Posts

From K Street to the Knesset – Pt 2:  Addressing Anti-Semitism at Home and Abroad

Spring has sprung.

It has come in like a lion. But I hope that it goes out like a lamb. And I’m not talking about the weather. Well, kind of…

On Friday, March 16, an elected official from DC’s Council serving the residents of Ward 8, made a regrettable statement.  This was not his first. His subsequent apologies rang with a sense of sorrow. They spoke of regret. They addressed a need to move forward and to use the remarks as a learning experience.

In echoing anti-Semitic tropes from generations ago, Councilmember Trayon White, said in a Facebook Live video, Man, it just started snowing out of nowhere this morning, man. Y’all better pay attention to this climate control, man, this climate manipulation.  And DC keep talking about, ‘We a resilient city.’ And that’s a model based off the Rothschilds controlling the climate to create natural disasters they can pay for to own the cities, man. Be careful.”

As snow flurries fell on DC on last Friday morning, Councilmember White’s remarks opened up a blizzard of a reaction from inside and outside of the District.

DCcouncil.us serves as the online and official home for our city’s legislative body.  The website describes the council as,

the central and chief policy-making body for the District of Columbia” and it defines the mission of the body, “to provide strong, innovative and effective leadership for the benefit of residents across the city.

The statements of Councilmember White are not the official position of the DC Government.  Our city does not believe that the Jews control the weather.  The comments are not policy. But, policy is shaped by policymakers in a representative democracy.  And this comment certainly did not represent “effective leadership for the benefit of [Jewish] residents across the city.”

We’ve all made regrettable statements.  Facebook is full of them. Few can point to a perfect record of speaking on and off-the-record.  But this “lion” of a comment by an elected official in his private time on a social media channel was not a one-off remark.  On February 27, Councilmember White in his official capacity – at a hearing that included Mayor Muriel Bowser – asked the President of the University of the District of Columbia (UDC):

“There’s this whole concept with the Rothschilds — control the World Bank, as we all know — infusing dollars into major cities.  They really pretty much control the federal government, and now they have this concept called resilient cities in which they are using their money and influence into local cities.  How does this influence this? Because it’s really about infrastructure and climate control. What does this have to do with UDC? Have they put money into UDC? What’s the relationship between the Rothschilds and the Rockefellers?”

Councilmember White’s remarks implied that wealthy Jewish families or the Jewish people control the weather, the Federal Government, international development, and local government.

In one of his follow-up messages from the Facebook remark, he said, “I want to apologize to the Jewish Community and anyone I have offended.  The Jewish community have been allies with me in my journey to help people. I did not intend to be Anti-Semitic, and I see I should have said that after learning from my colleagues,” on Instagram in a written statement from March 18.

Since the initial remark was made, and the blizzard of media and communal backlash began, Councilmember White has held meetings with several Jewish Metropolitan Washington communal groups, including Jews United for Justice (JUFJ) and the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC).

JUFJ said:

Councilmember White’s words were wrong – even though they weren’t made with malice. That is why we have been working with Councilmember White, mostly behind the scenes, to support what our Jewish tradition calls teshuvah: a process of repentance, apology, learning, and change.”

JCRC will be working with Councilmember White and they have a commitment from him to join them for a visit to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and to dialogue with Holocaust survivors.  In a public statement, they said that

“the JCRC takes Councilmember White’s comments very seriously, and will continue working to ensure that both he and his colleagues on the DC Council not only have heightened understanding of anti-Semitism but also heightened vigilance and sensitivity in responding unequivocally when they hear it from others.”

During this same week where these regrettable statements were made in the United States’ capital city, a dialogue was occurring in the capital city of the Jewish State.  The Sixth Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism took place in Jerusalem from March 16-21.  The theme of the forum was “United to Stop Hate.”  And that is what we must do. We, as a Jewish community, must reach out to other communities to better educate them about the Jewish experience of today and of generations’ past.

An Israeli historian on the Holocaust, Yehuda Bauer, said at the conference in Jerusalem that, “we have to realize that anti-Semitism is not a Jewish problem but a problem of the societies in which it rises. It’s a cancer which eats the societies in which it comes up.”

Perhaps, now that Gather the Jews is called GatherDC, we can also play a role in gathering non-Jewish groups of 20s and 30s to dialogue and serve our communities together.  We have much to learn about all forms of hate.  And we collectively can stand together to combat all forms of hatred in any and all way that its darkness manifests itself.  From here, we can hope that this spring that came in with the roar of a lion can end with the gentle nature of the lamb.

 

 

 

About the Author: Jason Langsner is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you. Jason has been an active lay leader of the Washington Jewish community since moving to the city in 2004.  He is a small business owner and formerly served as the head of digital strategy for the oldest Jewish human rights and humanitarian organization in the world. When not blogging, he can often by found walking around his Eastern Market neighborhood with his Jewish dog, Shekels, or riding around DC area bike trails.

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Rachel: Jewish Bicyclist of the Week!

Finishing the RAGBRAI at the Mississippi River

She rode her bike across Iowa. She hosts themed Shabbats. She volunteers for her temple. She writes for Petworth News. Is there anything the marvelous Ms. (Rachel) Maisler doesn’t do?! Find out with our exclusive 1:1 interview!

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Rachel: I’m originally from Jupiter, Florida, and came to DC after college because there were jobs. It was during a recession so those were hard to come by. And I wound up staying because I started to get involved with aging policy at the Department of Health and Human Services right before the Affordable Care Act was passed. I got to get both a front row seat of history, and got to actually help write history.

Allie: How did you become a DC bicyclist?

Rachel: I’ve always liked riding, and I eventually realized it was much quicker to get to work for me via bicycle than metro, so I started bike-commuting. I actually started a social media account called “View from the Handlebars” with pics from my commute. Then, I wound up getting involved with a group called “DC Jews on Bikes” that was created by past Jewish Girl of the Week Lisa Kaneff [Editor’s Note: Lisa started this group as part of her Open Doors Fellowship capstone project]. Lisa was so friendly and had so much energy that motivated me to get involved in the group. I loved it – we would ride bikes on Saturday at sunset, and then celebrate havdalah together.

Allie: What’s the coolest bike ride you’ve ever done?

Rachel: Last summer, I rode my bike across Iowa (411 miles) as a part of RAGBRAI.

Allie: I hear you do some pretty cool advocacy work in DC on behalf of cyclists, tell me a little bit about that. 

Getting sworn into the BAC with Council member Brandon Todd

Rachel: I was politically appointed to work on the DC Bicycle Advisory Council (BAC) as a representative of Ward 4. The BAC is tasked with advising the city council with bicycle transportation matters, and I’m very passionate about finding ways for bicyclists to share the street. 

Allie: What are your goals on the Bicycle Advisory Council?

Rachel: To make sure that we’re aware of the barriers facing cyclists, and how we can continue to integrate cycling into our neighborhoods as a viable means of transportation and recreation. And to make sure we educate people about cyclists and safety.

Ball themed Shabbat during the World Cup

Allie: Tell me a little bit about how you stay connected Jewishly in DC?

Rachel: I’m part of a monthly Shabbat club, which is an amazing group of friends who get together one Friday a month. It’s been going on for 6-7 years now! Every Shabbat we have a theme, from using special ingredients like beer to making foods that are different colors of the rainbow. We always pick a “best dish winner” and said winner gets an amazing prize –  like a jar of gefilte fish.

I’m also a member of Ohev Sholom synagogue, which I love. There are a lot of incredible people there, like the Maharat – Ruth Friedman, who is an amazing ordained female rabbi. I’m part of the synagogue’s Tzedek Committee, which helps our friends and neighbors who need it.

Allie: What do you do as a part of the Tzedek Committee at Ohev Shalom?

Rachel: We do what we can to help those who most need it. Right now, we’re helping to resettle a family who immigrated here from Afghanistan. We recently helped a wounded warrior family for Christmas through the Operation Ward 57 program, and we coordinate our shul’s Good Deeds Day efforts – like making sandwiches, doing a coat drive, collecting school supplies, etc.

Allie: Who is your Jewish role model?

Rachel: My grandmother. She’s a Holocaust survivor and has been through more than anything I could ever imagine. But she wakes up with a smile on her face every day. She continues to be an inspiration, and is never afraid to tell her story.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to relax and destress?

Rachel: It’s always nice to go on a long bike ride with good friends on a great trail. Also, hiking in Shenandoah, or kayaking on the Potomac or Anacostia rivers. I also enjoy writing, and am a contributor to Petworth News!

Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…

Rachel: Anything is possible.

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Truman: Jewish Matzah Ball Lover of the Week!

From WWOOFing on an organic farm in Texas, to working on Hillary Clinton’s campaign, to meeting his girlfriend on GatherDC’s Beyond the Tent retreat – Truman Braslaw has some fascinating life stories to share. Also, he really likes matzah balls. So if you know epic recipes for matzah ball soup – please share in the comment section 🙂

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Truman: I’m from California originally. After living there for a while, I had an itch for adventure. I wanted to move to a  new city, have new experiences, and reinvent myself. So, I moved to Texas and lived on my aunt’s couch for a while, and spent a few months WWOOF-ing on an organic farm. After that, I decided to move down to DC because I’d always been interested in politics. Since moving here, I’ve had amazing opportunities in politics – from working on the Hillary Clinton campaign, to interning at a local Think Tank, to now, becoming a staffer for Virginia’s House of Delegates member Wendy Gooditis.

Allie: What is the most challenging part of working in politics?

Truman: The path to winning can be pretty demanding – it takes a lot of administrative, non-glamorous work. But, when you have legislative success and make policy changes that will impact people’s lives – it’s totally worth it.

Allie: How did you get involved in DC’s Jewish community?

Truman: When I moved to DC, I went to a couple of the Moishe Houses – Columbia Heights and Capitol Hill. From there, I went to coffee with someone from GatherDC, which is how I wound up getting involved in the local Jewish community.

Then, I heard about GatherDC’s Beyond the Tent retreat through a friend, and applied because I was interested in connecting to other young Jewish people. I didn’t know many other people who were going, but I wound up meeting a few amazing people who I’m still really close with — including my girlfriend of over a year now, Molly Cram.

Allie: What would be your dream day of fun in DC if money and logistics were no object?

Truman: I’d start at Open City for brunch and order everything on the menu – since I can never decide what to get. I’d take a few bites of each, and take the rest home as leftovers. Then, I’ll fulfill one of my long-standing dreams to take an open air bus tour of DC on a nice, sunny afternoon. Finally, I’d go somewhere relaxing, like Tryst, and reminisce on the wonderful memories of those experiences.

Allie: What is your Jewish food?

Truman: I’d have to go with matzah balls. Especially the kind when you pack them in so they’re really dense – that’s probably like one half of what I need in life. My dad makes really great matzah ball soup. My girlfriend Molly also makes some matzah balls that are pretty good – for vegetarian ones.

Allie: Any resolutions for the New Year?

Truman: One, learn to make my own matzah ball soup. Two, do what I can to contribute to finding justice in our society with all the racism and intolerance going on.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to de-stress?

Truman: Sometimes, I’ll read statistics textbooks because it’s nice to focus on something completely different for a little, and it helps me figure out answers to so many types of questions. I also like doing ink drawings of weird, abstract shapes. And I love listening to Podcasts, like “Rationally Speaking,” “Freakonomics,” and “Rabiolab.”

Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…

Truman: People can find a place where they belong.

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.