You wouldn’t know it from my last name, my tan skin, my North Florida address, or my politics, but I am a Jew. A northeastern Jew, in fact. I not only had a Bar Mitzvah but continued to attend Hebrew School afterward.
And while I’d never move back up north, and seldom attend synagogue, I still feel a tremendous sense of pride while watching the Orthodox Jews of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, rebel against their tinpot dictator-mayor. Williamsburg has long been home to Jewish immigrants, including my grandparents and my mother. That’s right, they had a hipster address before it was cool. However, my pride is not based on our tenuous shared geographical connection but instead from our cultural history of rebellion.
For those not following along at home, Mayor Bill de Blasio holds a personal grudge against these rebellious Jews. Many Orthodox Jews continued to hold gatherings during the NYC lockdown. When Orthodox Jews held a public funeral, de Blasio threatened to arrest them.
Mind you, the event organizers actually met with NYPD to arrange their event in the safest possible manner. Can the same be said of the Black Lives Matter protests? While I wouldn’t advocate the arrest of anyone holding a peaceful gathering, why has de Blasio encouraged those protests while threatening funeral attendees?
Other Brooklyn Orthodox Jews have been outraged that playgrounds are closed. Why can people march in the streets if children can’t play on a playground? So the rebels did what good rebels do: They brought bolt cutters and reopened the parks themselves. When new locks arrived, they cut them again. Thus far, they’ve cut the locks 25 times.
And I know what you’re thinking: “Jews, rebelling?” When many Americans think of Jews, they probably picture Larry David or Woody Allen. But these hysterically funny and endlessly neurotic comics do not represent our rebellious history against powerful foes like the Greeks and the Romans. In fact, the story of Hanukkah is a story of guerrilla warfare.
Centuries of oppression did indeed create a cultural shift. I guess Jews assumed if they kept quiet and kept their heads down, no one would bother them. Notable events in the mid-20th century showed this not to be particularly effective. But since then, Jews have reclaimed their rebellious nature.
Modern Americans know about the powerful Israeli military, which was surrounded by Arab enemies they defeated time and time again. What they may not know is the role of brave American Jews in those fights.
When Israel received a surprise attack during Yom Kippur of 1973, one of the holiest days of the year, it seemed quite possible the Arabs might finally drive us into the sea. Despite this terrifying possibility, some American Jews flew to Israel to help save their homeland.
I’m lucky enough to count one of them as a friend. Steve Gerzof was a medical student at the time and paid his way to fly to a warzone so that he might provide treatment to frontline soldiers.
Some Jews use humor as a weapon, and others use the law. In fact, a few Jewish attorneys just sued de Blasio because of his selective enforcement of the law. But it’s great to know that the brave, rebellious history of Jews still lives in Brooklyn.
And if things don’t improve, perhaps Brooklyn should consider rebelling against New York City and reclaiming the independence they held as recently as the turn of the 20th century.
Adam Guillette is the President of Accuracy in Media, www.aim.org