The season of the Jewish High Holy Days are here, and with it the unfortunately expected proliferation of antisemitism and its apologists.
The lead-in to fall began with a summer that saw 49 bomb threats against synagogues in 13 states across the nation—all bogus, but all disruptive to services and upsetting to family groups who have to wonder about the safety of their children in the sanctuary of peace. The anonymous hate calls became so common that Temple B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills, New Jersey, on receiving a venomous threat simply continued their service in the synagogue’s parking lot.
Hateful acts are the spawn of hateful talk. Last October the shoe colossus Adidas showed the world that business and bigotry don’t mix. After a spate of hateful canards spewed by Ye, the entertainer formerly known as Kanye West, Adidas cut ties with him and his billion-dollar brand. The world applauded Adidas’ bold, albeit belated, statement that the company “does not tolerate antisemitism and any other sort of hate speech. Ye’s recent comments and actions have been unacceptable, hateful and dangerous.”
And with that, Adidas announced it would immediately “end production of Yeezy branded products and stop all payments to Ye and his companies.”
It was the right thing to do. Adidas sent a message that it would not be cowed or bullied by a celebrity with a social media following over triple the entire Jewish population of the planet. Profits be damned!
But wait. Last week on a podcast Adidas CEO Bjorn Gulden said that he didn’t think Ye “meant what he said” about Jews, Hitler and the Holocaust.
With $1.3 billion of unsold Ye merchandise inherited from his predecessor, the new CEO has made a strategic move. He praised Ye, called him “one of the most creative people in the world, both in music and what I’d call street culture,” and bemoaned the whole cutting-of-ties episode as “unfortunate.”
He further lauded Ye: “I don’t think he’s a bad person. It just came across that way and that meant we lost that business, one of the most successful collaborations in history. Very sad.”
Where is this heading? The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) observed that, courtesy of the enabled blatherings of high-profile haters such as Ye, 2022 marked America’s highest number of antisemitic incidents on record. Does Adidas care? Was it all just a harmless misunderstanding and everything’s all better now?
Money talks. And Adidas resumed its sales of Ye-themed merchandise this past spring, garnering nearly half a billion in profits, a pittance of which (barely 2%) was donated to groups battling antisemitism.
Meanwhile, a private citizen made headlines with a Jewish New Year message railing against “liberal Jews who voted to destroy America & Israel” and warning them “to get their act together” and “appreciate Israel before it’s too late!”
What Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin characterized as a “hora through the garbage pits of raw Jew-hatred” was quickly condemned by Jewish organizations.
ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement, “It is dangerous and wrong to suggest an entire segment of the Jewish population voted to destroy America and Israel … Whether or not it’s intentional, President Trump is playing into conspiracy theories about dual loyalty here. Even worse, this is happening on one of the holiest days of the Jewish calendar, Rosh Hashanah.”
Amy Spitalnick, CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, noted that the former president marked “the end of Rosh Hashana with an antisemitic post accusing Jews who voted against him of ‘destroy[ing] America & Israel.’”
From the American Jewish Committee: “Claiming that American Jews who did not vote for Mr. Trump voted to destroy America and Israel is deeply offensive and divisive … As we approach one year until the next election, we urge political candidates from the top to the bottom of the ballot to avoid incendiary rhetoric.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”
In this season of bomb threats, bigotry and backpedaling there must be no silence, no complicity.
Not if we don’t want 2023 to top 2022 in infamy.
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