Boston Globe, March 1, 2019
This week, the son of a Holocaust survivor sat before Congress and testified about how he had helped install a white supremacist “autocrat” as President of the United States.
Nothing better illustrates the liminal position in which American Jews find ourselves now.
We have witnessed a powerful resurgence of anti-Semitism that has infiltrated both places of power and the public square. We’ve seen it marching through the streets of Charlottesville, slaughtering 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue, and snaking from the mouths of politicians and elected officials in the current administration.
Yet even as white nationalists wish us dead, a shocking number of Jews have become willing collaborators in white supremacy — not only public bigots such as Ben Shapiro and David Horowitz, but kapos in the openly ethnonationalist Trump regime, such as Stephen Miller or Jared Kushner.
Thus we are capable of being both the target of racism and a part of its apparatus.
That could not be clearer than in the tragic figure of Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime fixer.
In his opening statement to the House Advisory Committee this week, Cohen made a point of mentioning that his father, Maurice, had survived a concentration camp before immigrating to the United States. Cohen went on to describe, with understandable irony, the decades he spent enabling the rise of a “racist” — Cohen’s word — who used xenophobia to consolidate his power, and tore apart families to put children of immigrants seeking asylum into camps.
“I let you down,” he said, addressing his father.
Maybe he was talking to all of us.
On the stand, Cohen wasn’t the sad-sack schmendrick we expected from his perp walk photos. Instead he was uncomfortably familiar — another striver hungering for power, money, and affirmation.
And something more: survival.
Cohen grew up knowing, better than most — better than the many American Jews who experienced the Holocaust at a further remove — that white supremacy could turn on us at any moment. “Wherever we go, Jews are like guppies swimming in an ocean filled with sharks,” the writer Peter Trachtenberg put it: “Or with big, unidentified fish that may turn out to be sharks, we’re never sure.”
In his life, Cohen chose one of the oldest minority survival tactics — assimilation into white supremacy and its agendas. The essence of this strategy is collaboration, capitulation, and cowardice. It’s the hope that when they’re rounding people up, they’ll come for someone else first, and maybe never get around to you and yours. Maybe you can even slow that progress by rounding people up yourself. ...
Read full article at Boston Globe