The Truth About T’ruah and Rabbi Jill Jacobs
Rabbi Jill Jacobs, of the self-advertised “Jewish social justice lobby” T’ruah, has made her latest foray into the tangled politics of Israeli-Diaspora relations with an op-ed that was featured on the front page of The Washington Post. The piece was entitled, “Your Tax Dollars Are Propping Up The Intellectual Heirs to an Israeli Terrorist.”
Jacob’s investigation of US taxpayer support for the alleged Israeli heirs of assassinated rabbi Meir Kahane is peculiar for this reason: Rather than the usual “stand alone” op-ed, it is full of interpolations by the Post’s research staff supporting the author’s arguments.
In the piece, Jacobs focuses her spotlight on the youth hostel Jerusalem Heritage House, which does indeed display a portrait of Rabbi Kahane, whose vision of a holy land without Arabs was denounced by the entire Israeli political establishment — Right, Center and Left. Apparently, Jerusalem Heritage House does receive donations from American Jewish taxpayers.
But Jacobs casts her net too widely in trying to ensnare other right-wing Israeli institutions and individuals whose relations with Kahane’s legacy are tenuous or negligible. And don’t they enjoy the right to free speech without Rabbi Jacobs reporting their American Jewish supporters to the IRS?
Rabbi Jacobs’ social justice agenda is purportedly grounded in Deuteronomy 16:20: “Justice, justice shalt thou pursue.” Jacobs and T’ruah are not pursuing justice, however, but a political vendetta.
I would feel more comfortable with her mission if Rabbi Jacobs coupled her social justice teachings, support for the BDS movement, and denunciations of Kahane’s alleged heirs with equal passion in denouncing Louis Farrakhan (whose antisemitism she alludes to, but only in muted tones) or the Muslim Brotherhood. Arguably, the Brotherhood has done more harm to the causes of peace and tolerance than Rabbi Kahane ever was able to do before his life was cut short on American soil in 1990 by El Sayyid Nosair. Nosair was initially acquitted of the murder, only later to be convicted in US District Court on a conspiracy indictment for his involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Rabbi Jacobs barely mentions Kahane’s assassination or its implications for anti-Israel and anti-Jewish terrorism today.
In her book Where Justice Dwells (2011), Rabbi Jacobs laments that Jews, historically, have been too prone to seek protection by forging alliances with aristocratic non-Jewish “power brokers” rather than reach out to peasants and proletarians. Maybe so, though as a historian, I would caution that Ukraine’s 17th-century strongman Chmielnicki won acclaim with the non-Jewish masses by murdering hundreds of thousands of Jews while America’s Louis Farrakhan sometimes stirs up his following with sermons hinting — if he had the power — at genocide.
I would also ask Rabbi Jacobs this: If she believes so much in building grassroots, “bottom up” coalitions, why does she spend so much time hobnobbing with elite reporters and editors with such a blatant anti-Israel bias?
Harold Brackman is co-author with Ephraim Isaac of From Abraham to Obama: A History of Africans, African Americans, and Jews (Africa World Press. 2015).