“Why Hobby Lobby Isn’t Anti-Semitic”
October 4, 2013
In all of the anger and resentment that has surrounded Hobby Lobby of late, I missed Yair Rosenberg’s short but thoughtful piece asking us to reconsider whether either the Hobby Lobby organization or its CEO David Green are, in fact, anti-Semitic.
As Rosenberg points out:
Undoubtedly, some Jews might feel comfortable hawking baby Jesuses during the holiday season, while others might not. Both are very real, very human positions. Surely we can extend the same empathy and understanding to non-Jews with similar perspectives? This doesn’t mean one has to agree with Hobby Lobby’s decision. But it does mean we should refrain from tarring its ownership as bigots.
This is a sentiment with which any tzaddik might agree. But I think the real issue goes deeper than just Hobby Lobby.
The paradox of living in a society wherein virulent anti-semitism is either latent or non-existent is that we become increasingly sensitized to anything that offers the least hint of hatred. Our threshold lowers, and we justify that on the grounds that we must be vigilant, lest the sentiment spread and become dangerous. After all, we think, the Jews of Germany were like the proverbial boiling frogs, adapting to increasing levels of anti-Semitism right up to the point that they were herded into gas chambers.
At some point, though, we run the risk of seeing something that we think might be anti-Semitism, and it might not be, but we err on the side of caution because of we fear the consequences of adapting to any level of Jew hatred in society.
Rosenberg’s point is that we may have crossed that threshold, that we may be seeing anti-Semitism in the reflection of an orthodox Christianity that is, understandably, uncomfortable selling Judaica. In this case, until we can look into the heart of another, I am prepared to give the Hobby Lobby team the benefit of the doubt. But more broadly, it may be time to start a wider discussion about where we, as Jews, should draw the line between a possible misunderstanding of intent and clear-cut anti-Semitism.