Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.Misattributed to Albert Einstein (actually from a mystery novel…)
If you watch the news – or even just glance at the headlines – you might think the whole world is on fire. Not to diminish the problems of the world, I can tell you that it’s a quiet Shabbat in my neighborhood. It’s calm and still. And hot! I may have to make some iced tea – but I digress. Solutions to the world’s problems are not going to be found by doing the same things over and over.
The flu pandemic of 1918 lasted for two years and had four major waves. The Daily Show put out a video this week showing how the US is behaving today much like it did then. And expecting different results? (The longer version is quite illuminating. It’s not a documentary, but makes some interesting points. The humor may not be for everyone.)
Here in Israel, we have protests (violent and nonviolent about a whole spectrum of issues), more coronavirus (sick and dead), a failed opening strategy, economic collapse, a bloated political coalition that can’t pass a budget, and a prime minister accused of corruption.
So what’s the solution? If the budget doesn’t pass within a month, new elections, of course. Fourth time’s the charm?
The recent anti-Semitic hashtag Jewish Privilege is on people’s minds. Social media warriors have taken it over and turned it into a teachable moment.
But where has this kind of anti-Semitism shown up before? How about Madison Square Garden in New York City in February 1939 where 20,000 Americans attended a Nazi rally, said the Pledge of Allegiance to the US flag, and sang the “Star Spangled Banner”?
In the way of coincidences, after I saw The Plot against America and someone shared the video above with me, I found out that the warriors against Nazis in the 1930s in America were none other than Jewish mobsters.
There’s a great article in Tablet Magazine giving the history, but what struck me was the Jewish leadership was timid and publicly disowned their Jewish brethren for doing what they had been asked behind closed doors to do.
“They wanted the Nazis taken care of but were afraid to do the job themselves,” he [Meir Lansky] said. “I did it for them. And when it was over they called me a gangster. No one ever called me a gangster until Rabbi Wise [Stephen Wise] and the Jewish leaders called me that.”Gangsters vs. Nazis: How the Jewish Mob fought American admirers of the Third Reich
If you’ve read to here, you might be thinking “Ok, she’s lost the plot. What does this have to do with your theme?” Good question! I’m glad you asked!
What finally broke up these Nazi sympathizers? Not the mobsters (although they helped). Not the Jewish community. Not any community. Not the US courts (First Amendment). Not the invasion of Poland in September 1939. Not a raging war in Europe from 1939 to 1941. No, it was that their leadership was caught embezzling funds, and then in December 1941, the US went to war against Nazi Germany (a few days after declaring war on Japan for Pearl Harbor and after Nazi Germany declared war on the US first). [Factoid: 120,000 Japanese, but only 11,000 Germans and 3,000 Italians, were interned in the US during WWII.]
Anti-Semitism will probably (unfortunately) always be around. When times are tough, the Jews are a handy target. In the 1930s, during the Depression, Nazi sympathizers blamed the Jews. At the moment, the anti-Semitism is coming via the Black Lives Matter movement, but it wasn’t so long ago that Tiki-torch-wielding mobs chanted “the Jews will not replace us.” How far are they from a rally featuring George Washington and swastikas?
What we’ve learned is that being timid and trying to blend in with the furniture doesn’t work. Thumping heads has some effect but is kind-of frowned upon. Divisions within the Jewish community are a recipe for disaster. The only thing that has worked so far is the Invisible Hand of History (or the Miraculous Hand of God, take your pick) to tip the flow of events a different direction. But that’s not much of a strategy to defeat anti-Semitism. At least in this case, it seems like we’re ready to try different things.
And so am I.
I’m going on hiatus for a month or two to recharge my creative batteries. What I know for sure is if I keep doing what I’m doing, I’ll get the same result.