In my humble opinion, these are troubling times for the Jewish community. And as someone who loves being Jewish and loves being part of Baltimore’s wonderful Jewish community, I must say that I am horribly concerned about our current state of affairs and the future of our people, in the United States and around the world.
In fact, I would say I am deeply heartbroken.
Over the past few days, weeks and months, I have consistently read and learned about the failure of our community to recognize the erosion of our character and values, as our organizations and institutions acquiesce to the demands and rhetoric of the Black Lives Matter movement and its offshoots.
A case in point is what has taken place recently at the Park School of Baltimore. As many people in the community know, Park was founded in 1912 by leaders of Baltimore’s Jewish community in response to the fact that Jewish students at that time were barred from enrollment at existing local private schools.
Recently, according to the Washington Free Beacon in an article written by Adam Kredo on Sept. 1, an anonymous group calling itself the “Black at Park Organizing Collective” sent a disturbing and offensive letter to the school’s leadership calling for “an examination of Park’s history: its inception, early exclusions, culture of whiteness and wealth hoarding, its tolerance of Zionism, and its parasitic relationship to Baltimore City.”
The group claimed to be composed of “recent and distant [Park] alumni,” and accused the school of promoting systemic “anti-blackness” and “anti-black violence.” According to the Free Beacon article, the group advocates changes to Park’s curriculum, admissions and hiring practices.
The letter goes on to vehemently condemn Park for “white supremacist structures and environments of learning, teaching, and community-making.” The school’s administration, they wrote, needs to “atone for the deep and painful anti-black violence our black peers have experienced.”
According to Kredo’s article, Park’s leadership reports that it is planning to implement a series of reforms and changes to its “diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.”
To the mind of this former U.S. Marine, that’s called acquiescence, plain and simple.
In response to the collective’s letter, Beth Tfiloh Congregation’s longtime senior spiritual leader, Rabbi Mitchel Wohlberg, told the Free Beacon, “There are a lot of code words here that have been associated with anti-Semitic tropes. But I don’t like calling people anti-Semitic unless I know them and know that to be true.
“However, [with] those tropes of ‘parasites’ and ‘wealth hoarding,’ combined with ‘tolerance of Zionism,’ you have to question the motives of these people,” he said.
Meanwhile, more than 600 Jewish organizations, congregations and institutions from around the country – including a number of local outfits — recently signed a letter and voiced their wholehearted support for and embrace of the Black Lives Matter movement. (Click here to read the letter.)
These groups advocate for this movement, even though its followers are known to espouse a great deal of anti-Semitism and antagonism toward Israel.
When I worked in the catering and food service industry for decades, I got to know many Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe who moved to Baltimore after the Second World War. They came to this country from Poland with precious little and built lives for themselves and their families here. I listened very closely as they told me stories about the horrors and suffering they endured at the hands of the Nazis.
Prior to and during the Nazi era, German Jews tended to “turn their cheeks” when they were preyed upon. The establishment of the State of Israel redeemed our national pride and reignited our determination to stand up against adversity and bigotry.
We desperately need to rekindle that kind of fire now. We cannot be cowered and cannot acquiesce to those who harm upon us.
These are not our allies.
To my fellow Jews, I strongly encourage the withholding of financial support to those institutions and organizations that support the Black Lives Matter movement until they recognize the dangers of not condemning a culture, organization and mantra that encourages anti-Semitism and hatred.
I hope and pray that the Jewish communities and leadership in the United States and around the world will not “turn their cheeks” ever again. Our children and grandchildren deserve better, and history should be our greatest teacher.
We need to maintain our pride and self-respect as we support fairness and social justice for all.
Leonard Schleider is a retired caterer and a 1955 graduate of Forest Park High School. He lives in Baltimore.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Jmore.