Reverend Wright: The Bible and No Jews

Peggy Shapiro
“I said that dirty word again, Israel.” This was one of the many disparaging remarks Obama’s pastor Jeremiah Wright made about Israel. According to Wright, Israel is occupying Arab land and has no right to its existence. He eliminates the legitimacy of the Jewish state of Israel in one speech; then he compounds the injury by usurping the Jewish historical ties to the land.

In Barack Obama’s apologia for Reverend Wright on March 18, the senator recounted his first service at Trinity church.

“People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend’s voice up into the rafters….And in that single note – hope!...I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion’s den, Ezekiel’s field of dry bones. Those stories – of survival, and freedom, and hope – became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world...Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn’t need to feel shame about…memories."

Except for the bit about the Christians in the lion's den, these are the story of the people of Israel, the Jews. Jewish David fought the Philistine Goliath (the vanquished Philistine enemy is the source of the Roman name "Palestine.") David went on to become King of Israel and build Jerusalem as his city. Moses led the Israelites (Hebrews) out of Egypt, from slavery to redemption, to the land that G-d promised them-Israel. Ezekiel was a Jewish prophet, giving hope that Israel will rise again. Reverend Wright includes the biblical references Israel, but excludes the essential Jewish element. For Wright and Obama, it is "our [African-American] story...chronicling our journey.." Were Wright to place Jews in biblical history and admit their presence for over two thousand years, it would be senseless to remove their claim today.

It’s quite alright for others to take the Jewish biblical stories and Jewish prophets to their hearts and recognize a common heritage in the Torah. It is historically inaccurate and morally perverse to eliminate Jewish people from their own history and by that elimination undermine the State of Israel and the Jewish future. Together Jews and African-Americans can help each other through the journey from slavery, oppression, discrimination, to freedom and safety. Both groups have certainly had their share of suffering.  I say to Reverend Wright, “We Jews gladly share the Bible that has sustained us for four thousand years, but if you erase Jews from the Bible, you’re just holding some printed paper.”
“I said that dirty word again, Israel.” This was one of the many disparaging remarks Obama’s pastor Jeremiah Wright made about Israel. According to Wright, Israel is occupying Arab land and has no right to its existence. He eliminates the legitimacy of the Jewish state of Israel in one speech; then he compounds the injury by usurping the Jewish historical ties to the land.

In Barack Obama’s apologia for Reverend Wright on March 18, the senator recounted his first service at Trinity church.

“People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend’s voice up into the rafters….And in that single note – hope!...I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion’s den, Ezekiel’s field of dry bones. Those stories – of survival, and freedom, and hope – became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world...Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn’t need to feel shame about…memories."

Except for the bit about the Christians in the lion's den, these are the story of the people of Israel, the Jews. Jewish David fought the Philistine Goliath (the vanquished Philistine enemy is the source of the Roman name "Palestine.") David went on to become King of Israel and build Jerusalem as his city. Moses led the Israelites (Hebrews) out of Egypt, from slavery to redemption, to the land that G-d promised them-Israel. Ezekiel was a Jewish prophet, giving hope that Israel will rise again. Reverend Wright includes the biblical references Israel, but excludes the essential Jewish element. For Wright and Obama, it is "our [African-American] story...chronicling our journey.." Were Wright to place Jews in biblical history and admit their presence for over two thousand years, it would be senseless to remove their claim today.

It’s quite alright for others to take the Jewish biblical stories and Jewish prophets to their hearts and recognize a common heritage in the Torah. It is historically inaccurate and morally perverse to eliminate Jewish people from their own history and by that elimination undermine the State of Israel and the Jewish future. Together Jews and African-Americans can help each other through the journey from slavery, oppression, discrimination, to freedom and safety. Both groups have certainly had their share of suffering.  I say to Reverend Wright, “We Jews gladly share the Bible that has sustained us for four thousand years, but if you erase Jews from the Bible, you’re just holding some printed paper.”