Not An Anti-Zionist Activist

I am not an anti-Zionist activist.

I would rather define myself by what I am for than by what I am against. So what am I for?
I am for including the many types of Jews who have been left out of the Jewish community by our leaders. Our leaders are almost always a certain type of Jew; male, European, Zionist, holding traditional religious beliefs. I was born ticking all of these boxes.
But many Jews aren’t so lucky. A Sunni Lebanese friend of mine discovered his lost Jewish heritage and now receives death threats on Facebook from his old friends. He came to Australia to be safe wearing a Star of David around his neck, but instead found that Sydney’s Jewish community was not ready to open its doors to a Lebanese Jew.

When I left my Ultra-Orthodox sect many Rabbis forced their sons to stop speaking to me. When I stopped calling myself a Zionist I was called a ‘self-hating Jew ‘and ‘Kapo Nazi Jew’, among other anti-Semitic slurs.

The lesson is clear: if you wish to be Jewish in Sydney, you are only allowed to be a certain type of Jew. Mizrahi Jews are too Arab; non-Zionist Jews are too left-wing; Reform Jews don’t keep Sabbath and so aren’t Jewish enough; are converts serious enough to count as ‘real’ Jews?

I won’t let someone else tell me who I am and I am a proud Jew. The Jewish community pretends to be a democracy, but how can it be a democracy if it shuts more than half of all Jews out? With many Jews pissed off, there is now cause for democratic uprising. They are shut out by leaders who claim to speak for them, and who pretend to welcome them, but who slur them behind their backs.

This is a double-edged sword: it hurts those inside the Jewish community and those kept outside. For the Jews kept outside, they are denied a people that they can call their own. The inward-looking Jewish community -- on the other hand -- could be enriched by democracy, by diverse Jewish opinions, by outsider perspectives but they deny themselves this opportunity. Both groups deserve better.

I am not an anti-Zionist activist because that is not what my community needs. Many Jews I work with are proud Zionists but, more importantly, they are outsiders. I am a Jewish activist working for a pluralist Jewish community. For too long I was denied a voice, so I took my opinions to Facebook and grabbed the microphone for myself.

If anti-Zionist activists want to listen in on the conversation I am having with my Jewish community you are welcome. I respect what you do but understand that you are not my priority because you are not my people.

If you are an anti-Zionist activist on my wall you will be respectful to Zionist Jews -- especially outsider Zionist Jews. I have seen many of you say that Zionists do not deserve respect because they do not change their minds, they are ‘set in a racist worldview.’

Remember whose wall you are on: I am an outsider Jew because I left Zionism but also because of much more. And I hope to discuss much more with my community than anti-Zionism. This my Jewish conversation, it is not your anti-Zionist billboard.

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