An Open Letter to Sarah Ma

March 28, 2023
Luiz Gandelman

Miami, Florida, United States

Class of 2024

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Dear Sarah Ma, 

My name is Luiz Gandelman. I am a teenager from São Paulo, Brazil, who now lives in Miami, Florida. Like many others, your Op/Ed in the “College Dissident” left me tremendously concerned. I am writing not as a student at Tulane and not even as a college student. I am writing as a high school teenager, but more importantly, as a Jew. As someone who has been a victim of antisemitism, both physical and verbal. As someone who wears a Kippah on my head despite knowing it can put me in danger. I write as someone who, alongside being Jewish, is not all that different from you. I also love writing and occasionally dabble in tweeting. I also write as someone who Kanye West’s antisemitic words have hurt. Kanye West’s rhetoric has been incredibly inflammatory and dangerous, so like you, I will “give some context” behind it.

“On White Lives Matter”

While we can disagree on the root of the statements “Black Lives Matter” and “White Lives Matter” and even disagree with the ADL’s informed and logical decision regarding them, we can both use common sense. You are, after all, a philosophy major. No one is saying White Lives don’t matter. What we are affirming is that Black Lives Matter. While stating the fact “white lives matter” is not hate speech, the slogan “White Lives Matter” has been classified as such, largely due to its use as a rebuttal to any acknowledgments of issues Black people face in America today. Half of the shpiel in this section states that black people have equality in today’s America. While thankfully, slavery and segregation are no longer realities in today’s America, black people continue to face countless issues in society, such as police brutality, as well as the lasting impacts of redlining, among other issues. Saying “Black Lives Matter” is not supremacy or even white-savior-ing black people. It is merely reaffirming support for the struggle and fight of America’s black community to achieve true and full equality, which white people and white-passing people have enjoyed for centuries.

“On “I’m going death con 3 on Jewish People”

Words have power. Kanye still said he was going “Death con 3” on the Jewish people, whether he meant it or not. Semantics aside, a celebrity with millions of followers, more than the Jewish population worldwide by a large margin, posted about his need to attack/defend Jewish people as a whole. Generalization kills. You even acknowledge that generalization is bad, saying that Black people are not spared of generalization in America today. We can agree on that entirely. That is precisely why I find it so important to speak up for black people and help fight the generalization that leads to overt and subvert racism. As a philosophy major, it should be no shock to you that two wrongs don’t make a right. The generalization of black people is horrible, but the generalization of Jewish people does not fix that. As a matter of fact, it only further increases generalization. The people shooting black people in supermarkets are the same ones spreading antisemitic content online. Our struggles for equality and discrimination are intrinsically tied and acts like Kanye’s further cause rifts. While it may be true that many Jewish individuals have wronged Kanye, the Jewish people as a whole have never wronged Kanye. It is unfair for him to declare Jewish people as an enemy simply because a small number of people who happened to be Jewish wronged him. You cite Kanye’s example of the police car pullover. That is a fantastic example of why generalization is bad, which is why we need to fight against it. You stated Jewish people should also be generalized against because black people are, in the name of equality. That, simply put, is not how equality works. Equality isn’t about bringing down other groups but about lifting each other up. When women were fighting for suffrage, their rallying cry wasn’t “take the right to vote away from men because we don’t have it.” It was “men can vote, so we should be able to as well.” Jewish people have the benefit of not being generalized (usually), and keeping it that way allows all of us to pitch in and fight the generalization of black people. We are stronger and united as one, not as a divided set of groups. You’re also a finance major, so you can confirm that spreading your assets too thin can weaken your company. Spreading our efforts too thin in the fight against hatred harms all of us, which is why divisive rhetoric like Kanye’s is so problematic.

“On “I love Hitler” and the Swastika in the Star of David”

I don’t know where you grew up, but it was clearly not in one of the states where Holocaust education is mandated. The Holocaust was a horrible event where millions of innocent Jews were murdered indiscriminately in a mass genocide. I encourage you and anyone else to do some research on the Holocaust once finished with this article, as it provides crucial understanding. You reference the Ten Commandments. Trust me; I’m a religious Jew; I know the Ten Commandments. Alongside loving your neighbor, the commandments also say thou shalt not kill, which the Nazis and Hitler extensively violated. Saying that you love Nazis and Hitler is heavily diminutive of the Holocaust, and quite frankly, essentially sympathizes with the crimes of the Holocaust. Love thy neighbor does not refer to unconditionally, and rather states “as you would thyself.” Nazis did not love Jewish people and rather massacred millions of us. Why should we love them? I beg of you to look a Holocaust survivor in the eye, whether Jewish or not, and tell them you love Hitler and Nazis unconditionally. Loving these kinds of people is morally repulsive, meaning that his “loving Jewish people” is close to irrelevant. If I stole a candy bar but paid for another, I technically did something bad and something good. I am still a criminal who will be prosecuted, however. A good action alongside a bad action doesn’t eliminate the bad action, especially not when it is one of tremendous scope, like declaring that you love Hitler. You say that Kanye’s swastika/Star of David tweet helps unite Jews and Nazis. This is in no way something positive. Nazis murdered millions of Jews, something I keep reiterating, and it is sickening that grouping them together and attempting to tell Jews to love Nazis is even remotely acceptable in your, or anyone’s, eyes.

If open and rampant Antisemitism is not enough “context” for the classification of Kanye as a bad person, I hope my explanations are. I urge you to consider the impact your words can have. Your op/ed has contributed to an unsafe environment for Jewish students at Tulane. While thankfully not as wide-reaching as Kanye’s, it has put forth more vile Antisemitism into the world. I urge you to research the Holocaust and understand what Antisemitism can lead to and why it is so detrimental. Kanye is not “guilty before proven innocent.” He is “guilty after being proven guilty.”  Kanye is not being “canceled” or “silenced” due to his political views, religious views, or anything else in which restricting speech is plain out illegal. His words are causing spikes in Antisemitism and have been deadly to Jewish people around the world, making his platform being removed something crucial to the safety of Jewish communities worldwide. People like Kanye’s attempts to divide the Jewish people and other minority groups will not succeed, and hatred like yours and his will never prevail. I hope you are able to change your mind and realize that this is not about free speech or censorship but rather about overt and dangerous Antisemitism. Know you are always welcome to Shabbat dinner for an opportunity to learn more about Jewish people and for an opportunity to learn more about why Antisemitism like this is so negatively impactful. Until then, I pray that you and maybe even Kanye realize the impact of your words and grow as people, as, after all, forgiveness and repentance are core Jewish values.

The original Op/Ed can be found here:

Luiz Gandelman is an Aleph living in Miami, Florida who loves learning new languages.

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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