Ordinarily I’d ignore the anti-Semitism. Not this week.
Invective goes with the columnist territory. To judge by commenters, e-mailers and tweeters, I am ugly and fat, a dried-up old hag, a leftist moonbat and spiteful Obama-hater.
Also, and I gather this is supposed to be another insult, a Jew.
I woke up Saturday morning — I was going to synagogue to say “kaddish,” the mourner’s prayer, for my father, who died this summer — to this lovely tweet:
“Oh, what a diverse panel, two Jews and a shabbos goy,” the tweeter, who shall go unnamed, wrote about my scheduled appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation” with Atlantic Media’s Ron Brownstein and Republican strategist Karl Rove. (The Rove categorization , by the way, refers to a gentile helper who performs certain tasks during the Sabbath. My tweeter meant it in a derogatory way, as an enabler of Jews and Jewish causes.)
I know, I know, better not to read tweets directed your way. And, I certainly know, don’t respond to the nasty ones.
But I did: “Pls explain yr compulsion to sort by religion.”
The response: “Jews compose about 3 percent of the US population, and . . . usually at least 50 percent of TV panels.”
Me: “Very nice. Would you like us to register? Or is just wearing a star enough for you?”
The “conversation” headed predictably downhill from there. Another tweeter contributed a picture depicting the stereotypical dirty Jew, captioned, “Kicked out of every nation we’ve inhabited in history. Everyone else but Jews are the problem.”
He linked to a YouTube video explaining that the Holocaust was “grossly exaggerated” and that “when you ask what have the Germans done to the Jews, you must always ask, what have done the Jews to the Germans.” After that, I stopped watching.
There is, of course, no reasoning with these people. Anti-Semitism is a virus immune to being eradicated with rationality. There is a consequent risk in rewarding it with attention.
We live, as well, in an age of social media that enables speech at once vicious and anonymous; there is no effective antidote to this ugliness. Incivility is an omnipresent byproduct of technology.
Yet there is a danger, too, in ignoring bigotry, which explains why I chose, this time, to react. Tolerating this prejudice risks inuring us to its presence. This coarsening of dialogue helps create a climate that nurtures the current explosion of anti-Muslim bias — not just among random tweeters with equally ignorant followers, but among leading Republican presidential candidates.
Donald Trump floated the idea of closing mosques and slandered Muslims with his unsupported assertions about “thousands and thousands” cheering in Jersey City, N.J. , as the t win t owers fell. Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush said Syrian Christians should be admitted in preference to Muslims.
Some readers, no doubt, will write to observe that many of the Muslims whose rights I defend, and many of the refugees whose plight I lament, are no fans of Jews or Israel. How naive of me to stick up for them.
My answer comes in part from Rabbi Hillel two millennia ago. “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?” Intolerance breeds intolerance. Silence enables it.
And, in terms of Muslim refugees seeking to come here, my answer comes from Leviticus, a passage that, as it happens, I chanted at my daughter’s bat mitzvah: “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
Faux controversies over the war on Christmas and red Starbucks cups notwithstanding, Jews and Muslims, no matter how assimilated, are destined to feel at times like strangers in a Christian- majority country.
As a Jew, it is impossible for me to consider the current refugee debate without recalling this country’s — my country’s — tragic failure to admit thousands of Jews fleeing Nazi Germany, amid similar warnings of embedded dangers. History and faith inform my reaction.
So, anti-Semitic tweeters, you are correct: My religion is relevant to my professional life. Just not for the twisted reasons you imagine.