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REFLECTIONS WITH Lana Melman: It’s not a Sophie’s Choice

Amanda Berman, Founder and Executive Director of Zioness, a coalition of Jewish activists and allies who are “unabashedly progressive and unapologetically Zionist,” also spoke at the conference.  She makes a powerful case that the fissure between the progressive left and Zionism hurts the progressive movement.

First, it is not in the interest of any social / political movement to exclude a group that shares your goals. Numbers matter in politics. While some Jews may turn their back on Zion, others will walk away from progressive activism – a huge loss given how instrumental Jews have been in social justice causes in the past.

Second, antisemitism is a poison pill. The intrusion of Jew-hatred had a deleterious impact on Britain’s Labour Party whose leader, Jeremy Corbyn, ignored a firestorm of Jew hate in the party’s ranks. Many Jews lived in fear and at one point nearly half considered leaving their country. Ultimately, the Brits rejected the antisemitism in their midst and Corbyn’ s party suffered a humiliating defeat in the 2019 elections leaving it with its fewest seats in Parliament since 1935.

And third, she reminds Progressives that all minorities have a common enemy in white supremacists who, incidentally, blame Jews for the ascendency of other minority groups.

The antidote to the dilemma is for Jewish leaders and laymen alike to speak up.

Berman urges progressive Zionist Jews and their allies to show up in progressive circles as proud Zionists and let others know that Zionism is a liberation movement and a progressive value. R. Weinblatt advises, “Rabbis’ critiques and criticisms of Israel should not be louder or stronger than their expressions of love.”

Insisting that liberation for others can only be at the expense of our own is an unacceptable Sophie’s Choice for our people. Putting others before ourselves will not earn us any respect or mercy. It never has. Tikkun Olam – repairing the world – does not require that we destroy who we are. In fact, it forbids it.

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