Sunday, April 21, 2024

American Views about Israel Since October 2023

Some of Mishpachcas ‘man in the street’ interviewees
There was an interesting ‘man in the street’ interview in Mishpacha Magazine last week. The idea was to randomly ask Jews who were not particularly religious how - or even if October 7th changed their lives Jewishly. While their goal was to interview only Jews, they ended up interviewing a few non Jews as well.  

Although this was not a statistically significant study, it mimics what my own non scientific impression about the views of both Jewish and non Jewish Americans with respect to Israel since that day of infamy. I got a sense of what I believe is a very sad reality. Which is that as a rule most Jews tend to be more critical of Israel’s conduct in the war them most non Jews.

I can’t really blame them for being critical based on what they see. Even though I completely disagree with them I have the benefit of knowing the historical context of the conflict and the reality of their unalterable determination to return all of Palestine into Muslim hands and exterminate us in the process as as a religious value. All of which is codified in the Hamas charter. And the fact that Israel is surrounded by countries and  militias with guns pointed at it. Including Iran proxies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and  Iran itself. Not to mention Hamas, which is itself an Iran proxy.

Without any of that context, it is understandable why Palestinians are getting so much sympathy. The fact that it is mostly young people (including many young Jewish people) that are joining pro Palestinian protests is a function of their ignorance of any of that context. They protest what they see every night now for 6 months! If you factor in the influence of pro Palestinian faculty members have on their students, it not only increases their numbers but gives campus protesters the added ‘legitimacy’ of being college educated.

The response of one the Mishpacha’s  Jewish interviewees illustrates the complete naiveté of which I speak: 

 “I see the anger on both sides. I was brought up on the philosophy that you should love your enemy. I see that Jews are angry, so this principle of ‘love your enemy’ is really being put to the test. It’s a test for us to be able to look beyond all the hate. But even in this horror, we can be a bridge, and look beyond the hate to what is true and just. We should find a way to make peace with our neighbors to the south.

“Everyone has lost people, there is indiscriminate horror regardless of which side you’re on. Everyone wants to protect his own family, his tribe.”

If this response was not so laden with deadly consequences it would make me laugh. Imagine having a meeting with Hitler and trying to sell him this argument? Does anyone with even a half a brain think this could have worked?

We are talking about Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran... and more. all of whom consider  Mein Kampf required reading. They consider Hitler one of their heroes. A role model with respect to the Jewish people. Little children are indoctrinated to believe that killing Jews is the will of God. Devout Muslims like those are probably more motivated to kill Jews that Hitler was. That’s why Palestinians in Gaza AND the West Bank cheered at what happened on October 7th instead of being horrified like the rest of the civilized world.

Sure. Finding common ground and making peace with your enemy is the surest way to find peace an prosperity for your people. But only it it’s possible. This,  poor clueless young Jew that think it is may think he is being true to his ideals. But he is not. He is being stupid based on ignorance.

I am happy to say that the president and vast majority of congress (in both houses - on both sides of the political aisle) are a bit less clueless than the altruistic but misguided young  supporters of Hamas. While they also express sympathy for suffering Palestinian they understand what Israel is up against and must do to protect itself. And they are supporting them with cash.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, a conservative Republican supporter of Donald Trump bucked fellow conservative Republican House members (that I consider extremists). They wanted him to reject any support for the Ukraine even if it meant denying aid to Israel. They have been denying this vital aid for 6 months. 

Johnson had the courage of his convictions to  finally submit 3 bills for a vote in the House (one of which was aid to Israel). It passed overwhelmingly with almost half the Republicans and all of the Democrats voting in favor of it. This despite threats by the extremists in his party to oust him if he did.  They will now  attempt to do that. But it appears that Democrats may actually vote against it and save his job as a reward for doing the right thing. (Haven’t seen bipartisanship like that in a long time.)

Although there is so much media focus on the nationwide Palestinian protests, I still believe that most Americans support Israel and its right to defend itself. Even if they might disagree on how they are doing it (based on all those horrible images coming out of Gaza).

There are two interviews with non Jews that I believe capture the mood of the country - one of someone leaning conservative and the other of two people  leaning  liberal: 

Interview one:

 “Netanyahu did right,” he offers emphatically. “Hamas took over the Palestinian people, and he was right to go after them. The people who are pro-Palestinian and pro-Hamas just aren’t very educated. Biden, Obama… I don’t know what’s going on there. Obama never showed any respect for Netanyahu. He made him wait hours for meetings. Maybe it goes back to the influence of George Soros. But what’s happening with them all is a travesty. I hope Netanyahu stays in power.”

Interview two:

“It’s bad, what’s going on,” Diana ventures. “I can empathize with the people who are feeling unsafe, or targeted. But I don’t know that people in New York are so negative. I think there are as many people who want to help Israel and Jews as there are against them.”

 “It’s been a rough situation over there that’s been going on for years,” she says. “Most people don’t want to see more people dying over it. We’d like to see some kind of resolution.”

“The pro-Hamas people are just more vocal,” Diane says. “When you speak to people quietly, they’re pro-Israel. I feel like New York is still a safe place, and Jews don’t need to worry.” 

As I indicated at the outset. I have no proof  that the views reflected by these  excerpts reflect the actual mood of the American people vis-a vis Israel and the Jewish people. But they do closely  resemble my own observation and instincts. .

Friday, April 19, 2024

Ignorant Jews and their 'Judaism'

Dr. Nemat Shafik testifying at yesterday's congressional hearing (Forward)
Emily Tamkim is a case study in ignorance about both academic freedom - and especially Judaism. She should be embarrassed by her comments on both issues

In her opinion piece in the Forward, Tamkin first quoted Nara Milanich, a professor of history at Barnard College who said the following: 

“I think President (Dr. Nemat) Shafik had an opportunity to stand up for the values of academic freedom, free speech and the value of the university to research, teach, and engage on difficult issues,” Milanich wrote. “She chose not to do so.” 

Really? Calling for the genocide of the Jewish people is a protected right of free speech?! And praising the mass murder of 1200 Jews by a group whose published goal is the extermination of the Jewish people is  right granted by academic Freedom?!  Praising or advocating mass murder of an entire people is OK with her?! 

How would she feel about Jewish protestors calling for the extermination of the Palestinian people? Or a Jewish professor who said that Baruch Goldstein's slaughter of innocent Palestinians was amazing? I highly doubt that she would say that he has that right. He would probably be fired in a heartbeat. Tenured or not.  

Free speech cannot include calling for genocide. And academic freedom cannot include praising mass murderers.  It should be no different than yelling ‘Fire’ in a crowded theater and calling it free speech. Academic freedom – like free speech stops when it results in - or incites harm to others.

Furthermore her criticism of the committee members that questioned President Shafik about her schools antisemitism having their own antisemitic baggage is irrelevant. What is relevant is whether there is currently any antisemitism on her campus today. Evil is still evil no matter who points it out.

What bothered me even more is her view about Israel’s relevance to the Jewish people. Which was indicated by the following excerpt from her column: 

Law professor David Schizer, co-chair of Columbia’s task force on antisemitism, testified alongside Shafik, and stated that Israel “is a core part of Jewish identity.” “That is false,” Sheldon Pollock, an emeritus professor of South Asian studies at Columbia, wrote me in an email. “Many Jews are indifferent to Zionism, or are non-Zionists, or are anti-Zionists, something abundantly attested to in the history of Jewish nationalism over the last 150 years.” Schizer’s misconception, Pollock continued, was a prime example of the acute confusion about antisemitism itself, which, ostensibly, is what the hearing was about. 

To quote someone (Jewish or not)  whose knowledge of Judaism is about the same as my Mexican neighbor is both deceptive and wrong. All one has to do to realize how important Israel is to Jewish identity is to open the bible. It’s all there in black and white.

That there are Jews who are ignorant of the bible and their own Jewish heritage and probably never even cracked open the bible, our foundational document, makes them clueless about what actually is important to the Jewish people.  

Any Jew who says Israel is not important to them would probably say that Shabbos and Kashrus is not important to them. Sadly, I wouldn’t even be surprised if their very Jewish identity isn’t important to them. That has unfortunately been borne out by the massive decline in Jewish identity by secular Jews  and their high rate of intermarriage. The younger they are, the more that seems to be true.

I’m sure there are exceptions. But I’m pretty sure that the kind of Jews that are anti Israel are drawn from that crowd. Where Torah is either ignored if not downright disparaged

To be absolutely clear, this is not to say that any criticism of Israel is illegitimate. The Agudah criticizes Israel all the time. Not because Israel isn’t a part of their Jewish identity. But because they are opposed to  some of Israel’s polices as it affects their religious beliefs and practices.

I am so sick of ignorant Jews like Tampkin explaining Judaism to the world. If she really wants to do that, she ought to take a few years off and get an authentic Jewish education. She could use one.

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Academia and the American People

Columbia University President Nemat Shafik (JTA)
This time the answer was the right one. It’s too bad the first three times (in a row) the answer was stupid, foolish, and outright wrong. The question asked this time at a congressional hearing about antisemitism on college campuses was the same as it was in the other three cases: 

“Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate (Insert college here) code of conduct?”

The first time (back n December of last year) 3 university presidents with diverse backgrounds were asked that question: Harvard (now former) President Claudine Gay who is black, UPenn (now former) President Elizabeth McGill who is white, and MIT President Sally Kornbluth who is Jewish. They gave virtually identical answers. As though they were schooled by the ACLU in constitutionally protected free speech. Their answers were ‘It depends.

Yesterday at the latest congressional hearing on the subject, the correct answer was given by Columbia President Nemat Shafik who is of Egyptian descent. It was an a immediate and unequivocal yes. It did violate Columbia’s code of conduct.

The first 3 presidents were harshly criticized for their stupid answer by people on both sides of the political aisle. Staring with conservative Republican and Trump supporter Elise Stefanik (who first asked the question) - to Lawrence Tribe an arch-liberal constitutional scholar who said that he never thought he would ever agree with Stefanik on anything. But he did on this.

It seems ironic that a woman of Arab descent would give the right answer about antisemitism while a Jewish woman could not. But I think it is more about ‘lesson learned’ than actually knowing the difference between right and wrong. This was indicated by Shafiks hesitation at a follow up question about a tenured Columbia professor of Arab descent who publicly expressed amazement and approval of what Hamas did on October 7th. She was asked whether she would fire a teacher expressing a view like that. 

She stumbled over her answer but then answered in the affirmative.  She stumbled because for a moment - she probably thought his views were a function of his constitutionally protected free speech.

This is the problem with the progressiveness that has taken over in the hierarchy in university education. It isn’t just that a popular left wing Palestinian professor says things like this. It is that college presidents are condoning it.

If Jews on campus were to have a rally calling for the genocide of Palestinians, how far would university tolerance for free speech go?  I can’t imagine a question about whether Jewish students calling for the genocide of Palestinians was against school policy getting an ‘it depends’ answer. And I cant imagine any university official expressing hesitation about firing a Jewish professor expressing joy over the 30,000 Gaza Palestinain deaths and the starvation of its refugees - thinking even for a moment it was his free speech right. There would be no hesitation at all about firing him.

What if anything does this say about antisemitism in America?   

Well for starters it says that both liberals and conservatives agree that antisemitism is wrong. It also say that the government does not tolerate it. But it also says something about academia. Major universities have gone from right wing antisemitism where Jews were at first barred from entry and later limited to quotas out of fear that those schools would become ‘too Jewish’... to left wing antisemitism under the guise of leveling the playing field through affrimative action. Disadvantaged minorities were given precedence over more qualified students.jsudge more by the Which in some cases were Jews started implementing quotas again in reverse. Instead of being accepted on merit a predetermined number of students would be accepted based on diversity. 

Now things have deteriorated into outright antisemtism being tolerated on college campuses from  faulty, students, and even administrations. All of whom are victims of woke progressives

I do not however believe this kind of thinking has filtered down to the average American.  The vast majority of Americans are not woke. Most are not hypnotozed by the rhetoric of the left that has for example villified he founding fathers as nothing ore than slaveholders who built this great country on the backs of those slaves. Most Americans still see the founding fathers m as great but flawed men who were influenced by the etos of theor time.  

This is why there is a distinct possibility that the most unqualified individual in the history of the American presidency may ascend to office again. The American  people are not happy with the woke direction in which this country is going. a direction that - among other things spawned a permissive attitude in academia about antisemitism.

My hope is that the pendulum will again swing back to where it was before he term woke even existed. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

The Ignorant View of a Biased Man

Pastor John Hagee speaking at the November March for Israel (Forward)

Jay Michaelson is an open and proud gay man who is an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. He also is identified as a rabbi in his bio. 

I have no idea where he was ordained. But if he engages in male to male sexual activity typical of most gay people, then his rabbinic ordination is worthless – even if it is Orthodox.  There is no way a man can call himself a ‘teacher of Torah’ which is what a rabbi is supposed to do and deliberately violate one of its cardinal principles. I can't say for sure that he does that. But at the very least he has never said that such activity is forbidden if he is actually opposed to it as the Torah requires.

Please do not misunderstand. I am not anti LGBTQ+. On the contrary. I support their right to be treated with the dignity that every human being deserves. That is what being created in the image of God requires us to do. Mistreating them in any way is a violation of the Torah. They have a right to be treated with respect and human dignity. And to judge them by the content of their character, not by their sexual orientation. There is nothing sinful about being attracted to members of the same sex. It is how one reacts to that attraction that might be.

(I know that I have said this many times. But I have to say it every time the subject comes up lest I am accused of gay bashing. Something I am vehemently opposed to.)

I mention all this now because of an opinion piece he wrote in the Forward where his identity as a rabbi has relevance. Which he does bring to bear in his column.

Therein he bashes Pastor John Hagee, founder of CUFI (Christians United for Israel) one of the strongest supporters of Israel and the Jewish people in all of Christendom. I am not going to go into all the money Pastor Hagee has raised for the Jewish state or all the support he has drummed up among the Christian faithful. That kind of thing is easy to find online. Needless to say it is massive.

I am, however, going to address the Michaelson’s ‘proof’ that Hagee’s support is nothing more than a desire to bring on the second coming of his god and therefore no friend to Israel. This he says is evidenced by the following: 

“Prophetically, we are on the verge of the Gog-Magog war that Ezekiel described in chapters 38 and 39,” Hagee said on Sunday, after over 200 Iranian missiles were fired on Israel... 

And what does Hagee plan to do about this unprecedented attack? “We don’t need to de-escalate,” he said. Instead, Christians United For Israel — the Christian Zionist organization that Hagee founded in 2006 —held an “emergency fly-in” Monday to visit lawmakers in Washington, D.C., in order to “tell them to stop shuffling papers and do something to help Israel.”

A cursory look at Pastor Hagee’s comments might lead some people to say, Hey! Maybe Michaelson is right about all that Evangelical support. Maybe it is all about hastening end-times and the  second coming.  And accelerating Armageddon where non believing Jews and other non believers will die.

Wow! A Christian that believes in Christian theology. Is anyone really surprised at that? Anyone who thinks that an Evangelical preacher gave up a core Christian belief is a fool. And yet, Michaelson thinks that Hagee's true motives have finally been exposed. Which are not about supporting Israel but about hastening end-times. 

But that just isn’t the case. Of course Hagee believes in that. But guess what,  We have an end-times prophesy too. It is known as Acharis HaYomim.- the 'end of days’. Hagee’s  quote from Ezekiel is quite accurate. There will be a war between Gog and Magog - that will end with the coming of Moshiach. But not as Hagee believes with the second coming of his god. That result will manifest at the proper time. Until then Pastor Hagee’s support for Israel and the Jewish people is both warm and genuine.

In the meantime devout Jews and Christians base their views about Israel on the bible. This is why Evangelical Christians tend to support the most right wing position on settling the land of Israel. In this sense their views are not that far off from those of the religious Zionist right who believe the same thing. I don't agree that we should be doing that now for reasons that are beyond the scope of this post. My point is, however, that they do so because the bible tells them that all the land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people.

This hardly makes Hagee no friend of Israel. At least not any more than the tens of thousands of Israelis that believe and advocate for the same thing. Does Michaelson think they too are no friends of Israel?  Disagree if you will. But enemies of Israel they are not.

What Michaelson chooses to ignore is that people like Hagee and his flock support Israel and the Jewish people not because they want to hasten end-times (even though they believe in that theology).. But that is clearly what Michaelson want’s you to believe. 

We know why they support Israel by what they constantly preach to the flock. Quoting passages from the Torah (their Old Testament) where God says numerous times that those who bless the Jewish people will themselves be blessed. 

That being said, a lot of people will actually agree with Michaelson and  say that they have been saying this was their true motive all along. But I have heard their televangelists preaching their reasons for many years and the vast majority of time, it is all about what their their Old Testament says, Not what their New Testament says. 

The late Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein who made a career out of courting Evangelical preachers told me the same thing. Evangelical support of Israel like that of John Hagee is not based on their end-times prophesy beliefs. Michaelson’s view to the contrary not withstanding. They are simply the machinations of an ignoramus with preconceived biases who has not done his homework.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Has There Been an Earthquake in Israel?

Do Charedim still consider the draft- Shmad?

There has been a massive earthquake in Israel.  Not a physical earthquake. A spiritual earthquake. So massive is the proposed  change in the Charedi position on drafting their students, I can’t really believe it’s happening. In fact, I’ll believe it when I see it…when it is actually implemented. It is almost too good to be true. From VIN: 

In the wake of the public debate over the new Draft Law, a dramatic proposal has allegedly been put forward by Charedi parties to begin drafting approximately 25% of yeshiva students who come of age each year, and later raise the percentage to nearly 50%, which would amount to 6,000 yeshiva students, Israel Hayom reported. 

A few days ago I referred to a story about a possible break between Charedi politicians in Israel and their rabbinic leadership (often referred to simply as ‘the Gedolim’). Which by itself was unprecedented. But this is more than a little ripple of disagreement. It seems like a split of gargantuan proportion. 

The hard fact is that Charedi opposition to the draft was one of the few things they have always said was non negotiable. Opposition that was based not only on  reducing the numbers of Charedim learning Torah full time. But fear that the army would disabuse their students of their God fearing ways - and ultimately their religious practice. Arguments to the contrary have always been dismissed as not good enough – with the government falling well short of all the promises they made to accommodate Charedi recruits in special Charedi units. 

Opposition to the draft  has remained firm since the establishment of the state. Every time there was discussion among Israeli officials about drafting any number of Charedim - no matter how small the percentage - massive protests  called for by the Gedolim broke out. As recently as a few days ago, in a act of solidarity with Israeli Gedolim the American Agudah Moetzes  published the following words in an email blast I received: 

Now, the authorities in the Holy Land have cancelled deferrals and exemptions from army service for those scholars, attacking the Torah and its Giver, and because of these anti-religious motivations they are endangering all Jews in this time of war.  

We join in the pain and worry of all Jews at this danger. We join with the great Torah leaders of the Holy Land in their call to stand against this ruling. 

Obviously compromise was the furthest thing from the mind. And now… THIS? 

I’m not sure what to make of it. If true... have the Israeli Gedolim done a complete 180 about the draft? Or are Charedi  politicians acting on their own? I find the latter highly unlikely. Because almost by definition Charedi politicians will never defy their leadership. 

I am hopeful  but nonetheless skeptical about the reliability of this news. I do not see a massive change in policy on an issue of this nature. An issue that has been at the core of Chareid policy from which their leadership has never veered.

And what about the hard core Jerusalem faction? They are not going to take this sitting down. There will surely be unprecedented protests that will cause unprecedented disruption in the lives of all Israelis -  including Charedim. How will the Charedi leadership deal with that?

On the other hand if this is indeed true and a compromise of this nature is acceptable to both sides - it can usher in a new era of unprecedented unity among Jews of good will and of all stripes.. A unity that was heretofore unachievable except for the briefest of moments during times of tragedy. As was he case in the immediate aftermath of the October 7th Hamas massacre.

 The benefits of this compromise (if true) are unlimited. If secular Israelis were ever ready for outreach... ready   to take a new look at what it means to be Jew.. there has never been a better time than now. The observant community will  have a golden opportunity to rise to the occasion and welcome them  with warmth and open arms.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Iran and John Fetterman's Moral Compass

Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman (JTA)
He is a clear thinker whose moral compass does not let politics get in his way . An iconoclast of sorts one might say. The mere sight of him would surely lead one to realize that that he doesn’t much care about what others think of him. 

If you haven’t guessed who I’m talking about, it’s the US senator from Pennsylvania, John Fetterman. I don’t know if he even owns a suit. In fact I think he only has 2 pieces of outerwear, shorts and a hoodie. He also has a lot of tattoos plastered all over his rather sizable 6’ 8’’ frame. He does what he wants and says what he believes. Regardless of the political consequences.

Fetterman was a one time supporter of Democratic Socialist, Bernie Sanders. This made him the darling of progressives. His overall non conformist image and reputation as a progressive is why I supported his Republican opponent, TV personality Dr. Mehmet Oz in 2020. Oz’s conservative values were a lot closer to my own by far than anyone with a progressive reputation. It is a near religious tenet of progressives to see Israel as a colonialist oppressor nation with racist ‘Apartheid’ polices. Demanding  justice for Palestine by dismantling Israel and replacing it with a Palestinian state.

Needless to say, I was surprised and disappointed that Fetterman beat Oz. Especially after Fetterman had a stroke (from which he has still not fully recovered). How, I wondered, could anyone vote for a man as unconventional as that and was mentally disabled? That he was hospitalized for depression shortly after the election underscored his mental disability.  

And yet, he won. My guess is that the anti Trump vote swept a lot of  down ballot Democrats into office. That is the only way I can explain it. I thought that he would be yet another progressive anti Israel vote in congress.

But I could not have been more wrong. The progressives that loved him now see his support for Israel as a betrayal of their core values. Support that is quite strong and vigorous as noted in a March 21st JTA article: 

In the immediate aftermath of the Oct. 7 attack, Fetterman said the United States had a duty to be in lockstep with our ally… 

Fetterman has been one of the most visible supporters of Israel among Democrats, perhaps rivaled only by New York Rep. Ritchie Torres. He has draped himself in an Israeli flag, met with hostage families and wallpapered his office with posters of Israeli hostages. In November, he waved an Israeli flag while walking past pro-Palestinian protesters outside the U.S. Capitol. 

Fetterman went from being a disappointment to being a hero in my eyes. As noted above. He could not care less about narrative of his own party and president. He saw what happened on October 7th and never looked back. His support for Israel has earned him the scorn of progressives and the praise of many conservatives. Including me.

A couple of  days ago Israel was attacked by Iran was intended to kill a lot of Jews (even though it utterly failed to do so). Guided by his moral compass Fetterman once again rejected the narrative of his president and party and espoused the views of many conservatives as noted at The Hill: 

Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) said that Iran’s aerial assault on Israel shows how the U.S. is “not standing firmly with Israel.”

Fetterman reiterated Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that there should not be conditions on sending additional aid to Israel and called again for the U.S. to stand with its ally in the wake of Iran’s missile and drone attack on Israel over the weekend. 

“Well, a couple of things, actually. I think it really demonstrates how it’s astonishing that we are not standing firmly with Israel. And there should never be any kinds of conditions on all that. When a nation can launch hundreds of drones towards Israel — I’m not going to be talking about conditions ever,” he said. 

He sure didn’t sound like a  progressive Democrat. Proving to be a major disappointment to them. But as Fetterman so clearly put it, wearing shorts and a hoodie does not make you a progressive. It only makes you somone that wear shorts and a hoodie. (As a bit of a non-conformist myself, I love that response!)

Fetterman did not say whether he supports an IDF military response to the attack. Frankly I am not even sure if I do. I have mixed feelings about that.

On the one hand, the Biden administration says that Israel must show restraint and not counter attack Iran. Iran failed  miserably. They did not do any real damage and no one was killed. The Biden administration said Israel should just take the win andnot retaliate Biden does not want to widen the conflict which could explode into a full scale regional war in which the US might have to get involved.

I get that. But if the US mainland were attacked with hundreds of drones and missiles from  - say Venezuela, would we just say, no one was killed so let’s just call it a win? I seriously doubt that. No nation that is attacked by another belligerent nation determined to annihilate it should just say, lets call it a win because no one as killed. That would just embolden them to try it again. Perhaps with greater force where some real damage could be done with many lives lost. Maybe Israel has to retaliate. 

On the other hand retaliating cold easily escalate into a war between Israel and Iran that could very possibly shed more Jewish blood than in all of its preceding wars. Even though Israel would likely win that war - the price may be too high. Maybe its better to let sleeping dogs lie.

If it were up to me. I think the best course of action would be not to retaliate. But to keep doing what they have been doing: Targeting their Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRG) leaders. When the opportunity to strike comes their way again, they should take them out. Covertly if possible. While remaining as vigilant as possible, let us not expose our young to the increased death and destruction that an immediate retaliatory strike might lead to.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Is There a Crack in the Wall of 'Daas Torah'?

Rav Moshe Hillel Hirsch (VIN)
I am no longer shocked or even surprised by the insular attitude of Charedi leadership. It has become the sine qua non of the Charedi world. The leadership believes that insularity is the best way to protect the Jewish people from the prevailing evil influences of the outside world.

It appears that the leader of Lithuanian Jewry (also known as the Yeshiva World)  Rav Moshe Hillel Hirsch has just doubled down on this attitude as noted at VIN:

Rabbi Hirsch requested that yeshiva students not go on any trips (during Bein Haz’manin – the Pesach vacation period) and not make any plans to go to places where they will meet with secular elements…

Needless to say I am upset at his attitude, But not surprised. Contrast this with a perceptive and thoughtful approach to current events by Rabbi Moshe Bane, immediate past president of the OU. 

Rabbi Moshe Bane (Jewish Action)
In his recent Jewish Action column he described how the world has changed since October 7th. Drastically for Israeli Jews but even for American Jews. After listing and detailing some of those changes, he suggested that we react with both individual and communal introspection. Which is how the Gemarah tells us to react when tragedy strikes. He then describes what that introspection should look like. 

Early on in his essay he makes the following caveat. Claims by anyone about a particular communal malady as the cause of our misfortune is a fallacy based on personal biases. Only a Navi can have that kind of insight. Something  that God no longer grants to human beings. (In my view people like this are either charlatans or fools. But I digress.) 

But at the same time the idea of introspection is always a good idea,. The Gemarah urges that when  tragedy strikes, that is a good time to have such introspection.

Rabbi Bane’s column is a must read in my view. I completely agree with all of his observations and suggestions about the various ways we can improve in light of the new reality since October 7th.

The following are excerpts of what Rabbi Bane sees as opportunities for positive change. 

1. (We need to revisit) ‘our place in American society and higher education’.

2. Each segment of our community (needs) to examine whether the events of and reactions to October 7 and its aftermath compel revisions to the assessments and forecasts that long ago shaped their respective positions toward Zionism. For example, is the Jewish State a beacon of safety for all Jews, or the cause of hostility to and vulnerability for Jews throughout the world? Do the current reactions of both observant and non-observant Jews to Israel’s needs in its time of crisis highlight an invaluable role played by Israel as a source of national Jewish brotherhood? And should the post-October 7 surge of connection among IDF soldiers to Yiddishkeit and to the community of Klal Yisrael alter the view of those who have understood the IDF to be necessarily hostile to traditional Judaism?  

His last suggestion, however, seems to fly in the face of Rabbi Hirsch’s insular ways: 

3. With new realities emerging since October 7, perhaps we need to rethink our community’s attitude toward outreach. Post-October 7, we observe a surge of interest in Jewish identity across the spectrum of American Jewry…

Perhaps there is a rare window of opportunity to engage unaffiliated Jews and provide a path for their greater connection to Jews and Judaism. 

As noted I agree with all of Rabbi Bane’s observations and suggestions We would all do well as both individuals and as a community to heed his call.

My fear is, however, that the reaction by the right will be to support Rav Hirsch completely and thus reject what Rabbi Bane has suggested. The rationale being that Rav Hirsch represents Daas Torah. And Rabbi Bane is not a Bar Plugta. Meaning that he is nowhere near the caliber of Rav Hirsch which would give his views legitimacy among the faithful.  

I have heard this kind of argument from the right ad nauseum. It might be expressed this way:‘Who is Moishe Bane to argue with the Daas Torah of the Gadol HaDor?’ 

The mantra of the American Agudah is that the advice of the  Gedolim are inviolable. Their Torah and Yiras Shomayim (fear of Heaven) is so great that it is the closest thing to being Godly advice on the planet!  As such they are Mevatel (negate) their own Daas (considered opinion) to that of the Gedolim. Even when it is in stark disagreement with them. 

This is probably why the American Agudah Moetzes recently fully endorsed the Daas Torah of their Israeli counterparts (whom they view as superior to theirs) - condemning the Israeli government as an enemy of Torah and of God Himself.

I am both encouraged and discouraged at the same time. I believe that Rabbi Bane has enormous respect for the members of the Agudah Moetzes and would never publicly disagree with their express views. And yet he has gone out on a limb and expressed a view that seems to completely disagree with their tendency to endorse what their Israeli counterparts say.

The discouraging part of this is that the majority of Charedi Jews will reject Rabbi Bane’s views in favor of their leaders’ Daas Torah. Even as they might privately agree with him 

There  is a glimmer of hope  in all of this. But how far that will take us remains to be seen.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Rabbi Michael Broyde Responds

Some Thoughts in Reply by Rabbi Michael J. Broyde

Pro Palestinian demonstration (PBS)
A few days ago, I posted my thoughts about Rabbi Michael Broyde’s op-ed on the subject of anitsemtsim versus anti-Zionism in America. His response to my thoughts follows in its entirety:

I deeply appreciate the engagement Emes Ve-Emunah undertook with my op-ed in Haaretz and the thoughtful response Harry Maryles presents. I understand and respect the optimism that underscores his perspective, and I too cherish the resilience and moral fiber of our liberal democracy in the United States. However, my concerns regarding anti-Israel sentiment stem from broader and more nuanced observations of global and historical trends, not just current or localized events.

The comparison between the fight for LGBTQ rights and the struggle against antisemitism, while illustrating many noble aspects of liberal democracy, might oversimplify the complexities surrounding Israel's geopolitical situation and the nature of anti-Zionism, both in America and world-wide. The latter often intersects with deeply ingrained political, religious, and cultural narratives that transcend the admirable American ethos of equality and justice for all. 

Furthermore, while the notion that anti-Zionism is a fringe element destined to wane holds emotional appeal, empirical evidence suggests that it has, regrettably, found a more substantial foothold in various segments of Western societies – even in America -- than one might hope.  Furthermore, the younger one is, the more statistically noticeable this is.  This makes it much harder to think it will ‘go away.’

This is not to say that the anti-Israel approach will dominate or run indefinitely, but rather that they pose a significant challenge that requires vigilant, sustained, and sophisticated engagement. They will not be crushed and go away, like overt racism mostly was years ago and which I predict will be the fate of overt antisemitism – Wassim Kanaan schooled me when he noted to the New York Times that “This has nothing to do with the Jewish faith.  It has everything to do with the policies of the state of Israel and its treatment of Palestinians. But there’s a weaponization of antisemitism allegations to silence advocates for Palestine.”  No one wants to be labeled an antisemite, even opponents of Israel.

The resurgence of anti-Zionism and anti-Israelism in certain academic and political circles, particularly under the guise of legitimate criticism of Israeli policies, necessitates a nuanced response that acknowledges the complexity of the issues at hand while steadfastly opposing bigotry in any form: we need to make sure that we do not become the bigots we oppose. So too, it's crucial to differentiate between valid criticism of Israeli government actions and the delegitimization of a nation's right to exist.

Of course, as one of my friends noted, the true wild card in the entire equation is a factor that American Jewry cannot control; namely the decisions that Israel makes since October 7th. We are constantly forced to explain or justify policies that we do not shape and are not concerned with our needs. In fairness, we are not facing the challenges and dangers that Israelis face daily, but this often leaves us in a politically precarious spot. Do we reflexively defend all the IDF’s actions (out of both solidarity and an appreciation of the larger dangers that Israel encounters) or are we critical as well sometimes even though we are inadvertently joining with true “haters” of the medina? Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to that question.  Neither mindless support nor harsh criticism is helpful, and the golden mean is hard to find.

Your faith in the pendulum swing of public opinion and the inherent goodness of the American people is both admirable and shared. Indeed, the values of democracy, freedom, and innovation that Israel embodies are morally compelling and should be more widely known and appreciated. This, however, does not negate the need for proactive measures to combat the rise of anti-Israel sentiment in America, which have and will continue to erode the very foundations of support upon which Israel relies on. Furthermore, I have little illusions that we will clearly win this battle.  Yet, we need to wage this political battle: American support of Israel helps America in countless ways, and we need to work as hard as we can to explain that, for Israel and Americas sake.

Additionally, those of you who think that if this or that candidate wins the next election, then the matter will go away, are deeply mistaken.  The matter will ebb and flow I suspect for more than a decade and we need to be prepared for both the ebb and the flow.

The alliance with evangelical Christians, while significant, is not a panacea. It is but one part of a broader strategy that must also include engaging with those who do not share their views, including many within the progressive community who might be swayed by a more comprehensive understanding of the issues.  Furthermore, these convenient alliances never win consistently and when they lose, payback for whom one’s allies are is a normal part of the political process, and a great deal of care is needed.

We really really need to exercise a lot of due care.  Just between us, I have my doubts that the political leadership of our American Jewish community has been battle-tested for these conditions.  I worry that we are behind the well-fortified Maginot line and the unexpected water cannons are approaching the Bar Lev line. Our strategies do not reflect the realities we actually face, and our tactics are already out or date, unbeknownst to us. Sometimes I worry our political alliances turn us into the proverbial gang member who is instructed [by someone who wants him dead] to come to a gun fight holding a knife – armed enough to be shot, but not armed enough to actually defend hilself.  In sum, I am scared.

In closing, while I share your hope for a future where both antisemitism and anti-Zionism are relegated to the margins of society, I believe that this is not achievable in the short term.  If we work hard and marshal resources well, I hope and think we can mostly suppress the antisemitic uncaged lion that is roaming the fields.   Anti-Israelism is here for the longer run, I suspect. The work ahead is considerable, and it demands a concerted effort from all who cherish democracy, freedom, and the right of all peoples, including the Jewish people, to religious freedom and self-determination.

Thank you again for your engagement and for prompting this essential dialogue. It is only through such exchanges that we can hope to foster a more informed and compassionate understanding of these complex issues.

Rabbi Broyde's most recent Torah article is on whether there is a bracha when seeing an eclipse.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

No New Post Today

On my way to Baltimore for my grandson's wedding. Not sure about Thursday or Friday either. I will be involved with the wedding in various different ways. Stay tuned. New posts will God willing  resume on Sunday.

Tuesday, April 09, 2024

Profile in Courage

Ritchie Torres in Kibbutz Nir Oz on March 29
One of the issues I have with all the harsh criticism of Israel’s conduct in war (even from some of its friends) is that it lacks perspective. The sympathy Israel’s critics have for the legitimately and deeply suffering ‘innocent’ Palestinians are going through rarely includes the reasons they are experiencing it.

There are reasons.  Reasons that do not in any way include the desire by Israel for Palestinians to suffer. Only Hamas has such desires. They are determined  to maximize and exaggerate casualties as a strategy to increase world sympathy. 

But that isn’t even what I’m talking about –  truthful though it is. I am talking about how and way this war started. 

First the why. It is well known by now – especially by the US - that the Hamas charter is all about the genocide of the Jewish people. All of us! First in ‘Palestine’ and then all over the world (...channeling Hitler but with a religious fervor rivaling that of Hitler. One of their heroes)

That was well known even before the October 7th. But what was not as well known is how determined they are and what lengths they will go to to carry out their mission.  On October 7th it became extremely well known. In case anyone has forgotten what happened on that day let me remind you. 

1200 Jews were mercilessly slaughtered in some of the most brutal and barbaric ways imaginable, Jewish women were raped, sexually mutilated and beheaded. Babies were burned alive; and over 200 hostages taken. (...over a hundred of which remain six months after the war began with some of the female captives continually being raped in front of the captive husbands.  

And this doesn’t even address the hundreds of thousands of Jews living near the borders of Gaza and Lebanon (Hezbollah) that have been displaced form their home (and in many cases - jobs)  indefinitely fearing similarly brutal attacks

I rarely hear anything at all about that from all those crying over ‘civilian’ Palestinian casualties being thrown under the Israeli bus by Hamas. It is either completely ignored or at best given very short shrift.

Even if those Palestinians were completely innocent (which is hardly the case according to a Palestinian insider) to ignore the cause of all this while crying over unavoidable causalities of war where the enemy is determined to increase those casualties... well.- that kind of sympathy disgusts me. Even if it is the president that expresses it. 

I am, however, glad that at least one Democrat has not ignored it at all. He understands the real reasons for all the Palestinian casualties and suffering. And he has the courage to express this truth despite the fact that it is not the current narrative of his own president and his own party.  

Now there are a few other Democrats like him. But not most Democrats – including Jewish Democrats  that seem to feel the pain of ‘innocent’ Palestinians a lot more than they do the pain of Israelis that have gone through the worst butchery since the Holocaust. And in many ways they still are. His name is Ritchie Torres.- a profile in courage and  a true hero who refuses to bend to the party line when he knows it is mistaken:

In the two-minute clip, shared on April 4, the Bronx congressman parries accusations from pro-Palestinian activists that he supports the starvation of children during a genocide in Gaza. In response, he denies that Israel is committing genocide and blames the humanitarian crisis in Gaza on Hamas stealing aid meant for civilians. Both arguments hew closely to the Israeli government line. 

A pro-Israel activist called Torres a “king” for how he responded to the activists. An opponent wrote, “Torres lies, people die!”

But for Torres himself, the exchange was a sharp turn from the reception he got two days earlier, when he wrapped up a three-day trip to Israel. There, he told the New York Jewish Week, he was treated like a celebrity. 

Indeed. He knows what the Israeli people know Even those Israelis that hate their prime minister know in their hearts. Torres is willing to take his lumps for expressing the unvarnished truth. If only his fellow Democrats and all the knee jerk liberals in media and entertainment weren’t blinded by the high casualty numbers  understood what Torres understands....  and realizes that Israel has no choice but to obliterate Hamas from the face of the earth regardless of how many civilians Hamas places in their way.... 

If the Jewish people want to eliminate their most immediate source of mortal danger, they have no choice. Maybe the president should listen to Torres too instead of looking at his poll numbers in Michigan and Minneapolis.