I think that it’s fair say that a significant segment of the Jewish population here in these United States as well as in Israel and elsewhere, reacted with a despondent “say it ain’t so” when we were informed that Nikki Haley, the United States ambassador to the United States tendered her resignation last week. I also think it’s fair to say that more than a few articles have already been written praising the former South Carolina Governor to the hilt, as she unfailingly and staunchly supported and defended Israel.
In keeping with my philosophy that rabbis should remain apolitical, I choose to neither to praise nor to bury Nikki Haley. Rather it is the Jewish community here and throughout the world that I have in my crosshairs.
The Yiddish word “Poritz” denotes Polish (or Russian) aristocracy who were landowners. In the mid-seventeenth century there were a goodly number of these landowners living in Eastern Poland, who, much to the consternation of the local peasant population, owned tracts of land just over the border in Western Ukraine. Typically, the land housed a “tzerkveh” or a Ukrainian Orthodox Church as well as a pub. Typically, the Poritz leased this tract of land to a Jew, placing him in the unenviable position of a middle man between the poverty-ridden Ukrainian peasant and the wealthy Polish landlord.
The acclaimed Yiddish novelist Sholem Asch in his book “Kiddush HaShem” depicts a gathering of “Arendarren” or Jewish land lessees, where the discussion soon centers itself around the Poritz. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t take long for a competition to unfold among the Arendarren, with each attempting to out-boast the other as to who had the better Poritz and why.
I cannot help but feel that subconsciously, many Jews in these United States, especially those in leadership positions look upon the United States Ambassador to the United Nations as a modern day Poritz. As such, Nikki Haley was regarded as a most benevolent Poritz.
Just as the physical wellbeing of the “arendar” as well as those Jews who in time settled around the Polish owned land was largely dependent on the attitude and nature of the Poritz, so too is the political wellbeing of Israel largely dependent on the attitude and nature of the American Ambassador to the United Nations (as well as the administration that the Ambassador represents).
The very fact that the United States has a seat on the U.N. Security Counsel serves to underscore the position played by the Poritz . Should it happen that the American Ambassador even abstains when the Security Council holds a vote to censure Israel for the unforgivable crime of defending itself against terrorism, American Jewish leadership immediately prepares to sit Shiva. Soon after Nikki Haley assumed her position at the United States, American leadership put all orders for Shiva platters on indefinite hold.
Obviously, I have no way of knowing, but I cannot help but surmise, that at present, a good many American Jewish leaders are finding it hard to sleep and, in some cases, even holding their breath until an announcement comes out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, informing us of Nikki Haley’s successor. I also cannot help but surmise, that behind the scenes, messages are being sent, hints are being dropped and ears are being whispered into by these very same breath-holders in an attempt to persuade our Commander in Chief to take a good look at and consider individuals that would rise to the same Poritz position as did Nikki Haley. When all is said and done, what we have here is a different country, a different culture, a brave new world, but the same old Poritz.