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Appeal to ADL chief: It’s time for you to call to reinstate Whoopi

A plethora of voices have weighed in on the controversy of Whoopi Goldberg’s remarks on “The View” regarding the Holocaust, her apology for the same, and her subsequent two-week suspension from the show by ABC News. Here is a direct appeal from Rabbi Tamar Manasseh of Chicago to Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt calling on him to work harder to build bridges to the Black community, rather than tearing down its celebrities who misstep, and for him to directly call on ABC to reverse Goldberg’s suspension.

An Open Letter to Jonathan Greenblatt:

Dear Mr. Greenblatt,

As I watched your appearance on The View last week, I couldn’t help but think how lucky American Jews are that there are powerful members of our community, like you, who have unfettered access to the decision-makers and opinion-shapers of our world today.

The day after Whoopi Goldberg’s comments that the Holocaust wasn’t about race, rather that it was a beef between two groups of white people, she invited you onto her show so you could help explain how what she said could be considered so hurtful.

Just prior to your remarks, Goldberg said that she “misspoke,” and that the Holocaust “was indeed about race…I stand corrected and I stand with the Jewish people.” To me, she sounded contrite, thoughtful, and sincere.

When it was your turn, you spoke eloquently about how, “throughout the Jewish people’s history, they have been marginalized, they have been persecuted. They have been slaughtered in large part because people felt they were not just a religion, but indeed a different race.”

You then went on to talk about how “in many ways, the Jim Crow south used some of the same standards against Black people that were used against Jews [in Germany], except the Jews were ultimately put into cattle cars and incinerated. That’s why it was such a singular catastrophe, and a moment of evil in human history.”

Since February is Black History Month, I think it’s important for all of us to learn that the Nazis actually developed the Nuremburg Laws from their research on America’s race laws. As Isabel Wilkerson noted in “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents”, as they were consolidating their power in the early 1930s, the Nazis, “were seeking legal prototypes for the caste system they were building,” To find them, she wrote, they knew “that the United States was centuries ahead of them with its anti-miscegenation statutes and race-based immigration bans.”

Your organization, the ADL, was founded partially in response to the lynching of Leo Frank, a white Jewish man, at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan. And the ADL has been wildly successful in preventing murderous violence against Jewish people in America, ever since – if only Black people had an organization that was so capable of defending us against bigotry, hatred, and white supremacy.

My family didn’t survive the Holocaust, we were brought to America in the hulls of slave ships, three hundred years ago and spent generations in chattel slavery before being freed. But as a Jew, the Holocaust is part of my history, too. And for you as a Jew, my history of slavery should be part of yours.

But at a time like this not enough people in the American Jewish community are thinking about building bridges to the Black community. Instead, they’re focused on making sure Whoopi Goldberg has learned the error of her ways.

The day after your appearance on The View, Goldberg was suspended from the show for two weeks “to take time to reflect and learn about the impact of her comments.” That night on CNN, you said you were “against cancel culture” but that could not comment on “ABC News’ internal process.” You added that you hoped Goldberg would use the next two weeks “for a process of introspection and learning.”

Mr. Greenblatt, if you are serious about your desire to build bridges to the Black community, then you must take a stand against this excessive punishment and call for Goldberg’s reinstatement. The public flogging of another African American celebrity for making statements that they don’t know are wrong has gone too far.

From Nick Cannon to Ice Cube to Desean Jackson, and now to Whoopi Goldberg, the media seems to take a perverse pleasure in teaching African Americans not to overstep their bounds. But this isn’t a Jewish trait. It’s a white one.

I am a rabbi. I am a member of numerous Jewish organizations and groups, and in the past month alone I have had several experiences where my colleagues displayed tone deaf attitudes toward Black Jews. But instead of leaving the groups, I used these incidents as teaching opportunities and accepted apologies when they came.

Ours is not to punish, it is to educate.

Just as someone should’ve done after Goldberg apologized.

When a Black woman saying something offensive and then apologizing for it is more egregious than Nazis mobilizing in Florida, books being banned in Tennesssee, and swastikas being painted on synagogues in Chicago, I fear there’s not much of anything to be built here.

Only the very last shreds of human decency to be torn down.

Mr. Greenblatt, please use this moment to show that there is a better way forward.

Sincerely,

Rabbi Tamar Manasseh

To contact the author, email [email protected].

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