Where Is Our Al Sharpton?
When Reverend Al Sharpton was in his heyday as a spokesman for the African American community, so many Jews wondered aloud, “How come we don’t have an Al Sharpton?”
Al Sharpton may have been the most divisive person in the country as he was embroiled in controversial stories such as Tawana Brawley, Crown Heights allegations, Freddy’s “white interlopers,” etc. to supposedly advance the plight of his fellow African Americans. He pitted whites against blacks and everyone against Jews, as our city became a racial cauldron, especially during the Koch and Dinkins years. And he was rewarded by MSNBC with a job as a commentator on the social scene.
Yet Jews always wondered why we don’t have an Al Sharpton. Why don’t we have an outspoken leader who fights relentlessly for our cause? The truth is, we did. He was not a hater, not a rabble-rouser, but he was very outspoken. That was Rabbi Meir Kahane Hy”d.
The point I am making is not necessarily to endorse Kahane or his supporters, although a lot of what he predicted is coming true before our eyes. The point is that Jews scream for an Al Sharpton, but they really don’t want Al Sharpton. They would rather keep things “shah shtill!” Sharptons are not in their DNA.
Where do we find anything like Sharpton in our community today? Anyone who is outspoken is marginalized. Dov Hikind heroically takes on anti-Semitism, but he is mostly on his own. His Americans Against Anti-Semitism is a great organization. But you have to wonder why the ADL isn’t taking the lead in calling out anti-Jewish hatred? That’s what they get the “big bucks” for (really big bucks).
Dov and Shani Hikind were recently on our shul’s Zoom program, where Dov declared that there are no consequences for verbal or physical abuses of Jews. He later held a rally at DA Bragg’s office to protest that very tragic fact. Why is it left to Dov alone to call this out to the public?
By the way, where is the Biden administration’s celebrated Envoy to combat anti-Semitism, Deborah Lipstadt? Have you seen her take a stand on college campus anti-Semitism? If she did, I can’t find it on a search. Beating of Jews in the subways and streets in Brooklyn? Ben & Jerry’s? UN’s anti-Israel declarations? Nada. But she did speak up against Orthodox Jews, despite being one herself. There should be a subset of anti-Semitism called anti-Orthodoxy.
On Thursday, June 30, a bunch of teenage hoodlums attacked bar mitzvah celebrations by the Reform at their plaza near the Kosel. Yes, the Reform are an anathema to everything sacred to our religion, but to physically and verbally assault them was as wrong as it was dumb. The Reform and their supporters capitalized on the mischief and took a broad sweep at all of Orthodoxy. (No problem with generalizing for them.)
On July 29, Eric Yoffie, spokesman for the Reform, starts an article in Haaretz (where else?) with, “Israeli Orthodoxy is descending into depravity…” and proceeds to condemn chareidim as well as religious Zionists.
Deborah Lipstadt is finally heard from. She is quoted in a Jerusalem Post article on July 31 by Irit Tratt regarding the teen disruptions at the Kosel, as tweeting, “If such incitement happened in any other country, there’d be little hesitation in labeling it anti-Semitism.”
A major Modern Orthodox rabbinic organization said nothing about the Reform encroachment on the Kosel and their provocative behavior but was quick to condemn the hoodlum kids. Easy pickings.
The author goes on to ask where Ms. Lipstadt has been, regarding violence against Jews in the streets of the US, which she is supposed to monitor. Most of the perpetrators do not fit into the leftist narrative, so it is largely ignored. And it’s against the Orthodox, so who cares?
We have violence in the streets, discrimination against Jewish students and faculty on campus, discrimination against Israel – and we need to ask once again: “Where is our Al Sharpton?” The silence of every single Orthodox and non-Orthodox organization answers the question. We don’t want one. But at least let’s support the few organizations that do say something. Stand With Us, Americans Against anti-Semitism, and our Coalition for Jewish Values are among the very few.
So we may not have it in us to have a Sharpton represent us…but let’s give our big support to those who do.
Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld is the Rabbi of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, President of the Coalition for Jewish Values, and former President of the Vaad Harabonim of Queens.