Letters to the Editor: New Journal Layout, Prayer, and Israel


New Look, New Content

I cannot adequately express how impressed I am with the new “Back and Forth” feature. Civil but serious, it sharply helps amplify and elucidate the perspectives of the quality voices that participate and teaches us stiff-necked readers things we would otherwise be unlikely listen to. A Kiddush HaShem to the fullest — what a wonderful way to model meaningful engagement between parts of our community and beyond. Thank you, thank you, thank you for embodying a core Jewish value with such deep, universal worth.

Kol hakavod!

Michael Feldman via email

Kudos on the new layout and typeface of the Journal. Big improvement. But as a boomer feminist, I found two recent columns written by women personally disturbing. The first was about flirting, which I at first dismissed simply as a “fluff” piece (“Why I Miss Flirting,” Nov. 10). In the second column, a mother proudly says she encourages her son to be “strong enough to be kind” (“My Son, the Maccabee,” Nov. 10). My alarm bells went off. I personally have seen men who were attracted to a damsel in distress become physically aggressive when that same woman becomes assertive. I also know of college football players (arguably men’s men) who have been convicted of rape.

Since these Journal columns have been published, more and more influential men have been outed for their alleged inappropriate sexual behavior with young men and women. Actor Richard Dreyfuss, when recently confronted, actually tried to excuse his alleged behavior by issuing a statement of direct relevance to both of these Journal  columns. He writes: “I value and respect women. … I became … the kind of performative masculine man my father had modeled for me to be. … I flirted with all women. … But I am not an assaulter. … I remember trying to kiss [his accuser] as part of what I thought was a consensual seduction ritual. … I am horrified and bewildered to discover that it wasn’t consensual. I didn’t get it.”

Women have worked too hard and too long in the fight to gain equality and independence. I hope we aren’t being asked to start all over again.

Sharon Alexander, Torrance


Building Bridges in a Time of Chaos

Thank you, Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn and the Jews United for Democracy and Justice, for your inspiring compilation “After Charlottesville” (advertising supplement, Oct. 20). Not only do you bring together teachings from the vast spectrum of Jewish leaders, sages and religious persuasions, but you also include teachings from non-Jewish leaders and traditions. By doing this, you are helping us to realize the relevancy and importance of striving to sing all four songs as written by Rabbi A.Y. Kook: the song of the individual, the song of the nation, the song of humanity, and the song of all existence. In this time of chaos, we must push ourselves beyond our ordinary boundaries, build bridges and learn from each other. It is only with an open, probing mind that we can elevate our community as well as our nation.

Also, thank you, David Suissa, for creating a forum where spirituality and practical matters can attain the perfect balance!

Mina Friedler via email


Prayers Alone Won’t Cure Society’s Ills

Ben Shapiro wrote a recent column about the power of prayer in the aftermath of the recent mass shooting in Texas (“Don’t Dismiss the Power of Prayer,” Nov. 10). One of the purposes of prayer in such cases is to provide comfort and consolation to the relatives of the victims because absolutely nothing can bring victims back to life. No human action can do that.

The unprecedented number of mass shootings during past several years shows there is a serious problem in society. Both sides agree on that. It’s obvious from Shapiro’s words that he doesn’t understand what is causing “a tsunami of rage,” neither has he the slightest idea where to look for the root causes of those events. Mr. Shapiro, with political power and authority comes the huge responsibility of providing peace and security to millions of people. The inability to fulfill that responsibility is what is causing the tsunami of rage. Such tragic events are not part of God’s plan. Period. They’re part of society, designed by humans. One thing I know in my profession: When there’s a problem with a building, we architects and civil engineers roll up our sleeves and begin to look for what’s causing the problem. And if we find out it is in the foundation, the last thing we would do is to offer a prayer. Even the most thoughtful prayer cannot do the job. Only hard work by experienced people can.

Svetlozar Garmidolov, Los Angeles


Inappropriate Topic in Torah Portion

Rather than commenting on the parsha, the extremist Open Orthodox rabbi unleashed a screed against the Orthodox Union (OU) for not aiding and abetting his agenda to promote practices that all halachic leadership of Modern Orthodoxy agrees is out of bounds (“Parsha: Chayei Sara,” Nov. 10). May the OU find the strength to remove these heretical congregations from their midst.

Saul Newman via email


Historic Evidence of Israel’s Roots 

Thank you for Judea Pearl’s story (“The Balfour Declaration at 100 and How It Redefined Indigenous People,” Nov. 10) lauding the declaration’s tacit recognition of the Jewish people’s status as the indigenous population of Eretz Israel.

It bears emphasis that the Jewish claim to indigenous status in Israel is not just a matter not of faith, but of historical fact confirmed by archaeology and science. The Merneptah Stele, inscribed on behalf of the eponymous Egyptian pharaoh (and son of Ramses II) around 1208 B.C.E., attests to the presence of a people called “Israel” in Canaan. The Tel Dan Stele, which celebrates an Aramean victory over Israel in the 800s B.C.E., mentions Judah’s royal “House of David.” Assyrian sculptures dating from 841 B.C. and 701 B.C.E., respectively, both on display in the British Museum in London, depict the Israelite King Jehu and the Assyrian siege of Lachish in ancient Judah. The Assyrian royal annals’ account of the siege declares Judah’s king Hezekiah trapped “like a caged bird” in Jerusalem, paralleling the biblical account. And population genetics studies confirm the connection of present-day Jews to an ancestral home in the Levant and the continuity of the Jewish people from ancient to present times.

Rome eventually destroyed the Jewish kingdom in a war from 66-73 C.E. and dispersed its people, but Jews never forfeited the right to return home or to reconstitute a Jewish state.

Stephen A. Silver, San Francisco


Israelis Trying to Do the Right Thing

I am a 15-year-old freshman at YULA Boys High School. I was thrilled to see “Teaching Math to Israel’s ‘Invisibles’ ” (Oct. 27) in the Journal because this story shows that Israel helps every race and religion — even Arabs — who constantly try to eradicate the Jewish state. This is also one of the many proofs that if any race or religion is in need of help, Israel is the first to offer its help. People who are not Jewish who read this story can see how the people of Israel care about everyone and are trying to be peaceful with everyone, even groups of people that try to terrorize the world. This story really has inspired me to be more involved in defending Israel when people accuse Israel of treating Arabs poorly. It especially bothers me when the media publish negative and untrue information about Israel. I love that this newspaper published very positive things about Israel. I hope other people get inspired like I did.

Daniel Dallal, Los Angeles

I strongly agree with what Shai Gul does and it will inspire others to reach out to people who need help. When most people run into situations like Shai Gul did, they most likely will run away from these problems. However, Shai did just the opposite, helping to educate people in that poor city. He conveyed kindness and empathy. He taught the “invisibles” to not be so invisible and to take a leap forward in life. By giving them this push, he managed to give them jobs and a basic education to build on. Shai Gul is an inspiration for people around the world. He should keep up what he does so others can be influenced and follow his tracks.

Eitan Ulitzky via email

Don’t Dismiss the Power of Prayer


This week, a mass shooter in Texas walked into a Baptist church and murdered 26 people, including more than a dozen children. Many conservatives — and many religious people more generally — immediately offered their thoughts and prayers. The most controversial figure to do so was Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who tweeted, “The people of Sutherland Springs need our prayers right now.”

This drove a tsunami of rage from gun control advocates. Actor Wil Wheaton tweeted, “The murdered victims were in a church. If prayers did anything, they’d still be alive, you worthless sack of s***.” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted, “We have pastors, priests and rabbis to offer thoughts and prayers. What we need from Republicans in D.C. is to do something. Lead.” Keith Olbermann of GQ tweeted in less temperate fashion, “shove your prayers up your ass AND DO SOMETHING WITH YOUR LIFE BESIDES PLATITUDES AND POWER GRABS.”

It’s questionable whether some additional law would have prevented the massacre in Sutherland Springs. It’s clear from the evidence that the shooter never should have had a gun: He was convicted of domestic violence, including cracking the skull of his infant stepchild; he’d pleaded guilty to animal abuse; he’d been sending threatening text messages to his mother-in-law, who attended the church he shot up. The Air Force has openly admitted that it didn’t send his criminal record to the FBI, which would have prevented him from buying weapons under current law.

But there’s something deeper going on here with the anti-prayer tweets — something more troubling. First, dismissing prayer dismisses the value of religion more generally; second, conflating prayer-driven-action with action you like makes religion irrelevant, and your political agenda paramount.

To dismisss the value of prayer after horrific events demonstrates a lack of knowledge about prayer itself — or worse, an antipathy toward the values prayer promotes. Prayer is designed for several purposes. Prayer reminds us that while we must strive each day to prevent evil from succeeding, God’s plan is not ours; we will not always succeed in stopping evil’s victory. That knowledge suggests a certain humility, an unwillingness to surrender to the foolish optimism of utopianism. It’s why Jews say, “Baruch Dayan Emet” (“Blessed is the true judge), upon learning of a death.

Prayer also helps us see the value in others, and convey that we understand that value to others. Atheists say that prayer is nothing but empty verbiage, but how many people have been changed because they entered a prayerful community? The people who died in the church were attempting to reach out to one another and provide one another support. That’s why we pray with a minyan. It’s why we pray communally.

Finally, prayer reminds us that we must better ourselves: We must treat our friends, neighbors and family members better, correct our mistakes. We cannot change God, but we can change how God responds to us if we change ourselves. In this sense, prayer provides the impetus to action.

We have a reactionary tendency to credit our opponent’s worst intentions.

It’s this last rationale for prayer that many on the left have seized upon to the exclusion of the other two. They say, rightly, that action is one of the anticipated outcomes of prayer. That’s fine so far as it goes — but it doesn’t go particularly far when you are making the secular case for gun control, then demanding religious support for it. Just because someone disagrees with you on a remedy to a problem doesn’t mean that their prayers are insincere — or that the goal of their prayers is the same as yours.

Recognizing that simple truth would go a long way toward healing wounds that seem to be festering. We have a reactionary tendency to credit our opponents with the worst intentions, up to and including insincere use of prayer, in order to press them to embrace us, but the opposite is usually the outcome. If you alienate religious people who disagree with you by stating that their prayers are insufficient, they’re likely to stop seeking common ground. That will be your fault, not theirs: You’re cutting them off at the knees.

Just because we disagree on gun control doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pray, or that our prayers lack merit. And ripping prayer itself after dozens of Americans are murdered while praying is disrespectful to our fellow citizens and to the religious victims.


Ben Shapiro is a best-selling author, editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire and host of the conservative podcast “The Ben Shapiro Show.”

FILE PHOTO: Harvey Weinstein arrives at the 89th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California, U.S. on February 26, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

Fixing Hollywood’s Shameful Culture


The past month has seen the near implosion of Hollywood. That’s because of the revelations about mega-powerhouse Harvey Weinstein’s regular habit of allegedly sexually assaulting and harassing women, and the apparent industry-wide willingness to look the other way.

Many on the right have correctly condemned the left’s reticence to talk about such issues when applied to heroes of the left (see, e.g., former President Bill Clinton and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy); in response, many on the left have rightly condemned the right’s newfound willingness to look the other way when its own oxen are gored (see, e.g., then-candidate Donald Trump’s “Access Hollywood” tape, the late Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes).

We all should be on the same side regarding sexual harassment and sexual assault. That doesn’t mean that we have to agree to avoid voting for those who engage in such activities (although I have done so and think doing so would be a good rule of thumb); it’s quite possible to openly admit the evils of a candidate and still feel that the candidate would be a better legislative alternative than his or her opponent. It does mean, however, that “whataboutism” is perhaps the worst response to stories of sexual harassment and assault: Just because Clinton did it doesn’t mean that Trump’s behavior is acceptable, and vice versa.

Putting partisanship aside, the question next becomes how to curb such behavior. In this arena, there’s truly only one solution: changing the prevailing societal standards, and naming individuals. The latter is easier than the former, of course — it’s a tragedy that major stars and starlets who knew about Weinstein’s reputed predations did nothing for years. It’s difficult to expect young, up-and-coming actors and actresses to speak out when victimized: Few will believe them, their careers will be ruined and they are eminently replaceable in a city where every barista has a script and every waitress wants an audition. But those who already have established themselves do have an obligation to protect those aspiring actors and actresses from predators.

Why hasn’t that happened?

This raises institutional issues in Hollywood, and the requirement that societal standards change. Hollywood has been replete with sexual assault and harassment from the very beginning. Despite its supposedly feminist credentials, Hollywood has made the general choice to favor a libertine version of feminism — with consent as the only important value — over the stricter version of feminism that decries power relationships driving sexual relationships.

Unfortunately, the first version of feminism hasn’t just won out in Hollywood, it’s won out in society more broadly, pressed forward by Hollywood. Society now condemns any limits on sexual relationships, and sees “consent” as a binary value; transactional sex is just fine, in this view, and cannot be condemned. This makes it incredibly difficult to police both sexual assault and harassment because the same set of facts can be seen as either people doing what they want to do to get ahead, or sexual exploitation. Removing meaning from sex means treating it as a purely physical act, degrading both sex and those who participate in it.

The result: more sexual confusion and less willingness to step forward and condemn egregious conduct.

Hollywood has made the general choice to favor a libertine version of feminism – with consent the only important value.

Here’s what we need, then: some rules. We need to know about — and uniformly condemn — exploitation of women by powerful men. We need to know about — and uniformly condemn — the Hollywood casting couch, which has been joked about for decades and treated as a way of life for that same amount of time. And we, as a society, have to let Hollywood know that if it doesn’t change its ways, we will take action: We will stop seeing their movies, stop watching their television shows. We will not participate in making people wealthy and famous so that they can abuse others, or watch silently as that abuse takes place.

We should listen to and respect women who tell their stories of sexual harassment and assault. But this can’t be just another hashtag campaign. We must have hard conversations because sexual dynamics are fluid and difficult to police. If we don’t, Weinstein will be just a blip — and then things will go back to business as usual until the next Weinstein crops up.


Ben Shapiro is a best-selling author, editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire and host of the conservative podcast “The Ben Shapiro Show.”

Letters to the Editor: Gun rights debate, keeping politics out of temple, Radical Middle and David Suissa


Gun Rights Debate Continues

First of all, congratulations to the Journal for debating an issue that the Supreme court handed down a decision on almost 10 years ago (“Does the Second Amendment Guarantee the Right to Bear Arms?” Oct. 13).

Second, my admiration to Karen Kaskey for her very well-done arguments. In contrast: The best part of Ben Shapiro’s arguments is the headline: “Good Gun Policy Starts With Reality.” His analysis of the facts, though, is superficial and he fails to see the reality that modern society is not the same as it was 200 years ago. Everything in the universe, including American society, is subject to change. He doesn’t understand that the purpose of the constitution of any country is to serve its people and should be subject to change, as well.

As far as the Supreme Court decision on the issue: Yes, the court has the legal authority to clarify the meaning of any part of the Constitution, but that doesn’t mean justices can read the minds of those who wrote it. Nobody can.

Svetlozar Garmidolov, Los Angeles

Regarding Ben Shapiro’s column on the Las Vegas shooting (“Good Gun Policy Starts With Reality,” Oct. 13):

• Congress and the states have the legal authority to ban assault weapons.

• Polls show a majority of Americans want assault weapons to be illegal.

• Shapiro doesn’t even deal with the issue of assault weapons in his column. Instead, he changes the subject to a supposed effort to take away all guns from all citizens, which is untrue and irrelevant to the massacre in Las Vegas.

• Shapiro makes the lame conservative argument that because it’s impossible to stop all shootings, there’s no point in even trying. That makes as much sense as saying that I won’t lock the doors, windows and gates of my house because I can’t stop all burglaries.

• Conservatives love to say that the left can’t see evil when it’s staring them in the face and won’t act against it when they can. The real evil here is that conservatives are just fine with mass shootings, won’t do anything about them because they’re on the payroll of the gun industry, and callously thwart the desire of all Americans to feel safe from the threat of assault weapons.

Michael Asher via email


Leave Politics Out of the Temple

I was in shock when I read “Political Pundits Discuss ‘Trump’s America’ in Debate at Valley Beth Shalom,” (Oct. 13). First, this should never have been organized at this temple. I believe that there are tax consequences, aside from being very distasteful. Peter Beinart and David Frum are looney Jews talking trash about Trump.

Any normal person would be absolutely fed up with this constant line of crap! Trump is a racist, Trump is anti-Jewish, anti-Israel, and on and on. I wouldn’t be surprised if Valley Beth Shalom is losing membership. I know that other “liberal” temples are. Keep houses of worship just for spiritual purposes and leave politics at home!

Alexandra Joans, Los Angeles

Please add my name to those who feel the same as the “heckler” at Temple Israel of Hollywood (“Heckler Interrupts Kol Nidre Sermon,” Oct. 6).

Your “senior writer” seems to have given a new definition to the term heckler. Not long ago, “heckler” would conjure up a picture of someone sitting at length in an audience, making it rough on some budding entertainer.

Your reporter indicated none of that. The man got fed up with the narrishkayt and stated, “This is supposed to be a house of prayer.”

According to your reporter, he was not the only one disturbed by Rabbi John Rosove’s flights into “liberal political rhetoric.” Others voiced their displeasure that our synagogues were being turned into houses of rebellion against the government. He stated his protest — and left. “Stormed”? Tsk, tsk.

My wife and I “stormed” out of Temple Beth Hillel this past High Holy Days, demanding (and receiving) our money back, after the rabbi made sure that the congregation was apprised that Israel is an occupier, that it is non-egalitarian toward women who just want to pray at the Western Wall, that we should be magnanimous enough to welcome all in need to share our boundless country and, oh, yes, that the Reform movement has asked all Reform synagogues to “rise up against this [illegitimate] government.”

As your reporter quoted another irate citizen not afraid to buck the rising liberal nonsense, “We don’t need to listen to this bull—-!”

P.S. Apparently, neither do the fine people of Wilshire Boulevard Temple, who pulled out of the movement for the same reason.

Steve Klein via email

Obviously, there were people attending the Kol Nidre service at Temple Israel of Hollywood who strongly felt that denouncing our president during the rabbi’s sermon was not appropriate — so much so that they walked out; and one man even spoke out in opposition as he stormed out of the sanctuary.

I agree with Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple about keeping politics out of the synagogue. It is not intended to be a place for expressing political differences.

According to Wikipedia, “politics is the process and method of gaining or maintaining support for public or common action, the conduct of decision-making for groups.” It serves to sway people’s allegiance.

On the other hand, a temple is “an edifice or place dedicated to the service or worship of a deity.”

Whether or not you like our president (I voted against him), the temple is a place for religious worship — certainly not intended for political denunciation of our president.

George Epstein, Los Angeles


Both Parties Leave  the ‘Middle’ Behind

Karen Lehrman Block is completely right, but rather late (“Toward a Radical Middle,” Oct. 6). The “middle” (to which I belong, as well) was written out of the Democratic and Republican parties years ago, and I see no sign of it being able to return because its politicians have morphed into the “establishment” and are functioning only to their own benefit. That’s what Donald Trump ran against and that’s why he was elected.

Your first redesigned issue was excellent.

Stephen J. Meyers via email


Progressives Should  Reconsider Their Ethics

In “Dancing With Darkness” (Oct. 13), David Suissa extols the personal freedom we enjoy in the United States, although it tragically enabled the Las Vegas massacre. American freedom has a particular resonance with Jews because it’s inspired by the Ten Commandments, which assert that true freedom requires moral behavior. The Founding Fathers were so profoundly aware of their Hebrew roots that the Liberty Bell’s sole inscription is from Leviticus; Ben Franklin’s original idea for the Great Seal of the United States was a depiction of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea; and George Washington personally assured the fledgling Jewish community that its members were free and equal citizens.

Despite this history, progressives have for years condemned Christianity and Judaism, the latter by demonizing Zionism. Since turning their backs on Judeo-Christian ethics, progressives have become meaner and less tolerant, like the crowds who cheered Madonna when she mused about “blowing up the White House,” and Linda Sarsour when she praised a convicted terrorist murderer.

After the Las Vegas massacre, a young, Jewish CBS vice president declared she was unsympathetic to the victims because “country music fans often are Republican.” Progressive indoctrination, such as Hillary Clinton calling candidate Donald Trump’s supporters “deplorables,” robbed this woman of her conscience and empathy.

Hopefully, the Harvey Weinstein scandal will lead progressives to reconsider their values, or we may well forfeit the freedom our ancestors died for.

Rueben Gordon, Calabasas


Good Luck, David Suissa

Congratulations to David Suissa on his new role as editor-in-chief of the Journal. The most recent Journal already shows that there is a changing of the guard and a new leadership reflecting a new light shining on different aspects of Jewish life, Israel and the world.

I have been a longtime reader of the Journal and I want to wish you much success in your new position. Go from strength to strength.

Best wishes.

Leila Bronner, Los Angeles

A selection of AK and AR rifles are seen for sale at the Pony Express Firearms shop in Parker, Colorado December 7, 2015. Many Americans are stocking up on weapons after the country's worst mass shooting in three years. Gun retailers are reporting surging sales, with customers saying they want to keep handguns and rifles at hand for self-defense in the event of another attack. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Good Gun Policy Starts With Reality


Whenever a mass shooting occurs, good-hearted people immediately begin looking for ways to prevent the next act of evil. That’s natural, and it’s worthwhile. What isn’t worthwhile is substituting emotional manipulation for evidence-based policymaking. And unfortunately, after the Las Vegas massacre, that’s precisely what’s been happening.

We’ve heard from Democratic politicians that those who don’t immediately leap to “do something” — anything, presumably — about guns are somehow cold-hearted. Jimmy Kimmel went so far as to suggest that those who don’t support his gun control agenda have blood on their hands.

But here’s the problem: Not a single gun law short of full-scale gun confiscation would have prevented Las Vegas or any of the other mass shootings we’ve seen. Furthermore, there is no correlation between states with high rates of gun ownership and states with high rates of gun homicide.

So, how do we make good gun policy?

Let’s begin with the facts: You have an individual Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. Any supposition that your rights to self-defense are relegated to your membership in a “well-regulated militia” are legally groundless and historically ignorant. That’s why the Supreme Court held in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) that “the operative clause’s text and history demonstrate that it connotes an individual right to keep and bear arms.”

There’s a reason for the Founding Fathers’ logic here — and that reasoning is still relevant .

First, bad people are capable of getting arms in the U.S. That is a simple fact. According to epidemiologist Anthony Fabio of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Health, the vast majority of perpetrators in crimes involving guns in Pittsburgh — nearly 80 percent — obtained their guns illegally. And relying on the police to defend you is often impossible — the police can only respond to crimes, they can’t forestall them. That means that your last line of self-defense is your ability to use a weapon. Gun rights advocates state that guns are used millions of times a year to stop a crime — but even the Bureau of Justice Statistics says that guns are used in this way well over 67,000 times per year.

Second, the Founders feared the possibility of tyranny, and they supported state militias and individual gun ownership to prevent such tyrannies from arising. It makes perfect sense that the first gun control laws promulgated in the United States were pushed by the Ku Klux Klan, which was seeking to prevent Black gun ownership after the Civil War. As UCLA constitutional scholar Adam Winkler has written, “It was a constant pressure among white racists to keep guns out of the hands of African-Americans, because they would rise up and revolt. … The KKK began as a gun control organization.” There also is a reason that when it attained power, Hitler’s regime sought to remove guns from Jews. It’s somewhat ironic to hear those who think President Donald Trump is an incipient fascist insist they trust Trump to seize millions of firearms from law-abiding Americans.

With all of that said, there are limitations on the Second Amendment: Your right to keep and bear arms does not apply to nuclear weapons, for example. In determining the best policies, we must balance the need and right to firearms with public policy concerns, including the risk that a machine gun will be used in public.  That’s why federal machine gun sale has been illegal since 1986.

Not a single gun law short of full-scale gun confiscation would have prevented Las Vegas or any of the other mass shootings we’ve seen. 

So, what do we do about situations like Las Vegas? We begin with the premise that we’re all brothers and sisters who want to prevent evil acts. Then we move on to the evidence.

It’s well worth discussing the banning of “bump stocks” (devices added to semi-automatic rifles that allow them to simulate automatic rates of fire), for example. We also should look at ways of enforcing federal laws banning the sale of guns to the mentally ill, without violating the due process rights of those suspected of mental illness. But to suggest banning all guns would be unwise as well as immoral: How exactly do gun control proponents suggest disarming 100 million Americans of 300 million guns, when we’ve been told that we can’t even identify 11 million illegal immigrants? Such an effort would end in bloodshed, even if it were desirable — which, of course, it isn’t, since criminals don’t tend to pay much attention to laws. 


Ben Shapiro is editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire, host of the most listened to conservative podcast in the nation, “The Ben Shapiro Show,” and author of The New York Times best-seller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear Silences Americans.”

Photo from Wikipedia

Jewish identity beyond bagels and lox


As always, the time for panic about Jewish religious identity is now.

That’s been true for some 3,000 years. Judaism has never been great at retaining a crowd. Since the Exodus from Egypt, Jews have been fractured and fractious; censuses of the Jews in the books of Exodus and Numbers famously show identical numbers, despite the passage of years. Even when we’re not assimilating, we’re winnowing out ourselves somehow.

But a new poll from Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) shows that American Jews younger than 30 are particularly unlikely to identify as religiously Jewish (47 percent); the rest identify as culturally Jewish. That contrasts sharply with Jewish seniors, who identify as religiously Jewish rather than culturally Jewish by a 78 percent to 22 percent margin. Furthermore, fully 37 percent of all Jews in the United States refuse to identify an affiliation with a particular religious movement; they identify as “just Jewish.”

These numbers aren’t particularly shocking — another PRRI poll from 2012 showed that only 17 percent of Jews found their Jewish identity in religious observance, and only 6 percent found that identity in cultural heritage or tradition. Most shocking, only 3 percent said they found a general set of values in Judaism. Fully 46 percent cited a belief in “social equality” separate from Judaism as somehow creating a Jewish identity.

The effort to somehow carve off Jewish religious activity from Judaism has been ongoing since the Enlightenment. But it’s a project destined to fail. That’s because the unifying factor among Jews has been religion. Trash the Torah, trash the identity. We can find values of social justice in John Rawls or Robert Nozick; we can find “culture” in Woody Allen movies. But we can’t find a common identity.

Jewish identity isn’t merely a shared reference to a set of movies or foods. It’s a set of values springing from religious identity — from God. That doesn’t mean that you have to keep kosher or turn off your phone on Sabbath to experience Jewish identity.

But it does mean that you have to respect the notion that Judaism is concerned with such matters — and more importantly, that Judaism reflects God’s immanence in the world, and that the revelation of His presence passed down from generation to generation is worth honoring.

Over the course of the holiday season, beginning with Rosh Hashanah, we work to recognize this truth. And then we celebrate this truth during Sukkot. When we sit together in the sukkah, we aren’t just eating good food and enjoying good friends. We’re not just hanging out with family. Sukkot isn’t an outdoor meal at the Olive Garden. It’s a representation of the fragility of our world — a metaphor rebuking materialism. It’s a reminder that all the things we value mean nothing without the God who infuses our lives.

And it is our task, collectively and individually, to experience the joy of knowing God. The Torah commands us no fewer than three times to rejoice on this holiday. And as Maimonides says in “Guide for the Perplexed,” we have the capacity to experience joy in what we understand of God, when we turn our intellects to Him.

Jewish identity isn’t merely a shared reference to a set of movies or foods. It’s a set of values springing from religious identity — from god.

So, how do we understand God on Sukkot?

First, we understand that there is a meaning behind the material world. Atheist materialism posits that we live in an accidental universe devoid of meaning, and wander through it alone in deterministic fashion. Sukkot and the history of the Jewish people rebuke this notion. We are participants in history, and our participation matters. We know the sukkah is temporary, but we beautify it anyway because we have been commanded to do so.

This is a uniquely Judaic notion, and one that animates even the most atheistic, secular Jews who spend inordinate amounts of time fretting over “social justice.” Why bother unless we have independence of action and a mandate to better our world?

Second, we understand that our heritage doesn’t spring from ourselves. We honor our ancestors with the ushpizin — we remember Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David. We are not the source of our tradition or our values. They come from a more ancient source.

Finally, we understand that God cares about all of us. We are commanded to pick up the lulav (palm frond), along with the hadas  (myrtle) and the aravah (willow) and the etrog (citron). According to the midrash, the lulav represents those who study Torah but do not do mitzvot; the hadas represents those who do mitzvot but do not study; the aravah represents those who do not study Torah and do not do mitzvot; the etrog represents those who both study and do mitzvot. Why not pay homage to God with the etrog alone, then? Because the Jewish people are composed of all of these sorts of people — and only together, recognizing our inherent worth and value to God, can we stand before our Creator. We can’t leave one another behind.

All of which means that Sukkot is an ideal time to reach out to our fellow Jews who see themselves as cultural. God doesn’t care; they are welcome in the sukkah. It is their job to join with us, no matter our different priorities; it is our job to infuse our sukkah with light, so that they may see a world filled with the presence of God, not merely an ancient superstition with bagels and lox.


BEN SHAPIRO is editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire, host of the most listened-to conservative podcast in the nation, “The Ben Shapiro Show,” and author of The New York Times best-seller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear Silences Americans.”

Ben Shapiro at the Pasadena Convention Center on July 30. Photo by Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images for Politicon

UC Berkeley gearing up for Ben Shapiro appearance by increasing security, offering counseling


The University of California Berkeley is gearing up for a visit by conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro by tightening campus security and offering counseling services for students.

Shapiro, a former Breitbart News editor, who currently works as a political commentator, author, radio talk show host and lawyer is scheduled to speak on the UC Berkeley campus on Sept. 14 on the topic “Campus Thuggery.” The event is hosted by the Berkeley College Republicans and the Young America’s Foundation.

Several university buildings surrounding Zellerbach Hall, where Shapiro’s appearance is to be held, will be closed off the afternoon of the speech and those arriving to attend the speech will have to go through security barriers and show their tickets for the event, according to a statement posted on the university’s website by Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Paul Alivisatos.

There also will be an “increased and highly visible police presence,” according to the statement.

“Some may wish to attend the event and hear the speaker to form their own views. Others may wish to stay away. Some may wish to protest. All activities can be done peacefully and with respect. If you choose to protest, please seek ways to protest peacefully and safely while observing rules related to the student code of conduct and our Principles of Community. If events escalate around you, please strongly consider leaving,” the provost’s statement said.

The university also announced that it would provide support and counseling services for students, staff and faculty, saying: “We are deeply concerned about the impact some speakers may have on individuals’ sense of safety and belonging. No one should be made to feel threatened or harassed simply because of who they are or for what they believe.”

Shapiro, who is a practicing Orthodox Jew, mocked the university’s offer of counseling in a tweet which read: “This Shabbat I told my three-year-old she couldn’t have more candy. She immediately registered for counseling at Berkeley.”

The university said the success or failure of the arrangements for Shapiro’s visit will inform how it handles future appearances by controversial speakers. Alt right British political commentator and media personality Milo Yiannopolous also is scheduled to appear at UC Berkeley this school year. An appearance by Yiannopolous that was scheduled last year had been cancelled after a protest of the speech turned violent.

Letters to the editor: Ben Shapiro, intermarriage, embracing the stranger


Prager’s Premise

I’ll bet you get a lot of letters that start with “Dennis Prager … ” Here’s mine.

Dennis Prager writes that taking in Muslim immigrants is causing Europe to go into a “death spiral,” and that this is somehow due to those immigrants’ non-European values (“Wisdom vs. Compassion,” July 21). I cannot help but read this in the context of the Holocaust. After the Nuremberg laws went into effect in 1938, Americans opposed letting in Jewish immigrants, and many Jews died as a result. Prager’s lead uses the Four Sons from the haggadah to derive the idea that wise is the opposite of bad. Does the famous line from Leviticus count for anything? “When strangers sojourn with you in your land, you shall not do them wrong. The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you, and you shall love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Levitcus 19:33-34).

Jacob Schaperow
via email

New Voice in the Journal

I appreciate having Ben Shapiro’s voice be heard in the Jewish Journal. As an almost lifelong Democrat for 54 years and a conservative since 9/11, and a proud dual citizen of Israel and the United States, I think leftist values are not the predominant ones that will preserve Judaism, Israel and the Jewish people. Silencing conservative voices does not help Judaism nor the world at large. Giving articulate, knowledgeable, caring people like Shapiro a platform in the Journal will help our people and mankind, together with other respectful, knowledgeable, caring voices along the political and religious spectrum. Kol ha-kavod to the Jewish Journal.

 Gershon Weissman
Fundraiser at Emek Lone Soldiers

Intermarriage and
Genetic Disease

I am neither opposed to nor a proponent of intermarriage (“Marrying In,” July 21). I am a proponent of informed consent when it comes to any couple deciding to begin a family. With 42 percent of Ashkenazi Jews (observant or otherwise) related to one of four women who lived in the 12th to 13th century, we have a far greater burden of genetic disease than most populations. In fact, 1 in 4 Ashkenazi Jews is a carrier for a genetic disorder found to be more prevalent in our population. This includes any person who is or was of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, including those descendants of Crypto-Jews. Therefore, part of the dialogue about whether intermarriage can be done correctly should include providing the couple with genetic counseling and, if the couple desires, testing for disease burden.

Just a thought.

Gary Frohlich
Senior Patient Education Liaison
Rare Business Disease Unit, US Genetics

Those Were the Days
(on the Westside)

The folksy article by Jonathan Kirsch (“A Nostalgic Trip Down the Westside’s Memory Lane,” July 14) recalls fond memories of my youth.

For pure nostalgia, I’d attend the silent movie theater on North Fairfax to see Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, and for more contemporary films, the Fairfax Theater, providing part-time work for Fairfax High School students, who’d let their friends in through the side door.

Billy Gray’s Band Box, a nightclub, the one semblance of “Borscht Belt/Catskills” humor on the West Coast, with hilarious satires such as “My Fairfax Lady, “The Cohen Mutiny” and “Goldfinkle,” and where Mickey Cohen, the head of L.A.’s “Kosher Nostra,” conducted business after hours, was ideal for teenage parking lot attendants. After all, where else but Fairfax Avenue could you feel the atmosphere of New York, Eastern Europe and the Middle East?

Ed Cress
Sylmar

A Kind Word for
Yona Sabar’s Word

Toda rabba (thank you) for publishing professor Yona Sabar’s “Hebrew Word of the Week.” It is always informative, often revealing new, unexpected insights into Hebrew words, both biblical and modern, while also telling readers about related words and concepts in a wide spectrum of other languages.

I look forward to reading more of Sabar’s words of week, and hope that he will publish a collection of his Jewish Journal column writing in a book.

Rivka Sherman-Gold
Yodan Publishing

Source Material for
‘Tycoon’ Miniseries

Judging from comments by director Billy Ray in the Journal’s story on his upcoming miniseries based on “The Last Tycoon” (“Miniseries Adds Jewish Context to Fitzgerald’s Unfinished Hollywood Novel,” July 21), it’s unfortunate Ray hadn’t caught wind of Steven Ross’ forthcoming book about Hollywood’s dealings with the Nazi regime (“Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hollywood and America”). As Ross discloses, the Jewish moguls were far from the Hitler patsies Ben Urwand claimed in his wildly overstated book “The Collaboration,” and which Ray states he used to ground his treatment of the moguls in the series.

Although the heads of MGM, Paramount and Fox did indeed “cave,” for pecuniary reasons, to many of the Fuhrer’s demands in Germany, on the homefront, these and other studio bosses were working ardently behind the scenes to thwart assassinations and other terrorist plots by a Nazi fifth column in Los Angeles.

Also, for a more balanced rendering of Hollywood’s interactions with Hitler in general, Ray would have been far better served by Thomas Doherty’s “Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939.”

Vincent Brook
Lecturer, UCLA

 

A Lesson in Embracing

the Stranger

Yasher koach to Rochel Groner (“Photos of Jewish Woman Comforting Autistic Boy on Plane Go Viral,” July 21) for embracing the opportunity to befriend a young Muslim boy in pain. Rochel lovingly created a sacred space for the boy and all those on board were able to witness her caring for a stranger who is very different from her. I wish we could publicize and see more of these magical moments in the world today, especially toward those who have special needs.

Friendship Circle of Los Angeles offers programs for Jewish children in the community just like this little boy and we welcome new families and volunteers to join us.

Gail Rollman
Development Director
Friendship Circle of Los Angeles 

Story on Gaza Is 

Great First Step

I want to thank Ahmed Fouad Alkhatib for offering me (us) a glimpse of hope regarding a solution to the seemingly hopeless conflict in the Middle East — and especially in regards to the situation in Gaza (“The Hard Truth,” July 14). I like Alkhatib’s idea of bringing in the U.N. to stabilize the Strip “by preventing another war, reversing the deterioration of living conditions, initiating infrastructure renovations and managing aid money in a professional, nonpartisan manner.” He has explained his idea well and why he thinks it would work.

Now, how do we get this idea to the right people so that it can be transformed into action and fulfillment? Any suggestions, Ahmed?

Lori Levy
Sherman Oaks

Ben Shapiro was not stopped from speaking at the Young America's Foundation. Photo courtesy of the Young Americans Foundation

Truly free speech absent at colleges


Words are not violence.

You’d think this truism would be easy for some on the left to swallow; the entire workability of the First Amendment rests on that principle. Because words are not violence, we say that in a civilized society, we should be able to speak freely, that we should be entitled to our opinion, and that anyone who reacts to our words with violence should be punished for that crime.

Yet that perfectly obvious logic seems to elude more and more of the left these days.

Several weeks ago, the Berkeley College Republicans and Young America’s Foundation invited me to campus to speak. For context, I spoke at the college in April 2016; there was no violence, and nary a protester. Instead, I spoke with several hundred students, many of whom disagreed. The event was cordial and friendly and fun.

Last week, UC Berkeley announced that it would not be able to ensure a venue for my scheduled speech in September. Officials said they didn’t have a venue available on the date in question, and then didn’t provide alternative dates. Only after a public hubbub did they pledge to allow me to speak on campus as well as covering the relevant fees.

What changed? Between April 2016 and July 2017, Berkeley saw several major violent protests held by opponents of President Donald Trump. First, in February 2017, alt-right provocateur and Trump acolyte Milo Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak at the campus. Anti-fascism protesters, allegedly along with some Berkeley students, crashed the venue, began destroying property and setting things on fire, and posed too much of a security risk for the event to continue as planned. Then, in April 2017, Berkeley canceled a planned event with Ann Coulter, moving the date and place for the event, alleging that the university had been “unable to find a safe and suitable venue.” That same month, anti-Trump protesters clashed with pro-Trump protesters who set up shop in Berkeley to stump on behalf of free speech.

Berkeley’s decision-making process has become more and more common across the country. As leftist protesters grow more outrageous, administrators seem more than willing to grant them concessions, up to and including cancellation of events that anger the protesters.

When I spoke at Cal State Los Angeles in February 2016, the administration attempted to cancel the event outright; I showed up, anyway. Protesters blocked the entrances and assaulted students who wanted to come to the event; they pulled the fire alarm. Students had to be spirited into the venue secretly, two-by-two. They eventually were trapped there until the crowd outside dispersed. Meanwhile, the police allegedly were told by the administration to stand down. When I spoke at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, protesters invaded the speech in an attempt to shut it down. When I asked police to remove the protesters, they responded that the administration had told them that if they did that, they’d have to shut down the event entirely.

Too many leftist administrators are playing an inside-outside game in which they capitulate to violent protesters who seek to shut down free debate. They wouldn’t cave to such protesters from the right — if writer Ta-Nehisi Coates were victimized by violent protesters, you can guarantee that administrators would send the cops in force. But violence is a convenient excuse for excluding unwanted viewpoints.

And exclusion of unwanted viewpoints has become nearly universal on college campuses. Administrators now tell students that they can expect college to be a “safe space,” a protected area where they need never feel uncomfortable. To that end, all “microaggressions” must be policed. Microaggressions, as professor Jonathan Haidt of New York University states, are “small actions or word choices that seem on their face to have no malicious intent but that are thought of as a kind of violence nonetheless.” By thinking of words as violence, actual violence can be justified as a natural, decent response to verbiage you don’t like. In fact, one of the professors at Cal State Los Angeles, in anticipation of my speech, posted a note on his door saying as much: “The best response to micro-aggression is macro-aggression.”

We cannot have a political conversation with one another if we’re going to label one another’s arguments a form of brutality, to be prevented at any cost. That merely incentivizes violence as a rational response to words. It actually promotes the logic of violence, since the very act of violence in response to words now can be seen as an expression of righteous indignation: The more violent you are, the worse the microaggression must have been.

Furthermore, the microaggression culture that culminates in leftist rioting on campuses and administrative sycophancy to it generates a generation of mentally unhealthy people. As Haidt states, the use of “trigger warnings” — warnings designed to alert people to the risks of microaggressions — actually make students more paranoid, less prone to engage with the world, unduly emotional and upset. Instead, students should be exposed to ideas with which they disagree, and learn to control their emotional response to them. Get angry, by all means — but speak about your anger, rather than using it as an excuse to avoid thinking about the implications of views you hold or oppose.

I’m currently scheduled to speak at Berkeley in September, after testifying about the dangers of microaggression culture before Congress this week. The administration now says that it’s fully committed to the event moving forward. I certainly hope that’s the case. And I hope that leftists across the country stop burying themselves in the solipsism of the microaggression culture and heed the words of former President Barack Obama: “I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of view.”

We’ll be a better country if we stop the coddling, fight the violence and begin listening to one another once more. 


Ben Shapiro is editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire, host of the most-listened-to conservative podcast in the nation, “The Ben Shapiro Show,” and author of The New York Times best-seller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear Silences Americans.”

Letters to the editor: Talking Trump, Shapiro, and worthy award winners


Talking Trump

I don’t often read Marty Kaplan’s column, but this week I did, and how glad I am to have done so (“Roget’s Trumpasaurus,” July 7). Regardless of one’s political views, it is a beautifully envisioned, constructed and written piece. Thank you, Marty, for writing it and thank you, Jewish Journal, for printing it.

Immanuel “Manny” Spira
Los Angeles

Marty Kaplan is a blessed thinker and writer. His column on Roget’s and our vocabulary was terrific. Just what I needed as I sat here wondering when Congress would impeach the man before someone took him out permanently.

Government under Donald Trump is like watching democracy die. The CNN wrestling video was the last straw from this indecent, inelegant, crude, revolting hack.  If only the GOP had the backbone to admit he is their mistake and get him out of the White House.

Rev. Emmalou Kirchmeier
Bradenton, Fla.

Shmuel Rosner uses some of the text from President Donald Trump’s speech in Poland to conclude “How Trump’s Sentiments Are Israel’s Sentiments” (July 14). I think this is a mistake. It’s a mistake to believe that Trump has any sentiments or deeply held beliefs regarding Israel, or any other group, or nation, or principle (aside from what is good for Trump’s ego is good).

Sometimes, as has now been noted on several occasions, Trump comes across as “presidential” when reading from a teleprompter, words written by someone else. Actors come across as presidential on the stage.
Sadly, the closest we can come to what is going on in the dark mind of the president is to read his tweets. And even these sentiments change frequently. To read into a prepared text read by Trump any depth of feeling or conviction is a mistake.

Coleman Colla
via email

I would like to know why Donald Trump has a favorable rating only in Russia and Israel. I’ve seen polls where Barack Obama and John Kerry rated less than 10 percent in Israel. We American Jews will always be totally supportive of Israel but, with such divergent conclusions, it really makes it harder and harder.

I’ll point to only one issue out of hundreds. When Trump gave the go-ahead for Saudi Arabia to get more than $100 billion in military aid, do people think that somehow that is good for Israel?

Mark Haskin
Marina del Rey

Based on Ben Shapiro’s assertion, as “fact,” that “Trump is the most moderate Republican president since Richard Nixon” (“How the Dems Can Lose 2018,” July 14) and that Republicans have moved to the political center while Democrats have slid to the far left, I say, for one, Nixon presided over the creation of the EPA, which Trump is tragically dismantling. Ronald Reagan, who fought for gun control laws and who granted amnesty to illegal immigrants, would be considered a liberal by today’s GOP, ever since an extremist, uncompromising group of congressmen and women known as the Tea Party gained control of the House of Representatives in 2010. Not even after 9/11 did George W. Bush react so extremely against Muslims as Trump has demonstrated.

Likewise, Shapiro’s take on Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who currently polls as the most popular politician in the U.S., is stereotypically reduced to the archaic notion of “socialism,” as applied to the USSR during the Cold War, which has no relation to the “democratic socialism” Sanders espouses. If anything, Sanders champions policies supportive of the working and middle class that got Franklin D. Roosevelt elected president four times, and others, such as nonprofit health care, which is the norm worldwide. 

Frederick Abrams
Los Angeles

The Lessons of Hiroshima

I share Rob Eshman’s reluctant doubt that “Never Again” is dependable. As the generation that experienced the horror passes, so, too, does the horror itself. We wanted to slam the door on it forever but slamming the door isn’t always the same as slamming it shut. Actually, our holocausts aren’t remarkably original long-term (I’m Armenian).
When I look clear-eyed toward the Jews’ current refuge in Israel, I admit to the same doubt as toward future holocausts as Eshman.
Reluctantly.

David Morgan
Los Angeles

Separation of Church, State

While the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and Orthodox Union (OU) share common ground on many issues, we believe the OU’s position on government funding of religious institutions is shortsighted, and not in the long-term best interest of the Jewish community (“Jewish Groups Differ Over Ruling About Public Funds for Religious Institutions,” July 14). Jewish history is pretty clear on this point: With the king’s purse comes the king — and all his meddling and regulations.

For more than a century, the ADL has steadfastly promoted the idea that the separation principle has been a key to religious freedom for Jews and other religious minorities in America. It protects religion from government oversight and interference, and keeps the government from favoring or promoting certain religious faiths or doctrines. When the government provides funding to religious institutions in any capacity, it has the effect of promoting religion. 

The Trinity Lutheran decision raises more questions than answers on the scope of government funding now available to religious institutions. We are concerned it will be read as leaving the door wide open to such funding. Requiring taxpayers to fund religious institutions is not wise policy.

Amanda Susskind
Pacific Southwest Regional Director, Anti-Defamation League

What to Do About the Wall

I support Shmuel Rosner’s call that we American Jews demand that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu honor the original January 2016 decision to give Conservative and Reform congregations official recognition at the Kotel (“Fight or Flee? American Jews Face Post-Kotel Dilemma,” June 30). Orthodox Judaism does not speak for me. But Judaism does. I believe in a broad construction of Jewish law and culture. For me, Judaism is a great religion because it was the first religion to center on ethics, not on ritual practices that could ensure a good harvest, etc. If Reform and Conservative Judaism have no official status in Israel, then America soon will be recognized as the true home of world Jewry.

Barbara Judson
Pasade
na

The July 7 edition of the Jewish Journal contains a remarkable story by David Benkof (“Diaspora Jews Cannot Expect Veto Power Over Jewish State”). Besides the incredibly arrogant tone, it is intellectually dishonest. To call the “Kotel architecture” issue a kerfuffle is demeaning. As is ignoring the fact that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government reneged on an agreed-upon compromise. Finally, while Benkof has a legitimate point in stating that Diaspora Jews cannot expect veto power over the Jewish state, then I assume that he also agrees that Israel has no legitimate case against the United States when it takes positions in the United Nations General Assembly with which Israel vehemently disagrees.

Tom Fleishman
Valley Glen

Kudos to Berrin

Lately, I’ve been thinking what a fine journalist Danielle Berrin has become, and when I read “When the Dream of Israel Clashes With Reality”  (July 7), I realized each story is better than the last. Several pages later, I learned she has been named journalist of the year by the Los Angeles Press Club. So very well deserved.

Marilyn Russell
Los Angeles

After surviving the Holocaust in Poland, I was sure that for the rest of my life, all Jews, including women, are equal. Berrin’s story, so well done, points out that I am wrong.  Women, of all places in the “free” country in Israel, are not equal to men. How can that be? The country that rose on the ashes of 6 million because of great bigotry and inequality. Wake up, Israeli leaders: All of us, we love Israel, and we want to continue to love it!

Bob Geminder
Rancho Palos Verdes

IKAR Rabbi Sharon Brous delivers the invocation at the inauguration ceremony for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. The gathering at Los Angeles City Hall marked the start of Garcetti’s second mayoral term. Photo by the Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti

Moving & Shaking: Garcetti inauguration, LAMOTH vigil, AFMDA gala


IKAR Senior Rabbi Sharon Brous delivered the invocation at the inauguration ceremony for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s second term.

“Holy One, protect and strengthen our mayor, who wears the clothes of a politician but has the heart of a prophet,” Brous said on July 1 at Los Angeles City Hall.

Garcetti, 46, the city’s first elected Jewish mayor, took office in 2013. He was re-elected in June. Because of a shift in the city’s election calendar, Garcetti’s second term will last 5 1/2 years instead of the standard four-year term.

Garcetti’s father, former L.A. County District Attorney Gil Garcetti, is Mexican American with Spanish, Native-American and Italian ancestry. His mother, Sukey Roth, is the granddaughter of Russian-Jewish immigrants.

Garcetti regularly studies Torah with Brous. The two co-starred in a comedy sketch titled “Clergy in Cars Getting Coffee” — a takeoff on a similar Jerry Seinfeld internet video series — for the 2016 IKAR Purim spiel.

The inauguration ceremony also featured the swearing-in of newly elected and re-elected L.A. City Councilmembers, including L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz, whose district includes the heavily Jewish Pico-Robertson neighborhood.

Brous highlighted how local elected officials have fostered religious unity during polarizing times:

“Our mayor and our city leaders have turned this city into a holy hot spot, an oasis of love and justice, a place where Jews and Christians and Muslims and Sikhs and Buddhists and Hindus and Catholics and atheists stand together against hate crimes, form holy alliances to fight homelessness and combat racism, work side-by-side to strengthen and support our immigrant communities, declare our commitment to protecting one another and our fragile planet.”


From left: Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Sam Grundwerg, AJC Los Angeles Director Dan Schnur and Consul General of Azerbaijan in Los Angeles Nasimi Aghayev commemorate 25 years of friendship between Israel and Azerbaijan. Photo by Anna Rubin

Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles Sam Grundwerg and the Consulate General of the Republic of Azerbaijan in Los Angeles Nasimi Aghayev commemorated 25 years of friendship between Israel and Azerbaijan on June 7 at Sinai Temple.

The event featured Grundwerg and Aghayev in a conversation moderated by Dan Schnur, director of the L.A. office of American Jewish Committee, a global advocacy organization.

Sinai Temple Rabbi David Wolpe opened the event by recalling his trip to Azerbaijan in 2015 with 50 members of his congregation, which sponsored and delivered a Torah to the mountain Jews of Baku.

Grundwerg and Aghayev discussed their backgrounds, their respect for each other and the friendship between their two countries. “Israel was one of the first countries that recognized Azerbaijan following its independence in 1991,” Grundwerg said. The two countries have been diplomatic partners ever since.

Aghayev highlighted his Muslim-majority country’s history with the Jewish people. “The Jewish people have been in Azerbaijan for more than 2,000 years,” he said, adding: “The Jewish people have been safer in Azerbaijan than anywhere else in the Middle East.”

Chinedu Nwogu, a Nigerian foreign exchange student at Cal State Northridge, attended the event and said he found the discussion encouraging. “It was inspirational to attend this event and see the strong friendship between Israel and Azerbaijan, despite the country’s Muslim majority, and it gives me hope that one day such a friendship will exist between Israel and Nigeria,” Nwogu said.

Additional attendees included philanthropists Naty and Debbie Saidoff; former Beverly Hills Mayor Jimmy Delshad; Consul General of Japan in Los Angeles Akira Chiba and Consul General of Germany in Los Angeles Hans Jörg Neumann.

The Shalhevet High School choir sang a rendition of “Jerusalem of Gold,” recognizing the 50-year anniversary of Jerusalem’s 1967 liberation in the Six-Day War.

Mati Geula Cohen, Contributing Writer


CNN International anchor Isha Sesay. Photo courtesy of CNN

CNN International anchor Isha Sesay spoke about her experiences reporting on women’s rights violations, particularly the terrorist group Boko Haram’s April 2014 kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from the Chibok region of Nigeria, when she addressed a group of about 50 people after the Beverly Hills Jewish Community’s June 24 Shabbat services at the Beverly Hills Hotel. She emphasized the moral imperative to mobilize against such global atrocities.

Rabbi Avraham Berkowitz, a member of the World Economic Forum’s Civil Society, introduced Sesay and described his own activism against the torture of Yazidi women and girls by ISIS in Iraq. Berkowitz has worked with Chaldean Christian groups to advocate for the Yazidi girls to the United Nations and the White House. He said he became passionate about the cause after he learned of it from the news and, as the father of four girls, felt he could not stand idly by.

“I recalled the phrase from Psalms: ‘Karati, v’ein oneh’ — ‘I called, and there was no answer,’ ” Berkowitz said. “It seemed that the world heard the Yazidi girls and did not answer. We as a Jewish community have an obligation not only to help our own, but wherever and whenever there’s injustice and suffering.”

Sesay related her passion for international women’s rights to her upbringing in Sierra Leone, where she said 90 percent of women are subject to genital mutilation. She said she hoped to balance journalistic objectivity in her news reports with her personal commitment to human rights activism.

“It is not enough as a journalist to sit at the desk and read a prompter,” Sesay said. “Some stories cannot be left at the studio door. You must use every tool at your disposal to keep the story alive.”

Sesay, who currently is writing a book about the Boko Haram kidnappings, urged congregants to be “upstanders” rather than bystanders, and to engage with nonprofit organizations already working to empower women in developing countries.

Sesay’s appearance was sponsored by the Jewish Journal and organized by the Jewish Platform for Advocacy and Community Engagement, and the Beverly Hills Jewish Community’s speaker initiative.

— Gabriella Kamran, Contributing Writer


Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz appears at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust for a vigil commemorating the refugees aboard the MS St. Louis in 1939. Photo by Jill Brown/Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust

The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust (LAMOTH) held a community vigil to commemorate the refugees aboard the ocean liner St. Louis in 1939. The St. Louis was full of Jewish refugees when it was turned away by the United States after leaving Nazi Germany.

At the June 11 event, the 85 attendees remembered those who were killed after being sent back to Europe, while LAMOTH highlighted the importance of helping present-day refugees. Those who attended came from various synagogues and organizations, including University Synagogue, Cool Shul, Temple Sinai of Glendale, Kehillat Israel, Leo Baeck Temple, USC, HIAS (formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), IKAR, the Anti-Defamation League, Temple Beth Am and Temple Isaiah.

LAMOTH Director of Education Jordanna Gessler said it was important for the museum to hold the event because lessons of the Holocaust are relevant today, and important for members of the Jewish community to come together to “learn about the past, reflect on the present and change the future.”

LAMOTH was founded in 1961 by a group of Holocaust survivors whose narratives are at the core of the museum’s galleries and education.

Henry Slucki, a Holocaust survivor, was a participant at the commemoration who spoke about his experiences of being a refugee. Slucki said his family was assisted by HIAS, which for 130 years has protected refugees and helped them rebuild their lives.

L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz also spoke at the event about his father’s experiences as a Holocaust survivor and refugee.

Beth Kean, LAMOTH executive director and a grandchild of Holocaust survivors and refugees, discussed honoring the memory of those who died as a result of the events surrounding the St. Louis.

— Caitlin Cohen, Contributing Writer


From left: Actress and activist Sharon Stone, Magen David Adom (MDA) Chief Operations Officer Ori Shacham, new MDA Chairman of the Board Rabbi Avraham Manela, MDA paramedic Naty Regev and American Friends of MDA Western Region President Dina Leeds. Photo by Orly Halevy

American Friends of Magen David Adom (AFMDA) held a June 21 luncheon at the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills to mark the launch of its Iron Dome Protectors of Israel Women’s Division for Magen David Adom (MDA) in L.A.

The event featured a discussion with actress and peace activist Sharon Stone and philanthropist and businessman Michael Milken.

Organized by AFMDA Western regional chair Dina Leeds, the Jewish National Fund and Israel Bonds, the event drew more than 200 women in support of the Eshkol region of Israel, which has been a target of terrorist groups’ rocket and mortar attacks in recent years, and is not protected by Israel’s Iron Dome.

“We want to offer love and resources to our brothers and sisters in Israel who need it most due to the high-risk parts of the country they live in,” Leeds said. “Where there is no literal Iron Dome anti-missile system, we will be their ‘Iron Dome’ of emotional and lifesaving support.”

The event also raised funds to purchase two ambulances for the emergency-response efforts MDA performs in Israel and around the world.

“We unite people of Israel, of all ethnicities, backgrounds and religions,” Leeds said. “We have paramedics who are Jewish, Christian and Muslim, all serving the singular task of saving lives.”

Beverly Hills Mayor Lili Bosse participated in the event via video.

“I commend each and every one of you for being such strong and determined women, each of you leading by example and making a difference,” Bosse told the attendees.

Carolyn Ben Natan, director of public affairs for the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles, also attended.

“We stand on the shoulders of those righteous and fearless biblical women of the Exodus,” Natan said, “and now we have modern Israeli women on the world stage, and there is a direct line from Golda Meir to Gal Gadot.”

Other attendees included Beny Alagem, owner of the recently opened Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills; David Suissa, president of TRIBE Media/Jewish Journal; philanthropist Gina Rafael; Susan Azizzadeh, president of the Iranian American Jewish Federation; Jodi Marcus, associate director of the Jewish National Fund in Los Angeles; Yossi Mentz, AFMDA Western region director of major gifts; and Gadi Yarkoni, mayor of the Eshkol region.

— Mati Geula Cohen, Contributing Writer


With this issue, the Jewish Journal is proud to announce our newest columnist, Ben Shapiro.

Ben Shapiro. Photo courtesy of Jewish National Fund

Shapiro, 33, was born and raised in Los Angeles, where he attended Yeshiva University of Los Angeles Boys High School. He went on to UCLA, where he graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa at age 20, with a bachelor of arts degree in political science.

He graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School in 2007 and subsequently practiced law at Goodwin Procter LLP. Today, he runs a Los Angeles independent legal consultancy firm, Benjamin Shapiro Legal Consulting.

Shapiro, who lectures widely on college campuses across the United States, has written seven books, including 2004’s “Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America’s Youth.” He currently writes a column for Creators Syndicate and is editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire. He is the co-founder and former editor-in-chief of the media watchdog group Truth Revolt and former editor-at-large of Breitbart News. He resigned from Breitbart after what he felt was the website’s insufficient support of its reporter Michelle Fields after she was allegedly assaulted by Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager.

In a March 1, 2016, cover story for the Jewish Journal, “Why the Republican Party Is Dying,” Shapiro decried the candidacy of now-President Trump.

Shapiro’s other books include “Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV” and “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences Americans,” which appeared on The New York Times’ best-seller list.   

He married Mor Toledano, an Israeli citizen of Jewish-Moroccan descent, and lives in Los Angeles. They have two children and belong to an Orthodox congregation.

Shapiro’s column will appear in the Journal twice monthly, alternating with Marty Kaplan.

The Journal is devoted to presenting a pluralistic forum for the many strong, divergent voices in the community, and we are thrilled that Shapiro’s voice now will be among them.

We also want to thank Dennis Prager, who contributed loyally to this publication over the years. He will continue to contribute occasional columns as his time and schedule permit.

— Rob Eshman, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief


Moving & Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email ryant@jewishjournal.com. 

Activist Linda Sarsour in New York City on June 29. Photo by Joe Penney/Reuters

How the Dems can lose 2018


Last week, the Democrats released a new bumper sticker for their 2018 Congressional campaign: “I mean, have you seen the other guys?”

It’s not a bad political notion so far as it goes — opposition in politics is an effective tool, as Democrats learned from Republicans, who campaigned against Obamacare and Democratic spending policies to the tune of 1,000 state legislature seats, 12 governorships (including in states such as Michigan and Massachusetts), 10 Senate seats and 63 House seats. Now Democrats hope to reverse the math.

But there’s something else going on here, too. Democrats hope that campaigning as #TheResistance will suffice to prevent voters from looking too hard at their own moral and political shortcomings. That’s because for all the talk by Democrats about Republican extremism, Republicans actually have moved closer to the center on policy, while Democrats have embraced an ugly combination of Bernie Sanders-style socialism and college campus-style intersectionality.

Leave aside the boorish antics of President Donald Trump and the incompetence of Congressional Republicans. Here is the fact: Trump is the most moderate Republican president since Richard Nixon. He has successfully passed almost no major policy in seven months. His foreign policy on North Korea and Syria is barely distinguishable from former President Barack Obama’s. His approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been praised by Palestinians and former Obama officials. He’s the most pro-LGBT Republican in presidential history; his stance on abortion has been vague; his White House chief strategist has openly embraced higher taxes on upper-income earners, as well as a massive infrastructure spending program; he has embraced the central premises of Obamacare. Trump may act in ridiculous ways that defy rationality — his Twitter feed is littered with stupidity and aggression, of course — but on policy, Trump is closer to Bill Clinton of 1997 than President Obama was.

Democrats, meanwhile, are moving hard to the left. When former Clinton adviser Mark Penn wrote an op-ed for The New York Times calling for Democrats to move back to the center, he was roundly excoriated by the leading thinkers in the Democratic Party. He was an emissary of the past; he had to embrace the new vision of the leftist future. That leftist future involved radical tax increases, fully nationalized health care, and — most of all — the divisive politics of intersectionality. Sens. Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) may own the policy side of the Democratic coalition, but the heart of the Democratic coalition lies in polarization by race, sex and sexual orientation. Forget a cohesive national message that appeals to Americans regardless of tribal identity: The new Democratic Party cares only about uniting disparate identity factions under the banner of opposing Republicanism.

The clearest evidence for that alliance of convenience came earlier this month, when Democratic darling and Women’s March organizer Linda Sarsour was caught on tape promoting “jihad” against Trump. Sarsour said that the sort of “jihad” she liked was “a word of truth in front of a tyrant or leader.” But she deliberately used the word “jihad” because of its ambiguity, not in spite of it: Sarsour has stated that pro-Israel women cannot be feminists; she supports the imposition of “Shariah law” in Muslim countries; she has stated of dissident and female genital mutilation victim Ayaan Hirsi Ali that she wishes she could take her “vagina away”; she has long associated with the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood; she opened her “jihad” speech by thanking Siraj Wajjah, an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing who has repeatedly advocated for a violent form of “jihad.”

Democrats hope that campaigning as #TheResistance will suffice to prevent voters from looking too hard at their own moral and political shortcomings.

Democrats rushed to her defense nonetheless, hoping to preserve the intersectional concerns that animate their base. Never mind that Sarsour is no ally to LGBT rights, or that she blames “Zionists” for her problems. She represents an important constituency for Democrats, and so she must be protected. More than that, she speaks anti-Trumpese fluently, and thus is an important figure for Democrats.

This isn’t rare on the left anymore. Much of the Democratic establishment supported Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a longtime Nation of Islam acolyte who spent years defending that group’s most extreme anti-Semitic rhetoric — a man so radical that he openly associated with the Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, which recently labeled Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) an “Israel Firster.”

Even as the Democratic Party embraced Sarsour and defended her ambiguous use of the word “jihad” — after all, she was opposing Trump the Impaler — leftist spokespeople rushed to microphones to denounce President Trump’s speech in Poland, in which he called for a defense of “the West” and “our civilization.” Leftist columnist Peter Beinart labeled the speech racist. As Jonah Goldberg of National Review points out, we now have a Democratic Party that spends its time defending the use of the word “jihad” against the president but labeling the phrase “the West” a problem.

Bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see how it works out.

And so Democrats must focus on President Trump. They must hope that he smacks himself in the face with a frying pan. They must bank on some sort of Trump-Russia collusion revelation. They must pray that the focus stays on Republicans rather than turning back to Democrats. After all, Sanders-Sarsour doesn’t sound like a winning combination.


BEN SHAPIRO is editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire, host of the most listened-to conservative podcast in the nation, “The Ben Shapiro Show,” and author of The New York Times best-seller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear Silences Americans.”

Where do Jewish conservatives stand on Trump?


Faced with Donald Trump as his party’s presumptive nominee in this year’s presidential election, Jamie Weinstein, senior editor for the conservative Daily Caller website, said he may have to “take a Tums” and vote for Hillary Clinton — assuming Clinton becomes the Democratic nominee and there’s no third-party conservative alternative.

“Given that you have to vote, and my options are only Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, that’s what I’m left to choose from,” Weinstein said in a recent interview. “And I think Donald Trump is a threat to the American system, whereas Clinton is a threat to our economic wellbeing for four years.”

Weinstein, like many Jewish thought-leaders in the conservative world, says he not only will not support the inevitable Republican nominee — he would prefer another four years of a Democrat in the White House if Trump is the only alternative. And this is not only because of the danger he believes Trump poses to America; he also sees Trump as a long-term threat to conservatism and fears the movement may not recover from a Trump presidency.

Among Jewish #NeverTrump-ers are some of the most prominent voices of conservatism: Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard; Jonah Goldberg, senior editor for the National Review (the magazine ran an entire anti-Trump issue in February); Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby; Ben Shapiro, editor-in-chief of the Daily Wire; nationally syndicated talk-show host Mark Levin; Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin; Elliot Abrams, a former George W. Bush adviser and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR); Max Boot, also a CFR fellow and a former John McCain adviser; John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary Magazine; Seth Mandel of the New York Post; Bethany Mandel, senior contributor at The Federalist; David Bernstein and Ilya Somin, both law professors at George Mason University and both also writers for the Washington Post’s “The Volokh Conspiracy” blog, run by UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh; Orin Kerr, a law professor at George Washington University and also a Volokh blogger; and Bret Stephens, the Wall Street Journal's foreign affairs columnist, who in his most recent column all but explicitly said conservatives should vote for a Clinton presidency buttressed by a Republican Congress.

Although all conservatives and Republicans in the #NeverTrump crowd say they will never cast a vote for the real-estate developer and reality TV star, they differ in what they will do. Some, like Shapiro, say they will vote on Nov. 8, but only for “down-ballot” races like the Senate and House. Others, like Weinstein, say they will vote for Clinton as the anti-Trump vote, absent a third-party conservative option.

“He is every horrifying stereotype of Republicans that those of us who are actually Republican have been fighting against for years,” Bethany Mandel said. “He’s already destroying all of that work, but he will likely do irreparable damage to the brand.”

Mandel, who lives in New Jersey, said she was particularly turned off by two of Trump’s antics. The first was when he told CNN’s Don Lemon in August that Fox News host Megyn Kelly had “blood coming out of her wherever,” in describing Kelly’s performance during a Republican debate in which she challenged Trump about past misogynist comments. The second was at a November rally when Trump mocked and imitated the disability of New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, who has a congenital joint disorder.

Shapiro had his own decisive #NeverTrump moment: “The point where I said, categorically, I will never vote for this human being was when he refused to denounce the KKK on national television two days before the Louisiana primary,” said Shapiro, who supported Senator Ted Cruz. “He panders to legitimately the worst elements in American life.”

Shapiro thinks conservatives who are now “falling in line” behind Trump are “cannibalizing [conservatism] to stop the danger of the moment.

“Once you come out and you vote in favor of a man who has opposed every single conservative principle, and pandered to literally the worst people in America, it’s kind of difficult to put that genie back in the bottle,” Shapiro said. “I think Hillary would be a disaster for the country, but I think if we are to have a long-term future, it can’t be one where there’s no conservative party, because the conservative party has been gutted by a charlatan with authoritarian tendencies.”

Among Jewish conservatives, the #NeverTrump group thus far seems to outnumber those who say they will vote Trump—even if only to block a Democratic win. Nevertheless, Trump supporters include some prominent people, such as billionaire Republican donor Sheldon Adelson, former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer, New York Congressman Lee Zeldin and nationally syndicated talk-show host and Jewish Journal columnist Dennis Prager. The Republican Jewish Coalition also came out in favor of the presumptive candidate, issuing a statement on May 4 congratulating Trump after Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich suspended their campaigns, saying Clinton “is the worst possible choice for a commander in chief.”

Adelson, who had withheld endorsing until now, told the New York Times at a World Values Network gala May 5 that he will support Trump, and that he believes Trump “will be good for Israel.”  Fleischer, on May 3, tweeted, “There’s a lot about Donald Trump that I don’t like, but I’ll vote for Trump over Hillary any day.”

“It’s a choice between the known and the unknown, and I find myself in the category of hoping that the unknown doesn’t turn into someone as bad as the known,” Fleischer said in an interview, pointing to Trump’s respect for the private sector’s ability to create wealth. Even on economics, though, while Fleischer believes Trump has better instincts than Clinton, he said he “cringed” when he heard Trump say on CNN’s “New Day” on May 9, “You never have to default, because you print the money.” Trump said this in response to a question about his comments to CNBC on May 5, when he indicated that a debt renegotiation (in effect, a default) is always a possibility. “I would borrow, knowing that if the economy crashed, you could make a deal,” Trump said, later saying the New York Times mischaracterized him when the paper said he “might reduce the national debt by persuading creditors to accept something less than full payment.”

Fleischer said he “always knew” throughout the nomination process that he would support whichever Republican candidate emerged, but said Trump “almost lost me for good” when he accused President George W. Bush of lying about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction in order justify the Iraq invasion in 2003.

“If this were a race between Donald Trump and Joe Lieberman, I would vote for Joe Lieberman,” Fleischer said. “But this is a race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.”

Last January, Fleischer had said a Trump nomination would mean the Republican Party is no longer the conservative party. And he didn’t retract that notion, telling the Journal that Trump’s presumptive nomination may mean the party will be in the hands of its populist, not conservative, bloc.

“I don’t think you can rule that out,” Fleischer said.

Radio commentator and Jewish Journal columnist Dennis Prager has, since early in the nomination process, opposed Trump, but said he would vote for him if he became the nominee. “I said from the outset that if my darkest dreams were realized, and he became the Republican nominee, I would vote for him,” Prager wrote in an email. “The reason is that there is one thing that frightens me more than Donald Trump being elected president, and that is Hillary Clinton being elected president.”

He said Trump’s behavior and positions made him unsure “almost every day” whether he could maintain that position. Asked what Trump would have to do to lose his vote, Prager said, “He tries almost every day.”

Among the many distinctions Prager sees between a Trump presidency and a Clinton presidency: the Supreme Court, natural gas extraction (known as “fracking,” which Clinton has come out hard against during her campaign against Bernie Sanders), and, as he said, “An ever-expanding government taking over more and more of the American economy.”

Prager fears Clinton appointments to the Supreme Court could, for a generation, allow judges to “use the court to pass laws” otherwise not achievable with a Republican-controlled Congress or White House. Asked to respond to #NeverTrump conservatives’ fear that Trump is redefining—or has already redefined the Republican Party—Prager said that will only happen if he “succeeds as president, and doesn’t do so by adopting conservative policies.”

“Then he may indeed redefine Republican and conservative,” Prager said. “I’ll worry about that then. And if he fails, he will give new impetus to the traditional understanding of Republican and conservative.”

Elliott Abrams, who served as a foreign policy advisor to George W. Bush and as a consultant for Cruz's campaign, said this year’s election reminds him of the first one he voted in—in 1972, when Richard Nixon beat George McGovern in every state except Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.

“I voted for governor, senator, all that, but I didn’t vote for either of them for president, because I didn’t support either,” Abrams said. Asked whether the “lesser of two evils” argument sways him at all, he said Trump’s unpredictability does not count in his favor.

“I don’t consider it an argument for Trump that he doesn’t really have many policy positions, that no one has a good idea what he’s going to do as president—including Trump!” Abrams said. “He has no understanding of the job. He has no understating of the Constitution, and that’s dangerous.”

Jeff Jacoby, a conservative columnist for the Boston Globe, said he will vote for president, just not for either Clinton or Trump, who he believes “undermines basically everything that conservatives especially, and Republicans generally, have said they stand for.”

In 1992, Jacoby voted for libertarian candidate Andre Marrou instead of George H. W. Bush or Bill Clinton. And in 2000, he again voted for the libertarian candidate — Harry Browne — instead of George W. Bush or Al Gore.

Jacoby, too, is not swayed by the argument that Trump is the least bad of two options.

“During World War II, there might not have been a reasonable alternative to accepting the Soviet Union as an ally against Germany, but this isn’t World War II, and I don’t think any individual voter or any conservative organization gains anything by letting the party make common cause with Donald Trump,” he said. “The country has come to a really bad pass, and no matter which path we take, something bad lies ahead.”

Orin Kerr, a libertarian-leaning conservative and law professor at George Washington University, also likened Trump to Nixon, calling him the type of politician “the framers of the Constitution were worried about.”

“I think a President Trump would pose a serious threat to the world’s security and constitutional governance,” said Kerr, who said he’s prepared to vote for Clinton if she’s Trump’s opponent in November. “From what I can tell, Hillary would be another Democratic politician, not too far from Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and the republic survived those administrations.”

Weinstein, too, believes Trump has “authoritarian tendencies.” There is the affectionate way he has spoken about Russian president Vladimir Putin; his suggestions of respect for the late dictators Saddam Hussein and Muamar Gaddafi for killing terrorists; and his comments in a 1990 interview in Playboy magazine that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev didn’t have a “firm enough hand,” and that the Communist Chinese government “almost blew it” in 1990 during the Tiananmen Square protests, until “they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength.”

What put Weinstein, the Daily Caller editor, over the edge was an incident in which Michelle Fields, Weinstein’s girlfriend and a former Breitbart reporter, was grabbed at a Trump event by campaign manager Corey Lewandowski as she tried to approach Trump to ask him a question. A Florida prosecutor charged Lewandowski with battery, and then later dropped the charges, but eyewitnesses corroborated Fields’ account, along with audio and video footage.

Trump’s response was to claim Fields was lying, and he hinted he might sue her. He  also continued to praise Lewandowski and criticized other reporters for their coverage of the incident.

David Bernstein, a George Mason University law professor, said he would’ve voted for most of the Republican candidates in this year’s field, favoring in particular Cruz and Senator Rand Paul, but said he believes the U.S. “will survive four years of Clinton.” He thinks the Republican Party is at a tipping point at risk of being led by the “American version of Hugo Chavez or Juan Peron.”

“We’re going to have a situation where we have a Republican Party that resembles European right-wing parties—xenophobic, in favor of the welfare state; and the Democratic Party,” Bernstein said. “We won’t have any party that’s standing for limited government principles. We will have a big government left-wing party, and a big government right-wing party.”

Donald Trump’s campaign manager charged with battery of Breitbart News reporter


Donald Trump’s campaign manager was charged with battery against a Breitbart News reporter on the same day police released a video apparently corroborating her account.

Corey Lewandowski was charged by the police in Jupiter, Florida, Tuesday and turned himself in that morning.

In a statement soon afterward, Trump said Lewandowski “is absolutely innocent of this charge.”

“He will enter a plea of not guilty and looks forward to his day in court,” the statement said. “He is completely confident that he will be exonerated.”

The video of the March 8 incident released by police in the south Florida city appears to show Lewandowski pulling and grabbing the reporter, Michelle Fields. The crowd had obscured the incident in previously released videos, according to Reuters.

Fields tweeted photos of her bruised arm.

Five days after the incident, Fields resigned from Breitbart, as did Ben Shapiro, the Orthodox Jewish editor at large, over the conservative news website’s refusal to stand behind its reporter. Breitbart went so far as to publish a story casting doubt on Fields’ account.

Washington Post reporter Ben Terris, who was standing next to Fields at the time of the incident, has corroborated her version of events.

Shapiro was a close friend of the late Breitbart founder, Andrew Breitbart, who was also Jewish.

Ben Shapiro resigns from Breitbart over Trump campaign manager incident


Conservative journalist Ben Shapiro is resigning from Breitbart over the news site’s handling of an alleged assault by Donald Trump’s campaign manager on a Breitbart reporter.

[SHAPIRO: Why the Republican Party is dying]

Shapiro and Michelle Fields, who claims a Trump staffer forcefully pushed her away from the Republican presidential candidate at a news conference in Florida, both resigned Sunday night, according to Buzzfeed News.

Shapiro, an Orthodox Jew and syndicated columnist, was an editor at large for the right-wing site founded by the late Andrew Breitbart.

“Andrew [Breitbart’s] life mission has been betrayed,” Shapiro wrote in a statement he submitted to Buzzfeed. “Indeed, Breitbart News, under the chairmanship of Steve Bannon, has put a stake through the heart of Andrew’s legacy. In my opinion, Steve Bannon is a bully, and has sold out Andrew’s mission in order to back another bully, Donald Trump; he has shaped the company into Trump’s personal Pravda, to the extent that he abandoned and undercut his own reporter, Breitbart News’ Michelle Fields, in order to protect Trump’s bully campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who allegedly assaulted Michelle.”

Breitbart News’ editor at large, Joel Pollak, published a satirical article on the site Monday morning mocking Shapiro for resigning and suggesting he was looking for a post at Fox News.

“Former Breitbart News editor-at-large Ben Shapiro announced Sunday evening via left-wing Buzzfeed that he is abandoning Andrew Breitbart’s lifelong best friend, widow, hand-picked management team and friends in pursuit of an elusive contributorship at the Fox News Channel,” the post read.

It was posted under the name William Bigelow — the name Shapiro’s father, David, used while writing for the site, Politico reported.

The article has since been deleted but can be read in full here. According to Politico, David Shapiro also resigned from Breitbart on Sunday night.

The Trump campaign has denied Fields’ allegations. She and Washington Post reporter Ben Terris, who was standing next to Fields at the time, both wrote accounts of the incident.

“Both Lewandowski and Trump maligned Michelle in the most repulsive fashion,” Shapiro wrote in his statement. “Meanwhile, Breitbart News not only stood by and did nothing outside of tepidly asking for an apology, they then attempted to abandon Michelle by silencing staff from tweeting or talking about the issue. Finally, in the ultimate indignity, they undermined Michelle completely by running a poorly-evidenced conspiracy theory as their lead story in which Michelle and Terris had somehow misidentified Lewandowski.”

Buzzfeed reported that several other Breitbart employees are looking to leave in the wake of the Fields incident. The company’s spokesman, Kurt Bardella, resigned on Friday.

Ben Shapiro’s culture of fear mongering


I had never heard of Ben Shapiro until that Shabbat evening.  My best friend, Yitzy, just got married, and I was headed to a sheva brachos, one of the parties religious Jews have after they get married.  Yitzy and his wife were having his party at an Orthodox synagogue in my neighborhood that was filled mostly with the above-60 Orthodox set, and Yitzy’s Lubavitcher family.  Yitzy said the shul had sponsored a speaker, Ben Shapiro, so Yitzy had paid for a couple of tables to support the event.  Someone pointed out Shapiro to me — “He’s a great speaker.  I saw a video of him debating guns with Piers Morgan and he was so good.”  I hate guns.  I can’t understand how we live in a country where even after the horrors of tragedies like what took place at Sandy Hook Elementary school—where 156 shots were fired in under five minutes, killing 6 adults and 20 children — people in this country still fight for their right to carry not only guns, but assault-weapons.  Needless to say, I had a feeling I was not going to be a fan.  But I assumed he would probably be talking about the need to support Israel, and outside of some jabs at Obama it would be more of the same — but it was so much crazier.

The opener — and forgive me for not quoting verbatim, as it was Shabbat and I wasn’t allowed to record any of this — went something like this: “Today is a very dark day in history.”  He’s got to be talking about the horrible terrorist attacks that just took place on three continents, I told myself.  But he was not.  He was talking about marriage equality and the Supreme Court decision announced that morning.  I looked around the room for any face that mirrored my horror — but it was a tough room.  They were buying into this homophobe.  Shapiro’s a Harvard law graduate who justifies his homophobia and religious intolerance with legal arguments that are over the top.

I couldn’t begin to recap all of his speech. It covered a lot.  It meandered, it didn’t connect, and it intellectualized in order to justify sexism and racism, with arguments proving how the women’s wage gap is a lie, and how almost half of African-Americans are anti-Semites.  He loves statistics so much that if he didn’t stand for “traditional marriage” I imagine he’d marry them.  One topic pitted ISIS vs. the Liberals in America to see who was more dangerous.  Hint: It’s the latter.  He talked about how we need to indoctrinate kids into the Republican Party when they’re young, because once they’re 18, they don’t change parties.  I found an interesting parallel between the way he suggested we appeal to the youth with the Republican message — for him it seemed to consist mainly of fear tactics against minorities who are destroying the country—and ISIS, who appealed to the young with a sense of purpose and blood and strength.

When it came time for the Q&A, I kept quiet for a while.  He was asked who would win the presidency — he said it was likely going to be Hillary Clinton, and the crowd gave a collective groan.  He gave them advice on how to fight off liberals, and how to teach all children self defense.  He listed off the problems with the growing Hispanic community, which overwhelmingly votes democratic.  He railed off statistics again — and played a fun racist game, where they guessed how many Asians voted for Obama.  He said it was 78 percent.  A woman, her face displaying disbelief, said, “Why are the Asians voting Democrat?”  Another woman — in her late 30s and wearing a sheitel — said that she has daily debates with her housekeeper.  She wondered aloud where her housekeeper was learning this liberal information, and then it came to her — “She’s learning it on the bus.”  My jaw dropped as she proposed an idea to take Republicans and have them ride city buses to teach people.  This led to a discussion on the importance of speaking Spanish.  I thought my brain would explode.

I raised my hand, and then interrupted as he launched into another racist diatribe.  I shouted out, “You sound racist!  Every argument is a subtly racist way to scare the white Jews into thinking minorities are after them.”  I imitated him and the questions people were asking.  I couldn’t believe what was coming out of my mouth.  Someone shouted, “Ask a question!” but I didn’t have one to ask.  I had something to say.  I told him both ISIS and Shapiro’s Republicans seem to share the same need to constantly wage war against an invisible good vs. evil and use race-baiting and scare tactics to sell their message.  No one in the crowd understood what I was saying — or else they didn’t buy what I was saying.  I felt like I was shouting in the wind.  Ironically, I think Shapiro might have caught the parallel.  He is smart.  And then this smart man stood there in front of the entire orthodox synagogue and called me a “dumb ass.”  I had him, I thought.  This guy debates for a living, and his response was to call me a name.  He lost.

A man started to sing, another man jumped in, and Shapiro sat down at his table.  It was over.  I didn’t get to accomplish what I wanted.  One Iranian man came over to thank me.  Most people yelled at me.  A woman came over to tell me that she has a story for me.  As expected it was about a black woman who she was nice to who’d turned against her.  This was her proof that blacks are racist.  It was hard to believe how disconnected this group was from reality.  A few of my friends pushed me to debate with Shapiro, so I walked over to him and directly asked him why he used scare tactics to work up the crowd.  We got into a debate about racism and white privilege, which he confused with white racism.  Shapiro thought if he was nice to black people, then he can’t be accused of having white privilege.  I told him that every day he benefits from white privilege, just by being white.  When he catches a cab easier than a black person, that’s white privilege.  He said I was racist for assuming all black people have the same experience.  Then he rattled off statistics that proved how black people murder more than white people.  I said if blacks and whites use drugs to the same degree, but blacks are disproportionately arrested (more than three times more likely to be arrested), is that racist?  He said it wasn’t.  I said, “Is it possible to see how that could trickle down to more problems in the black community?”  He didn’t buy the connection.  In fact, it turned into the most racist argument of them all — Is it possible that black people are more inherently defective than white people?  Shapiro’s father slipped in front of me and blocked me out while we spoke.  He tried to answer for his son.  In fact, many people tried to answer for him — and I had more than one person screaming at me at the same time.  One man got so worked up, and yelled things so racist, I told him I refused to talk to him.  “How many black people do you see in museums?!” he kept shouting in my face.

And the next thing you knew, the shul was empty, save for Yitzy and his family.  Some of them patted me on the back.  Some were embarrassed.  I felt disappointed in myself — like I could have done better.  But no matter what I would have done, it would have devolved to old conservatives shouting at me.  I was surprised by the mob mentality.  One of my Lubavitcher friends — also a conservative Republican — said the same thing.  It was more mob mentality than deep discussion.  I grew up in an intellectual — albeit liberal — Jewish world.  And I’ve never seen such slavish devotion to ideas.  No one even wanted to hear another possibility other than Shapiro’s view of the world.  And it was that group-think that scared me the most.  It’s what caused me to confront Shapiro, and to write this article.  And my only hope is that this time I’m not shouting into the wind.


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