By BOB YUDIN
I was outraged to pick up the March 12 edition of the Record and to read Alfred Doblin’s column, which in the first sentence includes the phrase a “come to Jesus moment.”
While I understand the phrase has several connotations, it is, for me, a reckless and insulting use of language that borders on anti-Semitism. Of the many choices of words and phrases that Mr. Doblin could have used, I am curious and angry at the choice he made; especially since he must be familiar with its impact.
Mr. Doblin clearly knows that I am a practicing Jew. I have made no secret of my devotion to my faith and my support of Israel. My son-in-law is an Orthodox Rabbi; my son lives in Israel and has fought as a paratrooper in the Israeli Army. I am a student of Jewish history.
To me and many other Jews, the phrase “come to Jesus” conjures up notions of pogroms against Jewish people in 20th Century Europe, and in the 15th Century — the expulsion and torture of Jews during the Spanish Inquisition, when many Jews were forced to denounce their faith and “come to Jesus” in order to escape death and persecution.
Since the Civil War, when a popular pamphlet “Come to Jesus” was widely distributed to soldiers, to present day evangelical preachers, the phrase “come to Jesus” has held an explicit religious reference that has nothing to do with settling difference. “Those who are sinners and want to be saved, Come to Jesus! He will save you, just Come to Jesus!”
The phrase is rarely used in a political context. It is commonly addressed to sinners to cleanse themselves of their sins by “coming to Jesus.” Have I, as the chairman of Bergen Republican Party, committed sins from which I need to be absolved?
Mr. Doblin is a skilled writer, with a thorough command of the English language. Why would he use such a highly charged phrase in a column about local politics unless it was to make a particular point? And what is his point? To announce to everyone that I am Jew who happens to lead a party that is composed of mostly Christians?
Mr. Doblin writes, “If there’s any chance Jesus may take a road trip to New Jersey, he should come to Bergen County and sit down with its Republican leaders.
With all due respect to my many Christian friends, I don’t think Jesus needs to visit us and absolve us of our sins or to preach to us the doctrine of peace. I am sure Jesus has more important things to do than worry about the squabbling among Bergen County politicians.
To insert Jesus into a political argument seems to me to be at best an unfortunate choice of language and at worst — a coded message.
For a newspaper that prides itself on its sensitivity to various minority and ethnic groups, it seems that in this case the Record was deliberately callous and careless with its language.
An apology is in order.
Bob Yudin is the chairman of the Bergen County Republican Organization (BCRO).