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Besides my two-decade career as a law professor, a decade as a complex-business litigator at three major national law firms, and fifty years as a columnist, I have been a shul rav for thirty years.

Approximately twenty years ago, I accepted a rabbinic pulpit position at an Orthodox Union congregation. The pay level was sufficient to allow me to step away permanently from practicing law, even part-time, so I accepted the invitation happily.


When I settled in and more fully comprehended the lay of the land, I was startled to realize how much desperately had to be revamped and upgraded to elevate the congregation into a meaningfully Orthodox community. Most on the Board of Directors did not understand even basic Orthodox Judaism. At least one was an outright crook with a web page on the County District Attorney website warning the public. And she was the Board President. Really.

The Shabbat eve services at this O.U. congregation met Fridays at 6:30 p.m. year-round, even in the winter when Shabbat begins more than two hours earlier than that. The more observant literally would come Fridays for the afternoon Mincha service, then go home and return to the facility two hours later to accommodate the non-observant members of the “choir” who worked their regular day jobs on Fridays until their regular daily 6:00 pm business closing time, and then drove over on Shabbat itself to be at their singing podium by 6:30 pm, most still in their jeans.

That had to change.

On another front, they correctly had been persuaded that, if the community were to attract young Orthodox families, they had to erect an Eruv for “the Orthodox.” But, despite their excellent contracted-for construction efforts, they could not get the Mayor and the City Council to approve it.

That had to change.

For their teens and younger children, they had a very weak youth program that saw someone sent from another city, 90 minutes away, to spend two hours one day a week with the kids.

That had to change.

I learned that the greater region included a large contingent of Sephardic Jewish families from “Edot HaMizrach” (the North African communities now under Arab Muslim dominance), but many of those Sephardic Jews were attending local reform and conservative temples because of cultural incongruencies at the Ashkenazic congregation I now would serve. I knew that “Reform Judaism” and “Conservative Judaism” gnaw at the very souls of Sephardic Jews, and they surely would gravitate to an Orthodox option if the cultural conflicts could be overcome.

That had to change.

I further learned that the region had only one Jewish Day School — a so-called “Community Day School” for grades 1-12 — where literally no Chumash (Torah) was taught. Certainly, no Rashi commentary on the Torah was taught. High school seniors at this “Tarbut v’Torah” joke of a Jewish school never had even heard of Rashi. So no student there ever learned to read or even recognize Rashi script. They did not even know his name. Obviously, no Gemara (Talmud) or even Mishnah was taught. Only one Orthodox person was on the entire faculty. As many as half the student body were outright non-Jewish, the children of non-Jewish mothers. There was no davening (prayer) in the curriculum. The boys at this “Jewish Community Day School” did not wear yarmulkas. Yet kids from the few Sabbath-observant families at my new pulpit attended that school, because there was no Orthodox Day School option, and the Sabbath-observant parents themselves mostly were from completely ignorant backgrounds, lacking fundamental knowledge to appreciate how much their children were not being taught for their $20,000 a hyear.

That had to change.

There was not a curriculum of Judaic classes for the adult members, to teach Torah texts and Jewish laws.

That had to change.

There was no mikveh within 45 minutes’ driving distance.

That had to change.

The list goes on. However, your reading patience may not, so I stop the list here.

I determined that I did not give up a successful and well-paid law career to sit by passively and just draw my very nice salary check, deliver a weekly homily that would not offend anyone, and make sure the carpeting in the sanctuary was clean. So I proceeded to launch a revolution:

I started a regular Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat service that began at candle-lighting time. G-d no longer had to wait two hours for the blue-jean “choir.” I met privately with the Mayor and City Council and advised them that a new rabbi-sheriff had come to town — me — and either they would promptly approve the Eruv, or I personally would crush them in litigation. Within one month, the City Council unanimously approved the Eruv. (One City Council member later told me privately, “Rabbi, no one ever before explained your Eruv to us that clearly.”) I brought in a dynamic young married couple to live in the ‘hood to be advisors for a reconstituted NCSY. When the congregation’s Board of Directors balked at paying that young couple’s salary, I found weekday employment for them at the local JCC and supplemented their income from my own pocket. My wife, Ellen of blessed memory, supported using our personal funds for that purpose.

I created a separate minyan (religious service) for Sephardim, attended parts of some of those services, and they moved to it from the reform and conservative temples. I initiated a fundraising effort to build a mikvah, obtained a $100,000 seeding grant, hired a renowned mikveh architect, and today it flourishes. I instituted a curriculum of adult classes, including Daf Yomi (the daily Talmud folio), and personally taught them all. And I changed the paradigm for Jewish education in the region, lobbying for creating an Orthodox day school s an alternative to the “Tarbut v’Torah” joke. That Orthodox Day School flourishes today.

So here’s where it gets interesting and applicable to the current Israel situation: Each change, each upgrade entailed a severely bitter fight against entrenched powers. They fought nastily on everything. Davening on Friday evening when Shabbat properly begins? “You’re dividing the community!” A Sephardic minyan? “You’re dividing the community!” An Orthodox day school in lieu of the joke of a “community school” where Torah was not taught and boys did not even wear kipot? “You’re dividing the community!” A full-time NCSY couple in the community? “We don’t want to pay for it.” A mikveh? “But the fundraising will interfere with our plans for a building fund to upgrade the sanctuary.” The Eruv approval? “Don’t alienate the Mayor and City Council.”


Amid two years of struggle, the congregation membership supported me, but the Board of Directors had had enough. We parted ways on very satisfactory terms, a blessing from Hashem derived from a decade of my professionally litigating enough to learn how to protect myself. I started my own new shul in that area, and enough families followed to support that shul these past 15 years. Meanwhile, when that prior Board sought their new rabbi, here is what they advertised (in paraphrase):

“We are an Orthodox congregation in an area with an Eruv. Construction of our mikveh is almost complete and funded. We boast a robust Sephardic congregation, too, and our Shabbat services begin at the proper time, although we also run a second Friday evening service for people who work later on Friday nights. Our NCSY advisors are a dynamic young couple living in the community. We are moving toward launching a new Orthodox day school. We boast a full range of adult education classes including Daf Yomi. We proudly are a full-service Orthodox congregation.”

My worthy successor there had been spared the need I had faced to fight for what should have been basic. He walked into a fully prepared table of goods. That allowed him to exercise his skills to the fullest, spared the need to make enemies in order to create a Torah congregation from chaos and void. And the Board now was so proud of all their new Judaic Torah upgrades.

Do you see how life works? Barack Obama understood the principle when he launched Obamacare. It sent America into an uproar, and Democrats lost their majorities in Congress. But now, more than a decade later, people who benefit from Obamacare will not let it be ended.

That is how life works. People oppose dramatic change. The more rapid the wave of changes, the more discomforted they become. However, once the changes are implemented and prove worthwhile, they cherish them and cannot imagine living without them. They would never revert to what had been.

In Israel, where the alliance of right-wing and religious parties freely and democratically have won five consecutive elections in under four years against an alliance of Jewish left-wing and secularist parties, the new government now is trying to fix so many things that have been broken for so many decades of tyrannical secular socialism. However, people fear change. They are manipulated easily by lies and horror stories, agitated by demagogic sore losers and mediocrities who cannot abide change from their corrupt ways. They are frightened that change will bring disaster.

And there is so much to change, including but not limited to:

1. The corrupt Supreme Court has to be reformed: how the justices are selected, what cases may be heard, the limits of extremist judicial overreach, the standards of adjudication.

2. Thousands of illegally erected Arab houses —even whole neighborhoods — in the Negev, in Area C, even in Jerusalem, have to be torn down.

3. Hundreds of thousands of new Jewish homes must be built, particularly in Judea and Samaria, and sovereignty needs to be extended.

4. Religious values need to be restored to policies fundamental to a Jewish country like no public transportation on Shabbat, sanctity at the Western Wall, and a marriage system whose parameters are defined in Jerusalem and not in Utah.

5. Capital punishment must be imposed on anti-Israel terrorists, expulsions of their extended families even when their attempted attacks fail, confiscations of their property, damages and reparations paid to those terrorists’ victims from funds seized when collecting taxes claimed by the illegitimate Abu Mazen regime.

6. Changes in the Law of Return must be enacted to limit its application exclusively to authentic Jews (those born of a Jewish mother or converted according to 3,300 years of Judaic tradition), not the Marilyn Monroe converts of reform and conservative Judaism. For prospective immigrants who are not authentically Jewish but are seeking expedited admittance on grounds that they face antisemitic persecution by Jew-haters who attack even non-Jews if they have paternal Jewish ancestry, humane rules should be formulated to assure their protection.

7. Illegal Bedouin homes in the Negev must be destroyed. Bedouin polygamy must be outlawed.

8. A 50 percent excise tax must be implemented on all foreign funds received by Israeli NGOs from foreign governments.

9. The Attorney-General’s role must be redefined. The notion that an unelected demagogue can ban the duly democratically elected head of government from talking to others about certain issues of public interest is dictatorial and must be terminated absolutely.

It was to be expected that each of these changes would be met with withering opposition led by demagogues on the Left, including public officials who exceed all bounds of civility and call for bloodshed and civil war, not to mention misfits on the Left who climb onto tables during parliamentary committee meetings like four-year-olds at a birthday party shooting ketchup at each other. But if the changes are made, the sky will not fall. Biden and Blinken — amid Chinese balloons, Russia-Ukraine war, COVID, inflation, border chaos of illegal immigration in the millions, culture war, exploding urban crime numbers, and racial tensions — have bigger fish frying them.

The reforms and improvements will gain widespread popular acceptance soon enough. That is what the demagogues of the Left fear most: that people will find the changes from Left-wing totalitarianism and defeatism actually have made their lives better and the country more secure.


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Rabbi Dov Fischer, Esq., is rav of Young Israel of Orange County, California and is Vice President and Senior Rabbinic Fellow at Coalition for Jewish Values. He is a senior contributing editor at The American Spectator, was Chief Articles Editor of UCLA Law Review, and clerked in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. His writings have appeared in Newsweek, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Post, and in several Israel-based publications.