By Steve Rosenberg
A saying often attributed to Albert Einstein states, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” The history of various communities, including the Jewish people, often bears this out. It is characterized by a cycle of trust, betrayal and the pursuit of new allies. Then the cycle repeats itself.
For centuries, Jewish communities have sought alliances and put their trust in others, hoping for mutual support and understanding. Yet time and again, these alliances have been tested and found wanting, leaving a legacy of betrayal and anguish.
In the modern age, Jews have sought to base these alliances on the values of compassion, justice and understanding. But these alliances have rarely stood the test of time, with tragic consequences.
Unfortunately, one of the most prominent alliances of this kind was between Jews and Black communities. The stories of American Jews standing with Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement are well known. For decades, the Jewish community has been a friend to the Black community; but now, when the Jews need support more than ever, this alliance has proven very precarious, and the Jews are left to stand alone.
The repetition of this cycle does not stem from a flaw within the Jewish community. It reflects broader societal tendencies. Trusting in the goodwill of others, seeking alliances for common goals and extending the hand of friendship are noble aspirations. However, the history of humanity is rife with instances in which these aspirations have been exploited or disregarded.
The problem is not simply our lack of friends. Jewish leaders and philanthropists continue to pour money into their favorite organizations, yet these organizations have not been successful in their fight against Jew-hatred. It’s time to start acting and thinking differently. What might have worked in the past, no longer works.
The organizations we’ve supported in the past have to be challenged. We have no more time for talking and monitoring. This is the moment of action: actions like Title VI lawsuits, deportations and stopping the flow of illegal foreign money into this country. America was founded by immigrants who came to build a better society and they did. Jews were a small part of that project, yet our friends appear to have forgotten the role we played and, more importantly, don’t seem to care.
Reflecting on history’s lessons, it becomes clear that the pursuit of allyship requires nuanced understanding. It demands discernment, a careful assessment of motives and a realistic evaluation of the potential risks and benefits. There must be a balance between hope and pragmatism, acknowledging the possibility of betrayal while remaining open to genuine friendship. Just because we’ve voted one way all our lives doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t look elsewhere. If we don’t make real changes, the issues that have been essential to Jewish people won’t matter because there won’t be any more Jewish people.
Despite challenges and disappointments, the pursuit of allyship remains integral to the human experience. It signifies an unwavering belief in the possibility of a better world in which trust is reciprocated, alliances are genuine and solidarity prevails over division.
Ultimately, the persistent search for allyship and trust is not an act of insanity, but a courageous endeavor. It is a testament to enduring hope.
The Jewish people’s history, marked by resilience and the quest for justice, serves as a testament to the enduring pursuit of these ideals despite the challenges encountered along the way. Let’s not just make friends for the sake of being part of the crowd. Let’s make sure potential allies understand who we are, where we come from and what we stand for. Let’s build real friendships because that is the foundation of this country. United we stand, divided we fail.
Steve Rosenberg is principal of the GSD Group and board chair of the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.