Photo Credit: Jodie Maoz

Education not cancellation, education not suspension, and education not silencing. These were the sentiments rational and forward-thinking people have been sharing all week in response to the news that Whoopi Goldberg had been suspended for her horrific comments about the Holocaust and the Jewish people. “What benefit does suspension bring to anyone?” was the point they make to support their argument that suspension serves no benefit and we should’ve aimed to educate Whoopi Goldberg and not suspend her from her show.

As an educator, it is fascinating to observe the world grapple with issues educators are challenged by every day and see how everyone else decides how to handle our challenges. Teachers frequently deal with students who commit actions that require serious consequences. A teacher must decide if a student who plagiarized should be expelled, suspended or taught to understand the problem with their actions. The mercy within us screams, “Teach him!” – because we don’t want to cause pain to our students. A great educator doesn’t use mercy alone to deal with their students, they use their judgment to determine what is best for the student. Many times a student will do better by the shock of suspension or even expulsion more than by being taught that cheating is wrong.

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I don’t know Whoopi Goldberg, and if you’re reading this you probably don’t either. It’s nice to assume educating her would be better than suspending her, but we don’t know. Lessons are taught in a myriad of ways and education is about the student, not the education.

Whoopi Goldberg’s employers know her well. In their estimation, a suspension more than education would better get the message across that the Holocaust was aimed at Jews, and that the Nazis saw Jews as a race. In addition, a suspension sends the message to all members of the entertainment industry that minimizing the Holocaust and other forms of antisemitism will not be tolerated in Hollywood.

As a grandchild of Holocaust survivors and a student of a survivor, I grew up and lived my life hearing about, thinking about and talking about the Holocaust every day of my life. The Holocaust takes a momentous place in my life and it acts as a warning to me and the Jewish people of what can happen when we aren’t vigilant.

I have made a career of educating people about Israel and the issues she faces. Part and parcel of that career is answering Israel’s slanderers and teaching other people how to respond when liars vilify and demonize Israel. As a resident of Judea and Samaria, I have a front row seat to the crime of Palestinian terrorism. I have lost family members and friends to the evil and cruel actions of a people who want to kill me and my people.

As important as the Holocaust and defending Israel and Palestinian terrorism are, I am increasingly discouraged by the amount of time and energy the Jewish community and I place on these issues in relation to the pride and planning we spend on bettering Israel. Israel and the Jewish people have many enemies – Holocaust deniers, slanderers, and terrorists, but they shouldn’t be our focus. I’m not criticizing those who talk about these issues. I talk about them frequently, if not even daily. I’m questioning whether we’re smart to talk about them so much.

For 2,000 years our people dreamed about a return to our land. Sometimes those dreams seemed attainable and sometimes they felt like pure fantasy. For the past 73 years we’ve enjoyed sovereignty in our land. Our dreams haven’t been completely fulfilled, but we’ve gotten so far and achieved so much. We should be spending more time focused on our accomplishments and pride rather than our detractors. I’m not advocating a more inward focused approach for the outsiders or a PR angle, I’m advocating this approach for ourselves.

It’s time more of our columns, op-eds, posts and tweets focused on how well we’re doing and less on what others think about us. The amount of oxygen, words and energy spilled this week because one has-been actress with a popular television show said about the Holocaust in relation to how many great things happened in Israel this week was absurd. On any given tweet I post about how great Israel is, the analytics show 20 likes and a reach of about 500 people. If I tweet about Palestinians and the evil they perpetrate the numbers skyrocket to hundreds of likes and a reach of tens of thousands. That’s backwards. We shouldn’t be drawn to vilifying our enemies more than pride in ourselves.
This week let’s focus more on ourselves – enough about those who hate us and let’s focus on those who love us.

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Rabbi Uri Pilichowski is an educator who teaches in high schools across the world. He teaches Torah and Israel political advocacy to teenagers and college students. He lives with his wife and six children in Mitzpe Yericho, Israel. You can follow him on Facebook, and on twitter @rationalsettler.