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Barry Shrage – A peacetime leader in time of conflict

Special to the Journal

Barry Schrage’s recent retirement announcement is an important milestone for the Boston Jewish community. For three decades, Barry was extraordinarily successful in raising funds to support Jewish education and welfare as well as many non-Jewish causes. However, his legacy regarding the future safety of the Jewish community remains controversial, as evidenced by recent reports in the Boston Globe and elsewhere of several establishment Jewish organizations publicly embracing leaders of the radical Islamic Society of Boston (ISB) mosque.

Boston’s Jews should think hard about why Barry, who cares deeply for our community, has not acknowledged the threat of radical Islam in Boston, even though he has known that the ISB mosque’s founders, owners and operators are radical Islamists, connected to the Muslim Brotherhood, which preaches Jew-hatred, teaches that gays and apostates should be killed, and instructs Muslim men on how to beat their wives. Barry has seen all the documented proof of these things and more. He was extensively briefed on the ISB’s internal documents captured during the ISB lawsuit against the David Project.

I suggest there are several sorts of explanations of why Jewish leaders – good-hearted people with good intentions – fail to respond to hard, nasty truths:

Organizational Pressure: Barry understood he could not tell the Jews of Boston what he knew about this growing base of radical Islamists without risking the significant donations to CJP from his progressive donors who believe speaking honestly about radical Islam is “Islamophobic,” and that “silence is the best policy” when dealing with a perceived vulnerable minority, and that perhaps if we show that we love them, they will reject their crazy Islamist ideology and come to like us. This strategy, by the way, failed the Jews of Europe who are now leaving the continent in droves.

Psychology: Jews are generally conflict-averse when facing the outside world. If a person allowed himself to digest the facts about the actual state of hostility that exists against us – the “new anti-Semitism” rising and raging on our campuses, the stunning and dangerous successes of the alliance between radical leftists and radical Muslims there and in Europe; if one were to actually ponder the consequences of the penetration right here in Boston of radical Islamists into civil society, then that person would – like it or not – be forced to live, at least psychologically, a life of conflict. And who wants that?

Philosophical Defeat: Post-Modernism (or, as us commoners have it, Political Correctness) has won the day. As all our children are now learning in school – there is no truth, only different “narratives” all of which have equal value; white people (Jews are now white, if you haven’t heard) live on undeserved wealth; all religions and cultures are morally equivalent; there is no reason for conflict that “dialogue” can’t overcome. The West has committed unforgiveable sins and may not be worthy of defending itself. It certainly has no standing to criticize “others.” Conclusion: if you dare to criticize any negative aspect of another culture – even wife-beating, the killing of gays, and the hatred of Jews in Islamic lands – then you clearly and simply and automatically are a racist, a bigot, an Islamophobe and a mean, mean person. Even good decent people are having a hard time believing the obvious truths they see with their own eyes.

Barry was a good leader for a community secure in its position in society, but American Jewry is less and less politically secure. We can only hope Barry’s successor will have the courage to face the future with eyes wide open and resist the pressure from progressive Jews, who prefer to seduce themselves with beautiful fantasies rather than deal with ugly truths.

Charles Jacobs is president of the locally based advocacy group Americans for Peace and Tolerance.

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