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This is a conversation I’ve been putting off, if I’m being honest. I can’t hold it from the safe space of journalistic distance. It’s about the strange, vulnerable space that many Jews, myself included, find themselves in today.
The first part of this conversation is about being Jewish at a time of rising anti-Semitism in the Western world. The October massacre at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue was the worst act of anti-Semitic violence ever committed on American soil. In 2017, Charlottesville, Virginia, protesters waved torches while chanting “Jews will not replace us.” It’s often said that anti-Semitism is a light sleeper. It feels like it’s stirring.
The second, and separate, part of this conversation is about Israel. The peace movement in the Jewish state has collapsed, and the country has decided a repressive illiberalism is the best guarantor of safety. They’ve found plenty of allies on the American right for that project, but it’s one that shreds the humanistic and pluralistic ideals that many diaspora Jews, myself included, believe in.
All of this is coming at a time that has reminded many of us of the core lessons of Judaism: the importance of remembering what it’s like to be a stranger in a strange land, of knowing that bigotry takes whatever forms it requires to justify itself, of maintaining humanity amid struggle.
Peter Beinart is an associate professor of journalism and political science at the City University of New York. He’s also a columnist at the Atlantic and the Forward, a CNN contributor, and author of The Crisis of Zionism. He’s a thoughtful and courageous writer on these issues, and I’m grateful he joined me for this conversation.
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