The anti-Zionism of some rabbinical students is a poisonous self-deception

In today’s all-or-nothing world, fools treat politics like it’s theology, a forever-clash of good and evil, while too many infect the rich, complex Jewish religion with Arab street politics.

Last week confirmed it: the world’s greatest fools are those who fool themselves. Democrats shocked by Joe Biden’s doddering should examine their news sources – his decline has been obvious. Similarly, Donald Trump’s negativity and vulgarity should make Republicans cringe. If they can’t see their party’s decline since Ronald Reagan’s days, or that Trump lacks the integrity of an Australian bush rat, let alone either president Bush, they need new glasses.

The hypocrisy is exhausting. Democrats spent four years deeming Donald Trump’s 30,573 lies toxic to democracy. But rather than leading honestly in response, they’ve spent the Biden presidency lying to themselves – without convincing most Americans – or an increasingly unsettled world.

Still, even as this demeaning debate left everyone wondering “can’t America do better?” it highlighted America’s pro-Israel consensus.

As usual, both of America’s leading presidential candidates competed to be the most pro-Israel one. By contrast, French voters faced anti-Zionist left-wingers and antisemitic right-wingers.

“We are the biggest producer of support for Israel than anyone in the world,” Biden proclaimed. Endorsing most Israelis’ and Benjamin Netanyahu’s war aims, the president said Hamas has been “greatly weakened” and “should be eliminated.”

Trump, characteristically, was gruffer and cruder. While urging Biden to “let” the Israelis “finish the job,” he mocked Biden’s pro-Israel but anti-incursion dither. “He’s become like a Palestinian,” Trump sneered. “But they don’t like him, because he’s a very bad Palestinian. He’s a weak one.”

Using “Palestinian” insultingly is not presidential. But it reflected an insight this intuitive, primal politician understands – and the media misses. Most Americans abhor Palestinian behavior – from their delight in the October 7 perversions to their hooliganism on campus and in the streets. Trump won’t make Biden’s mistake of trying to placate totalitarians who despise America, burn its flag, and detest both candidates.

ALTHOUGH THE media downplayed it, outside CNN’s Atlanta studios, pro-Palestinian demonstrators once again fused anti-Zionism with anti-Americanism. “We say f*** the police, we will burn it down and take what is ours in the streets,” one speaker told the Palestine Action US rally. Promising “resistance” not “peaceful” protest, she cried: “It’s time we follow the lead of militants of oppressed nations.” The Party for Socialism and Liberation protest dismissed “Genocide Joe… arch-racist Donald Trump” and America, shrieking: “We must build a mass movement that will tear down this unjust system!”

Meanwhile, speaking of self-delusion, New York’s Jewish papers covered the anguished debates in the liberal seminaries about many rabbinical students’ venomous anti-Zionism. It’s so widespread that two left-leaning, pro-Palestinian but Zionist students recently left the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, because it’s “a training ground for anti-Zionist rabbis.” At graduation, some of the new rabbis wore keffiyehs and sported watermelons, evoking the Palestinian flag’s red, green, and black.

After October 7, this sick ploy is like sporting swastikas or wearing KKK robes at a rabbinic ordination. Did these o-so-sensitive souls imagine how Israelis with murdered children or kidnapped loved ones might react to their juvenile virtue-signal? Are values like solidarity, peoplehood, and loyalty on their rabbinic curriculum? Did anyone share these two students’ courage – walking out during the ceremony, quitting teaching at this breeding ground for dishonor – or, probably most effective, cutting off funding?

Do these people think this deformation of Judaism is sustainable? Ignore how they betray our soldiers. What kind of robust religion, what kind of self-respecting community, can emerge from leaders who proudly wear the symbols of those who raped, maimed, kidnapped, and killed their co-religionists with a sadistic glee echoing throughout the ages? And what kind of American-based religion celebrates graduates who embrace America’s enemies? What Reconstructionism founder Mordecai Kaplan, a proud Zionist, championed was “a sense of mutual responsibility from the Jews of Israel and of the Diaspora” – not this abomination.

NEVERTHELESS, the movement’s leaders won’t impose “litmus tests” on their students. The leader of the Reform Movement’s Hebrew Union College warns, “If we’re going to introduce enforcements, then let’s not stop at Zionism… Let’s decide what version of God they have to believe in. Let’s have them sign onto certain political commitments. Where do we stop?”

Rabbinical seminaries are not universities. As theological training schools, by definition they constantly use litmus tests to shape rabbis reflecting their movement’s beliefs – but apparently only on issues they deem important. They suddenly call it imposing “litmus tests” or “enforcements” when they fear confronting their anti-American anti-Zionists. I call it standing for your principles.

Clearly, as in the Ivy League, these schools only discover tolerance when tolerating anti-Zionism. I’m guessing these free speech lovers instinctively litmus test away pro-Trumpers, racists, homophobes. And their many “enforcements” probably ban liberals who believe abortion is murder or traditional Jews who prefer separate seating in Reform or Reconstructionist congregations, God forbid.

Scenes of the reinstated “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” at Columbia University on its fourth day. Photo: Wikimedia

“Above all, don’t lie to yourself,” the Jew-hating novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky warned. “The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.

In today’s all-or-nothing world, fools treat politics like it’s theology, a forever-clash of good and evil, while too many infect the rich, complex Jewish religion with Arab street politics and Woke posturing.

Self-deception is poisonous, Left and Right, for politicians and voters, for rabbis-in-training and, even worse, their teachers, who should know better. Their predecessors, from the Reconstructionist Zionist Mordecai Kaplan to Reform Zionists like Richard Hirsch and David Ellenson, certainly did.

Published by Jerusalem Post