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October 28, 2016 / 26 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘american’

INTO THE FRAY: Israel and American Liberal Jewry: The REAL Reasons for the Rift

Sunday, July 17th, 2016

Israel’s accomplishments have been remarkable.  Israel has created a thriving economy, and has been a refuge for hundreds of thousands of the displaced and the needy. Israel has generated a rich and diverse cultural life and its scientific and educational achievements have been exemplary.  In spite of these achievements, however, Israel in my view has gone astray…sadly, after a life and career devoted to Jewish community and Israel, I conclude that in every important way Israel has failed to realize its promise for me. A noble experiment, but a failure.

– Rabbi David M. Gordis, Reflections on Israel 2016, Tikkun, February 22, 2016


Like the United States of America, the modern state of Israel is a country born from the aspiration for freedom, and standing out among the nations as a beacon of democracy and humanity. Israel is…an exceptional country that shares our most essential values. It is the only country in the Middle East where freedom of speech and freedom of religion are found. Therefore, support for Israel is an expression of our Americanism

–  Republican Party’s 2016 Platform


‘Name a single country in the history of the world faced with internal and external threats comparable to those faced by Israel that has ever had a better record in human rights; a better record with compliance of the rule of law; a better record of concern for civilians?’ I have been asking that question now for 20 years probably to a million people around the world, and I’ve never gotten a single person even to stand up and name a country, because you can’t do it.

– Alan Dershowitz, a longstanding supporter of Democratic Party, Jerusalem, June 9, 2015


In recent years there have been frequent reports of a growing rift between liberal Jewry in the US and Israel, and of the increasing difficulty liberal American Jews—particularly the younger generation—have in identifying with the Jewish state.

Neither inevitable nor irreversible

This is of course an entirely absurd state of affairs.

After all, if logic, common sense and truth had any significant role to play in determining the “liberal” discourse on Israel or “liberal” attitudes toward it, Israel would be enthusiastically embraced by all who purport to cherish liberal values, such as civil liberties, socio-cultural diversity and religious tolerance. Indeed, Israel would be held up as source of pride, celebrated as a shining example of how such values can be sustained in the most inclement of circumstances, which in many other places might well have been considered justification for considerably more authoritarian governance (see Dershowitz’s quote above).

Various profound explanations have been proposed to account for the emerging disconnect between the “liberal” Jews in the US and Israel, ranging from philosophical differences to divergent societal shifts in both countries. But while there might be some measure of validity to these claims, to my mind, they largely miss the point and the dominant reason for the rift is far more mundane.

Accordingly, this alleged “animus” is neither inherently inevitable, as several pundits appear to have to resigned themselves to, nor is it inherently irreversible—other than by some far-reaching transformation of Israeli society.

Narcissistic hypocrisy vs indolent incompetence

At the root of the “liberal” Jews disaffection with the Jewish nation-state lies a dual fault—the one of “liberal” Jewry, the other of the Jewish nation state itself.

On the one hand, liberal Jewry in the US has been gravely afflicted by a narcissistic hypocrisy, which sets unattainable standards for the Jewish state to avoid being the target of its disapproval. On the other hand, Israel, as the nation-state of the Jews, has been deplorably derelict in presenting its case to the world in general and to US Jewry in particular. This has left them gravely misinformed, allowing disapproval of its policy and disinformation as to its nature to go unchallenged—and hence to flourish.

Indeed, much of the disappointment expressed by liberal Jewry is rooted in a misperception of what Israel once was, and what it has become today.

In order to illustrate this, the moronic—and often self-contradictory—lament by David Gordis (not to be confused with his nephew Daniel Gordis) as to Israel’s alleged moral degradation, is perhaps a good place to start (see introductory excerpt).

After summarily dismissing Israel’s “remarkable accomplishments” in creating “a thriving economy”, providing “refuge for hundreds of thousands of the displaced and the needy” and generating “a rich and diverse cultural life and…scientific and educational achievements [that] have been exemplary”, Gordis perversely declares Israel a failed experiment—despite its staggering successes.

Totally detached from fact & reason

Gordis then goes on to elaborate on his abstruse indictment of Israel today:“Jewish life and thought have successfully navigated between three pairs of values that are in tension with one another. First, the Jewish experience has balanced the rational with the affective, the assertion with the question…Second, it has embraced both particularism with universalism, probing Jewish interiorities but looking out to the larger world, recognizing the common humanity of all people. Third, it has shaped positions which looked to the past for sources and inspiration but at the same time projected a vision for a world transformed in the future into something better than its current reality.”

Then in a wild diatribe, totally divorced from any semblance of reality, he blares:

“Present day Israel has discarded the rational, the universal and the visionary. These values have been subordinated to a cruel and oppressive occupation, an emphatic materialism, severe inequalities rivaling the worst in the western world and distorted by a fanatic, obscurantist and fundamentalist religion which encourages the worst behaviors rather than the best”.

In reality, “present day Israel” is—demonstrably—far closer to the model of Gordis’s ideal than it ever was, certainly far more than it was back in the days for which he allegedly yearns.

Wrong on every count

Today Israeli society is driven far less by ideological zeal; it far less ideologically monolithic, far less under the sway of a doctrinaire socialistic hegemony, for which Gordis waxes nostalgic. How does that make it less rational?

Israel has been in the forefront in extending aid to “the other” whenever disaster has struck: In Nepal, in Haiti and even in providing life-saving medical treatment to the victims of the Syrian civil war–to name but a few of present day Israel’s humanitarian initiatives. How is that indicative of “the worst behaviors rather than the best”?

Israeli innovation and inventiveness in medicine, agriculture, water conservation is saving/improving the lives of multitudes across the globe? How is that indicative of Israel discarding the “universal?”

And Israel’s cutting edge activities in the field of space research and exploration have put it in the world’s top five countries in this sphere of human endeavor. So has Israel really discarded the visionary?

This is merely a small sampling of how intellectually dishonest the derogatory drivel of Israel’s “liberal” detractors has become.

This narcissistic hypocrisy was aptly exposed in a perceptive piece in a Washington Post blog by David Bernstein, professor of Law at George Mason University. He wrote: “Israeli Arabs have never been more integrated into Israeli society, or made more rapid economic and social progress, than…under Netanyahu… surrounded by hostile enemies, absorbing about four times its original population in refugees, very few of whom came from countries with a longstanding liberal or democratic traditions, expecting a progressive utopia to emerge was ridiculous. Creating a reasonably liberal, multiethnic, democratic state with religious freedom in a region where there aren’t any others should be more than enough to satisfy all but the most starry-eyed idealists.”

Indeed, it should.

Beneath the disingenuous gobbledygook

Of course, denigrating Israel because it fails to meet some unattainable criteria of human behavior, conjured up by disenchanted “liberal” Jews, serves no useful purpose other than to expose their self-centered insincerity—especially when they refrain from applying the same stringent standards to any other country, including their own.

For, once one strips away all the disingenuous gobbledygook, one comes to the core reason for “liberal” chagrin with Israel. This has nothing to do with how diverse or tolerant Israeli society has become, or the level of humanitarian relief it may extend to others, or how Israeli enterprise contributes to the betterment of mankind at large. It has to do with one – and only one—politically partisan issue—Israel’s interaction with the Palestinian-Arabs across the pre-1967 Green Line (a.k.a. the “Occupation”). The only remedial measure that “liberals” advance to deal with the “undemocratic blight” is to implement a “two-state-solution”.

Incredibly therefore, according to Israel’s “liberal” detractors, the only panacea for Israel’s “democracy deficit” is to facilitate the establishment of yet another Muslim-majority tyranny, whose hallmarks will be homophobic persecution of homosexuals, misogynistic discrimination against women and girls, intolerance of religious diversity, and repression of political dissent.

But this is not only wildly irrational in terms of its internal logic, it is equally imprudent in terms of its operational implications. After all, every time Israel has transferred territory to Arab control, it has sooner or later, become a platform to launch deadly attacks against it. Yet with unswerving doctrinaire zeal “liberals” cling to the perilous prescription of touting tyranny and bringing hundreds of kindergartens within the range of rockets and mortars along Israel’s eastern flank.

Down to the last Israeli

It would thus seem that much of US Jewry is so blinded by its obsessive attachment to the failed formula of two-states-for-two- people that they are prepared to defend it—paradoxically under the banner of liberal political philosophy – down to the last Israeli. Indeed, in its mindless subscription to the two-state notion as the touchstone of Israeli democracy, “liberal” Jewry disregards Israel’s many merits and highlights its inevitable defects—thus greatly contributing to its international de-legitimization across the globe. After all, who better for the Judeophobes to cite than the Jews themselves?

But beyond disregard for Israel’s virtues, US liberal Jews seem to be blind to the nature of its adversaries. Despite ample evidence, they refuse to acknowledge that Arab (including Palestinian Arab) animosity is not rooted in anything the Israel does—or does not do; but in what Israel is: Jewish. Concessions will not satiate Arab appetites, only whet them.

But if US “liberal” Jews frown upon the coercive measures that Israel is compelled to use against the Palestinian-Arabs, were they to apply the same criteria to their own country, they would have good reason to feel even more disenchanted. For when faced with threats far less severe than those faced by Israel, the US has responded far more vigorously and less discriminately than Israel, whether in the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan and even Yemen, with “collateral” civilian casualties dwarfing anything Israel has been accused of.

Yet strangely, few if any, embittered Jewish liberals have distanced themselves from the USA because they have been disappointed by American brutality and its failure to live up to their immaculate standards of state behavior.

Expose and inform

Given the facts on the ground, Israel should in fact be the proverbial “apple of the eye” of US liberal Jewry, an object of pride it is eager to be identified with—especially in light of the harrowing circumstances under which it is forced to exist.

Sadly, Israel has done inexcusably little to harness the facts to rebuff the attacks on its democratic credentials and has allowed imperative coercive actions to ensure the security of its civilians against an implacable foe, to be portrayed as racist brutality.

Thus, Israel is losing the support of the US diaspora by default. By spending a pittance on public diplomacy, it is by its own incompetence and impotence fostering the narratives of its adversaries.

The Spring 2016 edition of the Columbia University journal, “Current”, ran an interesting piece entitled “Reclaiming Alienated Liberals: Israel’s Imperative for Diaspora Jews” by Benjamin Davidoff, self-professed pro-Israel advocate. There are many things I disagree with in the article -such as the need for a Palestinian state and the call for Israel to empower J-Street, but on one matter Davidoff was spot on. He conveyed the feeling that pro-Israel advocates had been abandoned by Israel. He aptly notes: “Israel has an obligation to aid in pro-Israel advocacy on university campuses. Israel has largely ignored those fighting for Israel on campus and has failed to offer any true support for diaspora Jews… this issue directly affects the viability of the Israeli state in the future and should be of primary concern for Israel.”

On this he is quite right – and Israeli officialdom will ignore this obligation at the nation’s peril.

Dr. Martin Sherman

Misguided Criticism by American Jewish Liberals

Sunday, July 10th, 2016

27 Jewish “social justice organizations” recently wrote a widely-publicized open letter calling upon “political candidates to put an end to the racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia” which “has emerged in this year’s campaign.”

Naturally, all Jews – and decent people anywhere – agree racism of any form is unacceptable, and none of us approve of what these organizations describe as “hurtful characterizations of entire ethnic groups as criminals.”

All Americans can agree that “The Jewish community knows all too well what can happen when particular religious or ethnic groups become the focus of invective. We have witnessed the dangerous acts that can follow verbal expressions of hate.”As such, it was disappointing that a radical, extremist organization such as The New Israel Fund, which openly supports a boycott of Israel were among the organizations who signed this letter.

It is quite clear that today’s Democratic Party is not the Democratic Party of old.

Israel must always be a bi-partisan issue and sadly we’ve recently seen that historic bond between Israel and the Democratic Party erode and weaken. Shamefully, elements of the Democratic Party are anti-Israel and doing all they can to destroy the pro-Israel consensus, as they stand shoulder to shoulder with those who boycott Israel.

Further, why did this letter not urge all candidates to stand with Israelis across the political spectrum who say no to dividing Jerusalem and a no nuclear Iran?

Naturally, all of us stand with the letter writers in condemning Anti-Semitism.  Therefore, why did this letter not urge all candidates to “shun advisors and close family friends” (i.e. Max Blumenthal) who are Anti-Israel, compare the Israel Defense Forces to Nazi Germany, refer to Israel as an “apartheid state” and harm the Jewish State.

As Alan Dershowitz—a Clinton supporter – notes, “Max Blumenthal is well outside the acceptable range of rhetoric about Israel. His constant comparisons between Nazi Germany and the Jewish state establish him as an extremist bigot whose greatest appeal is to anti-Semites and others who apply a double standard to the Jewish state.  Any political candidate who would associate himself or herself with such views would be unacceptable to Americans… I hope that the Clintons ask Sid to expressly disassociate himself from his son’s views–and if he refuses to, that they no longer work with him on any matters.”


The reality is that this letter was about what Jeff Jacoby, the op-ed editor of the Boston Globe has written namely that “liberalism has superseded Judaism as the religion of most American Jews.” As Author Norman Podhoretz wrote in “Why Are Jews Liberal” that “where the Torah of contemporary liberalism conflicts with the Torah of Judaism, it is the Torah of liberalism that prevails and the Torah of Judaism that must give way.”

While Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League claims this letter is not about “..a liberal or conservative issue”, he neglects to mention his recent embrace of J Street and to mention the fact that he is a former senior advisor to the most Anti-Israel President in modern history, Barack Obama.  That says it all.

Yes, we must all condemn Anti-Semitism – and we must also remember as Jacoby has written, “This liberalism isn’t rational. It isn’t sensible. It certainly isn’t good for the Jews.”

Hank Sheinkopf, Ronn Torossian

The American Jewish Community has Already Embraced BDS Against “Settlements”

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

{Originally posted to the author’s website, Elder of Ziyon}

On Tuesday, I visited the newest university in Israel, Ariel University.

It is a beautiful campus with 15,000 students. Over a dozen buildings are being constructed right now as it expands. I was shown the robotics lab and spoke with an expert in making wine from grape varieties that have been proven to have been used in First and Second Temple times. (I plan to write about that in the future.)

Ariel University has the only free electron laser particle accelerator in the Middle East.

The campus has hundreds of Arab students.  Student groups foster dialogue between Jewish and Arab students. It also attracts students from around the world. (Most of the lectures are in English.)

It is building a hospital which will be available for all residents of the region, with the aim of building a medical school as well. Ambitious plans to add more dormitories and more research centers are bearing fruit.

It has what may be the only college-level program in the world to mainstream students on the Aspergers’ spectrum. I met one very polite young man in that program who said that he had been rejected from every school he applied to before Ariel accepted him and he is soon to graduate with a degree in Middle Eastern studies.

Ariel U is centrally located, easily accessible via Highway 5 which goes directly there from Tel Aviv. From Ariel University’s “upper campus,” on a clear day, you can see Israel’s entire coastal plain.

Ariel University is a Zionist success story, in the edge of a bustling and beautiful town of 20,000 residents.

But when American Jewish groups visit Israel, nearly all of them avoid visiting Ariel University.

Jewish Federation trips to Israel do not go to Ariel University (with very few exceptions.)

AIPAC doesn’t visit.

Even Birthright won’t visit – left-wing or right-wing trips avoid it.

Because Ariel University is across the Green Line.

American Jewish organizations, afraid of criticism from the Left, have decided that Ariel does not exist and it should not be visited. It is too controversial.

But here’s the thing. Virtually every Israeli politician from left to right considers Ariel to be non-negotiable in any peace plan,

If you visit the community you know why. It is a large town and strategically situated. It is part of Israel in every real sense. The idea of uprooting the town is unthinkable.

Amazingly, J-Street U has visited Ariel to see what it is like and what their ideological enemies are up to. Yet groups that are unabashedly Zionist do not want to visit.

Christian groups love to visit the university when they go on Israel trips. But Jewish Israel missions almost all will avoid it.

This is outrageous.

The same people who say that BDS is terrible, even when practiced against Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, are effectively engaging in BDS themselves by avoiding visiting the incredible, and very Zionist, accomplishments of Ariel and Ariel University.

They cannot argue that Ariel is dangerous. (That is Birthright’s official reason.)  It isn’t. There were no incidents since the knife uprising began last September. Hamas rockets never reached Ariel. It has been far more dangerous to visit Jerusalem than Ariel over the past year.

They cannot argue that Ariel University is filled with messianic right-wing Jews. It isn’t. Some professors there are leftists, even Meretz-voters. Arab students can and do write their theses on the “Nakba.” Yarmulkas are the exception, not the rule.

At the very least, these American organizations that tell their participants that they are going to learn about both sides of the conflict are completely ignoring the biggest settlement, and only Israeli university, that is in the territories not adjacent to the Green Line.

If anyone is going to claim that they are well-educated on the conflict, shouldn’t they at least visit Ariel?

To have Jewish groups – liberal or conservative – essentially boycott Ariel sends a message that American Jews are out of sync with what most Israelis believe would be part of any peace agreement.

If you are planning a mission to Israel for your Jewish group, ask yourself why you shouldn’t visit a miraculous, modern and liberal campus that could teach most so-called “pro-peace, pro-Israel” groups a lot about real co-existence and peace.

Elder of Ziyon

White House Silent on Terrorist Murder of 13-Year-Old American Girl

Friday, July 1st, 2016

The White House is still silent in the face of a gruesome murder that has rocked the State of Israel from one end of the religious Jewish spectrum to the other.

The parents of 13-year-old Hallel Yaffa Ariel, hy’d, face a nightmare of paperwork when they rise from the seven-day “shiva” mourning period next week following the death of their daughter.

The young teen was stabbed to death by an Arab terrorist while sleeping in her bed at home in Kiryat Arba at 8:44 am Thursday morning. The killer, a resident of the nearby Arab village of Bani Naim, had climbed the security fence surrounding the community and which was located next to Ariel’s home. He entered her room through the open window, and stabbed the young girl dozens of times in her upper body.

She was an American citizen, the U.S. State Department confirmed to journalists after the murder.

But with the exception of a strong statement of condemnation of the killing by State Department spokesperson John Kirby, the Obama Administration has been silent on the matter.

Among the most painful duties to be carried out by Ariel’s parents is the necessity of reporting the death of their daughter to the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem.

The report of the death of a U.S. citizen abroad is required by U.S. law in order to obtain an American death certificate from the U.S. government. For Americans who have made aliyah to Israel, the U.S. form is essential when conducting any government business regarding a deceased individual.

The death certificate soon to be issued by Israel’s Interior Ministry won’t be enough to help Hallel Yaffa’s parents deal with American bureaucracy involving any insurance claims they might have — let alone any lawsuits against the Palestinian Authority they might file in future.

Hana Levi Julian

Goldstein on Gelt: What Kind of Economy Will the American President-Elect Inherit?

Monday, June 27th, 2016

Financial expert Peter Schiff returns to The Goldstein on Gelt Show with some advice for the 2016 president-elect on the American economy.

Whether Clinton or Trump is elected, the American president must take America out of the current recession and restore America’s greatness.

In his message to the president-elect, Schiff explains the effects of a weak dollar on stock prices and much more.

The next U.S. president will inherit an economy in shambles. But what happens when you inherit a stock position from your parents? How will that inheritance affect your finances?

Find out what you need to know when you inherit assets. What questions do you need to ask yourself when deciding whether to sell inherited stocks or keep the original positions?

The Goldstein On Gelt Show is a financial podcast. Click on the player below to listen. For show notes and contact details of the guest, go to www.GoldsteinOnGelt.com


Doug Goldstein, CFP®

Israel, the American Elections and the Turmoil in Our World–A Parable

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

Once upon a time, in a large, gloomy palace high on a mountain, where the night wind howled outside its massive walls, there lived a king—a real one. He had a beard as long as a silver waterfall and a voice that boomed like thunder. A king needs no more.

His name was Teuton, though some called him Germania. Wherever he traveled, his citizens groveled before him in the dust; and if they failed to do so, they were beaten to the ground. So you see, dear reader, how mighty our king was.

In the course of time, King Teuton produced a son called Democratio. This prince had one remarkable feature – he possessed a hollow head. It was completely empty. There was nothing between his ears, absolutely nothing. It is hard for us to grasp this idea because our heads are so full – though, were they otherwise we would find it even harder. For a long time, even the prince himself was not aware of his peculiarity. For one thing, he could not tell that his head was empty precisely because it was empty. For another, nobody could let him know, because it was impossible to tell just by looking at him how empty his head really was. What a stroke of luck! Most of all, however, nobody dared tell him, because it is not wise to tell the king’s son the truth unless, of course, it is a pleasant truth.

But the truth will out. One day, when the prince was thirteen, he went running pell-mell up the stairs and banged his royal head against a wooden beam. It rang audibly, just like an empty champagne glass. The prince was most surprised. He tapped gingerly on the side of his skull and indeed it emitted a light, clear echo.

“Dear me!” exclaimed the astonished prince. “Could my head, this valuable head of state, really be empty?” He hurried to the royal physician. Now, this physician was a wise man. “Examine this head,” commanded the prince, and so the wise physician did. It was a tricky task indeed to tell the prince the truth about his head, especially because the physician desired to keep his own. But, as I mentioned, he was a very wise man. He took his small silver hammer and tapped gently on the important head. It made a clear, beautiful, empty sound.

“Your majesty,” the physician announced, “I congratulate you. It is quite empty.”

“Really?” said the prince, suddenly very pleased. “Is it really hollow?”

“Oh yes, Sire,” and the physician bowed low. “It is extremely rare, especially with such a magnificent sound!”

“But, when my wicked father dies,” said the king’s son, suddenly worried, “then I shall have to reign. How can I, with an empty head?” The physician tiptoed silently to the door and locked it. He bent towards the royal ear and whispered:

“Thou hast a most unique head to reign! Whenever there is a conflict of opinion in the land, do as follows: Listen first to one party and send it away.”

“All right,” said the prince.

“Then hear the other party and send it away as well.”

“Fine,” said the prince.

“That is all,” said the physician, smiling.

“But, which party is right?” asked the prince.

The physician carefully looked around, to make sure nobody would hear, and quickly replied: “The larger.”

Cruel old King Teuton died. It was a marvelous day of flag-waving and rejoicing. But amidst all the festivities, the nervous new king ascended the throne with his heart full of foreboding. But he needn’t have worried. In fact, he managed to the satisfaction of nearly everyone. His reputation as a wise king rapidly spread beyond the country’s borders, and the secret of his hollow head stayed right in that head—which shows, dear reader, how easy it is to hide nothing!

One fine day, the king made a grand dinner. I cannot begin to tell you how magnificent this feast was. It was of such stately splendor that even the British guests were impressed. It was a spectacle of incredible proportions. The tables were laden with the most expensive gold cutlery and the finest bone china. The aristocracy trod softly, and in awe, as though the messiah himself was expected to attend. There was soft music, so gentle that it could barely be heard, yet its absence would have been noticed. Few words were spoken; little was eaten. After all, the guests were too genteel to display their base inclinations. The conversations, although quite meaningless, were held in the most elegant Latin. In short, a delightful evening was had by all, even by standards of the nobility. King Democratio could hardly contain his joy. His glittering eyes disclosed great satisfaction. Such a success with an empty head!

Then, by chance, the king glanced into the reception hall. His facial expression became suddenly severe. Framed by the open palace door, an old, unkempt man stood gasping for breath.

“Hey!” called the king, waving his scepter. “What is this?”

“Sire, Sire…”

“What?” called the king, descending from his royal throne.

“A crisis, Sire!” he exclaimed. “A crisis has come over the land!”

“A what?” asked the king.

“A crisis, Sire…”

“Well,” said the king, “that is bad.” He did not know what a crisis was, but he understood that it was something sad, so he looked as a king should look at such a moment.

“This is a great pity,” he declared, and in his heart was a growing sense of unrest.

The next morning, when the king awoke in his stately bed, he stared up at the satin canopy and thought about the crisis. What a pity it had to come and spoil everything. It had all been going so well, despite his empty head.

“First of all,” he said to himself, “I must find out what a crisis is.” He dressed quickly and summoned all the wise men of the land. Majestically, they walked through the streets to the palace, their long beards flowing before them, sighing from the weight of their wisdom. Some of them had heads so heavy with wisdom that they nearly tumbled off their shoulders, right in front of the populace! They told the king the meaning of a crisis.

It took three days before they finished, though after barely a few minutes the king’s eyes filled with tears, since his heart was good and compassionate. He listened carefully all three days. Then the wise men fell silent.

“Are you finished?” asked the king.

“Yes, Sire.” the wise men said. “That is all.” They straightened their beards and left. And the king sat on his throne, alone. Evening came, and he sat in darkness. He thought, and thought some more, and began to cry – a small, sad figure.

Confusion and emotion seized the country. There had to be a solution!

A royal decree was issued, to write as many books as possible about the crisis; a command to anyone who could wield a pen. The books did not have to be completely true, but they did have to be fat and cheap. It was also necessary to hold many meetings, each with at least two speakers, an introductory discussion, a concluding debate, a vote of thanks and, if possible, a word of sincere tribute. Filled with courage, the citizens began their work. As far as the books were concerned, the nation split into two groups: those who wrote about the disaster and those who read about it, agreeing with the authors on how disastrous the disaster really was. Most of the time, however, was spent at meetings. Evening after evening, the citizens listened, applauded and asked intelligent questions.

The king worked even harder. He did nothing but read what was written, wading through the growing piles of literature from early morning until late at night. He spent the whole day in pajamas; there was no time to dress. He learned what money was, who owned it, who did not own it, and who should own it. He learned about laborers and how they worked. He learned the laws of supply and demand, of price and value. And an amazing thing began to happen. Slowly his head filled up. It gradually became heavier and heavier, as the crumbs of wisdom collected and combined, until it was completely filled.

“And now,” said the king, “we shall apply all that we have learned.” Laws began to spew forth from the palace. Good laws, intelligent laws, refined laws. But the unthinkable happened. The crisis remained. The misery increased, and the citizens became impatient. The king was not as wise as some had thought! When he heard of this, he laughed and proclaimed new laws, more intelligent, more refined and sophisticated. But still, the misery continued. The king grew a beard, which turned gray. Every night he lay in bed awake, tossing and turning, slowly going mad. Until one night when he suddenly sat bolt upright. Struck by a blinding flash of inspiration, he shook his head in wonder, marveling at his own wisdom. Then he lay down again and slept a pleasant sleep.

The next day, royal couriers on horses hastened to the neighboring countries. They blew on brass trumpets and sang a great song: “The king has found a solution!”

One hundred and twenty monarchs were invited to Democratio’s kingdom. One hundred and twenty mighty kings came to put everything in order in one final meeting. Flags were hoisted, and people took to the streets to see the mighty kings. There they were! They came from the north, the south, the east and the west. Only one king was not invited. His territory was too small, and one could do without him. So, all the great kings came together. After appearing on the palace balcony, receiving a rapturous welcome from the crowds, they withdrew to deliberate. Each king naturally had a vast retinue of chroniclers, scholars and private secretaries who formed themselves into upper-committees, middle-committees and lower-committees. These were divided into main-committees, then again into sub-committees, which were further divided into bodies of legal advisers, sub-advisers and sub-sub-advisers. It became an enormous crowd. At the end of this momentous day, King Democratio offered his people a few words of reassurance from the royal balcony, and the populace went to bed satisfied.

The next morning, the 120 kings rose early, ate a hasty breakfast, and carried on, creating sub-sub-sub committees. In this fashion, many days passed, until the web of committees became so complicated and intricate that further branching became impossible. In the meantime, King Democratio had become very tired. Each evening he came out to his balcony to reassure his good people of the progress being made. In fact, there were special people appointed to distribute papers throughout the land on which the reassuring words were printed.

But this terrible tale of woe gets no better. All of the king’s words and all the papers were of no avail. The crisis remained, and indeed worsened. King Democratio could no longer sleep at all. His beard went totally white. He met with the sub-committees and the sub-sub-committees. He told the authors of the papers about their responsibilities. He dined with the kings. And, most difficult of all, he continued to speak about the fantastic results of the conference, which would no doubt lead to a solution. But his eyes were sad, and his hands trembled.

The people began to grumble, slowly but surely, like tormented creatures. They expected bread but received only papers and strange statements. One evening, a crowd gathered beneath the royal balcony. Theirs were stark, silent, white faces. Soldiers came and dispersed the gathering, but the next evening they came back. The soldiers were cruel, and people were tortured. But they still came from all the directions, more and more people, forming an enormous crowd. They called out for the kings. They wanted to see the monarchs.

So the kings came out to the balcony. Thousands of fists were raised, a mighty cry arose from the crowd, and the kings stood with bowed heads. They tried to speak, but were not heard. They asked for silence, but were refused. Suddenly, one sharp voice rose above the tumult of the people:

“There was another King, who was not invited!”

King Democratio peered down over the balcony. “And who is that?” he asked mockingly.

The crowd was silent for a moment; then the same voice called out: “You kings, fools, jesters of wisdom and intellect! Who gave you crowns on your heads and ermine-trimmed robes on your shoulders?”

And the hundred and twenty kings fell silent. The lonely voice had spoken.

“We, with all our one hundred and twenty kings, are powerless if One more King is not invited.”

And, dear reader, if you will ask why some kings thousands of years ago managed so successfully, remember that they invited the other King as well.

Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo

Why are American Jews and Israel Drifting Apart?

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

In the last few weeks a number of pundits have proposed similar reasons for the divide between Israel and what is now, unfortunately, a majority of American Jews. They point to the extent to which Jews in America now identify more with their Americanism than with their Judaism, manifested both by intermarriage and by a lack of understanding of what Israel means as a Jewish state.

I want to suggest that the reason is somewhat deeper: the loss of Jewish identity is due to an attenuation of Jewish self-esteem.

America has been very good for the Jews. The generations who arrived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries found a land of great opportunities, and their offspring benefited from access to higher education and the booming economy, such that there are few areas of life in which American Jews have failed to excel.

But the State of Israel represents the ‘specialness’ of the Jewish people, which started with the Patriarchs and the M, and has continued through the enslavement in Egypt and the Exodus, the giving of the Torah at Sinai, and the conquest of the Land of Israel, and the Temple service. Despite millennia of exile from the Land and of anti-Semitism, Jewish ‘specialness’ persists to this day. Despite attrition, not only by attempts at genocide, forced conversion but also by assimilation and intermarriage, the Jewish nation has survived and flourished. None of the efforts of nation after nation have succeeded in erasing the underlying identity of the Jews, which is based on the self-esteem of each Jew and the communal self-esteem of the Jewish people.

Throughout the generations and in all the places in which they lived, in the Land of Israel and around the globe, the Jews preserved and continue to preserve their particularity, by means of the use of the Hebrew language for prayer and learning, and, for the last century or so, in Israel, as the vernacular.

Authentic Judaism requires that Jews respect and draw inspiration from the past, that they live in the present and use their abilities for the benefit of mankind, and plan for the future age of the ingathering of all Jews to the Land of Israel and the restoration of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. In this way they kept their particularistic national identity in all those centuries in which the vast majority of Jews lived outside the Land.

Authentic Judaism requires devotion of time and energy to learning and performing mitzvoth. It also requires Hebrew literacy, stable family life, and an understanding of the links between Jews of the current generation with those of all past generations and their obligations to the future and to the world. Self-esteem is created and preserved by the strong family, communal and national connections, which are ensured by common identification with the Torah. Authentic Judaism rejects postmodernism, with its distrust and deconstruction of any ideology which is clear and lasting.

In the absence of one or other of these features of Jewish identity and self-esteem, the road to assimilation and the disappearance of a connection with the State of Israel and its Jews is wide open.

Modern movements in Judaism base their content on selected ideas which are taken from parts of the Jewish sources (“prophetic Judaism”) and, translated into terms which purport to be universal, appear to be consistent with values which are deemed to be politically correct: equality, human rights, non-discrimination, internationalism and Tikkun Olam (a misrepresentation of a complicated halachic concept, by which the Rabbis of the Talmud preferred certain rabbinical interpretations over others in the light of specific exigencies).

By doing so, the adherents of these movements are deprived of exposure to the texts and ideology of Judaism, in all their depth and breadth, their dynamism and the interrelationship between each part of the Torah (in the broadest sense) and each other part. In this way, these movements deprive Jews of their self-esteem, their distinctiveness, and ultimately their identity.

Those who identify Judaism only as a national liberation movement, with Israel at the center, may become disenchanted with this or that policy of the Israel government, and their Jewish identity reveals itself only in a hubristic attempt to dictate to Israel how it should behave, usually without sufficient knowledge of or regard for the history, geography or the exigencies of daily life in Israel.

Those whose Jewish identity is centered on commemoration of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism have chosen a negative narrative in which a specific period of Jewish victimhood is central and Jewish self-esteem is absent. The specific anti-Semitism of the Nazi exterminations is often subsumed into a general universalization of racism, without a specific Jewish context.

Those whose Jewish identity is manifested only by attendance at occasional Bar Mitzvahs and weddings, and visiting houses of prayer once or twice a year, or eating “jewish” foods, or having a particular sense of humor, or even donating large sums to Jewish institutions, which are at most nostalgic expressions of loyalty to past generations, are unable to pass a love of Judaism and the Jewish people to their children.

Those for whom the history and authentic ethos of the Jews mean nothing will act and think no differently from the gentiles with whom they mingle, and are at risk of becoming indistinguishable from them (except to anti-Semites).

So the repair of the distancing of American Jewry from Israel requires rigorous rethinking of the relationship between each Jew and his heritage, and between him and his American identity. Reestablishment of Jewish self-esteem is the key to this.

Philip Marcus

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/why-are-american-jews-and-israel-drifting-apart/2016/05/24/

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