"We Must All Hang Together, or Surely We Shall Hang Separately"
The time for petty divisions is over
We make plans, and G-d laughs. Or, in this case, He laughs when we write articles.
Fighting a nasty COVID infection last Thursday, I was faced with two choices: Go to bed early so I could recuperate as quickly as possible, or use whatever little energy I had left to write (unbeknownst to me then) a prelude to the now infamous Thanksgiving Dinner at Mar-a-Lago. Obviously, I chose the latter.
In the article, I directly compared Daniel Burros and lehavdil Milo Yiannopoulos. After all, both were Jewish (or so I thought at the time), were on the fringes of very unsavory politics, and, despite their Jewish heritage, had dabbled in antisemitism. It's true that Burros engaged in far more sordid antisemitism and behavior than Milo has so far; or at the very least more abundantly. It’s also true that Danny achieved far more success in the white supremacist movement than Milo. He became an actual leader instead of a figure perpetually on the side lines. Still, in the piece's historical context, their similarities were striking enough to be worth a juxtaposition.
Shortly after it was published, I was contacted by a source who told me that they had worked with people close to Milo back in 2015-2016 and that even back then, Milo was wont to admit he had no Jewish ancestry and used this claim as a shield to defend himself from accusations of antisemitism. I then received confirmation from multiple sources that they had heard the same from him as well.
I decided to have a look into the issue, not simply to ascertain whether what I had previously written was accurate, but also because the discovery that Milo was indeed not Jewish would be such a boon for Jews. It would help lighten the sometimes heavy burden that is the mitsvah to love each and every single Jew without exception. We all struggle with it; sometimes when it comes to loving another, and sometimes with loving ourselves.
The Smoking Podcast
Digging further into it, I found the decisive piece of evidence: During the quite vile Roosh Hour #65 - Milo Yiannopoulos podcast, Milo declared at the 2:20:25 mark that:
"So I always thought that I was [Jewish], and my mother is a pathological liar [...]. I began to ask questions if I was in fact everything she told and it turns out no. In that interview I did with Dave Rubin, I was saying what I believed to be true, that I was ethnically Jewish, but it turns out in fact that I'm not."
Whether he lied publicly about being Jewish as a shield against accusations of antisemitism or lied in private about not being Jewish to ingratiate with the antisemitic elements of the alt-right is now irrelevant. Here we have Milo admitting that he never was, to be sure, Jewish.
Hurrah (or rather, Hu Ra)! Take out the herring and vodka, or bottarga and boukha; it’s time to celebrate!
Or was it?
Thankfully, I did not have to listen to the whole podcast. Or even any lengthy segment, really. I came upon this revelation through one of Milo's defenders, eagerly pointing out to other white nationalists that Milo was not Jewish and that they should stop calling him a Jew. That person also helpfully provided the exact time stamp where Milo confirmed his non-Jewishness.
While it's humorous to see that we can find some common ground with this white nationalist, as Jews are more than happy not to call Milo one of our own either, the Guiding Hand of Providence had decided that a much more important message was to be eked out of this whole mess.
Cueing the podcast a minute early to get the full context, I was treated with a hair-raising quote (time stamp 2:19:12):
Voosh: Would you acknowledge that the Jews have an evolutionary strategy of subverting civilizations and see white men as their racial competitors?
Milo: I will tell you that I have been a student of E Michael Jones for some time, I have read Kevin MacDonald, I'm [garbled] with all of the literature on the subject, I have a great deal of sympathy for all of those arguments, but a lot of it seems deeply ridiculous to me. I draw a quite crisp clean red line between Orthodox Jews who actually practice their faith who seem on the whole to be thoroughly decent people to me, and secular liberal Jews who as far as I'm concerned should all be hanging from City Hall.
Reading this quote as an Orthodox Jew, there are two ways to react, and both begin with ‘What a horrible thing to say.’ One way stops there. One continues with, ‘But, you know...’
Of Appeasers and Crocodiles
"But, you know, it's true that many secular liberal Jews really do push things that go against Torah, and it really makes us look bad in the eyes of the Nations, and as a result, antisemitism increases, and if it weren't for them behaving like that, then we wouldn't be in such a mess, and they wouldn't hate us. After all, if there were no liberal secular Jews, there would be no one to hang at City Hall!"
That voice isn't wrong.
There are many secular liberal Jews who push things that are against the Torah.
There are many secular liberal Jews who make us look bad in the eyes of the Nations.
If there were no secular liberal Jews, they wouldn't be calling for them to hang at City Hall!
Except that, this isn't quite where antisemitism stops.
Milo began by saying that all secular liberal Jews must hang, and he's now graduated to discussing the 'evil teachings' found in Jewish holy books, echoing medieval blood libels just as much as Daily Stormer memes:
Now, before you start thinking that Orthodox Jews are quite hateful or that we see secular liberal Jews in such a fashion (G-d forbid), let's remember I didn't say that voice was quite right, either. For now, however, let's talk about another voice for a moment. It goes:
"But, you know, it's true that many Haredim really push things that are against common sense, and you can’t ignore the way they behave. Stop learning all day and get a job! Have you seen how they dress?! It's not 18th-century Poland anymore! It really makes us look bad in the eyes of gentiles, and as a result, antisemitism increases, and if it weren't for them behaving like that, then we wouldn't be in such a mess, and they wouldn't hate us. After all, if there were no Haredim, there would be no editorials in the New York Times!"
Maybe it goes:
"But, you know, many Israelis do things that go against International Law or the UN, and it really makes us look bad in the eyes of the rest of the world, and as a result, antisemitism increases. If it weren't for them living where they live, then we wouldn't be in such a mess, and the world wouldn't hate us. After all, if there were no settlements, there would be no terrorism!"
Or quite simply:
"It's 2023; do we really need a Jewish State anymore? After all, if there were no Israel, there would be no antisemitism!"
And this is where we hit the worst problem of all: All of those voices aren't wrong!
There are Haredim who don't act as they should.
There are Israelis who don't act as they should.
There are secular liberal Jews who don't act as they should.
Pick any subgroup of Jews you can think of, and you will find Jews who don’t act as they should.
So, who do we throw to the crocodile first?
“There is one thing I miss about the Holocaust…”
R'Yekusiel Yehudah Halberstam ztz"l, better known as the Klausenberger Rebbe, was a saintly man who knew suffering like a man knows the palm of his hand. It's hard to qualify someone who went through what he went through and came out the way he came out as a mere man. But neither was he an angel; he was much more than that.
At the age of 13, he had already lost his father. For much of his life until WWII, he ate a meal a day, slept 3 hours a night on a bench in the Beis Medrash, lived in dire poverty, and was known for his deep love of Torah and his fellow Jew, especially Jewish children. Due to his saintliness, he very quickly attracted a large number of followers.
At the age of 39, he saw the Nazis invade Hungary, the Klausenberg Ghetto liquidated, and he, alongside his wife, 11 children, and followers, was sent to Auschwitz. The Rebbe survived, but neither did his wife, his children or the vast majority of his students, followers, friends, and neighbors.
As the Russians closed in on Poland, the Germans decided to liquidate the unit the Rebbe was a part of. All prisoners were taken to a field, told to undress, and then lined up near an open pit, where soldiers stood ready to machine gun them. As they were about to be shot, a car sped into the field and stopped the execution. There were orders from Berlin; the prisoners were needed somewhere else. Far from a reprieve, it led to a brutal death march that lasted a week. Only a third of those who started it made it to Dachau.
The story of the march deserves an article by itself; his whole life story is a must-read, but it suffices to say that years later, the Rebbe discussed his survival and made a very shocking statement:
"There is one thing I miss about the Holocaust. When we went on the death march, we were all clean-shaven, and our hair was shaved off too. We marched side by side, and no one knew if the person next to them was a Chasid or a Litvak; no one knew I was a Rebbe... We all just held our arms around each other and tried to keep our fellow Jews warm."
When presented with antisemitism that is limited to a particular group in the Jewish people, there might be a voice inside of you that goes, ‘What a horrible thing to say. But, you know…’
This is the voice of the inner appeaser, willing to throw every single other Jew to the crocodile as long as he's last. It's time for you to feed him first.
Antisemitism is the hatred of all Jews. It will never stop at your neighbor's door. It will never stop short of engulfing everyone barring just you and yours. The antisemite who 'respects Orthodox Jews but hates secular Jews' deep down hates the Orthodox Jew just as much as he does the secular Jew. The antisemite who hates the 'leeching and backward Haredi Jew but is fine with the enlightened Jew' deep down hates the 'enlightened' Jew just as much. The antisemite who "hates the Settler/Israeli but is entirely fine with the Green Line/Diaspora Jew" deep down hates the Green Line/Diaspora Jew too.
Hatred doesn't stay within the lines. Hatred swallows up the lines; it swallows it all up until there's nothing left to feed on, at which point it will just cannibalize on itself until or unless it can find something else to latch unto.
As Jews, we have to unite, and we have to stop appeasing. We must stop fighting each other and learn to appreciate that despite our differences, we are one people, our destiny is tied together, and no amount of 'But I'm not like them! I'm one of the good ones!' is ever going to stop a single antisemite. It certainly didn’t help the German Jews looking down on the Ostjuden.
Doesn't matter if you are Chassid or Litvak.
Doesn't matter if you are Orthodox or Reform.
Doesn't matter if you believe in G-d or you don't.
Doesn't matter if you support the settlements or don't.
Doesn't matter if you voted for Trump or Biden.
Doesn't matter if you voted for Bibi or Lapid.
Doesn't matter if you eat Gefilte fish or Salmon.
Doesn't matter if you have Chulent or Dafina.
Doesn't matter if you prefer Marvel or DC.
Doesn't matter if you cheer for the Giants*.
It doesn't matter to them and shouldn't matter to you. We are more than a people. We are the descendants of Avraham, Yitshak, and Yaakov. We are a family. Families rise above petty differences and unite when threatened. It doesn't matter if your lame brother, annoying sister, quirky aunt, or corny uncle gets on your nerves. At the end of the day, they are your kin, the people who will be there for you no matter what, and no one else will step up if they don’t.
That doesn't mean we won't disagree on things that are very important to us or won't disagree on things that are very important. Be that as it may, we have to rise above the disagreement. We have to realize that it will not stop with the other, and we have to protect one another. If we don’t stop it when they come for Haredi yeshivot, eventually they’ll come for your schools, too. When they come for one synagogue, they will come for all of them. Whether you agree with how others do things or don’t, have have to stick up for each others. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us. Once we have dealt with it, then we can sit together and hash out our disagreements. Until then, we have to be united.
We must constantly keep at the forefront of our mind that the essence of our survival is that we are one people united under one G-d originating from one Land. In the end, it's all that matters.
Am Yisrael Chai.
*On second thought, maybe we do need to draw the line somewhere.
As Justice Louis Brandeis warned, "The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding." Olmstead v. U.S., 277 U.S. 438 (1928) (Brandeis, J., dissenting).
IMHO, you are a wonderful man of zeal; and an inspiration to me.
I come from a liberal, reform background. I went to temple but was never Bar Mitzvah'd. My temple was just that reformed.
It was only after the 2nd Intifada that I began take my Judaism seriously, seeing what I thought was the reincarnation of the old hatred. And, what I saw, were liberals leading the charge.
As I read more and more about our liberal universities, about liberal Europe's support for Palestinians and their propaganda against Israel. About the democrats appointing people who twisted the truth about Israel, of NGOs and their hatred for Israel, it became clear to me that secular Jews were leading the charge and setting the stage for what is likely to come and what has already happened. The cold-blooded murder of Israeli children, their mothers and fathers; the attacks on Haredi here and in Europe. And the frightful escalation of all of this leading to G-d knows what.
And then, as you mention, there are the Madoffs, Boeskys, Sam Bankmen-Freids, ad naeuseam - all Jews in name only. Jews whose every action is an affront to Judaism's teachings. And joining these Jews are the liberal self-hating Jews who devote their lives to blaming their own people and Israel for every conceivable made-up sin. They being the enemies from within.
Isn't it our responsibility to not muddy the waters, but to see things clearly and to express things clearly too? This is not to suggest we do it with anger (as I just have) but with compassion and clarity. The other option might be to ignore it. To live our lives fully and righteously.
Anyway, my disorganized take on the issues you raise.