Young, Jewish and Proud – Time to Make Room at the Table

Here is some video of yesterday’s incident at the Jewish Federation GA.

After watching this clip this morning, my wife Hallie and I had a long conversation about it. Though I was eager to talk about its political/Jewish communal implications, she responded to it more as a parent of teenagers.

As she put it, “As parents, what kinds of values do we want to impart to our kids? Don’t we always say we want them to educated, to be critical thinkers, and to stand up for what they believe in? And even if we don’t approve of the places their critical thinking take them, what, are we going to disown them because we don’t agree with them?”

Take a close look at this clip and pay particular attention to the reaction of the audience in the hall. It would be quite an understatement to say the crowd disapproved of what these young people were saying. Frankly, it was something of a miracle that any of them made it out of that room in one piece.

But as Hallie pointed out to me, these young Jews were doing precisely what they were raised to do: they took a good, educated look around them, they thought critically about what they saw, and they took a stand for what they believed in. And for this they are being disowned by their Jewish family.

I’m sure many will be tempted to say, “Well, I don’t disapprove of what they said, just how they said it.”

Yes, we parents often say things like that, don’t we?  I’m pretty sure that many white parents said similar things when their children joined the Freedom Riders to protest oppression and to show solidarity with oppressed African Americans. I imagine many of their parents disapproved of their actions. But at the end of the day weren’t these young people ultimately just acting upon the values that had long been instilled in them?

I certainly have no illusions that there were also many young people in that room cheering on Netanyahu – young adults who have been given a place at the Jewish communal table. But believe me when I tell you that there are many, many young Jews who have been kept away from the table  – but who refuse to walk away. And frankly, given the extent of their alienation we should be grateful that they even seek a place at all any more.

The Jewish community is reaching a serious reckoning point. Trust me, those five young people in that hall are only the tip of the iceberg. They are growing in number, they are rapidly finding their voice, and as their new moniker indicates, they are “young, Jewish and proud.” And regardless of whether we agree what they are saying, we should be proud of them. It’s time to act like grownups, stop marginalizing them, and make room for them at the table.

Click here and read the “Young, Jewish and Proud” manifesto. What beautiful, beautiful words. I couldn’t be prouder of these young people if they were my own children.


22 Comments on “Young, Jewish and Proud – Time to Make Room at the Table”

  1. Dave Boxthorn says:

    Time to make room at the table?
    5.

    Might be a small table.

    Same number as the ‘Popular Front of Judea’ (although not as witty).

    • The table is much larger than that, Dave. Read the myriad comments at the end of the Young, Jewish and Proud statement. And they represent just the tip of the iceberg.

      (I do share your love for “Life of Brian” however…:)

  2. Lesley Williams says:

    The best part was when the older guy tried (and nearly failed) to rip up one of the protest signs. Could there be a more apt metaphor for this sorry situation? Netanyahu’s initial smugness (“They have the wrong address”) seemed slightly ruffled by the end.

  3. AMK says:

    I will not address their inaccurate accusations, rather their manner. This protest was completely and utterly inappropriate.

    You of all people should know this, Brant, from experience. I was at CJHS when a certain Proud Jew spoke against you, your blog, and everything you stand for, including how you stand for it. I’m sure you thought it was out of place and disrespectful, did you not?

    Now, you are no Prime Minister. So tell me: if it is disrespectful to speak against Brant Rosen, how can you possibly support this inappropriate protest of Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s policy?

    • For those who don’t understand this reference, AMK is referring to an incident a year and half or so ago when I visited Chicagoland Jewish High School and gave a brief D’var Torah at a Friday morning service. At the end of the service, one student stood up and angrily protested my presence at the school, and specifically cited my recent trip to Iran as an example of my “anti-Semitic” character.

      To AMK:

      While I was fiercely challenged by this student, I was not offended by his outburst. I actually admired that he felt so strongly about his convictions that he was willing to speak out so publicly – especially knowing that he would face strong consequences from the school administration for his actions.

      You may remember that in my response to him, I did not reproach him or scold him for his “disrespect.” I distinctly remember saying that I was honored that he had taken the time to read what I had written about my trip and had taken it to heart. I also said I hoped this incident would provide the opportunity for me to enter into dialogue with him and his fellow students and to discuss why I went to Iran and how we might respond to the challenges Iran represents to us as Jews.

      There is no shame in speaking out or acting upon your convictions, even if it means facing accusations of “disrespect,” punishment, or (God forbid) violence. I’d also say that this kind of protest is quintessentially Jewish, dating back to the time, as the Midrash tells us, that Abraham destroyed his own father’s icons. (According to that Midrash, Abraham’s father wasn’t a very good sport about that incident. As you may recall, Abraham ended up thrown into a fiery furnace. I thought of that as I watched that video and later read about one young woman protester who was put in a chokehold and dragged away by someone in the crowd.)

      We grownups can stand to take a good dose of righteous protest from the children we raise to speak their minds. Yes, these challenges might be painful and difficult to hear, but I believe we should think twice before reacting angrily, or even simply dismissing them as “disrespectful” or “inappropriate.”

      • Richard Kahn says:

        At least he had the decency to wait until after your speech. The problem here isn’t that they were being rude to the Prime Minister. The problem is that they were being incredibly rude to everyone in the room who just wanted to hear him speak. Would you have been equally honored if he had repeatedly yelled “anti-Semite” during your d’var Torah? How about if he and five other friends took turns yelling things at you?

      • If he had interrupted my D’var, I’d like to think that I would have had the fortitude and maturity to respond in exactly the same way.

        Richard, we disagree on this: you are concerned about manners. I believe that there are times when speaking out is a more important concern than manners.

        I don’t think there is more to say re this line of conversation.

  4. Y. Ben-David says:

    Okay, I saw the clip. What do these disruptions prove? Had “right-wing” protestors attempted to disrupt last year’s J-Street Convention, I’ll bet you would have said “these people are acting in an uncivilized manner”.

  5. Richard Kahn says:

    I think the crowd was more annoyed than offended. Even one outburst is inappropriate, but five? Let the guy talk. You might not agree with his policies, but this is not the venue to just stand up and shout. They lack basic civility. Protest him before or after the speech. Hand out leaflets that (even mis)quote him saying offensive things. But yelling things at him while he’s trying to speak is just immoral. Their parents should not be proud.

    There is no room at the table for people without basic manners.

  6. Richard Kahn says:

    One more thing: “Settlements betray Jewish values.” What does that mean? How can you betray something as amorphous and undefined as “Jewish values”? Should we have a competition between settlers and young proud Jews over who can bring more prooftexts for their position? Very few things bother me more than hearing that something is (or is not) the “Jewish thing to do.”

  7. Y. Ben-David says:

    It is also important to remember that Netanyahu is not just another unelected “Jewish leader” who is at some Jewish conference. He is the democratically elected leader of Israel. He represents a pretty strong national consensus. I pointed out in an earlier thread that almost half of world Jewry now lives in Israel. So by showing disrespect to Netanyahu in a forum like this, they are showing disrespect to the state of Israel and the majority of the Jewish people, including the Jews outside of Israel who support the Israeli government and its policies.

    No one would have objected had the protestors stood outside with picket signs and handing out leaflets. But, not doubt out of frustration created by awareness that JVP is essentially a fringe organization, they felt they needed a provocation in order to get publicity. Stunts like this will end up marginalizing JVP even more.

  8. Mick says:

    They’re kids, with all the vigour and idealism of kids, without a platform of their own, yet prepared to take a beating for telling their truth. And it’s not like anyone needed to HEAR Netanyahu to know exactly what he’d say – and wouldn’t say!

  9. Muhannad says:

    wow!!! how dare they interrupt, it is just plain rude!!!

    take a look how the Israeli elected knesset members behave, they should learn from them :

    not to mention how the Israeli government says excuse me every time before they searched a house of sleeping family in the west bank with children in the middle of the night or when they bombed Gaza.

    it is all about manners!!!

    • Richard Kahn says:

      Are you saying that if Israel does something, then it must be right? Or, more likely, are you saying that we’re applying a double standard, expecting young proud Jews to have manners but not expecting the same from the Israeli government? Do you really want to go down the route of double standards?

      I would also note that the argument I’m making is that civil society breaks down if whenever someone gets up whom you disagree with, you yell things for five minutes. The Israeli parliament isn’t exactly civil, and I am very opposed to the MKs who would not let her speak. I can think of very few situations in which it’s appropriate to not let someone speak.

      Regarding searching homes: if you are against searching homes in general, that is your prerogative . However, if you admit that it is sometimes within the state’s rights to search homes, you can hardly be mad at them for not asking the residents for permission. Additionally, your use of bombing Gaza is sort of ironic, as they essentially did say “excuse me” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Cast_Lead#Air_strikes). But in general, you can’t just list bad things that Israel does to justify bad things that peace activists do. I could just as easily say that Israel is allowed to violate human rights because Hamas violates human rights.

  10. Muhannad says:

    Richard,
    thank you for your comment.
    My point was if you plant oranges do not expect apples, not to say I disagree with what they did. But I still do not mind talking about double standards if you wish that we do.

    as for the Gaza point, I have to admit I did not click on your link.. but that does not matter because you missed the point. Just saying excuse me does not make everything ok, manners sometimes take a back seat when much
    bigger issues like human life and dignity involved!! I gather that your link will tell me that they said: excuse and then what : dead children, homeless people everywhere, kids with PTSD that going to ruin their lives. but that
    was ok since they said excuse me.

    As for the home searching issue, it is funny that you mentioned double standards. since you said that it is the state’s right to search homes. what about the people in the west bank rights? is the state taking care of that??

    thanks again

  11. Richard Kahn says:

    If bombing homes is wrong, say that. My point is that it’s totally irrelevant to the question of whether what the young proud Jews did was moral. And I found it amusing that with regards to manners, Israel bombed homes with the most manners possible! Whether it was right is an entirely different question.

    If it is the state’s right to search homes, this would seem to abrogate the people of the West Bank’s right to privacy in the situations where the state is exercising its right. That is not to say that they don’t have that right in general, just that it comes into conflict with other parties’ rights in certain situations. If the state is not guaranteeing their rights in other areas, that is a problem. But again, that is completely irrelevant to the issue at hand, namely that the young proud Jews acted immorally and in an obnoxious manner that does little to further their cause.

    Regarding double standards: It should be abundantly clear that Israel is held to a different standard than the rest of the world. This is probably a good thing: a Jewish state should be expected to be morally superior than most other states. However, this is totally irrelevant to the question of whether Israel has done things that are wrong. It has. And it should be held responsible for them. But similarly, if you think that the young proud Jews are being held to an unfair double standard (which I don’t think they are, as they are held to the exact same standard as any other group of obnoxious protesters), that still is completely irrelevant to the question of whether they empirically did something wrong.

  12. Y. Ben-David says:

    Richard-
    Why on earth should a “Jewish State” be “morally superior to most other states”? Aren’t you the one who criticized the idea of judging some political position being in accord with “Jewish values” or not?

  13. Mary Tappero says:

    Well, there are “bad manners” and then there is really ugly behavior. A friend of mine recently joined JVP, shortly before the incident described below (including video) where a few Stand With Us members decided to “join the meeting” – including one pepper spraying two attendees. Happily, my friend is not at all dissuaded about his membership in JVP, and said he only wished he had been at the San Francisco meeting:

    http://www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org/blog/right-wing-israel-advocacy-group-pepper-sprays-jewish-voice-peace-jvp-members


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