This past week, a skit on Saturday Night Live (SNL) caused a storm in the Jewish world. Michael Che Campbell, a stand-up comedian, actor and writer on the show, said the following (as part of his skit); “Half the folks in Israel have already gotten the Covid vaccine. I’m going to guess it’s the Jewish half.” Many Jewish groups immediately screamed “anti-Semitism!” and have demanded an apology from the producers of Saturday Night Live and the executives at NBC. In my humble opinion, no apology is necessary. On the contrary! Israel needs to send a “Thank You” card to SNL for publicizing that fact. Yes, Israel takes care of Jews first… and we are very proud of that!
Let me take this one step further by going back a little in history. The year was 1996 and Benjamin Netanyahu was running for Prime Minister, in Israel’s first – and only - direct election of the country’s highest office. His opponent was Shimon Peres and polls were clearly in favor of Peres. Things were very unstable in the country, ever since the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, just 7 months before. It wound up being the closest election in Israel’s history… just 29,457 separated the winning candidate from the losing one; a margin of less than 1% of the total number of votes cast!
Who won that election on May 29, 1996? Bibi Netanyahu! Political analysts, pollsters and campaign experts attributed his victory to a country-wide ad campaign – sponsored by Chabad – that simply said 3 words: “Netanyahu Tov La’Yehudim” (translation: “Netanyahu is good for the Jews”). This simple, but highly effective campaign, was the thing that pushed Bibi to victory and marked the first time he became Prime Minister of Israel. (He has been re-elected about 37 times since, but that’s for a different article). In other words, Bibi was able to turn the tides of that difficult election, the moment he convinced Israelis that he was good for the Jews. Although it was never said, the campaign insinuated that if Bibi was good for the Jews… Peres was good for the Arabs. Those signs might not have been politically correct, but they worked because, while – ultimately – we want to be good to all mankind, we need to take care of ourselves first.
The source for this concept is in the Talmud, Bava Metzia 71a. Here is the ArtScroll translation and commentary; “The Torah states (Sh’mot 22:24) ‘When you lend money to My people, to the pauper who is with you’. This teaches that when a member of My (HaShem’s) people and a Gentile both ask for a loan, the member of My people takes precedence. If a pauper and a rich man are in need of a loan, the pauper takes precedence. Paupers of your own family and other paupers of your city - the paupers of your own family take precedence. Paupers of your city and paupers of another city - the paupers of your city take precedence… Rav Nachman said, ‘Even if the choice is between lending to a Gentile on interest and to a Jew interest free, the Jew takes precedence.”
These are rock-solid Torah concepts but really… every human being understands that you help your family first and then – and only then – do you help everyone else. Why should Israel be afraid to state this loud and clear? Yes, we vaccinated the Jews in the county first. Guilty as charged! Eventually, we will vaccinate the entire population, but our first priority is to Am Yisrael - the Nation of Israel - and we are very proud of that.
Therefore, please do not follow those groups who are demanding an apology from SNL and NBC. Instead send a letter, an email and a bouquet of flowers to Michael Che Campbell with the word “Shkoyach!” – thanking him for saying the truth – even though he thought it was a joke (and will have no idea what that word means!). To us, helping, caring and protecting the lives of Jews in Eretz Yisrael comes before all others and we did it for the Covid vaccine… and will do it again!
Am Yisrael Chai!