The Confusion Of American Jews

The Confusion Of American Jews


Leonard Zwelling

I remember it like it was yesterday, but it was the fall of 1966.

I was a new freshman at Duke University. I had taken my first trip below the Mason-Dixon line to get there and was adjusting to the food (hush puppies and Brunswick stew), clothes (alpaca sweaters and tassel loafers), and language (drawls and y’alls). I was also adjusting to being one of the only Jews on campus.

I came with one sports coat, a standard issue blue wool blazer that was not a “Duke blazer.” Duke blazers had a crest on them with the university’s emblem which contains a cross. I did acquire the emblem patch and my mother sewed it on my blazer. When I wore it to synagogue, my rabbi went nuts and summoned me to his office to explain the difference between Christians and Jews.

“Christianity is a religion of love,” he said. “Judaism is a religion of laws.”

That’s a pretty good summary and after a year studying the Old and New Testament as a Duke freshman, I came to understand that the quote from Romans 1:17 that paraphrases Habakkuk 2:4 (“he who through faith is righteous shall live”) really is what Christianity is all about—faith. Judaism is more about doing what the Torah says to do–law. Jews and Christians can work toward common goals, but the religions are not the same at their essence.

Today, particularly young Jews in America are being torn from their traditional support of Israel because the leftist politics they embrace in Black Lives Matter and other liberal movements are supporting the Palestinian cause that paints the Israelis as aggressors, invaders, occupiers, and proponents of apartheid. It seems Jews of my generation are less confused. We support Israel. But we do see the destruction borne by the Arabs in the West Bank and especially Gaza as regrettable. Regrettable, but understandable. Regrettable but necessary as long as Hamas launches Iranian rockets at Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv.

Look, young Jews of America, I understand that you don’t have first hand experience with anti-Semitism, but trust me it hasn’t gone anywhere. As Phillip Roth demonstrated in the fictional The Plot Against America, it would take very little for a demagogue to rise in this country and rekindle the spirit of Adolph Hitler. Skinheads abound. Charlottesville showed us that. If the knock on the door comes again, but this time in America not in Germany, where young Jews are you to go? There is only one place and that place did not exist in 1940 and six million of us died because of that fact.

There simply is no compromise permitted here. Jews, American or otherwise, must understand that the survival of Israel is the survival of the Jewish People. The Palestinians or what I like to call, Arabs living in what used to be the British Protectorate of Palestine, have a right to survive, prosper and grow, but not at the expense of the Israeli Jews who gave birth to the modern Jewish state.

Was it a fight that gave birth to Israel? You bet. Just like it was a fight that gave birth to America and conquered the land west of the Mississippi. Were Arabs displaced by Jews in what is now Israel? You bet. Did Arabs try to kill the Jews to take the land back? You bet they did.

“They tried to kill us. We won. Let’s eat.” The description is of all Jewish holidays and certainly holds for the land of Israel.

Young Jews of America, be not confused. Your destiny is linked with the land of Israel and when your fellow marchers in a Black Lives Matter demonstration decide that there are too many Jews in the march and turn on you, where are you going to go? Israel.

Don’t be confused. Remove your liberal blinders. Your destiny is in Zion. You have no where else to go.

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