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New Year, New Hate

Welcome to the bigotry that populates my inbox

January 07, 2016

Happy [Not Our] New Year, everybody. It’s 2016, and I’m revved up and ready to go: a new year means a fresh start to 12 more months of bigotry in my inbox! To wit, here’s the first one of this new year:

Hey shmendrik,

Hate to tell you this but you are JEWISH with black skin, not a black whose religion is Jewish. Stop thinking like a Leftist nigger, a la Barak [sic] Hussein Obama (half black, I know), Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Eric Holder, et al.

START thinking like an American Jew or Jewish American, however you like. I don’t know if you were born a Jew, converted to Judaism or if you are a fake Jew because it’s cool, or whatever, but you need to stop thinking like you are black. You aren’t. Black is just the color of your skin. Too bad you’re in New York, I’d try to get you to listen to Larry Elder, that might just straighten your warped thinking out.

PS: I’m an American Jew whose skin happens to be white, and yes, I am a bigot. I hate bigots on the Left, making me a conservative bigot. So be it.

I love it. The ignorance. The cluelessness. The utter lack of comprehension that what makes him a bigot isn’t his politics but, well, actually being a bigot. It’s so perfectly offensive on all of the levels that I’m kvelling. I feel as though I don’t really have any other option than to sit back and laugh in incredulity, actually. This, my friends, is just a day in the life of my inbox.

For the last seven years I’ve been subjected to, like many outspoken voices on race and religion, a litany of written abuses, be it via email, Facebook, or Twitter, etc. In fact, the above email is even a bit tame: most of what is sent to me is fairly horrifying. Like the time I was sent a delightful email wishing me a “Shana hara, ben zona gadol,” which translates to “Have a bad year you son of a bitch.” The email went on: “May dybbuks beset your home; may all that you touch come to naught; may your seed find no purchase in the womb; may your kin be cursed and damned until the end of time.” (Personally, I appreciated the effort to capture biblical cadences.)

Now, many folk say I “like stirring the pot,” that perhaps I brought this unto myself. This is ridiculous. What I do is call people out on their bullshit—especially those of my own religious affiliation—which isn’t stirring any pot but the toilet that the bullshit was made in and currently resides. No, dear friends, this is holding people accountable for their actions. (Ironically, the “stirring the pot” people are likely to be the first people to show that they are ALL THE ZIONIST whenever someone says that Israel keeps “stirring the pot” in the Middle East. Much like the same Jews who pathologically counter #blacklivesmatter with #alllivesmatter, but get distraught on Holocaust Remembrance Day when people point out that millions of other people also died in the genocide. Be pretty interesting to see what their reaction would be if non-Jews countered #jewishlivesmatter with #ALLholocaustvictimsmatter).

So what’s a black Jewish man to do when, every day, strangers send hateful messages telling him that his entire existence is futile and perverse? Many might say I should simply brush these emails off, not open them in the first place. I say it doesn’t really matter because these people are ignorant idiots. Besides, as Jews this is par for the course: We all face discrimination and prejudice, but that’s just the reality of life for most of us at some time or another. But it’s sad when the perpetrators claim to be one of your own, at least on paper, as they say.

But as a black Jew? My armor, by necessity, is fortified. Sure, Jews who don’t have black or brown skin may have to deal with white supremacists or Westboro Church types, but they’re all over there: in their secret Klan meetings, at their dinner parties, in their places of worship, or maybe, if they have the guts, on the street yelling at you when you walk by looking particularly Jewy. And you get to barricade yourselves against them in the relative safety of your synagogue, Jewish community, or Jewish organization.

The guy who sent me this email, and people just like him? They’re sitting in the pews with me. They’re a part of what’s supposed to be my community, my spiritual and physical safe space. They might even run the organizations that are supposed to be a resource for me.

And that’s not cool, not cool at all. But bring it on: I can handle it. Because after what must be thousands of hateful messages sent my way (I’ve lost count), what’s one more email calling this black Jew a “schvartze chossid.”

This article is part of a collaboration between Tablet and JN Magazine, a website “here to change the monochromatic monolithic perception of Judaism.”

MaNishtana is the pseudonym of Shais Rishon, an Orthodox African-American Jewish writer, speaker, rabbi, and author of Thoughts From A Unicorn. His latest book is Ariel Samson, Freelance Rabbi.