or spread malicious gossip and slander. The key is not to tar the whole community with the same brush and to judge each individual fairly. Rotten apples don’t spoil the whole bunch.

Secondly, you don’t want to (as the quaint expression goes) throw out the baby with the bath water. Despite how some people may behave, a life of Torah and service of the Almighty is still a meaningful and fulfilling one. Don’t let them affect your impression of the Torah itself.

I cannot justify insensitive comments and let me state again clearly: there is NO excuse for racism.

On the other hand, you may also need to guard against over-sensitivity. Perhaps the comment that “a black girl will never find…” was heard incorrectly. Maybe it was meant to prepare you for a struggle rather than as a harsh statement of bigotry. Depending on how it was said, and the exact language, it is possible that the speaker was merely trying to warn you of the challenges ahead. Finding a good husband is difficult for everyone. It is harder for a convert and even harder for someone in your particular circumstances. Right or wrong, good or bad, that is the reality and perhaps you can cope with it better once you have a clear perspective on the situation.

The real key here is that in this, as in all other areas: the Almighty runs the world. He makes the matches and he watches over His children. His is the only approval and love that you need.

I wouldn’t respond to racial slurs. Why dignify them in that way? Unless you can react like the man in the story in the Talmud who, when insulted about his looks (not that you should be insulted I hasten to add!), advised the person to “take it up with my Creator. He’s the one who made me.”

– Emuna

Now.  If after you’ve read the first question and felt outraged–because I know you did–If you can read the second one and find the writer’s upset to be somehow “less valid” or less “serious”, then congratulations: You’re part of the problem.

Also, you’re kind of a racist.  But a passive one, so totally not the same thing.

Except not.

manishtanasignoff

MaNishtana@manishtana.net

twitter.com/MaNishtana

Order Thoughts From A Unicorn: 100% Black. 100% Jewish. 0% Safe.

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