In October, surging antisemitism in the United States was dramatically highlighted when it received celebrity endorsements from musician Kanye West, who tweeted, “I actually can’t be Anti Semitic because black people are actually Jew[,]” and Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets, who promoted a video that alleges that Jews worship Satan. Bad examples like these are contributing to a shocking spike in American antisemitism and anti-Jewish hate crimes, which have reached record levels.
Kanye’s hate speech has been a big hit with other Jew-haters, who have spray-painted “Kanye Was Rite” on a Jewish tombstone in Chicago, hung a banner reading “Kanye is Right About the Jews” from a Los Angeles overpass, and managed to get “Kanye is Right About the Jews” displayed on a jumbo video screen during a Jacksonville football game. (RELATED: DENNIS PRAGER: If Holocaust Deniers Don’t Go To Hell, There Is No God)
There have long been those who would try to drive a wedge between America’s black and Jewish communities, playing on old anti-Jewish themes that have been part of the message of some historic Christian societies. Extremist sects among the Black Hebrew Israelite movement claim that blacks are the real Jews and the conventionally accepted Jews are wicked impostors.
In fact, there are many blacks who have authentically joined the Jewish faith, not to mention the historic Ethiopian Jewish community, which has existed since ancient times, and most of whose members were welcomed into Israel after persecution in their native country. Besides this group, the odious Louis Farrakhan, leader of the noxious Nation of Islam, makes similar claims about Jews and offers inciting statements such as: “These false Jews promote the filth of Hollywood … It’s the wicked Jews, the false Jews that are promoting Lesbianism, homosexuality.”
Since 1492, many strangers have come to America, but some have been treated as outsiders more than others. Enslaved black Africans were brought to these shores as slaves from the very beginning and may even have accompanied Columbus’s ships, with the first slaves in the English colonies brought to Virginia in 1619. Since Spain and Portugal enforced the Inquisition against practicing Jews at the time, the first Jewish synagogue in the new world was built in Dutch Brazil in 1636, with its inhabitants forced by the Portuguese to relocate to New Amsterdam — present-day New York — thus beginning the Jewish community in the modern United States.
From the beginning, our communities have often defined ourselves in terms of our shared sacred text, the Hebrew Bible. Enslaved Blacks often identified with the Hebrew slaves of the Bible, like Moses said (Exodus 2:22), that he was “a stranger in a strange land.” Black spiritual music identified themselves with the plight of the Hebrew slaves and prayed for a savior to “Go Down, Moses, way down in Egypt’s land, tell old Pharaoh: Let my people go.” The great liberator Harriet Tubman, who returned from safety again and again, risking her life to help fellow Blacks escape slavery, was referred to as “Moses.”
Not only did this struggle for black liberation echo the tale of Passover, told annually from generation to generation, Jews are also reminded in sacred scripture (Deuteronomy 10:19) to “Love ye therefore the stranger; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Abolitionism was common among Jews during the Civil War.
In 1909, Jewish Civil Rights activist Henry Moscowitz joined black Civil Rights leader W.E.B. DuBois and others to found the NAACP. In the 1960’s, our communities united to forge some of our most splendid victories to advance a more just society, led by men like the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr, and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.
Marching from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, Rabbi Heschel said it “feels as if his legs were praying as he walked next to King.” King remarked: “Rabbi Heschel is a person who is relevant at all times, always standing with prophetic insights.”
Blacks and Jews must recognize that we are united as outsiders in America and that only our enemies — those seeking a less just, less fair America — will benefit from dividing us. We must oppose the forces of hate and invoke the spirit of Selma when blacks and Jews stood together against injustice.
Standing together means that black Americans should recognize our Jewish brethren for who they are: not “impostors,” but the genuine inspiration for our people and many others around the world for generations: who were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, but now after two thousand years, have miraculously been restored to sovereignty in their native Land of Israel.
Today in America, as our community recovers from a legacy of discrimination and hatred, let us not visit the same evil on our Jewish brothers and sisters. Doing so soils our souls and undermines our shared cause. Let us instead stand together with them against the forces of racism and hate, crying: “Enough!”
Rob Smith is an Iraq War veteran and conservative political analyst.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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