What Was That About ‘White Privilege’?
Thank you to Rabbi Efrem Goldberg for his article on Anne Frank and privilege (July 22). As a teenager just a little bit older than Anne Frank was at her untimely death in a Nazi concentration camp, but fortunate enough to instead live in 21st century America, I am appalled that anyone could even fathom that Anne Frank had “white privilege” when she had to hide from Nazis and was killed for being Jewish.
I also think that “privilege” doesn’t need to be a dirty word and we should be grateful for the benefits we possess in life. Moreover, we each can have privileges in some ways while also being disadvantaged in other ways. Indeed, while Jewish groups on the whole have many material and other advantages in today’s society, there is unfortunately still antisemitism in the United States and around the world.
It is important nonetheless not to fall prey to the same thinking as those on social media who accused Anne Frank of having white privilege. They seem to assume that if one group does not generally suffer in a certain way that others do (as white people generally have had a leg up in contrast to the racism that Black people and others have suffered and continue to experience too much in this country) then the group has some comprehensive privilege that its members ought to recognize and check, so to speak, to help uplift the disadvantaged. From this thinking comes the fallacy that because Anne Frank was a white girl in Western society, she must have had privilege, all her other unfortunate circumstances because of her Jewish status to be disregarded.
Rather, just as with Jewish people in today’s world, all groups have both advantages and disadvantages. Part of the Jewish privilege is our heritage and tradition. That tradition, embedded in the Torah, emphasizes both charity and empathy to those in need around us, including in the biblical commandments to leave some crops at harvest time for the poor to collect (Leviticus 23:22) and to not oppress strangers in our midst, because we were once strangers in Egypt (Exodus 23:9). Many scholars, including Maimonides, further emphasize that this charity should be paired with empathy. This tradition of charity and empathy to others suggests that it is important to be outwardly involved rather than just internally focused. This tradition is about empathizing with others in worse circumstances and helping to improve their situation. This is indeed what references to “check your privilege” in contemporary society are all about. This notion is embedded as a principle deep in the Jewish privilege.
In this regard, even when we find it nonsensical and offensive to say that Anne Frank had “white privilege,” it is important to try to understand what might make someone assert that in the first place. It might not come from hatred but rather from ignorance about the tragic circumstances of the Holocaust for the Jewish people and also from a place of deep frustration in today’s society that there is still racism. It emphasizes a need to educate others that the Jewish people were and are disadvantaged in certain ways. It also suggests that we should empathize with the frustration other minority groups have with racism and the structural harms it continues to cause in society. We need to build more connections with other communities and use the principles of our tradition to uplift and support them when they lack societal advantages. That is the essence of our Jewish privilege.
New York, N.Y.
In Praise of Liz Cheney and the Jan. 6 Hearings
Regarding your recent editorial criticizing the Jan. 6 Congressional hearings (July 29), I am very disturbed how misguided and misinformed your position on these hearings is. First of all, this is no ordinary politically partisan congressional hearing trying to help one political party to remain in power, which is what you appear to be implying. This is a bipartisan congressional hearing co-chaired by a true Republican, Liz Cheney, investigating the behavior of former president Donald Trump during the three hours that a mob (some of whom were armed) entered the Capitol and threatened the life of his vice president, in addition to threatening many Congressional leaders and representatives. The mob also endangered the Capitol police whom they tried to overpower in order to accomplish their goal.
If you were paying attention to the hearings, you would realize that all the witnesses who testified were Republicans – many of them from Trump’s own staff who had first-hand knowledge of what was occurring behind the scenes. What was gleaned from these hearings is that President Trump was no innocent bystander, but had intentionally told his followers that he truly deserved to win the 2020 election (even though all his claims of election fraud were refuted by the courts, including by his own appointed judges). Furthermore, it was testified that he personally encouraged a mob of his followers (whom he invited several days before through his social media platforms) to storm the capitol and to prevent his vice president from doing his official duty of ratifying the electoral votes.
It was also highlighted that Trump was glued to his TV set the entire time, despite all his aides and family members trying to encourage him to both send a message to the rioters to stop what they were doing as well as to call the National Guard and all other law enforcement agencies to help the Capitol police to better control the mob. However, he resisted engaging in any of these efforts but instead appeared to be pleased by what he was observing. He did not even call his vice president to see how he was faring or offer any form of support. To the contrary, he said that Pence deserved the consequences of what was happening because he disobeyed Trump’s demand. It was, in fact, Vice President Pence who took the initiative of calling the National Guard to stop the mob from causing any further injury or damage. And to demonstrate just how complicit Trump was in this extraordinary event, it took three hours of precious time for him to finally and reluctantly issue a statement telling the rioters to now go home. He then praised them for their patriotism. And if anyone thought that some of these rioters were from Antifa – this alone would dispel such beliefs. Not to mention, why would Antifa try to prevent certification of an election result that pleased them?
It must be pointed out that the reason Liz Cheney gave for insisting on playing such a large role in this investigation was not to destroy the Republican party nor to help promote herself, which some claim; rather, she was willing to sacrifice her own political future in order to save the Republican party from destroying itself – hoping that Donald Trump would never again run for any elective office knowing he can never concede defeat and will even resort to violence to remain in power.
In addition, she is trying to wrestle the Republican party away from the clutches of the sect that is now known as “Trumpism,” which can turn our country into a banana republic, not respecting the Constitution and the rule of law, and the entire elective process. Liz Cheney, who epitomizes true Republican and conservative ideals, should be praised for what she is doing on behalf of our nation as well as on behalf of the Republican party. But by your strong criticism of these hearings, which are so beneficial to help heal our nation, you in fact are helping to destroy our nation and will in fact have the opposite effect of mobilizing more people to vote for all Democrats, in opposition to “Trumpism” as result.
If The Jewish Press wants to show integrity, they should praise the efforts of these hearings and move on to endorsing Republicans who sooner respect democracy, such as Mike Pence or Ron DeSantis.
More on Jan 6. Hearings
As a lifelong, proud Republican I must say that your editorial on the Jan. 6 hearings, doubting the value of the Jan. 6 hearings, is tone deaf.
Trump attempted to overturn the result of an election that he did not win. Trump’s effort to pressure Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” the number of votes he needed to overturn Biden’s victory in the state is a clear example of illegal vote tampering. Trump also played a direct role in the Eastman-generated push to get Pence to consider slates of “alternate” pro-Trump electors. Thankfully Pence had the courage and integrity to resist the pressure of Trump and his mob of cultists.
It must be noted that Republican House speaker McCarthy rejected the offer of an independent non-partisan committee to investigate Jan. 6. When a subsequent offer was extended to him to select members of his own party to participate in a House committee (in addition to Cheney and Kinzinger, who you seem to forget are also Republican members of Congress), his selections of Congressmen Banks and Jordan were rejected (with good reason since Jordan participated in the shenanigans and would likely be called as a witness). He then refused to participate. He could have and should have chosen other Republicans to replace them; however, he did not. It was a huge error, as Trump now agrees.
A sitting president’s attempt to steal and an election and trash democracy must not be overlooked, especially since this former president wants to run for the nation’s highest office again. G-d forbid he is successful in obtaining the Republican nomination in ’24, he is the only Republican who would very likely lose to the Democratic candidate.
Forest Hills, N.Y.
The Not So Silent Majority?
Here is a quote from Andrew Torba, the CEO of Gab.com:
“This is a Christian nation. Christians outnumber you by a lot…. You represent 2 two% of the country, OK? We’re not bending the knee to the two percent anymore. The 98 percent of the rest of us – you know, 70, 75 percent of which are Christians, self-identifying Christians – we’re not taking it anymore, bud. We are taking back our culture. We’re taking back our country. We’re taking back our government. So deal with it.
“You know, there’s nothing you can do to stop us because what has been set into motion, it’s snowballing now.… We have Marjorie Taylor Greene openly saying that she’s a Christian nationalist. We have Matt Gaetz kind of flirting with it a little bit today with his tweet on Christian nationalism. You know, we have Paul Gosar. We have like people in Congress right now, members of Congress right now who are openly, openly saying that they’re Christian nationalists. We have multiple candidates for governor who won their primaries in a landslide, are winning in the polling right now, and are going to win the governorships of multiple states who are Christian nationalists.
“We have officials not only at the state level, not only at the federal level, but also at the local level. People who are running for school boards – Christian nationalists who are running for school board, and by Christian nationalists I mean like concerned Christian parents who are done, who are done, done with this, done, done being controlled and being told what we’re allowed to do in our own country by a two percent minority or by people who hate our biblical worldview, hate our Christ, hate our Lord and savior. Done. It’s over. So you better deal with it.”
“You can demonize me individually. You can try and attack me. But guess what? You know, I am just one of hundreds of millions of Christians in this country, bud. So guess what? It’s inevitable. Sorry.”
Maya Angelou once said, when someone tells you who they are believe them. That quote, from a consultant to the Republican candidate for governor of Pennsylvania, is telling you who the Republican party is today.
Not that, if you were paying attention, this should come as any surprise. “America First” was the name of Charles Lindbergh’s committee. Charles Lindbergh, the man who did his best to keep us out of WWII and let the Nazis take over Europe.
America First, the slogan adopted by Donald Trump.