I was recently asked to comment on the “Black Lives Matter” movement in this country. My immediate response was to think of two quotations from our Jewish tradition that would seem to address this issue. First, the Torah tells us repeatedly that “you shall remember the heart of the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” In other words, because of our history, it is assumed that we empathize with those who are the objects of oppression, bigotry, and economic injustice.
And then I thought of another rabbinic dictum: “To save but one life is to save an entire world; and to destroy but one life is to destroy an entire world.” Yes, every human life is to be regarded as sacred, and every human life represents an untold future of offspring and great potential for goodness.
So yes, I do believe the Black lives matter, just as I believe that each and every life matters, whether it is a Black child growing up in America, or a Syrian’s child and his family seeking life and opportunity, or a Jewish child whose future is yet to unfold. Each and every life “matters” and is regarded as precious.
But what about the “Black Lives Matter” movement? The movement that has recently formally endorsed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions that it would hope would be imposed upon Israel. What about the spokesmen of the “movement” who are clearly anti-Semitic, as they represent Jews as among the privileged of our society, and who is thereby part of the causes of injustices imposed upon our Black population? And what about the “Black Lives Matter” alliance with the Palestinians, and the accusation that not only is Israel oppressing, but committing genocide against them?
Forgotten by the “movement” is that we Jews have been at the forefront throughout the years in seeking civil rights, and equal rights, for Blacks and all minorities in our country. Yes, somehow ignored is the reality that we have consistently voted in overwhelming numbers for those political candidates and parties whom we believed could do most to affect a more just and opportune society especially for the needy, often voting against our own narrow self-interest.
Yes, I believe that Black lives matter, just as I believe that every life matters. And I will continue to work for, and vote for, that ideal. But I cannot support a movement that is so collectively narrow and bigoted in its outlook upon our society. I cannot support a movement that resents me because I am a Jew.