OK, so this week I received an interesting email about a group of White supremacists posing as Orthodox Jews in Pearl Mall, in Boulder (Colorado) and putting up posters accusing Jews of everything from the Slave Trade to the Porno Industry. Among the fliers they distribute they included one with the photo of Auschwitz saying "We Jews lied about the Holocaust" and another one saying "We Jews did 911 and we are very sorry".
The episode begs a number of questions. First: Why dressing up as Orthodox Jews? One possible answer is that they were trying to make the self-blame look more authentic; another could be that they are hoping some non Orthodox Jews will rant against the Orthodox and thus exploit divisions within the Jewish community (after all, the Naturei Karta embraced Ahmedinejad and oppose the existence of Israel). A third possible explanation is that they find it amusing to dress up as Jews to blame the Jews. Or maybe an attention-catcher.
A second question is why putting up fliers blaming Jews for so many different things? This appears like a more clear cut situation: each of those "charges" is part of a different Conspiracy Theory against Jews. Among the rank and file of American society, there are some people who believe one or another of these charges. By putting them all out there they achieve two things: appealing to more people, and creating a link between all these accusations.
So what can a Jew do in a situation like this? The first obvious answer is to refuse to blame Orthodox for the episode. While we may have many differences within the Jewish community in matters of religious observance or Israel, this attack affects us all. Indeed, the situation highlights the fact that beyond whatever differences we might have with each other, there are situation in which we need to stand shoulder to shoulder against the Barbarians at the gate. One of the beautiful things about our tradition is that we never dismiss differences, but historically we could always work together. When in the Talmud a question of observance is raised, the answer (more often than not) is presenting the opinions of several Rabbis for the reader to choose. Yet we have only one Babylonian Talmud (and another Palestinian Talmud collecting opinions from Palestinian Rabbis). And that is the way it should be.
If I have to choose one word that describes the Jewish people as a whole, I would probably choose "University", because it is derived from the phrase "Unity in Diversity" - and that is probably the best description of Jews anywhere. We have currently a serious spike in antisemitic activity in the US. We don't really know if this is a temporary situation or whether it is revealing more troublesome trends we failed to see. But we do know that when they attack any of us, they are attacking all of us. Our enemies on the Right and on the Left do not make a difference between Orthodox, Hassid or Liberal; they do not draw a distinction between Zionist and not (or even anti) Zionist Jews.
There are those on the Left and the Right in our own community who seem more intent in attacking "the other side" than in standing together. We do not have to give up (we SHOULD not give up) our differences, but we also need to understand that there are situations where those differences are irrelevant. Antisemitism needs to be confronted by all of us - TOGETHER.