In Defense of Louis Farrakhan (Ideas #13)

I don't know how many of you have ever read or heard any of Farrakhan's speeches beyond the anti-Semitic quotes featured in the Jewish and general media. I once found myself listening to a speech he gave to Central American youth in Belize. In spite of my own prejudices, I found myself inspired and in agreement with alomost everything he said. That is because he,the pope, the Christian Coalition and I have much in common. We are all religious fundementalists concerned with the moral and cultural decadence that has become the norm in a growing number of places.

In that speech, Farrakhan spoke about modest dress, self-respect and the corruptive influence of the media (movies, music, etc.). So where does Jew-hatred come in?

I presume that he believes Jews to be lined up against his cultural agenda. Because such Jews are very visible, he has come to some unfortunate conclusions. An amalgam of Jews at the forefront of the entertainment industry, the free speech movement and prominent liberal clergy represent Judaism to Louis Farrakhan. More important, they represent Judaism to many others concerned with cultural decadence.

When the Jewish Community Relations Council, supposedly representing the entire Jewish community, takes positions supporting state funding for abortion while opposing such funding for parochial schools, the general public draws its conclusions. When the most visible Jewish cultural institution in New York takes a high-profile position supporting public funding of a pornographic art show at the Brooklyn Museum, the general public is not surprised. The OU and the Aguda have an extremely difficult public relations job convincing the general public that the previous positions are not in line with normative Judaism.


I am not sure why many Jews are at the forefront of cultural decadence. While any ideological majority like the Jews has an obvious interest in separation of church and state and freedom of expression, this is an outgrowth of historical experience, not a core value. While core values such as modesty, propreity and respect for authority have been pushed aside in the worldview of non-Orthodox Jews, the vacuum has been filled by what should objectively be viewed as pragmatic goals. When freedom of expression becomes a core value to Jews, they give it the same fervor which has been applied to core values in the past. Unfortunately, when such becomes the case, the results are not neccessarily consonant with the will of G-d.


While Farrakhan and others are mistaken when they see the above as being a concerted effort by the Jewish people or even rooted in Judaism, it is important to avoid reacting in a knee-jerk fashion. Rather than simply claiming anti-Semitism, we should redouble our efforts at explaining true Judaism to the world at large. The millions of dollars used by the establishment ADL will continue to be wasted so long as its leaders are, themselves, ignorant of basic Judaism. They too tend to be more interested in civil rights than traditional Judaism's emphasis on civil duties.


While Orthodox voices have spoken up admirably on the Brooklyn Musuem issue, we need to put traditional values at the center of our political agenda. Many American presidential candidates are putting this at the center of their platforms. Traditional Jews must vocally and unequivocally support such candidates. If we desire a more accurate perception of Judaism to dispel potential hatred towards our people, we must put the core values of Judaism at the center of our community's political agenda.