Holiness in Hidden Places: Our Spiritual Task in the Face of White Nationalism
I want to draw your attention to several resources and events:
Inside Out Wisdom and Action will make an official launch on May 20th – stay tuned for details…
Judaism Unbound just released an interview with me about the fundamentals of Mussar and the connection between Jewish spiritual wisdom and social change. Please send it to anyone you think could benefit from a summary of these themes.
For those in the Boston region – this coming Sunday is the first Boston Mussar Conference, hosted by Mishkan Tefila in Brookline. Dr. Alan Morinis is the keynote speaker and I’ll be teaching along a number of my colleagues including Rabbis Marcia Plumb and Eric Gurvis. More information is below.
On a broader note – as we mourn the death of Lori Gilbert-Kaye at the hands of another violent White Nationalist in San Diego, and as we commemorate Yom HaShoah tonight, we need to remember that this type of deadly White Nationalism is only the most overtly violent manifestation of the more widespread phenomenon of fear of the “other” presented as the protection and purity of Western Civilization (read White, Christian, European). Universalism and Particularism, diversity and in-group exclusivity exist in a fine balance. Too much of one negates the other. Thomas Freidman described this dynamic in a prescient manner in his 2000 book on globalization – The Lexus and the Olive Tree.
The roots of the current surge in ethno-nationalism around the world are deep and, at least, partially spiritual. Many feel their place in the world, and their essential Kavod/Dignity, is under threat. While these feelings need to be understood, the bitter, exclusionary, bigoted and violent fruits of these feelings need to be stood up to and firmly rejected. This is a time for a well balanced chesed (understanding) and gevura (boundaries and strength). One way to build both understanding and strength is to have a clear picture of the link between the most violent expression of this current nationalism and its mainstream support in the US administration and right-wing media. Some quotes, shared with me by my colleague Dove Kent, explore these connections:
John T. Earnest, the alleged shooter who attacked the Chabad of Poway on Saturday, did not arise in a vacuum. The antisemitic and anti-Muslim ideology that appears to have shaped his worldview reflects a White nationalist movement that is becoming more powerful and emboldened in this country, a movement that enshrines antisemitism as a core principle. The talking points and animating ideas of this movement are not confined to the fringes, whether on the message boards of 8chan, or the streets of Charlottesville. These ideas and messages are spoken in the highest halls of power and amplified by right-wing media outlets such as Fox News and Breitbart.
In the White nationalist imagination, Jews are the hidden puppeteers of White dispossession, working behind the scenes in media, finance, government, and other societal spheres to effect, as Earnest puts it, “the meticulously planned genocide of the European race.” According to White nationalists, Jews orchestrate mass immigration in order to erase White demographic majorities where they exist, and engineer other social and economic movements, from capitalism to communism to feminism, in order to disempower White communities, subvert traditional masculinity, and otherwise undermine social hierarchies that emphasize White male power.
Look at just one example:
11/2/18– Pastor Robert Jeffress, Fox News: “the end game of globalists is to erase the distinction between nations and eliminate the differences between people who live in and outside our country, and that’s wrong.”
As we progress, day-by-day, through the Omer for the next 38 days, our spiritual task is to build our personal capacity to experience and channel holiness. Judaism has always claimed that holiness exists everywhere, even in the most difficult places. Let’s build our tools to look right at the current bigotry with balance, confidence and connection, so we can raise up holiness from even this horrifying moment.