On Racism

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Last week, I blogged about the Jewish community’s (and particularly the Orthodox community’s) confrontation with residual racism (in light of the Obama victory).

Well, the ever-wise Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein has continued this movement with a sensitive and important post over at Cross-Currents.

As always, Rabbi Adlerstein is willing to take a hard and honest look at communal problems: “This was no isolated incident. Frum teachers in our community use racial and ethnic slurs in the classroom; too many rabbonim still use disparaging language – or words like shvartze – thinking that they are harmless within the “inâ€? group.”

But more importantly, Rabbi Adlerstein acknowledges that there are those who believe that racism is, in effect, condoned by Judaism — and he argues forcefully against this possibility.

A third reason can be found in the selective reading and misappropriation of rabbinic texts. Many people “knowâ€? that all non-Jews hate all Jews. Chazal said so. הלכה ×”×™×? בידוע שעשיו שונ×? ×?ת יעקב. Underscoring “halachaâ€? means that this is a fixed, immutable rule.

Just how Esav turned into all non-Jews, rather than just one group of them, is a bit of a mystery. In fact, I have a hard time figuring out how Esav the person turned into Esav the nation. Searching a few Torah databases a few years ago, I could find no source before the end of the 19th century that took Esav to mean a group of people, rather than Esav the biblical figure – who had every reason to hate Yaakov!…

More puzzling is the assumption by some of us that Genesis 9:25, 27 consigns all black people to perpetual servitude. This becomes the basis of looking down upon black people. (MORE)

According to Yeshiva World News, this last notion was cited — after the Obama election — by Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, considered by many to be one of the gedolei hador.

Maran Hagon Rav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita is quoted as having said [on Wednesday] – following the election of Senator Barack Obama as America’s next president, that this is not the first time that a black person was elected to a leadership post, ‘News1′ reports.