Bringing the pieces of recent anti-Semitic instances on college campuses together, former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci met members of the University at the Chabad House last night with anecdotes of his experiences with Judaism, ways to promote its preservation and a look into his life during and after his time at the White House.
“Countering BDS Campaigns on Campus with Anthony Scaramucci” was organized by the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce with help from Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) and featured a panel of members from the University’s Orthodox Jewish community.
The scope of the event aimed at addressing recent instances of anti-Semitism on college campuses and how the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement — a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice and equality that upholds the principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity — has become the vehicle of terror and hatred across the world.
Duvi Honig, the founder of the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce, said that Scarmucci was invited to discuss the effects of hatred and the diminishment of Judaism, along with its artifacts such as the Torah, in an interactive setting where students could raise their own questions.
Prior to Scaramucci's introduction, Honig led the room in prayer that honored the six million Jews that died in observance of Holocaust Memorial Day.
Rabbi Heshy Pincas went on to showcase Torah scrolls and describe the tentative process that undergoes their creation. In addition to these artifacts, he described the history of their decimation and displayed shoe soles with Torah script imprinted on them — a testament to their existence in light of denial that the Holocaust occurred.
The president of YAL, Andrea Vacchiano, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, gave her opening remarks where she reiterated the event’s focus to spread awareness of “attempts to delegitimize the state of Israel across college campuses by spreading false accusations that are, more often than not, also very anti-Semitic.” She then recounted Scaramucci's accomplishments and efforts to combat the BDS movement at Rutgers, according to its site.
Scaramucci is a former Goldman Sachs executive who served between 1989 and 1996. After which he founded Oscar Capital Management and then the investment firm SkyBridge Capital in 2005.
Most recently, Scaramucci is known for his time serving as White House communications director this past summer and the 11 days, as corrected by him, that transpired between his appointment and removal from the position.
The Chabad House keynote speaker retold his story of being raised in a blue-collar neighborhood. Growing up, he said there was limited literature in his house. Scaramucci lived in a diverse racial and religious community where he made Jewish friends whose households were the polar opposite of his — encouraging school work and education first.
This secondhand exposure to the normative Jewish household set the foundation for what Scaramucci said was his educational growth and inclination toward Jewish culture.
“Why am I bringing this up?” Scaramucci said. “I’m bringing this up because I am not a Jew, but I have had the benefit of experiencing the Jewish culture, and I can also look at it from a distance, I can look at it from a separation that if you are a Jew growing up in a Jewish culture … you’re not going to see it the way I see it.”
Three Rules to Live By
Scaramucci listed three rules that he suggested the audience never forget.
The first, that it is an individual’s culture that matters most. Away from media coverage and the glamour of being in the spotlight, he said what truly matters are the friends, family and culture that binds a person together.
“No. 2 … is super important to realize this, the Jewish community globally for 5,500 years is hunching over its weight … Just look at the statistics, you’ve killed it in commerce, you’ve killed it in the arts, you’ve killed it in science … the byproduct of your culture has led to unbelievable charity all around the world.”
Scaramucci went on to say that he thinks hatred toward Jewish people does not stem from the religion but from its success. In a Social-Darwinist fashion, he said this is the result of primordial instincts that bring people to want the best for themselves and a behavior that should be moved away from — toward love and kindness as seen in Judaism.
Lastly, he said that passing the ethos of Judaism onto new generations will benefit the culture and offset hatred with an abundance of peace, discussing his experience during a trip to Israel.
“If you go into those areas that I’ve gone to, there are Jews and Palestinians, Jews and people of the Islamic faith working peacefully together … but when you’re sitting around the area, interviewing the people, what you learn is that there’s harmony. What you learn is that there’s togetherness with that group of people … people can really get along, they don’t have to be dialed into a fight that is probably serving a very small sliver of people at the top,” he said.
Scaramucci said not being a politician allows him to speak his truth freely, he referenced his most recent phone conversation with Trump.
“I was on the phone with the president on Saturday morning and we were talking about the Syrian situation as well as the Mueller investigation and a few other things … We were having a conversation and I said ‘you know, in Washington, they’re always on the spin cycle, but the New Yorkers, we’re on the rinse cycle’ ... We’re trying to clean things up, these guys are constantly spinning. So at the end of the day, until we get more people on the rinse cycle in Washington it’s going to be the way it is, you’re not going to be able to change anything," he said.
Scaramucci ended with a call for people to communicate that there are better alternatives than anti-Semitism present in other areas of the world which allow for peaceful, mutualistic economic harmony.
Eleven days in the White House: An audience question-and-answer session
After concluding his speech, Scaramucci spent the remainder of his time answering audience questions about everything from his current communication with Trump and the fallout of his firing as communications director.
When asked about his position on the U.S. airstrike against Syria, he said that the tribe present in the area that was targeted has occupied the space for thousands of years as a “ritualistic tribe that will fight to the death.”
“Their attitude is, and some people have this attitude, obviously the Nazi’s had this attitude, they’re superior to other people and so therefore if I’m gassing somebody else they’re subhuman to me, it doesn’t really make that much of a difference,” he said.
Scaramucci further investigated this point from the perspective of the United States, a country which he said is “a beacon of leadership of western values and the spirit of liberty” and as such has a moral compulsion to stop this from happening in action.
In regard to President Donald J. Trump’s decision to launch missile strikes, he said the use of chemical weapons has long been a red line countries do not look to cross.
“(Trump) doesn’t necessarily want to get involved in their civil war. He’s not a neoconservative interventionist, but he doesn’t want innocent children being gassed by their political leadership,” Scaramucci said.
Like a domino effect, the fallout of events such as this has an impact on the possible rise of dictatorships, loss of life and liberty, he said. As the fulcrum surrounding Israel, Scaramucci said Jewish people are the first domino to fall if anti-Semitism is allowed to thrive and will just as easily affect other nations around the world.
“You can’t gas innocent people and watch them choke and die on chlorine. And so the president hit them, he hit them surgically, he dismantled some of their capability, and by the way, I’ll speak very candidly, the effort was done in a way to avoid the Russian troops who don’t want World War III over this. But we do want to send the message that we don’t want innocent people killed,” he said.
Scaramucci responded to a question regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict with an assessment of the land, which he said should stay in the hands of the Jewish people in order to secure their survival. He added that it is one of the reasons why Trump moved the embassy to Jerusalem, in order to “take that off the table.”
He is a proponent of a one-state solution, one in which Jewish people and Palestinians retain their legal and political character as separate nations, and suggests a strategy that protects statehood above all else.
Scaramucci ended his conversation with a recount of the events that led to his firing and his optimistic outlook on life thereafter. He advised that people look at the downward spirals in their lives as part of the process and see life through to its end.
When asked what he would do differently as a college student in light of current social issues, he said he would pay more attention to the politicians who affect the small and large pieces of a person’s life and would be a more active player in the systems that control subsidies on the money he was motivated to earn early on.
“If you stay with it on the downturn, if you stay with it and optimistic you’ll catch the upcycle again, but you’ve got to stay in it. Don't leave it, be persistent, be passionate and pick something you really love doing and it’ll be really easy to do that,” he said.
Scaramucci Receives Award
In a surprise announcement, Scaramucci was awarded a photo album keepsake as a gift from the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce.
“This gift on behalf of YAD VASHEM, which came from them on their own good will to Anthony, demonstrates how much his visit impacted all Holocaust survivors through the recognition and understanding which Anthony generated about the Holocaust and the 6,000,000 Jews destroyed in the name of hate,” said Duvi Honig, founder and CEO of the Orthodox Jewish Chamber Of Commerce in an email to The Daily Targum.
Editor's Note: The first graphs under "Opening Remarks" have been updated to further examine the event's goals.