Passover, which begins on Monday night, is the festival of freedom.
The holiday reminds us of the brutal enslavement of the Jews by Pharaoh and the Egyptians. We recall their midnight flight from Egypt, pursued by the mighty Egyptian army, and God’s miraculous rescue of the Jews at the shores of the Red Sea. We remember how Moses led them for 40 years in the desert, and taught them what it means to be a nation, and what it means to be free.
We repeat the story of enslavement, flight, redemption and freedom each year at Passover, because our sages wanted to ensure that we never forget the value of freedom, and remain vigilant in our fight for it.
In Israel, where our freedom is physically threatened, most Jews understand and live by the lessons of Passover.
But something is happening to the Jews in America.
More and more, every day we see American Jews embracing intellectual bondage. We see American Jewish leaders embracing the intolerant, who seek to constrain freedom, and shunning those who fight for freedom and the rights of Jews and other threatened peoples and groups.
To a large degree, this rejection of the lessons of the Exodus among the American Jewish community reflects the growing intolerance and tyranny of the political Left, to which most American Jews pledge their allegiance.
With increasing frequency, leftist groups and leaders in the US are openly acting to deny freedom of expression to their political and ideological foes, and to destroy the lives of people who oppose their dogma.
For instance, last week we saw the growing tyranny of gay activists. Under assault from homosexual thought police, the Mozilla Corporation of Firefox browser fame fired its CEO Brendan Eich because he once contributed $1,000 to a campaign to block the legalization of homosexual marriage in California.
Eich’s firing was only the latest assault by gay rights bullies on private citizens who oppose their goals. The aim of these assaults is to silence all opposition to their agenda using the tools of social ostracism and intellectual terror.
Young Americans now embrace intellectual and social tyranny in the name of “liberal” values. In an op-ed in The Harvard Crimson, undergraduate Sandra Korn celebrated the eclipse of academic freedom in favor of what she called “justice.” Korn called for censoring conservative voices for their “offensive” views.
She also embraced the anti-Jewish hate movement popularly known as BDS (boycotts, divestments and sanctions of the Jewish state) as a good way to promote “justice” at the expense of freedom.
In Korn’s conflation of conservative voices with Zionist voices and insistence on delegitimizing and silencing both due to the “offense” they cause to “right thinking” thought enforcers like herself we see the central role that Jew hatred and the denial of Jewish freedom plays in the new wave of mass rejection of reason in favor of passions and hatred.
Sadly, many parts of the organized American Jewish community have embraced leftist tyranny and discrimination.
In 2008, the New York UJA-Federation teamed up with the Jewish Council on Public Affairs and forced the Council of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations to disinvite then-US vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin from addressing a rally opposing then Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad while he addressed the UN General Assembly.
To ensure that Palin would be denied the right to speak, the New York UJA-Federation and the JCPA threatened that her appearance would jeopardize the tax exempt status of the Conference of Presidents and other major Jewish organizations.
It may very well be that this threat was the first instance of leftists threatening prejudicial IRS investigations against their political foes as a means of ensuring obedience to their agenda.
The Palin affair was a rarity in the community. This isn’t because voices of staunch Zionists are usually accepted. Rather it is because such voices are ignored and shunned as a general practice by the major American Jewish organizations, in New York and elsewhere.
Palin’s invitation was an oversight.
While fervent Zionists are silenced, post-Zionists and anti-Zionists are legitimized and staunchly defended.
Six years after Palin was brutally disinvited, in the name of cultivating a “wide tent,” the same New York UJA-Federation and JCPA invited anti-Israel organizations that support the boycott of Jewish Israeli businesses to take part in the annual pro-Israel parade.
Three such organizations, Partners for a Progressive Israel, the New Israel Fund and B’Tselem all call for a boycott of Jewish businesses operating beyond the 1949 armistice lines. All three groups have played roles in mainstreaming the BDS movement.
In Israel, the public understands that boycotts are about mainstreaming hatred and bigotry just as much as they are about economic strangulation. That is why in 2011 the Knesset passed the anti-boycott law which allows all Israeli entities to sue groups calling for boycotts against them for civil damages, and bars such groups from participating in state tenders.
But in the American Jewish community, these groups are defended and legitimized.
Disgusted at their community leadership’s double standard of tolerance and support for foes of Israel and intolerance for supporters of Israel, a consortium of organizations and synagogues organized a protest against the inclusion of anti-Israel organizations in the Israel Day Parade.
After weeks of protests in the press and on social media sites, on Tuesday some 200 people demonstrated outside the UJA-Federation building in New York and demanded that the boycott supporters and abettors be shunned.
It was an important act of defiance.
The group includes such stalwart organizations as Americans for a Safe Israel, Americans for Peace and Tolerance, the Endowment for Middle East Truth, JCC Watch, the National Conference on Jewish Affairs, and the National Council of Young Israel.
These groups have joined together in the past to protest against UJA-Federation funding of institutions such as the 92nd Street Y and the New York JCC, which have provided platforms for Jew-haters and BDS supporters.
Their protest was vital. It would be a tragedy if the thuggish behavior of the Jewish community leaders went unopposed. But it is hard to see how the protesters can change the situation.
The rot runs deep.
Consider Brandeis University’s craven and intolerant administration.
Brandeis was founded as a traditionally Jewish university in 1948, the year that Israel was established.
But whereas Israel has remained faithful to its sovereign duty to cultivate and defend Jewish freedom and engender a liberal democracy, over the years, Brandeis has largely abandoned its mission of standing up to intolerance, and protecting Jewish rights and those of other threatened groups.
Case in point is its obscene treatment of Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Hirsi Ali is a former Muslim who suffered genital mutilation as a child in Somalia and at age 21 fled to Holland to avoid a forced marriage.
After liberating herself, Hirsi Ali could have settled into a quiet European life. Instead, she dedicated her life to championing the rights of women and girls in Islamic societies.
For the past decade, Hirsi Ali has lived under an Islamic death sentence for her work. She can go nowhere without bodyguards.
In 2006, despite her membership in the Dutch parliament, Hirsi Ali was forced to flee to the US, when the Dutch government refused to continue to protect her.
In the US, as in Holland, she continues to campaign for the rights of women and girls in Islamic society.
Most recently, she was the executive producer of a new documentary film called Honor Diaries, which describes the plight of Muslim women and girls living in societies where they risk murder at the hands of their family members if they refuse to live in abject humiliation and submission to the misogyny of Islamic law.
Several months ago, Brandeis offered to confer an honorary doctorate on Hirsi Ali for her work on behalf of women and girls.
When the leftist and Muslim thought police in the Brandeis student body and faculty got wind of the university’s plan to honor her, they joined forces with the Council on American-Islamic Relations to force the administration to cancel the honorary degree.
CAIR claims to be a Muslim civil rights group. And yet, the group that purports to care about the civil rights of Muslims is waging a nationwide campaign to bar screenings of Honor Diaries, at universities around the country.
When Fox News’s intrepid host Megyn Kelly asked CAIR leaders this week how they can object to a film that seeks to help Muslims, they said they don’t have a problem with its content. They object to the fact that it was produced by Jews (also known as “Islamophobes”).
Far from being a civil rights group, CAIR is a pro- Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood organization. It was an unindicted co-conspirator in the Hamas financing trial against the Holyland Foundation.
And yet, on Wednesday, Brandeis sided with CAIR and the thought police, against Hirsi Ali. Brandeis canceled its plan to confer its honorary doctorate on her.
And just as is the case with the New York UJA-Federation and the JCPA, Brandeis has no problem with double standard. As Daniel Mael, a Brandeis senior, noted in an interview with Breitbart, in 2006 Brandeis conferred an honorary degree on playwright and screenwriter Tony Kushner, the outspoken foe of Israel. Kushner has claimed that Israel’s establishment was a “mistake,” and that “it would have been better if Israel never happened.” His work, particularly the film Munich, is replete with demonization of Israel and of the notion of Jewish power.
Mael noted that at the time, then-Brandeis president Jehuda Reinhartz defended his decision to honor Kushner by arguing, “Mr. Kushner is not being honored because he is a Jew, and he is not being honored for his political opinions. Brandeis is honoring him for his extraordinary achievements as one of this generation’s foremost playwrights, whose work is recognized in the arts and also addresses Brandeis’s commitment to social justice.”
In other words, Brandeis’s commitment to “social justice” involves shunning defenders of Muslim women and girls and celebrating foes of the Jewish state, which ensures Jewish freedom.
The work of activists like Mael, and of the trenchant demonstrators in New York is extremely important. But it is hard to be optimistic about the future freedom of America in general or of the Jewish community. Aside from the National Council of Young Israel, no major American Jewish organization agreed to sponsor the protesters’ call for pro-BDS groups to be disinvited from the Israel Parade.
When the leaders of the Jewish American community – like their fellow leftists – side with forces of intolerance and discrimination and against Israel’s stalwart defenders and opponents of the oppression endemic in Islamic societies, it does not bode well for the future.
It is my holiday prayer that on Monday night, they will remember that Passover is not about eating matza. It is about the price of freedom, and why that price is worth paying.