Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Anna Rajagopal may be confused about when she converted to Judaism (was she 10, 11, or 12?), but about one thing she is certain: Rajagopal hates Israel. She also hates any Jew who believes in the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in the Jewish homeland. Which is funny for someone who converted through a Temple that has always been Zionist.

But let’s back up.

Of her conversion, Rajagopal wrote in a blog entry:

I converted to Judaism as a child, when I was around ten years old, but my conversion journey began at age nine, when I felt an inexplicable tug at my very being that I attribute to my Neshama (soul) being present at Har Sinai (Mount Sinai) when G-d revealed Themself to the Jewish people. For me, conversion was G-d calling me home, after thousands of years in exile. Where's the shame in that? (Spoiler alert: There is none). 

Converting as a child was by no means easy, so I understand how difficult, overwhelming, confusing and even upsetting this process, and subsequent life can be. 

One month later, writing for Hey Alma, Rajagopal had moved up the age of her conversion from “around ten years old” to “around age 11.”

I converted to Judaism around age 11, coming from a multicultural household with both Christian and Hindu influences. 

Not a huge difference, for certain. Except that neither version of the Anna Rajagopal conversion story is true. From these two accounts, dated one month apart, the reader might have inferred that Anna converted alone, on her own, as a young child. According to a 2013 temple newsletter, however, we learn that the entire Rajagopal family converted when Anna was 12.

Anna Rajagopal did not convert as a lone brave child because of something tugging on her soul, but alongside her parents and brother, a decision made and taken as a single family unit. At the time, Rajagopal was not around 10 or 11, but age 12, the age of Jewish womanhood, when a girl becomes fully responsible for her choices and actions.

Is this stress on the small difference of a year or two or three in a personal narrative important in the scheme of things? Yes. Because conversion would have been something momentous, something Rajagopal would have remembered with all the details, including her age, intact.

Of course, if Anna Rajagopal were otherwise a person of integrity, we might have looked the other way. We might have shrugged and said, “Big flip, so she got the age wrong by a year or two (or three).”

Rajagopal however, is not a person of integrity. How do we know this? Because of her visceral dislike of certain Jews—really all Jews—expressed as remarks about, for example, their physical appearance. In March 2022, for example, Rajagopal tweeted:

"sometimes I sit here and just wonder why zionists are so physically unattractive. it's very interesting to me how every zionist is just extremely ugly. like actually very unpleasant looking. it’s like you have to be horrifically grotesque to be part of the genocide club.”

This is not Rajagopal’s sole antisemitic tweet, but in a nutshell, it is certainly one that should disgust all humanity, no matter what they think about Jews and Israel. Let’s flip it for a moment and rephrase her tweet in terms that might make this blatant example of bigotry easier for the world at large to comprehend and digest:

"sometimes I sit here and just wonder why BIPOCs are so physically unattractive. it's very interesting to me how every BIPOC is just extremely ugly. like actually very unpleasant looking. it’s like you have to be horrifically grotesque to be part of the genocide club.”

If reading the above shocked you, it should. Good people do not generalize about the appearance of another people, no matter their identity. We learn this at our parents’ knees. But then again, when someone raves like this, it has nothing to do with looks, Zionist or otherwise. It’s just a bigot ranting on Twitter. If Rajagopal had something substantive to say, she’d say it, instead of resorting to baseless insults that generalize about the physical characteristics of a people.

Instead she says Zionists are ugly. And she didn’t say it only the one time. In an earlier tweet, for example, Rajagopal wrote, “Zionists are genocidal freaks. If there’s ever a circus show for ugly, sunburnt, violent outcasts, that’s where you’ll see them.”

Where does this hatred for Zionists, really Jews, come from? Not from the temple that converted Anna Rajagopal, her father, mother, and brother. Billed as the first Reform Jewish congregation in North Texas, and the largest synagogue in the South, Temple Emanu-El of Dallas is a member of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ). Under Israel Engagement, the URJ website states that: “Reform Zionism accepts and supports the foundational aim of Zionism: the establishment of a Jewish State in Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people.” 

Foremost among the goals of URJ’s Reform Zionism work is “To increase each Reform Jew’s relationship with Israel and make Israel a core component of every Reform Jew’s identity.” To that end, the URJ website links to its affiliate branch, ARZA (Association for Reform Zionists). The acronym “ARZA” is a Hebrew imperative: “To the Land.”

It is no coincidence that Temple Emanu-El of Dallas, under whose auspices Anna and her family embraced Judaism, is affiliated with URJ/ARZA. The temple is nothing if not Zionist. In fact, the synagogue just completed not one but two group trips to Israel.

It’s not just the trips to Israel that mark Temple Emanu-El of Dallas as Zionist. The Reform congregation also provides adult education classes in Zionist philosophy. As recently as 2019, for example, Temple Emanu-El offered a course called The Zionist Ideas

Here’s the course description:

"The Zionist Ideas: Visions for the Jewish Homeland—Then, Now, Tomorrow” will be the textbook for the class exploring the vision of Israel as a democratic Jewish state. Author Gil Troy profiles more than 170 Jewish visionaries from the 1800s to today in this book, which builds on Arthur Hertzberg’s “The Zionist Ideas."

Temple Emanu-El is Zionist both by nature and by deed. How does Rajagopal feel about this? How did she feel during services as a “child convert,” seeing the “horrifically grotesque” congregants sitting all around her?

And why would Rajagopal convert if the people are so ugly, er Zionist? 

While attempting to join the Nation of Israel, did Rajagopal somehow miss the fact that there’s an actual, physical location associated with that nation? And if she thinks the idea of Jews having land or wanting to live in it and govern themselves is so bad, then why did she sign on?

Like all antisemites, Rajagopal has tried hard to cut the indivisible ties that bind the Nation of Israel to Israel the nation. She does this “as a Jew,” using the fact of her Reform conversion to lend legitimacy to her rejectionist views on the Jewish State. She assumes her Jewish persona at will when convenient to the ultimate purpose of eradicating Israel.

When Rajagopal talks about her Neshama being at Har Sinai and how for her, "conversion was G-d calling me home, after thousands of years in exile," we wonder: of what nation were we to imagine her becoming a part? To where was she being called home? Was her soul’s presence at Sinai, her being called home from exile, meant as some sort of metaphor for something else?  

Perhaps so, since her actions since that time have been directed toward the purpose of ethnically cleansing the Land of Israel of its entire Jewish population, as per her tweet: “Free Palestine by any means necessary: Decolonization is not a metaphor but a call to immediate action in which any form of resistance or rebellion is deemed moral under any immoral circumstances.”

We need not wonder about the borders of Rajagopal’s would-be Jew-free Palestine. The borders would be the borders of Israel. Zionists, according to this “child convert” are not to be allowed to live in any part of their ancient, biblical homeland, or in fact to live. Rajagopal’s “call to immediate action” is a call to murder Jews.

What is it about Zionism that so disturbs Rajagopal? Is it the aspiration to have a Jewish state, or is it the actual fact of Jews living in Israel? Is it Jewish self-determination on Jewish soil that bothers her? What is the real Zionism in her Rajagopal's eyes? Which aspect of Zionism is it that makes us Jews so ugly to her?

Who knows? But the Avodah Institute for Social Change must agree with Rajagopal’s antisemitic* views because they hired her for their social media team. That can only mean that her prospective employers monitored her Twitter and liked what they saw. Else they would not have hired her to assist in the running of their own Twitter account.

The Avodah website describes itself as “[providing] Jewish leaders the tools, experience, and networks they need to create change.” If Avodah likes what Rajagopal is tweeting out, this mission statement must be some kind of code. Based on the hiring of Rajagopal, “creating change” is likely code for getting Jewish leaders to stop being Zionist, to stop standing up for Israel and the welfare of the Jewish people

A truer Avodah mission statement, one not couched in code, might have said, “We agitate for and support the murder of Israeli Jews by Arab terrorists and the annihilation of the Jewish State by any means.”

Note that there is nothing about Israel in the Avodah values statement, because Israel is not a value for them.

The kind of people who found groups like Avodah, and those who work for them, all use coded language. They can’t come right out and say they hate Israel and want to annihilate its Jewish presence. Not yet. Not as an organization. 

Instead, they encourage people like Rajagopal to say it for them until it becomes a natural part of the conversation. Lucky for us, this time Avodah was stymied in its efforts to amplify views that would appear to mirror those of Rajagopal. The Avodah tweet announcing her hire is gone. So is the page devoted to Rajagopal on the Avodah website. This is because Rajagopal was caught out for her tweets and the buzz went out until Avodah likely had to fire her in order to save face for what will probably be its next salvo against the Jewish State

As a people, we need to learn how to see and interpret anti-Israel, antisemitic code. There’s the code of Avodah regarding Jewish leadership and the unsaid need to change the way the leadership feels about Israel. There is the code of Rajagopal excusing murder, as long as the Jewish victims love and/or want to live in Israel. All of this is in code. The code is necessary because the aims are wrong and immoral, so they dare not voice them aloud.

At least not yet.

It is inevitable that some readers of this column will assert that Rajagopal is not really Jewish. They will say that Reform conversion is not the same as Halachic conversion performed according to Jewish Law. I will go a step further.

Could Anna Rajagopal and perhaps even her family, have duped the people of Temple Emanu-El regarding their sincerity in wanting to be Jews? Did she/they trick the rabbis who performed the Reform conversion into thinking that some or all the members the Rajagopal family shared the Jewish dreams and aspirations of this so-Zionist congregation? As a “child convert” could 12-year-old Anna have already been poisoned about Israel and the Jewish people? Could she have absorbed this lesson at home?

We might also ask: what was the group conversion about? What is the real reason the Rajagopal family sought conversion? Was the conversion genuine for some, not so much for other members of this family? Could the conversion have represented a bid to be upwardly mobile, to angle for a portion of what they might have seen as outsized Jewish power? Or was there some other dark, nefarious political purpose to the family conversion, an infiltration, perhaps, of enemy lines?

At this point, we cannot know. There is no backstory to hint at the answers. There is only the backstory supplied us by Anna Rajagopal, in which her age at conversion changes on a whim and the conversion of her family is entirely omitted. Rajagopal's Twitter rants reveal more, showing signs of a highly disturbed personality filled with antisemitic loathing.

Without a backstory all we have is what we know of Rajagopal, and what we know of Rajagopal tells us all we need to know about Avodah, the organization that hired and subsequently fired her.

Despite the Jewish-sounding name of this organization, Avodah is clearly a hornet’s nest--one filled with hate-filled hornets like Rajagopal, brimming with hate for one specific people:

The Nation of Israel.

The Jews.

*From the IHRA examples of antisemitism: “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”

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