JJ: A Jewish Apology to the World

So I came across this headline in the latest Jewish Journal.

I couldn’t believe it. A Jewish apology to the world? For what?

I had to read on.

The article was by Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, founder of Uri L’Tzedek.

He writes: “First, we owe an apology to all those who have suffered losses from our most recent scandals involving billions of philanthropic dollars. It has been shown that Jewish nonprofits are far behind non-Jewish nonprofits in public transparency, making it possible for a Ponzi scheme to emerge from within our midst.”

It has been shown by whom? The rabbi names no source. He just uses the passive voice as though his statement is self-evident. But is it self-evident? Is the rabbi an expert in non-profit transparency?

I don’t understand why Jews collectively should apologize for a tiny number of its group who are swindlers.

Can you imagine somebody writing an op/ed that American blacks owe a collective apology to the world for their community’s high rates of criminal violence, welfare dependency and illegitimate births? Such a request would be greeted with outrage.

Why shouldn’t this op/ed also be greeted with outrage? Why is it only OK to write this sort of thing about Jews?

Rabbi Yanklowitz writes: “Further, it is now clear that Agriprocessors — the former Iowa kosher meatpacking firm raided in 2008 for illegal practices — and countless other Jewish-owned companies have oppressed their workers, creating a problem that is now pervasive throughout our community. We owe an apology to the Guatemalan people and to a spate of other countries whose people have been abused in American Jewish factories while producing kosher products that we blindly consumed. We also owe an apology to some of the poorest tenants in buildings owned by Jewish landlords, who have often suffered exorbitant rent hikes, winters without heat and have been made victims of gentrification.”

I am unaware of anybody being forced to work for Agriprocessors. All its workers chose to work there voluntarily. None of them were held hostage at the point of a gun. All were free to leave any time. So too with tenants of so-called slumlords. They are free to leave at any time for a better deal.

When Agriprocessors shut down, did the lot of these illegal immmigrants improve? Were there abundant and high-paying and safe working opportunities elsewhere in the country? If so, why didn’t they take those jobs instead of working at Agriprocessors?

You can’t compare Jews to a mythically perfect standard. You can’t compare Agriprocessors to a perfect workplace that only occurs in dreams? You have to compare Jews and Agriprocessors to the alternatives. Everyone who worked at Agriprocessors considered that working there was a better deal than their alternatives.

How have Jewish-owned companies oppressed their workers? The rabbi presents no evidence that any of these workers were kidnapped and forced to work in slavery? Instead, they were all free to refuse their jobs, and once they took them, they could leave at any time.

If this is oppression, then the world is better off with more oppression. I guess for the rabbi, “oppression” means “opportunities with downsides.” But all opportunities have downsides. Every job, every person, is a blessing and a curse.

There’s nobody in your life who’s only a blessing and there’s no job you’ve ever held that was only a curse. Everyone and every job is a mixed bag. So long as people choose freely without physical coercion there is no oppression.

Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz writes: “On a global front, Israel has sometimes treated its minorities or neighbors without the full dignity they deserve. Additionally, only 65 years after the Holocaust, we have not done enough to try to stop the genocides in Darfur, the Congo and other countries around the world. And despite years spent studying the Bible and its imperative to care for the poor, we still have not become world leaders in alleviating poverty.”

Compared to whom have we done so poorly? What other tiny nation fighting for its survival has treated its minorities and neighbors with more dignity? Which group has done more than Jews to fight genocide in Darfur and the Congo? Which group has done more to alleviate poverty than the Jews?

Judging by this interview, Rabbi Yanklowitz is a big believer in “social justice.” Why doesn’t he just say “justice”? Because “social justice” is a code word for socialism, for top-down rule by enlightened elites such as the holy rabbi.

What does it say about the Jewish Journal that would choose to publish such a piece? Can you imagine them publishing such essays about other groups, such as blacks or gays?

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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