Monday, January 16, 2017

Looking at the Negatives and the Positives

It’s been quite a ride so far. The upcoming inauguration for President has fostered the most divisive partisan debate in my memory. Considering that my memory includes the Viet Nam War, that is saying lot.

This is not to say that I don’t have issues with the results of the election.  As I’ve made clear numerous times, I do. I was just as upset as more than half of America was when it became clear that Donald Trump was going to be our next President.

I’ve since calmed down and realized that what we saw is not necessarily what we are going to get. Most of his outrageous rhetoric about how he was going to make America great again will not happen. (Surely not to the extent of his ridiculous exaggerations.)

But my fears are not entirely allayed. I am actually quite nervous about January 20th and am still in shock at how it is possible for a man who lacks the dignity required by an office as high as this to be elected to it.

It’s not like he was keeping it secret. His lack of dignity was apparent during the entire campaign. And yet the same America that elected Barak Obama elected Donald Trump. The difference is of course in the swing votes and the lack of turnout for Clinton by constituencies that came out for Obama. And Trump’s appeal to the American worker that lost his job.

One cannot lose sight of the fact that nearly half of America voted for this erratic man instead of a seasoned politician far more prepared, knowledgeable, and respectful of the office than Trump. It is overly simplistic to say that nearly half of the voting public is ignorant and stupid. It is simply not true and insulting to the people of this great nation.

My feelings about Trump as an embarrassment to this nation have not changed. Every time he opens his mouth, I cringe. Simply put -  this is not the way a President should act. And I don’t think anything will change in a few days after  the word ‘elect’ is removed from his current title.

That he is incompetent to be President should not be such a surprise since he never served in any government office. His interests and expertise lay in business and making lots of money. That is no way to prepare for leading the most powerful nation on earth.

That said, I do not think his Presidency will be as bad as all of this might indicate. Certainly his policies with respect to Israel are far more supportive of that nation and its current leader than the last one. Or even the one before that. That is borne out by his choices for people that will be involved with Israel. In my view, that is a good thing despite a lot of angst about it from the left - both here and in Israel. How this will pan out in policy remains to be seen. But I doubt - for example - there will be another abstention by the US in the UN on mostly one sided resolutions that condemn Israel on Trump’s watch.

What about all of his other policies? If there was ever any question about what a President’s policies would actually be before he took office, this is it. Just today he surprised many people by saying that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) he so vehemently opposed – calling it disastrous - will be replaced with a new health care act that will provide health care coverage to every single American. This sounds almost Clintonesque (Hillary Clinton promised to do exactly the same thing as First Lady early in her husband’s term - and failed big time).

So why am I not so worried? I actually addressed this question early in the campaign when I speculated that he might actually win. Ironically it is his lack of knowledge and expertise that encourages me. I am pretty sure that Trump knows how unprepared and lacking he is.  Which means he is going to rely heavily on the people he has chosen to advise him. Most of whom do have some expertise in the areas they are being asked to serve. That he has chosen people with the same political perspective he has - should not surprise anyone.

A liberal President will choose liberal advisers. A conservative President will choose conservative ones. Trump has chosen people that more or less align with his views. It should not be a surprise therefore that he has chosen people favorable to business and deregulation as his economic advisers. Trump will listen to their advice and govern accordingly.

It also seems pretty clear that his attitudes on social issues are more or less mainstream conservative. But despite that his choice for Attorney General has said that he will follow all settled law on any given issue. Which means that the guaranteed pro choice right to abortions settled by the Supreme Court decision on Roe-V-Wade is safe.  Despite his own convictions against it. As he will in any other issue that comes before him that has been settled by the Supreme Court.

Which brings me to all of the public boycotting of his inauguration. It is as though his Presidency was still unsettled. It is more than obvious to me that this is being driven by the left. The left refuses to let go of their hatred of this man. It isn’t about all of those issues I mentioned. It about the fear that their leftist agenda will be changed into a right wing agenda. That fear may be justified. But it is based on the same fear they have when any conservative President takes office. 

The reaction to it is unprecedented. Civil Rights Icon, Congressmen John Lewis has said he will boycott the inauguration – calling Trump’s Presidency illegitimate. Hollywood (which is filled with leftists) has made sure that few if any entertainers will perform at the inaugural. Rabbis have been intimated about their participation in it. (Although I didn’t see anyone protesting Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York for participating in it.)

In my view. The left is just taking advantage of the public angst over Trump as an opportunity to vent their rage at his Conservative policies more stridently than ever.

For me the most outrageous protest of is the one being held on Shabbos by Jewish feminists. For a group identifying themselves as Jews to protest an incoming President on Shabbos when there is no imminent danger to uproot any of the government’s policies favorable to them shows how shallow their fealty to Judaism is.

Let them protest. Free country. But there is nothing Jewish about it. No lives are at stake here. This isn’t the like the Holocaust era when a group of 100 Orthodox rabbis felt the need to protest on Shabbos. These are just people who fear losing their grip on the social fabric of this country.

I support Roe-V-Wade. I am pro choice. But I cannot be happier that the pendulum is swinging back to the center now. For me that is the best possible outcome of this election. If there was ever a time when lemonade could be made out of a lemon, this might be it.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Concrete but Distant Hope

I have supported strong restrictions on allowing Syrian refugees into this country. As have many governors including my own, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner. Even though it is heart wrenching to watch what’s happening to innocent civilians in Syria, at the same time it is no secret that terrorist attacks have been perpetrated in some European countries by a terrorists disguised as a refugees entering those countries. Germany being the most recent example of that.

Those countries that have opened the flood gates to these refugees have paid a price. One that I don’t think America should pay. All it takes is one. I know there are a lot of well meaning people that will disagree with me and say that the fear of terrorism should not prevent us from our humanitarian mandate as a ‘Medinah Shel Chesed’ - the country of kindness. I understand that. But the first manifestation of Chesed belongs at home. This is reflected by the Talmudic dictum ‘Chayecha Kodmon’. Protecting America which is home to the largest population of Jews in the world (with the possible exception of Israel) comes first.

It is in this context that the Executive Editor of  the JUF news, Cindy Sher, reported about something quite remarkable in the latest issue of that magazine. 

Israel’s proximity to Syria has caused a dilemma for both Syrians and Israelis. Because Syrians, like most other Arabs in that region have been taught to see Israel as the devil. And yet they are in more need of Israel’s help than ever.

70% of the Syrian medical community has fled the country. Meanwhile the carnage continues and many Syrians have been left behind to suffer the consequences of war.  Which brings me to 6 year old Shaheed and 4 year old Inas, Syrian children that were severely injured when a tank destroyed their home. With no where to turn, their mother was urged by her neighbors to take her daughters 'West' - meaning across the border to Israel. She bit the bullet and did so. She took them to the devil. 

Once there she found a field hospital that took her daughters in and treated them. They were nursed back to health. Needless to say, her views about Israel being the devil have changed. Her daughters were given the same care any Israeli is  given. She now hopes for the day when she can return to her home in Syria and invite Israelis into her home in complete friendship.

This Syrian family is not the only one being medically treated by Israelis. They began treating Syrians back in 2013 when the first wave of 7 refugees arrived at the Israeli border – pleading for help! Israel had a choice to make. Should they close the borders to a country that has been an implacable enemy for decades? …whose citizens are taught to hate you?

No way. They were directed to the nearest facility in Tzfas -19 miles from the Syrian border and treated there.

The Jewish people are nothing if not known for their compassion to those suffering around the world. It is after all Israel that is the first among  nations to send medical help to countries that have suffered devastation at the hands of nature – no matter how far around the world they had to travel. This is rarely reported upon by the media. But it is a fact nonetheless. This compassion is no less true even to when it involves people that might ordinarily hate or fear you as did this Syrian mother.

To date, reports Ms. Sher, that hospital in Tzfas has treated 640 Syrian patient refugees including delivering 19 babies! This is now happening on a daily basis.

I only wish that this could be the beginning of a change in attitude by the Arab world toward the Jewish peope as represented by the State of Israel. While it is true that Israel’s stature has improved in they eyes of some Arab countries by dint of a common foe (Islamic terrorism) we have a long way to go to eliminate the kind of indoctrination that Syrian mother had. While stories like this are encouraging, they do not seem to be able to overcome the hatred against Israel that is so prevalent in the Arab world. Even the common foe of fundamentalism has not moved them to change their approach and forbid any further teaching of such hatred in their society.

I wish I could say I am hopeful that what happened on the border between Syria and Israel will change some hearts and minds. But alas, I just don’t see that happening. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Of Godwin, Goebbels, and Trump

Ex MI-6 spy, Christopher Steele - currently in hiding
Attorney Mike Godwin made an interesting observation a few years ago about conversations on the internet. He noted that if a conversation goes on long enough, eventually someone will at some point compare someone or something to Hitler. This has come to be known as Godwin’s Law.

Godwin correctly maintained that any comparison to Hitler made even as hyperbole is inappropriate and asked people to think about the Holocaust before using that word.

I mention this in light of the fact that many people on the left have used this kind of terminology when describing Donald Trump. No matter what anyone thinks of the man, that kind of terminology is inappropriate.

But the shoe has recently been placed on the other foot. President-elect Trump accused America’s intelligence agencies of Nazi-like tactics in leaking a damaging report that claimed Russia had compiled a dossier filled with embarrassing material that could be used to blackmail him during his Presidency. He was wrong in saying that. The CIA, FBI, NSA, and any other security agencies are never to be compared to Nazis. The people that work there are patriots that are only doing their jobs

So why the outrage by the President-elect? What brought him to make this comparison? In denying the events related in that dossier he compared it to what was done by  Nazi Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels to the Jewish people during the Holocaust. He created scandalous lies about us and used the media to spread them – famously saying that if you repeat a lie enough times, people will start believing it. He used Julius Streicher’s antisemtic propaganda rag, ‘Der Sturmer’ to further that end.

While Trump was out of line in making that comparison, likening it to the tactics of Goebbels should not be over-looked. Who was actually behind that leak is unclear. But it did happen and someone somewhere with access to it is responsible.

A 35 page dossier was published by a sensationalist ‘news’ outlet containing would be damaging information about Trump’s relationship with Russia – as a spy no less! …and stories salacious stories about sex parties there in which he allegedly participated. As well as other disgusting things that dossier contained.

This list was compiled by a former British MI-6 spy by the name of Christopher Steele. He was hired to get ‘dirt’ on Trump but an unidentified individual. He found a Russian ‘source’ that told him about all of these things. None of which was substantiated. 

So that all of this was based on the report of one individual who admitted that it could not be proven. And actually had the gall to say that all witnesses to these events had been paid off. So none of them would talk. Nonetheless, Steele put it all down on 25 sheets of paper which eventually made is way over to American intelligences agencies. They proceeded to reduce it to a 2 page classified summary given to the President and the President-elect.

To say that all of this sounds a bit suspicious is to put it mildly. Not an iota of proof. Not a single witness. And yet US intelligence agencies thought it worthwhile to attach it to a legitimate file containing information about Russian hacking of the DNC. And someone else thought it would be a good idea to make it all public.

This story has been repeated so many times in so much of the media that it has the makings of ‘the Big Lie’. Although most of the mainstream media was responsible and did not report on it for lack of verification, some, like Buzzfeed and CNN did.

So quickly did the news spread, that in just a few hours it was all over the internet, including some of the people that comment here. Even though the subject under discussion that day had nothing to do with the President-elect.

What is even more troubling is how many people believed it. Their bias actually led them to beleive that if the CIA  thought it worthy of a 2 page summary, there might be some truth to it. I’m not surprised by the reaction. The Trump haters hate him so much that they will grasp at straws to try and discredit him. They choose to believe a report made in such a mysterious if not nefarious way just because they are blinded by hate. No matter how that story came about or unsustainable the facts of the story are. Anything to destroy this man so that he will not be left to govern. 

As I keep saying. I did not support the man and voted for his opponent. I was just as shocked and dismayed that he won as anyone else. I still believe he is a embarrassment to this country. His rhetoric is unacceptable as are some of his policies. Even to someone that leans conservative like me. But this does not mean that the American voter should be denied the man they selected to be their leader for the next 4 years. Because that would change our form of government from democracy into a dictatorship. 

Just because one does not agree with him on some dearly held principles does not give anyone the right to force him out of office by ‘any means necessary’. Those ends do not justify those means. Half the country (that voted for Trump) might actually agree with Trump and not them. Those on the left claim their liberal views to be the more moral and ethical ones. But those on the right would say that the morals of the left are immoral.

Objective morality is in the hands of the beholder, I guess. Making morality very subjective. But I digress.

Back to the leaked dossier. Of course anything is possible. But I do not believe that story for a moment. And whoever leaked it deserves the strongest of rebukes. I can’t imagine how any human being would feel if a false story like that came out about them that was so damning! Multiply that tenfold to someone in the middle of putting together a team that will help him govern in just a few short days as the leader of the free world. It is a grossly unfair distraction based on what is almost certainly a lie. One that was no doubt orchestrated  by someone who wants to destroy his Presidency before it even begins.

So I can’t blame Trump for reacting the way he did. His comparison to Nazi propaganda is way out of line. It goes too far. But one can certainly understand why he made it

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A House Divided

Rabbi Riskin and one of his recently ordained female rabbis (YWN)
One of the most troubling developments in recent years is the creation of yet another movement in Judaism. I wish we could all just be Jews. Some more observant. Some Less. Some not at all. Our beliefs formed mostly by our Jewish educators who have traditionally relied on what was handed down to them from their teachers and parents - going all the way back to Sinai. When the Torah was given at Sinai, it was given to the entire nation. All of us. We were all one standing there K’Ish Echad B’Lev Echad - as one person with one heart listening to the word of God as transmitted through His greatest servant - the ultimate Eved HaShem, Moshe.

There were no denominations or even Hashkafos. No Reform. No Conservative, No Orthodox. There were no Chasidim. No Sefardim. No Ashekenazim, No Modern Orthodox. No left. No right. We were one people, united. In short there was Achdus. Something that is becoming increasingly out of reach.

The truth is that there have been movements in ancient Israel in the past. Going as far back as Temple era times and continuing to arise throughout Jewish history. But it is also true that only those movements that followed the Torah as interpreted by the sages and rabbinic leaders throughout the generations has survived, and even thrived despite adversity.

Recent history has also give us not only denominational differences but Hashkafic ones. But there is a qualitative difference between a denomination and a Hashkafa. A denomination is a break from one group whose differences are so fundamental that they can not be accepted as legitimate by the parent group.  There can be no reconciliation between the two because their fundamental principles contradict each other.

A Hashkafa is simply a way of looking at Rabbinic Judaism while not departing from it. It is a world view of the same fundamentals that other Hashkafos have. So a Yeshiva, a Chasidic, and a modern Orthodox mentality are all part of the same Orthodox Judaism. Derived of the same traditional beliefs as their forefathers transmitted to them via their parents and teachers. Differing Hashkafos only mean that we have differing world views. But we still have the same basic traditions and follow the same basic Halacha that is Rabbinic Judaism.

That should not create divisions. Unfortunately it does. There are far too many Orthodox Jews on the right that want to separate from Orthodox Jews to their left. And there are far too many Orthodox Jews on the left that have the same feelings about anyone to their right. Thankfully there are also many Jews in both camps that do embrace each other. Which gives me hope that some form of Achdus still exists within Orthodoxy.

Rav Hershel Shachter and former British Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks
To that end (in part) a new group has been created called TORA. It consists of a group of rabbis from both the right and the left (or more technically –the center) that have joined forces. It was formed to counter yet another new movements that call themselves Orthodox even though they have departed from the teachings of their forefathers by entering new territory against the rulings of today’s rabbinic leaders. They have been rejected on those grounds by rabbinic leaders across the spectrum of Orthodoxy. More about them later.

They might believe that their differences are only Hashkafic – since they do follow Halacha meticulously. But when they rebel without a single rabbinic leader supporting them, they have in essence created a new denomination. A group of lower tier rabbis cannot depart from the great traditions of the past without support of even their own rabbinic leaders.  No matter how learned they may be at their own level. And no matter how much sense those departures may make to them.

But this is what is increasingly happening – thus causing yet a further divisions in Klal Yisroel. They will of course argue that they still remain within the Orthodox fold because of their meticulous observance. But that isn’t enough if your all your mentors rejects them. You can’t define yourself belonging to a group it that group’s leadership  rejects you. 

One might ask, why get so exercised over this? Let them go. Who cares if there is yet another illegitimate movement in Israel? They will eventually go the way of all illegitimate movements. Besides they are minuscule in number. They are not big enough to impact Orthodoxy. Just ignore them!

I can’t. The people doing this are good people. I know and admire some of them. And I admire others among them I don’t know. Even though I might disagree with their Hashkafos - there is not a doubt in my mind that they have accomplished much for Judaism in the past. Even now they have the best of intentions. They are trying appeal to the broadest cross-section of Jewry they can. Something we should all be trying to do. By creating innovations to accommodate the spirit of the  times they are able to appeal to people that are strongly influenced by that.  

No one can argue with their motives. They are noble. But it is the steps they have taken to achieve it that is so problematic. One cannot rebel against all rabbinic opinion in order to reach a goal no matter how noble. Because that takes you out of the very goal of inclusion you are trying to accomplish.

Instead of making Judaism more inclusive, you have made it more divisive. It isn’t the rabbinic leadership  that is dividing Jewry in this instance. They are just ‘sticking to the rules’ as handed down by their own teachers. It is the innovators that are causing the divisions. Even though they have good intentions in doing so.

Which is why I agree with a recent statement that has come out by TORA. They have criticized the latest ordination of women by a man that I have truly admired in the past, (and still do in many ways) Rabbi Shlomo Riskin. This phenomenon is increasing and it seems that Orthodox Shuls are increasingly hiring them. As much as I understand Rabbi Riskin’s motives I cannot agree with that kind of rebellion. Rabbi Riskin is a highly educated rabbi. But he is not in a category of rabbinic leader.

This is not a Charedi versus Modern Orthodox battle. While it is true that most rabbinic leaders are Charedi, there are some, like Rabbi Hershel Shachter that are not. They too have rejected the ordination of women. Which is why the RCA, a body that has thousands of Modern Orthodox rabbis as members has rejected it. Nor to the best of my knowledge have any of the elder religious Zionist rabbinic leaders in Israel accepted it. This cannot be ignored!

There are many people on the left who feel that this phenomenon will grow. That it is organic.  That it serves the greater good of creating a much bigger Halachic tent within Orthodoxy. But that is a mistake. Because while they may believe they are still under that tent, they are not. Whether they realize it or not their actions have removed them from it. As long as there is universal rejection, there will never be reconciliation. And yet another division in Judaism has been created at the hands of good people with good intentions.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Threat to Modern Orthodoxy

Images like this feed the resistance to the Torah perspective on homosexuality
Rabbi Ari Segal is right. At least mostly. But so is Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein. The issue is how the subject of homosexuality is viewed by our youth today in the modern orthodox world. They have difficulty reconciling the Torah’s perspective with what many people feel is a sexual orientation that is in direct opposition to it. An orientation homosexuals have through no fault of their own.  

Rabbi Segal, who is Head of School at Shalhevet, a modern Orthodox high school in Los Angeles, has written a heartfelt essay on the subject that addresses this issue. A conflict he says causes many students to abandon the Torah’s perspective in favor of what they believe to be a more compassionate modern attitude. Rabbi Segal believes this is the greatest challenge of our day and has asked that today’s rabbinic leaders address it lest the floodgates open completley to the abandonment of the Torah.

I agree that this is a huge challenge. Rabbi Segal is sounding the alarm and although not sure what the ultimate solution is, he suggests a number of ways to better deal with it. And proposes several suggestions along those lines. Rabbi Adlerstein has a different approach. But in my view this too does not do enough to solve the problem.

First let me re-iterate my views on this subject. Which in perhaps overly simplistic terms boils down to ‘hate the sin, love the sinner.’ The devil is of course in the details. We must accept the Torah’s directives and at the same time we must accept the reality of homosexuality in the Orthodox world. How should we  treat people with this orientation? To what extent does that acceptance go? This is where it gets dicey.

Briefly my view is that we must accept homosexual people completely as human beings and treat them with the same dignity we treat anyone else… judging all human beings on the content of their character and not on their sexual orientation. It is not the orientation that is forbidden. It is acting upon it in ways the Torah forbids that is. This should be a given to an observant Jew.

But  there are additional questions. What is a homosexual individual supposed to do if he is attracted only to members of the same sex? Do we have a right to expect him to be celibate? Is there some way he can deal with his orientation that would satisfy his desires - which is permitted and has a basis in Halacha? I am not qualified to answer these questions.

What if a homosexual does violate the Torah’s prohibitive act - and chooses not hide it? Do we shun him? Do we embrace him? Somewhere in-between?

My view is that as long as he does not promote a lifestyle filled with sin, then we treat him like anyone else who sins… as we all do. We are not God’s accountants. It is for Him to be the ultimate judge. Not us.

This does not mean we abandon the Torah’s prohibitions. We must still speak out forcefully about the Torah’s requirements of us - and not shy away from them because they are no longer politically correct. That said, if a homosexual does not flaunt what he does in the privacy of his bedroom we should treat him the same way we treat any other human being that  does not flaunt what he does in the privacy of his bedroom.

Which leads me to one of Rabbi Segal’s suggestions which I see as problemtic. I do not believe we should tolerate any organization or group that identifies as a gay rights organization. Like LGBT. That’s because I believe they have an agenda that goes beyond human rights. I support human rights. But I do not support an agenda to normalize what the Torah forbids. Which I believe is part of the LGBT community’s goal.

Advocacy groups like LGBT see the Torah’s prohibitions as archaic, unenlightened, irrelevant to the modern mind, and even unethical.

For an Orthodox Jew societal attitudes – no matter how enlightened they appear to be to the modern mind - cannot and  do not trump the Torah. One cannot look at what general society accepts and call it ethical and just while looking at the Torah and say that by default it is neither.

Rabbi Adlerstein frames the issue the following way:
Essentially, we’re asking why Torah chinuch in some parts of the community – certainly no stranger to their own problems – nonetheless is more successful in this area. What does it take to produce loyal Jews rather than emunah-challenged socially orthodox ones?
Rabbi Adlerstein then posits his own theory of the problem. He says that what is missing in the modern Orthodox world is something that is ever present in the world of the right: Kabolas Ole (accepting the ‘yoke’ of Halacha) and Avodas HaShem (serving God as our primary purpose in life). These terms are not heard in the lexicon of modern Orthodoxy.

I can see his point. If those terms are never heard then they are never used in defining an important part of our mission here on earth. I agree that there ought to be a lot more emphasis on this if there is even any at all. But that is not enough.

The constant barrage of societal ethicists of ersatz quality on the subject - one hears and sees in virtually every corner of American culture is the reason that so many young people lean away from the Torah’s point of view and toward the cultural one. The entertainment and news media in all of its forms have promoted the idea that every possible type of sexual behavior is to be celebrated. Gay – straight  it doesn’t matter.  As long as there are consenting adults, anything goes. This is the constant message in our culture reinforced in a plethora of ways.

How can a young person whose developing mind is flooded with this type of thinking on a daily basis – not believe it? Especially when there are so many respected or popular news and entertainment figures saying it? All the time. 

It is not hard to see why so many young people question a Torah that the the rest of the world sees as an obsolete man made object that is not in touch with the times. Those that give any reverence to the biblical directives are often ridiculed.

Add to this that some rabbis on the extreme left of Orthodoxy have twisted Halacha to such an extent, that for all practical purposes, the Torah’s prohibition against Homosexuality no longer exists. They have applied Talmudic rationales like ‘Oness Rachmana Patri’ (The Torah absolves us of any guilt when sinful acts are forced upon us.) The claim being that homosexuals are forced by their nature to act sinfully. Thus scrubbing the sin away from the act.

I find this untenable. This is not to say that a person’s psychological makeup is not a factor in ameliorating sin. But clearly the Torah’s serious prohibition against homosexuality cannot be so easily wiped away.

Is isolation from the culture which is the right wing approach the solution? No. As an advocate of participating in the culture, I am loathe to advocate that approach. It is also my firm belief that this does not always work.  The culture we live in is pervasive. But even though I am an advocate of cultural participation we must at the same time be aware of its negative influences in many cases. And this is clearly one of them.

So instead of trying to isolate ourselves from something which is nearly impossible to do in our day, we need instead to face it head on. I agree with Rabbi Adlerstein that modern Orthodox schools could do a better job of teaching their young about Kabolas Ole and Ovodas HaShem. But that is not enough. It is important for educators, and perhaps more importantly parents to know the kind of influences their children are involved with. And to make sure that they teach their young to evaluate everything in the light of Torah.

Children must be taught that the Torah is the ultimate ethical and moral document – and not the prevailing cultural attitudes. They must be taught to respect their fellow man no matter what their sexual orientation. But to reject the sin no matter how society looks at it. It would be a far better world for all if we did that. Both in the eyes of man and in the eyes of God.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Pride and Prejudice

Rabbi David Twersky; President and Mrs. Clinton
Former President Bill Clinton once commented that someone who looks like Rabbi David Twersky, the controversial Skverer Rebbe, seemed to him to be the most authentic type of Jew. This is one reason why he met with him about commuting the prison sentence of a few of his Chasidim that were convicted of defrauding the government. Which he did.

It is because of this type of thinking that I am so hard in my criticism of right when someone from that community does wrong. Because Clinton is not the only one who thinks like that. People who look like the Skvever Rebbe are clearly seen as the most religious, Torah observant Jews among us. Which is why the Chillul HaShem is so magnified when a Jew like that is involved. I think it is a truism to say that the more observant one is - or looks like - the greater the Chilul HaShem.

But that is not the reason I bring this up now. There is a logic to Bill Clinton’s type of thinking. If you are going to represent the ‘People of the Book’ you should know what that book requires of you and act like it. As I have said many times. It is Halacha – which is derived of that Book that defines who we are.

This may not sit well with non observant Jews who will say they are just as Jewish as Orthodox Jews. This is true. They are. It is also true that many non observant Jews are among the finest among us - people that do a lot of good things. 

But they mostly don’t follow the rules set forth in the Torah as interpreted by the sages and rabbinic leaders throughout the generations. And thus cannot possibly represent themselves in the definitive way the People of the Book must. I say this not a pejorative. Just as a fact. Observant Jews believe in following all the Laws of the Torah. Even though we fall short in many cases (some more – some less) we try to keep them all acknowledging their mandatory nature.

Jared Kushner, his wife, Ivanka, and Donald Trump
I believe that Donald Trump may very well feel the same way about  Jews as Bill Clinton does. Three of his top advisers will be observant Jews. The latest of which will be his son in law, Jared Kushner. This is unprecedented in US history. While there have been observant Jews in previous administrations, none of them (and certainly not as many) have been placed so high on an administration totem pole.

That Trump is a Judeophile – especially as it pertains to observant Jews should be obvious by now. Not only has his daughter converted to Judaism with his full approval, she is still one of his closest advisers and will no doubt be the 4th observant Jew to be placed in a position of power next to the President. The President-elect has also donated sizable sums from his charitable foundation to Orthodox institutions. Like Chabad.

Which kind of makes all of the accusations that the President-elect will be influenced by others of his advisers accused of antisemitism - ridiculous. One of those mentioned in that context is Steve Bannon. He has been accused of antisemitism because as former head of Brietbart News he allowed it to be used as a platform for the Alt-right. They have been accused of antisemitism.

I have no real clue how true that is. But it doesn’t matter. I am absolutely convinced that Trump would never choose an adviser that was an antisemite even in the slightest. He must therefore know that Bannon is not an antisemite at all. Not to mention the fact that one of Bannon’s high ranking employees at Brightbart was Joel Pollak, an observant Jew.

Even though I am still shocked and dismayed that Trump was elected President… (He was probably just as shocked himself) - I can’t help having a sense of pride in the fact that observant Jews will be having a major impact on the future of this nation; the future of Israel and even the world! Can Moshiach be far behind?

Meryl Streep
Which brings me to one of the more troubling aspects of the current news cycle. Like many of those that are disappointed at Trump’s election, I can’t help thinking about how all this came about. I am not going to go into details. They have been discussed to death – and still are by an all too eager media. Although I can’t really blame them. Trump has diarrhea of the brain and cannot seem to help himself from making foolish comments on twitter. On an almost daily basis. Which happened again when renowned actress Meryl Streep who was honored by the Foreign Press Association at their annual Golden Globe Awards event. She spoke from her heart about what many people are essentially still thinking: How can anyone be elected that ridiculed a disabled reporter as part of his campaign strategy?

And yet, I believe she was just as wrong to make these comments now as Trump was to respond to them. Let me address that last point first. If I were to give any advice to Mr. Trump now, it would be the following: ‘Stop tweeting!’ ‘Ignore what celebrities are saying about you no matter how negative.’ ‘Your responses only make things worse.’ Let him be a little more presidential. Let him stop talking; wait till he’s in office; and then start doing! Let his actions speak louder than his very loud and juvenile words. You never know. He may actually make America great again.

Why was it wrong for Ms. Streep to criticize him now? Because the election is over and she said nothing that hasn’t already been said. She is only making it worse. Surely she knew that Trump would respond. How does that improve things? Her comments do not change anything. 

Ms. Streep is of course not alone. The news and entertainment media are relentless in going after him. In some cases the ridicule and vitriol goes way too far. Here is my message to the Steven Colberts of the world:  Give the President-elect a chance. Like it or not - he is going to be the President. Of us all! Duly elected in a democratic fashion. Nearly half the people that voted - voted for Trump. You cannot ridicule the President-elect without ridiculing half the country.

Rabbi Haskell Lookstein
And yet there are still a lot of people that just can’t let go - blinded by antipathy to Trump that is so strong - they can only see a dire result for the country and the world once he takes office. They are so disappointed that their candidate lost that they are trying to undermine him at every turn. (Instead of giving him the same chance that every newly elected official deserves.)

Thankfully the outgoing President feels otherwise. As does his opponent in the general election, Hillary Clinton. She will be at the inauguration and has advocated giving Trump the chance to fulfill his campaign promises.  Sure, it’s a free country.  But where is that quintessential American sense of respecting the will of the people?

And yet, there are some people so married to their political point of view that they cannot get themselves to do that. They therefore try and undermine the results of the election by literally boycotting him and asking others to join them.

Rabbi Marvin Hier
This was first done during the campaign. Foolishly in my view because there was no way of knowing for sure that Trump would lose. (Which of course he didn’t.) Rabbi Haskell Lookstein, Ivanka Trump’s Orthodox rabbi, had accepted an invitation to give an invocation and the Republican National Convention. But he later backed out at the insistence of some of his Shul’s membership  - and some of the graduates of  the day school he formerly headed before retiring. They said that speaking at the convention would be seen as endorsement of Trump’s ‘racist’  views.

And now, Rabbi Marvin Hier, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Museum of Tolerance, was invited to offer his blessings at the President’s inauguration. He too is being pressured to back out!

Thankfully, this pioneer of fighting antisemitism and all forms of prejudice has not succumbed to this pressure. He rightly accepted it as an honor. This Orthodox rabbi will be giving his blessing to the President for a successful Presidency that will benefit Americans, Israelis, and the entire world. I think we should all just shut-up and do the same.

Monday, January 09, 2017

A Religious Community in Crisis

Typical Shabbos scene in Ramapo (Lohud)
I agree with Monsey resident, Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer. The Lohud article on the problems of Ramapo is balanced and fair – just as he said it is.

Ramapo is a town in Rockland County, New York that includes the hamlet of Monsey. Based on this article, it is about the last place I would ever want to live.

I have been to Monsey a few times and was impressed at the ‘country life’ flavor of that village which gave religious Jews an opportunity for the suburban lifestyle combined with the Orthodox amenities that make it possible for a religious Jew to live there. Those primarily being Shuls within walking distance, religious schools, Kosher food stores, and Kosher restaurants.

It was interesting to me that the Chasidim that first came there and were used to (and I thought preferred) the city life of Brooklyn actually chose to abandon it for life in suburbia. Brooklyn concrete was traded in for tree lined streets; sprawling front lawns and backyards; and homes with attached garages.

One of my close friends from Chicago that moved to New York back in the 80s sought to live in a place that would not be the stereotypical concrete jungle for which Brooklyn is famous (infamous?) He found Monsey to be ideal. He bought a home located at the time in a growing Modern Orthodox Community near Rabbi Moshe Tendler’s Shul. That is no longer the case, he tells me. The Modern Orthodox are being squeezed out by the rapidly growing Chasidic community.  It is that rapid growth that is causing some major problems and conflicts.

This is not news. The conflict came to a head a few years ago when the religious Jews who had been elected to the East Ramapo Board of Education were accused of biasing their decisions to favor their religious schools – thus short-changing the public schools whose student base was diminishing. I am not here to discuss that sad event. Suffice it to say that each side has its own version of what caused their particular problem. I mention it only in the context of the strife that now seems to exist in this part of the world.

The exponential and relatively rapid population growth (both internal and external) of Ramapo is a problem with many facets.

Growth requires housing. In many cases housing that can accommodate large families. So there has been an explosion of housing developments toward that goal that have ignored the needed infrastructure to make living in those communities anywhere near as pleasant as it once was. Far from it.

I recall this exact complaint being made by a Charedi individual who lives in a community like that and who published his thoughts in the Charedi media. This is more than corroborated by the Lohud article. Multi unit buildings are going up where existing streets cannot possibly accommodate the additional traffic that the increased numbers of residents present.

And as if that weren’t enough, there have been more than a few building permit violations where limitations imposed by those permits are completely ignored by developers – without sanction.

There are the houses that are purchased and converted to Yeshivos which are unsafe and against zoning laws.

These issues are not only upsetting to the non Jews of Monsey. They are upsetting to some of the religious Jews living there too. In one case a Modern Orthodox Jew who is a long time resident of Monsey is suing a Shul that is responsible for one such conversion.  And he has the support of his Orthodox rabbi!

And then there is the uncontrolled sprawl of growing populations that need to go beyond the borders of the pre-existing neighborhoods. They seek new areas to eventually become the new ‘Frum’ area. 

That causes the existing non Jewish residents to react – fearing their hamlets being turned into the chaos that now exists in places like Monsey. But even without the chaos, they don’t want to see their neighborhood shops closing or being converted into shops that serve only the religious community. Even of those shops that they might frequent - they would be closed on Shabbos – a big shopping day for non Jews or non religious Jews. They don’t want to see all of their restaurants disappearing and replaced by Kosher ones. They don’t want to see less churches and more Shuls.

She wants to preserve the secular nature of her neighborhood
Most of these people are not antisemites. They have had no particular animus to religious Jews. They are people who fear major changes to the character of their secular neighborhoods. They see religious Jews coming in converting their town into a Chasidic enclave whose culture is radically different from that which they are used to. And they don’t want to move out of a home they have been living in for decades.  Can anyone blame them for being upset?

What about the right of people to live wherever they choose regardless of their religion?  Don’t they have the right  and to buy a home in any neighborhood they choose and to build institutions in those neighborhoods designed to accommodate their needs?

Of course they do. And with their exponential growth that right is accompanied by need. Does that give them the right to take over a town even by legal means? Perhaps. But doing that does not win any friends.

When combining all these factors, you get a breaking point. Which the Lohud article says Ramapo is in.

This is not to impugn everyone. But there are a few guilty parties here that deserve to be highlighted. Even though it isn’t entirely their fault, they have in my view contributed the most to the problem.

There are the unscrupulous developers that skirt the law by violating the terms of their building permits.

There are those that buy homes for purposes of creating a yeshiva or other religious institution and violate the zoning laws.

There are those who build without considering the infrastructure requirements – like wider roads and more parking availability.

There are those that build structures adding on to homes that block access to emergency vehicles.

I believe that these individuals deserve the lion’s share of the blame. But even good people that do not do anything wrong - looking only to accommodate their legitimate housing needs contribute to the problem. We are talking about rights versus rights.

That is exacerbated by a perceptions of bias (whether true or not) on the part of a school board dominated by religious Jews elected by a town full of people that do not use the public school system that board is primarily designed for.

The problem is that when 2 sides are competing for their rights in way that will drastically affect their lives a lot of acrimony is built up. What to do about it – I don’t know.

I wonder how many people that live there agree with Yehuda Weissmandl. The following excerpt that gives his take on the issue – I think - sums things up pretty well: 
“I’ve watched (the Hamlet of) Monsey evolve into a little city,” lifelong resident Yehuda Weissmandl said during a recent speech to the national convention of Agudath Israel of America, a leadership and policy organization of ultra-religious Jews. 
“Explosive growth of these proportions triggers explosive backlash,” said Weissmandl, a Hasidic Jew who is president of the East Ramapo Board of Education, a developer and a landlord.
The tension sometimes erupts into acts of hatred. News stories on Ramapo and Rockland frequently attract thinly veiled anti-Semitic comments. Critics of developments for Hasidic and other ultra-Orthodox Jews are compared to Nazis. Ugly rhetoric about Jews in Rockland is common on social media. In some instances, street graffiti declaring “No Jews” or similar words have defaced property for-sale signs. Powerful fireworks have been exploded outside the homes of rabbis in New City. 
“Is it only hate? Absolutely not,” Weissmandl said in his speech to Jewish leaders. He said those who have lived in the area their entire lives are afraid of change. “They used the schools, used the shopping, and (now) the stores are closing down, neighbors are changing," he said. "They’re petrified, and they’re reacting to it.”

Sunday, January 08, 2017

On Moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem

Keneset Building in Jerusalem - the seat of Israels government
On June 8th of 2015 the Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision denied petitioner Rabbi Ari Zivotovsky registering the birth of his son as having taken place in Israel. Even though he was born in Israel’s capital, Jerusalem. The basis for the claim is somewhat irrelevant to this post. Suffice it to say that it seems pretty ridiculous to say that a Jew born in Jerusalem cannot be registered as being born in Israel.

Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. I say this with pride as a Jew. That should be obvious to anyone with the slightest knowledge about the bible, Israel, Jewish history, and the current facts on the ground. Jerusalem has always been considered part of Israel by the 2 of the major faiths: Christianity and Judaism. Even without that, the seat of government in Israel is in Jerusalem. 

The American embassy should therefore be in Jerusalem. And an American citizen born in Jerusalem - was also born in Israel. But things are not always as simple as they might seem. There are a lot of forces out there working to deny recognition of that fact. 

That said, Jerusalem has been recognized as Israel’s capital by every candidate running for President... promising to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. And yet once in office they all refused to do so. Even though congress who funds the State Department has overwhelmingly passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995 requiring the State Department to move its embassy to Jerusalem.

How did these Presidents get around this act? There is a loophole that every President has used allowing them to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv - thereby not recognizing Jerusalem as even part of Israel - let alone its capital.

On the face of it this seems pretty outrageous - given all of the above - that the embassy is not located in Jerusalem and that someone born there cannot be considered born in Israel. And yet that is the way things stand now.

As most people know by now, candidate Trump had done what his predecessor candidates have done: Promise to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.  What’s different about Trump’s promise is that now as President-elect he says he intends to keep that promise – saying it is a high priority for him. His top advisers on Israel many of whom will be serving him in an official capacity (while others unofficially so) support him doing that. It therefore seems like a virtual certainty that the US embassy will be relocated Jerusalem where it belongs.

This has generated an unprecedented warning from outgoing Secretary of State, John Kerry: 
“You’d have an explosion, an absolute explosion in the region, not just in the West Bank, and perhaps even in Israel itself, but throughout the region,” Kerry said in an interview with CBS. 
Not to be outdone, in the ‘dire warning’ department, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the government of Jordan said the following: 
(Abbas) noted that moving the embassy would have “irreversible” consequences, and warned that if Trump did relocate it, the PA would “take steps” in response.
 A government spokesman in Amman warned that moving the embassy may have “catastrophic” repercussions. Such a move could affect relations between the US and regional allies, including Jordan, Information Minister Mohamed Momani told The Associated Press.
 
This brings me to this morning’s news out of Jerusalem: 
Four IDF soldiers were killed and 13 wounded after an industrial truck driven by a terrorist, rammed into a group of people adjacent to the Armon Hanatziv promenade in Jerusalem on Sunday afternoon. 
Among the fatalities were three female soldiers and one male in their 20s. The terrorist was shot dead by security personnel at the scene… 
The question is, ‘Is moving the embassy worth it?’ Is it the right thing to do?  What indeed will the actual repercussions be of such a move? Is moving the embassy to Jerusalem worth the ‘price’ of doing that?

I have mixed feelings about it. As I said, there is no question in my mind that the capital of Israel is Jerusalem. Even in the event that a 2 state solution is implemented - at least the western part of it of it where the Keneset is located will be a part of Israel. That was already conceded to Israel by Arafat at the Camp David peace conference under Clinton that almost produced a Palestinian State.

That there is so much opposition to it shows the irrationality that dominates the thinking on this issue. And yet I am not sure it is worth the terrible price we might have to pay if it happens. If this morning’s event is a precursor to the type of response from Palestinians we should expect, then it might just be a mistake. I’m not even sure what tangible benefit we would get out of it. How will it better anyone’s life if the US embassy is moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem? What is gained versus what is lost must be considered when making a decision that could explode in our faces where God forbid much blood may be spilled.

That a response like that from the Palestinians is irrational is besides the point. They don’t need much of an excuse to attack Jews in Israel. I doubt that the fellow that plowed his truck into a crowd of innocent Jews in Jerusalem this morning had the American embassy in mind.

On the other hand, why shouldn’t a country have the right to call the place of its choice – their capital? One that has been its capital since its founding? And why hasn’t the United States placed its embassy there from the start? Had this been the case, we wouldn’t be having this discussion now.

I guess it’s all up to the President-elect when he takes office. If he does move that embassy, I will take pride in that. I just hope it isn’t short-lived by the explosive reaction that so many are predicting.  My pride is not worth what may follow.

I hope President-elect Trump has a plan to follow it up that will assure that peace is maintained; that security measures are put in place both in Israel and the US to protect their citizens from any possible reprisal type violence that might accrue. And to have serious consequences to those that would perpetrate or condone violence in its wake. So that an American Jew born in Jerusalem can say with pride that he was born in Israel and have it recognized by his country.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Is a Public Service Murder Justified?

"We never abandon soldiers" say protesters of  the guilty verdict   (TOI)
First let me say that I could not be happier that Abdel Fattah al-Sharif is dead. He was a Palestinian terrorist that stabbed an Israeli soldier in an attempt to murder him.

Al-Sharif was shot, wounded and neutralized by Israeli soldiers. A few minutes later another Israeli soldier, 19 year old Sgt. Elor Azaria, approached the incapacitated al-Sharif as he lay wounded on the ground and shot him in the head. (see graphic video below) Al-Sharif died of his wounds. Azaria was arrested and ultimately charged with manslaughter. On January 4th 2017, Azaria was convicted of manslaughter by a military panel of three judges.

As much as I am glad that Israel has one less terrorist to worry about, I am also quite comfortable with the verdict. Shooting a subdued human being in the head who is not a danger to anyone is murder (in this case manslaughter). While I don’t know all the specifics of the case, I trust that the 3 military judges heard every word of testimony and came to a just conclusion.

There are 2 separate issues here. The death of a terrorist and the rule of law. I favor both. I respect any democracy that has set up a system of justice that attempts to be fair and equitable for all. Certainly Israel’s system of justice qualifies. So I am not going to second guess this judicial panel. Justice has been served.

Although I admit I don’t know all the facts, from what is known the basic facts seem rather clear. Which means that from an ethical perspective the decision was correct. Killing someone while he is subdued is murder according to Halacha. It doesn’t matter if the victim is Jewish or not. It’s still murder. Nor does it matter what the goals of that victim were. Even if it was to murder someone. As long as he is unable to carry that out by virtue of his incapacitation, no one has a right to kill him.

If on the other hand had al-Sharif  been a threat, then it would not only would it be permitted to kill him, it would be a Chiuv - a Mitzvah to do so. Even if the assailant had been a Jew. You cannot stand idly by while your brother’s blood is being spilled. Not doing so would be a serious violation of Halacha. But this was not case here.

There has been a public outcry about this verdict. One that encompasses the entire spectrum of politicians including Israel’s sitting Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu who at first condemned the killing. It seems the country is divided. Half of it asking that Sgt. Elor be pardoned by Israel’s sitting President, Ruvein Rivlin, in whose lap pardons lay. He has said that he will weigh that option should Sgt. Elor request it.

One may ask, what is the justification for pardoning Sgt. Elor? Why do so many people across the political spectrum in Israel support that? One answer I have heard mentioned is that the morale of the IDF is at stake. Soldiers do not want to be second guessed about their reactions to terror situations that suddenly arise. The fear might be that this will create hesitations about killing terrorists where seconds count and lives would be saved. I hear that. Another reason might be because of the feeling that killing a terrorist is just no matter what the circumstances are. I hear that too. There may be other reasons that there is such a public outcry. Like I said - I am not sorry that al-Sharif is dead.

But you cannot get away from the fundamental ethics of killing someone that is subdued and not a threat to anyone – no matter how clear the evil of his intent was. The point is he couldn’t carry out that intent in his condition. And that makes it murder. That is how the 3 judge military panel saw it. And since they know all the facts of the case, I trust them.

What about the pardon? Justice will not be served if this ‘public service murderer’ will be allowed to go free. That said I’m not sure I would sentence the man who killed a terrorist to the maximum sentence allowed by law either. I wasn’t there. I was not in his shoes – watching a companion being attacked by a knife wielding terrorist. Knowing that he will live to tell the tale and be released from prison one day even if convicted. He will then once again be free to try it again and maybe next time - succeed.  I cannot imagine what Sgt. Elor was feeling at that moment. Sgt. Elor may very well be an otherwise good person. But no one should ever get away with murder. Thankfully I am not the one that has to decide. I will leave it up to the judges to determine a just sentence.  


Thursday, January 05, 2017

Are Orthodox Jews Racist?

Mordechai Ben David (Forward)
I don’t know which is greater. My anger or my sadness. I feel both emotions competing with each other for dominance.

I have come to the conclusion that there are wide swaths of Orthodox Jews that are racist. That’s right. You read that correctly. Wide swaths! When a popular Jewish singer that is clearly religious can refer to a fellow human being with a racial epithet  - to a cheering crowd full of religious Jews - that tells me something. And it isn’t good. I don’t think the term Chilul HaShem would be misplaced as a description of that. Which is too bad because I have been a fan of this pioneer of Jewish music for decades.

The Forward reports that Mordechai Ben David used such a slur about our President during a recent concert in Jerusalem. There is no  doubt that he did. He can be heard saying it in the video below. He called him a ‘Kushi’ which is commonly used to slur black people among Hebrew speakers.  Kushi means black man. Much the same way the word ‘Shvartze’ does in Yiddish.

There is no explaining this away. You cannot say he was just matter of factly referring to him by his color in a non pejorative way. Jewish racists that use the word Shvartze try to explain it the same way. That will not work. He used that term deliberately as a pejorative to the cheer of his adoring fans. He may as well used the ‘N’ word. He would have gotten the same cheer. Just because you say it in Hebrew or Yiddish does not make it any better.

It also doesn’t matter that one doesn’t agree with the President’s policies… even with respect to Israel. Nor does it matter that he is now viewed by many Jews, including me, as stabbing Israel in the back by allowing the UN to pass a resolution condemning it. One can criticize his policies. I certainly have – especially on this issue. But there is never any excuse to call someone by a racial epithet.

Unfortunately I see this all the time. Even among some of my own friends. In an unguarded moment they will refer to the President as ‘that Shvartze in office’. I’ve heard that - or something akin to it - more than once. By more than one person. And from religious Jews of all Hashkafos. From Charedi to Religious Zionist. They may pay lip-service to not being racist. But they are. Or else they would never refer to the President in racist terms no matter how much they hate his polices.

I have also come to the conclusion of late that it is very likely true that the problems a lot of religious Jews have with the President are motivated by racism. At least subliminally. Obama never had a chance with them. They will vigorously deny that and and say that just because you disagree with the President doesn’t mean you are a racist. Fair enough. I disagree with him too. But that does not explain the venomous - almost irrational hatred I have seen expressed by people from the full spectrum of Orthodox Jewry. To these people even the things he’s said or done that they would normally support are spun into an irrational explanation – denying him any credit.  They accept nothing less than he’s an antisemite. No evidence to the contrary will convince them. Refusing to be rational about the man is the greatest proof of that racism.

In my humble opinion this all stems from a racism that is inherent in far too many of us. 

To the best of my knowledge no one has protested what Mordechai said. As if to say they agree with him. The only thing I agree with - is that the President is leaving office - soon to be replaced by someone far more sympathetic to Israel’s current democratically elected leadership than has been the case for the last 8 years. But with one word, he has negated any support I might have expressed.  It is racism pure and simple and it seems to be in the DNA of far too many religious Jews. That was made clear by the cheering crowd.

Why are there so many racist Orthodox Jews? Some of it seeps in from the general culture. There is still a lot of racism out there. Some of it is taken from bad experiences they or their parents and grandparents have had living in dangerous neighborhoods where black gangs thrive. Where muggings and the like have happened to them.

The truth is that there is a lot of black crime out there, too. But there is a lot more white crime. That there may be more black crime as a percentage of the whole has many explanations… none of which have to do with the color of their skin. It’s just too bad that so many people fear encountering a black man in a dark alley more than they do encountering a white man. That fear extends to black people. Ask Jesse Jackson. Why? Because statistics show that there is more black on black crime than there is white on black crime. But there is absolutely no genetic predisposition to evil or violence just because someone’s skin is black.

And yet that is exactly what Mordechai’s statement said by referring to the President as a Kushi. He is saying that the President is evil because of the color of his skin. He can deny it all he wants. But that is the only real explanation for what he said. The cheering crowd can deny it all they want too. Had he not used that word, the cheering may have been acceptable. I may have cheered right along with him by a statement of ‘good riddance’. But the use of that word should have gotten boos. Not cheers.

I am embarrassed, sad, and angry at this state of affairs – and have no clue what to do about it.