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May 30, 2016 / 22 Iyar, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘the Forward’

National Jewish Democratic Council Dries Up

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

In its annual search to shame Jewish organizational leaders by pointing out how much money they make, and calculating the percentage by which they do not deserve the salary, the Forward newspaper (formerly known as the Jewish Daily Forward) made an unexpected discovery: the Republican Jewish Coalition no longer has a partisan counterpart.

The National Jewish Democratic Council has apparently dumped its staff and “outsourced its activities to a Washington, D.C. public relations firm,” the Forward reports.

The NJDC’s counterpart, the Republican Jewish Coalition, has a staff of 18 and revenue in excess of $3 million. It is based in Washington, D.C. and chaired by Matt Brooks, who has been the RJC’s executive director since 1990. The RJC has become increasingly and aggressively engaged in persuading Jews to reconsider their long-held ties to the Democratic party. It has been an uphill struggle, but the tide may slowly be turning, at least for strongly affiliated Jews.

More than 70 percent of American Jews voted for the Democratic nominee for president in 2012, and by an even higher percentage when Obama ran the first time in 2008.

Jews who vote for Democratic candidates do so because they see their issues as the issues promoted by the Democratic party: reproductive rights, gun control and climate change, and the separation of church and state. Many of those voters seem to consider these issues to be synonymous with Jewish values.

The NJDC also claimed to count strong support for a “Jewish, democratic state of Israel,” but that was apparently not the same as focusing on the actual strength, safety or security of the actual Jewish State.  That, by contrast, falls quite a bit further down on the list of priorities when choosing candidates for the NJDC to back.

In other words, increasingly unaffiliated Jews and Democratic party Jews will vote for a Democrat no matter where that candidate’s positions on issues regarding halacha fall – not surprisingly –  but also no matter how little those candidates focus on ensuring the continued life and security of Israel.

This is so, despite the self-description on the NJDC website, which seems to suggest otherwise. The first statement about its mission acknowledges that the goal of the NJDC is to “maximize[] Jewish support for Democrats at the federal and state levels of government.” In other words, NJDC brings out the Jews for the Democratic candidates.

Next, the NJDC seeks to educate “Democratic elected officials and candidates to increase support for Jewish domestic and foreign policy priorities.” What those priorities are remains unsaid.

And finally, the NJDC does these things in order to “promote both social justice in American and a secure, democratic Jewish State of Israel.” How and whether there is any intrinsic connection between social justice in America and a secure, democratic Jewish State of Israel also remains unsaid.

Why the NJDC has shorn off all of its paid staff, jettisoned its office space and now exists only as a volunteer organization at this time is unclear.

Perhaps it had to do with the early and abrupt departure of a previous NJDC executive director, Rabbi Jack Moline, under circumstances no one was willing to discuss, or perhaps it was simply the inevitable continuation of a strategy begun in 2014 to “cut costs and to pay off old debts to vendors,” as the Forward suggests. Maybe someone was finally asking the question: who needs to fund anything that smacks of “Jewish” running after Jewish Democrats anyway?

The tasks for which the NJDC were previously responsible are now being performed by Bluelight Strategies, a public relations firm owned by a former NJDC vice president.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

Elissa Strauss, Are You on our Side or on the Side of our Enemies?

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

I know it’s the Internet, so people tend to assume they already know what I’ve written, and form an opinion regardless of what’s actually in the text. So for you—and you know who you are—let me state emphatically that the purpose of this article is not to stifle debate, or opposition, or protest, or criticism of Jewish settlements, but to discourage joining with enemies of Jews to boycott Jews wherever they are. Got it? Not stifling debate – stifling open acts of economic warfare against your own people with whom you disagree.

You’re still going to comment that I’m stifling debate, aren’t you.

In her insightful and honest piece in the Forward this week, Confessions of a Disengaged Young Jew – How Birthright and Hillel Turned Me Off to Israel, Elissa Strauss is offering crucial evidence to the fact that the final smelting of the Jewish nation from all the riffraff that have attached themselves to it since the exodus is well on its way.

The people of Israel traveled from Raamses to Sukkot, some six hundred thousand men on foot, not counting children. And the riffraff also went up with them, as well as livestock in large numbers, both flocks and herds. (Ex. 12:37-38)

The Hebrew word, Erev Rav, literally means “mob of disconnected people,” synonym: Assafsuf, meaning rabble or riffraff.

The Exodus was a cleansing moment in human history, and, obviously, in Jewish history. The Midrash tells us that a full 80 percent of the Israelites were not redeemed from Egypt, because they did not slaughter the Pascal lamb and did not smear their doorposts with its blood.

So, only 20 percent of the Israelites dared embark on the road to liberation with Moses. But they didn’t leave alone. Rashi tells us that the Erev Rav were a mix of nations of converts who were swept by the rush of the Hebrew slaves to freedom.

Rashi also offers a telling commentary on Exodus 32:7, right after the orgiastic gold calf episode: God said to Moshe, “Go down! Hurry! Your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have become corrupt!” Rashi notes that the verse doesn’t say “the people” but “your people,” meaning the riffraff whom you accepted on your own, and converted them without asking me, because you said it would be a good thing for them to come close to the Divine Emanation – and they are corrupt and corrupted others.

Those two key phenomena have never ceased to be an essential part of our history. Every century or so, wherever we are, we lose about 80 percent of our people for a variety of reasons, some historical, some emotional, some economical. And throughout our existence, until the arrival of the redeemer, we will have in our midst the riffraff.

Referring to the Pew Research Center study on American Jewry, Elissa Strauss notes that more and more young American Jews “are moving in my direction, distancing themselves from Israel altogether. This isn’t so much about Zionism versus anti-Zionism as it is about not bothering at all.”

That’s the first Jewish phenomenon: as the American diaspora matures, having had a century or so of prosperity, its staggering, original high number of 6 million is plummeting rapidly to about one fifth of that. The combination of simple assimilation and mixed marriages, with the outright canonization of intermarriage by some movements, have been slicing American Jewry into roughly 20 percent observant, meaning concerned about their Jewish extended family and nation, and 80 percent everything else.

Elissa Strauss, though, also represents the other phenomenon as well. “I just couldn’t juggle the experience of Tel Aviv’s lively beaches, the serene intensity of Friday evenings at the Kotel, and the sadness and shame I feel when I hear about life in Gaza and the West Bank.”

Yori Yanover

Shushed and Booed, Podhoretz Walks Out on 92 St. Y Panel

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

There have already been several reports of the ruckus that occurred during a talk entitled, “What Does it Mean to be Pro-Israel in America Today?” which was held at the 92nd St Y in Manhattan Monday night, Dec. 16.

But no accounts thus far examine the role of the audience in inciting a panelist to get up and walk out of the event.

There were first hand accounts by John Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary and the panelist who walked out of the event, and another by Jane Eisner, the editor of the Daily Forward, who was the moderator of the event.

The other two panelists were Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, and David Harris, president of the American Jewish Committee.

One account can be found on this website.  Haaretz and the New York Times weighed in with their own versions, based, loosely, on the earlier accounts.

The rabidly anti-Israel blog Mondoweiss headlined the story “Podhoretz leaves 92nd St Y stage after saying Swarthmore Hillel deserves to be ‘spat on.'”

Over on planet Mondoweiss, the editor was so eager to prove his true lefty street creds he expressed outrage that the event was held without a single Palestinian Arab on the panel. He mused: “I wonder what liberal Jewish forum would have staged a debate on Jim Crow back in the ’60s without black leaders…” Earth to Mondoweiss: the topic for the evening was “What Does it Mean to be Pro-Israel in America Today?”

WHY AND WHEN DID PODHORETZ EXIT STAGE RIGHT

Podhoretz admits saying that the decision by the Swarthmore “Hillel” to vote itself out of Hillel so it could sponsor anti-Zionists was their right, just as it was his right to (rhetorically, he claims) “spit at” the Swarthmore (former) Hillel group. This was the topic of discussion by several commentators.

But that isn’t when Podhoretz left the stage.

According to the accounts of the two participants, Podhoretz became agitated during the discussion of the recent American Studies Association’s decision to boycott Israeli academic institutions.

What happened was that although all of the panelists said they disapproved of the ASA boycott, J Street’s Ben Ami then began recounting what he said were Israeli policies that led people to believe that a boycott of Israeli institutions was appropriate.

PODHORETZ DEFENDS ISRAEL, AUDIENCE EXPLODES, ‘ENRAGED’

“You’re blaming the victim!” Podhoretz exclaimed.

To which the 92nd Street Y audience erupted into loud booing.

According to the moderator, Eisner, who is much closer to Ben-Ami’s Israel viewpoint than the others – having served as a co-chair of her local New Israel Fund regional council – there was not just scattered booing. She wrote in her blog on the topic that when Podhoretz accused Ben-Ami of blaming the victim, some “members of the audience became enraged.”

The audience was so disruptive with what Podhoretz described as a “prolonged bout of booing,” that he turned to the audience and asked with what he thought was obvious irony, “why don’t you also hiss?”

Eisner did not understand that Podhoretz was being sarcastic.  She wrote that “mystifyingly, the Commentary editor encouraged them, challenging them to boo and hiss.”

The audience also did not understand, or was not embarrassed by Podhoretz’s sarcastic effort to remind them they were adults listening to a panel discussion, not bloodthirsty members of a bullfight audience, howling for blood. We know they didn’t understand because their response was to hiss, along with the booing.

That appears to really be what tipped the balance.

It was with the audience hissing and booing, that Eisner claims Podhoretz raised his voice and wagged a finger at Ben-Ami. Eisner wrote: “That’s when I stepped in, trying to rein in the argument, using my hands (I am known to gesticulate) to try to calm him down.”

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

Why Is the Left So Concerned with Haredi Dropouts?

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

Over the past few months, we’ve been inundated with stories about Haredi men and women who can no longer tolerate life inside their sheltered—and at the same time oppressive—communities, and opt instead to live in the big city, go to college, go on the Internet, and subscribe to cable television like the rest of us.

Some of them do it because of their sexual preferences—as was depicted by the touching film “Trembling before God,” others go on NBC to explain how much better off they are with their college degrees and Manhattan careers. It’s all extremely touching as well.

Then there are Modern Orthodox Jews who advocate passionately that these ex-Haredim should try their looser-but-still-religious lifestyle, instead of going “off the road” altogether. I’m sure Conservative and Reform compassion is poured on them, too. No Jew left behind, you know the drill.

If you ask me, there’s something hollow, even vacuous, certainly vulgar, about people who manage their personal relationship with God through newspaper articles and television tidbits (like the recent NBC item). It makes me, personally, feel uncomfortable. It’s like watching someone shopping for a bathing suit – I have no doubt they could use a nice suit, but why must I be made to watch?

But the hyper indulgence of outfits like the Forward and NBC in these stories and confessions and heartbreaking melodramas have very little to do with religious or spiritual soul searching and a whole lot more to do with the Jewish left’s panicky need to do something about the enormous tide of Haredi births, which threaten to drown American Jewry with torrents of cute, little, seemingly identical Haredi babies—in my opinion, the current dispute is only over the point in time in which Haredim will constitute the majority of Jews in America, but nobody questions the fact that that moment will be here, in our lifetime.

By pointing out the shortcomings—some obvious, some less familiar—of the burgeoning Haredi masses, these anxious reporters must prove that the laws of physics are working, and that the Haredi pendulum that has been swinging in an unstoppable curve to the right, must, at some point, give in to the laws of gravity and entropy and start swinging back.

And so, the refugees from Lee Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, for their self-indulgent reasons, are collaborating with the anxious, Jewish left, to make history more palatable.

Here is the most recent contribution to this genre, “Why I Am Not Modern Orthodox,” by Shulem Deen, on the Forward’s blog dedicated to “conversations about the Jewish tomorrow” (where Shimon Peres meets Zabar’s? — thanks to my friend Larry Yudelson for the link and the quote, I originally thought it was written by Larry, only to be told otherwise by our readers):

“What many ex-Haredim are saying, then, to religious leaders and religious communities and religious lifestyles of all kinds: We have lost the trust necessary to embrace your religious views, however moderate they might be. We have lost faith in your ability to convey truths, just as we have lost faith in the Haredi worldview with which we were raised. We have rejected that which demands trust but does not recognize the need to earn it; dogmas and assertions simply declared as truths, be they Satmar or Modern Orthodox, Chabad or Renewal.”

This note aggressively depicts that mission in well phrased protests good enough to be pinned, Martin Luther style, on the oak doors of the main Satmar synagogue. But while I recognize the validity of these protests, I don’t believe they are valid—as he seems to argue—in describing the actual motivation of even a single Haredi dropout.

My own experience with young men and women leaving the fold has been that their departure was over sexual choices – looking to date more freely, yearning to explore their sexual identity, over education, over love of music, over just needing to have more fun in their lives. I doubt very seriously that anyone has decided to move to Manhattan over their loss of trust in their religious Sherpa.

I think Deen very much engages in these issues of mistrust, and he is absolutely on the money regarding their seriousness. In fact, I would venture that this loss of trust in our leaders is common to all of us, religious Jews. When a chief rabbi today is up on charges in Israel for embezzlement and the Jewish world is yawning in disinterest—it must mean that we are simply not surprised that such a man would do such things. So, we expect our rabbis to be scoundrels—what does that have to do with keeping kosher or driving on Shabbat?

Yori Yanover

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/yoris-news-clips/why-is-the-left-so-concerned-with-haredi-dropouts/2013/07/03/

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