March 6, 2019
This piece originally appeared in the Boston Globe.
In “The Last Temptation of Michael Cohen” (Ideas, March 3), S.I. Rosenbaum contends that, despite being victims of anti-Semitism, many Jews are perpetrators of white supremacy. It is a peculiar claim that she explains by pointing out that Michael Cohen, the son of a Holocaust survivor, helped “a white supremacist ‘autocrat’ ” become president. She buttresses her claim by citing other Jews whom she believes have enabled President Trump, including Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller, and then invoking the name of another so-called bad Jew, the notorious Roy Cohn.
Many Jews worked for President Obama, and some of President Trump’s fiercest critics, such as Bernie Sanders, Adam Schiff, Chuck Schumer, and Dianne Feinstein, are Jews. Yet this does little to temper Rosenbaum’s thesis. Her logic is chilling and familiar. Find Jews who have done something of which you disapprove and then argue that these Jews model what other Jews do or think.
Anti-Semitism, like other forms of bigotry, flourishes where reckless generalizations about a people are treated as truths. In the 20th century, National Socialists argued that Jews were responsible for Communism, and Communists argued that Jews were the source of capitalism. The thread that bound these accusations was the propensity to identify Jews with a perceived evil that was believed to threaten public welfare. That impulse has driven anti-Semitism for two millennia, and Rosenbaum seems to have unwittingly embraced it.
American Jewish Committee, New England region