Tearing Down the Statutes

Rabbi Avi Shafran would certainly agree that the Reform movement’s efforts for egalitarian prayers at the Kosel are merely a ruse and an opportunistic excuse in their attempt to fundamentally undermine frumkeit in the State of Israel. However, for the past two weeks he seems unable to apply this model to other contexts.

For the approximately 30 years of Nancy Pelosi’s membership in Congress, no statue offended her nor the Democratic party. During her time as Speaker of the House, when she certainly had the voice to air grievances, there was never a hint of outrage, nor empathy for any supposed victims. In fact, since the time Nancy Pelosi’s own father, who as Mayor of Baltimore dedicated statues to Robert E. Lee and ‘Stonewall’ Jackson, and in his speech said that they defended ‘sacred institutions,’ neither their removal nor any empathy has been discussed … until just now.

Is there a call for empathy? The calls from the Left are resulting in increased violence … in the streets of Berkeley … and Seattle … and Boston … and Portland … to an uptick in murdered police officers across the country … to a near mass-assassination on a baseball field in Virginia, R”l.

Perhaps the central thrust of Black Lives Matters, Alliance4Action, Organizing for Action, the Workers World Party, Antifa, and the other neo-Marxist anti-Semites in this mix is not merely the erasing of history through the tearing down of statues, but in fact is … merely a ruse and an opportunistic excuse in their attempt to fundamentally undermine our civil society in the United States.

C. Stern, Potomac, Maryland

Rabbi Shafran responds:

Dear Mr./Mrs. Stern,

I suspect that the Reform movement’s agitation in Israel is equal parts disdain for our mesorah and an attempt to energize its moribund membership. But I don’t see what pertinence that fact has to the issue of Confederate statues. There may be people interested in “fundamentally undermin[ing] our civil society” but I don’t think the average African-American who is pained by tributes to slavery has such nefarious motivations.

What I argued for was simple empathy for those who are sincerely insulted by statues celebrating American slavery. I did not reference either Nancy Pelosi or the Democratic Party. So I would rather not speculate about what may have motivated her or it to propose the removal of some statues.

(And, as I pointed out in my column and stress again, the offensive statues do not include every Confederate-era monument; neither General Jackson nor General Lee was a pro-slavery ideologue — and Lee, in particular, I believe, deserves recognition for his grace in surrender and commitment to reconciliation and a unified republic.)

Nor did I address, much less support, chalilah, the hatred and violence in the radical left-wing of American politics. It has nothing, however, to do with average black American citizens’ feelings about slavery.

If any victims of Communism, of which there are countless, were to express pain over the statue of Lenin recently moved from the East Village to the Lower East Side of Manhattan, I would counsel empathy for them no less.

Kesivah vachasimah tovah!