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Posts Tagged ‘Yori Yanover’

There’s No Such Thing as Judeo-Christian Values

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

Back in 2008, David Klinghofer, who used the be the Forward’s token Republican, published a book titled How Would God Vote?: Why the Bible Commands You to Be a Conservative. I seriously disliked his book, not because I see anything wrong with Conservatism or Conservatives – my most admired politicians have been Sam Nunn and Henry “Scoop” Jackson – but I couldn’t stomach the liberties Klinghofer was taking with rabbinic tradition, to produce a book that, in my opinion, belonged on the shelves of a Presbyterian, and not a Jewish library.

My good friend and publisher Larry Yudelson and I decided, in the summer of 2008, to write a rebuttal which we titled, aptly enough: How Would God REALLY Vote: A Jewish Rebuttal to David Klinghoffer’s Conservative Polemic.

Larry contributed most of the entries, I was responsible for, I believe, 5 out of the 15. One of my major peeves regarding Klinghofer’s book was his view on the  liaison between Christians and Jews.

In his opening chapter, “With God or Against Him,” Klinghoffer sets up a premise that’s hard to follow, not because of its complexity, but because of what we on the Lower East Side would call a mishmash of concepts:

It should go without saying that my political reading of the Bible is my own, drawing on the oldest biblical interpretive tradition, claiming roots that go back three thousand years and found in the Talmud and other ancient rabbinic texts. Yet Scripture’s vision of the ideal society does not belong to Jews alone. 

The paragraph reminded me of the old Jewish joke, which is better spoken, but since I don’t know most of you personally, you’ll have to do the voices in your head:

A gentile professor of Judaic Studies in Iowa finds out that to really learn the Talmud he must go to the Boro Park section of Brooklyn and find himself a teacher. The professor flies over and knocks on a basement door and this little Jew comes out. Upon seeing him, the professor asks to be taught the Talmud, but the little Jews says, “I can’t teach you Tal-mud, you got a goyeshe kop, you just don’t think Jewish.”

The professor insists. The little Jew says, “OK, solve this problem, and I’ll teach you:

“Two people go down a chimney. One stays clean, the other gets completely schmutzig, filthy. Which one washes up?”

The professor eagerly answers, “The dirty one, naturally.”

The little Jew wails: “Goyeshe kop, goyeshe kop! I told you I can’t teach you anything. Listen, the schmutzig guy sees the clean guy. Schmutzig doesn’t see any problem. But the clean guy sees the schmutzig guy and figures he must be just as dirty, so he goes and washes. I told you, you got a goyeshe kop. I can’t help you.”

The professor begs for another chance, and the little Jew gives in, suggesting a new problem to solve:

“Two people go down a chimney. One stays clean, the other gets completely schmutzig. Which one of them would wash up?”

The professor says, “Sure, I know this one, it’s the clean fellow.”

At this, the little Jew wails, “Goyeshe kop, the clean one takes a look at the dirty one and says, Moishe, you’re all schmutzig, go wash already! Enough. I really can’t help you, mister, you got a goyeshe kop.”

The professor begs for one last chance, and the little Jews says, “Fine, one last chance, I’ll give you a completely new problem, then you’ll leave me alone:

“Two people go down a chimney. One stays clean, the other gets completely schmutzig. Which one of them washes up?”

At this point, if you’re telling this joke, it’s all physical stuff, as the poor professor from Iowa freezes, unable to decide which of the two conflicting solu-tions to choose. The little Jew can’t stand it anymore and interjects, “Goyeshe kop, who ever heard of two people going down a chimney and only one of them gets schmutzig?”

For me, this joke illustrates the essence of Rabbinic Judaism. Hardly interested in developing uniform answers or dogmas, Rabbinic Jews love dispute, which enshrines all opinions. We actually celebrate the Talmud’s pluralism with the declaration: These and these, too, are the words of a living God (Eruv. 13b, Gitin 6b, to name just two out of hundreds).

How can Klinghoffer say that he represents a tradition of 3000 years of rabbinic interpretation and in the same breath claim that there’s such a specific thing as “Scripture’s vision?”

When you read Klinghoffer’s book—keep in mind the image of the little Boro Park Jew, his hands raised to the heavens, wailing: “Goyeshe kop!” Because, to be honest, someone who has internalized the free spirit of our rabbinic sages would not seriously try to classify them either as right-wing conservatives, or as left-wing liberals.

The legal foundation for rabbinic law is found in Deuteronomy 17:8-10:

If some issue is beyond your understanding, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, as it might be a matter of controversy for you, then you will go up to the place which God chooses, and inquire with the priests the Levites, and with the judge that will rule in your days. And they will show you the sentence of judgment. And you will follow their sentence, given in the place which God will choose, and you will observe to do ac-cording to all that they instruct you.

In other words, if something comes up which is too difficult for you to decide on your own, go ask somebody who knows.

This dovetails nicely with the Mishna’s recommendation: Aseh l’cha rav, “Appoint for yourself a master and a mentor.” This phrasing indicates that you are an intrinsic part of the equation and that the arbiter you choose should be one who knows and understands you and your circumstances.

These two combined ideas, that you should seek advice on stuff you can’t figure out for yourself, and that the advice you seek should come from someone who knows you, suggest that the average Joe in Torah Land is a highly intuitive person and well versed in the law, who follows his personal notions and personal path, except when he gets stuck.

We are encouraged to act independently and intuitively concerning the entire gamut of Torah law—in matters large and small. The phrasing of the text (Deuteronomy 17:8) is ki yipaleh mimcha, lit.: “Should it be too wondrous for you.” This suggests a reliance for deciding proper behavior based on relative intuition, rather than strict knowledge.

This extremely individualized approach to morality and the law is profoundly emphasized when the Mishna describes wealth as a function of an individual’s assessment of his own satisfaction, rather than some arbitrary number of gold pieces in his coffers. In the Mishna’s view: Eizaehu Ashir? Hasame’ach b’chelko. “Who is wealthy? One who is content with his share.” (Avot 4)

Indeed, I would define the rabbinic view on politics as the sanctification of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Contentment. (Could this be characterized as a conservative idea?)

If the Torah envisions us as independent thinkers, each pursuing a personal definition of material well being, how could it possibly advocate a party line, whether conservative Republican or liberal Democratic? It stands to reason that, at its core, the Torah would encourage us to examine which of the two choices best matches our individual political needs and aspirations and vote accordingly.

In that sense, abortion is not a “yes” or “no” issue, to be decided on a strictly dogmatic basis, but an issue that reflects conflicting public and private needs. Likewise, every topic Klinghoffer deals with in his book, from women’s issues to gay marriages to state-run schools to taxes to war, should be examined not according to dogma, but according to needs.

This pragmatic approach to politics rejects ideological litmus tests from the left, too. (This is why the American political system, with its direct voting for a local representative, is much more in line with rabbinic tradition than the Israeli system, in which one votes for a slate, often one based on ideology.) Government’s job is to help improve my living conditions, not my morality.

Klinghoffer writes:

As an Orthodox Jew, I offer this book as a call to arms to America’s mostly Christian conservative voters.

And:

John McCain was right when he said, in a 2000 interview on beliefnet.com, that our “nation was founded primarily on Christian principles. ” That fact should have practical consequences.

Klinghoffer proceeds to contrast these views with those of whom he dubs the “New Atheists.” But I suspect that inside the Orthodox Jewish world, Klinghoffer would have a hard time convincing anyone of the need to apply “practical consequences” to the Christian principles upon which this country was, supposedly, founded.

He would likely hear angry grumbling on topics like the Crusades, during which Christian zealots decimated Jewish communities. He might hear a thing or two about how the Inquisition applied its Christian values to destroy the thriving Jewish centers of Spain and Portugal. Or he might hear about the European Holocaust and our annihilation at the hands of our faithful Christian neighbors. Pope Pious XII’s name might pop up in that context, as an example of how conservative Christian leaders responded when Jews were swept away in rivers of their own blood.

But even if we were to forgive Klinghoffer’s imperfect awareness of Jewish history, the very assumption of such a thing as universally accepted Christian principles is patently wrong, just like the notion that the U.S. Constitution is based on them.

Klinghoffer must be familiar with historian Brooke Allen’s popular book Moral Minority (Ivan R. Dee, 2007), in which she shows that the six most important founders—Franklin, Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton—were Enlightenment-style deists, who rejected the notion of making religion a basis for political life.

They valued the separation of church and state. They devoted a passage in the US Constitution to eschewing religion as a basis for political life. They talked about God the “Divine Author” (Washington) or the “Superior Agent” (Jefferson). The Founding Fathers weren’t atheists—nobody was in the 18th century. (Nobody except Thomas Paine, that is.) But to suggest that someone like George Washington would look to the Bible to “apply practical consequences” to political life is tantamount to telling a lie—which we have on reliable tradition that our first president was incapable of doing.

Putting aside the argument over historical revisionism, try Googling “Christian principles” and see if you can come up with any meaningful consensus. I couldn’t.

Jewish principles are easier to pin down: Open a siddur (prayer book) and right after the morning service, you find Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles of Faith. They are short, compact, and easy to remember—and there is even a rhyming version for sing-alongs.

Maybe Klinghoffer was spoiled by that gem of rabbinic marketing prowess and he figured the gentile prayer books offered a similar amenity. Fuggedaboutit. Everyone—from Marxist Catholics to Attila the Hun Evangelists—cites his own unique idea of Christian principles as the basis for his agenda. The Bible is a big book and there are enough verses to suit everyone’s moral preferences. You want a couple of examples?

The National Council of Churches Justice and Advocacy Commission offers the following “Christian Principles in an Election Year:”

1. War is contrary to the will of God.
2. God calls us to live in communities shaped by peace and cooperation.
3. God created us for each other, and thus our security depends on the well being of our global neigh-bors.
4. God calls us to be advocates for those who are most vulnerable in our society.
5. Each human being is created in the image of God and is of infinite worth.
6. The earth belongs to God and is intrinsically good.
7. Christians have a biblical mandate to welcome strangers.
8. Those who follow Christ are called to heal the sick.
9. Because of the transforming power of God’s grace, all humans are called to be in right relationship with each other.

On the other hand, a story on Ekklesia (“a think-tank that promotes transformative theological ideas in public life”) from April 15, 2003, informs:

The Rev. Pat Robertson, the founder and chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network and the Christian Coalition, said many Christians who support the war believe the biblical principles of loving one’s enemy means that precautions must be taken to minimize civilian casualties.

“…As long as we continue the course we’re on,” Mr. Robertson said, referring to the overall concern for Iraqi civilians, “we’re on solid ground, not only in terms of Christian, biblical concepts, but also in terms of public relations.”

As Iraqi casualties, by conservative counts, have reached a hundred thousand (not to mention the countless injured and an estimated two million displaced) one shudders at the projected magnitude of the butchery had the good reverend not insisted upon minimizing civilian suffering….

So, which are the authentic Christian principles that the U.S. is founded upon? “Welcome the stranger,” or “shoot every stranger that moves?” Klinghoffer is not very specific here, although I suspect that the kind of Christian principles he endorses would have driven Jesus into one of his famous table-throwing tantrums.

But even if, somehow, the Bible Belt’s Jesus Jumpers found common Christian principles with St. John the Divine’s watercress sandwich crowd—which is one big If—what resonance would these principles have with religious Jews?

Having conjured the notion of universal Christian principles out of whole cloth, Klinghoffer now moves on to another product of the American imagination: “Judeo-Christian values.”

…Pretending to fight “theocracy,” secularists are in fact attempting a radical redirection of American life that seeks to silence the authentic Judeo-Christian heritage that has sustained America since the country’s inception.

Klinghoffer should read Arthur Allen Cohen’s The Myth of the Judeo-Christian Tradition (Harper & Row, 1969), which questions the appropriateness of the term, theologically and historically, suggesting instead that it is an invention of American politics.

Cohen thinks that there is simply no such thing as Judeo-Christian tradition. He points to the fact that the two religions have had separate theological agendas for the last two thousand years.

Or, if Klinghoffer prefers a gentile’s opinion:

The label “Judeo-Christian” tends to assume, at the expense of Judaism, that Christians and Jews believe essentially the same things. Besides glossing over the very real and important theological and liturgical differences, it tends to subsume Jewish traditions within an umbrella that is dominated by Christian ideas and practices. (Religion and the Workplace: Pluralism, Spirituality, Leadership, by Douglas A. Hicks; Cambridge University Press, 2003)

Let’s be clear: Far from “sharing” one tradition, Orthodox Jews are prohibited from marrying Christians, setting foot inside a Christian church—and we can’t even drink from an open bottle of kosher wine that has been used by a Christian. We reject the Christian idea of salvation, we abhor Christian divine teachings on every subject, and we are repulsed and outraged by incessant attempts by Christian missionaries to bring us into their fold.

It is particularly disturbing when Klinghoffer makes statements which reveal his complete assumption of elements of New Testament Pauline ideology, for instance, the requirement that wives submit to their husband’s authority. There is no mandate on precisely how a woman should behave with her husband—Jews expect the happy couple to work it out for themselves. Also, while divorce may be a tragedy, and God cries, it is in no way banned—in Judaism, that is. The story in Christianity, and Klinghoffer’s “Judeo-Christian Biblical America,” is different.

Incidentally, we have more in common with Muslims than we do with Christians; Jewish law permits Jews to enter a mosque… but not a church.

To insist that we have some kind of bond with religious Christians because of similar core values, is to propagate a terrible lie. Christians who base their views on what they call the Old Testament, don’t view Mosaic law as an abiding legal text. The Church has abolished Torah law as part of its attempt to abolish the very idea of Jewish nationhood.

Pauline anti-Judaism seems not to be through the left hand as an implication of his Christology; rather his teaching on the law appears to be a spear in his right hand aimed straight at the heart of Judaism, that is, Torah… [Paul] does not disagree with individual Jews but with Judaism itself, saying that Christianity has replaced it. By attacking the law as such, Paul appears to attack not abuses and personal failings but the essence of Israel. (Paul and the Torah, by Lloyd Gaston; University of British Columbia Press, 1987.)

Jews and Christians differ on every single fundamental principle—even on the meaning of core Scriptural texts. More crucially, Christians rely on the Old Testament for legal delineation; whereas Jews rely solely upon our rabbinic tradition. We never, ever turn to our Bible for legal guidance, only to our rabbinic literature. To suggest that our Sages had anything at all in common with the likes of Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Carter or Pat Robertson is a slap in the face of 2500 years of scholarship.

“Judeo-Christian” is as valid a concept as happy-joylessness, or tall dwarves. Klinghoffer’s yearnings for this repugnant “ideal” is a deviant phenomenon without a trace of commonality in traditional Jewish thought, ancient or modern.

I have deep respect for religious leaders active in the interfaith arena, who seek to communicate and cooperate with Christians on political and social issues. But I resent Klinghoffer’s attempt to erect an ideological partnership between Christianity and its blameless victims.

David Klinghoffer attempts to rile up his readers through an attack on the “atheist left.” In the process, he manages to break away from the very rabbinic Judaism he claims as his base. This book will attempt to correct his errors, which are numerous, not in an attempt to persuade readers that God’s vote is with liberal lefties rather than with conservative righties, but, instead, to uphold our rabbinic tradition of multiple opinions. What this means in practice is that you can’t cry “God says so” in a crowded town hall meeting.


This article was originally published in How Would God REALLY Vote: A Jewish Rebuttal to David Klinghoffer’s Conservative Polemic by Larry Yudelson and Yori Yanover. Starting this week, readers can access the Kindle Edition for only $5.99.

Amb. Oren’s Wife Was Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane Groupie

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Sure, you have every reason to doubt a Rock n’ Roll story from The Jewish Press only a couple of weeks after our beloved editor Yori Yanover gave the world his Purim prank about the Rolling Stones defying the BDS’ers to perform in Israel. But this story doesn’t come from us, it’s been published by Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic Monthly.

According to Goldberg, Sally Oren, wife of Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, who today is in her early 60s and plays the role of diplomat’s spouse with distinction and grace, was a free spirited Rock n’ Roll groupie in San Francisco a mere 45 years ago.

Sally “played Frisbee with the Grateful Dead and served as Jefferson Airplane’s muse,” reports Goldberg, who was told by her daughter, Lia: “Jefferson Airplane wrote a song about my mother.”

So Goldberg, ever the dedicated journalist, confronted the mother: “Did Jefferson Airplane write a song about you?” and she, “somewhat abashed,” answered, “Two songs, actually.”

“We were kind of mascots for the bands,” Sally Oren explained. “I was too naive to know if anything else was going on.”

Sally and Bob Weir, the Grateful Dead guitarist, played Frisbee in Golden Gate Park, she told Goldberg. “I would sit with these guys on Sunday afternoons at the Fillmore dance parties. I was so shy, and Jerry Garcia wouldn’t talk a lot either. We just sat there eating hot dogs.”

By the Summer of Love, in 1967, Oren, then 16, was on a first name basis, practically, with Cream, the Doors, and the Who. “I didn’t meet Jimi Hendrix, but he was fantastic.” She had only a nodding acquaintance with other artists. “With Jim Morrison it was sort of a ‘Hi, hi, how are you?’ sort of thing,” she said.

Boys and girls, read the whole article “Six Degrees of Sally Oren – Just one woman links Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Bibi Netanyahu.” It’s fun.

And the Stones? They’ll come if we all close our eyes really tight and ask.

Israel’s US Ambassador: We’ll Act to Stop Chemical Weapons Reaching Hezbollah (Video)

Monday, December 10th, 2012

Israel’s ambassador to the United States Michael Oren said on Sunday night that Israel has been monitoring the situation in Syria for a long time and is worried about the possibility of Syrian chemical weapons coming to Hezbollah’s possession.

“If these weapons fall into the wrong hands, it will be a game changer for us,” Oren stated in an interview with Fox News.

Oren told the interviewer, Chris Wallas:”You can imagine the Hezbollah, with its thousands of missiles, having chemical weapons? It could kill thousands of people.”

The Sunday Times has reported that Israeli special forces are operating in Syria as spotters to track the regime’s stocks of chemical and biological weapons. The cross-border operation is part of a secret war to trail Syria’s non-conventional armaments and sabotage their development.

“For years we’ve known the exact location of Syria’s chemical and biological munitions,” an Israeli source told the Sunday Times, referring to Israel’s spy satellites and drones. “But in the past week we’ve got signs that munitions have been moved to new locations.”

J Street Boasting of Defeating Israel’s Friends, But its Relevance Is Questionable

Monday, November 12th, 2012

Given the large election majority received by President Obama and many other of their favored candidates, a reasonable morning-after position for a group such as J Street would be one of quiet satisfaction, or even – why not? – gleeful rejoicing.

But J Street, which has rarely met a critic of Israel it didn’t like, instead tried to promote itself as an integral part of the campaign, a driving wind propelling Democratic victories. So eager to claim a starring role, J Street released details of several exit polls they commissioned which, upon examination, tell far more about how little J Street matters.

But first, to refresh your memory regarding the quality of candidates supported by J Street:

In the Wisconsin race for U.S. Senator, the Democratic contender, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, defeated former Wisconsin governor Republican Tommy Thompson. Although Israel was not much of an issue in the race, the Emergency Committee for Israel, a staunchly pro-Israel organization with conservative political roots, aired an ad attacking what they called Baldwin’s anti-Israel position during her congressional career.

ECI said Baldwin was “nothing less than hostile to the U.S.-Israel alliance. She has accused Israel of war crimes, befriended anti-Israel groups, refused to sign bipartisan letters of support for Israel, and defended the libelous Goldstone Report.”

Yes, that was J Street’s candidate in that race.

J Street supported Cheri Bustos in the 17th Congressional District of Illinois, and she defeated Republican Bobby Schilling. Unlike Baldwin, Bustos has nothing whatsover to say about foreign policy. Her issues are jobs, the economy, Medicare and Social Security, and the second Amendment. But in losing Schilling, Israel has lost a great friend in Congress, with a 0 rating by the Arab American Institute.

There goes another J Street-targeted friend of Israel.

And, as was to by expected, J Street threw their support behind the CAIR and Hamas man in Washington, Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota. He is a regular at CAIR fundraisers and pro-Hamas rallies. A former member in Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam, Ellison has also participated, later in life, in interfaith dialogue (mostly with Reform rabbis). Even if we were to discard past accusations of Antisemitism and his defense of Farrakhan – what business does a Jewish PAC have supporting him?

J Street also supported Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, one of the most widely recognized anti-Israel members of Congress. With a +3 rating by the Arab American Institute, Dingell voted No on withholding US contributions until the UN retracts accusations of Israeli war crimes, on opposing any unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, and Absent on a bill to ensure that United States taxpayer dollars are not used to fund terrorist entities in Lebanon. What point is J street making by giving him PAC money, and why are they so happy he won?

LITTLE ACTUAL INFLUENCE

The above short list demonstrates rather well J Street’s agenda in these elections, but the fact that candidates they supported have won does not mean that the organization’s contribution actually got them over the threshold.

J Street’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, boasted in an email sent out to thousands with the subject line “Astounding! J Street Goes 71 for 70 on Election Day,” but with respect to Jewish voters—whom J Street claims it represents, and whom it is trying to persuade—in very few of the campaigns in which it contributed heavily did the Jewish voters who were in play make a difference.

In an upstate New York race, Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R) was defeated by the man she herself had defeated two years ago, Dan Maffei. J Street backed Maffei, but the hot issue in that race was abortion, not Israel. Maffei successfully tied Buerkle to Missouri’s Republican contender for Senator Todd Akin, notorious for his unfortunate “legitimate rape” comment.

In Florida, Republican Rep. Allen West was defeated by Patrick Murphy in an extremely tight race. West was redistricted out of his comfortable seat, and Israel was far down on the list of issues on which Murphy focused.

In Illinois, Democrat Tammy Duckworth defeated sitting Congressman Joe Walsh. Walsh is an ardent Israel supporter, but the district they battled over is a majority Democratic one, and Duckworth had received the endorsement of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The focus of her attention was energy, the economy and education – not Israel.

And in Ohio, where Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown handily won over his upstart Republican challenger Josh Mandell, a New York Times editorial written by Mitt Romney back in 2oo8 probably did more to defeat any Ohio Republican challenger for office in 2012. In this state, second only to Michigan for auto-related employment, Romney’s opposition to the automobile industry bailout and his op-ed, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” was just too much of a kick in the home state face to overcome. Even though what Romney actually called for was a re-structuring of the car companies, a “managed bankruptcy,” the details were swept away while the headline hung there and hanged the Republicans.

It is clear that J Street’s role in this year’s election was basically irrelevant, and certainly far humbler than its own superlative: “astounding.” While revealing just how unabashedly anti-Israel their choices are, Ben-Ami et al simply have not demonstrated that they mobilized the Jewish vote in a direction it wasn’t already following.

DISMAYING POLL RESULTS

The Republican Jewish Coalition also released poll results, in which they tracked the same few Jews, in virtually the same ways, and received pretty much the same results.

In the broadest terms: Obama won. He won big amongst Jews. No argument from either group. According to the RJC, Romney received just under 32 percent of the votes cast by Jews, according to J Street, Romney received 30%. Not such a big difference.

Where the information and the analysis did begin to differ, was in determining whether there was a significant decrease in Jews voting for Obama this election, versus 2008. While most agreed that Barack Obama received approximately 78% of the Jewish vote in 2008, J Street is now claiming that a more recent calculation revised that number downwards to 74%. With the four fewer percentage points in 2008, and a two point lower estimate in 2012, the differences become more significant.

If, as the RJC claims, there was a 10% increase in Jews voting for the Republican presidential candidate, which amounts to a 50% gain (22% of American Jews cast their vote for McCain in 2008, and 32% of American Jews cast their vote for Romney in 2012), that reflects a recognizable and significantly growing trend, albeit with only two data points.

If you accept J Street’s sudden revision of historic facts, claiming that a greater percentage of Jews cast their votes for the Republican candidate in 2008, and, consequently, that somewhat fewer Jews voted for Romney this time around, the loss of Jewish voters to the Democratic candidate becomes only four percentage points, which means that over the lifetime of Obama’s “blocking back,” J Street, there have not been nearly as many Jews jumping from the Democrats’ ship.

Either way, of course, far fewer Jews cast their votes for President Obama this time around, and either way, of course, President Obama remains in office for four more years.

First, the information provided by the exit polls paints an alarming picture, even without looking at whom the respondents chose.

For Jewish Press readers, there’s a frightening picture that calls out for action: American voting Jews don’t care all that much about Israel, and they really don’t care about Israel’s number one concern: Iran.

The J Street and the RJC polls asked the question slightly differently, but either way, only about 10% of American Jews consider Israel to be an issue that drives their voting decisions (J Street poll), and for more than 21% Israel is of no importance in making the decision for whom to vote (RJC poll). To look on the bright side, slightly more than 75% consider Israel to be either very important (30.2%) or somewhat important (46.3%). But still, we are talking about Jews here, not the general public.

The denominational breakdown between the two polls is of vital interest: 11.9% of the RJC poll respondents identified as Orthodox and 31.1% identified as Conservative, while only 10% of the J Street poll respondents identified as Orthodox and 27% identified as Conservative. In both polls the largest denomination was the Reform movement.

Only the RJC poll asked about synagogue attendance, but the responses there were interesting. Slightly more than 25% of those answering the poll claimed they attend synagogue almost every day or once a week, but 13.9% said they never attend, and nearly 2% refused to answer the question.

One quirky finding is who received high favorability ratings. President Obama garnered a 60% favorability rating, the second highest of those included in the question (Bill Clinton received the highest). But Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu received a 59% rating, beating even Vice President Joe Biden, who came in with a 54% rating. And DNC Chair Cong. Debbie Wasserman Schultz had a 46% favorability rating — that’s far below any of the other Democrats, Netanyahu, or the Democratic Party as a whole.

Although Iran and Israel are not significant voting issues for American Jews, fewer than half of those polled think that sanctions and diplomacy as tools for dealing with Iran’s nuclear race should be given more time, and a full 35% think those methods have failed.

The RJC poll asked about respondents’ understanding of Barack Obama’s attitude towards Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. Nearly 45% believe Barack Obama is more pro-Israel, 22.8% more pro-Palestinian, and 17.4 believes he is neutral, while a full 15.3 either refused to answer the question or said they did not know.

So, strangely enough, while J Street cannot show serious influence in this election, essentially cheering races that would have been won without them – the overall picture emerging from the polls of Jewish voters’ attitudes are an icy shower to American Jews with traditional Jewish values.

Yori Yanover contributed to this article.

Amnesty International Press Release Condemns Sharp Rise in Middle East Executions, Ignores Hamas Death Sentences

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

According to the Amnesty International annual review of death sentences and executions, only 10 percent of the world’s countries, or 20 out of 198, carried out executions last year. But those countries that did, were extremely enthusiastic about it.

You didn’t have to be a murderer to be executed in 2011. People were executed or sentenced to death for a range of offenses including adultery and sodomy in Iran, blasphemy in Pakistan, sorcery in Saudi Arabia, the trafficking of human bones in the Republic of Congo, and drugs in more than 10 countries.

At least 676 people were executed with full public disclosure worldwide. Methods of execution in 2011 included beheading, hanging, lethal injection and shooting.

Some 18,750 people remained under sentence of death at the end of 2011.

But, according to the report, these figures do not include the thousands of executions that Amnesty International believes were carried out in China, where the numbers are suppressed.

Nor do they account for the probable extent of Iran’s use of the death penalty – Amnesty International has received credible reports of substantial numbers of executions not officially acknowledged. Also – at least three people were executed in Iran for crimes that were committed when they were under age 18, in violation of international law. Four additional, unconfirmed, executions of minors were reported in Iran, and one in Saudi Arabia.

In the Middle East there has been a sharp rise in recorded executions – up almost 50 per cent over the previous year.

A mere four countries tipped the balance for the entire region: Iraq (at least 68 executions), Iran (at least 360), Saudi Arabia (at least 82) and Yemen (at least 41). These accounted for 99 per cent of all recorded executions in the Middle East and North Africa.

The rise in Iran and Saudi Arabia alone accounted for the net increase of 149 recorded executions across the world, compared to 2010.

But the press release which, in the end, is offering the information news outlets around the world will be quoting, is saying nothing about executions which took place in the Gaza strip, authorized by the Hamas government.

One has to download the report and search for “Hamas” (skipping over countless references to the Bahamas) to discover the statement:

“Three men were executed in the Palestinian Occupied Territories, and at least five death sentences imposed. All executions took place in Gaza under the Hamas de facto administration, and were carried out without the approval of the President of the Palestinian  Authority (PA) Mahmoud Abbas as required under Palestinian law. One death sentence was reported from the PA-controlled West Bank, but President Abbas has refrained from approving any executions.”

Incidentally, when users check for “Palestinian Authority” in a drop-menu on Amnesty’s website, they are sent to the message: “There is no Amnesty International presence in this country.” This message is followed by: “However, you can still donate to Amnesty International or join as an International Member.”

We thought you should know…

The United States remains the only country in the Americas and the only member of the G8 group of leading economies to execute prisoners – 43 in 2011.

Illinois became the 16th state to abolish the death penalty. A moratorium was announced in the state of Oregon.

Some countries are known to add the element of surprise to their executions: in Belarus and Vietnam, prisoners were not informed of their forthcoming execution, nor were their families or lawyers.

Showmanship was also employed in some places: public judicial executions are known to have been carried out in North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Somalia, as well as in Iran.

But Secretary General of Amnesty International Salil Shetty appears satisfied that the general trend in the area of executions of prisoners is moving in the right direction. “The vast majority of countries have moved away from using the death penalty,” he said, adding, “Even among the small group of countries that executed in 2011, we can see gradual progress. These are small steps but such incremental measures have been shown ultimately to lead to the end of the death penalty.”

Sheldon Cooper’s Girlfriend Speaks at National Museum of American Jewish History about her Bat Mitzvah

Monday, March 26th, 2012

The lovely Mayim Bialik, who used to play Blossom on the 1990s TV sitcom by the same name, then played the young Bette Midler in the movie Beaches, and nowadays has become the heartthrob of millions of geeks as neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory – spoke last Sunday at a National Museum of American Jewish History event marking the 90th anniversary of the Bat Mitzvah.

Apparently, the Bat Mitzvah, a synthetic celebration of some vague notion of adulthood in 12-year-old girls, represents—so says the Philadelphia Inquirer—a new and profound idea, “that girls would be treated the same as boys.” This equality was achieved, it turns out, by matching, gift for gift, haftorah for haftorah, overblown bash for overblown bash (you get where I’m getting) that other totally synthetic celebration of equally vague notions of adulthood, the Bar Mitzvah.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Mayim, who confessed to nursing her own little boy, Fred, through age 3 (“I believe in child-led weaning”). I just think she may not be the best advocate for rituals of adulthood…

The awkward girlfriend of the most popular Asperger syndrome patient Sheldon Cooper, told a house packed with 200 approving Jews at the museum’s Dell Theater that she was the first woman in her family to celebrate a bat mitzvah.

“Nearly 25 years later, the intensity of the religious covenant she undertook that day has only deepened,” reports the Inquirer.

It began on somewhat shallower grounds: in Hebrew, her name means “water,” and so water became the theme of her bat mitzvah: “The color scheme of her party was ocean blue. Live goldfish stared from glass bowls on tables. And for the guests, submarine sandwiches.”

How can you argue with this much adulthood rite stuff?

But, just to be fair, Ms. Bialik makes a pretty terrific grownup: In 2007 she earned a doctorate in neuroscience from UCLA, specializing in obsessive-compulsive disorder in adolescents with Prader-Willi syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that causes lax muscle tone, cognitive disabilities, and a chronic feeling of hunger that can lead to life-threatening obesity.

And she just published a new book, Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way.

And, like I said, I absolutely love her. But the Bat Mitzvah and Bar Mitzvah thing? Never understood either.

The Migron Saga – the Animated Version

Monday, March 26th, 2012

The entire story of the Migron outpost explained in 3 entertaining minutes, including the missing link, the one component the High Court is yet to offer in this sad trampling over justice and lives: proof of Arab ownership.

Turn on subtitles by clicking the “cc” button.

High Court Rejects Migron Deal; Outpost Must Be Evacuated; Deputy Speaker Danon: ‘We Will Confirm Migron via Primary Legislation’

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

The High Court on Sunday rejected the settlement deal between the State and the residents of the outpost Migron, but allowed an extension of their evacuation date until August this year, and not next weekend, as was the court’s original decision.

The decision won the support of the entire panel, headed by the new Chief Justice Asher Grunis, along with Justices Miriam Naor and Salim Jubran.

The Court stated that “Although it possesses an inherent power to extend the date of executing its decisions, this power must be used with care, because the extension may leave in place an illegal situation, harm the reliance principle, as well as the finality principle, and thus damage of rule of law.”

“At stake is one of the toughest and most exceptional cases with regard to the illegal outposts,” the justices clarified, adding that “when the state announces time and again that it thinks this is an illegal outpost with no legal possibility of accepting its long-term existence.”

But Deputy Knesset Speaker MK Danny Danon (Likud) said the Supreme Court’s decision to reject the State’s agreement with Migron was unacceptable. “The court is not allowed to boot-lock the state. I’ve I turned to Knesset members to convene the Knesset during the winter recess and pass the needed regulatory law. If the court does not  approve the Migron agreement, we will confirm it via primary legislation.”

Some 13 years after its establishment, and six years after the court case on the settlement’s legality began, all the residents of Migron, a large outposts in Judea and Samaria, arrived on Sunday night, March 12, at their local synagogue and signed an affidavit to be submitted to the High Court, committing to leave their homes voluntarily and without any forced eviction in three and a half years.

Under the agreement, immediately after receiving the High Court approval, an expedited  process of planning an alternative neighborhood for the residents of Migron would have commenced. The new site was going to be built  two kilometers away from the current position of the outpost.

At the conclusion of its decision, the Court repeated its wish the residents of Migron come to their senses throat  and accept their obligation not to be seen as outlaws. The court commented that “the obligation to maintain a ruling is not a matter of choice.”

The Migron residents’ Action Committee released the statement: “The residents of Migron received today the harsh verdict, which begins with the libel of the land being privately owned, and ends with the deportation of peace loving people. We are confident that Israel’s government and its representative Minister Begin will manage to find a suitable solution to the newly created situation, in which the government which sendt its citizens to settle on a piece of land is now forced to drive them off by order of the Supreme Court.”

MK Uri Orbach (The Jewish Home) told the Jewish Press Israel should go ahead and cancel the upcoming elections, since those would make no difference anyway. “The High Court will move in whenever it sees fit to subvert the will of government and the Knesset as it sees fit. It makes me angry.”

MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) said the Migron compromise was a disaster for the settlement movement, and therefore “I do not shed a tear for it. Still, the decision  illustrates the hypocrisy and racism of the Supreme Court, which has been keeping mum over illegal construction which is so rampant in the Arab sector.”

MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) said the Supreme Court decision to reject the Migron compromise is tantamount to “spitting in the face of the settlement movement and of the government, which have found the way to obey the original verdict while avoiding confrontation. I am ashamed!”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/high-court-rejects-migron-deal-outpost-must-be-evacuated-deputy-speaker-danon-we-will-confirm-migron-via-primary-legislation/2012/03/25/

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