Adventures in our Geto-burbs
While elite leaders in the Jewish Diaspora are trying to understand how the new war will affect the security of those who will remain dispersed, few if any citizen-leaders are acknowledging the precarious situation of diaspora Jewish youth of all class backgrounds. There is no one reporting from the strip malls, street corners and movie theaters in Detroit, Northern Virginia, Munich or Belgrade where our secular, assimilated youths poise for delicate and prickly conversations with their friends about the situation in the Middle East.
I grew up in a New England town home to some Lebanese Christians, many of whom I used to joke kinda looked Jewish as they sipped their vodka and waxed the curb for our skateboards. Now, in retrospect, I’m forced to think about how I would have approached such a horrible Lebanese/Israeli war in our parking lots; ones that would have drawn me in as a high school Jew: blunt smoke, skateboard and conventional piss-off-the-mom Jewfro floating above my gawky semitic stubble. I’d imagine I would have been reconcialitory, passing the spliff and talking about how my grandparents came to this country with a piece of Russian crystal and a few silver spoons and my people were as troubled as they thought of theirs. Some of my other friends might have started taping their fists, ready to defend their names. We all didn’t go to synagogue. We had no Zionist knowledge let alone fervor. We knew we were Jewish because we weren’t Italian, Irish, Puerto Rican and although our hair didn’t fall over our ears Kurt Cobain’s, we knew we weren’t black. That Jewishness was amorphous but unshakeable. Jewish meant difference, even though difference was as American as Dunkin Donuts.
…and the Jewish youth in places like Paris may be dealing with some similar situations. While members of Betar have been swinging belligerent, vengeful fists for years, the recent inflammations in the Middle East are beginning to finally articulate the relationship that France, in particular, has to the citizens its persecuted. A few weeks after Kemi Seba’s Afro-French nationalist group Tribu Ka marched through Paris’ historically Jewish Marais, terrorizing Jewish shopkeepers and searching for members of their rivals – Betar and the Jewish Defense League, France’s interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy has decided to legally ban Tribu Ka. While our elites will inevitably begin to approach this as a matter of Jewish defense in a hostile Muslim environment, few if any of our Jewish leaders will approach the issue of Jewish/Muslim tension as the preventable aftershocks of France’s tumultuous and unjust treatment of its subjects, be them Sephardi, Ashkenazi, Senegalese or Algerian. The youth need courageous leaders from their communities to present them with a united extra-curricular alternative: one that focuses on cultural dialogue and economic partnership in their geto-burbs, and a sense of postcolonial and post World-War II pride that fights the chauvinism we’re all able to adopt.
Our elites kvetch. They spit heavy rhetoric.
“We must eradicate these movements (Tribu Ka) which are supporting the same unacceptable racist thesis of Farrakhan,” he said, Roger Cukierman, CRIF’s (French-Jewish organization) president
“We are Tribu Ka and we will continue; we are honoured that the Council of ministers spoke about us. This proves that we are annoying the system. This drives us to continue,” the group’s leader said. He stressed that the group targeted the “Jewish militias” and not all Jews on rue des Rosiers.
So mighty Jewschool readers! Will the ban on Tribu Ka work? Should they ban Betar as well? Should they ban anyone from assembling, even if they advocate violence? What should French leaders do? What are some ways that Jewish and Afro/Arab French youth can subvert the belligerence and build a more productive relationship? How can we translate these discussions to the American context? I would prefer if comments provided alternatives to the blame-throwing going on.