Last week, Yasha Levine sent me an amazing post he wrote about the intellectual influences of Kahanism on Jeffrey Goldberg. Yasha did something few of us had–he actually read Goldberg’s book, Survivors. In it, he discovered that Goldberg had been a disciple of Meir Kahane. And though he writes in the past tense about his flirtation with Kahanism, it’s clear that even at the ultra-nationalist’s death, he retained admiration for Kahane. In fact, in a sort of eulogy for the Jewish shahid, he told Kahane’s grandchildren that their grandfather was “profound.” In fact, I call Goldberg, ironically, a hasid (“disciple”) of Kahane.
I’m gratified that the editor of Tikkun Magazine thought my piece was worthy of publication there. I hope you’ll read it too.
I’m especially grateful to someone I don’t name in this piece. He is Dr. Bill Maliha, a boyhood friend from my hometown, New City, NY. Bill is an Arab-American and Maronite (Lebanese) Christian. We used to play touch football on his street during cool fall days after school. Bill told me a story recently that I was completely unaware of. That when I came to play, the neighbor boys didn’t want to play with a Jew. Bill had to actually fight them to allow me to play.
At the time, I wasn’t even aware that Bill was Arab-American. All I knew was that he was American like me. Perhaps we were naive then. Perhaps it was only me. Perhaps I was clueless to ethnic hints of which others were aware. At any rate, I remain grateful to Bill for his dignity, self-respect, and for honoring traditions of justice as he saw them. If only there were more like him and less like the Irish Catholic boys who tormented Goldberg, the world might be different.
But it’s important to add that Goldberg makes a mistake in extrapolating (as Kahane did too) from the hate of one small suburban enclave to the eternal anti-Jewish hate of an entire religion or culture. There are of course many Catholics who hated Jews then, and probably still do. But where both Kahane and Goldberg fail is in recognizing that Jewish hate is just as intense and prevalent. We don’t need to focus on this hate as the sole or primary defining feature of a religious tradition. We need to focus on the points we have in common, on the best that our traditions have to offer. Not the worst.