“Two Jews—three opinions.”
“I belong to two shuls: One I go to and one I wouldn’t step foot in.”
I could keep this up for pages. The point is that Jews are complicated. We are not one size fits all. We are diverse. When discussing “the” Jewish opinion, we can speak anecdotally or statistically, but not universally.
In the fall, I want to roll out some program ideas for teaching us how to civilly speak with each other on the difficult topics about which we disagree. But for today, I want to highlight one of those topics that is tearing our community apart—intersectionality, or more specifically, how we choose which causes intersect.
In 1989 Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw used the term intersectionality “to describe how race, class, gender, and other individual characteristics intersect with one another and overlap.” Today’s use has been expanded to include sexual orientation, gender identity, refugee status, and a host of other attributes. Via intersectionality, the plight of the Palestinians has intersected with the challenges of other groups creating a wave of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, leaving American Jewry to either pick a side or get stuck in the crosshairs.
Jews care about social-justice issues. We are commanded to give charity, li-taken the olam, and to care for the stranger. Jewish Federation of Greater Miami immediately mobilized to collect emergency assistance funds for those affected by the Surfside building collapse yesterday. You may donate here. We helped start and fund the civil rights movement. We marched in Selma. We value the lives of African Americans. Israel was the first (only?) country to bring thousands of blacks out of Africa without making them slaves. Israel rescued Mizrachi Jews from Arab lands to bring them to safety in Israel. The idea that Black Lives Matter proponents have identified the plight of the Palestinians as intersecting their own plight has been challenging for many Jews.
Tel Aviv’s Pride Parade returned today after last year’s COVID cancellation with an expected 250,000 attendees. Meanwhile, according to Amnesty International, “Gaza criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity and makes it punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment.” And yet, Jews carrying Jewish pride flags were banned from the 2019 D.C. Dyke March because their flag looked too much like an Israeli flag and Israel represents oppression, and Palestinian flags were allowed. Yasher koach to my colleague (and fellow Lehigh alumnus) Ethan Felson, Executive Director of A Wider Bridge, on the creation of a new inclusive Jewish Pride Flag to be waved in pride parades. For Ethan, LGBTQIA and Zionism intersect. #WeRefuseToChoose.
These issues are incredibly complex for most of us and pretty easy to misstep, causing anxiety and hurt and growing rifts in our Jewish community. For me, I’m going to continue intersecting with Israel.