- Written by Josh Nathan-Kazis Josh Nathan-Kazis
- Published: 09 December 2016 09 December 2016
A prominent leader of the “alt-right” left a Hillel rabbi speechless when he drew a direct parallel between white supremacy and Zionism — igniting debate on social media about whether such a comparison has any validity.
Richard Spencer, who leads the white nationalist National Policy Institute, appeared at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas on Tuesday night. Hundreds of students protested outside of the event, while others stood silently with raised fists inside the hall.
During a question-and-answer session, Texas A&M Hillel’s Rabbi Matt Rosenberg stood and invited the white nationalist to join him in Torah study. Rosenberg’s invitation, and Spencer’s response, were captured on video by The Eagle, the Texas A&M student paper, and viewed widely on Twitter.
“My tradition teaches a message of radical inclusion and love,” Rosenberg said. “Will you sit town and learn Torah with me, and learn love?”
Spencer declined the invitation, but used it as an opportunity to suggest that the objectives of Zionism and Jewish continuity were close to his own goals for white people.
“Do you really want radical inclusion into the State of Israel?” Spencer said. “And by that I mean radical inclusion. Maybe all of the Middle East could go move in to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. Would you really want that?”
Rosenberg, who later admitted he is not a good debater, stood silent.
“You’re not answering,” Spencer said.
“I’m not answering,” Rosenberg said.
Spencer went on to argue that Jewish continuity is predicated on resistance to assimilation. He framed that cultural imperative as similar to the movement for so-called white rights in the U.S.
“Jews exist precisely because you did not assimilate,” he said. “That is why Jews are a coherent people with a history and a culture and a future. It’s because you had a sense of yourselves. I respect that about you. I want my people to have that same sense of themselves.”
Rosenberg later acknowledged that the confrontation wasn’t his best moment.