If there’s anyone who knows about leftist repression, it’s former Soviet Jewish dissident Natan Sharansky who wrote the book on it. Literally, it’s titled, Fear No Evil.
In it, Sharansky wrote, “They tried their best to find a place where I was isolated. But all the resources of a superpower cannot isolate the man who hears a voice of freedom, a voice I heard from the very chamber of my soul.”
The existence of the open letter in question would be worth covering on its own, especially considering the recent experiences of the ZOA at the Boston JCRC, and other attempts to impose critical race theory’s hateful doctrines on Jewish life. Leftist organizations have deployed ‘Jews of Color’ (invariably radical leftist activists and some black nationalists) to falsely accuse Jews of white supremacy and shut down any dissent.
That’s something the letter from the Jewish Institute for Liberal Values indirectly addresses.
Jewish tradition has also long insisted that we only judge and be judged by our own deeds. “A son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, and a father shall not bear the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (Ezekiel 18:20). The dominant social justice ideology, however, holds that individuals bear collective moral guilt or innocence based on the current conception of group identity.
Because this dominant narrative creates a worldview in which groups are only oppressors or oppressed, it encourages pernicious notions of “Jewish privilege,” even implicating Jews in “white supremacy.” This presents many Jews with an impossible set of political choices.
On issues of racial justice, powerful groups in the Jewish world have foreclosed the usual deliberative process. Rarely do Jewish organizations encourage discussions that include differing perspectives, even from within the Black community. In some cases, Jewish leaders have even denounced Jews for expressing unpopular opinions.
The letter and the organization is liberal… in the traditional sense. I don’t share its political worldviews, but it does issue a call for dialogue over cancel culture.
And that’s rare and important these days.
In the wake of George Floyd’s killing, many Americans, including American Jews, redoubled efforts to create a more just society. But the way to fight racism is not to do away with essential tools. The way to fight racism isn’t to cease discussion and debate.
To do so is antithetical to American ideals and antithetical to Judaism. The way to fight racism is to insist on our common humanity––and to engage in dialogue, including with those who dissent. That is what Judaism demands.
We members of the Jewish community add our voices to the growing chorus supporting our liberal principles, opposing the imposition of ideology, encouraging open discussions of challenging topics, and committing to achieving a more just America.
The signatories are a mix of traditional liberals who have run afoul of political correctness, and some conservatives.
Where else would you see the Mandels, of the Washington Examiner and Ricochet, Dave Rubin, and Steven Pinker all on the same letter. But Pinker has had his own run-in with political correctness.
There are people like Jonathan Haidt, Bari Weiss, James Kirchik, and Abigail Shrier whose presence on a letter challenging political correctness is no surprise. For the more liberal-conservative side, there’s Cathy Young and Bret Stephens.
On the clergy side, there’s David Wolpe of Sinai Temple and Daniel Gordis. Institutionally, Moshe Hauer, the Executive Vice President of the Orthodox Union, and Mark Dratch of the RCA have signed on.
The fact that the only organizational executives that have signed on are two Modern Orthodox leaders says everything. The letter is important, but no executive from a non-Orthodox Jewish group will touch it because he or she knows that’s a pathway to being canceled.
But a nice surprise comes at the very end from a list of “Concerned Friends of The American Jewish Community” which includes
Adv. Michal Cotler-Wunsh, Former Member of Knesset
Michael Oren | Former ambassador, MK, Deputy Minister, Jewish Journalist/Writer
Natan Sharansky | Former Head of the Jewish Agency
Sharansky did head the Jewish Agency, but much more significantly he’s a world-class human rights figure, a dissident who took on the Soviet Union and has a great deal of moral authority.
Hopefully, this letter opens up a dialogue.