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Conspiracy Theories -- Chronicle Online/The WORD 10/27/22

Weekly On-line Rabbi's D'var-Torah

October 27, 2022

2 Cheshvan 5783


Four years to the day after the Tree of Life shooting—the most violent and deadly antisemitic attack in American history—we are still dealing with antisemitism. In fact, as of 2021, antisemitism was on the rise. And, 2022 doesn’t feel any different. Over the last few weeks, we experienced Kanye West’s antisemitic social media posts and follow-up interviews. We watched and waited for Adidas—a company founded by brothers who were members of the Nazi party in Germany—to respond to Kanye’s antisemitism. It seems that the company only responded when the economic pressure grew too strong. Although Kanye got a lot of press attention—and deservedly so!—he is, sadly, not alone. In a hotly contested gubernatorial race, a political adviser referred to the Jewish candidate as “at best a secular Jew.” In other words, non-Jews get to decide who are the “good” Jews and who are the “bad” Jews. On one of the most prestigious college campuses in the country, nine student organizations amended their bylaws to ban anyone who is pro-Zionist or pro-Israel from speaking publicly at their sponsored events. Needless to say, “pro-Zionist” and “pro-Israel” are just code words for “Jew.” I could list many more examples, but we’d still be left wondering why is this all happening in 2022? And as I contemplate that question, I could not help but think about the Bible’s flood story, which is found in this week’s Torah portion. At the very beginning of the story, we read: “The earth became corrupt before God; the earth was filled with lawlessness (Gen. 6:11).” And that was enough for God to spring into action, ready to cleanse the earth with a flood of water. Rather than have to re-create everything, God told Noah to build an ark and save (at least) two of each animal in addition to his family. So, there was Noah building a gigantic ark and gathering up animals. Surely, his neighbors noticed. Yet, no one believed him. They could not tell the difference between a conspiracy theory and fact. We, too, live in a world where conspiracy theories are treated like facts and vice-versa. We shouldn’t be surprised, therefore, that one of the world’s oldest conspiracy theories is getting a reboot. Antisemitism is rooted in an ever-evolving conspiracy theory that we Jews killed another religion’s god, we control the world economic system, we manipulate the political leaders of countries like puppeteers, and we are responsible for wars in order to profit them. If you believe some of the other conspiracy theories that are popular these days, these assertions may not seem so fantastical. While Adidas took its time to respond to Kanye’s antisemitism, another company—MRC Studios —immediately cut ties with him and cancelled a film about him that they were set to release. MRC studio executives Modi Wiczyk, Asif Satchu, and Scott Tenley issued an amazing statement. Here’s an excerpt: “Kanye is a producer and sampler of music. Last week he sampled and remixed a classic tune that has charted for over 3000 years—the lie that Jews are evil and conspire to control the world for their own gain. This song was performed acapella in the time of the Pharaohs, Babylon, and Rome, went acoustic with The Spanish Inquisition and Russia’s Pale of Settlement, and Hitler took the song electric. Kanye has now helped mainstream it in the modern era.” (You can read the entire statement here.) This is why it’s so important to call out every lie and every conspiracy theory—even the ones that make us laugh (Jewish space lasers, anyone?). We never know which one is going to be repeated over and over again until it is believed. We never know which one will anger an unbalanced person and lead that person to violence. At the end of the flood story, God created the rainbow to symbolize that God would never seek to cleanse the world through a flood again. Instead, it is up to us to cleanse the world of hatred and bigotry. We do that every time we call out the lies and the conspiracy theories for what they are. Shalom, RAF.

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