Letter: Anti-Semitism shines through in letter | AspenTimes.com

Letter: Anti-Semitism shines through in letter

Sean Elias’s letter to the editor on Sept. 10 (“Breeding anti-Semitism,” The Aspen Times) served the exact opposite purpose of what he seems to have intended.

Rather than discrediting Rabbi David Segal’s level of self-reflection or strengthening any assertion that anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism, he revealed that he in fact uses the veil of Israel himself in an attempt to make his profoundly anti-Semitic statements slightly less obvious. I live in Atlanta, but I read your paper regularly as my wife and I vacation in your beautiful valley every two years or so. When we are in town, we visit Segal’s congregation. Whenever I read one of his pieces (“On anti-Semitism, from Aspen,” Commentary, Sept. 6) in your paper, I am impressed with his intense dedication to the Aspen community and especially his commitment to fostering a loving, supportive, multi-faith community. For those reasons, I could not stand by and watch one of his pieces used as an inappropriate segue for Elias’s unrelated agenda.

First, and most obviously, most national parks allow the reservation of certain areas for a variety of purposes. “How does one — or rather one group — ‘reserve’ nature?” Elias wrote. Well, in lieu of sending him the reservation link (fine: it’s at Recreation.gov), I’d suggest that his subtle dig is nothing more than his first thinly disguised attack of the exact variety of the anti-Semitic statement that Segal recounted. Elias never would have made that statement at the expense of a Boy Scout Troop or church group that had reserved a common space.

Additionally, Elias demands that Segal separate anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, but he then asserts that there are “power abuses by the Israeli state that spawn the greatest incidences of anti-Semitism.” In other words, he asserts that Israel’s actions makes people hate Jews, even though that very association goes directly against his poorly formed thesis.

It is quite clear that this letter is aimed at getting a few digs in at Israel and Jews in a local forum, at the expense of a local rabbi who opened the doors for Elias’s greater agenda of sharing his thoughts on his personal Jewish problem. My fear is that to the casual reader, his letter may seem like a legitimate counterpoint as opposed to an outright assault on Segal and Jews, whom he feels have a “sense of undeserved self-worth.” I’ll quote Elias again, as his own words, when seen for what they are, make my point for me: “Segal might try to be more self-reflective and critical of fellow Jews who display a sense of entitlement and ethno-exclusionary praxis.” I’ll commend his thesaurus use, but if he doesn’t think that statement to be anti-Semitic, he may need to look up the definition of anti-Semitism.

In fact, Elias’s own last paragraph is the definition of anti-Semitism: “One surefire way to attack anti-Semitism is to dismantle many Jews’ belief in Jewish supremacy.” Still with me? “While it is no surprise that all (emphasis added) Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jews are taught to believe Jews are God’s ‘chosen people,’ it is alarming that many highly secular Jews hold the same view. Promoting this flawed ethnocentric belief only miseducates (sic) Jewish youth, perpetuates a sense of undeserved self-worth among the indoctrinated and breeds anti-Semitism among non-Jews.” That just about says it all.

Aside from lumping all Jews from all denominations together, and including secular Jews for good measure, Elias is attempting to forward his agenda of “informing” your readership about the self-centered nature of all Jews, who apparently believe themselves to be better than everyone else. As a Jew, I had no idea this was so rampant among my people — because it isn’t. Luckily, your community has the shining stars of Segal, and his wife, Cantor Rollin Simmons, who are living embodiments of the antithesis to Elias’s rampage. I hope the readers of this great paper can see through Elias’s hate and can embrace Segal’s regular column, which has only promoted the exact opposite of Elias’s indictment of him and all members of the Jewish people.

Adam Friedlander