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October 22, 2014 / 28 Tishri, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘conservative’

The Graveyard of Neoconservatism

Friday, September 21st, 2012

While Maureen Dowd warns that the neo-conservatives are coming back, an event surely worse than the siege of American embassies and the murder of American ambassadors, she can rest her head easy on that account. The neo-conservatives died  in the siege of Benghazi, much like Mubarak they are still around, but completely irrelevant in the way that most ideas are once they lose their meaning.

Dowd would know better than to celebrate the death of neo-conservativism, if she understood what that really meant, beyond the shadowy menace that her dinner party guests tell her about before the main course is served.

In the Middle East, neo-conservatives offered a middle ground between appeasement and belligerence that blended Cold War politics and Third World democracy outreach. The ideas that made so much sense when former liberals were confronting the nightmarish repressive powers of the Soviet Union met their end in the Middle East for reasons that neither they nor their ideological enemies can explain.

Democracy only works when the character of the people is better than the character of their government. It works very badly when the character of the people is actually worse and the existing system serves much the same purpose as bars in a tiger cage do. The neo-conservatives were unprepared to grapple with such troubling notions. They were very methodical in laying out the moral case against Saddam Hussein, but they were unprepared to cope with the notion that Iraq’s ruler might have reflected the moral level of a significant portion of Iraqis.

The Baath Party, unlike the Bolsheviks, was not an external ideology imposed on the Iraqis. Like most regional Socialist movements, its ideology was a fig leaf for tyranny and tribal alliances. Saddam was a cheap mass murdering thug with dreams of even bigger empires and atrocities. Removing him made a certain amount of geopolitical sense, but replacing him with purple fingers and democratic elections was never going to lead to a better Iraq.

Many neo-conservatives backed Obama’s own democracy experiments in the Arab Spring and his invasion of Libya because they seemed to resemble their own ideas. But Obama had actually reached back for Carter’s Green Belt playbook with the goal of defusing Islamic terrorism by giving their supposedly more moderate Islamist cousins what they wanted– their own countries to play with.

This wasn’t neo-conservatism, though it looked a lot like it, enough that Maureen Dowd should have blushed before beginning a tirade about the neo-conservative threat, it was appeasement politics dressed up in the same old democracy colors. The tyrants we were overthrowing were men who had made deals with us, and who were for the most part fairly benign by the standards of the region. That is what made them easy targets for the knife in the bag and the Islamist mob in the square.

By the light of burning embassies, it is somewhat redundant to even mention that this policy failed. Turning Islamists into rulers has upgraded their “extreme” wings from terrorists to militias and the September 11 attacks were an announcement that everyone, except the idiots in Washington DC still wailing about the video, understood. When armed militias and mobs besiege your embassies and plant their flags on your walls, it’s a territorial claim, not a protest rally about a dead pedophile.

The Arab Spring was the red line of democracy promotion. It pulled the trigger that Condoleezza Rice had been nervous about pulling and it did it to disastrous effect. And aside from the death toll, what all that noise really means is that neo-conservatism of the democracy intervention flavor is dead. The only people who still believe that local democracy works also believe that the Muslim Brotherhood is misunderstood and that we need to kill the Bill of Rights to appease Muslims. These are not, for the most part, neo-conservatives, they are the sort of appeasers who show up at Maureen Dowd’s dinner parties and at White House press conferences.

The death of neo-conservatism, unmourned as it may be, leaves few options between belligerence and appeasement. The neo-conservatives held out hope for a more rational order that fused the classic idealism of FDR, Ike and JFK as a formula for a foreign policy that would allow American to transform its enemies, rather than bombing them to bits.

That was why so many Democrats, especially in the most conservative Senate, got on board the George W. Bush express. Much as the left’s revisionist history might try to paint Bush as a wacky cowboy off on a shooting spree, his policy was an extension of what Clinton had done, and before liberal political calculation got in the way, had brought the senior leadership of the Democratic Party on board… not to mention Tony Blair.

What we are witnessing is the death of any such middle ground in the Middle East’s graveyard of idealism. The future will, as it turns out, not be one of purple fingers and people cheerfully accepting elections as a means of political representation, rather than a non-violent way of seizing power and then making sure that no one else can win an election again. The same mechanisms that kept Saddam in power made Maliki’s war on Sunnis and Kurds equally inevitable.

The Muslim world is not individualistic, nor is it made up of individuals seeking their own version of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is a collectivist place, even more so than the United States is becoming, where tribe and religion matter because they are the only ways that individuals get ahead. We were not dealing with meritocracies, not even the damaged affirmative action kind we run now, but with tribal systems with a smattering of modern politics on top, where local nationalism is also economic survival. The family’s social capital counts for much more than empty talk about freedom and old hatreds against neighbors can be pursued by men who wear army or police uniforms, but who identify with old vendettas more than with new governments.

We have already seen the left’s answer to neo-conservativism, if we hadn’t already seen it earlier in the Carter years. Shameless appeasement tethered to a reflexive hatred of the United States where all violence is incorporated into blowback theory. The Carter Doctrine rewards the worst enemies in the hopes that doing so will eventually make them our friends and blames all setbacks on new anger for some real or imaginary offense by us. The Carter Doctrine is now the Obama Doctrine and it’s why our embassies are burning brightly in the night.

The only good thing about the Carter/Obama Doctrine is that it cannot be sustained for long, not because our boys and girls in DC and the UN can’t keep it up, but because the Islamists won’t let them. The Salafi raids ruined a perfectly good Arab Spring because the raiders couldn’t resist rubbing the noses of the infidels in their own weakness. And those raids will only escalate because Islam, like a steroidal weightlifter, is so insecure that it constantly needs to show off its power.

But that doesn’t leave much of an alternative on the conservative side. Republicans liked neo-conservativism because it was idealistic, and by the standards set by the decaying left, had become conservative. It allowed Republicans to cheer American Exceptionalism as the solution to all global problems, without understanding that its aggressive good cheer was completely misplaced.

Exceptionalism is exceptional. If American Exceptionalism can be plonked down in Iraq or Afghanistan, then it isn’t exceptional anymore. And in fact, it can’t be. The United States has conquered and reconstructed several countries before, and only the ones with a tradition of democracy that predated the need to conquer them, are worth mentioning today. And none of them are little Americas and have, at best, a conflicted relationship with the United States.

Romney is still echoing vaguely neo-conservative talking points, but it’s doubtful that he, or anyone, besides McCain, really wants to invade Syria for the Muslim Brotherhood. Americans didn’t want the Libyan War, and aside from some of senate fixtures like McCain, few Republicans really want to do it either.

The second set of September 11 attacks may have finally begun convincing Republicans that Muslims really don’t want to be Americans and they aren’t going to be turned into Americans any time soon. It has not quite led them to the logical conclusions to be drawn from that, but it still might. The death of the middle ground of neo-conservativism leaves few options but appeasement and belligerence, not democracy belligerence, but plain old fashioned saber rattling.

If Muslims can’t be taught to be nice people and won’t leave us alone, then there are two alternatives. Give them what they want or give them hell. Obama has tried the former with the expected results. The window on giving them hell is slowly starting to creak open, though I wouldn’t expect many prominent Republican politicians to start talking like Patton any time soon.

The Israeli example has demonstrated that Muslims never miss an opportunity to sabotage their own appeasers. It’s why the Israeli left has a death grip on unelected government positions, but is about as popular with the voters as cholera on a stick. The American left could learn from its example, but if it could learn from examples, it wouldn’t be the left. Instead it banked its political capital on appeasing Muslims and if it gets a second term to do so, it will be that much closer to becoming completely unelectable– especially when Muslims decide to celebrate another September 11 in an even flashier way and with a larger death toll.

The Israeli left did everything possible to appease Muslim terrorists and the terrorists repaid them by politically destroying them with constant violence. Now Obama is on the receiving end of the same treatment and had he been as familiar with the Muslim world as he claimed to be, then he would have known to expect that. And the same process will likely kill Eurabia in its own cradle.

The ball is in the court of the right. It can choose between fake moderation and assertive action. It can rediscover the military as a force for defending the country, rather than a means of introducing Muslims to the concept of elections, and it will be pursuing the popular course. But to do that it will have to believe in America, rather in the universal goodness of human nature and the other pablum that led us into this mess.

People are not interchangeable, apart from the governments. Governments reflect the people. No country will last for very long under a government that does not reflect its national character unless that government is backed by foreign armies. It is best to treat other governments as reflective of their peoples and to treat their peoples as reflective of their government. And it is best to keep a wary distance from any people and country that are under a system too different from our own for our own safety.

Above all else, it is important to make clear to our own people and to theirs, that we have borders and nations for a reason. That if foreign nations and peoples would like to use force to tell us what movies we can make, then we will use force to tell them what protests they can have, and that in a contest of force, we will win.

It is time for a new way, a way in which Muslims will no longer have to learn about America and Americans will no longer have to learn about Islam, where we will give up on winning each other’s hearts and minds, and stick to watching each other’s property lines. That is the argument that needs to be advanced in the face of Obama’s catastrophic Arab Spring failures and the alternative to it is four more years of terror and appeasement.

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

New Kids on Campus: Young Jewish Conservatives Are Staking Out Ground

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Last weekend a core group of conservatives got together to learn, strategize and drum up the vote for their political candidate in the swing state of Pennsylvania.  But two characteristics of this group stick out – they are Jewish!  And they are young!

The twenty-somethings were holed up in a hotel outside Philadelphia, spending a traditional Shabbat – new for some of them – and talking about conservative politics – not new for any of them.  The attendees were all members of the appropriately-named Young Jewish Conservatives (YJC), who have come together to promote conservative causes in the United States, infused with Jewish values and in defense of Israel.

YJC was conceived of by two American, Jewishly observant Zionists who deal with college-age Jews: Ben Packer and Yitzchok Tendler.  Packer was a rabbi with Jewish Experience Movement of the South on the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill campus, and at Duke University.  Tendler worked with Jerusalem Fellowships, taking Jewish college students to Israel.  Both recognized something was missing on the campuses: there was nothing available for Jewish students who are politically conservative.

As Packer told The Jewish Press, “we noticed three things: one, politically conservative Jewish students on campus were being treated like outcasts, even within the traditional Jewish campus organizations; two, the trend in the Democratic party was going against Israel, with President Obama being an extreme example; and three, politically conservative college students have the values that are closest to Jewish values.”  The two decided to join forces and create an organization to fill the obvious need.

The first organized effort by YJC was the Yameena Fellowship trip to Israel over last winter break.  There was a second Yameena Fellowship trip this summer.  There were about 30 participants on each trip.  As Packer explained, “when we say young Jewish conservatives, not all of our members are equally, or even especially, conservative on all issues, and religiously they come from across the spectrum, but the single thread that pulls us all together is the pro-Israel focus, that is what solidifies the group.”

A rising star in the YJC is David Milstein.  A Dickinson College senior who hails from Virginia, Milstein learned about YJC when he saw an ad for a free trip to Israel for politically conservative American Jews.  The last time Milstein was in Israel was when Milstein was 13, and he was eager to go back.  He was especially excited about the idea of having a trip geared to someone with his interests, rather than the typical Birthright trip which doesn’t venture into Judea and Samaria, and which is frequently centrist to liberal, politically.

Milstein could barely contain himself as he described to The Jewish Press the YJC Israel trips.  “We went to the border towns, we went all the way up in the Golan, we had briefings in the Knesset, and we were treated to lessons on diplomacy and Israeli history by members of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”  One of the highlights was a special meeting between the YJC members and former Soviet refusenik and current head of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Natan Sharansky.

According to Milstein, everyone who has gone on the YJC Israel trips was already interested and maybe already somewhat active.  “But what they leave the trip with is the clear confidence to go back to the campuses and advocate – really stand up for – Israel.”  Milstein finishes: “There’s a real transformation.”

Milstein went on both YJC Israel trips.  The first time, last winter, he went as a regular participant.  This summer, after he was elected student president of the organization, Milstein went as a staff member.

Barely a year into its existence, YJC already boasts members from colleges across the country, including American University, UCLA, Hofstra University, Wellesley College, Brandeis University, Rutgers University, Harvard University, Pittsburgh University, Temple University and more than a dozen others.

In addition to the trips to Israel and this month’s shabbaton in the Philadelphia suburbs, YJC members also participated in two political conventions in Washington, D.C. over the past year.  The first was at the Conservative Political Action Committee which took place in February, the second was at the Faith and Freedom Conference which took place in June.

Dovi Meles is from Philadelphia and he was back this summer.  In the past he has been informally involved with the Republican Jewish Coalition, and was asked by that leadership to help put together a shabbaton for YJC members who might stay and work with the RJC on their swing state focus in Pennsylvania this week.

“They wanted to have interesting content and since I’m from the area I knew who might be available,” Meles said.

The programming Meles put together was heavy both on political content and on Jewish observance and networking.   One presentation was made by a former high-level Pentagon official talking about Iran, another was by Susan Kone, a Dartmouth College and University of Pennsylvania Law School grad who ran against Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) for US Congress.  The YJC members heard from a tea party strategist, a Zionist organization founder and leader, and a Jewish social media guru.

The goal of YJC, according to Packer, “is to make Jewish politically conservative students: better conservatives, better Jews and better pro-Israel activists.”

While David Milstein was already a committed conservative, he grew up in a Reform home and was not especially engaged with Jewish practices.  Due to his involvement with YJC, “where all official events incorporate Jewish traditions such as Shabbat observance and kosher meals,” Milstein told The Jewish Press,” I now try to observe Shabbat regularly, whether or not I am with the YJC, and I certainly will attend synagogue services for the high holidays.”  “This experience,” he says, “is having an impact on my understanding of the importance of my faith.”

Jew Marries Gorilla in Historic Ceremony

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

Exclusive to The Jewish Press!

In a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony as lovely as they come, Professor Manny Grossman and his smiling bride, Gloria, became man and wife under a chupah of grape vines and bananas, on the spacious back lawn of the Golden Gate Temple in Marin County, California, where statues of Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, and Moses are scattered around the beautiful gardens, and an award-winning fountain of drinkable Californian wine gushing forth from a boulder, and representing the well of Miriam, reminds congregants of their glorious Biblical past and Judaism’s brotherhood with the family of nations.  With the Golden Gate Bridge symbolically in the background, the nuptial union between the pioneer Jewish anthropologist and the stunning, white wedding-gowned gorilla marked a historic bridge between mankind and the world of the primates, and another one of Judaism’s great contributions to human culture. Rabbi Christine Christy, dynamic leader of California’s popular PDLR (Progressive Democratic Liberal Reform) Jewish Movement, and pulpit rabbi at the Golden Gate Temple, officiated at the tear-filled ceremony.

“I hereby pronounce you man and wife according to the tradition of Moses,” she declared, her voice cracking with emotion.

“If I forget you, O Jerusalem, if I not set Jerusalem over my highest joy,”  the tuxedoed groom affirmed, stepping on and shattering the traditional glass to the cheers and applaud of the overflowing crowd of university professors, doctors, scientists, and California legislators. At first, when the ecstatic bride let out a tremendous gorilla roar, a frightened hush fell over the crowd, but when the happy groom pounded his chest in a Tarzan-like call, everyone laughed. Hand-in-hand, husband and wife walked out to the center of the lawn where everyone joined in a festive hora, as the orchestra played a lively rendition of the famous song, “Tradition,” from “Fiddler on the Roof.”

“This is truly a historic occasion,” the proud rabbi exclaimed, saying she hopes to officiate at other inter-species marriages. “It puts an end to all racism, discrimination, and jingoistic talk of a ‘chosen nation,’ which has always separated the Jewish People from the brotherhood of man. Today, with their wedding, Manny and Gloria Grossman have proclaimed to the world that all the beings which God created are equal.”

Needless to say, the marriage ceremony was not without its share of controversy. In the middle of the dancing, a dozen gays crashed the festivities, holding signs which read, “We Want to Marry Gorillas Too!”

“I’d be happy to officiate at gay-gorilla weddings,” Rabbi Christy, herself a self-proclaimed lesbian, declared. “I don’t see any problem with it at all.”

“What about the rejection of non-Orthodox rabbis by the Chief Rabbinate in Israel?” a reporter asked her.

“Israel is a democracy, and in our enlightened day and age, democracy rules, not God,” Rabbi Christy answered. “Israel’s attorney general decided to equally recognize all religious congregational leaders, from whatever stream of Judaism, and grant them all the same standing and financial compensation from the State – and I am sure the Israel Supreme Court will agree.”

“What if Israel’s democracy should vote that Israel will no longer be a Jewish State?” another reporter queried.

“I would gladly accept that also,” the media-adored rabbi replied. “That would be an important step toward the universality of mankind and break down the myth of Jewish statehood which has too long been an obstacle to world peace. Judaism is a religion, not a nationality, and Jews don’t need a land of their own. Let all the Israelis come and live here in California. So many of them live here already. There’s plenty of room. And just as no person or peoples are holier than any other, neither is any land holier than the next.”

Of course, Orthodox Jews don’t agree with what they call “the circus wedding” and with the new-age opinions of the ultra-progressive woman rabbi, citing the Biblical verse, “Cursed be he who lies with any manner of beast” (Deut. 27:21), which classifies sexual relations with animals as a forbidden form of incest.

“What people do in their own bedrooms is their business,” Rabbi Christy maintains. “The Torah is out of date. Rabbis have always had the ability to enact new ordinances in keeping with the times. Besides, who says that Professor Grossman intends to have sexual relations with his wife? Today, as far as I am concerned, their platonic love for each other has been sanctified by the holy bonds of marriage, that’s all.”

“If they do have children, will they be Jewish?” the rabbi was asked.

“Of course. I presided over Gloria’s conversion myself,” she insisted. “She lights the Shabbat candles and loves to listen to the songs of Jewish cantors, especially Yossela Rosenblatt.” And then with a chuckle, she added, “If they have a child, we’ll call it a Jewilla!”

The whole affair started while Professor Grossman was conducting an anthropological research mission in the jungles of Africa on the mating habits of gorillas. “It was love at first sight,” he fondly recalls. “Gloria was different from all the other baboons and chimps. We had a special relationship right from the start. I arranged for her ocean voyage to America, divorced my wife, and today I am the happiest man in the world.”

But the path to the wedding chupah wasn’t without its share of hurdles. Some conservative streams of Judaism opposed the gorilla’s conversion. After a few weeks of vociferous debate, the different branches on non-Orthodox Judaism agreed to a simple test. Concurring that all Jews loved gefilta fish and bagels and lox, Gloria was brought before a panel of progressive, liberal, reform, and conservative rabbis, and presented with a plate of gefilta fish. With a disdainful swipe of her paw, she sent the small balls flying across the hall. Immediately, Professor Grossman stood up and protested, stating that gorillas were vegetarians and didn’t eat fish. One of the reform rabbis demanding the test be repeated, observing that no Jew really liked gefilta fish without horseradish, so a bowl of horseradish was quickly fetched and set before the gorilla with a new plate of gefilta fish. Once again, all the judges had to duck as the ape sent the little balls flying. But flashing her big white teeth in a winning smile, she scooped up the crimson horseradish in one of her giant paws and swallowed it down in a gulp.

“That proof enough for me!” one of the rabbis shouted.

“That only proves that she’s half Jewish,” a conservative rabbi countered.

So a platter of bagels and lox was set before the primate. Once again, holding its nose in a gesture of disdain, the vegetarian threw away the smelly strips of fish and started chomping on the bagels.

“That’s proof enough for me,” another conservative rabbi exclaimed. “If the ape likes bagels, that’s a sure sign that the conversion is valid and that the gorilla is a Jew in every regard!”

All in all, the Californian wedding was a lovely affair. Noticing a little old Jewish woman standing to the side of the dancing, this reporter went over to her and asked what she was doing at the wedding?

“I’m Manny’s grandmother,” she answered.

“How do you feel about the celebration?” I asked.

The old lady shrugged and let out a small sigh and said, “At least he had a Jewish wedding.”

 

Beyond Words – Rabbi Meir Kahane at His Very Best

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

One of Rabbi Kahane’s most powerful essays, “What Makes Bernie Run?” was published in The Jewish Press in 1976. Unfortunately, its scathing message is as true today as it was back then, almost 35 years ago.

We have written about programs like Birthright in the past. Sure it’s a great thing to send young Jews to Israel for an inspirational visit. If even one Jew ends up marrying a Jewish mate because of it, and coming on aliyah, then all of the millions of dollars are worth it. But, after these kids return to their college campuses and their enticing shiksa classmates, their experience in Israel will all too often turn into a fading memory with snapshots they can show to the shiksas they marry. If he is still charged up from his visit, maybe Bernie will insist that Brigette undergo some worthless conversion. Maybe he’ll get her to light Sabbath candles and tell their kids that they’re Jews. And when they grow up, maybe Bernie’s gentile’s children will pass themselves off as the real thing and get some poor Jewish sucker to marry them. What a mess it will be! There will even be “Jewish” weddings where both the bride and groom are gentiles. Soon in America, you won’t be able to know if the person you are marrying is really a Jew, or if he or she innocently believes they’re Jewish because that’s what their parents told them, and the rabbis and temples and Jewish establishment all went along with the charade. And now that the Attorney General in Israel has cleared the way to pay reform “rabbis,” thus recognizing their services to their communities, this terrible danger may spread to the Holy Land where intermarriage has been less than one percent up till now.

Rabbi Kahane envisioned it all. Here is his article. It’s long, but it’s an incredible, dynamite piece of writing that tells the truth in the brilliant, straight-to-the-jugular way which characterizes the Rabbi’s writings. He published 22 books and authored well over 1,000 articles before being assassinated in 1990. With the brave backing of The Jewish Press, he wrote scores of essays for the newspaper using a variety of pen names. But until last year, the overwhelming majority of his articles were only available in the archives of The Jewish Press building. Now, after a heroic ten-year effort by David Fine, a seven-volume set containing many of these articles has been published. Called Beyond Words: Selected Writings, 1960-1990, the collection spans 3,500 pages with most of the best articles that Rabbi Kahane ever wrote.

Beyond Words also includes several indexes in Volume 7 that enable the reader to find articles by subject, by title, and even by the references in the article to specific quotations from the Torah and the Talmud. To order in Israel, call 02-582-3540.

WHAT MAKES BERNIE RUN?

Rabbi Meir Kahane

(Federal prison, Manhattan, Lag Ba’Omer, April 29, 1975)

Once there was a television program, which centered about the theme of intermarriage. The heroes of the piece were named Bernie and Brigitte. The American Jewish Establishment put great pressure on the particular network that televised the series and the program was ultimately dropped. Bernie and Brigitte were no longer. They had been canceled…

How relatively simple it was to cancel Bernie and Brigitte on television and how much more difficult to struggle against the curse and cancer of intermarriage and assimilation that exists in real American Jewish life. How simple to picket a television series to death and how hard to stamp out the disease that afflicts us daily in the real-life existence that is the lot of American Jewry. lf we no longer find Bernie and Brigitte strolling hand in hand across our television screens we need only look at our campuses, at our streets at our neighborhoods, Bernie is alive and well.

What makes Bernie run? What makes Bernie run after Brigitte? What makes Bernie run away from Judaism and cut the chain of generations? What makes Bernie run away from the Judaism that his great-grandfather clutched at the risk of loss of happiness material wealth and so often very life? What makes Bernie run? This is the question that drives the American Jewish Establishment to frantically set up committees, study groups, surveys and commissions. This is the question that drives them to study the problem again and again and then again. This is the question to which they allocate so much time and so much communal money. This is the question that is at the top of their puzzled order of priorities, over which they scratch their collective well-groomed heads: What makes Bernie run?

Reform and Conservative Leaders Deemed Rabbis, to Receive Israeli State Funds

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

The Israeli government announced on Tuesday that, for the first time, it will pay the salaries of a small number of Reform and Conservative rabbis who are considered leaders in their communities, and will also recognize them as rabbis.

The state initially agreed to recognize non-Orthodox rabbis as “community leaders”, but a panel of judges led by Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein asked Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to agree to the terminology “rabbi of a non-Orthodox community”, which the State subsequently did.

The deal, brokered in response to a 2005 petition by the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, in the name of the Reform community of Kibbutz Gezer and community leader Rabbi Miri Gold, extends to up to 15 non-Orthodox rabbis in farming communities and regional councils.

While the salaries of Orthodox rabbis come from the Ministry of Religious Services, monies for the non-Orthodox rabbis will come from the Ministry of Culture and Sport.  The funding is earmarked as financial assistance, and will not constitute direct employment by local authorities.  It will also not be applicable in large cities, but only in small outlying towns and agricultural communities.  Up until now, all funding for the salaries of non-Orthodox rabbis in Israel have come from local membership dues.

The move will not impact the Orthodox Rabbinate’s control of marriages, conversions, and related legal questions, and will not render the non-Orthodox rabbis legal, religious, or halachic deciders.

Rabbi Dov Lipman, Director of the English Speakers Division of Am Shalem, a party led by former Shas MK Haim Amsalem, blamed the religious establishment’s rigidity for leading Israelis to seek an alternative to Orthodox Judaism.  “I feel that the unwillingness of the establishment to be more embracing and willing to solve problems has led us to this point,” Rabbi Lipman told The Jewish Press.  “I believe we have reached this point because over the last few decades, extremist parties have taken control of the religious ministry and religious services. Their policies have distanced people from Judaism and have led to the search for official alternatives.”  He said Am Shalem seeks, in accordance with Jewish law, to “restore religious services to their more embracing nature, as it was when the State was founded”  in order to make them more sensitive to the needs of the wide array of Israeli Jews, including converts.

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, head of Israel’s Reform movement, praised “the state’s decision to support the activities of Reform rabbis in regional councils, while clearly acknowledging their roles as rabbis,” and called it “an important breakthrough in the efforts to advance freedom of religion in Israel.”  Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, said the measure made it “a historic day for Israelis and Jews around the world.”  Rabbinical Assembly President Rabbi Gerald Skolnik said he hoped the decision would “open the door to new and exciting Jewish spiritual opportunities”.

Religious Service Minister Yaakov Margi (Shas) responded to the news by threating to resign if the salaries would be drawn from the Religious Services Ministry.  MK Uri Ariel (National Union) called recognition of non-Orthodox Jewish chaplains as rabbis “anti- Jewish” and a “serious injury to the values of Israel”, and said that the decision to equate non-Orthodox rabbis with Orthodox ones would be “recorded with shame”.

According to Gold and Anat Hoffman, executive director of the legal arm of the Reform Movement in Israel, the Reform movement will now seek recognition for Reform and Conservative rabbis as state and city rabbis.  The Conservative “Masorti” movement is represented in just 100 congregations throughout Israel and approximately 8 percent of Israeli Jews.

In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Hoffman said major support for their Israeli campaign – “the engine making this happen” – came from Diaspora Jewry, telling the Post “Israel is too important to be left to Israelis.”

Hoffman also said that she believes the move will cause Orthodox Jewry to understand that it is in competition for adherents, and that it will be forced to make itself more attractive to all those looking to find their place in Judaism.

Rubin Reports: Secrets of the Soft-Core Obama Supporters

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

http://rubinreports.blogspot.com/2012/04/secrets-of-soft-core-obama-supporters.html

It’s really interesting when I talk to Obama supporters who are soft-core, meaning they are open to discussion and not completely closed-minded or ideologically set in granite. There are several themes that constantly recur in such conversations, though one rarely or never sees these points in print.

Of course, these people get their information from the mainstream media, which protects the administration and repackages its talking points while largely censoring out critical responses and the failures or scandals. But there are also some important assumptions they are making on their own.

A key argument is that Obama really hasn’t done that much to change anything. The subtext of this claim is that the person who believes it is only looking at legislation passed by Congress. In that category, once one goes beyond ObamaCare or the disastrous stimulus plan, this administration has gotten far less in the way of major bills through the legislature than have many of its predecessors.

Leaving aside the fact that the speaker usually doesn’t understand the full import of ObamaCare, the problem here is that most of the changes are invisible. They are the result of regulatory changes made by unelected officials and czars in a wide range of agencies, or of executive orders from the White House. Thus, it is possible to vastly understate the changes to American society made by this administration.

Another area of change is the deep indebtedness that Obama has brought — the massive, wasteful spending, and the inability to get the country out of recession. Here, after almost a full term for Obama, the soft-core Obama supporter doesn’t blame George Bush so much as the difficult situation itself. After all, if Obama had taken over during a boom, the assumption runs, that good economy would still be going on. The implication is that the president doesn’t have too much to do with the economic state of the nation.

Then comes a theme I hear over and over again: Obama is a centrist because he gets along with capitalists. His relationship with the head of General Electric is mentioned, as is the fact that he’s hired people from Wall Street and other such things.  People say things like: to hear the right-wing talk about it, you’d think Obama is some wild-eyed Occupy Wall Street type.

There is no sense of the concept of crony capitalism. Sure the administration is happy to back specific companies if they support its policies and perhaps kick back big campaign contributions.  Obama calls for class warfare and then jets off to big fundraisers with corporate fat cats. That doesn’t make him a centrist but rather someone who knows how to leverage support and intimidate opposition.

Ironically, his behavior — most notably with “green energy” — is the kind of thing that used to be called the most blatant form of corruption, that would have condemned his predecessors to scorching media treatment.

Often there is a foreign policy point. While the “Obama got Osama” theme is big generally, the point I most often hear is that Obama has done well in making America popular abroad. People are shocked when I tell them that I meet diplomats and officials from three dozen countries that are horrified by Obama’s policy. The “Europe loves Obama” theme has long since worn off, as reflected by the media there. And American military officers and career officials are also horrified by what’s going on.

Going back to the “Obama got Osama” chant or talk of Predator drones in Yemen, I reply that this is precisely the problem. Yes, the administration views itself as being at war with al-Qaeda – but that’s it. Almost all other Islamists are viewed as moderates who can be won over in the battle against al-Qaeda. They might be taking over countries and preaching genocide against Jews and the repression of Christians, but at least they aren’t attacking New York.  This policy is destroying U.S. interests in the Middle East.

If my interlocutor is Jewish and friendly toward Israel, he will usually cite Israeli leaders saying nice things about Obama. Of course they have to say those things, I explain, and they should do so. But you should hear what they are saying about him in private. It is obvious here that Israel cannot depend on this U.S. government.

Finally, the soft-core Obama supporter says something like this: “Well, do you think he’s any different from other Democratic presidents? Is there a discontinuity with him?

Many conservatives, like Obama supporters, would agree that he is just a typical liberal, which of course provides a good reason for liberals and Democrats to vote for him and independents to have an excuse to do so.

But this is just not true. Whatever the continuities, Obama has gone much further and with some very different assumptions. Obama’s administration is radical, not liberal, but if his critics minimize his differences, it will help to assure his reelection.

Conservatives to Ordain Gay and Lesbian Rabbis in Israel

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

The Board of Trustees of the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary voted Thursday night to accept gay and lesbian students for ordination beginning in the next academic year.

Affiliated with the “Masorti” movement in Israel and with the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, Schechter trains educational and spiritual, non-Orthodox leaders for positions in Israel.

“The Schechter Rabbinical Seminary views the serious process leading to this decision as an example of confronting social dilemmas within the framework of tradition and halachah,” Hanan Alexander, chair of the seminary’s Board of Trustees, said in a statement. “This decision highlights the institution’s commitment to uphold halachah in a pluralist and changing world.”

Students are ordained by a rabbinical court, made up of three members of the Rabbinic Advisory Committee of the seminary, all of whom are members of the Rabbinical Assembly of the Masorti/Conservative movement. The court members are chosen by the candidate and subject to the approval of the seminary’s dean. They have different opinions regarding the ordination of gay and lesbian students, according to the seminary.

“This unique mechanism is an expression of halachic pluralism, one of the founding principles of SRS,” the seminary said in its statement. “The Seminary is a religious institution of the Masorti/Conservative Movement, bound by Halacha, whose inclusive approach allows for a variety of Halachic opinions.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/israel/religious-secular-in-israel/conservatives-to-ordain-gay-and-lesbian-rabbis-in-israel/2012/04/19/

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