One people

I feel bad for Bill O’Reilly.

Don’t misunderstand. I don’t agree with O’Reilly’s views on anything. And I find him personally distasteful. Arrogant, full of baloney, full of himself, a bloviator and a pinhead, to use just two of his favorite ways of belittling people.

And, of course, his harassment and abuse of women is nauseating. Earning him a place on the Mount Rushmore of perverts, along with Bill Cosby, Tiger Woods and Donald Trump.

But still I feel bad for O’Reilly.

Don’t misunderstand. It’s not that I don’t think he got what he deserved, it’s not that I don’t think his abuse of co-workers didn’t fully justify his dismissal. Though one does wonder what took Fox News so long considering he’s been doing these things for well over a decade, indeed he paid $9 million more than 13 years ago to settle a lawsuit by his former secretary who told an unbelievable tale of the treatment she received from O’Reilly.

But I’m used to conservatives, both Jewish and non, being total hypocrites, criticizing behavior in others they so often are very guilty of. And being so self-righteous that they think only they are only and always right, only they, because they don’t believe in a two state solution, are the real lovers of Israel, are the real Zionists, while they dismiss those of us who believe in peace of being anti-Israel, non-Zionist.

If your views of Israel don’t match theirs, then you are not a good Jew, a lover of Israel.

But I digress. I feel bad for Bill O’Reilly because just imagine how what happened to him must feel. For almost 20 years, you are the hottest thing in cable news. Number one by far. Every book you put out is a best seller. All your lectures are sold out. You interview presidents, have enormous power and influence to comment on, indeed to shape, current events.

And then poof it’s all gone. You’re on TV every night for 20 years, holding forth, putting our your sage views, and then within the span of less than three weeks, just two weeks after you have signed a $100 million, four year, contract, it’s all gone, it all disappears.

You’re off TV, you’re out the door, another show is in your time slot, and nobody cares anymore what you have to say. One day you have four million viewers, the next you got nothing. That has got to be devastating in ways most of us can’t even imagine. To lose so much, so fast, to fall so far, so hard.

And so yes, I feel bad for Bill O’Reilly, someone whose views I find abhorrent and whose behavior I find disgusting.

And that my friends is the difference between being a liberal and a conservative.

Conservatives gloat when someone they don’t agree with falls, they take delight in bringing people down, after they’ve savaged them. They mock Hillary Clinton’s walks in the woods after her devastating defeat, they make fun of those who see things differently than they do, they like to stick the verbal knife in those with whom they disagree.

And no, liberals are not like that. And no I’m not talking about far left kooks, I’m talking about your average liberal, like me. We, I, don’t take pleasure in the fall of others, don’t wish those who don’t agree with us ill, don’t call them names, aren’t petty and vindictive and just nasty to those who have different points of view.

Here’s an example for you. I know Bill O’Reilly because I watched him all the time. Indeed, I watch Fox News way more than I watch CNN or MSNBC. Not because I agree with Fox, not because Fox doesn’t make me sick listening to their idiotic blather, their Trump fawning, their Obama bashing, their right wing kookerie, but precisely because I don’t agree with them. I watch because I want to try to understand why they feel as they do, believe as they do, take the stands that they do.

I’m not claiming to be noble in that. I am saying I do it because it’s something I truly believe all Jews should do. Namely take in all points of view, give respect to and credence to other viewpoints, try to hear and understand where others are coming from.

You don’t have to agree with it, or even like it, but it’s so important more now than ever that we listen to what the other guy has to say.

We are living in a world where more and more we only hear from people who think like we do. We watch the cable news network that only and always give our political point of view. We visit websites that agree with us, confirm our feelings, rather than challenge them or at least fairly give us the other side. We follow on facebook and twitter only those with whom we agree.

It is not healthy, especially for Jews, especially for the Jewish community, that that be so. But increasingly it is.

The Jewish denominations never meet, never have dialogues, never visit each other’s houses of worship, never have rabbis, let alone congregants, sit around and share how each sees things. Never. We are strangers from each other. Orthodox Jews have absolutely no idea what Conservative and Reform Jews are all about, what their Jewishness is all about, and the reverse is equally true.

Having been raised Orthodox, I remember how shocked I was when I started lecturing at Reform and Conservative synagogues all over Chicagoland at how learned the Jews I met were, how involved Jewishly they were, how much they cared, how much they knew, how Jewish they were and felt.

That was definitely not the impression I had of Jews not like me, because until then I really had not had contact with Jews not like me. And I remember too how shocked I was at the misconceptions those Reform and Conservative Jews had of Orthodox Jews, the ignorance and anger they showed. Because they too only had misconceptions, not actual contact.

Jews are pretty much Jews. Problem is we don’t know that.

I have always found it especially odious dealing with right wing Jews on the subject of Israel. I have found them so dismissive of, so smug about, so belittling toward Jews who supported the Oslo process, who still believe in a two state solution. They are just downright nasty talking about Jews who want to find a way to make peace with the Palestinians. They are so convinced they are the real true blue lovers of Israel and that’s that.

All of this of course is getting worse as we all seem to go more and more into our own corners. I recently had an incredibly uncomfortable Shabbat dinner, when I was invited for the Friday night meal at the home of Orthodox Jews, who were, as so many inexplicably are, Trump supporters.

Things got off to a rocky start when someone at the table said how much of a hater of Israel Hillary is, how she might even be worse than Obama. Everyone at the table of course agreed, chimed in with their own nasty little comments.

I must admit I didn’t handle it as diplomatically as I should have. I basically let loose with a tirade about Trump not moving the embassy to Jerusalem as he promised and on and on, and pointed out that Obama had signed a 10 year agreement to provide Israel with about $40 billion in sophisticated arms, had given Israel the Iron Dome missile defense system, how Hillary had always advocated for Israel and how it was past time already to let go of the fact that as First Lady she hugged Arafat’s wife.

What I found fascinating is that everyone at the table was shocked, I mean truly shocked, that someone like me, who wears a yarmulke, has a beard, has a big stomach and so looks kind of like a settler, actually had something nice to say about Obama, something nice to say about Hillary. They truly could not believe it.

I realized then that they had never ever heard another side to things. Everyone they knew hates Obama, hates Hillary, talks only about how terrible they are, what Jew haters they are, the Iran deal blah blah blah, the UN abstention blah blah blah, and so the only perspective they had ever considered, ever thought was valid is that Obama is anti-Israel, Hillary is anti-Israel. Those to them are just facts, like the sky is blue.

That’s the problem. Look it’s fine to examine the record, look at all the facts and come to the conclusion that overall Obama was not great for Israel, that Hillary would not have been good for Israel. Fine but only if you first try to understand the whole story, get all the facts, hear all sides, consider all points of view.

It’s important we don’t all jump to conclusions and then cling tightly to those conclusions, refusing to let a fresh thought enter our heads, feeling the need to label, name call and dismiss any and all Jews who see things differently than we do.

It’s important to not be black and white, to be able to recognize that there are good things about the two state solution and concerning things about the two state solution, to see that it’s complicated, has a lot of aspects, and that it’s okay to have an opinion, but that it’s equally valid for other Jews to have other opinions and that it’s fine, healthy even, for you to feel about it as you do and I feel about it as I do. And then we can discuss our differences, respect our differences and not have to tear the other Jew down to feel good about how I am a Jew.

Too much these days we are all so firm in our viewpoints that we leave no room to consider that the other guy may make some good points too, that just because I think what I do does not require me to think less of you for believing what you do.

Jews are brothers and sisters. Brothers and sisters don’t always get along, don’t always see things the same way, but deep down at the end of the day they recognize that way more important than political or religious differences is that we are brothers and sisters, who, despite the differences, love each other, should respect each other, should feel connected to each other.

It’s time for us to stop more and more judging each other, and instead more and more recognize that we are all in this together and that indeed it is the fact that we do see things differently that is one of our strengths. We need to stop feeling that if only all Jews thought like me, felt like me, were Jews like me, all would be hunky dory.

Truth is if we can feel tied to each other while recognizing it’s okay to see things differently from each other, we will truly be what we are meant to be. One people, with one heart. Many opinions, but one people.

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