Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Some Ramblings about the Democrats

The Candidates Debate
So, who won the debate last night? I’m not sure there was a clear winner. But here are some of my thought about how things stand now.

The most genuine candidate is Bernie Sanders. And seems like a nice guy.  What you see is what you get with him. His positions are pretty consistent (for a politician). He is a dyed in the wool Socialist who believes in a redistributive economy. Where via taxation – money would flow into the government and be redistributed more evenly to the general population in areas like free health care, free college, and forgiveness of student debt..  

That is anathema to someone like me who believes in a free market economy. Where you keep what you earn. Sanders’ foreign policy with respect to Israel is among the worst of all his opponents.  A position so anti Israel that he is gained the support of the 2 BDS supporters in congress:  Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar. Here’s more from Foreign Policy Magazine
The 78-year-old Vermont senator, who lived in an Israeli kibbutz in the early 1960s, frequently refers to Israel as an “occupying power”—a moniker Israel’s government and its allies in the White House and Congress consider a slur. He has made clear that he would be prepared to condition the $3.8 billion in annual U.S. military aid to Israel on its treatment of Palestinians, a position that is out of step with Republicans and the Democratic congressional leadership. Sanders referred to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in December 2019 as a “racist.”
On Sunday, Sanders announced that he would not attend the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference, a traditional venue for Democratic and Republican political candidates, expressing concern about the platform it “provides for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights.” The remarks drew a barrage of criticism from Jewish American organizations and commentators, who characterized it as an “odious,” “offensive” “smear.” 
I don’t see how anyone who supports the Jewish State could support him. This is worrisome because he may very well end up being the Democratic nominee. Based on his performance in the caucuses and primaries thus far - he seems to have the momentum.

What about the other contenders?

Elizabeth Warren is almost as much of a Socialist as Sanders is and her position on Israel is not much better. But I don’t think she did all that well last night. She seemed more interested in smearing her rivals then in discussing her policies. I also think people are tired of the constant repetition about her humble beginnings and struggles as a woman. At this point I don’t think she has much of a chance anymore to be the nominee.

Joe Biden is a traditional liberal Democrat whose domestic and foreign policies are indistinguishable from Obama’s - under whom he served as Vice President. One can debate the pros and cons of that. And he is a lot better than Sanders or Warren. But I still disagree with many of his domestic polices. As I do with his policies with respect to Iran and Israel. And like Warren, at this point I don’t think we have to worry about him too much.

Pete Buttigieg is by far the most articulate and possibly the most intelligent candidate. He sounds like he knows what he’s talking about. He seems to argue his positions better than any of the other candidates.  But even though he is trying to sell himself as a moderate and more mainstream, by his own words he would be the most progressive President in US history were he to be elected. 

And while his position on Israel is better than Sanders and Warren, he would not be averse to conditioning foreign aid on things which Israel might see harming their own interests. While I think he still may have a chance, I don’t think he is going to end up being the nominee. In part because of his vary young age; his  lack of experience in government beyond being the mayor of a small town in Indiana (South Bend); and the fact that the country not  is ready for a gay president. Yet.

I like Amy Klobuchar. She may very well be the most moderate Democrat running. Her domestic polices are more mainstream, But still liberal. She seems like an enthusiastic supporter of Israel but even so - she would probably go back to polices of the Obama administration. And she would restore to the US as a partner to the terrible nuclear deal with Iran.  I am not anxious to lift sanctions on a regime that continues to export terror with impunity. (I would do the opposite and increase sanctions to the point that Iran would be willing to negotiate a better deal than the one we had. But I digress.) Klobuchar doesn’t have much of a chance to be the nominee either.

Tom Steyer has about as much of a chance of winning the Democratic nomination as I do. Not worth discussing.

That leaves billionaire and former New York mayor, Mike Bloomberg. He may very well be the most conservative candidate running. And the most pro Israel. But that’s only when measured against the others. A ‘nanny state’ domestic policy is pretty much socialist in nature and something I could not support. When asked about Israel yesterday, his answer sounded like a return to the failed policies of the past. Even moving the US embassy to Jerusalem was not without criticism. While he said he supports it, he also said he would not have done it without getting some concession from Israel in exchange. 

While I thought he stood a decent chance to become the nominee, he too has lost his luster after joining his opponents on the debate stage. Until then, he had doing pretty well in the polls. His slick campaign ads were very effective. In my view he would have been wiser to stay away from those debates until after Super Tuesday where he could have gained some momentum based on the positive image projected in those ads. When challenged to join he could have simply said that since he was not a contender in those states, he wasn't going to debate in them. But he decided to join and hurt himself  badly. Not sure he can recover by Super Tuesday next week. His chances of wining the nomination are slipping. Rapidly. 

But still. if I had to vote for any of these candidates, It would probably by Bloomberg. He is the best of a bad bunch. It’s too bad there is no Republican, whose foreign and domestic polices are much more in line with my own, is running. 

Not that I blame any of them. Trump is the incumbent and he has implemented many conservative policies. And his base is more energized than ever. Much the same way Sanders’ base is.

If those 2 candidates end up  being their party’s nominee, it’ll be interesting to see where swing voters will go. Will they go to the man who has embarrassed this country beyond words but whose polices have helped their financial status? Or will they go for a Socialist like Sanders but is much more of a Mentch? If I had to guess, I don’t think Socialism will win the day.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Yeshivos are Booming. Is that Enough?

A Yeshiva in Brooklyn (New York Post)
It’s nice to see that yeshiva attendance in America (or more accurately in New York) is booming. That is in part the headline in a New York Post article. The other half of the headline is that attendance in Catholic schools is shrinking.  Here are some numbers:
During the 2000-2001 school year, there were 76,538 kids enrolled in yeshivas, the Manhattan Institute study found.
By the 2018-2019 academic year, that number soared to 111,970 — a rise of 46 percent, according to the study.
Catholic school enrollment has plummeted by roughly the same proportion over that stretch. There were 148,658 students in the Christian schools in 2000-2001 and just 77,025 last year — a drop of 48 percent, the report states. 
The latter statistic is concerning

We are long past the days when the Church persecuted us. Ever since Vatican II there has been a warming up of relations between us because of our many shared interests. Interests generated by living in a culture that seems to be increasingly apathetic to religious values. Most of which are shared (if not identical) and derived of a common bible. We are often both on the same side with respect to many religious issues facing us right now.

The plummeting enrollment in Catholic schools is not anything to celebrate. When society loses interest in its faith based moral underpinnings, nothing good can come of that. I’m therefore happy to hear New York’s Catholic Archdiocese say that interest in faith-based education is on the uptick. I just hope it’s enough to reverse the trend.

Back to Yeshivos. The fact that Yeshiva attendance is booming is the main reason Orthodoxy is growing while the rest of the Jewish community is shrinking to levels that threaten their very existence.  It is entirely possible that in few generations Orthodox Jews will be the majority of Jews in this country – even as the overall population of Jews shrinks. A very disturbing prospect.

There is not a doubt in my mind that this reality is based on the fact that Orthodox Jews are educated in Yeshivos about their Judaism through high school and beyond  - while the rest of Jewry is not. Which leaves them woefully ignorant about it. Which in turn leaves them with little incentive to maintain their Jewish identity. Much less perpetuate it by not intermarrying.

The question raised in that article is - what kind of education do Yeshiva students get? While it is of existential importance to know one’s Judaism. It is also of existential importance to learn how to survive in the modern era. Do Yeshivos do that?

Most do. I don’t know the numbers - but I would be willing to bet that the vast majority of religious day schools and high schools do a pretty decent job at both. Some better. Some worse. But all teach the basics required to succeed both religiously and materially.

But as the article also notes there is one segment that does not do such a good job in one of those areas. Which is one of my big issues.

The fact remains that there are still many schools in certain Chasidic enclaves that do not educate their children to function well in the modern era.  They cannot be classified as a fringe. Or even a small exception to the rule. They are pretty large and growing exponentially. They have the highest birthrate among all Jews. Including all Orthodox Jews. 

As is well known by now, these enclaves refuse to offer any kind of secular curriculum to their students in high school and precious little (if any) in their elementary schools. They may be a minority of Orthodox Jewry now. But they could easily become a majority. 

Depriving them of the means to pursue decent careers is not the way to perpetuate themselves.

I understand that a secular education is not always necessary to succeed financially. There are a lot of millionaires in those communities that can barely speak the English language… but enough so to make fortunes via investments, innate business skills, or using connections. But that is only a small portion of them.

There is also the argument that they pick up a lot of necessary secular education in the course of their religious studies. Some of which they correctly say is superior to what is found in the public school classroom.

While that may be true, it is not nearly enough. For one thing there are certain study skills learned on the secular side - vital to success in future educational pursuits that are not learned on the religious side.

Most of these educationally deprived students would benefit greatly from a decent secular studies curriculum. It would surely help them support their future families without any government financial assistance. Or at least a lot less of it. and a lot less likely to feel the need to abuse that assistance.

This is an important fact that should not get lost while celebrating our booming Yeshiva attendance.  And yet there is a concerted effort by some to thwart any attempt at implementing that curriculum. 
The argument being church state separation. They are opposed to any government interference in the education of religious schools as a violation of their religious rights.

As I have said many times, our religious rights is a real issue that must be addressed. But so too must the unwillingness of those Yeshivos to offer any secular curriculum at all. The right thing to do is to fight for both: 

With the expanded growth noted by this article, this issue takes on increasing importance. I just hope  activists pay at least as much attention to need for a secular studies curriculum as they is to the assertion of our religious rights. Because one without the other does a disservice to us all.

Monday, February 24, 2020

An Analysis of Jew Hatred

Aalst Carnival participants mocking the Kotel and Chasidic Jews (BBC)
I do not recall as much attention being paid to antisemitism than at this particular point in time. There are of course obvious reasons for that.  There has been a worldwide major increase over the past number of years in antisemitic attacks. Many of them deadly.  But not all of them. From AP:
The Aalst Carnival parade included stereotypical depictions of Jews for the second year in a row and the Belgian government...
… one group on Sunday walked around the parade dressed up like insects with fur hats worn by some ultra-Orthodox Jewish men...
Aalst mayor Christoph D’Haese, who has been criticized for taking insufficient action after last year’s offensive float, called Wilmes “otherwordly,” and added that “I did not see an anti-Semitic or racist parade. To the contrary, I saw a high mass of free speech and creativity.” He took time to pose with a Carnival reveler wearing a stereotypical hooked nose. 
Mayor D’Haese is typical of the mindset that uses the concept of free speech to allow all manner of hatred to be expressed. He may not think he is an antisemite. But he is. 

If that’s the case - isnt this the same argument made by liberal Democrats in congress that protect antisemitic speech by its own members?

One might answer that those members are not antisemitic. Just anti Israel. But I find that to be a distinction without much of a difference in most cases. This is not to say that one can’t be critical of Israel… and that if he is he is automatically an antisemite. If that were true, half of the Jewish people in Israel would be antisemites. But in many – perhaps even most cases, Zionist hatred is a euphemism for Jew hatred.

What about Bernie Sanders. Is he an antisemite? No. He is just a liberal whose views are almost always more sympathetic to the underdog without looking beyond the obvious. Which in this case is that the Palestinian people suffer greatly under Israeli occupation. The liberal mindset automatically blames the obvious without understanding the context which is based on underlying problems that are the fault of their leadership - plus decades of anti Israel (not distinguishable from anti Jewish) indoctrination. which requires security measures by Israel that makes life for many Palestinians miserable!

What about Sanders’ supporters? They are obviously liberal too.  Are they antisemitic? How could they be if they support a Jew for President?! In fact about half the country is liberal although perhaps not as liberal as Bernie. Are they antisemitic, too?

I think it might first actually depend on how you define antisemtism. Supporting a Jew for President does not mean you cannot be an antisemite.  One has to look at what they are really supporting. And it isn’t his Judaism.

Bernie Sanders does not represent Jewish values (save one: Tikun Olam –  social justice which is how the Jewish left has defined Judaism for the most part). Social Justice is the sine qua non of Humanism. Which has become the ‘religion’ of the left. The Humanist believes in man’s natural goodness and seeks only rational ways of solving human problems.  That man is the best or perhaps eve the only solution to the problems of mankind is the antithesis of Judaism which seeks God’s guidance in solving those problems.

Using that as the barometer one might argue that Humanists are all antisemitic in the sense that they will deny the Jewish people the right to allow God to define right and wrong instead of rational man.

I do not take it that far. Neither Bernie Sanders nor his supporters are antisemtic. But there is not a doubt in my mind that the many of the values of Humanism which is embraced by left is anathema to Judaism. Humanism is not a Euphemism for Judaism which is clearly  defined beyond the parameters of Tikun Olam.

There are two ways to be an antisemite. One is to hate anyone born Jewish regardless of how religious or secular they are. The other is to hate the values that the Jew represents.

So what about Aalst Carnival parade in Belgium? Why did they focus only on Chasidic Jews for their ridicule?  

Hard to know the answer to that. One might say that these people are proof that Esav Sonei L'Ya'akov is still alive and well. But one can also - I suppose - say there are many mundane factors that have impacted the way these people think. Just to list a few that come to mind:

The long history of European persecution of the Jewish people throughout the ages, blaming us for the crucifixion of their god and resenting us for not accepting him.   

Added to that is the above-mentioned liberal European  mindset that blames Zionism (i.e. the Jews) for the suffering of the Palestinian people. 

On the other side of the hate spectrum are the racial theories. For reasons I do not fully understand those theories place us genetically at the very bottom of humanity. They see us as an evil cabal out to dominate the world via our dishonest banking practices. And eventually subjugate all good Christians to do our bidding. 

I suspect that Shakespeare’s  depiction in his play The Merchant of Venice of the Jew, Shylock might have had something to do with that image. Which may have been a prejudice he had based on the above mentioned centuries old Christian view of us. A view that continued to plague us throughout the history of Christendom. Even after it became variegated into denominations post Martin Luther.

And then there is just plain old fear of difference. The more different one looks, the more prejudice there might be among the ignorant.

All of which gets exacerbated when news appears about Jewish malfeasance by the most religious looking Jews among us.

I don’t really know if any of this is true. I may be off on some of it. Or even all of it. But those are some of the random thoughts that came to mind in the wake of what’s happening in Belgium.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

What Do Charedi Women Really Want?

Founders of Nivcharot (Ha'aretz)
It’s hard to know exactly where to stand on the issues discussed in this Ha’aretz  article. Which is about Charedi women complaining that they have been discriminated against - and shut out of Charedi political power in Israel. They have formed Nivcharot -  a movement that ‘promotes the representation of ultra-Orthodox women in state institutions’.

I have no doubt about their complaints have merit. More about my ambivalence later.

First let me reiterate what I must have said a gazillion times. I stand second to no one in acknowledging the disparity in pay between men and women in the workplace. It is a gross injustice whose correction is long overdue. I stand foursquare with feminists in support of that goal. As I do in all areas where there is an unjust gender imbalance in which men are favored.

(However,  as I have said many times, my support for that goal stops at the door of observant Judaism that includes not only following Halacha - but also following our Mesorah - long established traditions that have historically not been overturned except in existential situations.  But this post is not about that.)

There are some grey areas. Like the one discussed in this article. I agree in principle that Charedi women should be given – not only a voice but  an equal voice in government. I also see is no issue of Serarra – the Halachic problem of women ruling over men. They would not be ruling but simply democratically representing their constituency in the Keneset.

So what is my problem?

Well… It isn’t exactly a problem. It is more of q question. Which is - what is it exactly that the majority of Charedi women actually think about this? Is this something they support in principle- even  if not for themselves personally? Or do they agree with their rabbinic leaders’ rejectionist approach – seeing these women as some sort of renegade feminists that have gone off the reservation.

I think that matters. Sometimes doing the right thing has to be judged in the context of what the vast majority wants. Not what the ideal would be in a vacuum. That said, I would still support what these woman are asking for - even if a minority would support them. Provided  it was a significant minority.

But is that the case? Is there at least a significant minority of Charedi women who agree with these women? It’s hard to tell and hard to find out since there is always the fear of being ostracized if they shared their true feelings in public.

What is however shocking is the descriptions of how these women are being treated. What - for example - does it say about a community that allows articles by women in Charedi magazines if they do not identify as women. As noted by Esti Shushan  cofounder of Nivcharot:
 “I was writing for Haredi journals at the time,” Shushan says. “Like other Haredi women, I used a pseudonym, E. Shushan. Your editor tells you, ‘If you want to write for the serious sections in the newspaper and for male readers to take you seriously, it’s better if they don’t know that you’re a woman.’ Later, I found out that many of the male names alongside mine in the op-ed section, Menachem or Yossi, actually belonged to women. 
How sad is it that in some (not all) mainstream Charedi publication - even the mention of a woman’s first name is considered problematic? But the lunacy doesn’t stop there: 
“I’ve been through terrible things,” Shushan says. “My mental health was questioned, my relationships with my husband and my children, too. Nothing is out of bounds for them.
Even this interview could be used as fodder against the women. “My husband will be summoned to the local welfare office to explain the actions of his promiscuous wife,” says (Tirtza) Bloch. “Getting interviewed for Markerweek [the weekend section of Haaretz’s sister business publication, TheMarker] is a vulgar and irresponsible action, and he’ll be called in to answer for it.”
“I was hurt and I cried. Letters were sent to my daughters’ school saying that we were a dangerous and promiscuous family, that I smoke, drink, beat my children and host house parties for secular political parties...” 
No matter what your feelings might be about women being accepted as members of Charedi political parties and serving in the Keneset  - that kind of behavior and intimidation is outrageous  - no matter which walk of life you come from.

If this is how women who express a desire to have their voices heard in the halls of government – are treated by the Charedi political parties, I don’t see how any sane person can support them. How can any human being, no matter how Charedi they are vote for a political party that treats fellow human beings like they are criminals because they expressed a desire to be heard in the legislative body - on issues that affect all of them?  What kind of rabbinic leadership condones this kind of intimidation?

My guess is that the rabbinic leadership does not condone it. But for some reason they let their activists get away with it.  I’m hard pressed to believe they don’t know about it. Maybe they look the other way because they support the goal. But as far as I am concerned that is no excuse.

It apparently also escapes them that the majority of Charedi women are the breadwinners of the family. So that their husbands can study Torah full time. An upside down world of their own making for which they seem to have little gratitude.

Can it really be that the activists that have treated these women so poorly - do so because they actually consider women to be inferior beings subject to unquestioning male rule?  I think that may actually be the case… even though that is clearly not the intent of male/female roles in Judaism.

They must have forgotten what Mishlei (1:8) says:  Al Titosh Toras Imecha  – Do not discard the Torah of your mother.  Or what Mishlei (14:1) says; Chochmas Nashim Bansa Baisah”  - The wisdom of a women builds a household . Yes. Women have wisdom. They should be heard. Not treated like chattel to be discarded at will.

Back to my question. Being mistreated is one thing. Women complaining about not being accepted is another. For me it is important to know what the women of the Charedi world in Israel really want. Do they support these women or don’t they?  And if they don’t - why don’t they?

If most Charedi women are indeed happy with the status quo – and might even be upset at these women are rocking their boat - I’m not sure fighting for change is the right thing to do.

The thing is, finding out the answer to these questions may not be possible. And I’m not sure what to do about that.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Go Bibi!

Benny Gantz and Benjamin Netanyahu
I am an unapologetic fan of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. I know this is an unpopular view around here. But I am not embarrassed to admit it. Not because I think he’s a squeaky clean politician. He’s not. He is as slimy as most other politicians. And not averse to using his position as prime minister for personal gain. Which is of course why he has been indicted on corruption charges.

So how can I in good conscience support a guy like that? Pretty much the same reason I might support another slimy politician for President. (Although I'm not sure Trump can be considered a politician. At least not in the traditional sense of the word.) Not because I think either of them are all that ethical.They aren't. But based on my own political perspective - among those running against them - they are both the best people for the job.

What about corruption charges? I think Diogenes lifelong search for an honest man makes a very valid point. Which is that we are all human and subject to temptation that betrays our honesty. People in high places get a lot of that - making it very difficult to resist. Bribes by people or industries seeking political favors are pretty common. A lot of good people have succumbed to that kind of temptation. Some more than others. Some in major ways and some in relatively minor ways.

I do  not condone what Netanyahu did. But on the scale of corrupt activities – accepting some cigars and champagne is not very high. Even if it was a lot of cigars and champagne. And trying to get a newspaper to give him favorable coverage is not very high on my list of evil either. Which politician doesn't seek favorable media coverage? And who knows what past politicians in high places have done to get it?

Netanyahu haters (just like Trump haters) will see these crimes as egregious violations of ethics. Demanding desperately that he be removed from office. I do not. Not that I condone what he has done. As I said, I don’t.  But I do not want him to be removed from office either.

Netanyahu’s enemies are right about him in one way. He is self serving and arrogant. But that is true about a lot of politicians. They are all very high on themselves. If they didn’t think they were all so great they would not be seeking the highest office in the land. Which ultimately is the goal of almost every single politician that ever ran for any political office. No matter how minor.

Arrogance breeds contempt. And a feeling of invincibility. It is that feeling and bit of carelessness that causes the mighty to fall.

So why must I support a candidate that is like that and under indictment? Because I think he has done a lot for his country. He will not be new to the job as will his opponent. Netanyahu has decades of experience in high office. How good a job did he do? I am not going to get into details (of which there are many) other than to say that you don’t become the longest serving Prime Minister in Israel’s history unless the people want you there.

Nonetheless, his political enemies (which includes Israel’s mainstream media) will spare no effort - looking under ever rock to find dirt on him. Which of course they did.  The media loves to expose corrupt officials - especially when they do not agree with their politics. That sells newspapers. It’s called investigative journalism. You find dirt and spin it in the most negative way possible. 

If you are  an American that is politically left of center, then you are angry at Netanyahu for additional reasons. You saw him constantly using his arrogance and a condescending ‘know it all’ attitude - lecturing the last President as though he were an ignorant school boy. That was enough to upset anyone. Frankly I was upset by that, too. He should not have treated the President that way. 

Enraging the left even more was when  - at the invitation of the House Speaker John Boehner, Netanyahu did an end run around the President by speaking to a joint session of congress. Urging them to oppose the Iran Nuclear deal deal negotiated by the President’s envoys.  (I supported Netanyahu on that one. Why shouldn’t he accept an invitation by the Speaker of the House to address them on an issue he believed was of vital interest to both countries – just because he disagreed with the President?)

Back to my support for Netanayhu. Why should I support someone under indictment that is so arrogant and controversial? Wouldn't it be better to support his more ethical political opponent, Benny Gantz ...whose polices are not all that different than Netanyahu’s? 

If Gantz was truly more ethical, that might be a good argument.  But it appears that Gantz is not all that lily white either. From YWN (via AP)
Israeli prosecutors say they are opening a criminal investigation into the failed start-up of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s challenger, shaking up what has already been a tumultuous election campaign.
In a statement released Thursday night, Israel’s Justice Ministry said Israeli police will conduct the investigation into “Fifth Dimension.” The statement did not say whether opposition leader Benny Gantz is a suspect. 
Is Gantz guilty of anything? Innocent until proven guilty is my standard. But the same thing can be said about Netanyahu.

Both men claim innocence. That’s nice. Of course they do! But since they’re both of questionable ethics - then as I said - all things considered I’d go with a proven leader like Netanyahu a lot sooner than an unproven one like Gantz.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Of Labels and Ultra-Orthodoxy

Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 2014 (NYT)
I’ve said this before. I hate labels. I really do. Labels divide. Without them we would have a far better chance of achieving some semblance of unity.

This might be surprising to people that read this blog. I might justifiably be accused of using labels a lot in my rantings – I mean writings. How can I hate a concept that I so frequently make use of? That’s because it is useful to identify a group that has common characteristics as a way of trying to determine the reasons for certain types of behavior. Separating one group from another is a way of saying that the behavior of one group does not necessarily apply to the behavior of another group.

I don’t think there is any doubt by anyone about the need for some labels. Even to those people that hate labels more than I do. Why - for example - identify Jews and Christians? Why not just call us all human beings? The answer is obvious. We need to know who we are in contradistinction to others. We each have our own way of life that demands we we know to which group we belong. We Jews are the chosen of God and have an obligation to Him that make us unique and different. 

OK. Well then way not at least refer to all Jews as simply Jews? Why use denominational identifiers? There ought not be Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Jews. Let us just call each other Jews! 

That was in fact the case before the Reform movement came along and  separated from the rest of Jewry. (I am of course speaking of the modern era. Not the era of the Mishnah and Talmud that existed 2000 years ago where there were denominational breakaways that included the long gone Essenes and Sadducees.)

It is the Reform Movement which was the first breakaway. They wanted to distinguish themselves from the rest of us. Before Reform came along, we were all indeed just one Jewish people. Some more observant. Some less. Some not at all.

To the Reform founders we became ‘the other’ and labeled Orthodox. Meant as kind of a pejorative - seeing us as clinging to an outdated rigid set of  religious laws and customs – most of which no longer apply in the modern era. A label we Orthodox Jews now carry with pride. 

Is it important to identify these groups?

I absolutely think it is. By way of illustration - Orthodox Jews need to know if a fellow Jew keeps Kosher so that he may eat food prepared by him. Knowing one’s fellow is Orthodox assumes that he keeps Kosher. Knowing one’s fellow is Reform tells you that he very likely does not. I realize of course that knowledge of denomination is not required to find that out. But it does tell you those facts without having to check further. There are exceptions of course. But that is the rule.

What about labels within a denomination? As it applies to Orthodoxy, I think it is fair to say that there are almost as many labels as there are people.

OK. I am exaggerating.  A lot. The point is that there is quite a a bit of labeling going on in Orthodoxy. Is that really necessary? I wish it weren’t. But I think it is. It’s important to know what the values of each segment of Orthodoxy is. Labels tell you that.  It gives Orthodox Jews with shared values - a sense of community. 

This doesn’t mean that we can’t live together and interact freely in common cause and camaraderie. It just means that we take pride in our own Hashkafos and the particular values they generate while respecting the Hashkafos of others and the particular values they generate. 

Labels can help identify why one community has specific problems while the other does not.

For example there are probably a lot more OTD young people in Modern Orthodoxy then there are in Ultra-Orthodoxy (Charedim). That might be because of a Hashkafa that is more integrated into the general culture. 

And... that there might be more government fraud in the some of the more isolated Chasidic communities might have something to do with their tendency to isolate themselves from the general culture.

Not saying that is necessarily the case. That there are more problems in one community does not mean they don’t exist in the other. But surely it helps to know the Hashkafos and values of each group and examine which of those values contribute to those problems.

Which brings me to Rabbi Avi Shafran’s lament in the NewYork Times. He objects to the use of the prefix ‘ultra’ when attached to Orthodox. He considers it a pejorative and says that Charedim are ‘tarred’ as extremists with that label. Here’s why: 
What does “ultra” bring to mind in, say, politics? Does “ultraconservative” conjure images of Ambassador Nikki Haley and John McCain, or Pat Buchanan and Steve Bannon? What do we mean when we call an investment “ultra-risky”? Or a race an “ultra-marathon”? We mean something that is extreme, beyond normal or beyond the mainstream. 
Well… yes. It does mean extreme or out of the ordinary. But not always in a negative connotation. Does ultra fine wool make a suit extreme?  Or does it make it more valuable?

That said, I understand why he feels that way. Because sometimes (not always) when ultra Orthodox Jews are mentioned in the media - it is in a negative context.

This does not God forbid mean that they are inherently bad people. Quite the opposite. They are inherently good people that take their obligations to God seriously. But as I always say, when an identifiably religious Jew does something wrong - it is a ‘man bites dog’ story. And far more likely to be published. 

So when a bearded man with long Peyos, wearing large black Kipa, a long black coat with his Tzitzis hanging out gets arrested - that is news. That the vast majority of people that look like that are law abiding citizens is not news. The problem of course is only the bad gets published. So that the typical reader might conclude that ultra Orthodox Jew are by nature criminals.

It is therefore understandable why Rabbi Shafran is upset at the use of the word ultra.

It also depends to whom the word ‘ultra’ is applied. Are all Orthodox Jews ‘ultra’?  There are some journalists and columnists that apply that word to any Jew that wears a Kipa. On the other hand some apply it only to Chasidim. Who are generally the most radically different in appearance than the rest of Orthodox Jewry. Some might include the suit wearing black fedora wearing Lithuanian Yeshiva type Jew as ultra-Orthodox. Not everyone uses that word in the same way.

That the word may have taken on a negative connotation is more of a function about why those Jews have been in the media.

I do not consider myself ultra anything. I am a centrist in every sense of the word. But if someone said I was ultra orthodox, would I be insulted? Not at all. I might even consider it a compliment to be thought of as someone that is more finely attuned to the will of God than most people. 

On the other hand now that ultra Orthodox Jews keep appearing in the media in negative ways, I might actually have a problem with that. Not because of the word ‘ultra’. But because of the reality of the ‘man bites dog’ phenomenon or reporting the bad rather than the good which then attaches that word unfairly to bad behavior.

It would help if all of Orthodox Jews avoided bad behavior entirely. So that any time the media gets the urge to publish something about ultra-Orthodox Jews who look so different from everyone else - they will only find good things to say about them.  At that point being ultra Orthodox will be considered a compliment rather than a pejorative.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Bloomberg, Sanders, and Universal Health Care


Mike Bloomberg and Bernie Sanders (Fox)
Looks like the two top contenders (at the moment) for the Democratic nomination for President are both Jewish.  From NPR
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has opened up a double-digit lead in the Democratic nominating contest, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.
Sanders has 31% support nationally, up 9 points since December, the last time the poll asked about Democratic voters' preferences.
His next closest contender has 19%. But that second-place rival is former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  
Think about the implications of that. Is there any greater proof than that how little being Jewish matters to the American people - whether they are right wing arch conservative Republicans or left leaning arch liberal Democrats?

It was not all that long ago that a former President, Harry Truman, did not allow journalist David Susskind to enter his home for a scheduled interview because he was Jewish and it would upset his  antisemitic wife. Now there are so many indicators of our acceptance that it’s mind boggling! (I am not going to rehash all the evidence of that. But it is overwhelming to say the least.)

As people who frequent this blog know, I am not all that excited about the possibility of the next President being Jewish. At least not either of these two. Because despite their protestations to the contrary, their Judaism means as much to them as it does to a gorilla. Which is not all that much - as evidenced by their marrying out of their faith and raising their children in the other faith.

But this post is not about that. It is about the likelihood of either of them becoming President because of their progressive (socialist) agenda.

I don’t think the American people will elect a socialist like Bernie Sanders even as he now places the word ‘Democratic’ in front of it.  Most Americans don’t know the difference between Socialism and Communism (an extreme form of socialism) and they are not going to vote for someone with either of those labels.

That leaves Bloomberg. He is in second place without having uttered a word to the American people -  outside of his very slick and efficient ads – bombarding the airwaves all over the country. The ads look so good that I might even be tempted to vote for the guy. 

Except that I wouldn’t. Frankly, I am not a fan of anyone that wants to control what kind of food I can eat or drink. As he tried to do in New York City when he was mayor. Making it illegal to buy a large soft drink at a restaurant  is a violation of the rights enshrined in our constitutional democracy.

Bloomberg’s intentions may have been good. He wanted to do something about the rise in obesity that many nutrition experts say sugary soft drinks contribute to in significant number. But why should the rest of us pay the ‘price’ for the lack of self control in others?!

Having good intentions is not enough. Communism has good intentions too. We all know how ‘successful’ that was when it was tried.

But not all forms of socialism are bad. Especially two of the most successful social programs in American history – Social Security and Medicare.

Which brings me back to Bernie Sanders. He wants to implement a ‘Medicare for all’ program. Meaning that all Americans will have all of their healthcare needs taken care of by the federal government by expanding Medicare coverage to all Americans. A healthcare system similar to what Canada has.

It might surprise people to know that even though I identify as leaning strongly conservative on most issues, I don’t think this is such a bad idea. At least in theory.

Sanders is right.The insurance industry does make obscene profits. Not that there is anything wrong obscene profits in a free market economy like ours. If you know how to make a few billion dollars, go for it! As long as no one gets hurt in the process. That is what America is all about.

So why would I want to stop the insurance industry from making those profits?  Because people are getting hurt. Making obscene amounts of money off of someone’s health issues is disgusting. 

The stories about people using their life savings to pay for medical procedures not covered by insurance is well documented. Most people cannot afford the extremely high  premiums insurance companies charge for their ‘Cadillac’ coverage. The deductibles for mot people are therefore often huge and the amounts paid out for claims have a dollar limit. 

And even minimal coverage like that has prohibitive premiums well over twelve thousand dollars per year if not a lot more. Saving accounts have been wiped out - while insurance companies are among the most profitable industries in America. (Did you ever notice that many of the huge skyscrapers in big cities have an insurance company as part of their name/?)

Health is not a luxury. It should not bear those kinds of costs. Why not eliminate the middle man? If insurance companies had never existed - paying directly to a health care provider would surely have been cheaper than it is now with the middle man taking his cut.

But the genie is out of the bottle. In large part because of those middle men - it would be impossible to go back to a time where it was financially beneficial to do that. So how would universal health care change things? Would the cost be as high as the naysayers say it would – raising taxes to prohibitive levels?

Taxes would surely go up. No question about that. But as Sanders points out, premiums would be eliminated. The overall cost of health care would go down (or at least stay the same) because profits for middle man would be eliminated. At the same time there would probably be a lot better coverage for all.  

This is Sanders’ argument. Even though most of the rest of the Democratic candidates say that the cost of universal coverage would be too high - and would ‘break the bank’ of the American economy – it is nevertheless  hard to dispute his logic.  

So yes, in this case, I believe that just like social security - socializing the healthcare industry would be another good exception to the free market economy that I otherwise so strongly support.

The problem - as always - is in the details. I haven’t run the actual numbers. It may not actually be economically feasible to raise taxes only to a level that would be less than the insurance premiums now being paid by most Americans.

The government is not known for its wisdom in spending our money. There is a lot of government waste and a bloated bureaucracy that will surely waste a taxpayer money trying to implement Medicare for all. Efficiency is a word that does not seem to exist in the bureaucratic lexicon of government service. I would therefore be very hesitant to implement it. But it theory at least, I don’t think his idea is such a bad one.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

A Religious Charedi Rebel

Dr. Yehuda Sabiner (VIN)
I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that Rav Chaim Soloveichik is one of the most influential religious Jewish figures of the modern era.  In the present day, where there is an unprecedented number of people studying Torah - it is his methodology of studying Gemarah  that has been adopted by virtually all Lithuanian style Yeshivos. His worldview about secular studies has been adopted by the vast majority of Yeshivos, too.

Or has it?

The typical Charedi understanding of R’ Chaim’s approach to attending a university is that he was vehemently opposed to it. Which is true. But what is not understood by this community is the reason he was opposed. Which has nothing to do with being against secular studies. He was opposed to it because of its negative influences on the Jewish soul. The ideology espoused in most universities of his time was heretical and yet taught as truth. The cultural influences there were immoral by Torah standards. (One might argue that those standards have even gotten a lot worse in our day. But I digress.)

The Charedi world certainly would agree with this. But they assume that R’ Chaim’s objections included all secular subjects. Even those that had nothing Jewishly objectionable in them. 

In this they are absolutely wrong. There are two stories that illustrate this. 

One is that he approved of the marriage of his oldest son, R’ Moshe, to a woman that loved and frequently quoted secular literature. Surprised by this, R’ Chaim’s  community activists asked him how he could approve his son’s marriage to a woman that read and quoted such material? Was he not vehemently opposed to that? 

R’ Chaim answered that they misunderstood his opposition. He found nothing wrong with secular studies that were not anti Torah.  As long as it didn’t negatively affect her religious observance he had no objection to her. His objections were only to the negative influences.  

The second story is even more telling. One of R’Chaim’s own nephews -a brilliant student who studied in his Yeshiva - approached R’ Chaim one day and told him that he had always wanted to  be a doctor, and asked him if he should go to medical school. To which R’ Chaim responded, ‘Of course you should go!’ ‘You will be saving lives!’

It might be hard for today’s Charedi Roshei Yeshiva in Israel to wrap their collective heads around that response. If any one of their students would ask them the same question they might get a response like this: 
“You really need a psychiatrist, that’s just unrealistic. You won’t get in, you can’t. You won’t go against your entire community,” 
That is exactly the response Yehuda Sabiner got when he asked that question to a member of the Yeshiva staff where he studied.

I believe this is the typical kind of response anyone who dares to ask that kind of question will get from Roshei Yeshiva in Israel. Now it’s true that Yehuda was a Gerrer Chasid. Chasidic leaders like those of Ger are even more opposed to college than non Chasidic religious leaders are. But not by much. (If at all, really.) As Yehuda noted
 I don’t think it’s unusual to find a Chareidi doctor in Israel, they usually come from abroad, but I don’t know anybody else who came from the Chareidi consensus to this vocation. 
They come from abroad.  I tend to believe him. As is well known, the Cheredi world in Israel does not offer their male students any secular studies at all in high school. Even in elementary school the only subject they teach at any level is basic arithmetic. And in the case of Ger, it appears they don’t even do that. As Yehuda noted - he attended a school that had no secular studies whatsoever: 
“I didn’t even know multiplication tables” 
The resistance he got was pretty fierce and it included his own wife as noted at VIN:  
Sabiner wasn’t daunted by his lack of secular knowledge, nor was he discouraged by his teacher’s mockery or even by his wife’s tears. 
Yehuda has succeeded in achieving his dream against all odds. But that is because he is probably very bright and hugely motivated. It isn’t easy to go from not even knowing multiplication tables to becoming a doctor. Most people under these circumstances couldn’t do it. If you are not given the basic knowledge and study tools needed to succeed at a university level , how are you going to succeed in medical school? Only the select few that have the brains and motivation that people like Yehuda do can ever hope to do that!

How can a community survive without doctors? If they cannot produce any, how will they get any decent medical care? The typical answer you might hear is that they rely on others for that. Non Jews or secular Jews.  And that in any case the ultimate Healer is God. It is God we need to beseech for our good health. Not man. 

Yes, God is the true healer. But what some in the Charedi world often forget or ignore is that God has actually given us the delivery system for that healing: Modern Medicine. Of which doctors are an integral part.  

Does the Charedi world believe that going to a non Jewish or non observant Jewish doctor is preferred over a religious one? 

They might respond by saying that they can have religious doctors. Those that  can’t make it in learning’ can go to medical school? 

Really? Only those with lesser intelligence should consider going to medical school? I guess so. There is no way they will encourage their best and brightest to leave the Beis Hamedrash! That is where they will draw their future Gedolim. Only those with lesser intelligence should become doctors.

If that is true, then I would never go to a Charedi doctor. Unless he ‘rebelled’ against that Hashkafa and went to medical school anyway. Like Yehuda did. I’m not interested in a doctor that is not bright enough to make it in learning.

This is where R’ Chaim parts company with current mainstream Charedi thinking in Israel. R’ Chaim did not tell his nephew, ‘You are too bright to leave the Beis HaMedrash.’ ‘You could be a Gadol in Torah.’ Instead his nephew became an exceptional doctor. R’Chaim understood that each of us has our own God given unique talents which should be pursued for the betterment of Klal Yisroel. One should use their intelligence toward that end rather than divert it to study Torah only.

If only the Charedi world would adopt R’ Chaim’s actual world view rather than what they think it is, the Charedi world in Israel would have a robust secular studies curriculum to go along with their robust religious studies curriculum. But nothing has changed thus far – and I do not see it changing in the future. As I recently said in another context: None are so blind as those who will not see!

Monday, February 17, 2020

The High Cost of Fraud

Some of the 7 fraudsters (Lohud)
I was outraged at the time.  As is always the case, whenever there is a Chilul HaShem, I get angry. What happened then (in 2013) was that Satmar and similar educational institutions were taking millions of E-rate funds from the federal government.  

That program was designed for low income neighborhoods of which these Chasidc schools surely qualified. What they clearly did not qualify for was the purpose of those funds. Which was to subsidize internet use for the poor. The idea being to provide equipment such as laptops or Ipads - and gain access to the internet - that they could otherwise ill afford.

These schools’ administrators  had no intention of using that money for those purposes. But they were not about to pass up an opportunity to gain millions of dollars of federal help. So  they found a way to get that money by using loopholes in their requirements - to the tune of millions of dollars. Money  that was obviously not used to buy computers or related paraphernalia.

At the time I thought that even if they found a legal loophole to buy things that may have technically fallen within the requirements – to take money and not use it for its intended purpose is at best dishonest – even f it might be technically legal.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that most (if not all) of their schools barely offer any kind of formal secular studies curriculum. To use money designed to help poorer students keep up with their counterparts in wealthier school districts - taking millions out of the limited federal funds available was a Chutzpah of major proportion. Legal though it might have been.

But as it turns out those funds apparently did not all go towards those legal loopholes. Some of it lined the pockets of those administering those funds. For which they have just been found guilty.  Here is the headline from a report released by the Justice Department: 
Seven Defendants Plead Guilty To Defrauding Federal Program That Provided Technology Funding For Rockland County Schools 
And here are some of the details: 
 “Each of these defendants has now admitted his or her role in a massive scheme that stole millions of dollars from the E-Rate program.  That money should have been spent to help educate underprivileged children.  Instead, it went to line the defendants’ pockets…
The schools at issue in this case never received millions of dollars’ worth of these items and services for which the defendants billed the E-Rate program.  In other cases, the schools and the defendants requested hundreds of thousands of dollars of sophisticated technology that served no real purpose for the student population.  
The magnitude of this Chilul HaShem cannot be exaggerated. Had they even used those funds for the school in ways not intended it would have been bad enough. But lining their own pockets with it is a Chilul Hashem of a much higher order.

When a community is so dependent on government financial assistance - the probability for abuse increases. Even when approached with the best of intentions abuse can still occur.  What’s more - the temptation to cheat also increases.

All too often I have heard the ‘logic’ from people that think cheating the government is OK if you don’t get caught. It is a ‘logic’ that makes me sick and goes something like this:

If an amoral drugged out unwed mother from the ‘ghetto’ is worthy of government assistance, all the more so are we - the ‘holy Jewish people.  After all, are we not more deserving than the promiscuous woman that - because of her  immorality got herself pregnant?  Will we not put it to far better use - helping our own poor who desperately need it to help feed their very large families?

What about the fraud that might occur under these circumstances? Again - the response I’ve heard more than once goes something like this:

Isn’t using money – even if retained fraudulently put to better use by feeding a needy Jewish family than using it to feed drug addicted single mothers that can’t even hold a job – even if they are legally entitled to it and we’re not?

What about being caught?

The answer I keep hearing time and again is: 

They will never catch us. Government employees are too dumb to figure out what we’re doing. Did you ever talk to one of them?!

I know that there are non Chasidim - and even Modern Orthodox Jews that think this way, too. I have heard it from their own mouths.  And I also know that not all Satmar and like minded Chasidim think this way. But surely these 7 defendants did.

They thought they would never the caught. Except that those ‘dumb’ government employees ended up being a lot smarter than those 7 ‘brilliant’ thieves. And they are not the first people ever caught cheating the government. Nor are they the first ‘religious’ Jews ever caught doing it. These stories keep popping up in the media all the time.

I’ve said this before but it bears repeating. When the most religious looking Jews among us get caught – the Chilul Hashem increases exponentially. What it tells nonobservant Jewish world - and the non Jewish world - is that exceedingly religious Jews believe that defrauding the government is a perfectly fine thing to do if you don’t get caught. Why would a religious Jew do something they consider sinful? It must be part of the religion. Jews must believe that this is what God expects of them. God condones  Jews stealing from non Jews.

How sick is that?! I cannot condemn  this kind of thing enough.

I have given up hope that I will ever convince some people how immoral, unethical, and unJewish this kind of thinking is. But I hope that I can at least convince them of the likelihood and consequences - of being caught. Which will likely mean substantial prison time. Away from their families.

The only way to make this kind of impression is to make an example of them and support their punishment. Will it hurt their families? Of course it will. Wouldn’t a plea for mercy be in order for a fellow Jew? Not so sure in this case.

Yes, I feel terrible for their families. They surely do not deserve to suffer the consequences of a crime committed by a husband/wife and parent. But these criminals should have thought of that before they decided to steal from the government.

They need to come out of this thoroughly chastised - with a mission to their brethren to never attempt anything remotely like this  Because if they do they will likely get caught and suffer the same consequences they did.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Give Him a Mentos

Eliezer Berland arriving for a court hearing on February 13, 2020 (Times of Israel)
I am not surprised that charlatans exist in the Orthodox Jewish world. Nor am I surprised that there are sex offenders. But it is rare to find a man like 82 year old Eliezer Berland. He has the distinction of being both a charlatan and a sex offender.  

Berland is an amazing fellow. He managed to create a cult around himself consisting of hundreds of devoted followers - if not more. People that are still devoted to him as their spiritual guide. Despite his conviction as a sex offender in a plea bargain that landed him in jail. After first running from the law for three years.

I suppose looking the part helps. Not knowing anything about Berland –  when you see him you think you are looking at an elderly Gadol - a holy man. Seeing a man with white flowing Peyos, a beard, a giant black velvet Kipa on his head; and wearing a Talis all the time in public - can make can instant believer out of a lot of people.  

Looks can be deceiving. None are more deceiving than the looks of this guy. The fact that he got away with all of those sex crimes for many years enabled him to get a great reputation among legitimate rabbinic leaders. A reputation of successful outreach to non observant Jews -  convincing many of them to become observant with him as their charismatic religious leader. Basically making them a cult. His followers actually believe he is a miracle worker.

I can’t think of too many things more despicable than a man using his ‘talents’ to get his jollies from female cult members. And enriching himself by taking ‘cash for miracles’ from sick and dying people desperate for a cure for their disease.  Believing that they were donating money to ‘holy’ man who had a special connection to God.  All they had to do is - along with his blessing take a sweet tasting wafer that he dispensed. A wafer otherwise known as Mentos - a popular candy in Israel that can be purchased anywhere!

I can understand his cult members protesting his innocence. These true believers publicly decry the way a sick elderly holy man is being treated by the authorities. I can understand why they would listen to his call to ‘break the bones’ of potential witnesses too. ‘How dare they besmirch a such a holy man with their lying accusations?!’ ‘Of course they deserve to have their bones broken!’

Well, they are right about one thing. He is a sick man. But not only in the sense they mean it. He may have the illness they think he has. But that is not where his true sickness lies. It is in his depraved level of psychopathy! That a man can sexually abuse people the way he did  and sell his blessing and candy to terminally ill patients as though it can cure them is so beneath contempt – I don’t think there is a place in hell low enough for people like that.

And yet his cult following maintains his complete innocence in all matters. Despite his own guilty plea on sex abuse charges and prison time. And the hundreds of complaints from the people he took money form in exchange for those Mentos. To the tune millions of Shekels lining his pockets!

I suppose his cult members can be forgiven in protesting his innocence - having been brainwashed into believing in the infallibility of their charismatic leader - even as he admits guilt on sex abuse charges on the one hand - and against multitude of allegations made by the people he duped. They explain it all away as lies.

But where are the rabbinic leaders? To the best of my knowledge I don’t think there is one of any recognizable stature that has condemned this man. By their silence they seem to be siding with his followers. I’m not exactly sure why either.  

Why the silence?

Perhaps they don’t want to undo the good this guy did.  The organization he founded has supposedly brought a lot of people to observance. It is often the case that psychopaths that do heinous things provide cover for themselves by doing a lot of legitimately good deeds publicly. They build up a reputation of legitimacy by spending a great deal of time and energy doing the kinds of things that get attention. Thereby making it difficult if not impossible for many to believe any allegations of impropriety, no matter what they are, how severe, who made them, or how many people made them.

And if it’s someone that looks like Berland… well then  of course you can’t believe those allegations. How dare anyone say those kinds of things about a saintly man who has done so much for Judaism?! Such allegations are nothing more than being Motzi Shem Ra - the sin of saying terrible lies about an innocent man and ruining his reputation. We are not allowed to believes such things. Especially about someone like this. It’s the accusers that need to be condemned. Not the saintly Berland. He deserves instead to be shown public support! Which apparently he was, recently!

I cannot understand that mentality. I don’t understand how one can dismiss an admission of sexual abuse by the perpetrator himself - and dismiss the hundreds of people that have come forward to expose his ‘miracles for cash’ scam. How in heaven’s name can any same person, let alone a person recognized as a Gadol - justify a rabbi selling a terminally ill patient his blessing and a piece of candy – to cure their disease? What kind of monster does that?! And how can anyone not at least question it, let alone show such a person honor?

Even if one wants to salvage whatever good he has done by not publicly condemning him - one has to weigh that supposed good against all the bad. In this case the bad is so terrible that overwhelms any good he has supposedly done.  

It is sad that his followers don’t see the obvious. And even sadder that rabbinic leaders seem to be in the same boat. That an evil man is sick and elderly is no justification for mercy. What about his illness? Should he be given any special treatment because of it?  I agree with the judge. ‘Give him a Mentos’.