My Three-Hour Interview With Intellectual Stephen Steinlight

Part Two

JTA covered Stephen Steinlight’s latest controversy April 5:

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The leading Jewish pro-immigration group is attempting to discredit its most outspoken opponent in the Jewish community by attempting to link his employer to a white nationalist.

HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, issued a media release hailing a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center that seeks to tie several organizations, including the Center for Immigration Studies, to John Tanton — a retired Michigan opthalmologist who the law center says supports white nationalist ideas and has long carried on correspondence with key leaders in the white nationalist movement.

Dr. Steinlight describes himself thus on (implanted links into his bio are mine):

Hi! I’m Dr. Stephen Steinlight. I’m Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, DC.  I spent an interesting (in the Chinese sense) eight years as Director of National Affairs at the American Jewish Committee and worked for several other not-for-profits, including as Director of Education at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, Vice President of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, and Executive Director of the American Anti-Slavery Group.

I grew up in Sopranos country in northern New Jersey, went to James Caldwell High School in Caldwell, and was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Columbia College, Columbia University, where I received a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship and Kellett Fellowship at graduation. This made up for the several arrests and beatings I endured during my radical days in SDS when I was on the Strike Coordinating Committee when we seized the university (all too briefly) in 1968. I needed to get out of America for a time, and I did my doctorate as a Marshall Scholar at the University of Sussex in England.

I then spent 17 years as a professor of Victorian Studies at several places, including the School of Graduate English at NYU. I mostly loved it, but one autumn arrived, the leaves turned and Matthew Arnold and Company no longer beckoned to me. It was time to leave one non-reality for another, and that’s when I entered the not-for-profit zoo. I’ve written lots of things, including quot;The Fractious Nation? Unity and Disunity in Contemporary American Life" (UC-Berkeley Press).

I am so bloody wonderful I was made a Fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and I’m now an Associate Fellow of Timothy Dwight College, Yale University, which permits me to hang out with smart Yale faculty types, drink heavily and listen to good speakers and occasionally the Tokyo String Quartet. One of the most courageous men of my time, I was a member of a team of conflict resolution experts sent to Macedonia by the Soros Open Society Institute and the US Conference on Peace to help preserve the ceasefire in that country’s civil war. (I never flinched at gunfire and told my colleagues, "Stand behind me: I’m bullet proof." Just remembered it was Rommel who said that. Whatever.)

The best thing in my life without question are my two brilliant, kind, loving, and beautiful daughters, Emily (28), newly married and a Ph.D candidate in English at Brown, and Alexandra, a history/government major who will be graduating from Wesleyan University this year.  (I confess to paganism: I worship the ground they walk on.)

Though I works for a DC-based think tank I don’t like DC (too much a company town) and as the Executive Director of my outfit likes me I am very sensibly allowed to reside in NYC, going down to DC for conferences, lobbying and when I’m called as a witness at Congressional hearings. I dabble in art (I was a member of the Art Student’s League where I was good enough to know I wasn’t good enough) and love chamber music, swimming,the ocean, hiking, and travel, and just hanging out with good friends. I am a dyed-in-the-wool Zionist and have been to Israel many times and speak Hebrew.

I suppose it’s mandatory to add that I am a lover of Tuscany and Umbria, gentle, elegantly handsome, sensual, and a womanist. I’m very funny — relentlessly so (even humorless people manage the stray half-smile), and I find humor in just about anything –excluding enormities. I must confess to finding terminally politically correct people insufferable.

My politics are difficult to describe other than to say I’m "post-ideological" and despise all "isms," group think and superficial intellectual fashionability. I remain progressive on some issues, less so on others. I take my political stands on issues rather than as a function of party loyalty.

Oh — almost forget to mention it — I’m Jewish though not especially observant. I’d define my Jewishness largely as a matter of culture and a set of predilections and assumptions about the nature of the world, the great questions that will always vex us and people that derive significantly from a Jewish historical consciousness. I suspect this mini-bio makes me sound like a pompous ass. You’ll have to trust me when I say I’m not.

I interviewed Dr. Steinlight for two hours and 40 minutes Friday afternoon.

Luke: "Stephen, when you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?"

Stephen: "When I was very little, I wanted to be a garbageman. I wanted to drive one of those big trucks. When I got a little older, I toyed with the idea of going into the diplomatic service. I used to read all of those Praeger books about foreign affairs, but unfortunately, at the time I was going off to university, the Vietnam war broke out and I got involved in the anti-war movement, so working in the diplomatic service was no longer an option."

Luke: "What’s been your relationship with Judaism? What level of observance were you raised with if any?"

Stephen: "Oh, lots. Lots. First, I grew up in a Zionist Hebrew-speaking home. My family was long involved in the Zionist movement. Two of my great uncles fought in the British legion for Palestine. My mom and her brothers and her mother and her grandmother went to Palestine in the 1920s and helped lay the stones for Tel Aviv. They lived there for years. I was raised in an observant kosher Conservative Jewish home and I went to Camp Ramah for ten summers. People think that Osama Bin Laden’s training camps make devotees. I can tell you that Camp Ramah really does.

"I absolutely loved it. I started out in bunk number one. I ended up being a director on the waterfront taking people out on canoe trips in Camp Ramah, Canada.

"I speak Hebrew almost fluently. I spent two summers working on a kibbutz in Israel. My Judaism is very firmly rooted. One of my brother-in-laws is a Reform rabbi. I was very much immersed in Jewish culture in a general sense of Yiddishkeit. We were on the secular side of some people but very very deeply imbued in Jewish values and certainly observing all of the holidays and again Hebrew was very very important and a sense of Jewish peoplehood was really a great foundation of my bringing up."

Luke: "What are Jewish values?"

Stephen: "I don’t know. That’s a very good question. Some of it sounds terribly prosaic but I think a sense that the purpose of life is service. I was never taught that what mattered was to make money. My mother was a teacher. My father was a civil servant. The notion that I had a responsibility to the community. The notion that justice was what defined a life worth leading. The notion of loyalty to my peoplehood and to my country as an American. My dad was an immigrant. I’m a first-generation American. That was an important piece of the puzzle. I grew up in a town in New Jersey that now has tons of Jews but when I lived there, we were among the only Jews in town. Everyone else was ‘normal’ and we were seen as different and strange and ethnic. There was a separation that was in some sense enforced, but I felt a deep sense of allegiance to things that went beyond the every day.

"I became aware at an early age of the Holocaust through watching the Eichmann trial on television, going off to Israel on my own as a teenager…

"I shared allegiances with classmates, we were all Americans, but I was the strongest one in support of civil rights. I know that that came very very much from being Jewish."

"I’m 61. In some ways, Jews of my generation were Americanized through the Civil Rights movement."

Luke: "I want to challenge you on one thing simply as an invitation to get you to elucidate more. You mentioned that your involvement with civil rights grew out of your Jewish values. It’s curious that the most Jewish of Jews, which I will say are the Orthodox, have been and are the least involved with civil rights while those Jews who have been the most involved in pushing for civil rights have been the least involved Jewishly. How do you understand that?"

My question is based on an essay by conservative historian and Orthodox Jew Dr. Edward Shapiro (father of historian and rabbi Marc B. Shapiro):

…If support for blacks is an ineluctable result of Jewish values, then one would expect that the most Jewish of American Jews — the Orthodox of Brooklyn — would be the most sympathetic towards blacks. The exact opposite, however, is true. Secure in their Jewish identity, they do not require close relations with blacks to define it. Their Jewishness rests on more substantial grounds.

…If the most Jewish of Jews are the least receptive to blacks, the Jews most supportive of blacks have often been alienated from Jewish culture and religion. (pg. 240)

…One can imagine the psychological impact on blacks of Eric Hoffer’s comparison of blacks and Jews. The example of Jews, Hoffer wrote, “shows what persistent striving and a passion for education can do…even in the teeth of discrimination. This is a fact which the Negro vehemently rejects. It sticks in his gullet… The Jew impairs the authenticity of the Negro’s grievances and alibis. He threatens the Negro’s most precious possession: the freedom to fail.”

…Jews needed blacks to authenticate their image of themselves as liberals, but blacks did not need Jews to authenticate their image of themselves as blacks. (pg. 243)

Blacks have resented Jews not because they did not do enough for them but because they did too much. (pg. 244)

In academia there is not one black scholar, apart from Julius Lester, a convert to Judaism, whose major field of interest is Jewish studies.

Stephen: "I would challenge your definition of Jewish. You are defining Jewish in terms of religious observance. I don’t believe that Judaism can be defined in one way or another in exclusion of other forms. I go with Mordechai Kaplan’s notion that Judaism is a civilization. The civilization is composed of many parts — peoplehood, ethics, religious observance… The American Jewish Committee does an annual survey of how it is that Jews define themselves as Jewish and they [give] them such choices as peoplehood, the pursuit of justice, Israel, and religion. Religion comes in last every time. What comes in first is peoplehood and what comes in second is a sense of justice.

"I do not accept the notion that Orthodox Jews are more Jewish than I am or that any Orthodox rabbi is more Jewish than my Reform Jewish brother-in-law who is a rabbi, or more knowledgeable for that matter. I reject that claim completely. In fact, in many ways, I find it the most intellectually confined form of Judaism and the one that has produced in some respects the least interesting thought."

"It strikes me as extremely presumptuous on the part of Orthodox Jews to say of other Jews, ‘We are less Jewish than you.’ By what standard? If you want to make religious observancy the be-all and end-all, yes, that’s true."

"…I would’ve thought that the pursuit of justice is equally important as keeping kosher, for example, or shaking a lulav or sniffing an etrog, which strike me for the most part as in the end really rather quaint and in the great scheme of things, terribly unimportant."

Luke: "Do you ever question what you just said or is that like set in stone at Sinai for you in its definitiveness?"

Stephen: "No, it is not set in stone, Luke. Like many Jews, I grew up in Camp Ramah. I can daven everything by heart. There is part of me that always remains a seeker. There’s part of me that responds very powerfully to prayer and I would define myself certainly not as an atheist. I guess I am an agnostic looking for the Jewish God.

"If I sounded glib, please forgive me, I only felt a little offended by what struck me as a tone of superiority, and it’s a tone that I frequently encounter from Orthodox Jews. It bothers me especially when jokes like that are made about Reform rabbis. My brother-in-law is one of the most brilliant and knowledgable men I know and when people make these idiotic jokes about Reform rabbis not knowing as much Judaism as Orthodox rabbis, it’s just preposterous."

"I understand the importance of observancy and I understand it is important for the survival of the Jewish people that certainly a core of people remain faithful to these things but I don’t think that means all of us are required to express our Judaism in the same way. Let a thousand blossoms bloom. There are many ways in which one can be faithful to one’s Judaism on a basis of equality. It’s really the notion that one can be equally Jewish that is important to me.

"Look, there are plenty of Orthodox Jews who refuse to accept Israel’s existence. When I marched in the Israel parade, I watched Orthodox Jews wave Palestinian flags. I regard those people as traitors. In what way are they Jewish? There are ultra-Orthodox Jews who believe that a dead rabbi in Brooklyn is the Messiah. To me, those people are heretics. They are people who look like Jews but really aren’t Jews.

"I’m not minimizing nor showing disrespect for Orthodox practice, I just would like Orthodox Jews not to show disrespect for those of us who show a very strong sense of our Judaism but which doesn’t necessarily express itself in saying the Amidah 20 times a day."

Luke: "Why would you care what Orthodox Jews think about the authenticity of your Judaism?"

Stephen: "Only because you asked me. Actually, I don’t tend to think about it very much. When it comes up, it annoys me, just the way when you walk into a subway car and someone throws an elbow at me, I react to it. But no, I don’t waste any time worrying about this. It offends me when the issue is raised. That’s all. It’s not something that engages me. Among the issues that matter in my life, it would be down to 10,321 or something. It really is a very unimportant issue for me."

Luke: "I’m doing a survey of American Jewish literature where I’ve interviewed about 30 plus novelists on American-Jewish themes and one thing that struck me when I interviewed many of the secular novelists is that they’d say things like, ‘When I walk through an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, I often wonder if they think I am Jewish.’

"I’m Orthodox. I’m a convert.

"I’m struck because I’ve never noticed much concern among the Orthodox over what the non-Orthodox think of them while I hear all the time when I interview non-Orthodox Jews, they’re constantly referencing how they feel the Orthodox are judging them."

Stephen: "It’s hard to react… I live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. This is a Jewish neighborhood. Increasingly, there are a lot of young Modern Orthodox people living here. This used to be the bastion of secular Jewish liberalism. Now it is a much more mixed neighborhood. I do notice, for example, every once in a blue moon when I need to visit the Judaica shop on Broadway (to replenish my yarmulke supply when I’m off to do some speaking in Conservative shuls)  that the Orthodox guys who are in there really do give me a disdainful look. There’s no question about it. They barely make eye contact. There’s a want of basic civility. This is not some neurotic over-reaction on my part… I think it’s there. There’s this sense of who are you and what are you and what are you doing here. This is not an irrational or neurotic reaction. Anybody, anyone would recognize that what I am reacting to is genuinely occurring… This Judaica shop on Broadway on the Upper West Side just drips with hostility to Jews who are secular and who don’t walk in with yarmulkes on their head."

Luke: "Do you feel most comfortable with the Conservative movement of Judaism?"

Stephen: "No. I grew up as a Conservative Jew. Over the last years, I have mostly attended my brother-in-law’s temple. He’s now an emeritus rabbi. At the moment, I’m unchurched. I just look for places on the holidays. I don’t pray on a daily or weekly basis. I’m a sorta holiday Jew. I’ve spent most of the last years in a Reform congregation…that uses a great deal of Hebrew and uses a lot of the melodies that I am familiar with. It’s not high-church Reform. I’ve got a sister who works at Yale who is president of her frum Conservative congregation. It’s very nice but the services for me are interminably long. The tallises (prayer shawls) are getting bigger and bigger. I feel like I am in Tehran with the tallises over the heads and all that. It feels a little alien.

"I spend a lot of time in shuls because I speak about immigration to Jews. I spend a lot of Shabboses in shuls. It ended up being part of the job. There’s not really a whole lot to choose. I can’t stand three-and-a-half hour services with very little English. On the other hand, I can’t stand 25-minute Reform services with no Hebrew. I’m fairly ecumenical in where I am ritually comfortable."

Luke: "As someone who has been in a lot of shuls, what have you noticed is inspiring Jews to be Jewish? What is working and not working?"

Stephen: "Things are not working well in the Reform and Conservative movements. That’s clear. You don’t need me to tell you that. All the data is there. Conservative Judaism in particular is in a crisis. It was overtaken years ago in terms of numbers by Reform Judaism. I don’t think it ever figured out what it was."

"All mainline religions are experiencing tremendous loss in this society. Mainline Protestantism is basically dead. With Roman Catholicism, they are losing out to evangelical and rapturous versions of Christianity. Reform and Conservative Judaism are having the same problems as Presbytereans and Methodists. They’re having problems attracting young people… The rabbis have grown up in the social justice tradition and are weak on the ritual side. The younger Jews tend to be more spiritually inclined. They find the experience inside a lot of Reform and Conservative places unsatisfying. Reconstructionist Judaism I can’t speak authoritatively about except to say that it has provided a way to be Jewish for a lot of gay Jews. My experience in Reconstructionist settings has been mostly negative because they are so violently autonomically politically leftist. I find myself lost in that setting."

"I see in my neighborhood on Shabbos all these young attractive Jews going to [Orthodox] shuls and enjoying the Shabbos. The only movement that seems to be alive these days is Modern Orthodoxy. Obviously it is providing some sort of spiritual answer.

"Younger Jews tend to be politically more conservative. There’s a direct correlation between religious observancy and greater political conservatism across the board in all religions.

"Broadly speaking, we have the bowling alone phenomenon. People aren’t joiners. That includes young Jews for the most part. I’m delighted to see these young people go to Modern Orthodox shuls because I want people to remain Jewish… When I think of my own family, most young people don’t tend to be involved. I’m tremendously disturbed by the strong falling away of any strong tie to Israel that one feels among young Jews.

"The reasons are probably obvious — the university culture, what they’re getting from their professors and from the general environment, which is occidentalist and anti-American, which sees Israel as the marauding dog and the Palestinians as the oppressed. This culture of aggrievement. Israel’s fairing badly. These young Jews are pretty ignorant. They don’t know how to defend themselves. They’re easily convinced by hostile arguments."

Luke: "How do you decide what is right and wrong?"

Stephen: "I’ve had a very good education. I’ve read a lot of good literature and good philosophy. My own upbringing. I’ll often go talk to my brother-in-law who’s a rabbi when I am in a moral quandary. I rely like everyone else does on experience. I try to employ reason and to look at a situation with utilitarian ethics. I take a great deal of time weighing situations. I don’t come to situations with ideological presuppositions. I don’t believe in isms. When I was younger, I did. I try to look at issue each separately… I’m a great believer in knowing things. One of the things that is so appalling about the nature of discourse and debate, one feels that people have no notion that knowing things is important in coming to a conclusion. From 20 years as a university professor, I believe in doing research. I believe in reading things that I don’t agree with weighing things with great care. I don’t come to positions quickly or easily… I’ve probably learned more ethics reading Middlemarch than any other book in my life. Maybe my answer is insufficient for you because I am not saying the Tanach. I can do Hebraics pretty well when I have to. It’s not the first thing I turn to."

"I find myself amused when I go speak at synagogues, particularly Reform synagogues, when my worst antagonist is invariably the rabbi who will often interrupt what I’m saying and will jump on me and who has only three things to say — we were immigrants, he will tear Leviticus 19:33 totally out of context, and then say that anyone who disagrees with him is a nativist. And then he’s finished because he has nothing else to say.

"And then I will start posing questions. I’ve gone so far as to give congregational rabbis a ten-point quiz on immigration policy to show how ignorant they are.

"I’m a great believer in reading books. I tell people, come back when you have read this and we’ll have a conversation. I used to be a professor and students would want to talk about something and I would say, go away and read.

"I did my graduate work in England and I taught in England, where you have tutorials. You say to someone, you don’t know what you are talking about. Here are four books. Come back in four weeks. Let’s have a conversation.

"I don’t think that ethics can be separated from knowledge."

Luke: "The rabbinic response you elucidated, I would call it blithering idiocy."

Stephen: "That’s the gist of it."

Luke: "What do you think that blithering idiocy says about the wisdom of those rabbis in areas outside of immigration policy?"

Stephen: "My guess is that they don’t have any.

"The horrible day that we all have when we discover that the New York Times is a rag. When it is writing about something that we know a lot about and it is all wrong. Then, if you know a lot about more than one thing, which happens to be the case with me and I am sure it is the case with you, then you go to the next thing and you find out that the cup is empty. Then you make the assumption that there is something fraudulent going on.

"My guess is that those people who are willing to speak in grand rousing terms about things about which they are pig ignorant in one area are willing to do it in another. There’s almost a correlation between the degree of their passion and their ignorance. Ignorance isn’t a sin. You can correct it by study. It isn’t like stupidity. That bespeaks an arrogant narcissism that may be the reason they became rabbis… To be that arrogant and ignorant seems to me to be an absolute disqualification to stand in front of a congregation and to lead it in its tradition."

Luke: "I never forget when someone gets up in a pulpit and speaks passionately about a subject in which they know almost nothing. It’s hard for me to take that person seriously on anything when I’ve experienced that."

Stephen: "They are speaking ex cathedra. They are in the pulpit. They’ve got the Torah behind them. They have an enormous authority. And it is misused. One wants to stand up and yell, ‘Idiot! Heretic! Get out! You’re a disgrace!’

"I’ve had to encounter this again and again and again. More with Reform rabbis. The entire culture of the Reform synagogue is very different from that of the Conservative synagogue. I would love to speak to Orthodox congregations. I’ve never had an invitation to one. We’ve had ads in Jewish newspapers…

"My guess is that no more than 30% of a given Conservative congregation is politically correct while the number would reach 70% of a Reform congregation. Invariably the most left-wing person in the room in a Reform congregation is the rabbi. In Conservative shuls, yeah, the rabbi tends to be to the left of the congregation but the congregation makes its unhappiness known in one way or another.

"I’m writing a huge backgrounder for the Center for Immigration Studies describing the American Jewish establishment as one Potemkin village. The number of organizations that endorsed ‘Progress by Pesach.’ If I had been Gideon Aronoff, I would’ve thrown myself on my sword. Twenty six Jewish organizations claiming hundreds of thousands of members managed to get something over 3,000 people to sign the petition.

"The one thing that you feel again and again with the Jewish establishment is the outrageous way it has usurped the authentic voice of American Jews. Where that usurpation is most outrageous is where the Rabbinical Assembly of Conservative Judaism endorsed this and only a very small minority of their members would take such a position. I’ve spoken to at least 40 Conservative congregations. To say that 90% of the people are on my site is putting it mildly. They’re thrilled to hear me speak. They’re thrilled to hear a voice from the bima that is not politically correct, that is not some apparatchik from the Jewish establishment, that it is not their rabbi droning on about Leviticus 19 without recognizing the actual meaning of ger b’shovav. It does mean sojourner, a temporary resident.

"Reconstructionist Jews, I know they’re all politically correct. Reform Jews, yeah, they’re mostly politically correct. The usurpation of the voice of the community is most decidedly the case amongst Conservative Jews."

"African-Americans have fallen off [leftist Jews’] moral radar screen. They don’t exist anymore. The new fashion is Hispanics. In 1994, when I was vice-president of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, we did the largest survey of inter-group attitudes ever done. Hispanics are the most anti-Semitic group, other than Muslims, in the world. More anti-Semitic than blacks.

"Jews and blacks didn’t work out very well. So Jews ran on. Jews are always dying to dialogue and to be loved by everyone. Now they’ve gone running off to the next multicultural context. And they’re willing to put up with anything.

"When I worked at the American Jewish Committee, I had to be a part of a whole lot of coalitions. Some of these places, I was quite happy. The black-white issue remains the great unsolved issue in American life. I believe it must be solved. I was also AJC’s representative at the National Immigration Forum, the chief body in this country pushing for open borders and amnesty. It’s a really bad group of people. I rarely use the word unAmerican. I was brought up in a home where that was associated with Joseph McCarthy, but I will use ‘unAmerican’ to describe these people.

"The constituents of this body are mostly ethnic identity groups that are all separatists. They don’t believe there is any such thing as America or Americans or American cultures. It’s merely a bunch of aggrieved diaspora communities and sometimes they fall out with each other because they argue about who is more aggrieved. The only white people who were members of this were Jews.

"These poor sodding Jews would go to these meetings and we would say such things as, ‘You really should make a distinction between legal and illegal immigration.’ And they would all scream and yell at us. You could just sense the absolute hatred in them.

"When you look at AJC’s position on immigration, it says we support generous legal immigration. Since that was not what they were doing, the Jews should’ve shown some principal and walked out, but instead they put their tail between their legs and went along. They sit in a group of people that hates America, that believes that open borders immigration is the punishment that this country should accept for living too high on the hog and controlling the world and having hegemony and having all these dirty wars in Central America. We are the great Satan. That is where they are coming from.

"My views on immigration evolved. I didn’t start out believing in lower levels of immigration or change in criteria for immigration. Jews are pathetically ignorant of their own immigration history. Jews for the most part were refugees, not immigrants. My father fled the pogroms in the Ukraine during the Russian civil war [circa 1920]. Jews are the only group of immigrants that only migrated in one direction because they risked being killed.

"I started out thinking that immigration is the great American story. It was all very emotional. Then going to those meetings at the National Immigration Forum and seeing who those people were pushing for open borders… I would become sickened going to those meetings and I would leave trembling with rage. That’s rare for me. Usually I have a fair amount of equanimity."

Luke: "Did you ever go through a stage where you disliked, even hated, America?"

Stephen: "No. I’ve always been a patriot."

Luke: "Many of those you ran with at SDS were filled with rage at America."

Stephen: "Yes. Some of them did. I’ve always loved this country. My opposition to the Vietnam war was based on that this was not what America was about… I hated it when I saw Vietcong flags. I always thought we should march with American flags. I hated the disparaging talk about America. I was purged from SDS in my Junior because I was considered a bourgeois liberal, not really a full-boned radical. And they were right."

Luke: "Did you feel queasy that many of the people you were running with did hate America?"

Stephen: "Yeah, although there were a lot of people to run with and I stayed away from those."

"I’ve always believed that this is the best society in the world."

Luke: "Did you ever go through a stage where it was really important to you to be loved by blacks and/or latinos?"

Stephen thinks.

Luke: "Have their good will? Be affirmed by them? Considered a brother?"

Stephen: "It was important for me. Loved is going too far. That would put me in the category of people I find nauseating. It was important to me that African-American people I liked and respected saw me as someone who was a friend and ally, which I was."

Luke: "Were you naive?"

Stephen: "I don’t think so. I think blacks have had a raw deal in this country. That is not to say that everything that is wrong in black life is a result of systemic racism."

"I’ve never had the same feelings about hispanics. African-American history is deeply tied to my own history. The history of hispanics coming in from other countries is not. I don’t feel the same sense of moral obligation."

Luke: "Would it be fair to say that almost all of those Jews who yearn to be loved by blacks, latinos and Muslims are not ritually observant traditional Jews?"

Stephen: "I’m sure you’re right."

Luke: "My thesis is that those who are the most secure in their identity as Jews are the least desperate to be loved by blacks, latinos and Muslims."

Stephen: "I think you are right. I would only add that I am secure in who I am as a Jew even though I don’t practice the same kind of Judaism that you do."

Luke: "I didn’t say anything about observance in my follow-up."

Stephen: "Jews who feel no need to apologize for who they are… They’re infinitely healthier and don’t need to make fools of themselves and end up…being complicit in doing things that are dangerous and stupid."

Luke: "Jews who lose their sense of Jewishness are not just in danger of looking of foolish, they’re a danger to America."

Stephen: "Yes."

"If I say to someone that I am a patriot, or I go to an event and wear a flag pin, I know that these kind of people think fascist. They can’t separate the notion of patriot from fascist."

"If I talk about the need for border protection in the name of national security, or protecting sovereignty, they look at me as though I am from another planet. ‘Jews aren’t concerned about American sovereignty, are they? We’re not. We’re too liberal. We’re too hip for that kind of thing. Patriotism? Are you crazy?’

"These are the kind of Jews who want to be citizens of the world. They want to be cosmopolitan, and we know how cosmopolitanism ended up for Jews under Stalin. I wish these Jews would understand that even if you want to be that, they’re not going to buy it. They’re not going to take you. They’re not interested in you anymore. They hate your guts."

"They don’t understand that this country is pretty much the only place we’ve got apart from Israel where we are not tolerated guests in somebody else’s house. Where we are home and we are equal.

"Showing love to this country is appropriate and not doing it is blind ingratitude and incredibly stupid and endangering Jewish interests."

Luke: "What are American values?"

Stephen: "This is a country where you can become whatever you want to become. Americans, for the most part, are enormously tolerant decent people… This country has essentially been invaded by tens of millions of illegal foreigners and yet there’s scarcely been an act of violence by Americans. It’s extraordinary… Despite what you hear from groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center, FBI statistics show that ‘hate crimes’ against Hispanics have gone down proportionately for ten years. You are still far more likely to be a victim of a hate crime if you are a Jew or black."

Part Two

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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