web analytics
August 1, 2015 / 16 Av, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


The Man Behind All The Noise: An Interview with Rabbi Yehuda Levin


        All last week, Rabbi Yehuda Levin’s name appeared in the news as the man behind gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino’s widely-reported remarks opposing gay marriage and homosexuality. After a maelstrom of criticism, Paladino apologized to the gay and lesbian community, prompting Rabbi Levin to sever his ties with the Republican candidate.

 

      But who is Rabbi Levin? And did his brief backing of Paladino help or – as many people are saying – hurt the Jewish community?

 

      A longtime activist, Rabbi Levin heads the Mevakshei Hashem synagogue in Flatbush and often represents the Igud Harabbonim and Agudas Harabbonim on social issues.

 

      Backed by his rebbe, the late Rav Avigdor Miller, Rabbi Levin ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1984 on the Republican ticket; for New York City mayor in 1985 on the Right to Life ticket; and for New York City Council in 1991 and 1993 on the Conservative ticket.

 

      The Jewish Press: Some people say your constant, vocal opposition to homosexual marriage over the years verges on obsession. What’s your response?

 

      Rabbi Levin: I speak out on many social issues. I speak against pornography and against merry-go-round divorces. I also speak every year at the March For Life, opposing abortion on demand.

 

      The reason, however, that my major concentration is on homosexuality is because it says in the Torah that Amalek is God’s superlative enemy. What’s the worst thing that Amalek did to us? “Asher karcha baderech.” Rashi says “lashon keri homosexuality.” As Chazal and midrashim tell us, Amalek homosexually raped Bnei Yisrael. So the biggest problem for God is not chillul Shabbos or eating non-kosher. It’s the Amalekites and the way they initially attacked the Jewish people.

 

      Additionally, the Tanchuma says that the deluge in the times of Noach didn’t come until people started writing marriage contracts between men and men and men and animals.

 

      So I’m trying to prevent homosexual marriage from becoming the law of the land because it would, chas v’shalom, bring tremendous tragedies.

 

      In that vein, you recently associated yourself with Carl Paladino and helped him craft anti-homosexual statements. But not everyone is pleased with your efforts, especially considering the ridicule that Paladino was subsequently subjected to in the media. A recent op-ed on VosIzNeias.com argues, “Rabbi Levin’s strategies have given entirely new shades of depth and meaning to the term ‘backfire.'” How do you respond to that?

 

      Tell me the last person in the Jewish community, who’s not a government official, who was in the media for a whole week, non-stop, 24 hours a day. Can you tell me of a more successful effort in informing literally all of America that once and for all there’s something called Orthodox Jews who – unlike the 80 percent of Jews they know about who are liberal – live by, and stand up for, Torah values? You know the kiddush Hashem this accomplished in informing gentiles and liberal Jews alike what the real Torah position is?

 

      But some Orthodox Jews think you’ve made a chillul Hashem, not a kiddush Hashem. They argue that you are a loose cannon who issues exaggerated and wild statements that make Judaism look silly and extreme. You may have gotten a lot of press, but these Jews argue it’s bad press, not good press.

 

  The people who said these remarks are not sensitive to the political climate. There’s a rabbinic phrase, “b’zman shehashanim kitikunan – when things are regular.” But [things today are not regular]. Paladino defeated Rick Lazio by 26 points in the Republican primary, which clearly proves that people want somebody who says it like it is. I say it like it is on Torah values. I’m not being disrespectful or incendiary. I’m being very articulate, and the media is interested and the message has gone out.

 

      But whom do you represent? Some people argue that you represent no one other than yourself?

 

      The intellectual level of the jealous people who say this is very low, so they have to be persuaded with numbers. In 1984 I ran for Congress against Stephen Solarz. I received 35 percent of the vote, doubling the vote figure that anyone had ever gotten against him. What’s more important is that I got 90 percent of the vote in the chassidic election districts and over 65 percent in Boro Park despite all the politicos being lined up against me. They were making the exact same claims then. They were wearing pins that said, “Vote for Solarz and not the meshugana.” To me, it’s water off the duck’s back.

 

      Additionally, for many years I have been the spokesman for the Rabbinical Alliance of America [Igud Harabbonim], which has a membership of over 850 rabbis. I have been representing them on and off, as well as the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada [Agudas Harabbonim], for more than a quarter of a century.

 

      You argue that the Orthodox community should support pro-morality candidates. Many, however, say it’s smarter to support candidates who will bring more money into the Jewish community, whatever their positions on issues like gay marriage may be.

 

      Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky was once asked: What if a candidate is good on government programs and good for Israel but bad on moral issues, while his opponent is totally insensitive to Israel and won’t give one penny in extra programs to the Jewish community but is good on moral issues? He answered: You’re not giving a severe enough case. Even if the candidate is downright anti-Semitic – we’re not talking about if he’s going to kill Jews – you have to vote for the person who is pro-morality. He said this to Rabbi Dovid Eidensohn of Monsey.

 

      Is that why you helped Patrick Buchanan’s campaign in 1996?

 

      Yes, exactly. He was championing moral values and eventually inserted these values into the Republican platform. I went to Rabbi Avigdor Miller and told him that people say Buchanan is an anti-Semite and will make problems for Jews if he gets in. He said, “Nonsense, full steam ahead.”

 

      Some media reported that you want to start an Orthodox Tea Party. Is this something you realistically plan on doing?

 

      What I meant was that just as the Tea Party has been tremendously successful by displaying a steadfastness on mostly economic issues, we Orthodox Jews [can similarly be successful if] we prioritize the morality issue. Imagine if we all stood united and said we’re going to demand prioritizing morality. Imagine the kiddush Hashem that would resonate throughout the world.

 

      In light of what you’re saying, and in light of the fact that Jews are supposed to be a light unto the nations, why haven’t Orthodox Jews been more vocal in America’s culture wars?

 

      At some point early on – maybe in the 1950s or ’60s – there was some sort of meeting at which rabbis were informed that they could be eligible for government funding for their yeshivas and institutions. But what started off as a pleasurable experience soon turned into an addiction. The politicians became the drug dealers and we became addicted to their finances. The price we paid is that we turned away from our Torah morality values, and today we continue to smile at the very politicians who are poisoning the cultural wellsprings our kids drink from.

About the Author: Elliot Resnick is a Jewish Press staff reporter and author of “Movers and Shakers: Sixty Prominent Personalities Speak Their Mind on Tape” (Brenn Books).


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “The Man Behind All The Noise: An Interview with Rabbi Yehuda Levin”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Rocket that hit a field in the Eshkol region on July 3, 2015
Gaza Launches Rocket Attack, Israelis Not Warned
Latest Indepth Stories
Silhouette of "hilltop settler."

“Yesha” and Binyamin Regional Council leaders said the attack “is not the path of Jews in Judea and Samaria.”

Schwartz-073115

The occasion? The rarely performed mitzvah of pidyon peter chamor: Redemption of a firstborn donkey.

Rabbi YY Rubinstein

American leftists have a pathological self-inflicted blindness to the dangers of political Islam

Tobin-073115

Hillary should THANK Trump; By dominating the news he’s overshadowed the implosion of her campaign

Hard to remember when Jewish youth were so hostile to their heritage as they are on campuses today.

Names of the enablers of Iran’s Nuclear weapons will be added next to Hitler’s on the list of infamy

By most accounts, the one person with the political muscle to swing enough Democratic votes to override a veto is Sen. Schumer.

The next day, in a speech in New York to the Council on Foreign Relations, Mr. Kerry substantially upped the ante.

In Israel, the judiciary has established itself as superior to ALL other branches of the government.

The Fifteenth Day of the month of Av became a day of national rejoicing. The moment that had seemed hopeless became the moment of Redemption.

I think the melodies in our religious services have a haunting sound to them that just permeates your guts and gets into your soul. If you have any musical inclination, I think they inspire you to compose.

Cavalier analogies to the Holocaust are unacceptable, but Huckabee’s analogy was very appropriate.

Pollard was a Jewish-head-on-a-pike for all American Jews to see and to learn the explicit lesson.

If the Iran deal passes, Obama’s WH becomes world’s leading financier of terrorism against Americans

More Articles from Elliot Resnick
Harvey Rachlin

I think the melodies in our religious services have a haunting sound to them that just permeates your guts and gets into your soul. If you have any musical inclination, I think they inspire you to compose.

Marc Shapiro

In his day, Rav Kook was the greatest writer of haskamot and pretty much everyone in the Lithuanian Torah world wanted his approbation.

But on the human level, public protest played a very central role. And that’s not my position – it’s the position of historians who are experts in this area.

When words lose meaning, the world becomes an Orwellian dystopia; a veritable Tower of Babel

My best book is one that hasn’t been published yet.

Israel is not the only issue that has drawn Jews closer to conservative Christians in recent decades. The culture wars have played a significant role as well.

What books might people be surprised to find on your bookshelves?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/the-man-behind-all-the-noise-an-interview-with-rabbi-yehuda-levin/2010/10/20/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: