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Yep, He Really Said That


In recent weeks, there have been several disturbing expressions of antisemitism. Two people spoke from unbelievable depths of ignorance. One of whom should have known better, and pretended he was “only joking.” In none of these cases have the people involved apologized in a meaningful way or done anything to demonstrate actual remorse. Quite the contrary, each of them has wrapped themselves in virtue as if they were the injured parties. But I don’t want to talk about that. 

Instead, I want to celebrate the people who have made a point of speaking out against hate in general and antisemitism in particular. Let’s start with Shaq. I’ve never spent much time thinking about Shaquille O’Neal. He was a great basketball player. Now he’s a very entertaining NBA correspondent. Then Ye said some things, and Kyrie Irving tweeted some worse things. And Shaq, who could have kept his mouth shut, who had no advantage in speaking out, made it clear he thought they were badly wrong and ignorant. He said Irving was hurting a game that should be about bringing people together. He condemned hate and made it clear he thought antisemitism was ignorant and wrong. The press wrote about it, but only a little.

Charles Barkley, another former basketball superstar, also opened his mouth and defended the Jewish people. He loves hating on the Warriors and Steph Curry in particular. I just thought he was smart, full of bombast, and totally wrong about the Warriors and the once in generation talent that is Steph Curry. How wrong I was. He spoke out about letting Irving have a clear path back to basketball and made it clear that antisemitism was ignorant and wrong. He managed to both support Irving the person and condemn the hurtful ignorant nonsense he was spouting. (Or as Beruriah, Rabbi Meir’s wife taught, he condemned the sin but not the sinner.) The press wrote about it, but only a little.

The press loves conflict because it draws eyes and sells papers. By harping on the negative, they create an illusion that Blacks hate Jews and that this hatred has an historical origin in a larger narrative of racism. Which then somehow gives permission to an SNL audience to laugh as Dave Chappelle reinforces a view that Jews have a hidden power over society in general and Black people in particular. 

But they ignore the heroes like Shaq and Barkley who are teaching something else. They are reminding the world that we have a shared history of bigotry. They are reminding their own community that antisemitism is an ignorant hateful belief that in the long run will only make other forms of bigotry Including racism worse. I wish the press covered them more. 

Here’s what we need to do. We need to write to Shaq and Barkley and tell them we are grateful. We need to tell them we are ready to stand for them the next time someone says or does something racist. We need to tell them we will remember this moment, because the real story of Black and Jewish relations is that we have stood up for each other time and time again. We need each other because there are no lack of ignorant haters.

Let’s be among those fighting for love. Let’s work to change the narrative to one of Black and Jews and whites and Muslims standing together against hatred and ignorance and for dialogue and love. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream of brotherhood. If we will it, it is no dream.

Shabbat Shalom
 Rabbi David Booth

Join Rabbi Booth for kiddush lunch on Nov 19th at 12:30 in the Community Room for a talk about the Israeli elections. Rabbi Booth will channel his political junky alter-ego to join us.

Sat, December 9 2023 26 Kislev 5784