Thursday, February 15, 2024

In This Moment: A Tale of Two Super Bowl Ads: Christian Love vs "Jewish Hate" / Proposals for the Day After

In This Moment

"The Diamonds are in Our Hands," reads the headline. Two hostages are rescued, and a family weeps at the reunion. If a picture is worth a thousand words, this photo speaks volumes about the mood of Israel today - indescribable sadness dotted with occasional outbursts of unbridled, exhausted joy, mixed with relief.

See below an important article from last weekend's Israeli press, by Yair Sheleg of the Israel Democracy Institute and Shalom Hartman Institute, translated by Daniel Gordis. It contains the outlines of a comprehensive arrangement that addresses Israel's security needs but also allows for regional partnerships while addressing Palestinian needs. It will never be accepted by Hamas or this Israeli government, which tells us that neither will be involved in something like this coming about. Take a look and see if you don't find this to be a good starter for a needed conversation. His article was well-timed - his last name means "snow."

His is not the only proposal making the rounds this week. Thomas Friedman proposed his own outline today in the Times. And J-Street did too, yesterday, suggesting that President Biden recognize a demilitarized state of Palestine. We can chew on these and spit out what we like, but at least the Israeli right wing radicals aren't the only ones with a "day after" plan for this war. Here's Sheleg's essay:

Most proposals going around are not realistic because they don't get to the heart of the problem. Any conversation about what happens next should include these questions, also shared by Gordis in his newsletter:

Recommended Reading

  • Why Israel Is Winning in Gaza (Tablet) - The tactical victory that Hamas achieved on October 7, with all its scenes of unimaginable horror, has become a leading driver of its strategic defeat


Christian Love vs "Jewish Hate"

A Tale of Two Super Bowl Ad Campaigns

Last year I made a stink over those expensive “He Gets Us” Jesus ads that aired in the Super Bowl. I felt that, while a little proselytizing is expected in a free society, a small price to pay for our first amendment rights, this over-the-top, billion dollar campaign was a nuclear love-bomb being thrown in the faces of Jews and other minority religions.

Jason Vanderground, a spokesperson for the campaign, stated in an interview on CNN, “We are trying to unify the American people around the confounding love and forgiveness of Jesus.”


Notice that Vanderground did not say “unify American Christians.” He wants to unify all Americans under the banner of the cross. That includes me.

I challenged the campaign's big-ticket sponsors, asking:

Is your intent truly just to reach out to lapsed Christians from Gen Z? Or is it to make a religious minority feel like we are being targeted yet again, insidiously love-bombing us on the one hand while simultaneously isolating us, evicting us from the tent of “unity”?

So this year I wasn't blindsided by the ads and they didn't push my "antisemitism alert" button. I didn't feel attacked, especially since the commercials themselves bordered on parody - the foot fetish thing was so laughable that it overshadowed the love bombing.


Except that this year there were also commercials specifically about antisemitism, because this year American Jews have been experiencing a whole lot of it. So much so that an AJC survey released this week said that fully a quarter of us choose to hide their Jewishness in public. (see Ha'aretz article below)

The anti-antisemitism ads, produced by Robert Kraft's new non profit dedicated to fighting all manner of hate (see the ones shown on Sunday below, along with Kraft's full conversation with activist Clarence B Jones), call on all Americans, especially non-Jews, to "stand up to Jewish hate."

I can understand why a complicated term like antisemitism may not be suitable for millions of Super Bowl viewers not tuned in to these things on a daily basis, but there is something about the expression "Jewish hate" that concerns me. It doesn't make crystal clear that in this scenario, Jews are the not the haters but the hated.

One other element of these commercials bothers me. In the two that I saw, the "heroes" are not Jews, but allies who defend Jews, presumably at some risk to themselves. In one ad, a kindhearted neighbor whitewashes a swastika that had been painted on the garage of the Jews next door, just before a Jewish mom and her young daughter turn into the driveway. The mom mouths a "thank you" to the neighbor when she sees white paint spattered on his shoes.

I know that Blacks have often been offended by the "white savior" motif popular in movies like 'The Blind Side" and TV shows like "Different Strokes." Is what we are seeing in these commercials just a Jewy version of the same thing? Or, worse, is it just an extension of the "He gets us" ads, where the good Christian, acting like Jesus, shows love even to the poor, despised Jews next door. And by showing love even to Jews, it is another example of how He gets us all.

When you think about it, the Christian ads that ran in the Big Game were all about love, and the Jewish ones all about hate. In the marketplace of religious ideas that America has become, you don't want your message to be, "We're the people everyone hates - so please stop everyone from being so cruel to us!" That's not the branding we should be looking for on the biggest advertising day of the year.

But the Jewish hate ads have a more subtle message meant specifically for Jews. a simple acknowledgement that we can't fight this disease of Jewish hate all by ourselves. We need to cultivate allies, and to thank them. We do here, and so, by the way, does Israel. The old Zionist obsession with self sufficiency simply does not suffice in our vastly interwoven world, where the alliances are infinitely more complex - and necessary - than they used to be. We can be "a free nation in our land," as it says in Hatikva, but we can't do it alone. In fact, we never could.

These days, we often don't know who are friends are, but we do know that we need them. And we need to recognize that we need them.

And that in itself is a positive message, one that does compete well in the marketplace of religions. Yes, Jesus may get us, but Jews get how to build partnerships and alliances in forging a world of justice and peace. Jesus may wash lots of feet, but Jews, perennially kicked in the shin by some of those well-washed feet, wear out our shoes by joining their neighbors on long walks to freedom. Jesus may get what love is, but we get what hate is, and have first hand experience at transforming it into love.

And that itself is quite a...feat!

Tomorrow's Front Pages


The Jerusalem Post

Yediot Achronot

A female soldier was killed by a Hizbollah rocket in Safed

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