Monday, July 18, 2016

A Rebuke to the Rebukers

Rabbi Haskel Lookstein (VIN)
Let me first state the obvious disclaimer. I do not support Donald Trump’s candidacy for President. That said, I have no issue with any of the attendees to the Republican National Convention. Nor do I have an issue with those scheduled to speak and even support his nomination. Many of them are fine public servants that I could have easily supported for President, had they run.

This year’s election campaign is so complex it defies explanation. Because it isn’t only the candidate of one political party that is abhorrent. The candidates of both political parties are.

But I have made that abundantly clear many times. I only repeat it here to explain why it should be not be any greater sin to address the delegates at the RNC than it would be to address the delegates at the DNC.

Which brings me to a disgusting event surrounding it. It appears that 84 year old Rabbi Haskel Lookstein has been chastised for accepting an invitation to do exactly that. It was in the form of a petition signed by 750  his former students of Ramaz, the Modern Orthodox school he headed for decades.

There are few people that have the integrity, grace, and humility that Rabbi Haskel Lookstein has. I have never met the man. But his reputation precedes him. I have heard him described that way from people I know that have had long term association with him.

Rabbi Lookstein was asked by one of his congregants to give the opening convocation at the Republican National Convention. That congregant was Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka,  the woman he converted to Judaism.  A convert along with many others Rabbi Lookstein converted over his long illustrious career that has been accepted by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate.  A rabbinate that is not prone to grant legitimacy to converts outside of its own jurisdiction.

I deference to his friendship with the family, he accepted. This is quite an honor, and a tribute to the Republican Party for choosing an Orthodox rabbi over the Christian ministers that more closely reflect the religious demographics of Republican party.. Many of which are Evangelical Christians.

This is not the first time they did that. One may recall Rabbi Dr. Meir Yaakov Soloveichik doing the same thing last time around. One does not have to agree with the party’s nominee to give an opening convocation.

But none of this is good enough for some of his former students. Who wrote a very nasty letter to him castigating him for accepting this honor. Implying that his entire legacy will be damaged by this one act.  From VIN
“Donald Trump openly spouts racist, misogynistic rhetoric; he advocates torture, the expulsion of millions of families, some long settled in America, and insinuates that some citizens of this great country are somehow less than others,” the petition said.
“To embrace Trump and Trumpism goes against all we’ve been taught. As graduates of Ramaz, and as current or former members of the modern-Orthodox community, this is a shanda [disgrace] beyond the pale.”
“Rabbi Lookstein, all the good work you’ve done in your life – everything you’ve done for your community, for the plight of Soviet Jews – will be flushed down the toilet for 10 minutes on stage in Cleveland,” the graduates wrote. “This is the single action history will remember you by, and history will not be kind.”
They also told their former principal that “Jews are never far behind” on Trump’s list of scapegoats and that supporting the candidate, whom they called a “dangerous man,” is equivalent to “embracing and politicizing hate.”
“Not in our name. Today we are ashamed to be Ramaz graduates,” 
He accepted their ‘rebuke’ and withdrew his name. How sad that a  good man was so severely rebuked by former students that confuse giving a convocation with endorsing a candidate. What they did was shameful.

They say they are ashamed to be Ramaz graduates. Well, I am ashamed to see Jews that identify as Orthodox shaming a man like Rabbi Lookstein. How do they know what he would have said? Isn’t it possible that he would have rebuked Donald Trump in a manner consistent with their own views?  

As Rabbi Lookstein himself indicated in accepting their rebuke and withdrawing for the sake of ‘bringing the community together’: 
“Unfortunately, when my name appeared on a list of speakers at the convention, without the context of the invocation I had been invited to present, the whole matter turned from rabbinic to political, something which was never intended.” 
I hope that makes them happy.

I wonder if these same people would have written a similar letter or rebuke if he had accepted an invitation to speak at the DNC whose candidate is almost as unfit for high office as the Republican candidate – albeit for different reasons. My guess is that they would not only have not rebuked him, they would have praised him.

What these 750 people have done sickens me. I have no respect for any of the signers of that petition. None whatsoever! It will be their legacy that will now be tainted (if they even have one to taint). Not Rabbi Lookstein’s. Shame on them!