Friday, March 22, 2019

The President and Golan Heights

Is the President campaigning for the Prime Minister? (Jerusalem Post)
This is one reason I have a love/hate relationship with the President. This time it is the former. The President made headlines again yesterday by declaring American support for Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. This unprecedented move broke decades of American opposition to such a move, even after Israel officially annexed that area in 1981.

American policy until yesterday was in line with the rest of the world. Which considers the Golan Heights occupied territory. That was reiterated yesterday by a near unified reaction by the rest of the world, rejecting any such recognition.  

That was no surprise to me since Europe never wastes a minute seeing Israel as an aggressor that oppresses those under it’s illegal occupation. Europe's latent antisemitism is alive and well, albeit disguised as having an even-handed policy with respect to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The liberal critics in this country were not much better. They say that this was a naked political move on the part of the President to bolster Prime Minister Netanyahu’s chances at the polls in a few weeks. That may very well be true. But so what? It wouldn’t be the first time an American administration meddled in Israeli politics by either party.

Then there is the argument that by Trump recognizing the Golan Heights, he places an American imprimatur on unilateral annexation of foreign lands. That is what Russia did by taking over Crimea - a part of the Ukraine that borders Russia - and annexing it. It is kind of ironic that Russia was one of the first to condemn the US for doing that since they have no problem doing the same thing. But why would Russian antisemitism expressed in this disgusied way be any different than the rest of Europe?

One may legitimately ask, what has been gained by doing this? The facts on the ground will not change. The status quo will remain as is – just as it has been for 52 years ever since Israel captured that area during the six day war. Much the same as the US recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital changed nothing.

If that’s true, why upset the entire Arab world and their sycophants in Europe with this unilateral action? Shouldn’t the final status of the Golan Heights be settled via an overall peace agreement? And until then allow things to remain as they are without inflammatory comments?

Good question.

But what many people ignore in this equation is how Israel feels about it. And why they feel that way. The vast majority of Israelis believe that Israel should never relinquish control of that area. My guess is that there is not a single mainstream politician in Israel that wouldn’t applaud what the President did. I would be shocked for example if Netanyahu’s chief opposition, Benny Gantz, would do anything other than fully thank the President for recognizing the necessary status quo.

Why is this any different than what Russia did in Crimea which was internationally recognized as part of the Ukraine? Doesn’t it undermine US condemnation of that – as many pundits have been saying? No, it doesn’t because the situations are anything but parallel.

Israel never had designs to capture that territory. Even though Syria (which the Golan Heights was part of prior to 1967) used it as a base to target Israelis just across the border. Those heights provided a convenient means of doing so. Israels were in constant danger of being fired upon by Syrian snipers. And every so often that happened!

Despite that Israel would not invade a foreign nation and annex any of their land. So what happened?

Led by Egypt in June of 1967  Israel was attacked by Syria simultaneously along with all of its neighbors (except Lebanon). The purpose of that attack was to destroy the Jewish state entirely and ‘take back’ the land Zionists ‘stole’ from them in 1948. 

In the course of that war, Israel penetrated Syria and captured the Golan Heights. Thus forever ending sniper attacks against Israel by Syrian soldiers. This was a strategic and defensive move against a hostile country dedicated to its destruction. Brought on by a war that Israel did not start. Israel was attacked and defended itself.

There is not a political leader in Israel’s history that didn’t understand the reason for Israel permanent occupation of the area. Every single Israel prime minister supported that. This was never a left-right issue. It was a survival issue. The world’s rejection of it didn’t matter.

This was not the case with Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea. This was merely a land grab by Russians against a country they were not at war with. They were not attacked. No Ukrainians were shooting at Russians across the border. Russia’s only claim was that Crimea was culturally Russian and that its residents supported Russia taking it.

That said, at the end of the day, the US declaration recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights did not really accomplish anything concrete. Which may very well mean that the President did in fact do it for political reasons - both here and in Israel. It is a move popular with his Evangelical base here which has always supported Israel’s perspective on this issue. Not to mention supported by most Orthodox Jews. 

And it helps Netanyahu, whom Trump supports. Let us also not forget how popular the President is in Israel. Netanyahu has campaign posters featuring him together with the President - claiming with some justification that under the leadership of both of them, the relationship between the US and Israel has never been closer.

Of course critics on the left will say that this relationship is meaningless and has added nothing concrete to Israel’s survival. And that instead it has weakened US support by alienating Democrats and the rest of the world. There is some truth to that. But I would argue anything less than complete capitulation to Palestinians demands would not have any support from Europe anyway, And that Democratic support has always been more or less conditional. Their support was tied to how Israel’s policies were advancing the (non existent) peace process - based mostly on the Palestinian perspective. Netanyahu’s  polices are seen as counterproductive to that. 

I do not agree. I doubt that Israel would be any closer to peace now if a Democrat were in office still complaining about settlements. My own opposition to settlements is only against those deep into the West Bank that did nothing except - at best exacerbate tensions with Palestinians that live there. And at worst cause death and destruction. And in the past because I saw any settlement activity hurting Israel’s relationship with the US.  The latter is clearly not the case now.

Furthermore just because there is nothing immediately tangible doesn’t mean that Israel doesn’t benefit. The idea that the most powerful nation in the world by far stands with Israel sends a valuable message to the world. It also sends a valuable message to Israelis about who their real friends are. And thank God it is America.

One might say that the Israeli bubble might burst after the Trump peace plan is revealed. It may be true that Israel might be asked to make sacrifices for peace that they are not comfortable with. Especially under a right wing government. But that plan is a non starter anyway since Palestinians have already unequivocally rejected any plan the Trump administration comes out with. Sight unseen.

What about a postscript? What happens if Trump loses to a Democrat in 2020? Or even if he wins what happens in 2024? Good question. Some of the more progressive Democratic candidates have already declared that they will reverse many of Trump’s decisions in the Middle East. Including rejoining European support of the nuclear deal with Iran and lifting sanctions against them. Or returning the US embassy to Tel Aviv. Or re-designating the Golan Heights as occupied territory. .

I hope that doesn’t happen. My hope is that whatever happened now will remain as is regardless of who wins the next election. Even if they did not agree with it, changing things back to the way they were will do nothing for anyone. 

In the meantime, I could not be happier with the President’s clear and unambiguous support for the Jewish state. Even if it is only moral support and symbolic. I never thought I would see the day that Israel would get the kind of support form the US that it has now. How wrong I was.

Apparently Trump’s policies with respect to Israel has had a positive impact on at least some European countries. Who put their antisemtism aside and for the first time have rejected a portion of a UN Human Rights Council resolution they had supported in the past which singled out only Israel for condemnation. As the link below says, this is unprecedented!

These EU states just took an unprecedented stand for Israel at the UN Human Rights Council - Jewish Telegraphic Agency 

Thank you Nikky Haley for your help in getting us there.

Please note
This should not be seen as an endorsement for the President’s reelection. All it is - is an appreciation for his strong support for Israel.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Bernie Sanders, Israel, and Apartheid

Jane and Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders may have the credentials to speak on a variety of issues. But Israel is not one of them. At least not as a Jew. How sad it is that someone who was born a Jew has not only abandoned Judaism, but has become one of Israel’s biggest critics.

Not that a Jew - or anyone else for that matter - can’t criticize Israel. That does not make them an antisemite. But comparing Israel in any way to South African Apartheid crosses that line. Those who say things like that might think they are fooling people by saying that they are not antisemties because they are only criticizing Israel (Zionism). Well they aren’t fooling me. Bernie Sanders is an antisemite. A Jewish one. Yes it is possible for people to be self hating Jews.

First let me dispense with any claim he might make to being loyal to Jewish values. Once a Jewish man marries a non Jewish woman - as Sanders has - he has given up any right to claim he cares about Judaism. Because by marrying out, they assure that their Jewish line ends with them. None of their children will be Jewish. By doing something like that they have abdicated the right to say they are a Jew in any meaningful sense of the word (except of course by accident of birth). 

In the case of Sanders, his values are clearly not Jewish. They are socialist. 

Now some of those values might have Jewish content. But that too is by accident. Claiming for example that his socialist views are a reflection of the real Jewish value of Tikun Olam is a mere happenstance. He did not embrace socialism because it was a Jewish value. Even if he might claim that is why he embraced it. He is either fooling us or fooling himself. If he truly cared about Judaism, he might start with Kashrus or Shabbos - 2 of the most basic components of Judaism. And he would surely not have married out.

It is true that as a young man he spent some time on a Kibbutz (Israeli commune). But that adds nothing to his Jewish credentials. It only adds to his socialist credentials. For those that are not familiar with what a Kibbutz is – it is a society in which all property is publicly owned and each person works and is paid according to their abilities and needs. If that sounds vaguely familiar, it should be. It is the definition of communism. Israel had lots of them back when Sanders was young. Today hardly any exist anymore.

Which brings me back to his embrace of the antisemtic canard about comparing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians with South African apartheid.

If you ask a black South African now living in Israel that lived through that period in South Africa, he would laugh at you.The amount of cruel anti black legislation and treatment of black South Africans then versus the way the State of Israel treats its West Bank Arabs now are worlds apart. 

I have never denied that life for Palestinians under Israeli rules isn’t hard. It’s very hard. But Israel’s security needs forces them to do the kinds of things they would never do under normal circumstances. Let us take 2 examples that are often cited as examples of mistreating Palestinians. 

One is the wall built on the border of the West Bank. Yes, that makes it difficult for Arabs. But it has also saved countless lives that might otherwise be subjected  to suicide missions by a terrorists crossing over from that area.  which used to happen a lot. Ever since that wall was built, there have been no suicide attacks. 

Another hardship on the Palestinians is the consuming and often degrading extra scrutiny they get when crossing at checkpoints. That too is done for security reasons.  Not becuase of any inherent  racism. 

Furthermore, none of this would happen if Israel didn’t have to protect itself. But a long history of terrorist attacks has given them no choice. 

Racism? The Israeli Arab citizen full citizens civil and full voting rights. They are well represented in the Keneset by fellow Arabs. As a group they have prospered. If I understand correctly Israeli Arabs on average have the highest standard of living of all of their Arab neighbors. 

It therefore is sickening to compare a country whose security needs require the kind of vigilance that inconveniences some of its residents to the racist Apartheid regime of South Africa. 

Whose fault is it anyway? Who is really to blame for Palestiaisn suffering? It isn’t Israel who does what it has to do to protect its citizens. It is their own Palestinian leaders. Even the so-called moderates who continue to tolerate if not encourage violence as a means toward their end. If paying compensation to families of their suicide ‘martyrs’ doesn’t show what they are all about, I don’t know what does. They continue to use their own people as pawns – labeling them as victims of Israel when it they who are actually perpetuating their victimhood.

Which brings me back to Sanders and his support of those who say that Israel is repsonsible for the   ‘Apartheid-like’ conditions of Palestinians. Sanders is either ignorant or lying. If he was true to his Jewish roots he would take a closer look at why the Palestinaisn suffer and blame it on those that deserve it. If he did and was honest about it, instead of clinging to that antisemitic canard he would praise Israel for their restraint in carrying out their security needs.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Great Blue and White Hope

Benny Gantz - the Great Blue and White Hope?
Yes, I am still a Netanyahu fan. Although I do have some reservations about some of the things he has said and done, I believe he has helped his country a lot  more than he has hurt it.

One may ask, what about the Israel’s Attorney General announcing that he will seek indictments against him? Well, yes that is one of my reservations about him. On the surface the allegations sound pretty serious: Breach of trust, fraud, and bribery. Would anyone with any sense of ethics vote for him? 

The answer is apparently yes. It appears that enough will in the next Israeli election to keep him in office.

Let us examine the exact nature of the crimes. But instead of using my own admittedly biased words, let me quote the words of perhaps the biggest Netanyahu basher in all of Jewish media, Chicago Jewish News editor and publisher, (and hard core liberal) Joe Aaron. Hardly a week goes by where he doesn’t have something truly nasty to say about him.  However in his weekly column of just a couple of weeks ago he said the following: 
While I bow to no one in my absolute contempt for how he has behaved as Israel’s leader… I think the investigations into him have been run by the Israeli version of the Three Stooges…
Consider the charges against Bibi. That he took gifts of expensive cigars and champagne from machers he did favors for. And that he tried to get media big wigs to give him favorable coverage. I mean it’s not so simple, but that’s the essence of it. A politician wanting to get good press and those who he does favors for giving him some nice presents. Stop the presses. 
This doesn’t make what Netanyahu did legal or ethical. But relative to what other leaders have done (e.g. Former Israeli Presidents Moshe Katzav who was convicted of rape; Ezer Weizmann who was convicted of taking serious money in bribes, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger – same thing) he’s a choir boy.

As Aaron notes, there is a joke going around in Israel:
(W)hen you ask an Israeli politician for his cell number, he isn’t sure what you mean.
Netanyahu will surely have his day in court. But cigars and champagne? This will not bring him down.The Israeli voter sees this. Which is why he is likely to be re-elected despite his legal troubles. 

His biggest challenger is former IDF Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz. He has joined with Yair Lapid to form a new party: Blue and White. Initial polls showed them beating Netanyahu’s Likud. But Gantz has lost ground to him recently. According to an analysis by Ha’aretz, the wheels are coming off of his election campaign: 
The gap between Likud and Kahol Lavan (Blue and White) has closed and Netanyahu’s governing coalition of right-wing and religious parties once again has a majority that would deliver him victory. 
For a more detailed analysis, read the editorial. The point is that Netanyahu retaining power is as likely as ever.

But why indeed is Netanyahu so popular? Why does he keep getting reelected? Why are the pending indictments not doing more harm to his chances? I think part of the answer can be found in his many accomplishments during his long tenure in office. Such as forging new relationships with countries that Israel did not have in the past. Including (and perhaps especially) some of the Arab states. 

Say what you will about Saudi Arabia, but forging a positive relationship with a country that in the past was one Israel’s most virulent critics is no small thing. True, it is the shared common enemy of Iran that made this possible. But Netanyahu must be given credit for recognizing the opportunity and seizing it. Another major Arab country is Egypt. Under Netanyahu, Israel’s relationship with them has never been better.

That said, I don’t think that is the main reason Netanyahu is so popular with voters. I think it his determination to provide Israeli citizens with security. But don’t take it from me. Take it from Rabbi Elchanan Poupko. In an Arutz Sheva article he describes what happened to him when he was a student in pre-Netanyahu Israel back in 2001: 
Living in Jerusalem in those years was not too different than living in Sarajevo or Baghdad. Sure, if you stayed home or in your neighborhood life can be pretty safe. Taking a bus or going to the center of town? That was playing Russian roulette.
Now, living in New York, I still go back to visit Jerusalem. My eyes fill up with tears seeing children playing safely on the streets. My heart is warmed seeing the myriad of visitors from around the world enjoying the unparalleled exotic beauty of Jerusalem. I am happy for them, and wish it could have always been this way, but it wasn’t. Yes, there is still terror, children must be given careful instructions, but the streets are safe. 
In Israel, when people vote, the years of war and terror leave their mark. Proud of Netanyahu or not, he lived up to the primary duty of a leader—he kept his people safe. Despite allegations of possible bribes—taking cigars and champagne when he should not have— he was voted in in the past, and will likely be voted in again in the future. 
Israel is a country of law and will decide on the legal aspects of the allegations. However, as Netanyahu is deemed responsible for the happy childhood of all those children in Israel today—a childhood I did not have— it is easy to understand why he is supported by so many of my peers and friends. Those who grew up knowing terror see Netanyahu as savior, and perhaps rightfully so.
 Elections for the twenty-first Knesset will be held on Tuesday, April 9th

Monday, March 18, 2019

Impossible Choices

Former Vice President Joe Biden
The middle is disappearing. The centrist Democratic party of Bill Clinton is no more. Now it’s all about how far left one can push it. That became painfully evident to me when a potential Democratic candidate I thought to be a centrist made the following comment:
I have the most progressive record of anybody running … anybody who would run. 
This comment was made by the former Vice President - 76 year old Joe Biden. Although he has not yet officially announced, he is leading in the polls. This kind of tells you where the Democratic party is headed, if it isn’t already there.

Being progressive is the idea that the values of the past pale in comparison to the values of the present. Progressives are forever trying to affect social change based on humanistic values. Moral relativism is what guides them rather than tradition.  In other words the values of the day are considered enlightened. Change based on them is pursued regardless of how that change will be viewed by traditionalists. Whose values are seen as obstacles to progress.

Moral relativism is in a constant state of flux. It is the philosophy of a humanism that espouses complete freedom to do as anyone wishes as long as it doesn’t hurt others. The idea that there is a God that determines our morals plays no part in their pursuits. It is all about what enlightened man wants.

This is on contradistinction to conservatism.  (For purposes of this post, I am limiting the term to its social rather than its economic context.) Conservatives have an objective moral sense that is fixed to traditional values. Such as those found in the bible - the word of God. Values which are discarded by progressives as archaic, irrelevant, and even immoral by their more enlightened standards. Tradition is seen as an obstacle to social progress in a humanistic terms. (Hence the name ‘progressive’.)

Progressives might counter and say the using religious values - is just as relative. Different religions have different traditions, values, morals, and ethics which might contradict each other.

That is true. But what is also true is that a lot of traditions, values, morals, and ethics are shared by almost all religions based on a common understanding of what God wants via their own traditions. Conservatives believe that  there are universal truths that are not upended by the cultural milieu of our time.

An illustration of the dichotomy between progressives and conservatives can by found in whether one is in favor of – or opposed to - gay marriage. Progressives will say, why not? Who are they harming? Conservatives will say that tradition tells us that marriage should only be between a man and a woman. And that society should not legitimize it with a formal recognition.

How should society proceed? What kind of culture will we live in? To answer that, I think it helps to consider what kind of culture we want our children to be raised in. That is the issue that divides us. Live and let live may work for progressives. But for conservatives the influences of the culture we live in can be greatly impede the values we try and instill in our children. No matter how much we try and shelter them from it. Life doesn’t work that way.

It is beginning to appear that the Democratic party is quite ready to abandon all traditional values in favor of the humanistic moral relativism that is the basis of progressive values. They are increasingly of mindset that we can all live in a permissive society and that those with traditional values will still be able to maintain them. But when a culture that rejects those values is so pervasive; sometimes even ridiculing them – it is hard for that attitude to not seep in.

If Joe Biden, the most popular of all the Democrats running, is a progressive, is there any question where this country will be headed if he is nominated and elected? Or any of most of the other Democrats running for President?

I for one will find it hard to endorse any Democrat from among the current crop. Including Biden. Which leaves me with an impossible choice. Because the only candidate for President that is not a progressive (with the possible exception of Amy Klobuchar who is unlikely to be the nominee) is the current office holder. And yet his entire persona is anathema to the very traditional values that I would like to preserve in this country.

I don’t know. Maybe I have this all wrong. Maybe it’s just rhetoric. It is often said about Democrats that they run from the left but govern from the center. If that’s true, maybe there is hope. Nonetheless, as things stand now, I see no candidate currently in the running that I could in good conscience vote for.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

What is Antisemitism?

Rav Elchonon Wasserman (Wikipedia)
There is no question that most American Jews that are Orthodox support the President. Although I believe that it is more prevalent among the right than the left, I nevertheless believe that support is broad based and encompasses both the right and left of Orthodoxy.

This is in stark contrast with the vast majority of non Orthodox American Jews. whose opposition to the President surpasses the rest of America. In statistics  cited in the New Jersey Jewish News, only about 20% of American Jews approve of the President while the percentage of all Americans is 37%. On the other hand Orthodox Jews that approve of the President is currently at about 75%.

Part of these statistics might be related to the President and antisemitism. Non Orthodox Jews see the President as a bigot that encourages it. They will point to his refusal on many occasions to fully condemn it – only having reluctantly done so after much public criticism. As was the case after Charlotesville.  Orthodox Jews on the other hand seem to ignore that believing that Trump is the most philo-Semitic President in American history.

How is that possible? How can a man whose behavior is right there in front of everyone’s eyes - be judged so differently by people of the same religion? Aren’t we all witnessing the same thing?

The explanation for that might be found among the words of Eliyahu Stern in a recent Tablet article. Although I do not agree entirely with his somewhat startling analysis as I understand it - I believe he touches upon the mindset of these two segments (Orthodox and non-Orthodox). Which helps explain why there are so many Orthodox Jews that support Trump and so many non Orthodox Jews that don’t.

In short he sees Orthodox Jews not caring all that much about antisemitism – as typically understood. Traditionally in this country, antisemitism has been defined as discriminating against Jews in material ways. Such as barring access to certain schools, professions, and in other ways hampering their pursuit of material success. These are the things that concern non Orthodox Jews the most and it is the kind of antisemitism that has been fought from day one. Successfully I might add.

According to Stern, it is the spiritual component that concerns Orthodox Jews the most. Material success is at best secondary. So that when the centers of power promote polices that enhance the spiritual component of their lives, they see it as the ultimate value. As such they will support whomever will advance that agenda first. 

Citing the research of Professor Marc Shapiro, Stern noted that this was demonstrated in pre-Holocaust Europe when Hitler and Stalin first came to power. Both of these dictators were seen as an unfavorable option for the Jews. But Jewish leaders like Rav Elchonon Wasserman chose Hitler over Stalin. Meaning that given the choice to live under one over the other, the clear choice was the guy whose political views only wanted to destroy us physically. That was Hitler’s Nazism. Stalin’s Marxism wanted to destroy us spiritually.

Now before anyone asserts the obvious, no one knew that Hitler wanted to commit genocide in 1933 when he first came to power. Genocide obviously accomplishes both aims. Most Jews believed that despite Hitler’s oft stated antisemitism – including his virulently antisemitic rhetoric in the Reichstag (Germany’s parliament) it was just that: rhetoric. Jews apparently believed they would somehow survive Hitler. Especially of that belief, says Stern, were Orthodox Jewish leaders: 
German Orthodox leaders directly appealed to the German chancellor (Hitler), arguing in 1933 that “Marxist materialism and Communist atheism share not the least in common with the spirit of the positive Jewish religious tradition, as handed down through Orthodox teachings obligatory on the Jewish People. … We have,” they recalled, “been at war against this religious attitude.” Orthodox leaders sought to find common ground with Hitler by demonstrating their own virulent hatred for left-wing and progressive Jews. They proclaimed: “We have always combated the corrosive spirit of materialism with religious idealism.
In their attempt to curry favor with Hitler, Orthodox leaders not only stressed their own loyalty to the German people, but went out of their way to stress the structural similarities between Hitler’s position. “We seek a Lebensraum within the Lebensraum of the German people,” they maintained.
The German rabbis’ position was reaffirmed by the leaders of the Polish branch of the Agudath Israel party who aligned themselves with Pilsudski’s nationalist union.  
That, says Stern, is similarly reflected today by Orthodox Jews in America who overlook Trump’s less than enthusiastic condemnation of the Nazis who marched in Charlottesville. It also allows Trump to criticize other Jews like leftist George Soros without fear of being accused of antisemitism. 

Stern implies that it is almost as if  Trump only cares about Orthodox Jews and sees antisemitism through their (our) eyes. The old time antisemitism about quotas etc, hardly matters at all to Orthodox Jews who as a whole never looked at being admitted to Harvard or Yale as a prize worth fighting for. 

Orthodox Jews look at what Trump does for their spiritual values and pay little heed to what he does about the other aspects of antisemitism in society. A society which in any case is seen as one in which to minimize our participation in that it hurts the very spiritualism we seek

Non Orthodox Jews, on the other hand hardly saw antisemitism in spiritual terms. Their fight was mostly - not about our religious rights. But mostly about our civil rights.

That said. I part company with Stern in the sense that Orthodox Jew do in fact care about the material welfare. They (we) do care about our civil rights. I would add that many of us that support the President’s policies are nevertheless just as abhorred by his lack of  character and other flaws that make him unfit to hold his high office. I count myself among them.

Nor do I think we can draw a direct line of Jewish support for  Hitler in prewar Germany - to support in 2019 of the current President of the United States. Any comparison of Trump to Hitler – even in this context is itself abhorrent. Furthermore to suggest that Orthodox Jews somehow tolerate any antisemitism in any form is equally abhorrent.

But I do think that there is an element of truth to what he says motivates both sides and it is definitely worth thinking about.

Friday, March 15, 2019

A Massacre in New Zealand

Scene of the terrorist attack in NewZealand (Daily Beast)
Today I stand in solidarity with Muslims all over the world. I cannot imagine the level of grief felt by the families of the 49 Muslims brutally slaughtered yesterday by a white supremacist. Cut down while praying at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. On Friday, their holiest day of the week.

As a Jewish member of the family of man, I can unfortunately relate to this act of terror. It is no different than what happened in Pittsburgh a few months ago. Just as Jews in a synagogue were slaughtered there by a white supremacist only because they were Jews, so too were Muslims slaughtered in a mosque only because they were Muslims.  The grief the Jewish community had then is now beings shared by our Muslim brothers in New Zealand.

No one should take any joy in this act. No matter how one feels about what is happening in Israel. Sure as I’m sitting here, some of us (a very small number, I hope) might be tempted to feel a sense of satisfaction that this time it is ‘they’ who are feeling what we have felt so many times before.  Because of what ‘they’ have done to us. 

But the truth is that ‘they’ meaning the entirety of the Muslim world has not done this to us. Not anymore than the entirety of the Christian world has done to the Muslim community by a fellow Christian. Muslims are not monolithic. The events of yesterday in a New Zealand mosque had nothing to do with the rockets fired at Tel Aviv yesterday. That was done by Hamas which consists of the devout Jihadist faction of Islam. (I have no illusions  about them.) Not the devout Muslims praying in New Zealand. Just as Rabbi Meir Kahane’s violent approach to Islam does not represent me. Nor do white supremacists represent Christians.

I have no idea if there are any Jews - let alone rabbis in Christchurch. It almost sounds like an oxymoron for a Jew to live in a city with that name. But it wouldn’t surprise me if there were. If there are, I hope that members of the Jewish community there show their solidarity with Muslims and stand together with them at this moment of great pain This is not the time to talk about our differences. Whatever their feelings about the Jewish state are. That is not the issue here. They have a right to their views as we do ours.

Baruch Goldstein (Wikipedia)
The common denominator here is that we were both attacked for who we are and what we believe. Jews have been attacked by both the Christian and Muslim extremists. Muslims were attacked by Christian and Jewish extremists. 

Lest anyone say that Jews have no extremists and would in any case never do what was done here, let me remind you that a devoutly religious Jewish  Kahanist by the name of Baruch Goldstein did exactly that at a mosque in Chevron (our Ma’aras HaMachpela which they consider a mosque) filled with praying Muslims - almost to this day 24 years ago! 

I think it also behooves all of us to not play politics here by blaming what happened yesterday on the political rhetoric of a politician we don't like. This is not the time for that. Politics ought to be left out of it. 

My hope is that the Muslim community will accept our heartfelt condolences as genuine. With the sincere hope and prayer that neither community ever suffer like this again. I believe that most Muslims will. 

For one brief moment in time we can and should be united in the common purpose of grieving for lost loved ones through acts of terror. It’s just too bad that it always takes a tragedy to do something like that.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

When Free Speech Fails Us

'Rabbi" Yosef Mizrachi (Jewish News)
I am a firm believer in free speech. But even if I wasn’t, it wouldn’t matter in this country because it is the law of the land backed by the constitution. So that if someone got up on a podium and made an antisemitic speech, he has the right to do so.

Or does he? I don’t think the answer is that simple. That was issue before the Supreme Court in 1919. The question then was whether one could promote opposition to the draft during World War I as a matter of free speech.

At the hearing, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously declared that freedom of speech does not mean that ‘falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic’ is protected by the constitutional guarantee of free speech.

Writing for a unanimous Court, Holmes argued that promoting opposition to the draft presented ‘a clear and present danger’ to the government's recruitment efforts during the war.

Freedom of speech is then limited by the damage it can cause to the public welfare. How far does that go? 

That was tested again in 1977.  A group of neo-Nazis had asked the village of Skokie for a permit to hold a rally and march in one of their parks. Skokie is a suburb of Chicago which is heavily populated by Jews, many of them Holocaust survivors. The petition was ultimately denied and the village and placed an injunction against them - forbidding them to it. that decision was upheld by the lower courts. But with the help of the ACLU the Supreme Court in a 5-4 split decision overruled the lower courts - reversing their decision. That allowed Nazis to speak in one of Skokie’s parks.

For me, it is unclear what exactly a clear and present danger is. If a speech is likely to incite a riot endangering the public welfare – is that not a clear and present danger? I guess the Supreme Court at the time did not believe so, at least 5 of the 9 sitting Justices felt that way.

Which brings me to something that happened in the UK recently. From the Jewish News
A controversial rabbi who claims sick Jewish children are being punished for sins in a former life has been banned from entering Britain, ahead of a speaking tour of London synagogues.
Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi who has 200,000 followers on social media, was to be hosted by Charedi rabbis in north London. 
I am perplexed why any rabbi, Charedi or otherwise, would want to host such a person. I agree with the decision by the UK to ban him. Although the they do not protect freedom of speech the way the US does, they do uphold the concept. But they have a far more sensible approach to it than the US does: 
A Home Office spokesperson said: “When the purpose of someone’s visit to this country is to spread hatred, we can and will stop them entering Britain. This Government upholds free speech but we will not let it be used to excuse detestable views that directly contravene our values. We take the threat from extremism seriously and we will challenge it wherever we see it.” 
Had this been the approach by the Supreme Court in 1977, those Nazis would have been denied spewing their hatred. Correctly so. Can anyone even begin imagine how the many Holocaust survivors in Skokie felt about the fact that in their new home in America a newly minted  ‘Hitler’ was allowed to spew his venom about them? After all they suffered?!

Back to Mizrachi. This is not my first discussion about Mizrachi whose his representation of Judaism is reprehensible. That he has over 200,000 followers is mind boggling. Scary even!

In case one is unfamiliar with some of his rantings, here are some samples: 
(He claims) that fewer than one million halachic Jews were killed in the Holocaust, Down’s Syndrome and autism are punishments for previous sins and blind children are serving penance for watching pornography in a past life…
In videos posted online, Mizrachi tells Jewish children: “God only want him [the disabled child] here 40 years to suffer. Why? Measure-for-measure. You spoke bad about people in a previous life, now you’re going to feel what it is to live 40 years without being able to say a word.” 
As if that isn’t enough, he said that people like me that dare to criticize him are worse than Hitler!

What makes this even worse is that he is involved in reaching out to secular Jews in order to convince them to become observant. He claims success. Which may be the biggest conundrum of all time. How in the world can someone using his technique convince anyone to become observant? I would think it would do the exact opposite: chase Jews away from observance.

He claims that he is only telling the truth about Judaism. That other outreach groups do a disservice by sugarcoating it. And that people have a right to know the consequences of sin. Not only the rewards of observance. But the venom he spews is mostly based on his own contrivances and half truths. The beauty of Judaism is destroyed by his rhetoric! Replaced with a false narrative that describes observant Judaism as a version of Dante’s Inferno!

The damage someone like that can do to a listener’s psyche is incalculable. Can anyone imagine for example how a Jewish child or his family feels after being told that he is suffering now in life because of the sins of a past life?

Sure, there is a stream of thought in Kabala that says when sinners die without repentance their souls are reincarnated in a way that will serve as penance for their specific sins. But this is not a universal Jewish belief. To focus on something like that as though it were an indisputable fact and it is heard by a child who suffers a specific illness is enraging!

Even if he believes in reincarnation, how can he say something like that?Has he no compassion for suffering children who might hear him? That is just being plain old fashioned cruel. And doing it in the name of God who is by definition merciful is - in my view blasphemous!

If as I suspect he is free to spew his venom freely with a constitutional guarantee - then he must be boycotted . Apparently the kind of psychological damage he can cause to others does not amount to falsely shouting ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater.

Sure, Judaism has consequences for sin. But to make the kind of statements Mizrachi does makes a mockery of what Judaism is all about. We need to protest with vigor anyone that describes Judaism as a version of Hell.

This should not be allowed to happen without protest. We can’t change the law. But we can protest him if and when he ever speaks publicly. Free speech protects that too. The numbers protesting him should overwhelm any size audience duped into coming to hear him speak. We must be clear and deliberate in our opposition to his attack against the pleasant ways of the Torah. And make sure that message outshouts his! 

In the meantime, I call upon all rabbinic leaders from across the spectrum of Orthodoxy to condemn this man once and for all. In writing. Knowing about him and saying nothing is tantamount to complicity in my view.

A few years ago, an advisory letter signed by a number of prominent rabbis from a wide spectrum of Orthodoxy warning the Jewish community about Mizrachi - urging them to be careful about  who is invited to speak in a Shul. It was released in late 2016 and is available here. My apologies to Allison Joseph who initiated it and worked hard to get it done. I knew about it, at the time but do not remember it ever being published. It was. And she deserves a great deal of credit for this accomplishment.

That said, I wish the language would have been stronger and that more prominent Rabbonim would have signed it. Why they didn’t is for them to explain.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019


"Fox & Friends" discuss "Jexodus," (Washington Post)
I know that there are a lot of Orthodox Jews that define themselves as liberal. Which is usually followed by Democrat. They are liberal Democrats – right along with the majority of non Orthodox Jews that define themselves that way. But Orthodox liberal Democrats are a minority of Orthodox Jewish voters.  According to a poll taken by AJC in 2017, 71% of Orthodox Jews supported  the President. I wouldn’t be surprised if the percentage is even higher today.That is almost the same percentage of non Orthodox Jews that do not support him.

This is not to say that Trump is actually a conservative. I don’t think he is. But as I have said many times, his policies thus far have mostly been conservative.

What does this mean in terms of issues that are important to Jews? Which are better, conservative policies or liberal policies? And if the values of the former define the Republican Party while the  latter define the Democratic Party, which party actually reflects Jewish values more?

I think it depends on who you ask. The truth is that there are elements in both that can be identified as Jewish values. An Orthodox Jew who is guided by the laws and values of the Torah would give an entirely different answer than a secular Jew as to which party reflects Jewish interests more.

It is clear that secular Jews consider Tikun Olam as the most important if not only Jewish value to support. For many Jews that is all they know about Judaism. They know little about Jewish Law and pay little attention to it. How many secular Jews for example keep or even care about keeping Kosher or observing Shabbos? How many secular Jews believe those ancient laws are irrelevant in today’s world? How many Jews believe that just about every other law in the Torah is irrelevant?  

Their values and ethics are instead  those of the modern more enlightened era. That translates into some very good works by many secular Jews. For these idealistic secular Jews Tikun Olam – fixing the world is understood to mean supporting a great many social causes. Put another way, Tikun Olam equals social justice. This is for example why so many high minded secular Jews in the 60s were involved I the civil rights movement, some – like Schwerner and Goodman giving their lives for it!.

Today the very same Tikun Olam guides the secular Jewish support for egalitarianism; gay rights; and in some cases expressing out-sized sympathy for the legitimate suffering of Palestinians – blaming it on Israeli policies.  Liberal Jews will side with Democrats whose values match theirs and where criticism of Israel is more justified. 

Orthodox Jews by contrast do not see Tikun Olam as the only value in Judaism. They do not even define it the way secular Jews do. It is hardly on their radar. To the extent that it might be it is at the bottom of their list of priorities. They look at the entirety of Jewish values and act accordingly – supporting political policies that will help them live up to those values. The party they currently see doing that the most is the Republican Party. Which is currently headed by our Commander-in-Chief.

Many if not most secular Jews don’t really care much about Jewish education, Or keeping Shabbos, Or keeping Kosher. Or marrying Jews. Or supporting Israel.  Most secular Jews have never even been to Israel and don’t plan to go. Why should they care about a country whose very existence is based in a bible they know little or care about? And whose laws and values they consider archaic and out of touch with the times? Why would they support legislation that favors religious values over secular ones? 

I think this is truer now more than ever. The further Liberal Jews move away from their Judaism the more liberal they become. And the less they care about things Jewish. Surely the 70% of non Orthodox Jews that marry out do not care at all about perpetuating Judaism into the future.

Which is why I do not believe Jexodus will ever happen. 

Jexodus? What’s that? Never mind. I’ll tell you.

It is a new movement promoted Elizabeth Pipko, a Jewish model and former Trump campaign staff member. She urges Jews to leave the Democratic party mainly because it is increasingly becoming antisemitic. She claims that Jewish millennials like herself are already leaving the party. But as the Washington Post reports, the percentage of Jewish Democrats remains the same and may have actually increased since Trump was elected. If you want to know why, re-read the post.

If as I suggest it is true that liberal Democrats are less supportive of Orthodox Jewish values than conservative Republicans, why are there so many Orthodox Jews that are liberal Democrats?

Good question. I think it best to ask them if you really want to know the answer. I have actually heard some of their tortured logic. But that is what it is in my view. Tortured. Let me suggest a few reasons off the top of my head why I think there are Orthodox Jews that are liberal Democrats. I’m sure there are more reasons and I’m sure my reasons will be disputed. But here goes.

It might have to do with the old habit of voting for Democrats at a time when it made sense. Just like their parents and grandparents did. The old blue-blood Republican party harbored a lot of soft bigotry and soft antisemitism. They were not favorably disposed to the Jewish state - favoring the oil rich Arab states instead. They were not in  favor of anything particularly Jewish for that matter. These old blue-bloods were the ones that set up quotas for Jews in top universities; quotas in the professions of medicine and law; restrictive covenants in exclusive country clubs and barred Jews from taking top positions in corporate America. 

Democrats on the other hand championed the underdog Jewish state - a country they saw founded on the ashes of the Holocaust. With powerful Arab neighbors bent on their destruction. They championed our religious rights; fought quotas and restrictive covenants... allowing Jews to live equally and freely along with the rest of Americans. Jews flourished in this country mainly because of those old Democrats whose values then are not their values now. They have become Republican values.

The tables are now turned. But old habits die hard.  The change was gradual and began after the 6 day war when Israel stopped being seen as the underdog and increasingly began to be seen as the oppressor.  That begot the criticism we see now.  Liberal Democrats rationalize their criticism by claiming Israels current polices hurt the new underdog, the Palestinians. And they blame the souring of bipartisan support on conservative Republican support for Israel. Which now has conservative polices under a conservative Prime Minister. They also do not view the enthusiastic almost unconditional Republican support for Israel favorably.  

I do. As much as I would like to see Democrats on board with Republicans, bi-partisan support would almost certainly mean increased criticism of Israel. Which in my view would be counter-productive to Israel’s security needs.

I understand why they feel that way. But I also understand why liberal Orthodox Jews are a  minority among the rest of Orthodoxy. And the reason for that is – as I said - conservative Republican values are seen as far more favorable to the values of the Torah by Orthodox Jews than are the values of liberal Democrats.

What all this means for the future is anybody’s guess. But that is how I see things now.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Muslims, Jews, and Patriotism

Judge Jeanine Pirro (Rolling Stone)
I have no clue who Judge Jeanine Pirro is except that she is a conservative political commentator for Fox News. But she was way off base in attacking Ilhan Omar.

That may shock many people who know of my own criticism of Ms.Omar. I believe she is an antisemite.  But that does not mean that anyone can hurl any criticism they choose at her  when it isn’t warranted. That only undermines the legitimate criticism she deserves.

The issue here in Pirro’s suggestion that Omar’s religious practices should be seen as traitorous. Pirro has basically done to devout Muslims what Omar did to Jews that support Israel. From Ha’artez
On her show, Pirro noted that the Minnesota representative wears a hijab in apparent conformity to a directive in the Quran. “Is her adherence to this Islamic doctrine indicative of her adherence to Sharia law, which is in itself antithetical to the U.S. Constitution?” she asked. 
Pirro defended her comments by claiming she only asked the question to start a debate and did not claim Omar was un-American. That in my view is disingenuous. It would be like asking the question about whether an Orthodox Jew is traitorous by wearing a Kipa and thereby suggesting that Torah law (Halacha) is antithetical to the constitution. Putting those comments in the form of a question has the same negative connotation.

Wearing Hijab or a Kipa is not un-American.

The law in this country is that people are free to express themselves in any way they choose as long as it does not deny the freedom of others. That law has the constitutional guarantee of the 1st Amendment. Questioning Omar’s religious practices in effect questions the very constitution itself! And it is hurtful to anyone whose religious practices are not seen as the norm. Am I un-American by lighting a Menorah on Chankah during the height of the Christmas season when just about everyone else is putting up Christmas trees?

Fox was right to condemn Pirro’s comments. As do I.

It might make some people feel good to disparage devout Muslims while at the same time extolling devout Christians. But feeling good about putting others down is not the Torah’s way. The ways of the Torah are pleasant. And every Jew is obligated to follow the ways of the Torah.

The truth of the matter is that Judaism has a lot more in common with Islam that it does with Christianity. It would be wise for the Islam bashers to recognize that and treat it accordingly.

While it is true that Christians today are far more favorably inclined to support the Jewish state (the more devout – the stronger the support) and it is true as well that we share a bible with them (i.e. ttheir old testament) their theology is considered a form of idolatry for us. While some Rishonim say that non Jews are permitted to believe in more than one deity as long as one of them is God, (which is called  Shituf) that is not the case for us.

Muslims on the other hand believe only in one God. The same one we believe in. And neither of us believes in any other god.

It is also true that much of Islamic law is similar to Jewish law. For example they believe that an animal must be ritually slaughtered (Halal or Zabiha) in order to be permitted to eat it. They even rely on Jewish ritual slaughter (Shechita) if they do not have a Muslim trained in their own version of ritual slaughter. Their modesty laws are similar to ours if not more stringent. Even to the extent of a woman covering their hair. Which is what the hijab is all about. While the details of modesty laws between Judaism and Islam are a bit different, the idea behind them is the same.

There are other similarities.  Islam ought to be respected at least as much as Christianity is. So that when a Muslim is denied their right to practice their religion in any way, we need to protest it. If they go to court to fight an unjust law that somehow denies their freedom to practice their religion, we ought to join them.

The one thing we should never do is vilify Islam. This is not to say that all forms of Islam should be supported. Certainly the type of Jihadist Islamism that ISIS practices needs to be vigorously fought. But mainstream Islam is not Jihadist. And if their way of life were to be more closely examined, we would find more similarities of Judaism than dissimilarities. And a desire for peaceful and respectful co-existence in the brotherhood of man.

I find it all too common for Orthodox Jews to vilify Islam as though all Muslims want to take over the world and establish Sharia Law. Sure - anyone that believes in the laws of their religion believes that is the way God wants all of us to live. It is no different than Jews believing that Torah laws for Jews and the seven Noahide laws for gentiles is what God wants. The difference is in whether either of our religions would force those views upon the rest of the world. And whether those beliefs entail any means necessary towards achieving it. Including war, torture, mass murder, or suicide bombings.

That is what we should all oppose no matter what religion is behind it. In our day, it is Islam that is behind it and when expressed in that form it is not only un-American - it should be fought until it is obliterated. But we must differentiate on the one hand between Jihadist countries like Iran;  Islamists like ISIS and Al Qiada; Hamas and Hezbollah… and on the other hand mainstream Muslims that are nothing like them. They are as different from each other as black is from white.

It is true that most of even the peaceful Muslims are opposed to Israel. Some of that opposition is religion based. Some of it is based on misguided notions of what the real cause of Palestinian  misfortune is. But most Muslims would not hurt anyone anymore than most Jews or Christians would.

I believe that - if not for the Jihadists  that are currently calling the shots in the Middle East - in their heart of hearts, most Palestinian Muslims are realists and would rather just make peace with Israel and get on with their lives - even though they would prefer if we were not there in the first place.  

The prosperity that would likely follow would be good for everyone. I would be thrilled if Israel no longer had to treat  every Muslim that wants to cross into Israel with suspicion that they want to hurt us. Wouldn’t it be great if Israel ended up having the same relationship with Palestinians on the West Bank that America has with Canada?

At the moment, that is a distant dream for both sides. Like it or not (and I don’t) Israel must be cautious in ways that places hardships on Palestinians. But at the same time - what should be absolutely clear is that any unfair treatment or criticism of a Muslim just because they are Muslim ought to be rejected. It is wrong and does not do anyone any good.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Protecting Sex Abusers

Malka Leifer (Sunday Morning Herald)
I have been reluctant to talk about the Malka Leifer case. Not because it isn’t serious. It certainly is. But because it is one of yet another in what seems like an endless stream of stories about sex abuse in the Orthodox Jewish community. I just felt that I had nothing to add… nothing to say that I haven’t already said.

But this case is a bit different than the usual fare. The abuser is a woman. I do not recall ever hearing or reading about female sexual predators in the Orthodox Jewish community until now. Typically it has been men that were sexually abusing or molesting boys… or girls… or both. Not women.

What moved me to comment was the fact that an official high up in the Israeli government has interceded on her behalf.  More about that later. First a bit of history.

Israel has a major flaw in how it handles sex abusers. Especially those that immigrate from other countries. If I understand correctly Israel does not prosecute people accused of committing sex crimes in other countries. They are treated no differently than anyone else. They are no even put on sex crime registry. Israel does not even have one. 

That makes Israel a haven for fleeing Jewish sex criminals. Jews convicted of such crimes in other countries can immigrate to Israel under the law of return; be granted automatic citizenship; and then walk the streets freely. No one is the wiser. Not so in America.  Once someone is convicted of a sex crime here, they are placed on registry for the rest of their lives. Trying to warn a community in Israel about someone like this can get you sued for libel.  Ask Rabbi Yakov Horowitz.

There are two individuals that are among the worst of sex offenders and have escaped to Israel. They are currently living there fully and freely. One is the notorious Avreimal Mondrowitz and the other is Malka Leifer, who is currently facing 74 counts of sexual abuse in Australia. 

Mrs. Leifer was the principal of a Charedi girls school in Melbourne. According to news reports at the time she was  spirited out of Australia when it became known to leaders at the school she headed that one or more of the victims were considering filing a police report accusing her of abuse. Leifer fled to Israel and has been residing there ever since. Attempts to get her extradited back to Australia have thus far failed.  Primarily because her lawyers claim that she was mentally ill and not competent to stand trial. 

It has since been discovered that she was feigning illness and there have been renewed attempts to get her extradited to Australia.

This is where Charedi MK Yaakov Litzman comes in. He has interceded on her behalf. Possibly in illegal ways. From the Times of Israel
Police suspect Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman met with Jerusalem’s district psychiatrist to pressure him into issuing a false assessment for an accused sex offender, thus preventing her extradition to Australia, a legal official told The Times of Israel Saturday. 
The official confirmed a report by the Kan public broadcaster, which pointed out that the mere existence of a meeting between the de facto head of the Health Ministry and a key witness in the case against Malka Leifer during legal proceedings could constitute obstruction of justice on Litzman’s part. 
Litzman is protecting a sex offender. I can’t think of too many things more horrifying than when a powerful politician tries to protect someone believed to have abused a single child even once. Let alone 74 different cases of it.

Israeli MK and defacto Health Minister, Yaakov Litzman (JPost)
Is Litzman an evil man? I don't think so. As the Deputy Health Minister he was lauded not long ago for his efforts in improving health care for all Israeli citizens. He had a very high approval rating from virtually all Israelis for those contributions. 

For that he was rewarded by being made Israel’s Minister of Health. And as a cabinet minister he was one of the few Israeli politicians in the inner circle of Israeli power. An unprecedented position for a Charedi member of the Keneset. He has since resigned over an issue dear to the Charedi world having to do with drafting yeshiva students into the military. But he still is the defacto chief of that ministry.

So what gives here? Why is this man who works so hard to assure the health of all Israelis, now doing everything he can to allow a sex predator to roam free in the streets?

I can only speculate. But I think if one looks at a common denominator between Malka Leifer an Avreimal Mondrowitz - one might see an answer. The connection is Ger. Litzman is a Ger Chasid. And so too is Mondrowitz.

Many years ago when there was a similar attempt to extradite Mondrowitz, Ger went to bat for him and did everything in their power to prevent that. They succeeded.

I don’t know if Mrs. Leifer belongs to Ger Chasidus. But Litzman does - so that when he was asked for help, he jumped into action.

It seems that Ger Chasdim in Israel believe that no matter how much evidence there is against an accused abuser, they simply refuses to believe it. That makes Mrs. Leifer a victim instead of a victimizer. This is how Ger saw Mondrowitz. And this is how they see Leifer.

Taking that position then becomes a matter of Pikuach Nefesh; or Pidyon Shevuyim; or simply saving a fellow Jew from an unjust, undeserved punishment. One must pull out all the stops for ‘innocent people’ like Mondrowtiz and Leifer. Even if it entails subterfuge or breaking the law

I cannot understand that position. I know there are cases of unsubstantiated rumors and I can understand trying to protect them - even as I believe that those rumors need to be checked out by professionals. But when there is so much evidence against them, it makes that kind of protection evil. Even if it isn’t intended that way. 

So what Litzman did is evil. But he not an evil person. He has been blinded by his particular Chasidus to always give accused perpetrators the benefit of the doubt and ultimately as victims themselves regardless of the evidence. Which they refuse to believe. I don’t know how anyone with a conscience can do that. But that is what preconditioned bias can do.

I’m therefore pretty sure that MK Litzman has no guilty conscience at all. He probably believes he is doing the right thing!

How ironic it is for Ger to protect those against whom there is so much credible evidence of sex abuse. Their view of sex is among the most restrictive in all of Orthodoxy. The lengths they go to to avoid any contact with women are so extreme that they will not even walk together with their own wives in public. They will instead walk a few steps ahead of them. I witnessed this myself many years ago in Bnei Brak on a Friday night when after the Seudah - what seems like the entire town takes a walk down R’ Akiva Street, Bnei Brak’s main drag.

Ger was once one of the mostly highly respected of Chasidus. One of their earlier Chasidic Rebbes is the Sefas Emes. He is known by that name because that is the title of his Sefer. Which is widely studied in Yeshivos all over the world.

I have no proof of this, but I have been told by many people who seem to be in the know that it is the more recent Rebbes and the current one that has taken them off the straight and narrow into this dark new world where sex – even between a husband and wife - is treated as a necessary evil for purposes of procreation only. And where accused abusers are treated like victims and victims are treated like abusers.

My - how Ger has fallen from grace! (Even in much of the rest of the Charedi world in Israel for reasons beyond the scope of this post.)

That is the long and short of it. We have a fallen hero in Litzman who is himself a victim of an indoctrination that turns justice on its head. And gives sexual predators the benefit of the doubt while vilifying their victims.

Litzman has been questioned by the police. Will he be prosecuted? Should he be? Stay tuned