This is a tale of two politicians. Both have fallen into hot water over antisemitism claims. One is being forgiven and welcomed to Seders. The other has Jewish protesters at their door.
Councilman Trayon White posted a video on Facebook during a spring snowstorm and claimed the Rothschilds were behind climate change as a money making scheme. Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of being soft on antisemitism many times, most recently after appearing to support an antisemitic mural.
Both are left-leaning politicians with a passion for anti-racist work and economic justice. Both landed themselves in hot water with the Jewish community, but one has managed to embrace and be forgiven. What can Mr Corbyn learn from the Trayvon White incident?
Mr White issued a heartfelt apology within 24 hours of the offending post. He met leaders of the Jewish community, including Jews United for Justice and two Jewish Members of the DC city council.
Unlike Mr Corbyn, there was no need to campaign for an apology; we had one within hours of the story breaking.
He quickly began meeting Jewish leaders publicly. I understand the importance of private meetings initially, but when the community knows and trusts the leaders you’re meeting with and they absolve the offending party, it helps the community believe it came from ignorance, not malice. Jews United for Justice issued a statement calling for dialogue, forgiveness and a path forward.
Beyond meeting with Leaders, Mr White had an open door policy and welcomed dialogue with the whole community. “I will be in the Wilson Building all day if you want to converse,” he tweeted. “I am not ducking anyone.”
He worked with Council Chair Phillip Mendelsohn and Rabbi Batya Glazer to convene a larger public meeting and invited the media to attend. He served kosher bagels and kicked off the meeting with an eloquent apology.
“Growing up as a young man in Ward 8, I had no idea what antisemitism was. Really. As a leader, I should be held accountable,” he said.
He spent the rest of the meeting listening to rabbis and members of the community as they shared why his remarks were hurtful and told their own experiences with hatred.
He described the experience as humbling; the community responded with warmth and a desire to facilitate learning. He was invited to Seders at the homes of several prominent local rabbis and joined councilwoman Elissa Silverman and her family. A trip to the Holocaust Museum is being planned.
Jeremy Corbyn should follow Mr White’s example if he would like a similar reconciliation. He must sit down with local leadership, publicly, and not just with leaders he knows are already friendly towards him and inclined to forgive.
He must create space for the whole community. He must stop denying and obfuscating, and hold himself accountable.
He should open himself up to learn to rebuild community relations. If he does, perhaps next year he will find himself full of invitations to join Passover Seders other than those organised by Jewdas.