Shabbat Talmud Study: Intersectionality

Intersectionality is a big problem for American Jews. I experienced this quite personally and viscerally one Sunday in January when Shira and I were with our twenty-something children. They wanted to take us to what they called a progressive bookstore that offered learning about the urgent political and social issues of the day.

At first, I felt like I belonged. LGBTQ? Check. Women’s rights? Check. Equal rights for people of color? Check. Economic justice and equality of opportunity? Check.

Then I happened onto their aisle having to do with Israel, which it called Palestine. There I discovered book after book of Israel hatred and Jew hatred. Not one syllable of balance. Jews are white colonizers who are oppressing an indigenous people. Not one word about the Jewish people’s ancient and historic connection to the land of Israel. Not one word about our attempts to make peace. Not one word about Palestinian terrorism. Only Jewish oppression of Palestine. I felt physically nauseated and had to leave the book store.

Never going back.

Welcome to the complicated world of intersectionality where all too often advocating for causes that many American Jews support (women, minorities, LGBTQ, sensible gun control legislation) puts us in the company of people who hate Israel and are anti-Semitic.

This issue of intersectionality came to a head for many in the American Jewish community with the recent March for Our Lives, the student-inspired march for sensible gun legislation. What if those marching, or speaking, include those who hate Israel or are anti-Semitic? It’s complicated. On the one hand, if you believe that our country needs sensible gun control legislation, why not march and let our elected leaders know we have had enough? On the other hand, do Jews belong at a march where some of those marching or speaking don’t like Jews or Israel?

On Shabbat, we are going to consider a super evocative case study on intersectionality prepared by Rabbi Marc Baker, the headmaster of Gann and incoming President and CEO of CJP. We will then consider Jewish sources that give us some language, some categories, some levers as we think about making common cause with people, some of whose views are anathema to us.

Very hard issue. Very real. Very current. Try talking to your college-age child or grandchild about it.

See you on Shabbat at 8:30.

Chag Sameach,