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The case of “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett allegedly faking a hate crime against himself is the latest sign of an alarming trend in modern-day America: The worship of victimhood. Smollett had a victim’s trifecta—black, Jewish and gay. But there was one problem: He wasn’t really a victim. In fact, he was a working actor.
But working actor is one thing. To turn into a real celebrity—with millions of new followers on social media— he needed more.
He needed victim status.
Nothing boosts your power and influence today like being a victim, especially if you’re a victim of white patriarchy. In that case, you can be sure the mainstream media and groveling politicians and celebrities will fall all over themselves to lionize you for their own virtue signaling needs.
This elevation of victimhood is having a corrosive effect on our culture. For one thing, it creates a distorted picture of America as a nation drowning in a sea of injustice. As a friend quipped, the perception now is that “the arc of history bends towards injustice.”
This is an insult to the long history of social progress in this country. There are countless examples that show how on the pillars of social justice in America, enormous, fundamental progress has been made.
No one is claiming that this is a country free of injustice— that would be impossible for any country under any circumstance. But the obsession with victimhood is obliterating the reality of historical progress and unfairly libeling a whole society.
Even worse is how our commercialization of victimhood is hurting real victims.
As Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson said at a news conference, reacting to the round-the-clock media attention the Smollett case has received, “I just wish that the families of gun violence in this city got this much attention.” Indeed, I wonder how real victims across the country—from battered women to homeless kids to people with disabilities— are reacting to the ongoing spectacle of faux victimhood that has gripped our country.
We’re living through a perfect storm of circumstances that has resulted in our values turning upside down. We put entitlements before obligations, grievance before achievement, victimhood before responsibility, self-righteousness before humility.
Jussie Smollett turned into a victim not because he was black, gay or Jewish, but because he played the part to gain more status and influence. He was a victim only of a warped value system that has turned victimhood into a popular virtue.
More than 1/3 of students at the University of Essex voted against the establishment of a Jewish society on campus on Feb. 20.
Under campus rules, registered students vote in an online poll to decide if a proposed society should become official on campus. While 64 percent of students who voted supported the creation of the Jewish society, 36 percent (more than 200 students) did not.
Among those advocated against the society’s creation was Dr. Maanuf Ali, a computers and electronics lecturer, who said in a since-deleted Facebook comment that “the Zionists want to create a society here at our university” in response to a post about Israeli planning on expelling “36,000 Palestinians from the Negev.”
Other reported social media posts from Ali, which have also been deleted, include the sharing of a photo claiming that the “Zionist Mafia” censored any media coverage of 50,000 Jews protesting Israel in New York and a Holocaust denialist quote from Edgar Steele, an attorney who represented the Aryan Nations white supremacist group.
“In all of German-occupied Europe, there resided 2.4 million jews [sic] before the war, according to World Jewish Encyclopedia,” the quote stated. “After the war, 3.8 million jewish [sic] ‘Holocaust Survivors’ were receiving pensions from the German government. Tragically, the remaining 6 million were lost.”
The U.K. Union of Jewish Students said in a statement on Twitter that they were “shook” by the vote and alleged that the Amnesty International chapter on campus advocated against the creation of the society:
Maryam Jamil, the Amnesty chapter president, referred the Journal to the UK Amnesty International for comment; they did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment as of publication time.
The Essex Students’ Union told the Algemeiner that an “irregularity” in the vote rendered it “null and void” because they couldn’t guarantee that “the vote has been free and fair.” The vote will re-open on Friday and go on for three school days.
The university said in a statement:
A commitment to equality and diversity is absolutely central to the work of @Uni_of_Essex We aim to be an inclusive and diverse community that is open to all. This guides everything we do as a university. pic.twitter.com/eqCVu2D9UR
MP Stella Creasy tweeted, “If the actual leadership at @Uni_of_Essex cant bring itself to use word Jewish and say it will act to protect students from being demeaned for their religion, how can we expect it to teach students to do so either?”
Other societies that exist on the Essex campus include a Christian society, an Islamic society, K-Pop and Pokemon Go.
The Jewish society proposal states that they aim to “create a warm and welcoming atmosphere” to all Jewish students on campus. Sixty such societies exist on UK college campuses.
Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill, who was fired from CNN in November for calling for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea,” defended Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-Minn.) recent tweets in an Al Jazeera video.
Omar recently apologized to Jewish groups in a confidential phone call for tweeting that AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) buys off politicians’ support for Israel. Hill said in the Feb. 20 AJ+ video that he didn’t think Omar’s comments were anti-Semitic since she was discussing “the relationship between lobbying groups and America’s support for Israel.”
“Everyone who’s offered a principled, balanced and, I think, honest position on Israeli-Palestinian relations and of the occupation of Palestine, is being labeled anti-Semitic,” Hill said. “They’re being painted with a very broad brush and it’s not only unfair and dishonest, but it’s also dangerous.”
Hill said that while he thinks anti-Semitism a serious threat, he also believes that “Jewish lives and Palestinian lives are worth the same.”
Hill then defended his “free Palestine from the river to the sea” comment at the United Nations in November.
“When people were saying I was calling for the destruction of Israel in a speech where I was very explicitly and directly calling for Israel to be reformed, for me it was frustrating,” Hill said.
Hill concluded the video by criticizing the Democrats of caving to Omar’s criticism by issuing their own criticism of her AIPAC comments, saying the whole controversy was due to Omar being seen as part of “outsiderness that gets assigned to Muslims, that gets assigned to women, that gets assigned to black folk.”
Marc Lamont Hill talks about accusations of anti-Semitism and whether Rep. Ilhan Omar is being singled out for her critique of Israel. pic.twitter.com/KwpSkTBSBJ
Sharon Nazarian, the Anti-Defamation League’s senior vice-president for international affairs, told the Journal in an email at the time that Hill’s remarks were “divisive and destructive.” The Temple University Board of Trustees also condemned Hill’s remarks in December.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has made a blog post on Thursday, Feb. 21, showing how a local Alabama newspaper who called for the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) to “ride again” has a history of anti-Semitism.
The paper, The Democrat-Reporter, in the small town of Linden, published a Feb. 14 editorial that stated, “Time for the Ku Klux Klan to night ride again. Democrats in the Republican Party and Democrats are plotting to raise taxes in Alabama.”
According to the ADL’s Feb. 21 post, a 2014 editorial from the paper it was a “sin of omission” to not put Adolf Hitler and Adolf Eichmann’s anti-Semitism “in context.”
“Why did they want to rid Germany of Jews?” the editorial stated. “Go read German history after World War I.”
Another 2014 editorial said, “The Democrats loved war as long as it lined the pockets of the Jews who run America: and a 2016 piece in the paper said that the “establishment” hated then-presidential candidate Donald Trump because there are Jews “who don’t want any changes in the laws governing money changing.”
There was also a 2012 editorial that said the only reason that the Holocaust received more media coverage over the atrocities of Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong is because of Jews “in key places… of the media.”
According to CNN, Goodloe Sutton, the editor and publisher of The Democrat-Reporter, has admitted to writing the KKK editorial and said that the white supremacist organization “wasn’t violent until they needed to be.” Among those calling for his resignation include Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) and Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill.
I met Enock Makasi on March 24, 2016 when he was flying from Los Angeles, California to Salt Lake City on his way to his new home in Idaho and he was 15 years old. He had already flown from Uganda to Amsterdam and then California. He “was born in a country called Democratic Republic of Congo, faced war in the Eastern part of Congo, moved to Uganda and then to the USA.” I encouraged him to write his story and he recently sent me this poem from his home in Twin Falls, Idaho where he goes to Canyon Ridge high school. He told me: “I came as refugee with IOM (International Organization for Migration) who helped us resettle in America and they sent us here to Twin Falls and helped us with housing, registration for school, social security card and other things.
He is that child…. and more. The first child was born in the battle-field.
The first sounds he heard were cries from all directions, and the first things he saw were people seeking protection from gun and bomb eruption that kept bringing destruction to his homeland. His initial experiences were driven by fear; the first flavor he tasted was fear instead of colostrum. Fear – the result of war that has come home – made him a runner – not thinking of going back home but of being a survivor. The war was perpetuated by the government, through genocide, to keep the president in his position. He promised peace and justice for all; but instead, there was discrimination, suffering, and poverty among the people.
These struggles leave the young mother of this child with one question: Who will this child be?
Unlike the first, the second child was born during a short time of peace in a hospital with privileges and rights just like every citizen. He had the identity of Congolese, a culture to be proud of, dreams to be a doctor, and hopes for peace and harmony in the
Democratic Republic of Congo. And finally, a place to call home.
All of a sudden, the number of people in the hospital decreased, the number of deceased increased, not from disease but from the common enemy known as war.
The river water this child drank was contaminated by blood and bodies of the dead.
He also stole food from those who had perished.
These conditions left mothers with no choice but to run to a different country,
whereby selling human body parts was a source of income.
Civil conflicts among the citizens were becoming commonplace, murder was easy, and again they were forced to move to another country where tolerance and acceptance were still a problem. She wondered if there would ever be an end to the running,
if they really belonged to this world; this cruel, cruel world.
Then she looked at her child and asked herself once again, “Who is this child?”
I am that child, a child of the universe, a runner, invisible footprint in the sand.
I am a believer who believes that the day I stop believing is the day believing becomes a lie.
I am a son who comes from the deep root of misery,
where surviving is not an option but compulsory.
A child of a universe who has been trying to know his language
but will never even know how to pronounce his name.
Day by day, he remembers how his mother was slaughtered like an animal.
A nightmare from which he will never awaken.
Deep dark sorrows that will remain for eternity.
I am that child, a child of the universe, a runner, invisible footprint in the sand.
What do they all have in common? They all have the potential to be boring.
But is that such a bad thing?
Life today often gives our eyes an overdose of entertainment. But what about our minds? What about our souls? Sometimes when we allow ourselves to be idle, inspiration unfolds, imagination takes charge, and inventiveness evolves.
So when WiFi isn’t available, or when we find ourselves enduring seemingly interminable situations, we have a choice. We can either kvetch. Or we can seize the moment in time to capture one sight, one note, one word, or one smile … and become the creative beings that we were meant to be. After all, boredom can unfold into blessings!
Rabbi Howard A. Berman is Founding Rabbi of Central Reform Temple. He is also Rabbi Emeritus of Chicago Sinai Congregation, Chicago’s historic center of liberal Reform Judaism, having served as Senior Rabbi from 1982-2002. He was born in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, where he received his early religious and general education. After attaining his undergraduate degree in European History from the Universities of Cincinnati and London, England, he studied for the Rabbinate at the Leo Baeck College in London, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, where he received the degree of Master of Hebrew Letters and was ordained in 1974.
This Week’s Torah Portion – Parashat Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11-34:35) – begins with the census of the people of Israel and with further instructions concerning the Tabernacle and the Shabbat. The portion then proceeds to tell the story of the Golden Calf, Moses’ plea to god, the splitting of the Tablets into two, and the giving of the second tablets. Our discussion focuses, among other things, on the role of aesthetics in religion.
Rosner's Torah Talk: Parshat KiTisa with Rabbi Howard A. Berman - YouTube
Shmuel Rosner and Brigadier General (Res.) Michael Herzog discuss the possible challenges that await the new Israeli government.
Brigadier General (Res.) Herzog is a senior fellow at JPPI and currently heads an extensive project on confronting the de-legitimization phenomena. He rose through the military ranks to become head of the IDF’s strategic planning division and one of Israel’s prominent experts on strategic, military and intelligence matters.
Over the last decade General Herzog has held senior positions in the office of Israel’s Minister of Defense, under four ministers and was the Chief of Staff to Minister Ehud Barak. In those positions, he was at the center of Israeli decision-making on all key strategic, defense and political issues. General Herzog is also a military fellow at the Washington Institute, where he published extensively on Middle Eastern affairs.