July 25, 2024
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Thoughts on the Capitol Insurrection and the BLM Movement

I would like to explore politics and current events from my perspective as a frum progressive. I am liberal on many issues and know that the Jewish Link strives to hear voices from across the spectrum of our community. In the divisive political landscape that we have been living through essentially for more than a decade, one way to bring cohesion is to hear the voices of those we disagree with. To that end, I hope to share my authentic and passionate perspective on how a politically liberal Orthodox Jew sees things.

The insurrection at the Capitol has been gut-wrenching for most all of us. The loss of life, the attempt to overturn an election, to intimidate (and potentially harm) our elected leaders is a disgrace. Many steadfast Republicans that I know have been shaken by this event, causing such revulsion and embarrassment about what has been done in their name that it has given me greater insight to what our Sages meant by their strong words against chillul Hashem, a desecration of God’s name.

And yet, there have been some voices that have sought to compare the seditious insurrection to the Black Lives Matters protests in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. Comparing these creates a false moral equivalency. As Jews we are on high alert regarding false equivalencies because we see it all the time when it comes to Israel. Talking heads and politicians often say, “both sides need to stop violence,” “both sides don’t want peace,” or “both sides need to come to the table,” etc. The Jewish community writ large has been very concerned with this moral equivalency because it simply isn’t the same to compare Israel’s attempt to defend herself and her citizens with suicide bombers. It isn’t the same when one society permits Arab Israelis to vote and serve in the Knesset, while the other offers rewards to the families of terrorists. We bristle at such “both sides” equivalence speech.

Comparing the BLM protesters and the Capitol insurrection is also a false moral equivalency for three primary reasons:

The first is regarding violence: 93 percent of BLM protests were not violent at all. Highlighting the 7 percent is disingenuous and misleading. Additionally, the violence was largely directed at commercial stores where looting took place and not directed at people. No one, to my knowledge, died or was killed by BLM protesters. This clearly isn’t the case with the insurrection at the Capitol. It was most assuredly violent, and five people have died because of it, while many others, including our elected leaders, would likely have been harmed had they not fled to safety.

The second discrepancy is the fact that BLM protesters are making an accurate point! Black people do face structural oppression and racism. They are more likely to be killed while unarmed by police. We live in a country with deep seated racist policies and implicit biases. Black Lives Matter as a movement and a message is pointing this out. Indeed, they are patriotic for wanting to elevate America, giving the country tochecha, constructive criticism, to live by our lofty ideals. I proudly participated in one of the BLM marches in Teaneck. I wanted my children to see that mistreating others is wrong and is worth speaking up about. By contrast, the insurrectionists’ actions were all based on lies and falsehoods. There is nothing true about their claims of fraud and rigged elections.

The third difference is rooted in leadership. How many people know the founders of BLM? They are three black women whose names only the “wokest of the woke” will know. The protests, while supported by many, did not have central leadership. It is a grassroots movement. Individual leaders in communities around the country have mobilized others to attend the rallies and marches. One of the architects of one of the BLM marches in Teaneck was a high schooler. Contrast this with the insurrection. President Donald Trump, Congressman Mo Brooks, former mayor and presidential aspirant Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump Jr. and others all spoke at the rally before the insurrection at the Capitol. These are national leaders whose names we know, who have real power in our government and our country. They whipped up the crowd and incited the insurrection. They told a bevy of lies and falsehoods to a crowd who believed them.

To compare Black Lives Matter with the insurrection without qualification misses the fact that one was peaceful, accurate and led by local community leaders and the other was violent, based on lies and incited by our President and other national leaders. There is nothing at all similar. As religious Zionists who care about mischaracterization of Israel, we need to be extremely careful about creating moral equivalencies when they are in fact not at all the same.


Rabbi Maurice Appelbaum is an ACPE certified Chaplaincy Educator for Morristown Medical Center & remotely for Emory Healthcare. He was previously the rabbi of a shul in Brooklyn for 10 years. He is grateful to live with his wife and children in Teaneck and can be reached at [email protected] to continue the conversation.

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