Jews For The Preservation of Firearms Ownership, Inc.
P.O. Box 270143
Hartford, WI 53027
Phone (800) 869-1884
Fax (425) 451-3959
September 19, 1999
American Jews are Walking a Perilous Path
By Rabbi R. Mermelstein
POGO, a favorite comic strip of mine, is best remembered for the ominous one-liner, "We have met the enemy and it is us." The current frenzied political activities of the American Jewish Congress (http://www.ajcongress.org/pages/SEP99REL/sep99_02.htm) and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (http://www.rj.org/rac/issues/issuegc.html) are lifting Pogoís observation from newsprint to reality.
Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership has already responded to the American Jewish Congressí clamor for more "gun control," which I prefer to call victim disarmament (http://www.jpfo.org/filegen-a-m/ajc.htm). Not that I actually expected the AJC to reverse its position, but in my view silence is acquiescence. There are now over 20,000 laws, both at the federal and state levels, regulating every facet of the possession and use of firearms. America needs additional gun laws like a giraffe needs snow tires. Each individual has the right to agree or disagree with my assertion. The debate will not be won with logic from either side of the fence. While pro Second Amendment legal scholars advance arguments in support of our cause, the Bill of Rights destroyers make their appeals for victim disarmament with impassioned emotion. Right now I donít want to discuss "gun control" per se. For the Jewish people living in America, gun owners or not, an issue of greater urgency is evolving.
Who is the Real Enemy?
Letís be painfully frank, shall we? Jews in America are a minority group. In fact, we are one of the smallest minority groups. We make up for our small numbers by making a lot of noise, just like a single coin shaken in a tin can.
Historically, we place a high value on education. This cultural trait has elevated many of us to the loftiest echelons of government and the media. So, weíve hammered together a powerful soapbox from which to preach ideologies of all hues and shades. As a child present at large gatherings of people, my parents gave me seemingly endless admonishments -- "Remember your place!" In English, that meant for me to remember that I was not the centerpiece of attention. The adults did not come to see or hear me. Now, before anyone rises up in righteous indignation that I am equating Jews with children, take a deep breath and regain your composure.
A minority is a minority. A minority is, and should be, accorded every right and the same respect that the majority enjoys. This is America, folks. No one in America must live under a system of Apartheid or be assigned from birth to a caste, as in India. But, and this is a big "But", no minority group can posture itself as the mouthpiece of the majority. There are two reasons. First, and most obvious, is that a minority group engages in political activism from the vantage point of its own mores and traditions. The minorityís values might not match the majorityís values -- so speaking for the majority wouldnít make sense.
Second, when the minority attempts to influence the direction of the majority, the majority that holds a drastically divergent view may become hostile toward the minority for assuming it knows whatís best for all. A minority group that makes that assumption is rightly branded presumptuous and insolent. It makes not a whit of difference whether the issue in contention is "gun control" or tax cuts.
The minority groupís input is tolerated, even welcomed, because this is America! However, by using that sturdy soapbox weíve built with our grandiose college degrees and political positions, we Jews are running a very real risk of creating a polarized situation of them and us. This is precisely the cultural polarization that drove so many Jews to Americaís shores in the first place. The majorities in the countries of our origins thought we Jews were too "different," and not just religiously different. We were looked upon as unbearably different. And then it was time to pack our bags and move. As one correspondent put it, if the Jews in America arouse the angst of the American majority enough to cause serious polarization, then we will have brought it on ourselves (if we havenít already).
Assimilation is the Wrong Tack
The Bible, Numbers 23:9, says of the Jewish nation, "Behold, they are a people that shall dwell alone." For over 1,000 years this prophecy was fulfilled. In Ancient Israel, at the time of the compilation of the books of history and prophecy found in the Old Testament, the Jews were the majority. There were civil wars and tyrannical, idolatrous kings that tore apart the unity of the original twelve tribes (the descendants of the patriarch Jacob). But the Jews lived among themselves without many interactions with the people of the surrounding nations. Jews in America can continue without interference to live this prophecy by adhering to the millennia-old tenets of the Jewish faith and practicing the laws of our Torah.
The Great American Melting Pot is a half-baked notion. All Americans, of all faiths, would do well to stoke their respective cultural fires and keep their traditions alive and vibrant. Culture mixing into politics, though, stews a deadly brew.
The political framework of America was penned and ratified over 200 years ago. There is no provision in the United States Constitution for people tweaking with its basic structure just because it doesnít suit some particular groupís religious or cultural ideals. If American Jews choose a culture of willing victimhood, thatís their sickness and stupidity. Itís also their right! But to foist the willing victim mindset upon the majority and engage in political activism to make this idiocy the law of the land is beyond audacious. It is inviting the ultimate clash with a majority that doesnít much care for such insolence.
Is Jewish Political Activism Inappropriate?
Jews have been politically active in the US since the birth of the nation. At first, there was the chore of being recognized as solid Americans and not as an inferior class of citizens. With that success under our belts, our appetite for a fight sought new battles to wage. Seventy years ago, it was Jews who formed the American Civil Liberties Union to abolish the quota system used by the most prestigious universities to exclude otherwise worthy Jewish students. One organization formed to remove one social evil and succeeded. The achievement of that goal merely whetted the longing for further activism, and so Jews adopted other causes. Today many highly-placed Jews sincerely believe that without their keen insights and understanding of Americaís needs the nation would collapse in anarchy.
True evils and inequities spawned the origins of Jewish political activism-- institutions that today would not stand the scrutiny of the Constitution. We should salute the actions of those civic-minded men and women of history. They paved the road to advances in civil rights reform for all American minority groups. The founders of the ACLU were patriots fighting to make the Constitution a living document.
From 3,500 years of history, however, we Jews have failed to learn this key truth: plunging into secularism and abandoning our faith is the road to our undoing. The sages of the ancient Talmud, the vast compendium of the Jewish legal system dealing with all aspects of temporal life, emphasize the obligation of Jews to engage in tikkun olam -- "maintenance of the world."
This obligation doesnít mean getting involved in campaigns to save endangered animal species. It does mean continually campaigning to preserve Judaism. If worldly society is in a state of ruin, then there can be no hope of living to fulfill our primary obligation of practicing our faith. And this precisely is where the American Jewish Congress and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism deviate from the intent of tikkun olam.
Instead of engaging in matters to make America a safe haven to practice Judaism (which ought to be the goal of their political activism), these groups have taken to tampering with the very freedoms that drew Jews to America from the countries where anti-Semitic oppression made the practice of our faith difficult or impossible. Any organization that uses an association with Judaism for any cause other than the furtherance of Jewish practice is no better than a person with normal eyesight posing in public with dark glasses and a white cane to fraudulently collect charity. Such groups are perpetrating a hoax to benefit from public sympathies.
Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership is strenuously furthering the cause of Judaism and Jewish religious precepts. See the fuller discussion of this point at http://www.jpfo.org/filegen-a-m/fear.htm.
Maintaining Our World or Fouling Our Nest?
Volunteering my time to work for JPFO, I receive a heavy volume of e-mail. Most of it, happily, is encouraging. Much of this correspondence comes from people who just stumbled onto our web site at www.jpfo.org. JPFO does not ask the religious affiliation of anyone wishing to join. We have over 5,000 members, and growing. We have no idea how many of our members are Jewish, nor do we care. Oddly, nearly all those who write words of support and encouragement feel an obligation to preface their remarks with a statement that they arenít Jewish, as if it made any difference. JPFO is about the preservation of the entire Bill of Rights, and that great document applies to all Americans. Sadly, I receive my share of abusive and censorious e-mail as well. In every such case, without exception, the correspondent makes a point of telling me he or she is Jewish. Sadder still, the bulk of supportive letters comes from those identifying themselves as non-Jews, while all the denunciatory diatribes are written by Jews.
What is wrong with this picture? Perhaps I am reading too much into it, but the situation gives all the indications that these Jews are seriously out of sync with mainstream Americaóthe majority. Again and again, damn it, Jews are proving themselves to be unbearably "different," and it has nothing to do with our religious practices. Weíve exhausted the supply of countries displaying the social welcome mat.
Many educated and articulate Jews, and not only Jewish members of JPFO, earnestly believe that if liberal, self righteous Jews continue to loudly crusade for the disassembly of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, then we will find ourselves on the receiving end of another genocide. Do we label these worried Jews as paranoid? Certainly not -- the most basic knowledge of world history over the last millennium quite justifies this fear! Will the pens, personal computers, and wagging tongues of Bill of Rights destroying Jewish media and political kingpins win a one way ticket for us to move elsewhere -- and soon?
Now is the Time to Think Rationally
Some readers of this article might be suspecting that I am a rabid anti-Semite in a rabbi suit. The charge would be nonsense, but Iím not in the least offended by it. You see, defending the Bill of Rights, all of them, is my obligation as a Jew to be involved in tikkun olam, maintaining America as a safe haven for Jews. I have no desire, as one hateful person suggested, to "get on a plane and go back to Israel if I love playing so much with guns and turning our streets into rivers of blood." I was born an American, served in our Armed Forces, and still get a tingling sensation each time the "Star Spangled Banner" is sung at the start of a baseball game.
Modern enlightened Jewish leaders have praised America and offered thanks to G-d Almighty for the opportunity to live in a country where Jews are free to practice their faith without restrictions or oppression of any sort. These same leaders have likened America to the Golden Age of Judaism in 12th century Spain, the last such time Jews were so unfettered by a burdensome, anti-Semitic government. No nation on the globe can compare to America, even with all her imperfections. Spain, France, England, Germany -- all these countries were thought to be the Promised Land by Jews at the time, until the welcome mat was yanked away. Whether the Jews in those other countries were responsible for their eviction can be left for historians to argue. In America the Jewish minority has a home. What sane person would labor to destroy the Bill of Rights, the framework of this glorious abode?
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