I love dogs. I always did. They are loyal, lovable, and make great companions. But what shall I tell you, I never owned one. The Torah tells us to reward dogs for their obedience during the Exodus from Egypt (Sh’mos 11:7 and 22:30). So I’m not sure why society has heaped scorn and derision on a dog. “He has a dog’s life; tired like a dog; looks like a dog, etc.” Yes, I know, there’s the “lucky dog,” but that’s because the dog is lucky.
Well, that’s the fact of life. To be caricaturized as a dog is an insult, to be sure. So when The New York Times runs a nasty cartoon depicting Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu as a dog with a Jewish Star, pulling a blind President Trump bearing a yarmulke, it was clearly an anti-Semitic insult. Even its own columnist Brett Stephens was forced to condemn the paper. On this one, everyone jumped in line to issue well-deserved and long-overdue condemnation – even the ADL. (I haven’t seen any Democrats, by the way, nor the usually outspoken Senator Schumer or Congressman Nadler say anything. I guess they’re too busy trying to impeach the best president Jews ever had.)
The Times at first didn’t even bother with an apology; they chalked it off as an “error in judgment” to print it. Then further reaction came in and they gulped and apologized. All this took place right before the horrible shooting in Poway.
After the Pittsburgh massacre, exactly six months ago, the left and the entire media were quick to blame Trump for the atmosphere of hatred that led to the killings. Why was it relatively quiet (still some screwballs, but less vocal) with the Poway attack? In fact, the heroic and inspiring Chabad Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein was effusive in his praise for the president, with whom he had a 15-minute phone conversation. Why was he not drowned out by the leftist rabble-rousers as with Pittsburgh?
I think the left now sees that they can’t pull that stunt anymore. At least not currently. The Jew-hatred has now been coming from the left. This includes from Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and yes, from Bernie Sanders, who called Netanyahu a racist along with 67 percent of Jews in Israel, who voted for the right-winged government. It includes the mainstream media, led by The New York Times, which cleverly masks anti-Semitism under the guise of anti- Zionism. Except now, The Times has been caught red-handed.
Do I blame them for Poway? Decidedly not. The killer was a right-winged, radicalized, otherwise-intelligent person who hated everyone not right-winged enough for him, including the “Jew-lover” Donald Trump. He was Amaleik doing what Amaleik does.
But the ground for hating Jews has been softened by the open hatred coming from the left, and most importantly the enablers. The enablers include, of course The Times and the media. But it also includes politicians such as Nancy Pelosi, Charles Schumer, Jerold Nadler, and Bernie Sanders, who remain silent when they should speak up against their own anti-Semitic colleagues. It includes the professors, deans, and students in universities across America who have demonized Israel time and time again, and do so with impunity.
It also includes our own established organizations, which see something and do nothing. Before Pesach, I bumped into the Orthodox head of a major, well-funded, non-sectarian, New York City-based Jewish organization that is good at issuing press releases and helping organize the Celebrate Israel Parade. I asked him why he does not organize a rally against anti-Semitism as we did here in Kew Gardens Hills. He bristled and said, “Why don’t you ask Malcolm Hoenlein?” In other words, don’t bother me, ask someone else.
We thus have the tails of the dogs – like Omar, Tlaib, Sanders, and AOC – wagging the dogs in Congress and the media. The tails are also wagging the big dogs of the Jewish establishment to their eternal shame.
Thankfully, we have brave hounds like the ZOA, Americans for a Safe Israel, and various grassroots organizations that are yipping at the dogs.
One of the better-known passages in the Haggadah is V’hi She’amdah, which we sing with cup of wine in hand. In that passage, we note that in every generation there are those who scheme to kill us, but Hashem saves us from their designs. We cannot deny that often the evil plans do come to fruition, as experienced in the Holocaust and pogroms throughout our history.
But the passage is followed by the Haggadah letting us know that the relatively innocuous Laban was worse than Pharaoh. The latter wanted to kill male Jews only, while Laban wanted to kill all Jews, but thankfully failed. I believe this is the true message of V’hi She’amdah. As bad as things at times are, we are so often not aware of the designs our enemy had against us that failed, thanks to Hashem. In Poway, the gunman ym”sh was hoping to kill many more Jews. A beautiful soul, Lori Gilbert-Kaye, gave her life, but thanks to the rabbi and heroic actions of an Army veteran named Oscar Stewart, who chased the shooter out, off-duty Border Patrol agent Jonathan Morales, who was armed and shot at the gunmen’s car, and to the fact that the gun inexplicably jammed, many others were saved.
All we are left to say is L’Shanah HaBaah BiYerushalayim! Amen.
Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld is the Rabbi of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, Vice President of the Coalition for Jewish Values, former President of the Vaad Harabonim of Queens, and the Rabbinic Consultant for the Queens Jewish Link.