By Kat King
Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 8/6/20 – I had the privilege of speaking with Rabbi Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center last week in light of the controversy surrounding Nick Cannon’s recent remarks and subsequent outreach to Rabbi Hier.
As I type this, it bothers me to know that a quick Google search result leads to a 2-star rating of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. It bothers me that an organisation that has been dedicated to the preservation of human rights, as well as the Museum of Tolerance, can even be rated. To me, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Museum of Tolerance are monuments, not businesses or tourist traps.
Since 1977, SWC has been the leading Jewish human rights organization in the United States and continues to foster mutual understanding and respect between people of all faith traditions and walks of life. As we are still suffering under the catastrophic weight of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Museum is still currently on lockdown and inaccessible to the public at a time when it may most desperately be needed. Rabbi Cooper shared his impression of how the pandemic has affected the tone of American political discourse.
“Everyone’s lives have sort of been turned over. Whether we like it or not, with social media, has skyrocketed. That means what goes on on social media also has a heightened impact.
He’s right, of course. With most folks at home, what else is there to do but stew in all the frustration you’ve been feeling about-well, everything, right? Especially when you’ve never been able to believe many people were violently massacred during the Holocaust. You may have been wondering whether those conspiracy theorist nuts were really onto something, and maybe they just went about it all wrong…and you’re the one to expose the real truth, right?
Or you could maybe just stop being so paranoid and educate yourself? I don’t know about you, but that’s always worked pretty well for me. Unless I was using Wikipedia. Don’t do it. It’s a dark, deep hole, Wikipedia….
No, when I say “educate”, I mean actually go to the source material documents And no, they’re not all in that fancy schmancy Olde Englisch. One thing I need to say about education is this: sources. We always talk about sources and quoting from academic sources, but then no one reads them. But we’ve decided we know what they say, even though we’ve never read them. Only the AP kids read source documents. NERDS! Thinking they’re better than everyone else ‘cos they’re in Advanced Placement!
But I digress.
P. S. I was an “AP/Honors kid”. This meant I did more reading. Of source documents.
If you’re poor, you’re not as motivated, so you get put in basic classes for basic average kids. If you’re poor, but motivated, they’d put you in Honors with a mix of mostly unmotivated, spoiled, bitchy rich kids. You got to draw lots of pictures and make dioramas. You had more crafty art projects, or you got a textbook and you answered all the questions and took tests on every chapter.
That’s your average history class.
Textbooks are updated, but who controls them? People.
People who sit on committees.
People with ideas, values and beliefs.
So, let’s hazard a guess as to who is trying to rewrite history to once again blame the Jews for everything? Who is trying to exploit the word “understanding” and why? Who has actually done their homework?
When Nick Cannon, who I’ve not yet met, made his comments, he believed he was getting to the heart of a deeper, darker truth. He wasn’t trying to harm anyone. He was trying to make people aware, right ? Bring awareness, educate. I wanted to understand whether or not he really believes what Farrakhan are saying about the Jews. I wanted to know where it all really started, or at least how it all began. In order to do this, I had to do a lot of deep diving into a lot of very old texts. But since I’m not rich, famous and able to just walk into these places and get my way, I’ve always assumed access to the documents Nick Cannon was permitted to see would be inaccessible to me. So, when I saw a chance to talk to someone who was involved with this incident, I thought I’d better try.
The Holocaust is a deep scar, it has been said. A scar so deep it has penetrated the DNA of the Jews and of all of its countless millions that even my generation can still feel it. But that ache is fading, and not only is it fading, there are many who have come to take it away. Erase it entirely.
How can we allow such a thing to happen?
How can anyone question what happened?
And why are we still having to explain all of this to people?
Well, because the collective memory of the American conscience is short.
So I came to Rabbi Cooper. I came to seek understanding. I asked him if he could explain, in his way, what all had transpired and how it came to be that Nick Cannon came to visit. He very graciously and succinctly summarized as follows:
Rabbi Cooper came across a YouTube video with Nick Cannon and Professor Griff. He then recalled Public Enemy’s controversies over their antisemitic lyrics from back in the day. He noticed Griff was “repeating the same Rothschild line about how the Jews own all the banks and everything,” which is part of a slew of defamatory claims made about Jews which all go back to a fabricated antisemitic text. It was the same text that inspired Adolf Hitler’s Final Solution, and it was called “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion”. Anyone can read it today if they so choose, though I warn you it can be difficult to find in English. It was created with the express intention of stirring hate against Jews in Russia at the beginning of the 20th century and has been repeatedly used to erode public perception of Jews ever since. The man who translated into English was eventually imprisoned and died, but he had been married to a Russian woman and was deeply attached to Russian culture. Why is this important? This single pamphlet led to the destruction of millions of lives and property. It’s worth at least looking up, no?
Cooper says he was taken aback at the fact that we still have people parroting the same anti-semitic nonsense in 2020. Honestly, I have to say, it shocked me that anyone can still possibly believe in ethno-supremacy anymore, but it’s still very much alive on every continent. According to global watchdog reports, far-right violence is on the rise in the United States and has been since the election of Donald Trump. Every federal law enforcement agency tasked with monitoring domestic terrorist in the United States has said as much, and they’ve been saying it for a long, long, long time. Basically forever. Is extreme leftist violence an issue? Certainly. But is it really as prevalent as Trump is trying to claim? According to his own watchdogs, the answer is a resounding “no”. But Dear Leader does not seem to have heard the message-nor does he seem to care.
Following his termination, Nick Cannon extended a message out to Rabbis Cooper and Hier. According to Cooper, they exchanged materials, spoke for about a half an hour on a Wednesday evening and then Nick said something that struck the Rabbi a bit funny. “He said he wanted to apologize to ME,” Rabbi Cooper recounts, “and so I told him ‘If you’re serious about your apology, you will have a huge blowback; they’ll say you’re in the back pocket of Zionists’”.
In spite of his warning, the Rabbi says there was a clear “seriousness of purpose” and so they agreed to meet. Cooper paints the picture here:
“He came in and sat down in the office in the room. They asked permission to film. Nick Cannon is pursuing a degree in theology. Based on a theological conversation, I suggested let’s meet with Rabbi Heier in West LA. While the Museum is on lockdown because of the virus, let’s have a meeting anyway.
When asked what the most important takeaway of this experience for him overall, Cooper offered two:
“The two highlights for me were: He was shown an original document-a report prepared, typed and signed by Adolf Hitler. Three or four years before he even wrote Mein Kampf. A reminder to all of us the power of words. We also arranged for him to visit a nearby synagogue and study hall.
The Rabbi even took out a Torah scroll and explained the Torah to Nick in the Synagogue, along with the Talmud (in Aramaic) and showed him Hebrew prayer book. “He’s a voracious reader,” Cooper notes.
He mentioned Mariah Films, which is the media company SWC owns and uses to create educational content intended to bring understanding and foster mutual respect between people of all faiths.
When asked about future media projects, the Rabbi coyly opened up just a bit, saying “We did discuss some follow up about some projects together that would help youth communities. ‘We have so much shared and parallel suffering,’ I told him. We should be natural allies.” It’s true that Jews, Christians and Muslims are all Abrahamic faiths, and they share many of the same values.
And then we came to John Lewis, who just passed away. John Lewis, a personal hero of mine and of so many. We talked about his “good trouble” catchphrase and how to go about it, and then we took a moment to reflect on everything that had been said up until now.
Let’s reflect. Rabbi Cooper shared some interesting historical information to add to the discourse that Nick and Professor Griff were having about Louis Farrakhan and his theories as they compared with those of Martin Luther King, Kr and John Lewis.
“He refused to participate because Farrakhan refused to foreswear his anti-semitism. The idea of reducing our lives and our nation to a lens of race as either black or white never got anyone anywhere. On the other hand, MLK’s famous speech? He said he hoped for a day where people would be judged by the quality of their character and not the color of their skin. A lot of African-Americans, black empowerment is where Farrakhan appeals. He’s like Black KKK to them. Black Power.”
Everyone seems to be of the consensus that the best way to move forward has to be through education and getting to know people. “Anyone who is ready to respect me, I am ready to sit down with them,” Cooper says.
I asked Rabbi Cooper what his overall impression of Nick’s intentions are at this point. He said: “I believe that this is a gentleman who has shown respect and when we talk about changes within communities, I can’t change anything as one person. If you’re not available for the discussion and the dialogue, then don’t be surprised when others will fill in the blank. It is up to us to find the people who will help us.
I never reached out to Nick Cannon. He was man enough to reach out to us. And as long as he’s interested in pursuing understanding.
I pressed him a bit more on those future media projects.
“We want to expose to young people to education about REAL, lesser known HEROES and heroes, those who continued to foster a rejection of seeing life through the lens of race, who rejected the idea that there is no racism in America, and who knew and embraced the truth: “everybody has a role to play in trying to inch our way toward Reverend King’s vision.”
Rabbi Cooper asked me to share with you that they already did 2 Zooms with 5 Africa-American veteran Law Enforcement Officers, which you can view at Wiesenthal.com, in order to learn more about their experiences. Even though they had all battled overt and covert racism throughout their careers, every one of them said they would still encourage their son or daughter to become a police officer. I thought that was really interesting. As for Nick Cannon and his part, it’s encouraging to hear that Nick was so open and engaged, that he’s studying theology and seeking understanding. That’s what I’m doing, too. I’d like to think most people are the same way, but sadly that’s just not so. As 2020 begins to crawl to a bitter, bitter end, I would just like to end this piece today with a quote from Martin Niemoller to remind us of just how tenuousness all this really is:
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.