Friday, November 30, 2012

Which doesn't belong and why?


A Jewish hair-cutting ceremony held when a boy is three years old

A Hanukkah bush 

A bush or tree—real or simulated—that some North American Jewish families display in their homes for the duration of Hanukka (Wikipedia)

Fasting on Yom Kippur  

Sandy Kaufax fasted on Yom Kippur.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

They were cameramen

After David Carr accused Israel of targeting journalists, the hasbarahniks offered three general defenses:

(1) Never mind the substance of the article: Carr accused Israel of launching the war for the purpose of offing some media workers, that's inexcusable.
(2) The men discussed in Car's article weren't journalist or media workers. All of that was a cover. In reality, they were dangerous terrorists.
(3) They were journalists, but they were employed by a terror organization. So if Israel thinks killing them protects Israelis, then Israel can kill them.

Now, that the IDF has published it own version of the events, we can respond to those defenses

Your Vayishlach Parsha stumpers

Here are some stumpers you can share with friends, neighbors, and anyone else you wish to annoy.
  1. Why does Bethel have two naming stories? Twice we are told that Yaakov named the place "Bethel". Each time he erected a marker, and poured on it some oil, from the flask he conveniently had in his pocket. Why did it happen twice? (Of course, this smells like a doublet.)
  2. How can Rashi say Yaakov kept "taryag mitzvos?" Never mind the usual objections (he married sisters, he robbed from Esav, etc.) and instead recall that only a king- woman-kohen- farmer hybrid could actually fulfill all 613 commandments. If it means he kept the "spirit" of the 613 as one Rashi super-commentator says, well, what does that mean, and why would Yaakov need to keep the "spirit" of the a law like "slaughter all the Amalekites" when the Amalakites hadn't yet committed the crime that made the law necessary?
  3. Let's stipulate: All midrashim are true and from Sinai. So did Dina marry Shimon or did she marry Iyov? Both possibilities are represented in the midrashim, and both hang on scriptural pegs. But how can both be true? Obviously, one opinion is wrong. (and compounding the difficulty, if Dina did marry Job, it follows that nine different Tannaic guesses about the dates of Job's era are wrong. On BT: Bava Basra 15a, we find the following possibilities advanced. Job was from the time of (1) Moshe, (2) spies (3) Judges (4) Esther (5) David (6) Queen of Sheba (7) Chaldeans, (8) Return from Exiles and (9) Javob. One other opinion says (10) he never lived at all. Clearly, not all of these are correct, which seemingly imperils, or better yet, demolishes, the typical yeshiva guy's view of the Tannaim and their infallibility.
  4. Let's stipulate: All midrashim are true and from Sinai. On Gen 35:8 Rashi quotes an aggada based on a Greek pun. Are Greek and Hebrew co-Holy? This is not so crazy as it sounds. Go to BT Sanh 76b and you will find a Talmudic debate about the meaning of the following words: ואיש אשר יקח את אשה ואת אמה זמה הוא באש ישרפו אתו ואתהן Rabbi Yishmoel darshens the pasuk -- in fact he learns the Halacha -- based on what a Hebrew word means in Greek. In other words, Rabbi Yishmoel believed that God's law was hidden in a Greek/Hebrew homonymMore

Originally posted December 2, 2009

Search for more information about links you should click on like this one  

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Fox in action


As our friends at Slate said:
It's one thing to cut off a man-on-the-street type interview that goes off course. It's quite another to do it to someone who you've brought on specifically to speak in the role of expert, especially when said reporter is responding directly to the questions being asked of him.
This was the equivalent of shutting down a comment thread, or moderating remarks, something RW blogs and web sites do  far more frequently then their leftie counterparts. Just what is it about the RW DNA that leaves its carriers so hostile to criticism?
Search for more information about ### 

Frum Organizations Probably Should Not Be Cashing in on Small Business Saturday

A Guest Post by E. Fink

Cross-posted from my home blog:

On Saturday, American Express sponsored Small Business Saturday (SBS). To help promote small businesses (and their brand) AMEX offered a $25 credit to anyone who used a registered AMEX card at a participating small business.

Many schools and charity organizations urged their supporters to register and donate $25 using their AMEX. This would give the institution a $25 (minus fees) donation and the donor would recoup the $25 from AMEX. So in essence it was a free $25 for the institution. Sounds like a win / win.

On its face, the participation of charities and religious institutions seems like it could be an issue. The concept here is to promote small business with purchases. "Spending $25" at a shul or school simply for the sake of a donation is  not within the spirit of the promotion. But reasonable people could argue this point.

The problem is that SBS has rules.

Is there any chance Weberman is innocent?

Is it possible the girl is lying and that Weberman is a poster child for Agudas Israel's greatest fear, the fear that some vindictive child will take down one of their Bold Names with a false charge of molestation.?

I don't ask this based on any evidence. All I know is what the trial has already told us. And of course my sympathy is with the girl, if only because people I know have met her and are vouching for her. I want justice for her. Also, I don't find it hard to believe that a Hasid tasted a bit of power and prestige and then decided he was above the law.

But I'm a contrarian by nature. For a while, contraria contrariis curantur was even the blog's motto. If the wind is blowing one way I move in the opposite direction. Everyone is convinced Weberman is a skunk, and contrarian tendencies aside, I'm pre-disposed to agree.

But could we all be wrong? Any chance? Any chance at all?

Search for more information about ###  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Weberman on TV

Carr defends himself

Via Elder at Zyon* I see that David Carr, author of a New York Times article that (surprise(!)) hasbaraniks dislike, has taken the commendable and additional step of responding to critics.
"The three men who died in missile strikes in cars on Nov. 20 were identified by Reuters, AP, AFP, and Washington Post and many other news outlets as journalists," Carr told BuzzFeed in an email. "The Committee to Protect Journalists, which I treat as a reliable, primary source in these matters, identified them as journalists. (as did Reporters without Borders.)"

"I ran my column by reporters and editors at our shop familiar with current events in the region before I printed it," Carr said. "And I don't believe that an ID made by the IDF is dispostive or obviates what the others said. Doesn't mean that I could not have gotten it wrong, only that the evidence so far suggests that they were journalists, however partisan."
Is this sufficient? I think it is. Again, innocents may believe that newspapers are supposed to be infallible and objective, but innocents also believe in the tooth fairy. A real newspaper makes mistakes and almost always has a rooting interest. In his original article, Carr disclosed his own subjectivity, writing that the attack on people he honestly believes were journalists "hit close to our organization." Its also easy to understand why a reporter might not jump for joy after learning that other reporters were targeted by Israeli missiles***. With this response, Carr admits his own infallibility, making it clear that he he did his due diligence, viz checking the ID with other reporters, and independent agencies like CPJ and RWB. I also take it for granted that an independent fact checker went over the article and his notes before publication. This is responsible, professional behavior. And though its no guarantee that the outcome will be correct, it does inoculate the reporter and his publication from charges of bias or professional malpractice.

* Elder at Zyon intrigues me. Like a certain other blogger we know and love he's quick to use hyperbolic adjectives but unlike most of the RW bloggers we've met his arguments aren't mendacious and his reasoning isn't shoddy. He also has shown an abuility to understand the other side, without necessarily agreeing. Though I don't agree with his indictment of Carr, I rather like the way he presents it. Style points #ftw. By the way, I have read exactly two Elder at Zyon posts, so take this compliment with a grain of salt.**

** Is his blog's name an homage to Steven I Weiss's late, great megablog or did Protocols die so many eons ago that Elder simply isn't aware it ever existed?

*** Let's not forget two salient points: (1) Carr sincerely and with good reason believes the men were reporters. Though some have raised doubts about the identification, I don't find those objections entirely convincing. (2) Carr learned that the men (and again, these were men he sincerely and with good reason believed were reporters) had been targeted by the IDF from the IDF itself!! He didn't pull that fact out of thin air. He didn't fabricate anything. The IDF fully acknowledges that the men were targeted.  And they don't deny that they were journalists!

Here's USA Today characterizing the press's exchange with the IDF spokesman:
Asked whether Israel had widened its range of targets to include journalists working for media run by Hamas or other militant groups, Leibovich said: "The targets are people who have relevance to terror activity."
As you can see the IDF made no denial when asked if they were targeting journalists, and, pointedly, they also refused to  claim that the men were terrorists! Instead the IDF asserted a right to target anyone with "relevance to terror activity." 

That's way too broad and far too open-ended. It should make any freedom-loving person shudder. But to the point, Carr did his job. He performed sufficient research, and he printed the IDF's side of the story. The problem is the IDF's side of the story -- we target anyone with "relevance to terror activity" -- is too loosey-goosey and does absolutely nothing to foreclose or defeat Carr's claim, Taking the IDF at its word it remains possible that, in this case, they did target the media. 

Search for more information about ###  

Monday, November 26, 2012

Did the Times target Israel by writing about how Israel targets journalists?

Via @noahroth I've learned that people are upset about the following cut-line published on the website of the New York Times

Now, unlike many innocents I don't expect newspapers to be unbiased. Newspapers are a human creation, after all, and anything created by human beings is going to slant one way or another. So I don't mind a bit if a newspaper has a rooting interest. In fact, I expect it. What I can't accept is when a paper or station displays mendacity of the sort frequently found at FOX News or when a journalist has a clear bias but insists he doesn't. (Fair and balanced, my tuches) .

The complaint is that the Times uses the cut line above to suggest that Israel is targeting reporters. And though I agree that this is exactly what the cut line does, I'm not sure why anyone has grounds to object. As the accompanying article asserts and substantiates, Israel has actually done this!
... three employees of news organizations were killed in Gaza by Israeli missiles. Rather than suggesting it was a mistake, or denying responsibility, an Israeli Defense Forces spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, told The Associated Press, “The targets are people who have relevance to terror activity.”

So it has come to this: killing members of the news media can be justified by a phrase as amorphous as “relevance to terror activity.”
Be honest: how would you expect an organization the consists almost entirely of reporters to react to such a statement from the IDF? Are newsmen supposed to applaud after having been told that reporters are fair game so long as some official claim, however tenuous, might be constructed to suggest that they are "relevant to terror activity?"

So yes, I agree that the Times is displaying bias here, but its a reasonable and expected bias. The Times is not rooting against Israel, with this article, and they haven't displayed any dishonesty. They are simply trying to protect themselves and their own co-workers. And as the article continues, we see that employees of the New York Times have genuine reason to be concerned:
Mahmoud al-Kumi and Hussam Salama worked as cameramen for Al-Aqsa TV, which is run by Hamas and whose reporting frequently reflects that affiliation. They were covering events in central Gaza when a missile struck their car, which, according to Al-Aqsa, was clearly marked with the letters “TV.” (The car just in front of them was carrying a translator and driver for The New York Times, so the execution hit close to our organization.)
With that parenthetical aside, the Times both confesses and explains their bias. In my opinion having done so, this piece fully meets the disclosure requirements of modern journalism.

Photo Credit: The image posted above was taken from My post is not intended to specifically address or rebut any claims or arguments made there.

Search for more information about media crticism  

Pinchas Winston Worries About Gay Marriage

My objection to Pinchas Winston's election edition of his weekly "Connecting the Dots" column is not that it contains paragraphs and paragraphs of discredited lies about Barak Obama, but because of the silly things it says about gay marriage. For instance:
As a Torah Jew, how does one live in a place that legally sanctions a Torah abomination? How do you even vote for leaders who support such sanctions?
The Torah uses the word to'evah or sheketz* (words that are often, but not necessarily correctly, translated as abomination) to describe at least eight different things:
  1. Eating any water-dwelling animal that does not have fins and scales (Leviticus 11:12)
  2. Eating any four-footed flying thing (Lev. 11:20-3) The reference is to insects, in particular locusts which use their front four feet for horizontal propulsion, and their hind legs for jumping.
  3. Idols. (Deuteronomy 7:25-26) From the context it seems the idols themselves are the abomination, and we are enjoined not to own them or to covet the gold and silver that is on them.
  4. Any act of clairvoyance, such as speaking with the dead, or with spirits, or a display of magical powers (a chover chaver) (Deuteronomy 18:11-13)
  5. A women who wears men's clothing. (Deuteronomy 22:5) Though this has been expanded to include pants, the narrowest interpretation is that this refers to weapons.
  6. A man who takes back a woman he has divorced, after she marries (and is divorced by) someone else (Deuteronomy 24:4) 
  7. Any act of commercial dishonesty, in particular keeping dishonest weights and measurements. (Deuteronomy 25:15-17
  8. And of course, sodomy is called abominable as well (Leviticus 20:13)
Rabbi Winston lives in Israel, which makes us wonder if he's asked himself his own question.

  1. Israel does not ban the sale or consumption of shellfish.
  2. Israel does not ban the sale or consumption of insects.
  3. There is no law in Israel against owning idols; in fact many are on display in Israeli museums.

Idol of a Bronze Bull (Israel Museum)

Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Ifergan, the X-Ray Rabbi

5. Israeli women are permitted to wear pants and carry guns:

By wearing pants and holding a gun, this woman is
committing the moral equivalence of sodomy
6. There is no ban on men remarrying their ex wives under any circumstances.

7. Commercial fraud is illegal in Israel, as it is in most place. (though the sad truth is that Rabbi Winston's community like my own, turns a blind and forgiving eye towards various acts of business dishonesty)

8. Though same-sex marriage is banned in Israel, the country recognizes homosexual civil unions. Same sex partners have several rights, including pension rights, and guardianship rights, that are not yet recognized in several American states.

So Rabbi Winston, please tell us: As a Torah Jew, how do you permit yourself to live in a place that legally sanctions so many different Torah abominations?

More to the point, as an Israeli how can you criticize America for becoming more liberal when, on the question of your pet-peeve, gay marriage, America, on the whole, is currently LESS liberal than Israel?

** Due to an editing error, the post originally spoke about to'evah, only rather then sheketz and to'evah. The Torah uses both words to describe things that are detestable or abominable which is the word Winston uses in his rant.

Search for more information about Rabbis who display no critical thinking skills  

Friday, November 23, 2012

A friday sermon

Shul rabbis ramble on about how we daven, how we learn, and how our wives dress. They even suggest that silly things -reading the prayers with insufficient ardency or being unwilling to add a few inches to your hemline - can physically endanger Israel. (No, they are not above using the war to further their religious agendas). But never a word from them is heard regarding people who mistreat each other.

If you were God, would you be more likely to punish Israel because some woman showed too much knee or because some fat businessman or irresponsible school principle is late paying his employees?

If you were God, would you be more likely to punish Israel because someone prayed with too little fervency or because he gets his daily bread by committing welfare fraud.

If you were God, would you be more likely to punish Israel because of the people who read 10 rather than 20 lines of Talmud every day or because of the people who cheat on their wives?

If you were God, would you be able to stand our Lilliputian Rabbis? How does the creator of heaven and earth continue to tolerate clergy who think and preach that long skirts and other picayune and superficial observances are what sustain the world?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Why do the Arabs fight?

Rueven Rand is the gift that keeps on giving. Here he is again on Facebook taking apart Eliyahu Fink's now-famous anatgonist:

...but [Dr. Rabbi Woolf] made a pretty categorical statement in [his] response to Rabbi Fink, which I'll quote:

"Few if any western countries think of going to war except for reasons of national or personal interest. Such conflicts can be negotiated. Muslims, such as the Hamas and their supporters (who put them in power democratically), do not fight for ‘interests.’ They fight, they struggle (‘jihad’) because they believe that it is the will of God."

You tried to claim that they are motivated purely by religious factors. But when Nasser went to war with Israel it wasn't because of deeply held religious beliefs: It was because of a bitter conflict between geopolitical rivals who had attacked Israel in 1948, who had been attacked by Israel in 1956. When Hussein launched missiles at Tel Aviv in 1991, it wasn't because of Islam, it was because of his political calculus. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia, one of the most religious and powerful countries in the region has yet to fight a war with Israel. And that's because Muslim states look after their personal interests.

Once you brought Fatah into this, it became really difficult to take what you were saying seriously. Fatah "strategy" over the last few years seems to have amounted to "lay down and die". Abbas and Fayyad have put their energy towards ensuring peace with Israel while watching Israel build even more settlements, decreasing any hope of a final settlement. Their response: "We're going to appeal for partial recognition by UNESCO!" That's Abbas' Jihad for you. Maybe one day he'll get a guy on the board of the IMF.

Search for more information about new holes for people who need them 

Is the Will of God Negotioable?

A not-to-be-missed comment by Rand:

"I do not have to tell you that The Will of God is Not Negotiable."*

*The line is from Jeffery Woolf's beat down on Eliyahu Fink, found here

Sorry for being patronizing, but that is adorable.

It also reminds me of something I once read:

"A Sanhedrin that executes once in seven years, is called murderous. Rabbi Eliezer b. Azariah says once in seventy years. Rabbi Tarfon and Rabbi Akiva say: Had we been members of a Sanhedrin, no person would ever be put to death. Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel remarked: They would also multiply murderers in Israel."

Rabbis Eliezer, Tarfon, Akiva and Shimon were promptly excommunicated, and their names forgotten. The will of God is not negotiable. (I found this fragment in the Cairo Geniza, after it was lost for centuries.) It further took decades on research on my part to uncover names like Maimonides, Mendelssohn, Elijah of Vilna, Israel ben Eliezer, Frankel, Hirsch, Schechter, Berkovitz, and Soloveitchik. Because we all know the will of God exactly and it is not negotiable.

This reminds me of a fascinating (unintentional) back-and-forth between Rabbi Shai Held ( ) and Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf (

Held declares "the real division [between religious groups] is between those who acknowledge that they read selectively, and those who do not - or who, given their assumptions, simply cannot." Rauf responds that "Islam at its essence is as peaceful as true adherence to Christianity. The Holy Quran says that whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind. True adherence to Islam would end terrorist attacks." Now, I do not believe that "Islam at its essence" exists, there are a thousand varieties of Islam, and Mohammed didn't live in the 21st century to create a canonical 21st century Islam. And the exact same goes for Judaism and Christianity, which is why I could have put any Rabbi on the list above and Soloveitchik and Frankel could refer to any Soloveitchik or Frankel, because each innovated, otherwise they wouldn't be influential. The point is that even for Rauf, who firmly argues that Islam is not negotiable, Islam *is* negotiable, you're just doing it unconsciously.

I'll conclude with a question, and I'd like to hear Rabbi Woolf try to answer it honestly:

There are over 1.5 billion Muslims on this planet. Currently some portion of the under 2 million Muslims living in Gaza are fighting with Israel. Hamas is not a Salafist group, by most accounts they preach a fairly mainstream form of Islam. Woolf's thesis seems to be that Hamas religious beliefs force it to fight Israel. So where are their 1.5 billion correligionists, a fair percentage of whom who ought to bound by the same requirements as Hamas? (And please don't say their tacitly supporting them and that's equivalent - we both know it isn't. If they believed in an absolute chiyyuv to kill Jews they'd be in Gaza with rockets and AK47s.) And assuming that Hamas really has unique religious beliefs that force it to kill Jews, what are the odds that all the adherents of this heretofore unidentified sect of Islam would happen to live among the under 0.2% of Muslims who live in the Gaza Strip?

Think about it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Competing Theories of Hebrew

One of my guilty pleasures is discovering teachings which contradict the version of events we were given in grade school. It happens in every subject -- history, science and especially parshanut.

A good example of the latter can be found in Vayigash.

Like every good yeshiva boy, I was taught that Shem, son of Noah, makes a second appearence in the Bible under an alias: Melchizedek. (Why did Shem need to change his name? Rashi doesn't say, but he does note that this was before TAP scandals)

Acording to Rashi, Shem/Melchizedek settled in Salem/Jerusalem, opened a school with his grandson Eber, and established himself as the local high priest. Hebrew, Rashi believes, was the language of Shem's family, and the family flourished until the local people/Caananites grew impatient with their strange ways and drove them off. (The same pattern, TAP scandals included, is being repeated in modern day Orange County, NY.)

Sometime before Shem left, he met Abraham and taught him Hebrew, which became the private language of Abraham's family. Having a prive language came in handy, later, when Joseph needed to prove to his brothers that he was actually Joseph. According to Rashi, he did it by speaking Hebrew.

The Ramban, however, disgarees with virtually every point of this familiar narrative. He says that Shem never settled in Salem/Jerusalem, and that Abraham's Hebrew was aquired via contact with the native Caannite tribes. As he puts it,
"In my opinion, Hebrew was a Canaanite language. For Abraham did not bring it from Ur of the Chaldees [in Mesopotamia] and from Haran, for there they spoke Aramaic, as the incident of the pile of stones erected by Laban and Jacob proves [see Gen. 31:47]. And it was not a private language spoken by a single person but a language of Canaan, and many people in Egypt knew it for the countries were close together--particularly the ruler, for it is customary for kings and rulers to know several languages. "

Common decency

If you mistreat people for decades don't be surprised if they start to hate you. The Jews of Europe didn't mistreat anyone. All they wanted was to be left alone and not to believe in Jesus. For the Catholics, this was too much to ask and much misery followed.

Its different in Israel. More complicated. In Israel the Jews have treated the Palestinians badly. This is unarguably true. So don't act shocked when the chickens come home to roost.

Now the preceding sentences aren't meant to excuse violence and murder. I don't excuse violence and murder. I roundly oppose violence and murder. I fully support all legitimate efforts to stop violence and murder, including the current offensive against Gaza.

But, I have a big brain and its able to contain lots of ideas simultaneously. For instance, I'm able to remain fully cognizant of the crimes Palestinians have committed and continue to commit while, simultaneously, speaking about what Israelis have done wrong. I'm also able to fully and completely support Israel's efforts to defend itself while, simultaneously, refusing to absolve Israel for the things it has done wrong, often in my name.

I don't mean to patronize those of you who are unable to work your brains this way. Maybe its like tongue rolling, something I find easy that most others just can't seem to manage.

Though I roundly condemn Palestinian acts of violence and murder I won't let them absolve Israel for treating Palestinians badly. Nor will I use the acts of violence and murder committed by some as an excuse to de-legitimize the complaints of others who have not committed acts of murder and violence. See, you don't get to bulldoze the rose garden and put your boots on the dining-room table and then act surprised when the home owner is upset. If he responds by attempting to murder your whole family that's inexcusably wrong, of course, but not every Arab has resorted to violence. Its not weakness, or self-hatred to grant those Arabs their pain. Let them mourn for what they lost. Don't faint with surprise at the news that they're upset. Don't de-legitimize their grievances by saying only a Jew hater would be mad at what Israel has done.

Am I creating a moral equivalence? Be careful. By accusing me of "moral equivalence" you are saying that I believe that what the Arabs do (violence murder etc) and what the Israelis do (land grabs, de facto discrimination, two sets of laws, check points, administrative detention, etc.) are equally reprehensible.

But pay attention: I do not say this. I reject this. They are not equally reprehensible. I have have endeavored to make it clear that I do not believe this. I only ask that you recognize and not dispute the Arab's sorrow at the historical injustice he has suffered.

Note: The phrase "bulldoze the rose garden and put your boots on the dining-room table" has been lodged in my head since 2001. It comes from something the Russian writer Israel Shamir published about the legitimacy of Arab nostalgia.

Search for more information about common decency

I Didn’t Come Back to Jerusalem To Be in a War

I Didn’t Come Back to Jerusalem To Be in a War
What it’s like to be in Israel as the conflict escalates.
By Dahlia Lithwick|Posted Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, at 10:48 PM ET

The Author
I’m in Jerusalem on book leave and everyone keeps asking me to write about all this mess. I keep saying that I don’t ever write about things I can’t fully understand. It’s why I like the law—it’s tidy. I don’t have much to say about what is happening all around me here in Israel. But maybe I can share a memory.

Thirty-five years ago, I spent a year with my family in Jerusalem. I was 10, and my dad was on an academic sabbatical at Hebrew University. My best friend and I danced to Europop in the living room every afternoon. It was the best year of my life.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Israelis helping the Sandy-afflicted

A guest post by Tikun Olam

Not too long ago DovBear asked where Israel was in the United States' time of need. I am proud to say that his post sparked a communication between myself and Israeli commenter "PeninaG." Penina put a tremendous amount of time and energy running with an idea that I mentioned off the cuff. She helped arrange for a sizable number of school children to write letters to Jewish school children in the areas badly hit by Sandy. It was a wonderful way to teach both Israeli and American Jewish children that even though we live far away from one another, we care about each other and are still one people. Thank you Penina. There is no doubt in my mind that the letters sent by the Israeli children will bring smiles to the faces of many here in the U.S., many of whom are still unable to return to their homes.

Of course right in the midst of the very beginnings of the cleanup here from Sandy, and boy to we have a long road ahead of us, our attention is turned to Israel, the hundreds of rockets coming from Gaza (and some from Syria) and the strong response of the Israeli Government and army.

I can't speak for all American Jewry, I can only speak for myself and my immediate family though from my Facebook feed, it seems, I can pretty much speak for almost every Jew in my life. We (meaning American Jewry who seems to be overwhelming in agreement with me) are in full support of Israel and many of our hearts are currently in the East. I myself have a large part of my family in Israel. Some in the South have already moved in with my brother-in-law in RBS. Another has been called up from the reserves. My husband and I are glued to the news and so are most of the people in our lives. My emails with my Israeli family go back and forth all day long to get updates big and small.

For what its worth, my FB feed is 80% status updates (the other 20% are not Jewish and don't follow the Middle East news much) related to Israel and all in its defense. My son's Conservative Jewish day school already sent a video to be viewed by their sister Israeli school on youtube to show their students unequivocal support from their peers. Millions of dollars have already been committed to Israel by Jewish civilians to help in any way we civilians can. We are petitioning media for fair coverage and our politicians for their support.

We are all watching our President. Many of us, even Obama supporters, feel that he took some missteps at the beginning of his first term with regards to Israel but we are proud and confident that he is supporting Israel today. Many of us are holding our breath hoping it continues. We are thrilled that the US/Israel collaboration for the Iron Dome has succeeded in intercepting many of the missiles and we are proud that the US was a part of that and a part of preventing further loss of life and property damage.

I know what it's like to have my heart in the East just as many Jews abroad are feeling today. While I feel like a Jew like me does not have a place in Israeli society anymore, I love my family, my people and believe strongly in the absolute need for the State of Israel to remain a safe haven for Jews for all time.

Israel is not alone. American Jewry is thinking of all of you, the religious are certainly praying for you and American Jewry will continue to be here when it is time to rebuild and move forward.

Wishing all our Israeli brethren a peaceful Shabbat* and the IDF a swift and successful end to this mission resulting in secured borders and limited casualties.

*This was submitted on Friday
Search for more information about ###  

Defending Eliyahu Fink

Jeffery Woolf of Harvard and Bar Ilan has accused our friend Eliyahu Fink of taking a naif-like view of the ongoing war between Gaza and Israel. Rather than call for total destruction and the razing and salting of Arab villages, Rabbi Fink counseled reconciliation and suggested there might be found some Arabs who are willing to negotiate.

To the He Man Israeli Warrior, arm chair division, such a position is sacrilege. For being a hippie, Rabbi Fink was punished with an awful, public scolding, in which Jeffery Woolf rambled on like this:
There is a serious flaw in your argument, however. It lies in assuming that ultimately ‘people have the capacity to love and care for anyone.’ I assume what you mean is that if we all sat down to speak as equals and friends, that differences of opinion would be resolved and war avoided. Your sentiments are certainly representative of the way most people in the West think today. However, your sentiment (and theirs) is seriously flawed. You (and they) have fallen into the logical fallacy that my friend and colleague, Professor Richard Landes, calls ‘cognitive egocentrism.’ In other words, you project your own mentality, values and “way of seeing the world” onto others. The result is an attitude that is, albeit innocently, disrespectful and paternalist..... Muslims, such as the Hamas and their supporters (who put them in power democratically), do not fight for ‘interests.’ They fight, they struggle (‘jihad’) because they believe that it is the will of God. 
I do not have to tell you that The Will of God is Not Negotiable. 
This position is maintained both by Hamas and Fatah (a word which refers to a stage of jihad). This is the will of God. It is a principled, on its own terms fully logical and understandable, religious position. It is a position that is understandably shared by Muslims the world over who dream of the establishment of the Kingdom of God on Earth, as God Almighty willed it (whether they intend to work to actualize it, or not). Anyone who falls in the struggle is rewarded by God. It is a sublime vision that is absolutely non-negotiable.
My uncharacteristically sober reply after the jump.

To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war

or What's (really) Happening in Israel


Israel, as a Jewish state, is in grave danger. The portents are unmistakable. The Arabs have a much higher birth rate. Aliya is down. Yerida is up. Popular opinion around the word has been slowly turning against Israel, and in the democracies, at least, this means government policy will soon follow. Hezbollah recently fought Israel to a draw, and has already rearmed. Iran has nukes in development, and a lunatic at the helm of state. Israel's Arab citizens often openly support Israel's enemies, and by 2040 they'll be the majority. The future is bleak. As Benny Morris put it recently in an Op-Ed printed by the New York Times: Many Israelis feel that the walls — and history — are closing in on their 60-year-old state.

The war on Hamas is a short term solution that seems able to accomplish only three things (1) Prop up the Labor government in advance of the upcoming elections (2) Instill some pride and perhaps a sense of patriotism in the hearts and minds of Jewish Israelis (3) Destroy Hamas's capacity to launch rockets into Israeli population centers. Only the third is a legitimate war goal, and it's an objective I support, but not wholeheartedly.

Here's why: As Morris says in the article cited above, Israel can't invade Gaza, or topple Hamas unless it has some sort of magic plan for dealing with 1.5 million angry, desperate Arabs, and unless Hamas is replaced, its only a matter of time before the rockets return, launched, most likely, by the furious orphans of this week's war.

On one of my threads, a prescient comment summed it up this way: How many new terrorists did Israel create this week? To that, I'll add some additional questions: How much more radicalized are the Israeli Arabs this week? How much international support and good will has Israel squandered this week? How much closer to the edge was the already insane Aslamajedad pushed this week? How many more reasons was Hezbollah given to align itself with Hamas this week? Yes, the rockets have been destroyed, and are for now out of commission, with many hundred Hamas fighters killed - two war aims I support - but at what cost? What sort of more serious trouble has Israel created for itself tomorrow?

The real dangers Jewish Israel faces are the loss of international support, the Aliya and Yerida trends, the Arab birth rate and the ascendancy of Iran. The war on Hamas did nothing to address any of these troubles, and in some cases may have made things worse. I wish I knew what Israel could do instead - I wish I saw solutions instead of problems - and I wish I had more to offer than pessimism and a 50 year old Churchill quote, but there it is.

Originally written by me in 2008

Search for more information about ###  

Why is Evil Barry Being So Nice to Israel?

So, no surprises here but Evil Barry, the illegitimate Muslim president of the United States, is overwhelmingly supporting one side, and one side only, in the latest Israel/Gaza dust up.  Only wait: This is a surprise! He's supporting Israel. (not the surprise) And even GOP Jews have noticed it! (that's the surprise.)

Here's a message I received from one user of Facebook this weekend:
Hi DB,OK you can gloat – but don’t overdue it, gloating is bad for your spiritual health :-) 
Posted on my FB wall:
To all my pro-Obama friends (and u know who u are): Kudos to the President for standing behind Israel during these first 4 days of Operation "Amud Anan". He is coming through big time, saying the right things and not pressuring Israel to stop. Final judgement reserved till end of the operation, but so far .... props to Obama !
Gloating? Mwah? There's nothing to gloat about, aside from the fact that (a) I was totally and completely right all along, and (b) all of those pessimistic predictions about how evil second-term Barry was going to be have been shown to be completely unfounded!

I compliment and congratulate those GOP Jews who are honest enough to admit this. Welcome to the light.

Now, please see if you can do something about the bleary-eyed Fox-watching morons who are still  convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that the support and friendship Obama continues to show Israel is ALL PART OF HIS EVIL PLAN TO EVENTUALLY ONE DAY DESTROY THE WORLD AND/OR MAKE US ALL COMMUNISTS.

Search for more information about GOP Superstitions  

Peek a Jew at the Brooklyn Nets

One of our crack Brooklyn correspondents (Ksil!) wanted to be sure you saw this. Its a shot of two of our coreligionists cavorting in the manner of Jack Nicholson at a Lakers game. They're court side at a Brooklyn Nets game cheppering with Doc Rivers, coach of the Boston Celtics. Pretty cool.

Search for more information about Jewish basketball aficionados 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Why Jews Vote for Democrats: Part 7

Yesterday, American's Worst Rabbi today gave seven reasons why Jews vote for Democrat, each of which I will address in turn.. In this installment, we'll deal with the claim that Jews vote for Democrats because they fail to see the appeal of Christian tradition. [Other installments can be found here.]

We join Pruzansky already in progress...

Finally, and sad to say, most Jews today are committed secularists who are uncomfortable with any expression of faith in the public domain. 

Sad to say? 99.99 percent of the public faith-expressing is done by Christians. It makes you SAD that Jews don't want to hear about Jesus? It makes you SAD that Jews are uncomfortable about having the gospel shoved down their throats? It makes you SAD that Jew prefer not look at a cross and be reminded of the centuries of persecutions that were committed under that symbol?  How remarkable. For most of our history Jews have attempted to resist public faith messages. They did this because they wished to remain Jewish. Now - 180 degree turn - this foolish Rabbi thinks its unfortunate that Jews wish to continue shutting their ears to foreign faiths.

The Democratic Party is therefore their natural home, even if American history and politics have been informed by faith from the very founding of the country. The Democrats have moved on from that premise, and in their desire to transform the United States, have disconnected it from those roots.

The founders were awful Christians who would feel deeply out of place in any 21st century church. But even if we embrace the FOX sponsored lie and pretend that the founders were pious believers, and strict Christians, why should it make a Jew unhappy to see that style of faith left behind? A Jew should rejoice to see Christianity weakened. Like the return to Zion, it is something for which we have prayed for centuries! And, more to the point, why does this Rabbi think that Judaism is harmed when Christianity is harmed? Is he not able to distinguish one from the other?

But those roots should be attracting Jews, if they truly understood their faith. 

Christian roots should be attracting Jews? Has the Rabbi gone mad?

The growing trend of Jews moving to conservative ideas is reflective both of the attractions of tradition and the ongoing disappearance of the secular Jew. 

I hate how Pruzansky strips the word "tradition" all meaning and presents it as some sort of one size fits all religious sweater. Not all traditions are created equal. Jewish and Christian tradition are not the same. I am emphatically not interested in anything Christian tradition has to say and I support anything that damages and undermines Christian faith. Any Jew with an ounce of Jewish pride and a modicum of knowledge about Jewish history would feel the same. 

Pruzansky has already told us that Jews are supposed to know right from wrong and truth from error. So why does he go all wishy-washy when it comes to condemning beliefs systems, like Christianity, that are wrong? Why does he instead bemoan the fact that Jews are less interested in it than ever?

Why Jews Vote for Democrats: Part 6

Yesterday, American's Worst Rabbi today gave seven reasons why Jews vote for Democrat, each of which I will address in turn.. In this installment, we'll deal with the claim that Jews who vote for Democrats aren't really Jews. [Other installments can be found here.]

We join Pruzansky already in progress...

A sixth reason bores into the credibility of the statistics, and raises the great enigma of Jewish life today: how many Jews actually live in the United States? The survey questions are asked with trepidation, because a large percentage of American “Jews” are not Jews according to Jewish law. As we know, a Jew is defined according to tradition as a person born of a Jewish mother or converted according to halacha, Jewish law. (The definition remains the definition despite its unpopularity, indeed, its rejection, in the non-Orthodox world. It goes without saying – but I must – that “non-Orthodox Jews” who satisfy the two criteria are as Jewish as is any Jew.)
With intermarriage in the non-Orthodox world hovering around 70%, how many of the “Jews” counted in these surveys are in fact Jews? For example, the children of non-Jewish mothers are not Jews according to Jewish law, even if they feel Jewish and were bar-mitzvahed. Likewise, the children of Jewish mothers who intermarry are Jews – but are they really representative of Jews in terms of ascertaining a “Jewish” vote – especially since most intermarried children by far are not raised as Jews, or educated as Jews? It might very well be that if we exclude hundreds of thousands of halachic non-Jews from our count as Jews, then the differences in voting patterns between Jews and other mainstream groups as revealed by the polls might not be as dramatic. Since it is difficult to count Jews in America – many pollsters rely on a self-definition which could as ethnic as it is religious – the surveys themselves are suspect. It would explain, though, why support for Israel has dwindled as a major issue for Jewish Democrats.

Or, in other words, all those "Jews" who are voting for Democrats, probably aren't Jews in the first place!! Ha Ha! How convenient. 

However, the point of the piece, let's remember, is to tell us "Why Jews Vote For Democrats." Insisting that those Jews aren't really Jews doesn't really fit the bill.

Search for more information about ### 

Why Jews vote for Democrats: Part 5

Yesterday, American's Worst Rabbi today gave seven reasons why Jews vote for Democrat, each of which I will address in turn.. In this installment, we'll deal with the claim that Jews vote Democrat because we don't know anything about Torah, and hate tradition. [Other installments can be found here.]

We join Pruzansky already in progress...

But most Jews are widely estranged from their faith – fifth reason – and do not perceive their Judaism as shaping or influencing their world view, except insofar as they distort the Torah’s values and ideas and assume they correspond to the NY Times editorial page. 

You're contradicting yourself, Rabbi. In Part 1 you told us Jews vote for the Democrats because, thanks to their tradition, they care about the fate of the most vulnerable, and  (correct or not) they perceive the Democratic party as being more concerned about that segment of society. Now you're claiming Jews who vote for Democrats don't know the first thing about their tradition and they vote for Democrats because they are wrong about what the tradition says. Well, which is it? 

Most can speak of Jewish values only in the most amorphous terms – and perceive as uniquely Jewish the platitudes (“be a good person!”) that are common to every religion. Most have limited exposure to Torah. That is why the Orthodox voting patterns are almost the complete opposite of the non-Orthodox.

No, that's not why. The reason for the difference in voting pattern is this: Orthodox Jews care about looking frum. That's why they pick up new chumrahs at the drop of the hat, indeed that's why they wear hats: So everyone will know just how frum they are. And thanks to the religious right, you can't look frum without being a hardliner on abortion, homosexuality and the rest. In short Orthodox Jews vote for Republicans because they have been ingrained to believe that there is something frum about it.

Another explanation:  Demographically, Orthodox Jews are a better fit with a party that panders to white, wealthy people.  Also (elephant in the room) Orthodox Jews tend to be more racist than society as a whole. They tend to dislike black people, Hispanics and Arabs more than the average American. This also tracks well with the lilly-white Republican party

 The closer one is to tradition, the more one will gravitate to conservative ideals. 

This is so stupid it drools. In a very famous series of posts, I attempted to determine which party would be more likely to introduce and support  a particular commandment as a matter of policy. (I'm rather certain Pruzansky has never seriously considered such an exercise, which alone disqualifies him from making political claims on behalf of the tradition.)  

Though you should read the introductory post about the fallacies inherent in the exercise, I found that more of the commandments are likely to be supported by Democrats. 

But this is the point that really matters: Most of the commandments have nothing to do with the daily life of the typical voter (You'd be surprised how many of the 613 relate to agriculture or temple services.) In fact, only about 90 of the 613 commandments are relevant to the positions of either party, leading me to conclude that the idea that any one part is more bible-based than the other is absurd

But does any of this stop Pruz from making sweeping claims on behalf of the tradition, claims he makes no effort to investigate or substantiate. Of course not. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Why Jews vote for Democrats: Part 4

American's Worst Rabbi today attempts to explain why Jews vote for Democrat. He gives seven reasons, each of which I will address in turn. In this installment, we'll deal with the claim that Jews vote Democrats because our hatred of gays is insufficient. [Other installments can be found here.]

We join Pruzansky already in progress...

Thus, the fourth reason why most Jews are Democrats – since Israel’s fate is of tangential interest to many –

Israel's fate is also of tangential interest to most Republicans! No one, outside of Jews and evangelicals, really pays any attention to Israel or the Middle East. So if most people who vote Democrat don't give two hoots about Israel, the same can be said of most who vote Republican. They also don't give two hoots about Israel! And again, Pruz needs to go back to logic school. You can't argue that Jews vote for Democrats "because they don't care about Israel" when they could very easily vote for Republicans -- also without caring about Israel!

 is that they 

Like the Biblical prophets....

are more aroused by the social agenda than by any other concern, including Israel. Many Jews are obsessed with abortion rights, and see it as a sacrament. They are fanatics about individual rights and freedoms, and loathe any constraints on personal behavior (even the Torah’s!) 

I feel very safe declaring that 99.99 percent of the people who vote Republican also would loath the Torah's constraints on personal behavior. 

And, by the way, don't Republicans loath gun laws, and helmet laws, and environmental laws, and laws that govern workplaces, including laws that tell you who to hire, how to insure them, and how to protect them from injury?  Why yes, of course they do! So, what in God's name is Pruzansky thinking when he suggests Republicans are cool with constraints on their personal behavior? Republicans HATE being told what to do. Did Pruz miss that whole Tea Party thing?

Jews, in fact, seem uniquely inimidated [SIC] by the contrived threats to these newfound freedoms. And they are in the forefront of transforming traditional society – supporting same-sex marriage, alternative lifestyles, and the abolition of any notion of objective morality. 

Yes. And can you work out the reason why? Its because we know that Jews are safest when the government understands that it has no business poking its nose into our private lives. If we permit the government to start dictating morality, what guarantee do we have that the government will always dictate our morality? Better that the government should stay out of the morality business all together. (Other then when there is a clear victim)

Strange, one might think, because Jews introduced to the world the concept of objective moral norms transmitted to us by the Creator of the universe.

No. not strange at all. I don't surrender my norms when I insist that enforcing those norms is not the government's proper role. I don't ask the government to enforce Shabbos,  do I? Yet I'm still able to observe Shabbos. So why do I need the government's help enforcing the Torah's position on homosexuality? What good has ever come -- in the whole history of the human race - from mixing church and state? 

Search for more information about ###  

Why do Jews vote Democrat: Part 3

American's Worst Rabbi today attempts to explain why Jews vote for Democrat. He gives seven reasons, each of which I will address in turn. In this installment, we'll deal with the claim that Jews vote Democrats because ... hmmm.. as you'll there is actually no argument given here . [Other installments can be found here.]

We join Pruzansky already in progress...

That engenders the third reason why Jews remain tenacious Democratic voters. 

He consistently uses the word "engenders" in the sense of "brings us to" which is not a sense of the word recognized by the dictionary.

The dark secret is that few Jewish Democrats vote with Israel as their main concern, or even as a major interest. 

How does Pruz know this? And is he making the very common mistake of conflating support for Likud with support for Israel? I can oppose settlements and still support Israel can't I? (This is a bad example as plenty of Republican presidents, including Saints Reagan and Bush, also opposed settlements, but you get my point.) 

As long as the rhetoric is innocuous enough, the real policies do not matter. There is also a segment of the Jewish community that, by reasonable standards, can be construed as anti-Israel.

Right. We call them "Satmar Chasidim" 

They make common cause with Israel’s enemies, support boycott of and divestment from Israel, oppose Jewish settlement in the heartland of Israel and favor the establishment of another Palestinian state, and/or are openly hostile to Israel exercising its right of self-defense – ever, under any circumstances. 

There are lots of things on this list, many of which do not belong together. Opposing settlements is categorically different from supporting divestment. And, let's point this out again: Two of the items on this list -- opposing settlements and supporting the establishment of a Palestinian state - were the official positions of the last Republican president, while the incumbent and previous Democratic president emphatically supported Israel's right to self-defense! So why -- other than rank dishonesty -- is Pruz pinning this laundry list on the Democrats?

Some Jews even oppose the Jewish national idea, and think Israel itself is illegitimate.

We still talking about Satmar?

 The one common denominator is that all those Jews vote for the Democratic Party. They are not the only Jews who vote for the Democrat, but all those Jews do vote for the Democrat.

Pruz has fallen off a cliff. He's supposedly written this long-winded turd burger to explain to us why Jews vote Democrats. However, merely pointing out that people who support A- Z vote for Democrats does not achieve this. It doesn't tell us WHY they vote Democrat which, allegedly, is the point of the exercise. 

Why do Jews Vote for Democrats: Part 2

American's Worst Rabbi today attempts to explain why Jews vote for Democrat. He gives seven reasons, each of which I will address in turn. In this installment, we'll deal with the claim that Jews vote Democrats because they were brainwashed by FDR. [Other installments can be found here.]

We join Pruzansky already in progress...

Secondly, Jews have been enamored with the Democratic Party since the days of FDR, who nurtured the identity politics that Barack Obama has perfected – appealing to a variety of different groups rather than to Americans as a whole.

Romney tried the same trick. (He went after rich white people, and disregarded everyone else.) So has just about every other candidate who has ever run for president. There's nothing improper about targeting your appeals.

FDR won a landslide second-term victory in 1936 even though the economy worsened on his watch (higher unemployment, steep drop in earnings)

Just where does Pruzansky get his facts?!?!?  Unemployment fell dramatically during FDR's first term! When he took office unemployment was at almost 25 percent. By the end of 1936 unemployment had fallen to 16.9 percent!! Is Pruzansky now in the business of merely making stuff up??

because he blamed Herbert Hoover for everything (familiar ring, that)

FDR's 1932 campaign was certainly an all out attack on Hoover's failed, depression-causing policies. But is that how FDR ran in 1936? I did not know that, and nothing I can find on Google confirms it. Given how Pruzansky lies about the unemployment numbers, my hunch is he lied about this as well.

and patched together a coalition of interest groups – farmers, labor unions, Jews and women – that would be sufficient for victory.

Which is what every president tries to do. They supported FDR because they liked his policies, however, which is perfectly appropriate. 

But it is not just that FDR created the modern welfare state but that he also cultivated Jewish support. For the first time in US history, an American president surrounded himself with Jews – Frankfurter, Rosenman, Baruch, et al. An unprecedented 15% of Roosevelt’s executive appointments were Jews. 


That shattered the brick wall that the WASP establishment had erected around the levers of power, and forever endeared him to Jews. 

A good thing, right?

Of course, none of that symbolism

Sorry, symbolism? Exactly what is "symbolic" about giving qualified people high-ranking jobs without taking their ethnicity into account? Or is the rabbi suggesting the Jews FDR appointed were not qualified for the jobs they were given? (Symbolism, by the way, is wearing a flag pin, or keeping an Israeli flag in your office, without ever meeting with an Israeli organization. This is typical GOP behavior. When has Pruzansky ever denounced this?)

mattered when the Holocaust came, and FDR did little to help the Jews of Europe and much to thwart immigration, rescue and relief efforts. 

This is the standard stuff, all of it debunked by recent scholarship. I'll leave it you, dear readers, to decide if Pruzansky neglects to cite these findings out of ignorance or because he approves of any slander that encourages people to vote Republican.

Indeed, FDR remained a hero to most Jews notwithstanding his pathetic record on Jewish issues – even famously refusing to meet a delegation of Rabbis who came to plead for assistance to the beleaguered European Jews being systematically exterminated by the Nazis.

This is revisionist history, that omits salient facts.  It isn't hard to find all sorts of examples of the president meeting with Rabbis and other Jewish leaders. This, for example, took me about five seconds to locate, and there is much more of the same. And even if you can find what to criticize, well... as a friend put it: The whole building was burning, and he was working assiduously to extinguish the flames. If he succeeds the whole building is saved. Is it really fair to fault him for neglecting to focus special attention on one small room?"

That disconnect – between rhetoric and reality – has persisted until today. Truman was rightly lauded for recognizing the nascent State of Israel in 1948 – after much hesitation – but Thomas E. Dewey was on record even before as supportive of Jewish national rights. JFK openly threatened Israel over its Dimona reactor, LBJ pressured Israel not to open fire in 1967 despite the Arab provocations that led to the Six-Day War, and it is now crystal clear how Jimmy Carter felt about the Jews and about Israel. 

HAHAHA Do you see what he's doing here -- and where he's failing? Though Pruz is trying desperately to paint the Democratic presidents as horrible on Israel -- especially when compared to the Republicans (more on that below) he can't seem to find anything bad to say about Carter's presidency. Sure, there's plenty to say about Jimmy Carter and Israel after his presidency ended, but what did Carter do to Israel when he was president? Pruzansky won't - and, tellingly, can't - say

(Others too. Former Israeli diplomat Naphtali Lavie wrote in his memoirs of the stridency and harshness with which then-VP Walter Mondale – so-called “friend of Israel” – dealt with Israel before and during the Camp David summit, leading Israel’s FM Moshe Dayan to comment: “Isn’t he supposed to be a friend of Israel? With friends like him, who needs enemies.” Similar backstage accounts elsewhere expose the current VP Joe Biden as antagonistic to Israel during negotiations as well while he was a Senator.)

Conversely, presidents as diverse as Nixon, Reagan and Bush II were immensely supportive of Israel, and at critical times.

Reagan sold AWACS to the Saudis and called in reporters to listen to him berate Begin after the attack on the Iraqi reactor.  Its been said by people smarter than I that today's Congress would impeach Reagen for how he treated Israel. Reagen also visited Nazi war criminology graves at Bitberg. Bush II was the first president to speak publicly of a two state solution, and sent Condie Rice to demand a building freeze in Jerusalem. And Nixon -Nixon! - was caught on tape spouting anti-Semitic remarks  My point here is not to play Pruzansky's game in attempting to determine which party loves Israel more, but to point out how deceptive and dishonest his omissions are.

That their records were not “perfect” – whose is, and how would we even define perfect? – and that we can quibble about a policy decision here and there is a cogent reminder to the American-Jewish community that these men were, after all, presidents of the United States, not prime ministers of Israel. At times, the interests of America and Israel will diverge; that is natural and understandable, and America will also produce presidents like Eisenhower or Bush I, or Obama, for that matter, who were less sympathetic to Israel, and a Clinton who tended to be more sympathetic despite some ugly moments. But Nixon made historically important decisions (e.g., the re-supply of Israel’s armaments during the worst period of the Yom Kippur War, and over Kissinger’s strong objections) and Reagan and Bush II were preternaturally well-disposed to Jews and Israel.

Reports of Obama's dislike for Israel are grossly exaggerated  and, as argued laboriously on this blog, based on not much more than FOX lies. I agree Bush II seemed to like Jews (for all the wrong reasons) but supporting Likud policies, is not quite the same as supporting Israel.

Nevertheless, the curious love affair between Jews and Democrats that began with FDR has not ended. Today, it is trapped in a time warp. Jews contort themselves like pretzels to try to pretend that today’s Democrat party is the same as the party of yesteryear. But today’s Democrats head governments in which funds are handed down not to assist people short-term but to sew up their votes long-term, in which the inclusion in the party platform of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and G-d Himself was roundly booed,

And yet, both were ultimately included in the platform. Remember?

 and about which polls widely show that support for Israel among Democrats is well below 50% and among Republicans well over 70%. Facts are stubborn things.

I'm not aware of any such poll. Are you? Pruzansky might have linked his post to it, but he didn't  What does that tell you?  I'll leave you with this. If Democrat voters hate Israel so much, just why do Democratic politicians show Israel so much support? The whole thesis of this piece is that Democrats suck because the pander. Ok, so why don't they pander to all those Democrats who allegedly told the mystery poll that they hate Israel?  

Search for more information about  

Why do Jews Vote for Democrats: Part 1

American's Worst Rabbi today attempts to explain why Jews vote for Democrat. He gives seven reasons, each of which I will address in turn. In this installment, we'll deal with the claim that Jews vote Democrats because they care too much about poor people.

We join Pruzansky already in progress...

Firstly, Democrats are widely perceived as the party of the poor, the downtrodden and the societal outcast, and Jews – persecuted for most of our existence – have a natural sympathy for the underdog. 

He's off to a good start. I agree that Jews like Democrats because our tradition has taught us to care about the most vulnerable segments of society, and on balance the Democrats do a better job of protecting those groups. 

As charity is a great virtue (and a fundamental commandment) in Jewish life, Jews especially are drawn to a system that appears charitable on the surface – the redistribution of income from the wealthy to the poor – and government is seen as the vehicle of that charitable distribution.

He neglects to mention that the Republicans are also in favor of income redistribution, only they'd rather see the money go from the middle class to the wealthy. Corporate welfare yes! Regular welfare? Not so much. 

Also, he neglects the very pragmatic benefits of helping the less fortunate. If the poor weren't provided with health care all of us would suffer from epidemics, and from business slow downs during sick seasons. If the poor weren't provided with elementary educations, who would be sufficiently skilled to take the low-end jobs the capitalists depend upon?  And so on and so forth. In short, we don't support social spending merely out of a charitable impulse, but because we understand that every one is better off when the floor is raised. 

The weakness in that argument, of course, is that Jews believe in charity, but primarily as a private endeavor.

Completely wrong.

The tithing obligation, or the dispensing of gifts to the poor in Biblical times (maasrot, leket, shikcha, pe’ah – known collectively as matnot aniyim, gifts to the poor), are all private ventures, and are not publicly coerced. 

They are all publicly coerced. If you fail to provide these "gifts" the local court can punish you with a flogging, and if they can find a way construe your crime as an act of "rebelliousness against the king" they can execute you, too. That's the Torah way. And the fact that court has the power to enforce this law means the venture is not a private one.

Notwithstanding that at different times in history the Jewish community itself intervened and assessed wealthy members a sum of money to care for society’s poor, that was always considered a last resort and not particularly efficient. 

Exactly who considered it inefficient, or a  last resort? Pruzansky doesn't say. The fact is that it was neither inefficient, nor a last resort which is why it kept happening.

The king never levied taxes to care for the poor, 

The kings screwed up in any number of ways. Why are we attempting to learn a moral lesson from a line of people who were routinely skewered and denounced by the prophets for their ethical failings?

although the religious establishment might. 


Charity as a private act lends moral perfection to the donor;

Charity as a public act lends moral perfection to the tax payer. See how easy it is to make groundless assertions?

the same cannot be said for a coercive taxation system that distributes only a small sum of the monies collected to the poor.

Pruzansky is talking from both sides of his mouth. He concedes that Jewish communities, in every generation, coerced wealthy people to support the local poor. He concedes the religious establishment has this power. Then, with a wave of his magic wand, he attempts to denounce it all as immoral. 

Of course, it would unacceptable in a Jewish context to have a permanent impoverished class – multi-generational families of welfare recipients – as it should be in an American context. 

So where is Pruzansky's sweeping denouncement of the kolel system, or of the Hasidic way of life, as practiced in enclaves like Kiryas Joel, the most welfare dependent census track in New York state?  Multi-generational families of welfare recipients, anyone?

The trillions of dollars spent since the Great Society initiated the War on Poverty has in fact exacerbated poverty, not alleviated it, with more poor in both real and proportionate terms today than when the programs started. 

Is this true? A cite would help. 

It should not be difficult to ascertain why.

Slow down. Before you "ascertain why" can you please demonstrate that the claim is even true?

Handouts degrade the recipient and create a dependency – call it now an entitlement – that is not easy to terminate. 

I have to say, "Rabbi" it doesn't sound like you're upset that the government is handing out gifts. It sounds like you're upset that someone other than White Republicans are receiving them. Where do I see you complaining about bank bailouts, or tax codes rewrites that spare corporations from paying taxes? Where's the outrage about Medicare or mortgage interest deductions? What makes those types of handouts morally superior to any other? 

Aside: I am using the word handout because Pruzansky uses it. I don't actually consider any of these programs to be a "handout."  When the government provides a mortgage deduction to a wealthy Republican its saying that we, as a society, are better off when people own houses. When it sends food stamps to a poor Democrat, we're saying that we, as a society, are better off when the people who do our drudge work are well-fed enough to get to work. 

We know as well that the greatest form of charity under Jewish law is finding a job for someone unemployed, or lending him money so he can start his own business.

Yet, within the Orthodox Jewish community today the greatest form of charity is a gift to a kolel. Would the good rabbi like to address this discrepancy

Additional point from the comments: Oh dear, the Rabbi has only listed two of the top three forms of charity, as per Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon. The first  is finding a poor man a job. The second is loaning a poor man money to start a business. Can you guess what the third one is? And can you guess why Pruzansky doesn't mention it? (Answers: Giving a gift. Because the truth wouldn't fit his thesis, and  Pruzansky is intellectually dishonest.) 

 For the recipient, that is both dignified and effective in the long-term, but for some reason, Jews feel better giving someone a fish than teaching him how to fish;

Judging from the plaques I see on the walls of yeshivas and shuls, wealthy Republican Jews are also not very interested in teaching people to fish.

Additional point from the comments: For the recipient, receiving a government check is far MORE dignified than taking something from a local charity fund. With the former you get near-perfect privacy i.e. no one you know rifles through your tax returns. 

 perhaps the latter would cut into the market share of the Jewish-owned fish companies, if there were Jewish-owned fish companies. But current policies are demeaning and debilitating to the recipient, even if they satisfy the compassionate emotions of their advocates.

Bears repeating: I'm not in favor of Medicare and food stamps because of my "compassionate emotions." My support is entirely based on pragmatism.  I think these programs are important because they strengthen society as a whole, while also offering important protections to the wealthiest citizens. (Food stamps, believe me, are less expensive then dealing with an armed insurgency. People with food in their stomachs are less likely to feel that they have nothing to lose.)

Search for more information about ###  

Additional Pablum from America's Worst Rabbi (TM)

Today Rabbi Pruzansky tries to explain why Jews support Democrats. His latest long winded post gives seven reasons, each of which I shall address in turn.

Stay tuned.

Part 1: Jews vote for Democrats because they care too much about poor people
Part 2: Jews vote for Democrats because FDR put a spell on them.
Part 3: Jews vote for Democrats because... because... Hmm... It seems Pruz can't be bothered work out an argument this time. 
Part 4: Jews vote for Democrats because they are amoral abortionists who don't hate gays like real Jews should. 
Part 5: Jews vote for Democrats because its more convenient than spitting directly on the Torah. 
Part 6: Sorry for wasting your time! Jews who vote for Democrats aren't really Jews!
Part 7: Jews vote for Democrats because they fail to see the appeal of Christian tradition. 

Search for more information about  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thank you President Obama

President Obama made Iron Dome a reality. At this moment Iron Dome is stopping missiles by the dozens and saving Israeli lives.

Please ask your Obama hating friends and relatives if the president can expect a thank you note.

Remember:  Hakaras Hatov

Search for more information about BHO  

Politics and religion.... Or where the Tweets took me

So I was squatting and releasing my morning tweets when this came out:
Inarguable right? The Republicans are out of favor, say the exit polls, because they are on the wrong side of issues like global warming and abortion, and because they put up a candidate who routinely expectorated on 47 percent of the electorate and closed things off with that outsized lie about Jeep. Let them disown the pastors, the racists, and the meth heads, let them disown FOX and divorce true conservatism from idiocy and the Republican party will be on much firmer footing for 2016.

My advice to Democrats (the next tweet) was a corollary of this:
Immediately afterwards, it occurred to me that what's true for politics is also true for religion. Ours is a wonderful culture, and a great faith, but (like the Republican party) we're held down by the morons, the misogynists and the magical thinkers.

If Judaism wants to win again, my advice to Jews is the same as my advice to the Republican party. We have to dump the idiots. Judaism isn't about ritual, not in its bones. The faith's earliest interpreters and most famous advocates didn't fight for extra chumrahs or argue that Judaism must be frozen in amber. They looked for solutions. They embraced the best science they could find. They were in favor of progress. They were in favor of relaxing restrictions so that Judaism might be a religion of life, rather than a burden. This attitude is what made Judaism a seedbed for world-changing philosophies and a voice of progress.

None of that obtains any more in the Judaism I know personally. Among the Orthodox, that type of Judaism is dead. Can it be reanimated? What will it take to get  Judaism to reclaim its legacy of social justice, its dismissiveness of empty ritual, and its desire to champion the causes of the poor, the widowed and the orphan?  What will it take to bring back the Judaism of Amos, Issiah, and Michah, and to rid ourselves of the Judaism of Poland and northern Ukraine?

Search for more information about ###  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

For those of you who say all I do is bash Jews

Last Sunday, Jews poured into Long Beach, Oceanside, Far Rockaway, Seagate, and other places to help with the Sandy clean up. They came by the hundreds from as far away as Boston.

A group from Baltimore went to Seagate as depicted in this video....

A Visit to Seagate from Aryeh Gelbard on Vimeo.

Search for more information about SeaGate