Usually understood as meaning shameful or scandalous, from the Yiddish. What other word can we use to contextualize news reports that Stephen Miller, the current administration’s ‘immigration policy expert,’ and a Jew, is a frequent reader of white nationalist websites and magazines? It is indeed a shanda – both shameful and scandalous – that a Jew should immerse himself in such hateful and racist writing, and not only immerse himself, but seemingly buy the entire worldview, hook, line, and sinker, including the paranoid conspiracy theories so often championed on those sites.
There had long been rumors about Miller. In high school he was already staking out a far right political position that included hateful anti-immigrant ideology. Then at Duke he worked with Richard Spencer, a self avowed white supremacist, to put on a program. His background was, to say the least, checkered. But a week ago the release of close to 900 of his emails shines the plain light of day on his thinking and focus, and also on what he reads. These emails are recent, most of them written within the last 5 years. They contain frequent references to racist websites, books, and articles. It seems that Miller has fully digested the material and uses it systematically as he continues to shape the current administration’s immigration policy.
Much has been made of the fact that Miller’s own family emigrated from Eastern Europe to the United States. But what I can’t get my head around is how a Jew can embrace this kind of racism. He is a young man, but doesn’t he know his history? Can’t he see the connections between the websites he reads and antisemitism? Is he so blind (or so filled with hate of the other) that he can’t recognize that people who hate minorities, of any kind, also hate Jews? Does he not know that while the Germans were killing Jews, they were also killing people who were gay, that the Nazis hated blacks, that they slaughtered Gypsies? Whatever was ‘other’ was caught in the hateful quicksand of the Nazi machine and dragged down.
It would be no different here. If the world view that Miller espouses fully became reality the Jewish community in the United States would be destroyed. Either he knows that and doesn’t care, or he hasn’t been able to connect the obvious dots. Either way, to see a Jew embrace this rhetoric and help – or even lead – in the implementation of these policies – is a true shanda. When Stephen Miller entered the bizarre and hateful space occupied by white nationalism he left his Judaism behind, whether he realizes or not.