Sensitivity and teachable moments
July 24, 2020
Last week, I received an e-mail from a reader of my Everywhere column of July 10, 2020, titled “Black lies matter,” criticizing me for an attempt to be cute with the title by playing on the words, “black lives matter,” and suggesting that the title was “insensitive.”
Since I appreciate feedback of all kinds from readers I went back and reviewed not only the title, but the column itself, and deeply reflected on the criticism that the title was insensitive; and that I was attempting to be “cute” with the title’s wording.
Interestingly, the reader did not criticize the content of the column in which I strongly supported our nation’s quest for racial equality. I did however, call out the Black Lives Matter organization for coupling its quest for racial equality with anti-Semitic tropes and anti-Zionist myths, false accusations of Palestinian oppression, and support for the BDS movement which seeks the delegitimization of the State of Israel.
After much thought and reflection on the issues the reader raised, I replied via e-mail that, “I have found over the years that sensitivity has not been an effective tool in calling out anti-Semitism. I was not attempting to be cute with the title.”
On the contrary, the title points out the inconsistency and hypocrisy of the BLM organization by its embracing hatred toward Jewish achievement, Jewish success, Jewish integration and Jewish contribution to America which has benefited all our citizens.
No other ethnic group has been more involved, more proactive, more in partnership, and more in tune with the black community than the Jewish community in the quest for civil rights and racial equality.
We do not serve the black community well by being sensitive to calling out those in the black community that hate and promote anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. We do not serve either the black community or the Jewish community by ignoring or excusing anti-Jewish or anti-black prejudice that is detrimental to the well-being of the hater as well as the hated.
Because we are people of the Book, we tend to see every offensive remark, act and even crime against the Jewish community as a “teachable moment.” How many teachable moments must we endure before we get angry enough to say “enough”? The problem with teachable moments is that the number of “teachable moments” do not result in nearly an adequate number of “learnable moments.”
Time and again we see supposedly intelligent people and respected institutions playing the anti-Semitic card, whether it is a political cartoon in a supposedly respected magazine or newspaper, whether it is a well-known actor, celebrity, sport superstar, or pseudo civil rights leader posting hateful speech on social media. More often than not a forced apology follows combined with a Jewish teachable moment.
I call this the Anti-Semitic Methodology of Apology: “Make the apology for the anti-Semitic publication or hateful statement, say your sorry and blame it on an institutional mistake or some other lame reason; retract it to a smaller audience, play on the misguided good intentions of the Jewish people to forgive. Then continue to spread irrational and false reasons to hate the Jews and Israel. This is the crux of the anti-Semitic methodology of apology.
You would have thought that there have been so many teachable moments beginning with the Holocaust, that anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism would have been a thing of the past and relegated to history, but the opposite is true. Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is flourishing throughout the world, and no one, including the Jewish community, has made a dent in curing or suppressing it.
Perhaps it is time we became less sensitive in calling out these perpetrators of hate, along with their lies and myths about the Jewish people and Israel, and more sensitive to working with organizations who truly are working for racial equality for all peoples including the Jewish people.
If you wish to comment or respond you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please do so in a rational, thoughtful, respectful and civil manner.
Mel Pearlman holds B.S. & M.S. degrees in physics as well as a J.D. degree and initially came to Florida in 1966 to work on the Gemini and Apollo space programs. He has practiced law in Central Florida since 1972. He has served as president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando; was a charter board member, first vice president and pro-bono legal counsel of the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Central Florida, as well as holding many other community leadership positions.