Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Elena Kagan and the Jews

There is about to be another Jew on the Supreme Court of the United States. Her name is Elena Kagan. I do not know Ms. Kagan at all. I never heard of her until her name came up as a possible nominee to the Supreme Court. I don’t know what her religious values are. I don’t know whether she is in any way observant or even cares about her Judaism. But I do know that she has near universal acclaim from even her political opponents. That said I’m also pretty sure she will get plenty of resistance in congress from the political right during the confirmation hearings. She is apparently quite liberal.

First let me publicly extend congratulations to Ms. Kagan. And let me say how proud I am of my country. Not because they chose a Jew. But because of how they have treated the fact that she is Jewish… or that there will now be 3 Jews on the highest court in the land.

The fact is that in all the non Jewish media I have read, watched, or heard her Judaism was hardly mentioned - if it was mentioned at all. The President didn’t mention it; the Republican and Democratic politicians that I heard interviewed didn’t mention it; the political pundits didn’t mention it... I didn’t even see the word Jew or Jewish in any context relating to her pro or con. Her Judaism is a non Issue. I made it a point to watch four different network reports about her nomination to the Supreme Court yesterday and only one made even a passing reference to it.

Most of the talk about her was positive form both sides of the political aisle. It was about her wisdom, her intellect, her achievements, her independence, and her sense of fairness, her willingness to listen to both sides of an issue before rendering an opinion, and her generally high standards and principles.

It is truly amazing how her Judaism was completely ignored. How wonderful it is to live in a country that practically doesn’t even notice the religion of a person who is nominated for a lifetime powerful position on the highest court in the land. It’s not on the radar screen at all.

Which brings me to a post at a blog called Circus Tent. The blogger there is actually upset that a Jew was chosen. He feels that having too many Jews in power will hurt us. It is quite true that there are more Jews in public service now than at any other time in American history. Circus Tent feels that if anything major ever happens the Jews will easily become the targets for blame - as they always have throughout history. There are simply too many Jews in power for Goyim to ignore them as a cause. Add to this the fact that Ms. Kagan has liberal views that are out of sync with most Americans and that puts her squarely in the cross hairs of a potential American anti-Semitic backlash.

I have to say that attitudes like this are based on complete fantasy and are nothing more than a reflexive response based on Jewish history incorrectly applied. America of today is not Europe of Yesterday. A little over a year ago the United States suffered a severe economic crisis. The names getting shuttled around for blame were all Jewish sounding. Names like Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs. Jews were - and still are - all over the place in banking. That was the perfect opportunity to ‘blame the Jews’. Didn’t happen. Never once did I ever hear even the remotest suggestion that ‘Jewish bankers’ were at fault.

There is no real anti Semitism here except for the existence of some fringe groups. At worst there is some stereotyping going on in some circles. But whose fault is that? Jewish entertainment figures like Woody Allen, Jackie Mason and others who have foisted negative Jewish caricatures upon the American landscape and exploit them for their own benefit.

Most Americans on both the right and the left could not care less about the religion of their neighbors or their leaders. They do care about values. Those values may vary widely depending upon whether one is on the political right or left. But they have absolutely nothing to do with how they perceive the Jewish people.

I’m not saying that there isn’t any prejudice. Of course there is. Everyone is prejudiced in some way. It is human nature I suppose. Most often it is a prejudice based on irrational misunderstandings. But Jews have never been as accepted as equals anywhere on earth in its entire history as they are in the United States right now.

Even with all the recent scandals that have involved highly identifiable Jews, rarely is the word Jew heard in condemnations of them. The vast majority of Americans do not blame Jews for Rubashkin, or Madoff, or Abramoff. They see them as criminals. Not as Jewish criminals.

Circus Tent is of the old ‘Esav Sonei L’Yaakov mindset in that the vast majority of Goyim are inherently anti Semitic. That the minute any worldwide calamity happens – the Goyim (Americans in this case) will come after us. That has after all been our historic record. Jews have been persecuted in every country they have lived. No matter how good they had it during one period, it always ended badly in another. Cirucs Tent and those who think along those lines view the Rubashkin trial in exactly that way. They see it as an anti Semitic government persecution of a Jew along the lines of the Dreyfus trial in France of over 100 years ago.

I do not see any real evidence of it. But even if it were so, this would be an isolated case and not indicative of the overall attitude of Americans about Jews.

Could it happen here? Of course it could. Anything is possible. World War Three could break out tomorrow. Sure it can happen. Is it likely? No.

If history has taught us anything it is that we should keep our collective antennae up. We need to be constantly aware of even the slightest change that might lead us to believe that we are in danger. But I just don’t see that happening at all in my lifetime. If anything the opposite is happening. And certainly Elana Kagan’s ascendancy to the Supreme Court will not precipitate it. It is an honor for us to have so many Jews on the high court who were not put there because of affirmative action but because of personal merit.

I think it would help if Circus Tent would stop trying to frighten people and realize that America is not Europe. It is attitudes like his that contribute to the idea that All Goyim are evil - including Americans -and thereby justify the Rubashkins of the world to defraud them. If anything can endanger us it is that. Not Elana Kagan.