Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Of the Progressive Left and Rabbinical Students

Dr. Irving Lebovics (JNS)
I was somewhat amused by Am Echad co-chairman, Dr. Irving Lebovics open letter to American rabbinical schools. I have no idea what his Hashkafos are. But from the looks of the photo, it would be difficult to characterize him as anything other than Charedi. (I know. Never judge a book by its cover. But still…)

What amused me is his demand that the over 100 rabbinical and cantorial students (who were signatories to a letter virtually condemning Israel’s response to rocket attacks from Gaza) be expelled. He correctly believes that people who basically repeat the mantra of Israel’s worst enemies had no right to act as leaders of American Jewry. They should be denied the imprimatur of an ordination by their schools.

Not that I disagree with Dr. Lebovics. I agree with him. Those students should not become leaders of any Jewish community. But with that letter, Dr. Lebovics has given tacit legitimacy to heterodox schools – even though I’m sure that wasn’t his intention. 

When I first read about what those students said, I shook my head but basically ignored it since it does not reflect the thinking of Orthodox Jewry. I am not in the habit of criticizing statements by non Orthodox Jews since they do not represent Orthodox thinking in any way. The only time I will comment on what they think, say, or do is when it presents an existential threat or when it affects Orthodoxy - either directly or indirectly. Neither of those conditions were met here. 

But now that it has been addressed publicly by someone that is clearly Orthodox it got me to thinking about it. How is it possible that these young Jewish students could be so anti Israel?  Of course they would deny that they are. Just like J-Street would. But in essence they are both birds of a feather and can be counted on to criticize Israel at every opportunity. Which the recent conflict between Hamas and Israel surely was. 

The truth is, it’s not their fault. They are victim to the liberal/left progressive groupthink that sees everything in an ahistorical context. They see the here and now and make judgments from that.  Palestinians are suffering in Gaza and it’s Israel’s fault. End of discussion. How they might ask, can anyone of conscience not condemn a country that oppresses its indigenous population? 

They are unfortunately not alone in that kind of thinking. Which is exactly what Palestinians leaders in both Gaza and the West Bank think. In their corner as well is another Jew, Senator Bernie Sanders. He too has condemned Israel and demanded that the US stop supplying Israel weaponry unless they pledge never again use it against Hamas in Gaza. Sanders is joined by a growing number of Democrats who are questioning their support for Israel based on that kind of thinking. Added to the mix are 2 Muslim House members, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib that are rabidly anti Israel. Both of whom  get a lot of sympathetic media coverage. Their impact on the party is far greater than their number. There is also this

Reps. Cori Bush of Missouri and Marie Newman of Illinois are both progressives who defeated incumbents more aligned with Israel. New York Rep. Eliot L. Engel, a staunch supporter of Israel as chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, lost a primary last year to Jamaal Bowman, who had the endorsement of Ocasio-Cortez and Justice Democrats. 

Liberal/left progressives are a lot less likely to look at the historical context and therefore far more likely to be sympathetic to the Palestinian narrative. 

The once solid support by the Democratic Party is on the wane. Although Democrats are still mostly pro Israel, the voices to their left are getting a lot more play in the media. And in the process becoming more influential. This has caused a lot of them to second guess their support. 

The sad reality is that if there is no traditional Jewish education… if the only thing you ever hear from – even idealistic parents and teachers - is about social justice as the ultimate Jewish value, then it should not be surprising to result in this kind of thinking. 

I don’t think these students are evil. They are just ignorant victims of  a progressive liberal/left indoctrination that lacks even basic traditional Jewish beliefs. Which is being fed by an increasing number of progressives. Especialy Jewish ones like Bernie Sanders and J-Street. 

I know I have said this before. But it is important so I will say it again. The increasing animus against Israel has nothing to do with who is its prime minister. It has to do  with the progressive liberal/left mindset that always sides with the underdog without the slightest bit of context entering their minds. This is the direction the Democratic party seems to be going. Even one of Israel’s strongest supporters in the senate, Joe Manchin, saw fit to criticize Israel for essentially defending itself. And don’t think the President is unaffected. 

I am not a Republican. I have probably voted for as many Democrats as Republicans in my lifetime. I look at policies, not people. But my sympathies have shifted in the Republican direction. Republicans today are where the Democrats were a few decades ago. Back then, Democrats championed Israel. They were the underdog that made the desert bloom while under constant threat of annihilation by their Arab neighbors! 

But then 1967 happened. That  changed everything. Israel ceased being an underdog and became a near superpower. There was a new underdog in town: Palestinians. By now seen as being denied their rights by an oppressive Apartheid nation - Israel - and prevented from having their own country. 

No one thought about this prior to 67. Even though the same people (or at least their parents) were living in the West Bank under the same conditions. 

The difference? They were not called Palestinians then. They were called Arab refugees. And they were under Jordanian rule - a nation dedicated to getting back all of Palestine some day. Which they tried to do in 67 but failed miserably. 

The progressive liberal/left turns a blind eye to that. They see the pain Palestinians suffer whenever the media focuses on the conflict  and react to that. Period. End of discussion. Those rabbinical students have fallen right into that same trap.