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August 13, 2021 1:49 pm
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The American Jewish Establishment Has Failed, It’s Time to Replace It

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Opinion

An NYPD officer with one of the three men arrested for antisemitic attacks on Jews in Brooklyn on May 22. Photo: antisemitism.co.il

Over the last few months, American Jews have been the target of a pogrom. Beatings, intimidation, and the stabbing of a rabbi have been only the most prominent atrocities in a frenzy of racist violence, mostly committed by Muslim antisemites backed by members of the far-left, who used Israel’s recent conflict with Hamas as an excuse. An excuse by and large accepted and endorsed by the non-Jewish establishment.

One of the most astonishing things about this pogrom, however, was the fact that it took the American Jewish establishment almost entirely by surprise. Indeed, they were so shocked that their reaction was almost non-existent during the pogrom and its immediate aftermath.

Recently, I saw one of the most prominent leaders of the American Jewish establishment acknowledge, at long last, that antisemitism on the left actually exists, and something probably ought to be done about it. My immediate reaction to reading this missive was twofold. The first was the intense desire to say, “if you’d done your job, we wouldn’t be in this mess!” The second was to wonder, “where have you been for the past 20 years?”

Regarding the latter, it is a simple fact that, for some of us, the recent pogrom came as neither a shock nor a surprise. We have been aware — and shouting at the top of our lungs — that since the outbreak of the second intifada in 2000, antisemitism had become not simply a part but an essential part of far-left ideology. We knew, because we saw with our own eyes, that this metastization was rapid and aggressive, and would inevitably end in violence. And for that entire time, in an act of willful denial that must have required extraordinary energy to sustain, the American Jewish establishment simply pretended it wasn’t happening.

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This points to perhaps the most important lesson of the recent violence: the American Jewish establishment is not simply ineffective at stemming the rise of antisemitism on the far-left and in the American Muslim community. It is incompetent.

This has immense implications, because the American Jewish establishment is, of course, meant to represent and serve the American Jewish community. And perhaps the most important service they can render is to effectively combat and prevent antisemitic violence. It has now been conclusively proven that it either cannot or will not do so. That some of its more prominent figures may have finally acknowledged what is happening is not so much a positive sign as a confession of guilt. If they had done their job, after all, we wouldn’t be in this mess.

Put bluntly, what this dereliction has demonstrated is that the American Jewish establishment is not a vigorous leader and guardian of the community, but a decadent and impotent aristocracy that must be overthrown in favor of a new, passionate, and effective generation.

This is an absolute imperative, because the Jewish people cannot and have never been able to afford incompetent and ineffective leadership. We know, after all, what happened during the Holocaust when an earlier American Jewish establishment proved itself incompetent and ineffective. And in any other situation, the solution would be obvious: replace them with those who aren’t incompetent and ineffective.

Fortunately, there are some very promising candidates waiting in the wings. One of the most hopeful things I have seen in recent years is the emergence of a new, younger, and profoundly vital group of activists and small organizations that understand the nature and gravity of the struggle. They never knew the interregnum in antisemitism that stretched from the defeat of Nazism to the second intifada. They have grown up in an atmosphere of hate and violence that they know has the most dire implications for the Jewish people. But they also know that the Jewish people can and must fight back, and they are doing their best to do so.

These groups like the New Zionist Congress, Zioness, Students Supporting Israel, StandWithUs, and the numerous social media activists who comprise “J Twitter” have — naturally — largely been shunted aside or only half-heartedly encouraged by the geriatric and enervated American Jewish establishment, who have preferred complacency and willful blindness over vigorous and determined struggle. This situation not only should not, but cannot be allowed to continue.

The American Jewish community needs no more of the current establishment. It needs a new and renewed leadership, a counter-establishment that can and will take on the pathologies of our time with passionate intensity. It is time for the young to rise up and replace the old. If they are prevented from doing so, we will see more antisemitism, more violence, and a further collapse of Jewish identity and pride.

The Jews have always said of the US that it can’t happen here. But it has happened here. And, if only through depraved incompetence, the American Jewish establishment has let it happen. It should be obvious what this means: If something isn’t working, the first and most important step is to stop doing it, and the old establishment is not working. It is time for them to go. There is a new generation ready to replace them, and we must realize that this is, more than anything else, a reason to hope. The moment has arrived to realize that hope: for an old and failed establishment to bow to the inevitable, and allow a stronger and better generation to take the lead.

Benjamin Kerstein is a columnist and the Israel Correspondent for the Algemeiner. His website can be viewed here and his books purchased at Amazon.com.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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