Do Jews Have a Dog in This Fight?

It is easy to dismiss the Confederate statue issue as one for personal engagement or not (“Jewish Baltimore Stands with Charlottesville,” Aug. 18). Some may say the issue of symbols is much to do about nothing. But consider how you would feel about a statue of Hitler in Wyman Park, and the intensity of symbols is more personally framed for most Jews.

But the issue goes further and deeper. There are statues aplenty of anti-Semites. Does the current wave of offensive removals now extend to the rights of Jews to object to the public display of remembrances of individuals who were anti-Semites? I can assure you that the list is a long one. I admittedly have no original source knowledge to claim any historical figure an anti-Semite, but a review of internet references readily shows an amazing claimed list ranging from Winston Churchill to Henry Ford to Ulysses S. Grant. Do Jews, who represent 13 percent of the population of New York City, accordingly have standing to remove Gen. Grant’s Tomb on Riverside Drive in the same manner as racist Confederate-era generals are removed?

Here in Baltimore there is a case in point. There are many references to H.L Mencken as an anti-Semite — and one during a period much more recent than the era in which the Confederate generals acted. Baltimore City now owns the H.L. Mencken home, and there is a local organization that seeks to convert it to a historical Baltimore venue. There have also been annual Mencken celebrations. Will the city politic also vote unanimously to stop this effort and act with equal speed and decisiveness as it acted with Confederate remembrances? Will offended Jews, here in Baltimore and elsewhere, be afforded the same standing to object to the many public displays honoring claimed anti-Semitic figures? It is an interesting issue and a slippery slope indeed. How many people need to be offended to justify the removal of publicly displayed honoraria? Perhaps, and likely, Jews do have a dog in this fight.

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