The Oct. 14 edition of the Jamaica Plain Gazette carried a photo on page 4 of the monthly Black Lives Matter (BLM) vigil held in front of the First Baptist Church. The primary BLM issue of ongoing police violence against Black men in this country absolutely needs our immediate attention. That said, the BLM movement has become tainted by endorsing an organizational platform that contains anti-Israel and anti-Semitic language.
My question to our local clergy is how can you embrace the essential value of the BLM mission given the virulent anti-Semitic language that BLM has tacitly endorsed? Stated differently, how much anti-Semitic language is OK to ‘let it go’ and at what point does it become ‘too much’ and you (the clergy) decide to unequivocally repudiate it?
The language in the political platform singles out Israel as a purveyor of “apartheid and genocide” in the world. These particular words—genocide and apartheid—are incendiary, horribly stigmatizing, and a not-so-veiled form of anti-Semitic hate speech. I’ve traveled widely in Europe and discovered that the ‘latest’ version of European anti-Semitism is couched as anti-Israel speech. I’ve also traveled many times to Israel and directly confronted the destructive situation that Palestinians and Israelis face living in this no-win situation. So what are we to do with the anti-Semitic language in the BLM platform?
There ought to be zero tolerance on language like the anti-Semitic plank in this platform. This is also true for racist, misogynistic, or LGBTQ bashing language. So why is our local clergy willing to accept ‘just a little’ offensive anti-Semitic language and have remained mute about the anti-Semitic language in the BLM platform? Only they can answer that and I hope they step forward and do so.
I would like to see a written, public repudiation of this anti-Semitic language by our local clergy so we are all clear where they stand on this matter.
My view is the primary mission of a house of worship is welcoming ALL who want to be there regardless of their beliefs. Placing a BLM banner on a house of worship (or any political/social justice sign) potentially creates a barrier for some who might want to enter. Not everyone embraces what BLM is about and so a sign in front might turn these people away. I fully support and encourage faith communities to actively participate in and advocate for social justice/political issues. However, this needs to be done inside the building by individual members who choose to participate.
I’ve belonged to Jewish faith communities my entire life. Connecting in this way has always been an important part of my spiritual practice. I recently left my local faith community because of the BLM sign that was placed out in front, which represents to me a tacit acceptance of (or at least a willingness to overlook) the anti-Semitic language that now taints the BLM’s mission.
Allen M. Spivack