NY Times opinion editor and writer, Bari Weiss, has a heart of gold who hits the right notes for most liberal defenders of Israel and Jews — but not necessarily with the right emphasis. Speaking from the stage of the ornate sanctuary of New York’s Temple Emanu-El, in an event organized by the Streicker Center, its adult educational program, the petite 34-year old journalist drew an enthusiastic response from an enormous crowd listening to her passionate speech and to a Q & A afterwards with her former boss, Alana Newhouse, Tablet’s editor in chief. Their subject, “How to Fight Anti-Semitism.”
Ms. Weiss’s prescription: Don’t shy away from being Jewish, don’t shy away from being Zionist or pro-Israel, and be more involved with the Jewish community and Judaism. This fits with her upbringing as an active Conservative Jew (in the religious denominational sense), having been bat-mitzvahed in the now tragically-famous Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh where she grew up, and having spent a gap year between high school and college in Israel, in a Conservative movement program.
She mentioned unhappiness with the ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories and Israel’s rightward drift under Netanyahu, even referring to Netanyahu’s recent move on behalf of Kahanist racists. Yet this was said simply in passing by way of explaining that she’s still a liberal, without the need to give up on her Jewishness or Zionism, as she sees “the left” increasingly demanding of Jews. I’m with her in this, but I don’t see her adequately confronting the fact that the ongoing injustices inflicted upon Palestinians and the deepening occupation are what’s driving support for the BDS movement and explicit anti-Zionism that sometimes spills into antisemitism from the left.