Woke Antisemitism: How a Progressive Ideology Harms Jews by David L. Bernstein
A few thoughts circled around my mind as I read this book. One being “[…] as you have done shall be done to you; your recompense shall be returned upon your head.” – Obadiah 15, or in the more well-known verse in the West, “You reap what you sow.” From a secular perspective, this book is a modern figurative example of Frankenstein’s Monster and a multitude of Faustian bargains.
The author of this book gives different examples of Liberal concepts, from Intersectionality to Postmodern Philosophy, to CRT, that he agreed with at one point but started to push back on when it dawned on him that the consequence of these ideas in action would negatively affect him and the Jewish people.
I am not part of the Progressive Jewish community, I am an Orthodox Jew in the Chabad community, so this is an outsider’s opinion and perspective.
David and the other Progressive Jewish Organizations capitulated and stayed quiet to all the demands, bad ideas, etc., of the far-left ideologues exampled in the book, whose views are directly connected to Higher Education and Academia headed by mostly liberal professors and administrators. This, from a theological perspective, can be seen as Idol worship on a deeper level. This one-sided ideological/”rationalist” construct stands above the G-d of Israel.
He laments the loss of the Jewish ideal of “Argument for the Sake of Heaven.” However he still does not seem to understand how from the perspective of the ideology he is speaking about, that ideal can be seen as a power structure, so it can be summarily dismissed as part of the problem. Debate is a “white supremacist” ideal from their perspective. The person with the better argument has “more power”.
He speaks of Rabbis from the Reform and Reconstructionist movements within Judaism who also support these idols, never mind that they are directly opposed to the Torah. It is no surprise that these same denominations are losing members at an alarming rate. They have found a new secular religion that speaks to them louder than the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In essence, the old adage “Reform is a halfway house to assimilation” turned out to be true. (And I write that with great sadness)
These problems in the Progressive Jewish community and organizations will not be solved by Liberal groups that the Author is now trying to create. Why? Because Liberalism created the ideas and set the stage for progressivism and this new secular religion. Postmodern Neo-Marxism, as some have called it. John Locke, the father of Liberals, noted the same concern: Every individual “could have no law but his own will, no end but himself. He would be a god to himself, and the satisfaction of his own will the sole measure and end of all his actions”.
I think Yoram Hazony and Caroline Glick make a better counter argument about how to solve this issue. (In Yoram’s book “Conservatism: A Rediscovery”) Yoram Hazony makes the case that Liberalism cannot save itself from “Wokeism” because it created it and, at every turn, supported its growth until the “child” started to attack its parent. This is where we are now in 2023, and we have a fine example in David’s book of how that happened. Fortunately, many Jews are now clued in to all of this, and new organizations are being created that are not rooted in Liberal ideology. The Jewish Leadership Project is one among them.
To give David credit, he does acknowledge the problems he helped create. Still, from an Orthodox Jewish perspective, the genie is out of the bottle, and the broader Jewish community, especially Orthodox Jews who are easier to identify, will face the consequences.
In short, read this book if you are interested in learning how the Progressive religious and secular Jewish community helped create its own problem and is now trying to fight back when it’s already too late.
As for bigotry, racism, and power. We all hold the spark of G-d. We ought to treat each other, no matter what race, sex, orientation, etc, we are, with dignity, and respect as human beings and Divine Souls. The person with all the power is not automatically guilty, and evil, and the person with no power is not automatically innocent and good. That is a Jewish message to the world, we do not need one sided ideologies to add to what we already knew, and many have died for throughout history to protect and bring into the present.