SURELY YOU JEST

At first, I thought it was a friend/congregant sending me a spoof article to provide me with a chuckle to start my day. Any Group called the Goyim Defense League is at best fodder for Monte Python depicting an indignant and irate Jew venting his wrath at the leadership of the Goyim Defense League – henceforth to be referred to as the GDL – protesting third rate anti-Semitism. “I simply won’t tolerate anything less than first-rate anti-Semitism! It’s Goyish Defense League. Then you wonder why we Jews employ the derisive epitaph Goyish Kopp. You have earned it!” When I saw that the mailing was sent by Bill Humphrey, Director of Community Security at the Jewish Federation, I realized that what was sent to me was no joke.

Upon further reflection, it occurred to me that not only was the GDL a misnomer because of poor spelling due to lack of knowledge, but GDL was also a misnomer because GDL is and has been uniquely Jewish terminology that has been in existence for centuries. And it is in no way connected to non-Jews with chips on their shoulders.

GDL was a precursor of the JDL (Jewish Defense League). Long before thugs in New York City began preying upon and mugging defenseless elderly Jews, our people realized that if they did not defend themselves, then nobody else would. Our Eastern European ancestors from centuries past understood that there were two sets of laws. There was one set of law for the Jews; there was one set of law for all others. Non-Jews understood the exact same thing. That’s why Jewish communities could be set upon and pillaged and robbed with abandon. That’s why Jewish women could be raped, while the authorities looked the other way, behaving seemingly oblivious to any and all violations and crimes visited upon the Jews. It would be totally wrong however to believe that all Jews remained docile and passive like sheep. Erstwhile Defense Leagues were mounted against non-Jews, thereby creating a prototype JDL. Given that non-Jews outnumbered Jews, given that non-Jews were better armed, and given that non-Jews were never weighed down by moral scruples, it was easy to see that these JDL prototypes were doomed to fail from the beginning. At most, they provided the victim’s solace knowing that they did not go down without some sort of a fight.

As a people, Jews have consciously blurred the distinction between defense and defensive. As such, the term JDL can also be understood as Jews being morally defensive. Going back to biblical days (Psalm115:2) we have exclaimed: Lamah Yomru HaGoyim – What will the other nations say! Jews have always been sensitive to the reaction of the outside world. Jews have always been concerned about how they are seen in the eyes of the non-Jews. That’s why, in the eyes of a good many of our people, there were two crimes committed in the Police parking garage, here in Dallas on November 24th, 1963. In addition to the assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald, the presumptive assassin of this county’s 35th president, the reputation of American Jews was sullied. The lament in many a Jewish household, 59 years ago, upon learning that our judicial system was maliciously interfered with by Jack Ruby (Jacob Rubinstein) was: “It had to be a Jew!”. It would be safe to say that from the time our people first reached the shores of this county until these last few decades, Jews – at least in this country – have always been particularly worried and have always been on the defense, lest they incur the anger and ire of the non-Jew.

It was the 19th century, Hebrew poet and philosopher of the Jewish Enlightenment, Judah Leib Gordon, who admonished his people to restrict their Jewish behavior and practice to their homes. Once they walked outside their homes, they were entering the Gentile world and they were well advised to conduct themselves accordingly. Gordon had only the best of intentions. He sought acceptance from the outside world. Little did he realize, that by embracing the behavior of the non-Jewish world, Jews would be abandoning and forsaking a set of morals and ethics that were second to none. Gordon’s admonition was countered by yet another JDL consisting of leaders – both religious and secular –  who adjured Jews to guard and defend themselves against the way the non-Jewish world (particularly the lower class and the peasant class) conducted itself in everyday life. Emphasis was placed on domestic behavior, academics, and respect for the law. However pejorative, well-meaning Jewish parents would reprimand errant children by reminding them that reprehensible behavior was goyish behavior.

The Goyim Defense League (sic) ought to evoke three defense mechanisms associated with our people: Defense against physical attack and harm, defense against how Jews appear in the eyes of the non-Jew, and defense against becoming engulfed by the mien and everyday behavior of base non-Jews. Non-Jewish troublemakers who usurp the term Goyim Defense League from us, show that they lack the knowledge to distinguish between noun form an adjective form. Such ignorance can only evoke one response: Surely, you jest.