The Jewish people are an interesting group. I love my brethren dearly, but sometimes they frustrate me. To our credit, many of us are quick to think about the needs of others. We are overrepresented in groups like the Peace Corps, various social justice causes, and we give a tremendous amount of charity as a community.
At the same time, while there are those of us who fight against antisemitism, sometimes, some of us just throw up our hands and accept being treated badly because the Torah says that being hated will be part of the reality of exile. I saw accepting bad treatment happen twice recently, despite the fact that the arguments for backing down were given for contradictory reasons.
A couple weeks ago, I wrote that with our minuscule population, there is no reason that the majority of stories in the media about dysfunctional religious families should be about Jews. With 133 times more Muslims in the world and 166 times more Christians in the world, if the media cared to be balanced, they’d share stories of dysfunctional religious communities at a rate that was equivalent to a group’s population. But of course, this is not the case. Jews are way overrepresented in this arena.
The Muslim community was frustrated by always being depicted as terrorists, and they spoke out. More and more often I have seen movies and TV shows try to avoid this terrorist trope. Yet so many Jews responded to my article saying, “Well, that’s just how it is.” “We are a curiosity.” “The world hates Jews. What can we do?”
After I posted about overrepresentation of dysfunctional Jews in the media, I posted about an incredible Orthodox Jewish marathon runner named Beatie Deustsch. She’s the fastest woman in Israel, despite only having started to run a few years ago and running in a skirt with covered her hair, two things which add drag. Her time is so competitive, Israel’s Olympic committee reached out to her and asked her to join them last year.
While the women’s marathon is always on a Sunday in the summer Olympics and had been scheduled on a Sunday if the Olympics had taken place this summer, when the IOC rescheduled it due to Covid19, Beatie asked them to please consider her religious needs and not make the race on a Saturday. When they came out with the new date, they chose the one time Beatie wasn’t available.
Beatie is now fighting this decision as the IOC has made religious accommodations before. The IOC accommodated Muslim athletes who were fasting on Ramadan. That was a wonderful thing. They should accommodate all religious groups. But when I posted about this, some said, “Why should we ask for a change in schedule? We’re so small in number.” “It makes sense for Muslims to be accommodated, but not such a small group like us.”
So the question is – which is it – are we so small in number that the world should stop being obsessed with our community? Or are we significant enough that the world should accommodate us like any other religious group? Why are we so willing to accept being treated badly??
When it comes to numbering Jews, the Torah has an interesting approach. God tells Abraham:
I will bless you greatly, and increase your offspring like the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore. (Bereishit 22:16)
At face value, this doesn’t make much sense. There are not a lot of Jews in the world and there never have been. So how did God promise something that didn’t happen? Then again, we are the eternal nation. Perhaps the large number that Hashem promises comes about through generations upon generations upon generations that Jews survive.
While we may be small in number today, enough for the media to leave us alone (thank you very much!), we have been around for so long, in every society, always making historic contributions, that we are a significant enough group to be considered for accommodations as any other group would be.
Why must we stand quietly by when the dysfunctional elements of our community are overemphasized, but our heroes, women like Beatie Deutsch, are held back? Yes, the Torah tells us we will be set aside in the world with harsher treatment as the chosen people, but the secular world doesn’t believe this. They believe in equality. They believe in ending hate against minorities. Let’s hold them to their own standards and not settle for anything less.
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While we should stand up for ourselves, in some contexts, there is a risk of escalating conflict and making the situation worse.