Earlier this month, a group called Young, Jewish and Proud staged, what I conclude, as a clever* strategic disruption and protest of Netanyahu’s address at the Jewish Federal General Assembly in New Orleans. I saw the video (above) and read a brilliant commentary (scroll down) of what happened on Rabbi Brant Rosen’s blog. I won’t expound much of what was said in the video, nor what Rosen discussed. But on two, possibly similar points. Before that, read YJP’s brilliant manifesto here.
*I call it clever, and am intrigued as I am involved in flashmobs and guerilla activities for fun and for clients. Such an approach or thinking, is often applicable.
1- A few months ago I read Edward Said’s interview with David Barsamian, in which where he speaks of how he went from friend and advisor of Yasser Arafat, to becoming someone critical of the leader as well as the struggle of the Palestine Liberation Organization. He said that he had disagreed with how Arafat handled things and that his time to contribute had passed, for its time for a new leader. Said said he was being attacked for attacking the struggle, the PLO, to which he sees it as, [far from verbatim] ‘just because we’re in a struggle to fight another power, that does not mean I should remain silent when I see wrong things happening. What will then be the product of that leaders, who achieves the end, with defective means. He has all the wrong advisors around him who okays everything he does. The absence of dissent/defiance, disturbs me a great deal.’
In this respect, for me in Malaysia, to see a group of Jews in USA bravely criticizing Israel’s PM in a setting, full of Jews who support the PM, is a reflection of how advanced, ahead, their struggle, comprehension and capacity is. While there might be points raised regarding internal consensus of them as a large group (which is near possible for any entity), that is still a sign of progress. Just like in countries where there are institutions of check and balance, the system of justice by having a court of law, the concept of having political parties checking on one another.
2- A few weeks ago, I watched a video of Barack Obama giving his address at an event, where midway, the presidential crest on his rostrum fell. He cleverly handled the situation by taking control, and making a joke out of it. That part is brilliant. Even Netanyahu did it in his address during the first and second disruption of the Young, Jewish & Proud. That’s public speaking skills. What I would like to point out is, it is a shame that sometimes such charm, supercedes the actual message of what people are hearing. It’s like the common thing in Malaysia, people say a wedding went well and their comment primarily evolves around how good the food was. The point being is that the measure of whether something is good, or a message is valid, is based on the wrong stick completely. And that somehow validates the original point of what it is or what’s in discussion. Try relating this to the hadith (if I’m not mistaken), that ‘there will come a time where the measure of a good leader is in how well he speaks, not knows.’
‘After watching this clip this morning, my wife Hallie and I had a long conversation about it. Though I was eager to talk about its political/Jewish communal implications, she responded to it more as a parent of teenagers.
As she put it, “As parents, what kinds of values do we want to impart to our kids? Don’t we always say we want them to educated, to be critical thinkers, and to stand up for what they believe in? And even if we don’t approve of the places their critical thinking take them, what, are we going to disown them because we don’t agree with them?”
Take a close look at this clip and pay particular attention to the reaction of the audience in the hall. It would be quite an understatement to say the crowd disapproved of what these young people were saying. Frankly, it was something of a miracle that any of them made it out of that room in one piece.
But as Hallie pointed out to me, these young Jews were doing precisely what they were raised to do: they took a good, educated look around them, they thought critically about what they saw, and they took a stand for what they believed in.And for this they are being disowned by their Jewish family.
I’m sure many will be tempted to say, “Well, I don’t disapprove of what they said, just how they said it.”
Yes, we parents often say things like that, don’t we? I’m pretty sure that many white parents said similar things when their children joined the Freedom Riders to protest oppression and to show solidarity with oppressed African Americans. I imagine many of their parents disagreed with their actions. But at the end of the day weren’t these young people ultimately just acting upon the values that had long been instilled in them?
I certainly have no illusions that there were also many young people in that room cheering on Netanyahu – young adults who have been given a place at the Jewish communal table. But believe me when I tell you that there are many, many young Jews who have been kept away from the table – but who refuse to walk away. And frankly, given the extent of their alienation we should be grateful that they even seek a place at all any more.
The Jewish community is reaching a serious reckoning point. Trust me, those five young people in that hall are only the tip of the iceberg. They are growing in number, they are rapidly finding their voice, and as their new moniker indicates, they are “young, Jewish and proud.” And regardless of whether we agree what they are saying, we should be proud of them. It’s time to act like grownups, stop marginalizing them, and make room for them at the table.
Click here and read the “Young, Jewish and Proud” manifesto. What beautiful, beautiful words. I couldn’t be prouder of these young people if they were my own children.’
- Rabbi Brant Rosen