Consider that they do not know you, and you do not know them. You probably will never encounter them again, and if you do . . . you wouldn’t even know it. Is that worth a fight? An opportunity for a man to display one’s manhood? And what will that accomplish? Worth getting killed over?
When it comes to getting insulted, there is something unique about the Jewish condition. The hate we encounter typically is so random. It pops up every day, even in a climate where hate and prejudice supposedly are not cool. The United Nations never misses a chance to attack the only Jewish country in the world. Even Ukraine joins the act, in between demanding that tiny Israel send her weapons and money, and admit her non-Jewish refugees.
During my college years, I would travel home to Brooklyn from Columbia University in Upper Manhattan every Friday so that I could spend Shabbat (Sabbath) with my Mom and sisters. My Dad had died of leukemia at his age 45, my 14, and now I was “man of the house,” needed to recite the kiddush prayer over a cup of wine at Shabbat dinner. The trip was 90 minutes each way: two subway trains and a bus ride. Then on Saturday nights, after Shabbat, I would travel back to the dorms. To make the weekly 180 minutes — three hours — productive, I would do my reading assignments while riding on the subway.
One Saturday night, around midnight, while reading Norman Cohn’s “The Pursuit of the Millennium” for my class in Contemporary Civilization, a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) fellow lunged towards me and swiped my yarmulka off my head. I was so absorbed in my reading that I had not noticed him or his two BIPOC thug friends. I reacted instantly without thinking. My sister Debbie had knitted that kippah for me, an investment of hours of her time, and this was a direct battery on my body. It was not personal; my attacker could not possibly have known me. But it was an attack on “The Jews.” He had gone for my yarmulka, not my yellow highlighter.
The train soon stopped, and the laughing trio were getting off, ever so pleased with themselves. I got up, dropped my book, and karate-kicked the guy who swiped my kippah. I aimed for his male organ and did not miss. One generation of him was enough. He dropped to the floor instantly, dropped my yarmulka, and started moaning. I kicked him two more times, basically off the train, and his two friends ran off as well to tend to him and to get away from the Jew who had gone berserk while highlighting a book. The train doors closed. I retrieved the kippah.
Non-Orthodox assimilated American Jews and the U.S. State Department barely grasp what it means to be a hated Jew. But encountering that random hatred is part of the Orthodox Jewish experience. We usually are as White as any Caucasian, but we are distinguishable by our head covering or our tzitzit or both.
In my life, I recall two other such personal experiences. In one, I was sitting on the city bus en route home for another Shabbat, when a middle-aged gentleman I recognized from our synagogue alighted the bus. He clearly was Jewish. As he walked down the aisle to find a seat, someone tripped him. Again, laughing. I was a few seats behind the attacker, facing frontward, and something came over me. I got up and pelted that kid in the back of his head. Soon we two were fist-fighting in the aisle while the middle-aged guy was asking me to let it go. “He didn’t hurt me, Dov.” Not a helpful moment for peacekeeping. Thank G-d, I landed a fist on the other guy’s nose, and blood came pouring out, bleeding all over his face and onto his clothes. The bus driver threw him off the bus. Everyone else on the bus looked down like nothing had been happening. A New Yorker’s secret to survival.
The third instance was when I was walking northbound on Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan to my daily rabbinic class at Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. A block ahead of me, also walking northward, were two youths, one holding what looked like the kind of cardboard cylinder with which you would mail a poster. Walking southward were two Yeshiva University college boys. For no discernible reason, one of the two BIPOC youths smacked the yeshiva fellow on the head with the cardboard cylinder as they crossed paths. The assailant then started laughing. Again, I was outraged and saw that as an anti-Jewish attack. I raced from behind them, caught up, and then walloped the fellow on his head with my briefcase. It was carrying a particularly heavy volume of the Talmud. The fellow hit the concrete sidewalk, out cold. His friend fled.
Which brings me to Kanye West. Or, as he prefers to be called, Ye. Whatever.
So one day I am minding my own business, thanking G-d I am alive since my lung transplant, and I read that this guy has tweeted something about going to “death con 3” against “the Jews.” Obviously, he was referring to DefCon 3 in a way an ignoramus would. And all I can think is “What’s his problem? What did ‘the Jews’ ever do to him?” He is richer than any Jew I have ever known, including a billionaire who helped co-found my shul.
Kanye West is the kind of guy whom my maternal Zaydie (grandfather) from Russia would call Meshuggeh, and my paternal Zideh from Galicia (southern Poland) would call Meshiggeh. Translation: A Nut.
Through my lifetime, Kanye West’s two prior encounters with my thoughts came (i) when he disrupted a Grammys show, while Taylor Swift (not my favorite) was receiving an award, shouting that Beyoncé and not Swift deserved the award; and (ii) when Kim Kardashian left him, a story that I stumbled on while reading a political news item. In the circles in which such people circulate, I understand that Kim Kardashian is deemed a real prize. He or Ye did not lose her because he could not afford her lifestyle; he is richer than America. Rather, as Swift and the Grammys crowd learned, and as Kardashian figured out, Kanye may be incredibly talented and gifted and rich.
But he is a nut and messed up.
His unexpected recent revelation that he is made of the same soiled fabric as Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Louis Farrakhan, and so many other BIPOC Jew-haters proves that we Jews never have a complete moment’s respite in any corridor. There are White Jew-haters, Black Jew-haters, Arab Jew-haters by the boatload even in “mixed cities” where they supposedly are good neighbors, Jew-haters of all religions, of all skin colors, of all ethnicities. They live in the woodwork and sometimes in broad daylight. In the 1940’s they prevented Jewish refugees from Hitler from entering pre-state Israel.
For a century in America before the 1960’s they kept Jews out of the Ivy League, out of prominent law firms, denied Jewish doctors hospital admitting privileges, would not rent homes to Jews, would not hire us, and barred us from their hotels and country clubs. The village of Fleischmanns, New York was created when Charles Fleischmann, the Jewish yeast mogul from Cincinnati, continually was being barred from 5-star hotels. So he decided to buy a city in New York State and build his own 5-star hotel for himself and relatives. Go yeast, young man.
Our Jewish history teaches us that the best revenge is to live the good and successful life and even to find humor in it all. We attempt to counter anti-Semitism by joking about it and succeeding despite it. No Government will protect us when the chips are down if we do not take the lead in protecting ourselves; that is the synergy of what we have learned from Nazi Germany, Franklin Roosevelt, Lord Moyne, the U.N., and the State of Israel. Don’t rely on Government and don’t rely on handouts.
If the Big Law white-shoe firms won’t hire Jews, then make ourselves indispensable by excelling at some niche of law that no one else will touch — say, bankruptcy law. In time, the Big Firms will hire us for that because their corporate clients need experts in the area, but it is too sordid for them to touch directly. Or move to the California desert and create a new industry that no one ever heard of — motion pictures, and later talkies — and, if we build it, they will come. Build your own Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and Arrow before your “friends” share the news that they have decided not to sell you their weapons. If France will not send you the five missile boats you paid them for, then snatch them and baguette.
When you find an industry in which Jews proliferate, even Catskills-style stand-up comedy, you will find that the back story stems from anti-Semitism that forced us into that field. For example, they kept us out of their hotels, so we built our own and created our own entertainment industry to attract and amuse the patrons. We abandoned agriculture and went into diamonds because, when a medieval European country would expel us from their borders, we could not bring our farms with us (often we were not allowed to buy land anyway) but could smuggle out stones. We went into medicine, law, education, international banking and investing, and science because we could take that with us on the way into the next diaspora. Kidneys and hearts work the same everywhere. So do stock exchanges. If one country closed its borders to Jews, the Rothschilds could move their banking operations elsewhere — in laser speed. And, en route, we could pick up a Nobel Prize or two.
Kanye West has been described as a pioneer in “introspective, melodic rap music” and has a net worth of approximately $1.8 billion. Less, now that Adidas bid him adios. He has 18.2 million followers on Instagram and 31.5 million on Twitter. In 2015, he topped TIME Magazine’s List of 100 Most Influential People. And yet, the vast majority of my universe never have heard a single “song” he ever recorded. We never bought any of his designer clothes. Is that what has sent him to “Death Con 3”? For us, he is as irrelevant as a failed American Vice Presidential candidate from the Nineteenth Century or Number 8 on this year’s Meretz list. And yet he is an “influencer,” itself a commentary on the society in which we live. Think: Hadar Muchtar and the 8,800 fools (0.16 percent) who voted for her.
Social media has made “influencers” out of so many fools who barely can string together a single sensible thought. It is what it is. Death Con 3.
Kanye West is a reminder that Jew-hatred is not the provenance of haters who are White. When it comes to Jew-hate, Ilhan Omar, Louis Farrakhan, and Kanye West stand as proud exhibits of anti-Semitism’s rich diversity, equity, and inclusion. Sometimes including even smart people like those white-shoe law-firm partners who kept us out, and the Nicholas Murray Butlers of Columbia University and Avery Brundages of Olympics fame.
And oftimes merely a nut, a Meshiggener, a Meshuggener.
Adapted by the writer for Arutz Sheva from a version of this article that first appeared here in The American Spectator.
Rabbi Prof. Dov Fischer is Senior Contributing Editor at The American Spectator, Vice President of the Coalition for Jewish Values, was adjunct professor of law at two prominent Southern California law schools for nearly twenty years, and is Rabbi of Young Israel of Orange County, California. He likewise has held leadership roles in several national rabbinic and other Jewish organizations including Zionist Organization of America, Rabbinical Council of America, and regional boards of the American Jewish Committee and B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundation. He was Chief Articles Editor of UCLA Law Review and clerked for the Hon. Danny J. Boggs in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. His writings have appeared in Newsweek, National Review, Wall Street Journal, New York Post, Los Angeles Times, Federalist, Arutz Sheva, Jerusalem Post, Israel Hayom, and other major Jewish and Israeli Hebrew media. Other writings are collected at www.rabbidov.com
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