Book Discussions with
David L. Bernstein
How a Progressive Ideology Harms Jews.
Sunday, February 5th 3 pm – 5:00 am
David Bernstein will speak about how radical social justice ideology shuts down discourse, corrupts Jewish values, and spawns a virulent new strain of antisemitism.
About the speaker.
David L. Bernstein
A passionate advocate for the free expression of ideas, David L. Bernstein is the founder of the Jewish Institute for Liberal Values (JILV), which supports viewpoint diversity, counters woke ideology in the Jewish community, and opposes novel forms of antisemitism emerging from woke ideology.
Bernstein served as President and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, a national umbrella for local Jewish advocacy. He served as Executive Director of The David Project (TDP), which educated and trained college and high school students in pro-Israel advocacy. He also held senior roles with the American Jewish Committee (AJC), where he began as director of the Washington regional office and served in management roles, overseeing regional offices as well as national and local programming and advocacy.
Bernstein has been a leading advocate for Israel’s quest for peace and security on the legislative, diplomatic, media, and intergroup relations fronts.
What People Are Saying About the book?
“A provocative and reasoned warning about the rise of antisemitism and the precious legacy of classical liberalism.”
-Rabbi David Wolpe
Max Webb Senior Rabbi, Sinai Temple
“Like moths attracted to the flames that can consume them, Jews have long sought salvation in ideologies that ultimately sought to destroy them. It happened with communism and is being repeated with young Jews’ visceral embrace of ‘wokeness’ that in the name of freedom and equality, snuffs out freedom of thought and equality for Jews. David Bernstein’s thoughtful and alarming account of precisely why and how ‘woke’ ideology threatens the Jewish people could not come at a more critical moment. One can only pray that those who most need to read this book do so before it is too late.”
-Dr. Daniel Gordis, author and speaker
David Bernstein has written a bold and important book, filled with in-depth research and personal experiences. David spent years leading important liberal organizations. His book resonates with intelligence and profound observations. A must read for anyone who wants to understand trends in 21st century liberalism.
-Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch, Senior Rabbi, Stephen Wise Free Synagogue
“David Bernstein had spent his career on the left and involved in mainstream Jewish organizations. His timely and important book recognizes the anti-liberal tendencies now dominant on the progressive left and the threats those tendencies posed to America and to the Jewish community. He resisted moving in this direction for a long time, but current circumstances warrant his conversion. As the great John McClane has said, “Welcome to the party, pal.”
Presidential historian and a former White House aide.
Author of “Fight House: Rivalries in the White House from Truman to Trump”
“In every age, hatred of Jews cloaks itself in different moral garb. Today’s fashion goes by many names, Wokeism, Social Justice, Critical Social Justice, etc., but the historical commonalities are unmistakable—as are its ineluctable prescriptions. In clear, plainspoken language, David Bernstein denudes the profoundly unsettling relationship between woke ideology and antisemitism. This is an urgent message few people want to hear, but one that everyone needs to understand.”
-Peter Boghossian, philosopher and author
“David Bernstein’s Woke Anti-Semitism is essential, illuminating, compulsive reading. With a keen eye and Jewish heart, he has journeyed to the center of the woke world in hopes of finding common ground. Instead, he discovered how precariously Jews must tread when it comes to the new protocols of the progressive left. This is an altogether new species of Jew-hatred, and Bernstein has sounded the alarm.”
-Thane Rosenbaum, author of Saving Free Speech … from Itself and The Myth of Moral Justice.
“Straining to find common cause with the Woke is a recipe for self-destruction for American Jews. Bernstein’s valiant and essential call to awaken us to this truth comes not a moment too soon.”
-Abigail Shrier, author of Irreversible Damage
“In his trenchant study of woke anti-Semitism, David Bernstein exposes the perils of this latest iteration of the socialism of fools.”
– James Kirchick, Columnist, Tablet
“After decades of faithful service to the Jewish community, David Bernstein has taken on the fight of his life: to resist the debilitating impact of wokism and help the Jewish community remain faithful to Jewish values and interests. Compellingly written and powerfully argued, this book is an essential contribution to a long-overdo debate.”
-Yossi Klein Halevi, senior fellow, Shalom Hartman Institute
“David Bernstein was one of my favorite colleagues at the American Jewish Committee. I didn’t always agree with him, but he was, and is, an original thinker whose ideas challenge us to re-examine our presumptions about what we know, what we do, and how we do it.
Even if you, as a progressive like me, end up thinking that David overstates his case in “Woke Antisemitism,” the book, especially if read with a wider lens, is an invaluable examination of the role dogma plays in our society, and more particularly how Jewish groups navigate it.
The emerging field of Hate Studies teaches us that when issues of identity and perceptions of social justice (or injustice) operate in tandem, we tend to reduce complicated problems into simple binaries, putting on something like a Hogwart’s sorting hat that tells us what to think and feel. And David is right that a significant part of what’s touted as “wokeness” today has that characteristic: look at the world through the narrow lens of race and power and privilege, define what’s good and bad, vilify and chill the speech of those who disagree (or may have the “wrong” personal characteristics), and feel a sense of smug self-righteousness while doing it.
Antisemitism – which exists on both the right and the left – isn’t just a matter of what people say or think about Jews. Dogmas that teach there’s something noble in persecuting political opponents because we’re “obviously right” are not only reminiscent of McCarthyism, but also feed binary (and conspiratorial) thinking, creating fertile ground for one of the most persistent conspiracy theories – antisemitism – to grow.”
–Kenneth S. Stern, director Bard Center for the Study of Hate and author most recently of The Conflict over The Conflict: The Israel/Palestine Campus Debate
–Wilfred Reilly, Author of Hate Crime Hoax Assistant Professor of Political Science at Kentucky State University
“David Bernstein, son of immigrants, grew up learning by arguing. In his righteous, yet poignant, book he shows how Jewish institutions have surrendered to woke ideology, leading them to forget the rationale behind the value of debate and to lose the passion for it. Woke Anti-Semistism is an urgent and eloquent plea to retake and preserve Jewish reverence for both deep wisdom and pragmatic problem-solving. If the Jewish community can succeed in doing so, it will be an inspiration to other groups seeking liberation from ideological oppression.”
-Sally Satel MD
Senior fellow, American Enterprise Institute and Lecturer
Yale School of Medicine
–Christina Hoff Sommers
Philosopher and Author of “Who Stole Feminism?” and “The War Against Boys.
“David Bernstein has written a bold and important book, filled with in-depth research and personal experiences. David spent years leading important liberal organizations. His book resonates with intelligence and profound observations. A must read for anyone who wants to understand trends in 21st century liberalism.”
-Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch, Senior Rabbi, Stephen Wise Free Synagogue
“An urgent, painful, and refreshingly self-critical examination of woke antisemitism and its impact on American Jewish life today. Replete with illuminating anecdotes, Bernstein’s courageous call for a re-centering of Jewish communal relations and advocacy deserves the widest possible hearing.”
-Jonathan D. Sarna, University Professor and Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish history, Brandeis University
“David Bernstein did not want to write this book. He came to his critique of both the American left in which he has spent his life and the Jewish institutions to which he has devoted that life grudgingly and slowly, but therefore also thoughtfully and with the highest regard for the aims those institutions mean to serve. That makes for a powerful, compelling, and alarming case that anyone concerned for the future of American Judaism must read.”
-Yuval Levin, senior fellow, American Enterprise Institute,
and author of A Time to Build
“David Bernstein’s book is twice the accomplishment: it serves as a compelling chronicle of the rise of a new threat to American Jewish life as well as a manual for restoring sanity to the institutions hijacked by a pernicious progressive ideology.”
Executive Editor of the Washington Examiner Magazine
“David Bernstein has written an important book which deserves to be read widely and be thoroughly discussed in our community. This book is a powerful defense of liberal values. Keep in mind that, historically, liberal values guided those communities in which Jews were treated with the most fairness and dignity and where Jewish life flourished. Bernstein also makes the case against ‘woke culture’. He warns of the dangers of the attempt to suppress any discussion or assessment of tactics, even though it is for the sake of finally overcoming the incubus of structural racism and disadvantaged minorities. The intentions are good but as Bernstein shows, the suppression of discussion (which is already going on) harms the cause, leads to policy mistakes and drives off important potential allies.
Bernstein’s treatment is nuanced and respectful, showing understanding for the goals even as he critiques the methods of woke culture and shows us cases where it leads to antisemitism. His approach offers the best hope of advancing a good cause without using harmful tactics.
I urge all people of good will to welcome and explore his ideas thus enabling a much-needed community dialogue. If we learn from this book, the freedom and justice we preserve may well be our own as well as of the long-suffering minorities in America.”
-Rabbi Yitz Greenberg
American scholar, author, and rabbi
“There is a new ascendant politics on the Left which holds that the world is divisible into oppressed and oppressor groups, that American was founded as a slaveocracy and persists in its pervasive abuses against minority groups six decades after the end of Jim Crow, the emergence of the civil rights and welfare states, and the continuous practice of affirmative action, and that the world is an ongoing struggle between righteous indigenous peoples and violent settler colonialists that justifies policies of reparation and transfer from oppressor to oppressed based on those enacted in post-apartheid South Africa. Is this ideology good for the Jews? Is it good for American democracy? David Bernstein has been a witness to the emergence, incubation and rise to power of this ideology, which has gone by various names over the decades, but has always regarded successful minority groups as especially problematic, and maintained an open animosity toward the Jewish state in particular, recently obtained new purchase within American progressivism and the organized Jewish community itself amidst the ideological enthusiasms of recent years. His new book brings to bear his long experience and familiarity contending with this ideology and makes a strong and forthright case that it is indeed bad for the Jews and American democracy.”
-Wesley Yang, American essayist
Columnist for Tablet magazine
“David Bernstein has given us an important and timely book on the “woke” ideology of the far left and the dangers it poses both to liberal values and to the Jewish community.Drawing on a wide range of sources and his decades-long experience as a senior community leader, David traces the evolution of “wokeness” from its roots in postmodern and postcolonial thought, through the disgraceful Durban Conference of 2001, to its most pernicious manifestations today. And in showing how antisemitism is an inevitable component of the ideology, he touches on its most central and consequential concepts — “whiteness” and racism, oppression and intersectionality, privilege and equity, critical race theory and “liberated” ethnic studies, political correctness and cancel culture. He also provides detailed accounts of how Jewish organizations and schools have advanced the very ideological paradigms that put Jews and Israel in the crosshairs.Policymakers, scholars, and lay readers alike will benefit from this rich and invaluable treatment of a deeply important subject. And we all should heed David’s demand that we return critical thinking and the uncensored exchange of ideas to our public discourse. This book is essential reading! “
— Elan S. Carr
Former United States Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism
EXCERPTS FROM BOOK
Foreword by Natan Sharansky
“I grew up in a place where the authorities proclaimed: “the proletariat of the world unite.” In today’s conception of intersectionality, haters of Jews unite. In the Soviet Union, there were good nations and bad nations. Good nations were part of the struggle against the global capitalists and bad nations were opposed to it. In woke ideology, there are good identities and bad identities. In this worldview, the most victimized identity is Palestinian and the worst identity is Israeli, that which represents the last colonial project. Intersectionality unites woke progressive theory with the most primitive forms of antisemitism.”
On Cancel Culture in the Jewish Community
“It wasn’t any one brazen act of cancellation aimed at a well-respected news reporter, a prominent data scientist, or a beloved poet that convinced me that woke ideology was out of control, wreaking havoc. I was alerted by my own growing sense of danger, the certainty that I and others could no longer safely express a discordant viewpoint. The high-profile cases of cancellation could easily eclipse the everyday reproach that stifles people and helps set the culture. High-profile cancellation campaigns like those targeting J.K. Rowling or Dave Chappelle, instructive though they are, allow cancel culture deniers to claim that cancellation is rare when, in fact, it’s common. Cancellation became a regular feature of social discourse. It occurs in tiny increments, in “micro-cancellations”—subtle, everyday tactics that shut people down. Micro-cancellations short-circuit authentic self-expression and result in fear-invoked self-censorship.”
On the Threat from the Right and the Left
“Critics of my and others’ work opposing woke ideology often claim that the threat of rightwing extremism is several orders of magnitude higher than that of the left, and that liberal critics of woke ideology are misguided in focusing on such piddly claptrap…Brookings Institution scholar Jonathan Rauch once likened the problem on the right to a heart attack and the problem on the left to a cancer. That sounds about right to me. Even if the threat to democracy is more serious on the right than on the left, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t address the threat on the left. Someone has to fix the gaping pothole on your street even when there’s a more serious water main break across town.”
On Connecting the Dots on Woke Antisemitism
“While I didn’t immediately see the connection between the emergent antisemitism after the collapse of the peace process and this ascending model of diversity, I started connecting the dots in 2002, just a year after the antisemitic debacle in Durban, South Africa. In January of 2003, I, once again, wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Jewish Week that I could have written today: “Progressive ideologues,” I argued, “believe that only people with power can be racists. Under this winner-take-all power paradigm, the formula is ‘racism=bigotry + power,’ which means that you cannot be racist if you don’t have power, and if you do have power, you cannot be a victim.”
On Jews and “Equity”
“What could possibly be wrong with a term that sounds as benevolent as “equity”? Ibram X. Kendi defined the term in his best-seller How to be an Antiracist: “Racial inequity is when two or more racial groups are not standing on approximately equal footing.” Discrimination that produces equity, Kendi assures us, is anti-racist. At first blush, this may sound like a fine approach to leveling the playing field. But think through the consequences, and you’ll see how radical a departure it is from our traditional understanding of “equality,” when it becomes clear that not only is this view of equity bad for society, it’s detrimental to Jewish wellbeing.”