I have to be honest: I am starting to wonder if President Trump is spiritually descended from the great Maccabees of over 2000 years ago who stood up against the tyranny of the Seleucids. His most recent executive order, including anti-Semitism into the protections of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, is courageous and necessary. It is a proactive step to combat the evils of the Boycott/Divest/Sanction movement that is taking over our educational institutions, and a positive move to let anti-Semites like Representatives Tlaib, Omar, and the like know that their hatred will be answered with actions of protection and courage.
As a Rabbi in California, I can vouch that it can be a challenging place to live at times, especially as a person of faith. Newspapers report on the anti-Semitic behavior at the colleges and universities here, and many people know of the hateful demonstrations found on many California campuses. But President Trump’s executive order is much more meaningful than just its effect on college campuses.
Here, as in many liberal-oriented states around the country, the systemic indoctrination into leftist politics, anti-religion, and socialist beliefs is started early. By the time children are in elementary school here in California, they are being forced to deal with issues of gender (and transgender), illegal immigration, and an elitism that teaches them that religion is for fools, fanatics, or the “uneducated.” Religious values are subjugated for a leftist agenda, and it is a challenge for both the children and parents to retain traditional values within the family and community. And as often goes along with those leftist values, anti-Semitism is prominent.
In an affluent suburb of Los Angeles, it would seem as if anti-Semitism would not rear its head often, but the opposite is true. Two years ago outside our temple during the High Holiday services, an electric sign was changed to read “Gas the Jews.” My children and other children within the community have experienced anti-Semitic behavior from school principals, one of whom actually said (when told that the children would be wearing head coverings during class as we are commanded), “Not in my school they won’t.” Elementary school principals, as well as charter school boards in the area have attempted to prohibit Jewish students from having excused absences from school for religious holiday observances. And when swastikas are proudly displayed at high schools, or younger Jewish children have been bullied by older kids, calling them “dirty Jews” as an example and/or threatening them, school administrators have repeatedly demonstrated an unwillingness to deal with it, as these children had not previously been protected under Title VI. The attempts to turn Jews, as well as children of all religions towards secularism and leftism starts early here in California.
The indoctrination in the schools towards leftism and away from religion has been going on for two solid generations here in California, and nowhere can it be seen more clearly than in the liberal Jewish community. Many Jews in the large cities of California have rejected their religious practices as a result of this indoctrination, and they have “converted” not to another religion, but to secular, leftist politics. They have rejected the practices of their ancestors and the teachings of the Bible in favor of these political viewpoints. As part of that “conversion,” they want other Jews to also reject the teachings of our faith. And because of their own shame about religion (and their unconscious guilt about removing themselves from their people), all too often they allow anti-Semitism to occur without taking any steps to stop it. These are the people who have tried to justify or ignore the vitriolic hatred of Tlaib and Omar; these are the Jews that, like Adam Schiff, pursue a path of politics over a path of ethics. It is because of the actions of the anti-Semites, and the inaction of people like these secularists, that Jews are being persecuted at the highest levels in my lifetime…and that anti-Semitism has become so rampant against young people in all aspects of education, from college down to elementary school.
President Trump has just protected thousands of these young Jews with this executive order. The document is clearly targeted for college campuses, but the White House staff and the document itself make it clear that younger children will now be protected as well under the guidelines of Title VI according to the definition of anti-Semitism accepted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Thanks to the president and his staff, led by Jared Kushner and Avi Berkowitz, these young people will now have protection under the law against any actions taken against them because of their religion.
In Hebrew there is the expression “Kol Ha’Kvod,” “all the honor,” and it is given to someone who has done something meaningful. It is applicable for this most recent act, and may all the people responsible for getting this done be blessed (ironically, a similar proposal to include anti-Semitism under Title VI was unanimously accepted by the Senate 99-0, but was stopped in the House). May we all live to see anti-Semitism eradicated, and to see peace between all people of faith (and no faith) in our nation.
Rabbi Michael Barclay is the Spiritual Leader of Temple Ner Simcha in Westlake Village, CA (www.NerSimcha.org), and the author of “Sacred Relationships: Biblical Wisdom for Deepening Our Lives Together”.