The Art of Not Giving a Jewish Damn
It's time for all Jews to accept that we will never win the never-ending game of trying to attract other people’s love.
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It’s time we Jews cut through the crap.
For decades, we’ve been told that being respectful, unassuming, and even quiet will make us more “acceptable” in societies where calling our population a “minority” is an overstatement.
To hell with being “accepted” and “acceptable.”
Yet, for decades, we’ve coddled our Jewish kids and grandkids with a let’s-all-feel-good mindset that has infected modern Judaism and spoiled at least one generation of Jews. When we raise kids to think that Judaism can be whatever they want it to be, and when we raise kids unaccustomed to facing adversity (i.e. antisemitism), the Jewish People are threatened.
To hell with this, too. By raising our kids in these “safetyism” environments, they come to think that antisemitism is on a spectrum between over-hyped and nonexistent, and they perceive the Jews as a people, not who have been historically oppressed, but who are currently the oppressors.
Israelis, do I mean? Those of us more educated know this antisemitic ploy all too well, the attempt to make a distinction between Israeli and non-Israeli Jews.
But many anti-Israel and apathetic Jews don’t realize that their anti-Zionist or uninterested positions will not shelter them from their Jewishness, no matter how religious or observant or Zionist they aren’t. Throughout our 4,000-year history — quite a substantial sample size, might I add — the Jews’ enemies have been abundantly clear: A Jew is a Jew is a Jew. The fine print is irrelevant.
That’s why we must be honest: Antisemitism didn’t go away after the Holocaust. It just morphed into something more socially defensible, like “anti-Zionism” and “anti-Israel.” Think about that for a second — the Jewish state is literally the world’s only country with the term “anti” prefixed to it. If this doesn’t explain at least half of Israel or Zionism’s supposed “problems,” may God bless your soul.
In the outside world, many non-Israeli Jews struggle by giving too many Jewish damns in situations where Jewish damns do not deserve to be given. We give a damn about whether or not to tell people we’re Jewish. We give a damn about exposing or hiding our Jewishness. We give a damn about not standing up for our true homeland (Israel) when we know we should. We give a damn about how Jewish (or not Jewish) to raise our kids.
Not giving a Jewish damn does not mean being indifferent about Judaism, Jewishness, or Israel. It means being genuinely comfortable with being Jewish, openly and proudly, without reservations.
When you don’t give a Jewish damn, you don’t care about people’s reactions to Judaism, Jewishness, and Israel, or about standing out from the anti-Zionist crowds, or about “woke” hogwash that tries to distort the Jewish experience as being part of an “oppressor class” — even though Jews have historically been oppressed for literally thousands of years. No, that’s not an exaggeration. Yes, that’s more than most modern-day countries have been around.
When you don’t give a Jewish damn, you know it’s right to not give a Jewish damn. You know it’s more important than you and your feelings and your pride and your needs. You know that being a good Jewish ancestor is what will ensure Jews have an easier place in this world, like we have today — despite all of the hatred, prejudice, discrimination, and double standards that are and will continue to be thrown our way.
When you don’t give a Jewish damn, you know that Jews, just a few generations ago, not to mention for centuries upon previous centuries, were not as lucky as we are today. Past generations of Jews either needed to be under-the-radar Jews, as a form of survival, or they aimed to assimilate, leaving Judaism and their Jewishness behind. Today, Jews can simultaneously be deeply Jewish and enjoy assimilated lives. We might call it a Jewish win-win.
Therefore, Jews who don’t give a Jewish damn know it is our duty, our responsibility, to nurture this privilege, to not take it for granted, so future generations of Jews can enjoy it as well. We have it good today because Jews of the past were not nearly as lucky or privileged. All in all, our pleasures and prospering are the results of their sacrifices and suffering. We don’t need to feel bad about this reality, but we surely ought to cherish it.
How else do Jews who don’t give a Jewish damn behave? They don’t give too many Jewish damns. They pick and choose their Jewish damns, because otherwise it’s easy to get carried away with all the Jewish hatred, prejudice, discrimination, and double standards that have almost always been and will continue to be intertwined with our mere existence.
To not give a Jewish damn is, for example, to read an article about all the unnerving Jew hate — and laugh a little. Do they really think we control the banks? Do they really think we’re leveling Gaza? Do they really think we run Hollywood? Is that why we get so many great Jewish movies every year?
If you find yourself consistently giving too many Jewish damns about all the Jewish misfortunes throughout the world, or about all the anti-Zionist bozos, chances are you’re looking at the Kiddish cup half empty. “Oy vah voy” as we say in Hebrew! Remember, being a good Jewish ancestor means nurturing the profound, plentiful, and in many cases unprecedented privileges that Jews have today.
Lastly, people who don’t give a Jewish damn have a deepening and unshakeable appreciation for Israel, no matter how imperfect or unappealing her politics, politicians, and policies may be at any given time. If hundreds of thousands of Israelis can take to the streets to protest their government’s actions, so can you.
We can debate whether Israel is overly nationalistic, overly conservative, overly militaristic, or overly hardened by its hostile and erratic neighbors. We can debate whether the State of Israel should do a better job of taking into account Jews in the Diaspora when making policy decisions. We can even debate whether Jewish self-sovereignty contradicts Palestinian self-sovereignty.
Trust me when I say that Israelis debate these topics all the time, both in times of peace and in times of war. As the saying goes: Two Jews, three opinions. Sometimes even four.
But what is not up for debate? The Jewish world, as a matter of fact, changed for better — a heck of a lot better — in 1948, when we formally reestablished Jewish self-sovereignty in our indigenous homeland.
Self-sovereignty is certainly not a walk in the park (just ask Palestinian leadership today and prior), but it is an unequivocally vital task for Jews who want to confidently practice any form of Judaism and tap into any sort of Jewishness, wherever they live in the world. And it is a task that needs every Jew to be engaged, to stay engaged, in order to help effectuate the type of Jewish state you want to see.
Right now, many Jews are understandably confused about October 7th and its aftermath, so allow me to provide some context: October 7th, 2023 largely occurred because of the failed Oslo Accords in the 1990s. The price Israelis have had to pay for the illusion of peace has been catastrophic, not to mention the side-effects that Jews across the world have subsequently experienced, especially during the last two months.
It is not just the October 7th horrors, nor just the hundreds kidnapped or the fallen soldiers. Since these unspeakable Palestinian terror attacks, millions of Israelis and their families have had their lives upended. The societal cost is beyond calculation, no less the skyrocketing rise of Jewish threats around the world, many of which have little to do with Israel.
In no short order, Israelis have had enough of more dead Jews as part of some naive attempt to be liked or accepted by the international community. If anyone wants peace with Israel — then let them have it — but not giving a Jewish damn means not playing games with those who don’t anymore.
Enough of the weeping mothers paying a price for the empty dreams of ignorant fools. No more allowing Palestinian day-workers to enter Israel under some mirage that we can “purchase” their peace. Enough of Israelis needing to justify every little military action against antisemites whose ambitions are on par with, if not worse than, the Nazis.
The Jews suffered the worst atrocity since the Holocaust on October 7th. Did it make any difference? Look around you at the hate and vitriol. Even in an hour of enormous grief, streets in the West are abound with people perverting the rights of free speech and “peaceful” protest.
They have chosen, loud and clear, to support genocidal terrorists, while calling for globalizing the intifada. This is not about Gaza or the Palestinians anymore. It’s about cursing Jews and intimidating Jewish communities.
Media outlets, for their part, have feebly attempted to draw moral equivalents and question Israel’s intentions — simply for defending itself against genocidal terrorists — while using the terrorist-run “Gaza Health Ministry” as a remotely reliable source for the number of Palestinian casualties.
At the same time, celebrities and influencers (who said nothing as millions died elsewhere) suddenly obsess over Israel and regurgitate the words of Palestinian terror groups’ spokesmen.
Make no mistake: The out-of-whack global attention levied at Israel is the very nature of antisemitism, yet even our most “prestigious” universities are effectively complicit in this Jew hate.
During the last few weeks, I’ve heard that some Jews are concerned about Jewish donors pressuring university administrations, thus giving Jews a “bad name.” When we donate, we are called out for using it to control. When we don’t, we are called stingy.
Enough already with caring what others do or don’t think about us. We will never win the never-ending game of trying to attract other people’s love. But we can still live proudly as Jews. We can own our identity and stand up straight, while stomaching the fact that a majority of societies simply cannot understand our minority experience. There’s a term for this. It’s called “hermeneutical injustice.”
Israel knows about “hermeneutical injustice” all too well. The Jewish state isn’t quite good enough for “the West” and definitely doesn’t fit into “the East” — and, by extension, the Middle East. Even then, the Israelis have tried over and over again to make peace with the Palestinians. The start of the Oslo Accords in 1993 was another iteration at this attempt, but it was a trap.
How so? In return, all Israel received was terrorism mainly targeted at civilians. Some 700 of them were killed in the Second Intifada, which took place immediately after the 2000 Camp David Summit, another Israeli attempt at peace.
Most Israelis have painfully realized that there is no partner for peace, since the Palestinians have no leader that can deliver on any promises, let alone make them. It’s time the rest of the world’s Jews, and our non-Jewish family and friends, to accept this uncomfortable truth as well.
Continuing to live in a fairy tale of a possible two-state solution only means, at least for now, sacrificing more Jewish life on the altar of illusions and distortions. If one day the Palestinians want a true and lasting peace, let them come to us.
You think the world will hate us if we draw these lines in the sand? Look around you, they hate us anyway. All we can do now is not give a Jewish damn.