(Excerpted from Rabbi David Edleson’s weekly email to Temple Sinai members)
I was very upset to see an article in the Israeli press this week reporting that a coalition over 60 progressive organizations had signed on to a movement and petition to boycott the ADL. The letter begins:
Open Letter to progressives: The ADL is not an Ally
It then mischaracterizes the ADL, saying it can’t be an ally because of its history of support for, involvement with, and statements defending Israel and resisting BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions). The ADL, founded over 100 years by Jewish immigrants to fight bigotry and hatred, an organization with a sterling record of education and anti-bias work, is now no longer welcome, say these organizations, in progressive spaces. The organizations the signed include Democratic Socialists of America, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, The Movement for Black Lives, and the American Friends Service Committee.
I am torn. I don’t want to give this petition any more publicity or oxygen than it has. Mostly, this will go unnoticed outside progressive activist circles. If the goal is to divide us, and make support of Israel taboo, then we only aid them by publicizing it. I also remember Evan Traylor wisely reminding us that lobbing statements at one another is not helpful; relationships are helpful. Doing the work is helpful.
Still, it seems to ignore history to say nothing as this sort of thing continues to grow on the margins of acceptable politics. The puritan impulse to expel and banish is a dangerous one, from us or from any part of civil society. When politics becomes religion, disagreement become heresy, and compromise become inquisition. Our tradition teaches that the realm of the sacred is a realm with room for many points of view and passionate arguments, and our society, and our synagogue should strive to embody the Talmudic principle of Elu v’elu: both this opinion and the opposite opinion are words of the Living God. Ever narrowing and more dogmatic purity tests do not serve the greater good, do not serve justice, and do not serve our better natures.
Sadly, it feels really good and satisfying to call others out. It makes us feel better than, and humans love that feeling. In it we can find the root of so many evils, including racism. This Yom Kippur, I intend to confess and apologize for my own inclination toward narrowmindedness in the name of higher values. I will apologize for my own love of feeling right. Al chet.
For your education, here is a link to the DROP THE ADL letter.
We vehemently reject efforts to silence or shun the ADL. Many of the criticisms that have been made are unjust or distort ADL’s long record of commitment to civil rights and its successful efforts in legislatures, courts, schools, and communities to fight discrimination and hate. We remain committed to working in our vital coalitions in close partnership with the ADL on our shared desire to fight bigotry, wherever it may be found. In this moment when our nation is rightly reckoning with the systemic racism that has fostered ongoing injustice, we urge greater dialogue, greater engagement, and greater commitment to the power of coalitions of decency. Together, we can continue to heal what is broken in our world.
We must not let anti-Semitism keep us from doing what is right and fighting for our values. But one of our core values must be holding one another up, supporting one another across difference, not putting up more walls to separate us.
Blessed Elul. May we be signed in the book of Life for a blessing.