a guide on how not to tokenize Jews

WHAT’S IN IT FOR YOU?

Before you amplify a Jewish person, pause to think: is there anything in it for you? Say you have an opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Say that this Jewish person’s words or posts validate your opinion. Are you sharing their work because — either implicitly or explicitly — you can point to them and say, “see? This Jewish person agrees with me, which means I’m right or that I’m not an antisemite.” If that’s why you are amplifying this person, don’t bother. You are not amplifying them as an ally to the Jewish community. You are tokenizing them.

You should amplify Jewish people because you care about us as human beings, not because there is anything in it for you. You should amplify us because our safety matters and our opinions matter, not because our opinions validate yours.

 

KNOW YOUR PLACE

Some discussions are intracommunity discussions. This means that if you are not Jewish, your two cents are not only unneeded, but they can also be a distraction. Jews form only 0.2% of the world population; this means that our voices are already drowned out enough as it is. Most celebrities have more followers than there are Jews in the entire world.

We don’t need you speaking over us — or worse, FOR us — when a topic is none of your concern and does not affect your life in any way.

For example: conversations about internalized antisemitism are none of your business. Conversations about the place of Zionism in Jewish culture, spirituality, and tradition are none of your business. Conversations about issues within the Orthodox community are none of your business. A specific example I can think of is when Dua Lipa accused Jewish members of the Knesset (Israeli parliament) of being “fake” Jews. That was completely inappropriate, out of line, and antisemitic. Their Jewish identity is none of her business. Dua Lipa has five times more followers on Instagram than there are Jews in the world.

 

BE CHALLENGED

You cannot adequately support Jewish People if you are not open to hearing about our experiences, even when they don’t align with yours. The fact of the matter is that if you are not Jewish, you cannot possibly know what being Jewish is like.

Antisemitism is completely embedded into our world, our cultures, and our societies. It’s known as the world’s oldest hatred for a reason: it’s a 3000-year-old bigotry. Chances are your country has persecuted Jews at some point in history, considering Jews have been oppressed at some period or another in nearly every nation in the world. Chances are you learned antisemitism since childhood. Chances are you have antisemitic biases. Chances are your family does too. If you genuinely want to learn from Jews, it’s inevitable that you will be challenged at some point. Allow yourself to be.

Many “allies” toss Jews aside the second that they feel challenged by their views. Don’t do this. This is not allyship: it’s tokenism.

 

DIVERSIFY

There are around 15.2 million Jews in the world today. This means that there are 15.2 million different Jewish opinions and experiences. Like all groups of people, the Jewish People are not a monolith. Jews, especially, are known for our long tradition of debate and disagreement. If you are genuinely interested in learning from Jews — and to avoid tokenization — it’s important for you to listen to many Jewish voices, and not just voices that you always agree with. It’s also important to listen to Jews of diverse backgrounds, races, sub-ethnic groups, social classes, genders, sexual orientations, and more.

This also means that if you disagree with a person about a topic unrelated to Jewishness or Judaism, you should still be willing to listen when they talk about their Jewish experience. People — Jews included — are multifaceted individuals. You might not always agree with us, but you should understand that no one can speak to the Jewish experience better than we can.

 

GOOD VS BAD JEWS

For as long as antisemitism has existed, antisemites have imposed a good vs bad Jew dichotomy on us. The Greeks did it over 2000 years ago. So did Stalin in the 1950s. Unfortunately this continues to this day.

Who is a “good Jew”? A “good Jew” is a Jew whose viewpoints validate those of non-Jewish folks. For example, Stalin, while on the brink of enacting a genocidal campaign of the Jewish people, planned on having “Jews loyal to the Soviet regime” sign a letter denouncing the “traitorous Zionists” (worth noting that ultimately it did not matter whether Jews identified as Zionists or not; Stalin persecuted them anyway on trumped up or false charges). An example today is that of the Neturei Karta, a fringe, virulently antisemitic, LGBTQ-phobic, and sexist fringe Jewish group frequently propped up by “progressives” because they happen to “agree” with their anti-Zionist views. 

A “bad Jew,” on the other hand, is a Jew whose views challenge those of non-Jews. Antisemites treat “bad Jews” as disposable, because they do not validate their views. In other words, if we cannot serve you, you consider us bad.

Please note: I am NOT saying some Jews are good and some Jews are bad. People are multifaceted and it’s not my place to judge anyone. I am simply describing an ancient antisemitic trope that still plays out every day. That’s not allyship.

 

ALLYSHIP IS NOT CONDITIONAL

No Jew — not a single one — deserves antisemitism. Antisemitism is not a valid punishment for bad behavior; it’s an ancient, senseless form of hatred that has gotten innocent people murdered for thousands of years.

Unfortunately, much of the world doesn’t see it this way. For example, according to the ADL Index on Global Antisemitism, 82% of Egyptians believe people hate Jews because of “the way Jews behave.” 36% of Lithuanians believe the same thing. So do 35% of Russians, 78% of Moroccans, 61% of Turks, 34% of Venezuelans, and 41% of Swiss people (I just chose random countries from the survey to illustrate my point).

All Jews deserve protection from antisemitism, no matter how good or bad their views and/or behavior. Additionally, antisemitism targeting Jews you dislike always spills over and hurts other Jews (as an example, see my post EVERY SINGLE NATION THAT HAS EVER OUTLAWED “ZIONISM” THEN WENT ON TO PERSECUTE ITS JEWS). If you cannot understand this, and if you do not pursue safety for every single Jew, you are not an ally.