Let me explain. On one hand, there are no good Jews, because it implies the existence of a group of Jews called “bad Jews,” and there is no such group. On the other hand (mi'tzad sheini), there are no good Jews because “good” and “bad” is a Christian promulgated binary and therefore the idea of a “good” anything – in comparison to its “bad” counterpart – is a tool that has been used through history in antisemitic and then Islamophobic and then racist ways, let alone cis-hetero-patriarchal from the get go.
So, let me reiterate, there are no good Jews. Take it from me, who is mostly implicitly being called a good Jew by many non-Jews these days, for example (I am also being called a good Jew by so many Jews, and also being called a bad Jew by many Jews and non-Jews alike, for the record). Non-Jews I've known for years, and non-Jewish strangers via DM or email, are reaching out to share how much they appreciate me and my work these last two months.
I thank them/you for this. I do. I feel seen in my work.
But, there are two side-effects (at least) that I am aware of:
- As I’ve already said, it implies there are other Jews who are bad, who are unworthy of praise – whether because they are explicitly not calling for a ceasefire or for another reason. And this is false. I have never met, nor will I ever meet a “bad Jew.” What can I say, I love us all! And,
- It implies that as a Jew, my own worth is contingent upon visibly showing and articulating my solidarity with Palestinian people.
Neither of these side effects are useful. Over time, they will erode the health of individuals and the ecosystem as a whole.
Take Yaakov/Yisrael. I use both names here because it is unclear his own agency in choosing his name. On one hand, he was born Yaakov – he (y’), who followed (‘akav) [Esav out of the womb]; and on the other hand, he was given the name Yisrael – for he (y’), strove-and-persisted (s’rah), with the divine (‘el).
Yaakov/Yisrael supported and hurt his son Yosef by praising him more than his other kids. (Gen 37:3) His favoritism for Yosef was apparent to his siblings, so much so that they threw him under the bus, or in this case, onto the Midianite (or was it Ishmaelite? Or Jawas?) slave transport, nearly severing their relationship beyond repair (stay tuned, no spoilers).
When we, perhaps like Yaakov/Yisrael, show favoritism to one Jew over others, or one group of Jews over other groups of Jews, we could be participating in the divisiveness of siblings, even when we do not mean to.
Dvar acher (a different take): we should all praise that which inspires us and brings us strength! Express thanks and gratitude to that which inspires your feeling of gratitude: “it is good to offer our thanks! (Psalms 92:3)
Yes, and please consider finding something to praise. Finding something that inspires gratitude is the Jewish practice of hakarat ha’tov. Judaism is not devoid of the good/bad binary, but we have held onto a perhaps more ancient understanding that they are both in each of us. these perceptions: that there is good and bad in all of us all the time. “And who is mighty/(s/t)he(y)roic? One who overrides their inclination for evil.” (Pirkei Avot 4:1)
I know that I am grateful to have this Kadima and wider community, and this gratitude is often amplified internally during times like these last few months. May I learn to be grateful for community and act with such clarity and passion even in times of ease and peace – and may those times come soon and in our days.
PS - My gratitude for the amazing community is showing up in many ways, including my family drafting an email to send to our family and friends asking them to support Kadima financially this month as part of the EO(G)Y season, as well as deciding on the meaningful contribution that we will make ourselves. Won’t you join us in considering these things as well? Thank you!