By Dennis Prager:
“Do not follow the majority to do evil.” — Exodus 23:2.
When I went to yeshiva day schools, America was celebrated. America was regarded, in the description of Menachem Schneerson (the Lubavitcher rebbe), the most influential rabbi of the 20th century, as a “medina shel chesed” — “a country of kindness.”
He knew, as all American Jews knew, that there were many anti-Semites in America, that America should have done more for the Jews of Europe, that universities like Harvard limited the number of Jewish students, that prestigious law firms and country clubs barred Jews, etc. So, then, why did he describe America as a country of kindness? Why did my yeshiva in Brooklyn put on plays honoring George Washington? Why did my Orthodox Jewish day school utilize texts not only celebrating America but affirming America as a “melting pot”? Why did a Jew, Irving Berlin, write “God bless America”?
The primary reason was that these Jews knew what the rest of the world was like. They had the wisdom to compare America with other countries, not, as the foolish, nihilistic left does, to utopia. Compared with the rest of the world, America was — and remains — a medina shel chesed.
Was it such a country for every one of its citizens? Of course not. At the time Rabbi Schneerson described America as a “country of kindness,” the southern half of America enforced immoral and degrading Jim Crow laws, and racism was common in the North as well. I have noted the anti-Semitism in American life at that time. And gays were often ostracized and degraded.
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