Dual Loyalty Re…

Dual Loyalty Redux

January 27, 2012


          The owner and publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times, Andrew Adler, wrote a shocking and frankly, despicable, op-ed piece in his newspaper on January 13.  Adler announced his resignation on Monday after suggesting that Israel assassinate US President Barack Obama. Adler decided to step down as editor and handed those responsibilities to one of his reporters. Meanwhile, CNN reported that the Secret Service has launched an investigation into Adler’s activities. In his column, Adler laid out what he said were three options available to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in countering the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program. One of the options was to “give the go-ahead for US-based Mossad agents to take out a president deemed unfriendly to Israel in order for the current vice-president to take his place, and forcefully dictate that the United States’ policy includes its helping the Jewish state obliterate its enemies.”  The other two options, according to Adler, are to attack Hezbollah and Hamas or defy the US – which he said is willing to let Israel “take a lethal bullet.” According to Adler, who later apologized for his column, Obama has an “Alice in Wonderland” belief in diplomacy over force.[1] 

          The American Jewish community was appropriately outraged by the article and condemned Adler, who immediately apologized, resigned, and put his newspaper up for sale.  The Atlanta Jewish Federation cut its ties with the newspaper until it has a new owner unconnected to Adler.  While one can disagree with a president’s policies, it is reprehensible to suggest that a president should be assassinated when one does not agree with him.  Adler may very well be arrested and prosecuted for threatening the President of the United States- and no one will shed a tear.

          Adler also raised an issue which has existed under the surface for the last three thousand years- the issue of dual loyalty.  Since the time of Joseph when we lived in Egypt, our loyalty to our host country has been repeatedly questioned.  One of the reasons why so many American Jews were non-Zionists is that they believed their loyalty to the United Stateswould be questioned if there was a sovereign Jewish state which would have a claim on our loyalty.  This was one of the major reasons why the Reform movement in mid-19th centuryGermany eliminated prayers for the ingathering of the Jewish people toIsrael and the restoration of the Davidic dynasty.  The early Reformers were very sensitive to this issue of dual loyalty.  Above all else, they desired acceptance as Germans who had all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.  They wanted nothing to tarnish their reputations or to sully their loyalty toGermany.  In l84l, at the dedication ceremony of Temple Beth Elohim in Charleston, South Carolina, Rabbi Gustav Posnanski declared: “This country is our Palestine, this city our Jerusalem, this house of God our Temple.” American Reform Judaism, the dominant Jewish expression of the 19th century, declared in its l885Pittsburgh Platform that, “We consider ourselves no longer a nation, but a religious community.” When Russian Jews fled the Pale of Settlement en mass beginning in 1881, German Jews in theUnited States, who by then were successfully assimilated, were ambivalent about the arrival of their Eastern European brethren.  While they did all they could to help them settle and integrate into their new home, they were simultaneously appalled by their gross displays of ethnicity and religiosity, so foreign to the Americanized Germans.  While German Jews inBaltimore and elsewhere created the structure of the modern Jewish community to aid the Russian immigrants, they also created distinctly German Jewish social institutions to separate themselves from their Russian counterparts.  Hence, we have the German Jewish Suburban Club, established in 1900, and the Russian Jewish Woodholme Country Club. 

          American Jews have been uncomfortable with the word “Diaspora.”  We believe that we are perfectly at home in this country.  We think that Americais different from any other land in which we have lived and that this is our home as much as Israelis our homeland.  Those in the generation younger than me do not even understand the meaning of the word, so foreign is the concept of Diaspora to them.  Just last Saturday night in the Blaustein Auditorium, the comedian asked a table of very intelligent Jews under forty if they knew the meaning of the word.  Only one even ventured a reply and she said, “Isn’t Diaspora a kind of bacteria?”  While fervent Zionists believe that all Jews outside of Israellive in Galut, exile, and that we should all be living inIsrael, the vast majority of American Jews reject that concept entirely.  We are not in exile, this is our home.  We have fought and died for this country since we arrived here in 1654.  The blood of our fathers and mothers stains the ground of domestic and foreign battlefields.  A young Jewish airman, Matthew Ryan Seidler ofWestminster, was laid to rest just last week after being killed while serving inAfghanistan.  Our loyalty to theUnited States should not be questioned.  Yet, and that is a very big word, yet when an Andrew Adler or a Jonathan Pollard place their loyalty to Israel before that of the United States, the issue of a dual loyalty once again raises its ugly head. 

          Let us put the issue to rest once and for all.  We are citizens of the United States of America.  We love our country and are completely loyal to it.  While Israelis the ancestral Jewish homeland and we provide assistance to needy Jews who live there, the State of Israel does not command our loyalty.  We are American Jews first and foremost.  We are not living in Galut, exile, but have chosen to live in the most vibrant and dynamic Jewish community that has ever existed in theUnited States of America, a country unlike any other that has ever existed.  May God bless theseUnited States and may this, our country, always prosper.


[1] YNet, January 24, 2012.

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