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Posts Tagged ‘Rabbi Yehuda Levin’

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

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

‘Family-Values Rabbi’ Visits Jerusalem, Vatican

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

“Now we have the possibility of permanently stopping the yearly gay pride march in Jerusalem,” Rabbi Yehuda Levin of the Rabbinical Alliance of America told The Jewish Press at the end of a two-week trip to Israel, which ended earlier this week.

 For the past several years, Rabbi Levin, a Brooklyn resident and founder of Jews For Morality, has traveled to Israel, lobbying to ban the annual summer gay pride parade in Israel’s capital. With Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu likely to form Israel’s next government, Rabbi Levin sees success in sight.

 Several years ago, a Knesset bill which would effectively prohibit gay parades in Jerusalem was buried in committee. If religious and right-wing parties – who currently have considerable leverage – make joining a Netanyahu coalition conditional on a commitment to passing that bill, Rabbi Levin is “cautiously optimistic” that Jerusalem’s streets may finally be clear of what he calls “the abomination parades.” While in Israel, he and his colleague, Efraim Holtzberg, approached several politicians, including Shas leader Eli Yishai and National Union head Yaakov Katz (Ketzaleh) who were receptive to the initiative, he said.

 In the meantime, however, Rabbi Levin is keeping other channels open as well. Prior to arriving in Israel, Rabbi Levin traveled to Rome and met several prominent Vatican officials concerning the parade, among other issues. In the wake of his visit, Archbishop Antonio Franco, the papal nuncio in Jerusalem, conveyed the Church’s opposition to the parade to Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.

 At the Vatican, Rabbi Levin met with Archbishop Raymond Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura; Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life; Msgr. Charles Brown of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Father Peter Gumpel, who is heading the efforts to beatify Pope Pius XII; and Bishop Brian Farrell, vice president of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews.

 “One of the purposes of my trip,” Rabbi Levin said, “was to stress that in light of the constant worldwide attacks on family values, it is imperative that ecumenical activities between Catholics and the Jewish community focus not on religious liturgy and past wrongs but on a united alliance to preserve family values.

 “In other words,” he said, “90 percent of Catholic-Jewish dialogues are between liberal Jews and the Catholic hierarchy in which there is total disagreement on the homosexual agenda, abortion, etc.” 

 Rabbi Levin urged Vatican officials to reach out to people like him, radio host Rabbi Daniel Lapin, and members of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, Orthodox Union and Agudath Israel – all more traditionally minded. “This can create a new and very positive alliance,” he said.

Rabbi Levin realizes some Jews are apprehensive after the Church in recent years revived a Latin prayer calling for Jewish conversion, moved toward beatifying Pope Pius XII, and lifted the excommunication of a Holocaust-denying bishop.

 But Rabbi Levin notes that it took the Church 500 years to recant its position on Galileo; in contrast, the Church’s position regarding Jews has altered dramatically in just 50 years. To constantly harp, Rabbi Levin said, on liturgical changes and other internal Church affairs, which antagonizes hundreds of millions of Catholics, “is outrageous and violates the rules of Jewish Diaspora, which we’ve absorbed for 2,000 years on how to deal with gentiles.”

 Besides, he said, “there is a fire in the house” – the global erosion of family values. Next to it, all other issues pale in importance. And “when the Catholic Church, which is arguably the strongest religious institution in the world, speaks out for family values the trickle-down effect helps everyone.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles//2009/02/18/

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