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Rabbi Steve Leder on the line between free speech and anti-Semitism

Rabbi Steve Leder on free speech and anti-Semitism

Ten years ago, I preached about transcending the Jewish victim narrative I was raised with. In America we are accepted, free, and safe, I argued.  So, enough with the victim mentality.

Fast forward to a former president dining with a White supremacist who compared Jews in crematoria to "cookies in an oven," and a multi-billionaire with more than 50 million followers who said he wanted to go "Death Con 3 on Jews."

Just before that Jew haters' banquet, a prominent athlete promoted a film about Jew hatred, and a comic on "Saturday Night Live" observed "There are a lot of Jews in Hollywood. A lot."  He wasn't legitimizing the trope about a conspiratorial Jewish cabal running Hollywood, he was just sayin'… 

The line between free speech and Jew hatred is hard to define, but like sexual harassment, you know when you feel it. 

A lot of us are feeling it, and it is heartbreakingly sad.   

Sad because Jew hatred is so often promulgated by other marginalized communities. And sad because of privileged cultural exemplars claiming victimization by Jews. Are some Jews privileged?  Yes.  Are Ye, Dave Chappelle and Kyrie Irving privileged?  Yes.  We are all privileged and disadvantaged in some ways.  I can turn a phrase, but I can't dunk.  

More important than our differences is the one way we are all the same: We are all human, and if you prick us, we all bleed.  To believe otherwise about Jews or anyone else is a danger to our nation, and people's lives. 

A decade ago, I proclaimed from the pulpit America was different, better; and Jews should stop acting like all roads lead to Auschwitz. 

I still believe in America.  We're not on our way to Auschwitz.  But lately, it sure feels like we are on the wrong road, shamefully heading in the wrong direction. 

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Story produced by John Goodwin and Robert Marston. Editor: Chad Cardin. 

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