Originally published at Sultan Knish.
He Taught us to Laugh, He Made Us Believe, and then He Took All Our MoneyHe was the first black President of the United States, and he also became its last President when in 2019, after his term in office had been extended indefinitely by HR:0666 or “The Hope and Faith in Obama’s Everlasting Presidency Act” (Holo-Link), he was forced to leave office because the government had run out of money to pay for itself.
Though he lived a very public life, few could agree on even the basic facts of his life. For a man who spent most of his life in front of the camera, his death leaves us with few answers about who Barack Obama (Holo-Link) really was. Obama only added to the uncertainty swirling around him by using multiple names, multiple birthplaces and even passports.
The bestselling Presidential biographies of Obama, from Edmund Morris’ “America’s Greatest Con-Man” to Michael Beschloss’ “Obama: Citizen of the World” cover the range of opinions on Obama’s presidency.
And long after the fall of the United States, there is still no real consensus by former Americans on who Obama really was.
Yet to many Barack Obama represents a nostalgic time in history; the last years when such diverse nations as the Confederate States of California (Holo-Link), the Republic of New Hampshire, the People’s Republic of Minnesota, the Empire of Texas, El Reino de Aztlan and the Arch-Duchy of Upper New York were all part of one single nation that stretched from ocean to ocean.
Born in a hospital in some still undetermined part of the world, Barack learned to use multiple names and identities at an early age. Traveling from country to country, the young Obama or Soetoro, would quickly become adept at blending into any culture. This skill would prove crucial in his political career, allowing him to invent new identities and win the trust of his audience. If there is one thing his biographers agree on, it’s that he had a genuine gift for sensing what his audience wanted to hear. Unfortunately like most con artists, he lacked the same ability for long term financial planning, that he did for short term schemes to extract money from a gullible American public.
There is no denying that Obama cheerfully used fraud and strong arm tactics throughout his political career, but the chief weapon in his arsenal was flattery. Many of his supporters remember the special feeling of being made to feel that he was their friend. As one former aide wrote, “He taught us to laugh, he made us believe, and then he took all our money”.
This conflicted legacy helps explain Barack Obama’s popularity, even after his corruption and abuses of power destroyed the government, ending the era of the United States for good– he was ranked 4th on the prestigious Dow Jones’ “Most Likable Celebrities in North America in 2019″ index (Holo-Link).
It helped that Obama left the White House voluntarily after learning that there would be no more money left for his trips abroad, and that due to the failure of the Federal Reserve and the secession of 23 states from the Union, no national budget would be possible.
He did leave with everything of value in the White House that his family and associates could grab or pry out of the walls, but by then most Americans were too busy dealing with the problems of the Great Partition to notice. Even the farewell party that burned down most of the White House seemed a small thing in the wake of the Detroit Food Riots or the discovery of the Red River Gulag (Holo-Link).
His popularity afterward enabled Obama to begin several successful careers in the entertainment industry, including a long-running stint on the soap opera General Catastrope, his own line of shammy infomercials and a music career with such nostalgia singles as, “Where’s Da Money”, “Where All Da Money Go” and “What Happen to All Da Money?”
Even today viewers watching old fashioned television can still catch commercials of Obama in his older years, holding up a shammy cloth, dipping it in a spilled pool of olive oil and telling the audience to have faith that the mess would be gone. Even his famous tagline, “At a price that won’t bankrupt you, unlike me” was meant to be a good humored reference to his controversial two and a half terms in office.
It’s 2015, and there is a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood (Hamas), financed by Iran, wins an election on a platform demanding the expulsion of the Jews from Israel. Iran meanwhile smuggles shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles to terrorist cells in Palestine that can take down civilian airlines at Ben-Gurion airport. With backing from the Egyptian military, Fatah throws out the elected Hamas government and kills larger number of Hamas supporters. What will Washington do? Given the track record of both the Obama administration and the Republican mainstream, one would expect America to denounce the use of violence against a democratically-elected government.
Such is the absurdity of both parties’ stance towards Egypt: the Egyptian military is doing America’s dirty work, suppressing a virulently anti-modern, anti-Semitic and anti-Western Islamist movement whose leader, Mohammed Morsi, famously referred to Israelis as “apes and pigs.” It did so with the enthusiastic support of tens of millions of Egyptians who rallied in the streets in support of the military. And the American mainstream reacted with an ideological knee jerk. America’s presence in the Middle East has imploded.
As it happens, Iran already is smuggling weapons via Syria to the West Bank to gain leverage against the Abbas government, as Stratfor reports (hat tip: the Daily Alert ), including surface-to-air and anti-tank missiles. Hamas crushed Fatah in the 2006 West Bank elections parliamentary elections 74-45, and made short work of the supposedly moderate Palestinian faction when it seized power in Gaza in 2007. As Syria disintegrates, along with Iraq and Lebanon, the artificial borders of Arab states drawn first by Ottoman conquerors and revised by British and French colonial authorities will have small meaning. Palestinians caught up in the Syrian and and Lebanese conflagrations would pour into a new Palestinian state and swell the ranks of the hard-core Jihadi irredentists. Iran will continue to use Hamas as a cat’s paw.
Among other things, the American response to the events in Egypt show the utter pointlessness of American security guarantees in the present negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Authority. Even in the extremely unlikely event that Mohammed Abbas chose to make peace with Israel, he would face a high probability of civil war, just as Ireland’s independence leader Michael Collins did when he struck a deal with the British for an Irish “Free State” rather than a republic. Collins killed more Irishmen than the British did in the preceding independence struggle. I do not want to compare Abbas to Collins, and I do not think he has any attention of making peace with Israel. But American blundering in Egypt has closed out the option, for whoever makes peace with Israel will require a free hand with Iranian-backed rejectionists.
America forgets that it corrected the flaw in its founding by killing 30 percent of Southern men of military age during its own Civil War, so many that the Confederate Army collapsed for lack of manpower. There are numerous wars which do not end until all the young men who want to fight to the death have had the opportunity to do so. And of all of history’s conflicts, none was so likely to end with this sort of demographic attrition as the present war in the Middle East. Compared to the young Arabs, Persians and Pakistanis of today, American Southerners of 1861 were models of middle-class rectitude, with the world’s highest living standards and bright prospects for the future. The Europeans of 1914 stood at the cusp of modernity; one only can imagine what they might have accomplished had they not committed mutual suicide in two World Wars.
Today’s Middle Eastern and South Asian Muslims have grim future prospects. The world economy has left them behind, and they cannot catch up. Egypt was at the threshold of starvation and economic collapse when the military intervened, bringing in subsidies from the Gulf monarchies. The young men of the Middle East have less to lose, perhaps, than any generation in any country in modern times. As we observe in Syria, large numbers of them will fight to the death.
America cannot bear to think about its own Civil War because the wounds are too painful; in order to reunite the country after 1865, we concocted a myth of tragic fratricide. Wilsonian idealism was born of the South’s attempt to suppress its guilt for the war, I have argued in the past. That is an academic consideration now. America’s credibility in the Middle East, thanks to the delusions of both parties, is broken, and it cannot be repaired within the time frame required to forestall the next stage of violence. Egypt’s military and its Saudi backers are aghast at American stupidity. Israel is frustrated by America’s inability to understand that Egypt’s military is committed to upholding the peace treaty with Israel while the Muslim Brotherhood wants war. Both Israel and the Gulf States observe the utter fecklessness of Washington’s efforts to contain Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
The events of the past week have demonstrated that America’s allies in the Middle East from Israel to the Persian Gulf can trust no-one in Washington-neither Barack Obama nor John McCain. Those of us in America who try to analyze events in the region will be the last to hear the news, and the value of our work will diminish over time.
These lone soldiers, hailing from countries including the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Turkey and Azerbaijan arrived in Israel without their families to join the Israel Defense Force and help build the Jewish nation. ’Garin’ means seed in Hebrew but can also refer to a group of people who collectively immigrated to Israel and ‘tzabar’ refers to the ‘sabra’ cactus fruit which is prickly on the outside but soft and sweet on the inside, a euphemism to describe Israelis.
The Garin Tzabar program is in charge of bringing these lone soldiers to a kibbutz or Israeli city, providing them with an adopted family, a Garin community that supports them throughout their army service and Hebrew classes to assist their immersion into the IDF. Several months from now the new recruits will begin to serve in the Israeli Army. The Garin Tzabar ensures lone soldiers receive support and attention on their birthdays, during holidays, Shabbat, and their days off .
The State of Israel officially welcomed this year’s Garin Tzabar participants during a special ceremony held at Tel Aviv University. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a video greeting praising these young Jewish men and women and numerous other government officials attended the event.
MK Sofa Landver, who addressed the group, stated, “We are here to receive the immigrants and the soldiers in our country, the most wonderful country in the world. It’s you who have come to serve and defend Israel. You will change the world.” A representative of Nefesh B’Nefesh added, “It’s not just a plane ride, it’s the destination and that’s Israel. Enjoy your new life.”
Netta Gelb, a new Garin Tzabar participant, was born in the Israeli city of Netanya and has spent the past 15 years growing up in Canada. Although she has Israeli relatives, she is leaving behind her parents and siblings. Gelb expressed the excitement many Garin members felt when she said, “I have been really looking forward to this for a long time.”
Michael Kosky, another Garin Tzabar participant, added, “We have come here to play our chapter in Jewish history. I am part of this program. Good luck to every one here.” A lone soldier already serving in the IDF named Ariella, who hails from an Argentine family and grew up in both America and Israel told the audience that she holds dear the “values of loyalty to the state, its people, and the Tzabar members” and said to the new recruits “If you live together, you will learn a lot.”
Eitan Press contributed to this report.
Visit United with Israel.
Boy, do they hate America.
I’m on a flight in Tanzania, having left Rwanda where we made a second tour of the genocide sites with the impending twentieth anniversary of the slaughter, when I meet a very fine Pakistani family going on safari.
We exchange pleasantries. They have children studying in the UK, as do many upper-class Pakistani families. My wife and I lived in the UK. We find much to talk about. I relate to them all the Pakistani students I knew at Oxford who were regulars at our events. They tell me of their trip to see the mountain gorillas and how they are enjoying Africa.
Suddenly, the father says to me, “I was in Israel recently. I enjoyed it. But I was disgusted at the treatment of the Palestinians who cannot even go from Bethlehem into Jerusalem.”
I explain to him that the checkpoints are relatively new. “They did not exist when I was a student in Jerusalem. They were set up after a wave of terror bombings killed thousands of Israeli civilians. You can hardly blame Israel from trying to stop the slaughter.”
“The slaughter?” he says, “You mean the way Israel massacres Palestinians every day. And it’s all funded by America, who is the biggest murderer in the world. Just look at the 100 people every day being killed in Iraq.”
I raise my eyebrows, trying to remain calm and provoked. “But that’s being done by Islamic terrorists. What does it have to do with America? We Americans died to liberate the Iraqis. We spent more than a trillion dollars of our national treasure on complete strangers to stop them from being slaughtered by Saddam Hussein.”
He ignores the facts and continues his diatribe. “America is now slaughtering everyone in Afghanistan, just to destabilize the region, and blaming everything on Pakistan.”
“America is trying to save Afghanistan from the Taliban,” I counter, “monsters who brutalize women, fanatics that behead those who don’t conform to their religious extremes.”
“Nonsense,” he says, “the Taliban is infinitely more humane that the Americans and their agents in the Middle East, the Israelis.”
By now I’ve had enough and I go on the offensive.
“Why was Osama bin Laden living in Abbotabad, a mile from Pakistan’s West Point? Who was sheltering a man who killed 3000 innocent Americans?”
And here he makes my jaw drop. “Three thousand Americans dead is nothing, a drop in the ocean, compared to how many Muslims America has killed.”
You may wonder why I am relating this story. It’s an isolated incident, right? But it’s not. It’s a sentiment I encountered in so many parts of Africa where I traveled to Rwanda, to again see the genocide sites and meet with government officials, and then to Arusha in Tanzania, to see the criminal courts where the Rwandan genocidaires were tried.
Readers of my columns will know that I am one of Jewry’s foremost defenders of Islam. I remind Jewish audiences constantly that we dare not de-contexualize the current frictions between Jews and Muslims. Saladin welcomed the Jews back to Jerusalem in 1187 when he captured the holy city from the crusaders who massacred every last Jew. The Ottomans took in large numbers of Jews when we were expelled from Catholic Spain and Portugal. Jews flourished in many Islamic lands where the Koran said they would have to be treated as second-class citizens but should otherwise not suffer persecution. I took Dr. Oz, during our recent visit to Israel together, to see the tomb of Maimonides in Tiberius, explaining that the greatest Muslim ruler that ever lived made the great sage his personal physician. Whenever some of my Jewish colleagues speak of Islam as an inherently violent religion, citing verses in the Koran to prove it, I remind them that there are plenty of verses of our own Torah which can be taken out of context and sound pretty violent. It all comes down to how these passages are interpreted.
But with that being said, there is no question in my mind that Islam is undergoing a modern crisis which perhaps only its clerics and lay leaders can rescue it from. Here in Tanzania there was a terrible story just a week ago when two British female Jewish teenagers were attacked with acid by Islamic assailants.
It’s not that imams and are preaching violence, although many unfortunately do. It’s rather that they preach victimhood. America is to blame for their problems. Israel is to blame for their suffering.
Where are the Islamic leaders and clerics who are prepared to say, “We are responsible for our own problems. We are taking a great world religion and turning it insular and away from secular knowledge rather than finding the balance between the holy and the mundane. We are not empowering women to be the equals of men in all spheres. We Palestinians took the largest per capita foreign aid ever given to a people and we allowed corruption and hatred of Israel to squander the funds on bombs and bullets rather than building universities and schools. We elect leaders democratically who then, like Hamas, or Muhammad Morsi, precede to dismantle democratic institutions. We see the Jews as our enemies rather than using them as an example of what we ourselves should aspire to. They returned to their land after long ago being dispersed by foreign European powers and made the desert bloom. We can surely do the same.”
Originally published at Sultan Knish.
Man begins with the tribe. The tribe is his earliest civilization. It is enduring because it is based on blood. The ties of blood may hinder its growth, the accretion of tradition holds it to past wisdom while barring the way to learning new things, but it provides its culture with a physical culture.
The modern world embraced post-tribalism, the transcendence of tribe, to produce more complicated, but also more fragile cultures. And then eventually post-tribalism became counter-tribalism.
Our America is tribal, post-tribal and counter-tribal. It is a strange and unstable mix of all these things.
The post-tribal could be summed up by the melting pot, a modernist idea of a cultural empire, the E pluribus unum of a society in which culture could be entirely detached from tribe, manufactured, replicated and imposed in mechanical fashion. The counter-tribal and the tribal however are best summed up by multiculturalism which combines both selectively.
Modernism was post-tribal. It believed that advancement lay with abandoning the tribe. Post-modernism however is counter-tribal. It doesn’t just seek to leave the tribe behind, but to destroy the very notion of one’s own tribe as the source of evil, while welcoming the tribalism of the oppressed.
The post-tribal and counter-tribals both felt that the rejection of one’s own tribe was a cultural victory. But where the modernists thought that tribe itself was the evil, the post-modernists think that it is only their tribe that is the evil. The modernists had no more use for the tribalism of any culture than that of their own. The post-modernists however believe that the tribalism of oppressor cultures is evil, but that of oppressed cultures is good. And so they replace their own tribalism and post-tribalism with a manufactured tribalism of the oppressed consisting of fake African proverbs and “Other” mentors.
Counter-tribalism is obsessed with the “Other”. It regards the interaction with the “Other” as the most socially and spiritually significant activity of a society. Counter-tribalists instinctively understand diversity as a higher good in a way that they cannot express to outsiders. They may cloak it in post-tribal rhetoric, but the emotion underneath is the counter-tribal rejection of one’s own identity in search of a deeper authenticity, of the noble savage within.
For the modernists, tribalism was savage and that was a bad thing. For the post-modernists, the savage was a good thing. The savage was natural and real. He was a part of the world of tribe and blood. A world that they believed that we had lost touch with. It was the civilized man and his modernism that was evil. It was the tribalism of wealth and technology that they fought against.
The modernists believed that culture was mechanical, that it could be taken apart and put back together, that fantastic new things could be added, the boundaries pushed into infinity in the exploration of the human spirit. The post-modernists knew better. Culture was human noise. Boundaries defined culture. When they were broken, there was only the fascinating explosion of anarchy and private language. Communications broke down and elites took over. They stepped outside those boundaries and lost the ability to create culture, instead they went seeking for the roots of human culture, for the tribal and the primitive, hoping to become ignorant savages again.
The modern left has become a curious amalgam of the modern, the post-modern and the savage. There you have a Richard Dawkins knocking Muslims for their lack of Nobel prizes and then side by side is the post-modern sneering at the idea that being celebrated by the Eurocentric culture and its fetishization of technology matters compared to the rich cultural heritage of Islam and the savage on Twitter demanding Dawkins’ head.
The same scenes play out on daily commutes in modern cities, where Bloombergian post-tribal social planners exist side by side with Occupier counter-tribals and violent tribal gangs acting as flash mobs in the interplay of liberalism, the left and the failed societies left behind by the systems of the left.
Muslim immigration is a distinctly counter-tribal project. The European tensions over it among its elites, as opposed to the street protesters who make up groups such as the EDL, is a conflict between the post-tribals who envisioned the European Union and the counter-tribals who view it as a refugee camp that will melt down the last of Europe’s cultures and traditions.
One way to gauge the import of the conflict erupting in Egypt is by looking at the character of media coverage in America. Both sides of the political spectrum have been slow to advance narratives of blame. What’s going on in Egypt doesn’t fit into any pat, off-the-shelf narratives.
There has been a curious absence of “themage” on the left: no unified narrative about this all being the fault of Bush-era failures of good fellowship, or of the plight of the Palestinians, or (my personal favorite) of warmongering arms dealers, oil mavens, or ([insert ROTFLOL here]) international banks.
Meanwhile, blame-fixing criticisms of President Obama are getting little traction on the right. (I even saw Sean Hannity shouted down by other conservatives the other day, when he was advancing an Obama’s-to-blame theory.) I have the sense that most on the right see – accurately – that what’s going on is bigger than either Obama’s shortcomings or America’s predicament under his leadership. While the Arab Spring might well have never happened if the United States had had a different president in January 2011, it is more than overstating the case to say that it happened because of Obama.
It happened because of deep rifts and discontents in the Arab world. Its progress since the initial trigger event has been shaped to some degree by the defensively triangulating inaction (mainly) of Obama’s America. But there’s real there there, in terms of political divisions and conflict in the nations of the Middle East.
This is a genuine fight, not a series of mass protests out of which nothing will really change. If we understand anything, it must be that. The Western media have been reflexively – if perfunctorily – reporting the bloodshed in Egypt as a “military crack-down” on protesters. But the truth is that, where military action is concerned, it is a strategy to get out ahead of civil war. The Muslim Brotherhood has indicated that it intends to make a fight of this. Its “protest camps” are not a stupid, time-on-their-hands Occupy Cairo escapade; they are bases from which to keep an armed fight going.
The Muslim Brotherhood does not care what happens to the people of Egypt: whether their streets become safe for daily life and commerce again. It is willing to keep chaos and misery going for as long as necessary to topple the military’s interim government. That is its present purpose. The Muslim Brotherhood strategy is to make it impossible for the military to restore enough order and public confidence to move ahead with new democratic arrangements. The strategy is pure Bolshevism, and we’ve seen it before, dozens of times over the last several centuries.
Reports from Friday’s fighting indicate that plenty of Egyptians are aware of this. Citizens around the capital set up checkpoints to prevent the movement of Muslim Brotherhood formations:
Armed civilians manned impromptu checkpoints throughout the capital, banning Brotherhood marches from approaching and frisking anyone wanting to pass through. At one, residents barred ambulances and cars carrying wounded from Cairo’s main battleground, Ramses Square, from reaching a hospital.
And much of the fighting was between pro-Morsi supporters and other civilians:
Friday’s violence introduced a combustible new mix, with residents and police in civilian clothing battling those participating in the Brotherhood-led marches.
Few police in uniform were seen as neighborhood watchdogs and pro-Morsi protesters fired at one another for hours on a bridge that crosses over Cairo’s Zamalek district, an upscale island neighborhood where many foreigners and ambassadors reside.
In keeping with the astonishing mass scale of the national revulsion against Morsi’s rule in June and July, the current fight is developing as a popular one. The anti-Morsi citizens have no intention of waiting around to see their government fall back into the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood. They are taking to the streets themselves.
This will have to be remembered in the coming days, when poorly armed civilians inevitably begin dropping out of the fight. The civil population does care, and care enough to fight with sticks, stones, and fists, if necessary, even though It will take the military to put down the Muslim Brotherhood decisively – if, indeed, the outcome ends up being defined in that manner.
It may not be. A key organizing factor in the June and July civil protests against Morsi was the “Tamarod” movement, a pastiche of anti-Morsi forces with little to unify them other than their objection to Morsi’s rule. Some throwing in with Tamarod are Salafists themselves (including a former leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad); others bring some element of liberalization or secularism. They made common cause with the military during the coup in July, but they are hardly a moderate, liberal, pro-Western force; in the days since, they have called for expulsion of the U.S. ambassador, and for Egypt to withdraw from the 1979 treaty with Israel.
Tamarod movements are busting out all over the Arab world (e.g., in Tunisia, Morocco, and Bahrain), portending many more months of instability and a long fight for the futures of these and other nations. A movement with this much internal division to it will begin to splinter in Egypt: some of its members will want to take the lead in forging a new ruling consensus – specifically, in preempting the people to do so – and my bet for this is on the Salafists.
So there are more than two factions in the overall fight; this won’t come down to just the military and the Muslim Brotherhood. Whoever plays the spoiler role could put together some kind of modus vivendi linking the opposing factions. A little bit of gesturing toward civil protections for the people; a little bit of door left open to shari’a. It wouldn’t last long, if history is any kind of guide. But Western observers are likely to put stock in it (and even be hoodwinked by it).
Today’s fight may not go the full fifteen rounds, but if it doesn’t, it will have to be fought again down the road. Because there is no coexistence for soft despotism – or democracy-lite – and Islamism; there is no coexistence for anything else and Islamism. And Islamism won’t stop fighting until it is put down decisively.
It is not actually unusual for the governments and media of the West to misread developments like these (or at least to have the “deer in the headlights” look on their faces as they witness them). The last time there was comparative unity and accuracy of understanding about a Bolshevik moment was – well, the actual Bolshevik moment, in late 1917 and the few years following it, when Western governments sought briefly to support the White anti-Bolshevists. Whatever the merits of that policy, the understanding on which it was based was perfectly accurate. Bolshevism was an uncontainable threat.
Within a very few years after that, Western governments, and many in our media, had become invested in misreading or ignoring manifestations from the sanguinary arena of collectivist statism. We were quite tolerant of Mussolini and Hitler until they declared war on Stalin, and to this day, tendentious narratives of popular support are adduced in our academies to explain the advance of Marxist totalitarianism across the map of the globe through the late 1970s. There were major movements in the free world to define away the threat of communism incident not only to Stalin’s excesses but to Maoism in China, the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, the encroachments of Marxism on Latin America and Africa, and the standoff between East and West in Europe.
Throughout the 20th century, the bloody adventures of collectivism forced Westerners, and Americans in particular, to inspect and crystallize our view of who and what we were. Through the “progressive,” statist movements in our own nations, we ended up being transformed away from the character we had once sought to honor and cultivate. Yet for a time, in the late 1970s (with the election of Margaret Thatcher in the UK) and 1980s, we achieved a meaningful consensus that our liberal values had not been extinguished yet. Acting on that consensus turned out to be enough, in that time and place, to overwhelm the failed ideology of Marxist socialism, in its totalitarian-state manifestation.
State-Islamism is doomed to inflict self-destruction and despair on its victims. But what will we in the still-not-Islamist West do while it is organizing itself and launching its career? We can’t go out and try to run everyone else’s county for him, after all. And that said, we need not actively support the infliction of despotic Islamism on foreign populations.
How will we define ourselves during this process? Will it be Islamism that has the momentum, with us defining ourselves as what we are not, in relation to it? Or will we retake the public dialogue with our own propositions and language about liberty and limited government? Our success in that endeavor was intermittent and incomplete, to say the least, during the Cold War. Will we learn from that era and do better today?
Will we retain the capacity – always under attack, always fighting for its life – to define a totalitarian ideology truthfully, and let that truth be a guide to our policies? These are questions to which we simply don’t know the answer. There were days during the Cold War when even the most optimistic political observers would have answered them for us in the negative.
One thing we can be sure of, however – a thing we may see more clearly, I think, because we have the president we have today, and not a president who will act in a more traditional manner, according to the conventions of American statecraft. The developments in Egypt have importance for the entire world. They are about an ideological, Bolshevik-style assault on conventional, non-radicalized government. That is the dynamic in play. And, as much as they are about Egypt, the Egyptian people, and the fact that they do not want ideological “shari’a” rule, they are also, in an existential way, about us. They are about who we are, and who we intend to be. None of us will be the same when this is all over.
I never thought I would have to make this argument in 2013.
Jordana Horn, the former New York bureau chief of The Jerusalem Post, has written an article in the Forward defending the premise that one can be raised as a proud and productive Jew without ever attending a day school. She proceeds to document her own attendance in public school and that of her siblings to prove her point. Which is that one can be fully Jewish, relatively knowledgeable about one’s Judaism and fully proud and participatory in it at many levels. She then presents a list of suggestions instructing us how to go about doing so successfully. It is a list of very practical suggestions with which I agree. But it falls woefully short in my view.
I have to ask, is her definition of being a Jew the correct definition? Is Judaism only about marrying Jewish? Or reading Hebrew? Or the ability to read the Torah? As laudable as these things are, they fall far short of what being a Jew is all about. The entire concept of following Halacha is missing from her definition. And in my view being an observant ‘Halakhic Man’ is the essence of being a Jew. Everything we do as a Jew should be viewed through the lens of Halacha. That is what God desires of the Jewish people… and no less. That many of us fail in that regard one way or another does not make it any less so.
That said, I must concede that it is possible to raise a child to be Halachic Jew without sending him to day school. I am sure that there are some cases where that has happened even in our day. But I would not recommend it.
I understand the incentive for a parent too try and do something like that. The tuition crisis in America is real. There is no two ways about it. Any parent with children in a day school will verify that. But there is a reason that is so
Day schools today are not what they used to be in their early days (…fifties and early sixties) – a school with teachers so underpaid that they could barely survive even with second jobs. No enrichment programs. No school psychologists. No real curriculum development. No special classes for learning disabled children. Nothing except the bare bones of studying Limudei Kodesh (religious studies) in the morning and Limudei Chol (secular studies) in the afternoons.
Funding Jewish education in those days was a joke. Tuitions were tiny back then because day schools were struggling just to get parents to send them their children – even for free. Generous philanthropists didn’t exist yet. As a result, religious teachers sometimes went unpaid their meager earnings for months at a time. I don’t know how they existed.
And yet, somehow the day schools of that time managed.
Today, things are much better. Teachers make livable wages. Fundraising is much better. Teachers are paid mostly on time. Schools are therefore much better now. It is easier to recruit good teachers for a school if you pay them a livable wage. And as a school grows – so do programs they offer their students. All this costs money. Hence the increased tuitions today.
Meanwhile parents who themselves have gone through the day school system recognize their value and no longer need convincing to send their children. All of this translates to the impossibly high tuition that are demanded of parents today. Even though scholarships are given to those who need them – every spare dime a parent may have is asked for by the schools that have no choice but to demand it in order to fund their exploding budgets. Budgets that are for the most part necessary in order to serve the demands made by parents who expect the best and most enriching education possible. (Although trimming what is in some cases bloated school budgets is a subject for legitimate discussion – it is beyond the scope of this post.)
For parents with four, five, six or more children who feel they are squeezed to the max for every dime, the thought of sending a child to a free public school while teaching them about Judaism at home must be very tempting. But it is a losing proposition in most cases. It would take a most unusual family and an unusual child to overcome the influences in a public school.