I wasn’t the least bit surprised. A mere 24 hours after we learned of the sudden death of US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, I already came across an article Justice Antonin Scalia and the Jews. As Jews, we have a penchant for producing such articles whenever someone makes front page news. From my point of view, articles such as these reveal more about us as Jews, than they do about the individual making the headlines.
A non-Jew automatically becomes a landsman (one of us) once he does or says something “Jewish”, provided it’s not seen as threatening. Had the article mentioned that Antonin Scalia made repeated trips to Israel and visited the “settlements”, he would have been seen by some Jews as “having an agenda”. Why in the world would a non-Jew show such an interest in the Jewish State and the “disputed territories”, unless he believed that by doing so would hasten the “second coming”? Ergo, he’s out to convert us! But Antonin did no such thing. Antonin Scalia was the first judge to use the Yiddish word (It’s really a Hebrew word) Chutzpah in a decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. Jews are not threatened when a non-Jew of national fame uses a Yiddish or Hebrew word. Jews look upon it with amusement at the very least.
While I do not claim to be a psychologist, I do admit to practicing without a license. The unspoken Yasher Koach on our part to the non-Jew who exposes himself to some aspect of Judaism is our way of bemoaning the fact that there are Jews who do not rise to that level. Here was a man of strong Catholic faith meeting with Rabbi Noson Gurary of Buffalo Chabad to learn what Judaism has to say about some pressing legal issue. Sure, Justice Scalia did so to hopefully gain a clearer understanding and maybe even a better appreciation of the American legal system. What is left unsaid and might even be in our subconscious, is our bemoaning the fact that there are so many Jewish lawyers lacking the gumption to go to Jewish sources and yet a Catholic finds the time and takes the initiative to do so.
I also do not claim to be a sociologist. Yet, I practice Sociology without a “license” as well. Has anyone ever wondered why Italians in this country would never have published an article along the lines of say, Melvin Rabinowitz and the Italians, had Melvin Rabinowitz been a US Supreme Court Justice who was wont to use the term Grazie or had it been a well-known fact that Melvin Rabinowitz had a weakness for tortellini? Has anyone ever wondered why American Germans would never have published an article about Melvin Rabinowitz and Das Volk (The People) if Mr. Rabinowitz had a penchant for using the term gemutlich or if Melvin Rabinowitz had a weakness for bratwurst? Can it be that we Jews still see ourselves as being “different” than all other groups in this country? Is it possible that sociological studies to the contrary, we feel that we’ve never truly assimilated into these United States of America? Because of this, our antennae are always up to detect the slightest anti-Semitic nuance, either real or perceived, because of this we are quick to point out that the latest celebrity has say, a Jewish grandfather, because of this, articles about U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and the Jews were being written before rigor mortis had completely set in!
It is my prayer that Antonin Scalia receive a most just heavenly reward for the indelible mark he left on the Supreme Court of this country. It is my prayer that the day come, when a person of notoriety is taken from this world, articles are written along the lines of The Jews and Justice Antonin Scalia. At least then we will have the right be proud of the contributions that we as a people have made!