Jews & some mattering more than others

Last weekend there was an awful event in Colleyville, Texas. A man took four persons hostage at a Jewish synagogue in the Dallas-Fort Worth area — including the rabbi — demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui from federal prison. Siddiqui — who is sometimes referred to as “Lady al Qaeda” or in the eyes of NBC News, “a cause célèbre in the terrorist world.” Also according to NBC, “Her lawyer says she opposes violence, but prosecutors said she yelled ‘I am going to kill all you Americans’ after she opened fire on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.”

Hear not from me; hear from Bari Weiss, the former contributor to The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, who left both, eventually in pursuit of a less manipulated approach to journalism… (amen, Bari…)

“Last week, I met a rabbi in Los Angeles. We talked about surfing where to get the best pizza in the city and her kids and politics. At the end of the evening, she was making plans with a colleague, and they extended an invitation. Would I want to go to the shooting range with them next weekend?

I thought about the rabbi with her guns a lot over this Shabbat, as Jews who had gathered for services at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, were taken hostage by a man named Malik Faisal Akram. After nearly 11 hours, thanks to earthly miracles of law enforcement and perhaps heavenly ones as well, they were freed unharmed. Akram, who had predicted his own death in his rantings captured on Facebook livestream, was dead. 

The bad guy was killed. The good guys were saved. It doesn’t often turn out that way. All the Jews I know—even the atheists—are thanking God. 

But why, despite my gratitude, do I feel so much rage? Why does it feel like there is so little comfort to be found? What has changed?

I did not feel this way in the horrific aftermath of the Tree of Life massacre—the most lethal in all of American Jewish history.

Back then, in October 2018, it felt like the whole country grasped that a wound to the Tree of Life was a wound to the Tree of Liberty itself. That the monstrous attack in my hometown was not simply an attack on Jews, but an attack on our collective home. And that what was at stake in standing up against the deranged, conspiratorial mindset that led a neo-Nazi to the synagogue that morning was nothing less than America itself. 

What I now see is this: In America captured by tribalism and dehumanization, in an America swept up by ideologies that pit us against one another in a zero-sum game, in an America enthralled with the poisonous idea that some groups matter more than others, not all Jews—and not all Jewish victims—are treated equally. What seems to matter most to media pundits and politicians is not the Jews themselves, but the identities of their attackers.

And it scares me…”

[Emphasis above is mine.]

Weiss continues by discussing the anti-Semitism that she sees in this country. She points out that Siddiqui is a “committed Jew hater.” She also points out that so much of even the so-called mainstream press and our elect made no mention of such. They omitted the hatred specifically targeting our Jewish friends. There were claims of insufficient information.

As we follow the week of Martin Luther King Day and Dr. King’s call that all people are seen as created in the image of God and treated no more nor lesser — this was hard to stomach. I keep thinking of Weiss’s comment, that we’re “in an America swept up by ideologies that pit us against one another in a zero-sum game, in an America enthralled with the poisonous idea that some groups matter more than others.”

That makes no sense. That makes no sense when juxtaposed against the plumb line of each of us created in the image of God. 

I think both He — and Dr. King — would want more from us.