Our connection or allegiance to one group does not create a force field against claims that might sting or go against the grain of our identity.
This subject has risen to the surface, again, as our very own congressman, Josh Gottheimer (D-Dist. 5) was the victim of an antisemitic slur. While promoting an infrastructure agenda bill with Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo this past September, a bystander yelled out “Jew” at the congressman. This verbal attack was heard by a few people, including the commerce secretary. The Secret Service protecting the secretary expressed concern for Congressman Gottheimer’s safety after hearing this comment.
Sadly, being targeted with hate is nothing new for Jewish people, but this case has a strange twist. The crowd of people that were jeering Gottheimer were from the Working Families Party of New Jersey, a left-leaning group that had expressed upset with the Democratic congressman for some legislative decisions he has made. The verbal attack of “Jew” came from within that crowd of people.
This group has denied uttering the slur, has taken no responsibility for the verbal attack, and hides behind a fake wall of protection that says in an unspoken manner that if they are left leaning and liberal, they inherently cannot hate.
That is not true.
The Working Families Party have gone to great lengths to deny the allegations and claim innocence instead of seeking forgiveness from the victim, which could have put this situation to bed.
Hate happens across races, genders, orientations, and even political parties. We have seen it in from the Big House to the State House and even the White House, regardless of the team or occupants of those places.
A Black woman can be a racist.
An elderly man can be ageist.
A gay person can be a homophobe.
A Jewish person can be anti-Semitic.
A political affiliation or born-into orientation does not absolve someone from doing wrong. Being left-leaning or liberal does not make you impervious to accusations of hate or offense. The Working Families Party naively thinks that by caring about the downtrodden and the less fortunate and those who are victims in life, inherently they or anyone affiliated with them could not do something hateful. That is the same thinking of some left-leaning congresspeople who make insinuations about money, Israel, and influence, but claim protection from wrongdoing since they are self-proclaimed advocates of the sufferers.
Further to this point, we live in a culture that finds someone guilty before a trial occurs and punishes before explanations can be offered. A person is accused of wrongful behavior, and they are cancelled. No investigations. No litigation. Their income and celebrity are no more. Yet when a reputable and respected congressman claims an antisemitic slur was cast upon him, he is not believed, and his remarks are called untruthful.
The hypocrisy is thick. That is either because antisemitism is held to a different standard than any other accusation or because some people believe that if they are part of a particular political stripe, they are exempt from wrongdoing and accusation.
Congressman Gottheimer is the victim of an antisemitic slur. The Working Families Party should unequivocally condemn the action of whoever chanted this and distance themselves from anyone who espouses any form of hate. This will allow the WFP and Congressman Gottheimer to move forward with their important work of shaping the world our children will soon inherit.
David-Seth Kirshner is senior rabbi of Temple Emanu-El of Closter, immediate past president of the New York Board of Rabbis, and the president of the North Jersey Board of Rabbis.