Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mishpacha, Jews, and America

There were two articles in this week’s Mishpacha Magazine that corroborate much of what I often say here about how Jews are seen in America.

One article by Avi Freidman asks the question about whether the approximately 70 million people identified as Evangelical Christians still support for the State of Israel. Is it being eroded by an Islamic push to win them over? The artilce does cite a few Evangelical preachers that have been persuaded as Christians to pay more attention to the poverty of Palestinians than to supporting a Jewish state.

But the fact still is that the vast majority of Christians still do strongly support Israel. Many of them more than most Jews do. So strong is their support that they are the ones who insist Israel retain control over East Jerusalem. Any talk of compromise by Jewish leaders undermines them. These Christians are bible believing people. They believe in our Torah as much as they do in their New Testament. They see Eretz Yisroel as the ‘eternal inheritance of the children of Abraham’.

The article notes a distinction between Fundementalists and Evangelcials. Both believe in the Jewish right to the land. But Fundementlists are more inclined to not forgive us (or any other group) for rejecting Christian trinty theology. On the other hand Evangelicals like those who belong to Pastor John Hagee’s CUFI (Christians United for Israel - 670,000 strong) consider the Jewish people and Halachic Judaism to be the correct path for us. The bottom line for them is that they support Israel and the Jewish people because the Torah tells them to. Several times.

This is not really news to me. But I love seeing it every time there is a story on it.

Pro Israel rallies by non Jewish religious and political conservatives are beginning to pop up more and more - both here and in Israel. And the support is not superficial. It is deep. it is not elitist but grass roots. CUFI’s David Brog says that many of its members have scrimped and saved very hard to come to a July 18th to 20th rally in Washington DC. Some have canceled vacations or sold cars to be a part of it - and for no material benefit!

JoAnn Magnuson, former director of Christians for Yad VaShem said the following about her own motivation:

She is ‘humble enough’ to know that God might just know more than a little bit more than we do.

Of course there is the more liberal mainstream Christian element that seems to be tilting toward the Palestinian narrative. But I don’t think that tilt represents anything more than the view of a few church elders in their repective churches. Statistics I have seen in the past indicate that most mainstream Christians do not agree with them. Mainstream American support for Israel and the Jewish people is at an all time high despite the best efforts of the Academic left to undermine it.

It is a plus that Israel is so strongly supported by so many Americans and that it is to the right of even most Jews – even some religious Jews. For example I may be more open to compromise in order to obtain a real peace - but it still gives me great comfort to know that there are a huge number of non Jewish Americans that are more Zionist than even I am.

A 2nd article by Eytan Kobre is about Orthodox Jewish Judges in New York. The highest ranking member is David Friedman, a Chaim Berlin Yeshiva product. He has a rarefied position on the Appellate division of the New York State Supreme Court. Appointed to that position in 1999 by then Governor George Pataki - he has ‘earned a sterling reputation for integrity, fairness, and excellence in the law’… as did the other judges profiled in the article. How much integrity? The following anecdote describes just how far he runs away from Sheker.

During the interview he was asked to be photographed picking up a gavel (given to him as a gift with inscription ‘Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof’) and pounding it on the table as a judge might do in court. He politely refused to do it because this is not what he does as an appellate Judge. It would be misleading. His duties never involve pounding a gavel.

The article points out the high esteem these judges have not only among their non Jewish peers but even among their non Jewish public.

But his kind of respect doesn’t just happen. It is earned. These Judges are truly the best of the best of us and they apparently make a Kiddush Hashem in their every public act.

Contrast that with the Chilul HaShem I often complain about done by some others of our ‘religious’ people – especially some who are seen as leaders! Fortunately the American people are a fair minded people and do not judge us by the actions of the worst among us. They see us in the same way they see themselves. They believe in the American creed that is embedded in the Declaration of Independence – that all men are created equal. Individual bad acts are judged individually and are not seen as indicative of a group. Thank God.

My hat is off to Mishpacha Magazine for doing stories like this.

One more thing. It is a side point but a very important one. Judge Freidman was asked whether he thought there was anti Semitism in the judicial system based on the high profile cases of Orthodox Jews who have been found guilty of crimes. He says that he never saw any indication of it at any time. He then passionately adds:

When people engage in illegal schemes or come to you with schemes, you’re supposed to know there’s something wrong with that. The penalties for that illegal behavior are just never worth it, but more importantly those are things it’s not right for anyone to do. And it’s extremely not right for a person who believes in the Torah to do.

All I can say to this is Amen. It is in fact a constant refrain here. Now if only the Agudah had said this instead of giving a platform to a Chasidic Rebbe before he went to to prison so he could apologize for getting caught (and warn others not to try it).