September 18, 2018

Where ‘Social Justice’ and #MeToo Fall Short

REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

We live in an era of “social justice.”

By “social justice,” people typically mean a panoply of left-leaning policy priorities. But the phrase itself is pernicious and anti-morality — justice requires no modifier. Justice is by nature individual — we punish those who are guilty, not those who are innocent; we don’t punish children for the sins of their parents. But social justice suggests that we should allow societal context to inform whether a result is just. Thus, a guilty man from a historically victimized group ought to be let off the hook; an innocent from a historically powerful group ought to be punished in order to provide restitution for historical injustices. 

Judaism fundamentally rejects this notion. In Leviticus, the Torah states, “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.” We naturally assume that the rich are more likely to get away with perverting justice, but the Torah reminds us that our natural sympathies may be just as likely to pervert justice on behalf of someone unfortunate. As the old legal aphorism goes, hard cases make bad law — if we follow our hearts, we almost invariably pursue injustice.

All of this comes up this week thanks to the controversy surrounding Asia Argento, one of the leading #MeToo icons. Argento publicly accused megaproducer Harvey Weinstein of rape just a few months ago; now it turns out that Argento, who touted “women everywhere” having the “courage to share their most painful private traumas in public,” allegedly sexually assaulted a 17-year-old boy back in 2013. According to The New York Times, former child actor Jimmy Bennett alleges that Argento invited him to a hotel room and sexually assaulted him when he was 17 and she was 37. The age of consent in California is 18. The documents reviewed by the Times included a selfie of the two in bed together dated May 9, 2013. 

Argento’s alleged gross misconduct doesn’t undermine her claims against Weinstein, of course. As it turns out in Hollywood, more than one person can be disgusting at one time. But it’s the reaction that’s been telling. Rose McGowan, another face of the #MeToo movement, tweeted, “None of us know the truth of the situation and I’m sure more will be revealed. Be gentle.” All of which would be fine, except that McGowan, along with many others in the #MeToo movement, have suggested that an allegation is tantamount to a conviction. Back in January, she tweeted, “Believe women,” and in November, she tweeted, “It’s quite simple, all who have worked with known predators should do 3 simple things. 1) Believe survivors 2) Apologize for putting your careers and wallets before what was right. 3) Grab a spine and denounce. If you do not do these things you are still moral cowards. #ROSEARMY.”

We all tend to lend credibility to those we like and to disparage the credibility of those we don’t. In reality, we ought to hold the same standards for everyone.

Now, this is a problem. There must be one standard by which we can adjudicate public accusations of sexual abuse. That standard should require some evidence, regardless of the alleged victim; it should at least require a careful weighing of the allegations themselves. Instead, we’ve been told for nearly a year that we must believe all allegations at face value, mainly because so many women have been wrongly ignored in the past. But past sins do not excuse current ones, nor do current virtues absolve past sins. McGowan should be holding Argento to the same standard she’d hold others, whether or not Argento is a woman or a #MeToo icon.

Unfortunately, we tend not to do this. We all tend to lend credibility to those we like and to disparage the credibility of those we don’t. If we’re Donald Trump fans, we defend him against allegations of abuse of women; if we’re Democrats, we defend Keith Ellison against the same. In reality, we ought to hold the same standards for everyone. That’s what morality demands. And it’s what justice demands, even if social justice suggests otherwise.


Ben Shapiro is editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire, host of the podcast “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: Prager, Jerusalem Embassy Move and Middle East Issues

A Rational Approach to Religion

My anxieties over David Suissa’s ascendency to the Journal’s throne were relieved after seeing it was accompanied by the disappearance from its pages of Dennis Prager’s predictable aggravated assaults against liberal thinking. Now Prager has commandeered last week’s cover and the attention of Jonathan Kirsch for his book “The Rational Bible” (“A Rational View of the Torah,” May 18).

Being one of those aberrant liberals who keep trying to find good in Prager’s thinking, I couldn’t help but note from Kirsch’s review how widely Prager is followed, perhaps by everyone except liberals. Maybe it’s because his so-called rational approach to religion reaches out to the millions disillusioned these days by conventional religion. Good for him.

So what is it that fires his virulent attacks on liberals rather than using his platforms to gently coax us to make adjustments based on his criticisms, some of them quite legitimate? My fear is that an answer lies in his embrace of President Donald Trump, many of whose followers worship him because of his multifaceted outrageousness rather than in spite of it. Dennis, don’t give up on trying to reach us too, “not by might, nor by power, but by thy spirit.” (Zechariah 4:6)

Roger Schwarz, Los Angeles


Israel and the Democratic Party

Ben Shapiro stated in his column (“No-Shows in Jerusalem,” May 18) what everyone knows but that the mainstream media seem to be ignoring:  The Democratic base has moved in a significantly anti-Israel direction over the past two decades. According to the Pew report, as of January, 79 percent of Republicans sympathized more with Israel than Palestine, while just 27 percent of Democrats did. It makes little sense that Democrats who profess to be supportive of the rights of minorities refuse to acknowledge that Israel is the only true democracy in its region and, in particular, is the only country in its region that allows serious religious diversity. However, for Democrats, the values of a democracy take a backseat to intersectionality and race grievance values.

This should be no surprise, given that the deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee is Keith Ellison, an avowed Jew hater. The Democrats just assumed that they own the Jewish vote, no matter how badly they malign Israel and elevate Jew haters to prominent positions in the Democratic Party. This will not go on forever. We Jews are not as naïve as the Democrats assume we are.

Marshall Lerner, Beverly Hills

In your May 18 issue, columnist Ben Shapiro asks an interesting question about fading support for Israel on page 10. He gets a direct answer two pages later on page 12 from Israeli columnist Uri Dromi. I hope Shapiro read Dromi’s column.

Martin A. Bower, Corona del Mar


Synagogue Dues Model

Read the article about the new dues structure that is in effect at Adat Ari El synagogue and think it is very progressive (“Adat Ari El Shakes Up Dues Model,” May 18). As a longtime member for 38-plus years (and who got married there), I believe this new format will be the norm rather than the exception in the future of synagogue dues and membership structures.

Synagogues now more than ever must realize that maintaining members and reaching out to new members is a priority rather than expecting members will automatically renew, because there are more choices out there for where you can worship as a family.

Also, those synagogues with day schools attached to them are having the parents pay extra for both dues and school tuition. Because the cost of tuition is very high these days, a dues structure like this makes a lot of sense. I’m hoping to see the membership grow larger in the future at Adat Ari El because of this and our school will benefit greatly.

Jeffrey Ellis via email


The Wisdom of the Ages

Just as the Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) teaches, age 70 is the time to embrace “the fullness of years.” As Sydney Alderman Perry states at the conclusion of the article, “I don’t wish my life and the things I value to contract, but rather to take on new dimensions.” What does that mean? (“Age 70 Is No Time To Slow Down,” May 4)

To me, the latter years in our lives are best spent applying one’s life experiences and knowledge to make this a better world. When I retired, I decided to have a second career and to become involved in my community.

As my second career, I chose poker. I found the mental challenge and stimulation of the game, as well as the social interaction, to profoundly help my aging brain.

About 20 years ago, I created a seniors  poker group at a senior citizen center. Starting with six members, it quickly grew to more than 200. Having kept in contact with many of them over the years, I found it remarkable that (to the best of my knowledge) not a single one has developed Alzheimer’s disease.

Recently I was evaluated for memory health by a team of experts at UCLA. My score: 100. Wow! Especially considering that I’m 91. As far as being involved in the community, I recommend that retirees consider joining one of the many senior citizen centers in Los Angeles. I have found the exercises and classes, as well as other activities a big plus.

George Epstein via email


Embassy Move to Jerusalem

The world should salute President Donald Trump for following through on his commitment to move the United States embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Kudos also to the president’s senior adviser Jared Kushner and Ambassador to Israel David Friedman for their assistance in bringing this about.

Although what happened last week was momentous, in retrospect, it should not have been all that remarkable. After all, the Jerusalem Embassy Relocation Act of 1995 declared Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel and mandated that the U.S. Embassy be transferred to Jerusalem no later than 1999. However, Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, although making promises that they would follow the law, did not.

To his credit, Trump — who has now shown himself to be perhaps the greatest friend Israel has ever had in the White House — was not deterred by the many predictions that the Arab world would unite behind the Palestinians in resisting this move and that America’s geopolitical interests would suffer.

Last week’s events came at a particularly opportune time. The message of firm U.S. support for Israel after eight years of Obama wilderness was unmistakable and cannot but dissuade Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas from thinking he can continue to fashion a fictive Palestinian narrative and sell it to an amen corner in the White House. It is also a message to Iran and others that the U.S. stands behind its allies and is not concerned about political correctness.

Brian J. Goldenfeld, Woodland Hill


Middle East Issues

Some of the media seem to be delighted when Islamic children die from uprisings and conflicts involving Israel. Last week, it was reported that an 8-month-old Palestinian infant was killed during Israel’s current defense of her border, which is not a protest but an armed invasion. My first reaction was why was an infant anywhere near the fighting? Someone would have had to bring the infant to the battle site. Hamas is known for using civilians, including children, as shields. I saw nothing in the media reports deflecting any blame from Israel. Not surprising.

Michael Gesas, Beverly Hills

One can’t help but notice the irony of 57 Islamic nations calling this week for the creation of an international force to protect Palestinian Arabs after their recent human shield abomination in Gaza. Hamas openly has admitted it offered its people as cannon fodder and confirmed that most of the dead were terrorist combatants hiding among civilians paid or coerced to be there.

For 70 years, despite their daily genocidal threats, a billion Muslims haven’t been able to destroy the Jewish state or protect their brothers in four declared wars and tens of thousands of acts of terrorism. The military threats have been supplemented by a highly successful anti-Israel disinformation campaign funded with hundreds of millions of petrodollars. Now they want the rest of the world to help them.

Only the most obtuse individual wouldn’t notice there’s something wrong with this picture. Despite the conspiracy accusations against the United States and a supposed cabal of wicked, controlling bankers (read: Jews), Israel’s adversaries might have to face the fact that it is here to stay. Which is just as well because its humanitarian, educational, scientific and moral contributions to the well-being of the world are unequaled per capita.

Perhaps reason will miraculously spring forth from the hateful brains that spew hatred toward the Jewish people. Perhaps not.

Desmond Tuck via email

I am an old Reform Jew who spent my teen years agonizing over World War II and the Holocaust. I joined the free world celebrations when it destroyed the Nazis and created the State of Israel. David Ben-Gurion’s declaration of independence promised that all residents would have equality, making it a true democracy.

It is my understanding that on April 30 the Knesset voted on an updated version of the “Nation-State” bill. Nowhere in the legislation is Israel defined as a democracy.

It is pathetic, but quite understandable, because the population of Orthodox voters has grown. They believe that God gave the Jews all of the Holy Land.

So what is Israel’s next action regarding the 5 million Palestinians that they control on the West Bank and Gaza Strip? The righteous, unilateral creation of a Palestinian state? Stupidly, the Palestinians rejected partition, but there are about 2 million non-Jewish Israeli citizens. I think it is possible that a Palestinian state could become an important ally of Israel.

Martin J. Weisman, Westlake Village

Why Democrats Missed the Boat in Jerusalem

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks at the Milken Institute 21st Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., April 30, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake

On May 14, the Donald Trump administration officially opened the United States Embassy in Jerusalem. It was a moment to cherish: an acknowledgment by the most powerful nation on the planet that Jerusalem was indeed Jewish, that it is the eternal capital of Israel, and that neither revisionist history nor sheer anti-Semitic malice can separate Jerusalem from her people.

Naturally, zero elected Democrats showed up.

On the surface, this decision makes little sense. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) signaled his excitement over the Trump administration’s decision: “In a long overdue move, we have moved our embassy to Jerusalem. Every nation should have the right to choose its capital. I sponsored legislation to do this two decades ago, and I applaud President Trump for doing it.” Back in 1995, Congress passed a law mandating the embassy move with bipartisan support; in the Senate, the bill passed 93-5. In June 2017, a bill reaffirming the principles of the 1995 vote passed 90-0 in the Senate.

Yet no Congressional Democrats showed up to the Jerusalem event. By contrast, a bevy of elected Republicans, showed up in Jerusalem to celebrate.

According to Israeli reporter Ariel Kahana, every member of Congress was invited to attend, but “people involved in the process blame the Democratic leadership of Congress.”

So, why didn’t the Democrats show up?

Antipathy for Trump is no answer — this was a foreign policy ceremony intended to cement relations with America’s key ally in the region. Trump’s warm welcome in Israel should not have put off Democrats from doing honor to a nation that a Democratic president, Harry Truman, had a strong hand in founding.

Democrats didn’t want to attend the opening of the embassy because they were afraid of their own base.

No, more likely, Democrats didn’t want to attend because they were afraid of their own base. Unfortunately, the Democratic base has moved in a significantly anti-Israel direction over the past two decades — as of January 2018, while 79 percent of Republicans sympathized with Israel, just 27 percent of Democrats did. Again, this makes little sense considering that Israel is the only democracy in the region, the only LGBT-friendly country in the region, and the only country in the region that allows serious religious diversity. But for Democrats, considerations of governmental liberalism take a back seat to intersectionality.

Intersectionality posits that Western civilization has victimized particular groups, and that those groups therefore must have the leading role in discussing politics. Thus, Israel’s success has actually cut against Democratic support: By becoming more prosperous and powerful, Israel now becomes a perpetuator of the “system” intersectionality wishes to attack. Thus, gay Jews waving rainbow flags with stars of David have been barred from Dyke Marches in Chicago on behalf of Palestinian sympathizers, even though rainbow flags likely end with beatings under Palestinian rule. Thus, Linda Sarsour, an openly anti-Semitic fellow traveler of Louis Farrakhan, continues to maintain her popularity with the Women’s March, even as she tweets hatred about Israel.

Israel has become too successful to maintain its appeal to the coalition of victimhood promulgated and celebrated by the intersectional left. And so Israel must be denied legitimacy.

The problem for Democrats is that in order to deny Israel legitimacy — especially at a time when Palestinians are ruled by terrorist groups Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and Islamic jihad — Israel’s historical ties to the land of Israel must be soft-pedaled. These terrorist governments have no moral claims to the land, not when they are busily pursuing murder and repression and impoverishment of their own people. So they must make historical claims that deny the Jewish connection with Israel. This they do with alacrity.

Never has there been less of a case for Democrats to split with Republicans on Israel — not in the face of Iran’s genocidal aspirations, Syria’s horrors and the rise of terrorist groups on all of Israel’s borders. Yet the split grows wider, not narrower. Until Democrats throw aside victimhood ideology in favor of the morality that used to govern their party, it will continue to widen.


Ben Shapiro is a best-selling author.

Lies and More Lies

President Barack Obama tweets his first tweet from the Oval Office, May 18, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

So, the Iranians lied.

So did the Obama administration.

On April 30, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed that in a stunning intelligence coup, the Israelis had somehow obtained 100,000 files from Iran’s secret atomic archive in Tehran. The files showed that Iran had ardently pursued nuclear weapons for years, lying about it all the while; that they had then failed to turn over the information showing the extent of their program during negotiations over the Barack Obama administration-pushed Iran deal; and that they had hidden those files in a secret warehouse with the obvious intent of reviving their nuclear program the minute they can get away with it.

According to Netanyahu, Iran “is brazenly lying when it says it never had a nuclear weapons program.” Furthermore, Netanyahu claimed that nuclear development “continued … in a series of organizations over the years, and today, in 2018, this work is carried out by SPND, that’s an organization inside Iran’s Defense Ministry.” The head of Iran’s earlier nuclear program currently heads the SPND.

Advocates for the Obama administration have come forward to contend that there’s nothing new here — that everyone knew Iran had been lying about its nuclear program. But when the deal was signed, Secretary of State John Kerry stated that Iran would have to disclose past military-related nuclear activities: “If there’s going to be a deal, it will be done. … It will be part of a final agreement.”

Other advocates say that Israel’s intelligence would be damaging to the Iran deal — but those nefarious Jews made it up. According to Tommy Vietor, former Obama National Security Council spokesman, “After years of bashing U.S. intelligence agencies for getting Iraq wrong, [Donald] Trump is now cooking up intel with the Israelis to push us closer to a conflict with Iran. A scandal hiding in plain sight.”

The Obama administration played propagandists for the Iranian government.

So, to get this straight, Vietor is claiming that Israel “cooked up” the intelligence information to bluff America into war — as always, it’s the devious Jews. Furthermore, Vietor is claiming that Trump went along with this Israeli manipulation. Also, the Iranians are complying with the terms of the awful deal. This from a key member of the same administration that admitted in print to having deceived the American public about the Iran deal. Former Obama national security guru and professional fiction writer Ben Rhodes bragged openly about lying to Americans regarding the supposedly more “moderate” Iranian leadership seeking a deal.

Here’s the reality: The Obama administration, desperate to cut a deal with the Iranian government, played propagandists for the Iranian government. They fibbed that the Iranians had gone moderate; they lied that the only alternative to their rotten deal was war; they signed a deal that gave Iran enormous quantities of cash to use for terrorism, and that did nothing to rein in Iran’s ballistic missile program. Finally, they looked the other way as Iran lied about its maintenance of secret nuclear information.

And yet we’re supposed to believe their protestations now?

The Iran deal was garbage from the start. It was a way for Obama to declare triumph in the region even as the world’s worst terror sponsor pursued utter carnage from Tehran to Beirut. Whether Trump kills the deal at this point is of secondary import — the Trump administration knows that the deal is dead, and it’s just a question of whether to declare it so. The real question is why the same international community that accepted Iran’s word should be trusted to verify Iran’s compliance.

The simple answer: They shouldn’t. The Iran deal was an outgrowth of motivated thinking, not evidence-based policymaking. The only question now is whether it’s too late to stop the Iranians from finally achieving their dream of placing Israel and Saudi Arabia within the radius of Iranian nukes.

Ben Shapiro is an author, editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire and host of “The Ben Shapiro Show” podcast.

Why Israel?

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Last week, Syrian dictator Bashar Assad used chemical weapons on his own people. The government of Israel responded to that atrocity, as well as Iran’s use of Syria as a thoroughfare for weapons transfers to terrorist groups like Hamas, by bombing Syria’s T4 airbase. The media responded by castigating Israel: for example, the Associated Press headlined, “Tensions ratchet up as Israel blamed for Syria missile strike,” and accompanied that story with a photo of suffering Syrian children targeted by Assad, making it seem that Israel had targeted the children.

That media treatment was no surprise — the week before, the terrorist group Hamas used large-scale protests against Israel on the Gaza border as a cover for terrorist attacks on Israeli troops. When Israeli troops responded with force, the media falsely suggested that Israel had indiscriminately fired into the crowd. Meanwhile, reporters touted the story of a supposed photographer killed by Israeli forces; it turns out that the photographer was a known Hamas officer.

A few weeks earlier and some 2,000 miles away in France, 85-year-old Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll was stabbed 11 times and her body set on fire by a Muslim neighbor who knew her well, and had convictions for rape and sexual assault. In 2017, there were 92 violent anti-Semitic incidents in France, a 28 percent year-on-year increase.

Moving across the English Channel, Israel’s Labor Party finally was forced to cut ties completely with the leader of the U.K.’s Labor Party, Jeremy Corbyn, a longtime anti-Semite who has routinely made nice with terrorists and defended open Jew-hatred in public. And, of course, in the United States, the alt-right’s anti-Semitism continues to make public discourse more crude and the Women’s March continues to make nice with anti-Semites such as Louis Farrakhan.

In other words, there is a reason for Israel to exist.

Israel’s self-interest is good for the Jews, good for the West and good for the world.

That reason is biblical, of course: Israel is the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people and the wellspring of Jewish practice. God’s promise to the Jews is inextricably intertwined with the existence and future of the State of Israel.

But over the past few decades, too many Jews have forgotten about the practical need for the Jewish state. In the same way too many Jews ignored the Zionist movement, believing that assimilation into tolerant non-Jewish societies provided the best pathway to a decent life, too many Jews today see Israel as a remnant of a hackneyed and counterproductive ethnocentric worldview. That dislike for Israel’s very existence has led many Jews to demonstrate their “world citizen” bona fides by using every opportunity to criticize Israel.

But Israel’s existence is not about ethnocentrism. Israel is multiethnic and multicultural, of course: Judaism is a religion far more than an ethnicity, as Russian and Ethiopian Jews can attest. Israel’s existence, on a secular level, is about enshrining a state that is safe for Jews the world over — and that can defend Jews and Western values in the face of regional and international threats. When Israel stands up to Syrian atrocities, it is acting out of a Judaic commitment to prevent the degradation of human beings made in God’s image; when Israel offers a road for European Jews on the verge of extinction, it is acting not merely out of solidarity but out of decency. Israel is a decent country, because it was founded on a decent purpose — and because it was founded on the basis of a tradition of decency.

That doesn’t mean Israel’s government is mistake-free. Far from it. But Israel’s extraordinary treatment at the hands of the world community is a demonstration that Israel is an outlier — and that’s a good thing. The United Nations that condemns Israel is filled with repressive dictatorships and corrupt plutocracies; the supposed “family of nations” is more like a squabbling band of self-interested moral idiots.

When Syrian children, mostly Muslim, gasp from chlorine poisoning, it is Israeli jets that provide a possible respite. Israel doesn’t act out of the pure goodness of its heart; it acts from self-interest. But Israel’s self-interest is good for the Jews, good for the West and good for the world. Forgetting that means trusting that the better angels of others’ natures will persevere over their internal devils. Historically, that’s been a rotten bet.


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

Letters to the Editor: Trump and Anti-Semitism, UCLA Professor and Gaza Border Clash

Trump and Anti-Semitism

The Anti-Defamation League reports that global anti-Semitism is increasing. I believe that President Donald Trump is the cause. I believe Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury” indicates that Sheldon Adelson paid Trump a huge sum of money to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. It was just another payoff to Trump’s financial contributors. They pay Trump for government jobs and influence to increase their wealth, regardless of how it harms the public. In my opinion, global anti-Semitism will be mitigated only when Israel unilaterally creates a Palestinian state.

Martin J. Weisman, Westlake Village


A Seat at Yamit’s Table

I love Yamit Behar Wood’s recipes and the stories about her family in Bulgaria.

Her fish (“The Sephardic Answer to Gefilte Fish,” Feb. 9) is very similar to the Friday night one my grandmother used to make, but we hardly knew about salmon in Morocco! She made it with white fish, “alosa” or seabream, a very delicate Mediterranean fish that goes particularly well with that sauce (sorry I don’t know the English name for “alosa,” which sadly has a lot of bones but is so tasty).

As for her leek and beef patties (“Passover Meal Prep: Leek and Beef Patties,” March 16), steaming would allow the vegetable to keep its taste better, rather than the boiling method.

Keep up the good work and happy Passover!

Danielle Abitbol via email


UCLA Professor Ousted

After punishment by a formal agreement with the UCLA administration, professor Gabriel Piterberg resumed his legitimate tenured position only to be hounded off the campus by a mob and a cowardly administration (“ULCA Ousts Professor Over Harrasment Claims,” March 23). I would think the Journal would be against mobs.

Wayne Johnson, Santa Monica


The Councilman and the Rothschilds

Bravo to Democrat Trayon White for his apology in blaming a recent snowstorm on the Jews (“D.C. Councilman Apologizes for Blaming Snowstorm on Jews,” March 23).

But who voted for this man who blamed the Rothschilds for creating “natural disasters”? We need to be discerning who we elect. While intellect does not necessarily make one a good person, it sure helps in making a good leader.

Judith N. Cohen, Valley Village


He Doesn’t Miss the ’60s

Having come of age in the ’60s and been a willing participant in the protests of the anti-war movement while at a university, I realize as a senior citizen today that the era should not be thought of as “romantic” in the least.

In her column “Why I Miss the ’60s” (March 30), Dahlia Scheindlin refers to the era as one of solidarity. That was hardly the case. The reality was it was a terribly divisive time in our nation’s history. I marvel at the fact that a “movement” comprising of the likes of pacifists like David Dellinger, loonies like Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman, those sworn to violence like the Black Panthers, and draft evader David Harris, who persuaded others to go to federal prisons for five years for burning their draft cards, could be termed a movement at all.

Rather, the leaders of said “movement” merely chewed up and spit out those of us who were naive enough to ride along so they could further their own egotistical adventures. In the end, they didn’t give a hoot about the rest of us. Better to have gone to Vietnam.

Marc Yablonka via email


Friendship Circle

Kudos to the high school student who wrote “Ethan and Me” (March 16). Her fresh perspective on volunteering for Friendship Circle was delightful and engaging. May other high school students read her column and may it resonate with them to do the same and contact Friendship Circle. This is coming from an adult who has cerebral palsy. Boy, I wish they had Friendship Circle during my youth. The impact must be tremendous for both recipients and givers.

May this fine organization go from strength to strength.

Susan Cohn, Redding


The Back Story of Israeli-Palestinian conflict

In her column “Our Better Angels” (March 30), Danielle Berrin blames both sides equally in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which ignores facts and history. This may make her feel open-minded and fair, but it’s not true and hurts Israel.

Both sides don’t teach their children to commit murder and pay successful terrorists; only the Palestinians do. When the world offered partition plans in 1937 and ’47, the Israelis accepted both; the Arabs rejected both. Israel has made a number of good-faith offers; the Palestinians have rejected them all. Finally, Israel made peace with Jordan and Egypt, painfully uprooting Sinai settlements, while the Palestinians have made peace with no one, not even one another.

Israel isn’t perfect, but failure to make peace is clearly more the Palestinians’ fault.

Rueben Gordon, Encino 


The Value of Genetic Testing

In a story about Dr. Beth Karlan and her most recent efforts focused on hereditary cancer in the Ashkenazi-Jewish community, she emphasized that knowledge is power (“Genetic Testing Could Be Life-Saving for Ashkenazi Jews,” March 23). The BRCA Founder OutReach (BFOR) study shows us that knowledge can save lives and be a helpful tool in preventing BRCA-related cancers in our families and communities.

This is an exciting step forward that empowers us to own our health. Karlan reminded us of the importance of exploring our medical family history and participating in groundbreaking medical research, not only as individuals but also for our communities. It is through the awareness and education of building a family tree and interviewing older generations that we can obtain information to make important life decisions.

This is a cause that GeneTestNow has been focused on for years; as such, we fully support Karlan’s efforts. Determining your carrier status can prevent cancer and save lives. We endorse screening for recessive conditions in individuals of all ethnic backgrounds. Recessive conditions generally do not affect the health of an individual but give information about risk for disease in his or her children.

In that spirit, we also endorse testing for BRCA mutations as this information before marriage, pre-conception, or at any point in life can provide the gift of information and options to create a healthy family, for both parents and children.

Sharon Glaser, Jerry Factor Co-founders, GeneTestNow.com


Driving in Rainy Los Angeles

The Donald Trump-esque temper tantrum of a column by Ilana Angel was an unsightly blemish on an otherwise wonderful issue of the Journal (“Rainy Los Angeles,” March 30).
To equate yourself with a New York City cab driver implies that you are a rude and aggressive driver. To say you are “fearless and able to handle all kinds of weather” is another clue that contrary to what the writer believes, she is most likely not a good, courteous driver, either.

Most drivers in Los Angeles are not natives, anyway. Most of us come from different states and countries. Yes, many drivers here are bad, but we deal with it and soldier on. If that is too much for you, please do us a favor and move back to Canada.

Chris Reiff, Ventura


Gaza Border Clash

The U.N.’s uproar about Israeli forces killing at least 16 Gazan Arabs trying to violently force their way into Israel is disingenuous. Ten terrorists were identified so far among the dead. When combatants hide among civilians, it’s worse than using human shields; it amounts to using bait for the international news media to heap wrath on the Jews.

Action Group for Palestinians of Syria reports that 23 Palestinians were killed in that country’s civil war during March 2018 alone. Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, the body count for Arab Palestinians is 3,685. Nobody complains to the U.N. about these killings or the massacre by Syrian government forces and their allies, such as Hezbollah and Iran, of hundreds of thousands of Arabs.

It seems that the only time people care about dead Arabs is when they are killed while trying to murder Jews or overrun the Jewish state. Author Ayn Rand once said, “In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit.” She was right.

Desmond Tuck via email


and FROM FACEBOOK:

‘Parkland Students Share Their Stories,’ March 30:

Stop confusing regulation and removal … they are two different things. Also, be aware that no security officer has ever prevented a shooting at a school when a kid is driven to lash out against one or more peers. Also, instead of pouring money into arming staff at schools, return all the funding that has been slashed for preventive programs including counseling and psych services, community outreach, parenting supports, etc. Those reduce the number of shootings.

Michelle Skigen

‘A Haggadah for Every Taste,’ March 30:

As a non-Jew, I just learned something quite new. I was aware of the Passover storytelling of the haggadah but always thought it was standard and unaltered or unalterable as in holy writ. I had no idea of the room available for telling the same story in differing ways. Very interesting!

Keith Harrison

‘Why I Miss the ’60s,’ March 30:

The real and present danger in school is from bullying. According to the CDC, 4,400 students commit suicide each year due to bullying.

Leonard Holtz

March for Our Lives could perhaps better be looked at as a watershed moment, a catalytic event preceding the many changes we need, promoted by our future leaders.

Terry Godfrey

‘In a Secular Passover, Jews Are Nothing Special,’ March 30:

Jews are here to accomplish big things and little everyday things to improve the world. I’m dismayed that you don’t know this.

Bob Manosky

Passover is about faith. No faith — no meaning.

Joseph Crews

Ben Shapiro’s opinion on how secular Jews should mark Passover is worth as much as mine on how religious Jews should do it. Nothing.

Eugene Kalinsky

‘The Seder of Repairing Ourselves,” March 30:

Very akin to “Be the change you wish to see …” This is so very important because this feeds the collective consciousness of the world.

Barbara Jordan Wampler

In a Secular Passover, Jews Are Nothing Special

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

There is a great crisis currently occurring in the American-Jewish community — a crisis of identity. What are Jews here to accomplish? Are Jews special? Or are Jews just a group of socially active members of the political left, with no specific religious inclination or mission beyond mirroring the priorities of the Democratic Party?

That debate takes center stage each year around Passover, when we hear revisionist lectures about the nature of the holiday. Each year, we hear from secular-leaning Jews that the story of the exodus from Egypt is more representational than real, that it is more universal than specific. “Let my people go!” has an admirably vague power to it; no one wants to be victimized by an arbitrary power structure. Thus, members of the Jewish left use that slogan from the Passover story to push for everything from transgenderism to same-sex marriage, from boycott, divestment and sanctions on Israel to environmental regulation. The Passover story becomes a story about President Donald Trump or about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or about the restrictiveness of traditional lifestyles.

But the Passover story isn’t vague. And it carries a universal message — but that message doesn’t stop at freedom from tyranny. The question posed by the Passover story extends beyond mere absence of external force. It extends to another question: What’s the purpose of freedom? Does liberty have a rationale, beyond mere absence of force?

That question becomes more important day by day — because, as we’ve seen, there are widely disparate interpretations of the nonaggression principle in modern politics. The same people who invoke “Let my people go!” to push same-sex marriage have no problem coercing religious Americans into participating in ceremonies that they feel violate their religion. The same people who point to the exodus from Egypt as a sort of moral imprimatur for anti-Israel activity are perfectly fine with Jews being thrown from their land in the Gaza Strip.

The Passover story isn’t vague. And it carries a universal message — but that message doesn’t stop at freedom from tyranny.

Passover isn’t just a story of exit from. It’s a story of movement toward. The entire passage in Exodus carrying that famous slogan doesn’t end with Pharaoh’s release of the Jews, it explains why God cares whether Pharaoh releases the Jews. God tells Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: Let My people go, that they may serve me.’ ” The story of Passover doesn’t end with the Jews leaving Egypt or with God parting the Red Sea or with the Egyptians perishing beneath the waves. It ends with the Jews standing before Sinai, saying the words “na’aseh v’nishmah” — we will do and we will hear. And it ends with the fulfillment of the promise God made to the ancestors of the Jews: to inhabit the land of Israel.

These dual promises are connected — and should inform how we view Passover. Judaism is not Christianity, nor is it secular humanism. Its goal is not abandonment of the particular for the universal. Judaism makes a specific and unique claim: In serving God in a land promised to the Jews by God, the Jews act as a beacon of light to the world. God doesn’t tell Moses that his mission ends in libertinism or self-defined morality — God says he’s freeing the Jews to serve Him.

Once Jews lose the particularism of their religion, there is no point to celebrating Passover. Passover becomes just another symbolic story that has nothing to do with Judaism per se; Israel becomes just another land; the morality of Judaism just becomes warmed-over Kantianism. Jews become secular humanists, with the added benefit or drawback of carrying ethnic minority status. And nobody is going to stay up two nights running to retell that story. The glory of the Jewish people and the glory of God are inseparable in the Exodus story. If we Jews define ourselves as free from God, we define ourselves out of the story of human history.


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.”

Not All Anti-Semitism Is Created Equal

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

This week, we found out once and for all that the dominant philosophy of the modern left — intersectionality — has no place for Jews. What else can we conclude after watching the spectacle of leftists from all walks defend the leaders of the Women’s March for their association with open anti-Semite and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan?

In February, Women’s March co-chair Tamika Mallory was caught on tape attending the Savior’s Day service with Farrakhan. At that service, Farrakhan stated, “The powerful Jews are my enemy,” adding, “Satan is going down. And Farrakhan, by God’s grace, has pulled the cover off of that Satanic Jew, and I’m here to say your time is up, your world is through.” Farrakhan has famously praised Adolf Hitler.

Mallory still hasn’t apologized for her association with Farrakhan, instead defending her Nation of Islam connections by stating that she’s been attending such events for 30 years. She also added, “Jesus had a number of enemies, as do all Black leaders.” Meanwhile, it turns out that co-chair Carmen Perez was also a Farrakhan fan — she posted a photo from 2015 showing herself holding hands with him. Fellow Women’s March co-chair Linda Sarsour has also stood with Farrakhan, speaking at a Nation of Islam event.

Women’s March leaders have continued to hesitate in condemning Farrakhan, and that includes Jewish women. Judy Levey of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs was oh-so delicate when she told The Forward, “People don’t always express themselves on every single issue in ways that we would be comfortable, but it’s really important that when we share values, we work together to raise up urgent issues that we all face.”

In the intersectional hierarchy of identity politics, Jews rank relatively low.

That’s the rub, here, naturally. A good number of leftist Jews are leftists first and Jews second; their religious identity runs second to their political identity. And the Women’s March is a deeply leftist institution — its leadership routinely pushes abortion-on-demand, government-paid child care and so-called anti-discrimination laws that target religious institutions. Jews who find this sort of agenda primary are willing to let a little bit of anti-Semitism slide, much in the way that Jews who preferred President Donald Trump were willing to wink at Steve Bannon.

Even more disappointing is the willingness of leftist Jews to let Jewish ethnicity slide into the background in favor of the intersectional coalition building. Intersectionality suggests that we can determine the value of viewpoints by looking at the “interlocking” group identities of the person speaking — so, for example, a Black lesbian has different experiences and, to the left’s point, more valuable experiences than a white straight man. Jewish ethnic identity, therefore, should play some role in the intersectional coalition of the left, which is dedicated to the proposition that America is a brutal place to those of minority status.

But there’s one problem: In the intersectional hierarchy of identity politics, Jews rank relatively low. That’s because Jews are on average financially successful and educationally overachieving. And this means that Jews slandered by the likes of Louis Farrakhan or his Women’s March allies must take a back seat on the intersectional bus. Anti-Semitism matters less coming from minority victim groups than it does from others, apparently.

This has been the case for years. Last year, the self-titled Dyke March in Chicago banned rainbow flags with Jewish stars because they supposedly “made people feel unsafe” — pro-Palestinian groups were unhappy with the juxtaposition of gay rights and a flag that looked somewhat Israeli. The march was billed as an “anti-racist, anti-violent, volunteer-led, grass-roots mobilization and celebration of dyke, queer, bisexual, and transgender resilience.” Tolerance was not extended, however, to gay Jews flying their flag.

Anti-Semitism is unacceptable in any guise. During the last election cycle, I spoke out repeatedly about anti-Semitism in the alt-right, and blasted the Trump campaign for failing to properly disassociate from the alt-right. Trump, thankfully, has disassociated from the alt-right publicly. The fact that so much of the left is willing to embrace the Women’s March leadership rather than calling them to account is a true shandah.


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 Violence Debate, Phil Rosenthal and More

Gun Violence Debate

The underlying argument of gun law reform: Public safety will be achieved through legislature (“When Will It End?” Feb. 23). In light of the Florida school shooting, this argument is shaping the modern U.S. political and sociocultural landscape. However, the dialogue on gun control has diverted the public from the underlying cause of shootings: pathology.

In Europe, multiple acts of terror have taken place through the use of cars. By driving through crowds of people, terrorist attacks have killed people in masses. Even in the absence of legal gun purchases, assuming black market sales are somehow nonexistent, pathological individuals can find means to fulfill their destructive motivations.

While empathizing with the victims of this tragedy, this conversation lacks this simple empirical observation: Pathology is a problem of being; it is not a problem of legislature.

Mahmut Alp Yuksel, Los Angeles

Former President Barack Obama and the left are partly responsible for the Parkland, Fla., shooting. Obama’s Promise Program lowered Parkland’s juvenile arrest numbers from 3,000 to 600. Then it lowered the number of children disciplined and expelled; it reduced the treatment of problem children; it lowered the number of children arrested. So when the killer attacked, the police did nothing because they were part of the Promise Program.

Robin Rosenblatt, Sebastopol

What a great column by Danielle Berrin (“In America, Life Should Come Before Total Liberty,” Feb.  23)! Thank you so much for bringing up the essence of the prophetic words of Isaiah Berlin. Having lived for 33 years in a society that believed in the absolute ideal of socialism, I experienced firsthand the truthfulness of his words: Everything is justified by the goal of attaining an ideal society. I would add only this: The more noble the ideal is, the more paranoid and fanatic the society becomes. Total liberty is possible only if a single person lives on an isolated island. If two or more people are to live together as a family, society, etc., then total liberty must be replaced by other values that put life at the center of everything.

Svetlozar Garmidolov, Los Angles

It seems to me that Ben Shapiro is a tad defensive about his hardline interpretation of the Second Amendment (“The Parkland Dilemma,” March 2). He harshly criticizes the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSD) for becoming strong advocates for gun safety. How dare they criticize Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) for his support of lax gun safety measures? In the very next sentence, he comes to the defense of NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch, arguing that she cares “deeply about their (students’) safety.”

These MSD students experienced a horrific massacre. If some of them spoke in hyperbole, it is understandable. What is Loesch’s excuse for her screed at CPAC? She accused those of us who support strong gun safety laws of being ill-informed, ignorant of the Constitution and anti-American. Yet, Shapiro does not chastise her for these comments.

Andrew C. Sigal, Valley Village

In his opposition to gun regulations, Ben Shapiro says he refuses to give up his guns to “browbeating gun control advocates.” We’re not asking him to give up his guns if he feels that they truly give him a sense of security. What we are asking is for improved background checks, introduction of “smart” guns to reduce the likelihood of accidental shootings, and restrictions on assault weapons. If people like Shapiro would listen and consider such reasonable proposals, then we wouldn’t have to shout at one another.

John Beckmann, Sherman Oaks

The “tribalism” David Suissa describes arises from a failure to develop “team skills” (Trapped Inside of Our Tribes,” March 2).

The deepening political divisions and increase in violence, such as the murder of schoolchildren in Florida, have cultural and interpersonal roots. As our culture has become increasingly technological, individuals have become focused on their smartphones and video games at a young age rather than being encouraged to develop relationships with others. Developing and maintaining relationships with others is a skill that is becoming increasingly difficult for some growing children and increasingly difficult for many adults. Violence and primitive tribalism are the consequence of deep personal isolation.

William E. Baumzweiger, Studio City


Phil Rosenthal’s Modesty

Phil Rosenthal significantly understated the level of his and Monica’s generous philanthropy to Jewish and Israel-based causes (“Phil Rosenthal’s 3 Desires,” March 2).

Just a sampling: They supported the production of the award-winning 2008 documentary about the life and death of Hannah Senesh; Monica received the JNF’s Tree of Life Award; and the couple made a significant gift to underwrite the Department of Religious Services, in memory of Phil’s uncle, Rev. A. Asher Hirsch, at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

Paul Jeser via email

There is at least a third trait that “Italians and Jews share”: We talk with our hands. Hence the Yiddish joke: “How do you keep a Jew from talking? Tie his hands behind his back.”

Warren Scheinin, Redondo Beach


The Truth of Deir Yassin

The deceitful and perverse Deir Yassin “massacre” fraud was a deliberate, manipulative propaganda effort by Palestinian leadership (“The Truth of Deir Yassin,” March 2).

Perhaps anticipating the sacrosanct status of the Palestinian narrative, Jonathan Swift wrote that “Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it.” This would explain why professor Eliezer Tauber is still looking for an American publisher among those affiliated with the apparently now moribund “marketplace of ideas.”

Julia Lutch via emaill


What Protests Mean

Thank you, David Suissa, for writing “Obama and #IranianWomenToo,” Feb. 16).

Most of us are not brave enough to do what these women (and men) did, openly protesting an evil power —a real one, not from a movie or a novel.

I know this because I used to live in the evil empire, and I knew what an open protest would lead to. We did listen to Voice of America and Free Europe and knew of protests going on in front of the Soviet embassy, United Nations, etc. These people fought for our rights to leave, and for “refusniks” it meant a lot.

In light of this, the pretentious marches, resist movements, demands to remove old statues, and other political demonstrations seem meaningless compared with real issues of liberty (including women’s rights) that some societies face. It is very easy to participate in some march, feel good about it, then go home, knowing that there will be no consequences.

Andy Grinberg via email


A Rabbi’s Spiritual Journey

Thank you, Rabbi Adam Kligfeld, for poetically sharing your experience integrating yogic and Buddhist meditation practices with Judaism (“My Sabbatical Journey: Feeling the Drumbeat of Life,” March 2). In addition to spotlighting the enormous need for tikkun olam, meditation helps me to discern how best to use my God-given gifts to serve our world. None of us is expected to do it all, but each one of us is expected, even commanded, to do what we can. Whatever comes easily and naturally to us is exactly how to help, so go ahead, pick the low hanging fruit! What comes easily for you is difficult for others. Paralyzing guilt has no function in Jewish life.

Cathy Okrent via email


Listen and Learn

I strongly recommend to your readers a recent edition of “Two Nice Jewish Boys,” a Journal-associated podcast. It features Einat Wilf, a former Labor Party MK, who grew up supporting the two-state solution, but has since changed her mind.

It wasn’t just the failure of the Oslo Accords, the atrocities of the Second Intifada, ceaseless terrorism and repeated Palestinian rejection of good-faith offers that prompted her to “get real,” but her conversations with Palestinians themselves. She now believes, sadly, the Palestinian mindset makes a peaceful solution impossible.

Rueben Gordon, Encino


Inclusion at Sundance

Very glad to read about the Shabbat Tent at Sundance (“Sharing Some Light,” Feb. 2). I attended Sundance for 10 years — from 1998 to 2007— first as a programmer for another festival, and then as a filmmaker with a short that played Sundance in 2004. The only year I ever managed to participate in anything remotely Jewish was the year that “Trembling Before God” was an official documentary selection at the festival (in 2001). Very glad to hear that now there’s so much more, and that it is so welcoming and accessible.

Paul Gutrecht via email


The Power of Poetry

Thank you, Hannah Arin, for providing the lovely poetic parameters for wishing upon a star.

Charles Berdiansky, Culver City


New-Look Journal

Your new design format for stories is more conducive to reading all the material than the old design of presenting a starting story and continuing it on the back pages. Thank you for the change.

Ruth Merritt via email

The Parkland Dilemma

A memorial seen outside of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as students arrive for the first time since the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, U.S., February 28, 2018. REUTERS/Mary Beth Koeth

I bought my first gun when I was 28 years old. I grew up in a home without guns; I never even fired a gun until I was in law school. Like a lot of people raised in Los Angeles, I had a knee-jerk aversion to firearms. Although in principle I supported the founding argument for the Second Amendment — I believe that an armed population acts as a final check on the possibility of a tyrannical government — I never felt the necessity to get a gun for home defense.

All that changed in 2013 — ironically, after a debate about gun control. That January, I appeared on CNN with Piers Morgan, who had spent the previous few weeks decrying the prevalence of firearms ownership in the United States, in response to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. Most of all, Morgan had relied on shallow emotional appeal: He had suggested, wrongly, that those who disagreed with his gun control proposals were hard-hearted regarding the deaths of the children.

During my interview with Morgan, I said he was acting like a bully — that he was standing on the graves of the children of Sandy Hook to push his political agenda. I pointed out that everyone on both sides of the aisle cares about the murder of innocent children, even if we disagree about the best ways to prevent such murders.

Within hours, I began to receive threatening messages. One such message noted my home address. I had a security system installed, and I purchased a Mossberg 500 pump-action shotgun, on the advice of a police officer.

During the most recent election cycle, I again received a bevy of death threats — this time thanks to my opposition to President Donald Trump’s candidacy. I received approximately 40 percent of all anti-Semitic tweets directed at Jewish journalists during the election cycle. I received threatening letters and death threats by phone. And so I purchased a Smith & Wesson 9mm handgun, again on the advice of a police officer. I have often considered carrying it in violation of the law, though I have never done so; the old Second Amendment adage “better to be tried by 12 than carried by 6” began to hit home during those difficult days.

Now, for owning two weapons for self-defense, I’m being labeled immoral again. All gun-owners are, collectively. How else are we to read the comments of Parkland, Fla., student Cameron Kasky, from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who told Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) that thanks to his support for gun rights, Rubio resembled the Parkland shooter? How else are we to listen to the comments of Parkland student David Hogg, who said that National Rifle Association spokeswoman Dana Loesch “doesn’t care about these children’s lives”? I know Dana. We’re friends. She has two children, and she cares deeply about their safety. If she were local, there’s no one else I’d call first if my family were in danger and I needed help.

We’re all Americans. And we all care about the slaughter of children.

We’re all Americans. And we all care about the slaughter of children. That’s why I’ve called for the revision of federal law to allow gun violence restraining orders, a way for family members and friends of dangerously mentally ill people to apply to courts to restrict Second Amendment rights. That’s why my media outlet, The Daily Wire, has stopped naming and showing the faces of mass shooters, in an attempt to curb the publicity that often spawns such shootings. That’s why I’ve suggested a dramatic hardening of school security around the country: I went to YULA Boys High School, where security is top-notch — and I was there when the West Valley Jewish Community Center mass shooter drove right past our school, saw the security there, and kept driving. All children should feel just as safe as I did in high school.

Yes, we all care. And what’s more, I’m not going to give up my guns just because gun control advocates browbeat me. The Parkland students were failed by the FBI, which was warned twice about the shooter but did nothing. They were failed by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, which received literally dozens of warnings but did nothing — and then they were failed again when armed deputies refused to storm the building.

The last line of defense isn’t the government. It’s me and my weapon. I’m keeping that weapon, and standing for Second Amendment rights, specifically because I care about my children. I assume those who disagree with me care about my kids, too. But there’s no way we’ll ever be able to find rational solutions if we shout at one another that our disagreements are evidence of our malice toward innocent children.


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

Forget Pie-in-the-Sky. Try Real-World Proposals

Community members console one another at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School four days after the shooting, in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

Ben Shapiro, author and editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire

The Parkland, Fla., mass shooting breaks the heart of any decent person. The morning after the shooting, as I got my daughter ready for school, she gave me a hug — and all I could think about was the fact that more than a dozen sets of parents will never be able to do that again for their children.

And yet in the aftermath of the shooting, the conversation has again devolved into accusations of callousness. Gun control advocates insisted that gun control opponents are uncaring monsters who simply don’t care when children are shot to death; they suggest that the members of the NRA, law-abiding citizens, are somehow responsible when an evil criminal massacres classmates. Meanwhile, gun control opponents on the right, reacting to the emotional blowback they’ve received from the left, turtle into intransigence.

None of this is helpful.

Here’s what would be helpful: some actual, real-world proposals with evidence to support them. Not pie-in-the-sky proposals like the revocation of the Second Amendment or full-scale gun confiscation — those aren’t going to happen. Realistic ways to prevent violence like this again. We should start with school security — if it’s good enough for your kid attending Jewish day school in Los Angeles, it should be available to kids attending public schools. We should move on to mental health checks — gun violence restraining orders, which allow relatives of those who are a danger to themselves and others to apply to courts to temporarily prevent threatening people from obtaining guns. We should discuss the lack of transparency in law enforcement — the FBI was given two specific warnings about the shooter in Parkland, and did nothing; in California, tens of thousands of people banned from owning guns have access to them. We should talk about media coverage — we at The Daily Wire already have decided not to run the photos or names of mass shooters in the future, so as not to provide them the attention they seek.

But it all starts with recognizing that we want the same thing: to stop the murder of innocent children. Any conversation that begins with the assumption that your political opponent doesn’t care about dead kids isn’t a conversation — it’s a counterproductive tactic designed to quash serious proposals in favor of posturing.

WHEN WILL IT END? Community reactions to the Florida tragedy

Community members console one another at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School four days after the shooting, in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 18, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

On the afternoon of Feb. 14, a young man armed with an assault rifle intruded onto the campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where he had been expelled, and began spraying bullets into a crowd of terrified students and teachers.

By the end of the six-minute massacre, 17 people were killed and another 15 injured. The suspected shooter was later identified as Nikolas Cruz, a disturbed young man with an alleged history of mental illness. In the days that followed, as anger, grief and calls for gun control legislation reverberated throughout the nation, we asked members of the Jewish community — among them rabbis, politicians, activists and psychologists — to respond to the plague of gun violence.

From Indignation to Transformation
by Rabbi Sharon Brous, IKAR, senior fellow at Auburn Seminary

All Are Responsible
by Rabbi Marvin Hier, Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance

Shot and Scarred at 6 Years Old
by Joshua Stepakoff, gun violence survivor

Yes to Gun Ownership. No to the NRA.
by Joshua Greer, entrepreneur, philanthropist and gun owner

Gun Violence is a Public Health Issue
by Mike Feuer, Los Angeles city attorney and co-founder of the national coalition Prosecutors Against Gun Violence

The Consequences of Anger
by Orli Peter, clinical and neuropsychologist

What the Second Amendment Does Not Guarantee
by David N. Myers, Sady and Ludwig Kahn Professor of Jewish History at UCLA

The Limits of Proposed Gun Laws
by Rabbi Mordecai Finley, Ohr HaTorah

A Culture That Glorifies Violence
by Dara Barlin, founder Dynamic Action Research Education Consulting

What If Government Can’t Solve This Problem?
by Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky, B’nai David Judea

The Stain on the American Soul
by Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin, author and leader of Temple Solel in Hollywood, Fla., 30 minutes from Parkland

Don’t Punish Law-Abiding Citizens
Elan S. Carr, criminal prosecutor, military officer and Iraq War veteran

Forget Pie-in-the-Sky. Try Real-World Proposals
Ben Shapiro, author and editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire

Gun Control: The Most Dangerous Conversation
by Rabbi Amy Bernstein, Kehillat Israel

Proposed Gun Control Doesn’t Go Far Enough
by Joseph Sanberg, founder CalEITC4Me

Letter to God
by Rabbi Lori Shapiro, The Open Temple

So, What The Hell Do We Do Now?

Joe Raedle / Staff / Getty Images

In the aftermath of another horrible and heartbreaking mass shooting at an American school, the same political game took place that always takes place. That game breaks down into three stages: before the facts come in, once the facts are in, and the actual political debate.

Before The Facts Come In. Before the facts come in, proponents of gun control point at foreign countries and the lack of mass shootings in those countries and suggest that Congress ought to do something — anything, really — to make it more difficult for evil people to obtain guns. They do not specify what that something is. But it must be a law, and it must restrict law-abiding citizens’ access to guns. Furthermore, any Congressperson who opposes such unspecified laws is the tool of the “gun industry.”

Meanwhile, those who oppose gun control urge caution until we know the facts; often they offer thoughts and prayers. Proponents of gun control then mock those thoughts and prayers in order to imply that gun control opponents don’t care about dead children, and merely want to avoid responsibility by throwing the problem at God.

The Facts Come In. As the facts come in, proponents of gun control maintain their staunch advocacy for their position, but are often forced to acknowledge that their preferred measures wouldn’t have done anything to stop the shootings at issue. That doesn’t stop them from clubbing about the ears gun control opponents, who maintain that gun control measures must be tailored toward stopping actual events.

Meanwhile, opponents of gun control usually suggest two measures: mental health screening that would take dangerous people off the streets and into treatment, and security in schools. These are rejected out of hand by gun control proponents, who say they don’t want those who are mentally ill avoiding treatment in order to avoid the consequences of such treatment, and add that placing security in schools would somehow “militarize” the school environment.

The Political Debate. Congress usually proposes some measure of gun control. That measure of gun control is usually far more unpopular in specifics than it was in theory; it usually restricts rights most Americans care about, and fails to properly target the underlying problem at issue. Such measures almost universally fail. When they do pass, they show little evidence of impact on mass shootings.

So, where does all of this leave us?

Here’s what we know. The shooter used an AR-15, the most common rifle in the United States. The shooter was on the radar of school authorities, and he was reportedly in frequent contact with the police; he was reported to the FBI as well, but follow-up was apparently insufficient. People warned authorities about him, and they didn’t do anything or couldn’t do anything. That’s probably the best place to start looking for answers.

The shooter’s gun was obtained legally. He had never been arrested; it’s difficult to think of a way to prevent the sale of a gun to a person with a clean record without a mass gun ban or confiscation. He also had a gas mask and grenades — and it’s unclear where he obtained the grenades. We could look at stronger prosecution of straw buyers, as Jim Geraghty of National Review suggests, but that wouldn’t have helped in this case.

So, where do we go from here? Obviously, I think that we ought to consider security in schools as a first step — I went to a Jewish high school in Los Angeles that received bomb threats at least twice a year; the building next door was scoped out by mass shooter Buford Furrow, but he left thanks to security there. It’s not too much to ask that we place armed security at our schools, as Israel does.

But this much is clear: snap Twitter excoriations focused on casting aspersions at the character of our political opposition tears our country apart right when we need to come together in comfort. We have an unfortunate tendency to roll our eyes when people say they’re waiting for the facts, whether we’re discussing mass shootings or terrorist attacks; I’ve done it, too. But waiting for facts is the responsible thing to do. And as the facts come in, perhaps better solutions will make themselves clearer.

This column was originally posted at The Daily Wire.


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

How Cheap Is Jewish Blood?

This week, The Guardian, one of the most left-wing newspapers in Great Britain, published a 2,300-word piece describing the problem of terrorism in cities across the world. It name-checked London, Berlin, Manchester, Paris, Nice, Brussels, and Barcelona; it mentioned Algeria, Italy, Brazil, Kuwait, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Nairobi and Oklahoma City. It mentioned Israel but once — and only in order to mention the Irgun’s bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in 1946. As Yair Rosenberg notes, not a single terrorist attack against Israelis made the article.

All of which raises a question: Why is it that whenever Western leaders talk about terrorism, they seem to leave terrorism against Jews off the list?

This isn’t a rarity. It’s regular and it’s predictable. When President Barack Obama spoke about the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, for example, he brushed off the simultaneous attack on a Jewish supermarket as “random” (he later backed down). When President George W. Bush spoke about global terrorism, he rarely mentioned terrorism inside Israel. When the media list terror attacks against Western targets, Jerusalem never earns a mention.

There’s no true excuse for leaving dead Israelis off the list of terror victims.

Why?

There are two possible explanations. Neither is good enough.

First, there are those who claim that terrorism against Israelis is part of a broader political conflict — that such terrorism isn’t religious in nature, but rather a tactic in a territorial war. That’s absolute nonsense. This week, 29-year-old Itamar Ben Gal, a teacher at a yeshiva in Ariel, was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist while waiting by the roadside; he left four children behind. That follows the murder of Rabbi Raziel Shevach, a father of six, in the same area, as he drove along the highway. These are civilian, not military targets. These were family men murdered for no reason other than their Judaism.

And no, this isn’t about settlements. In 2017, Israel saw a wave of terror attacks across Israel; most of those attacks were perpetrated inside so-called Green Line Israel: stabbings on the streets, truck attacks on civilian crowds. The Palestinian leadership celebrates such killings and offers the families of terrorists financial incentives to pursue them. And the Palestinian leadership is clear about the rationale for such killings. That rationale is the same as the al-Qaida rationale or the ISIS rationale: a radical Islamic political viewpoint that sees the slaughter of non-Muslim innocents as a tool in the jihad against the infidel. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas isn’t a “moderate” leader seeking peace; he’s a radical who stated openly just weeks ago that “Israel is a colonialist project that has nothing to do with the Jews.”

Then there’s the second explanation for why the world would downplay terrorist attacks against Jews: an anti-Semitic attempt to separate off the Jews from the West. That’s certainly the tendency in Europe, where it’s convenient to view anti-Semitic attacks inside the continent by radical Muslims not as attacks on European citizens but as internecine warfare between two outsider groups. That’s convenient because it allows Europe to treat the rise in anti-Semitic crime as an aberration rather than a serious internal problem. But it also reinforces the lie that Jews cannot be full citizens of the West.

There’s no true excuse for leaving dead Israelis off the list of terror victims. But those who do it don’t need an excuse. They’ll keep on doing it so long as the Jewish community remains silent about the omission. And so long as that omission remains the rule rather than the exception, the West will continue to ignore a basic, simple truth: The Jews of Israel are the canary in the coalmine in radical Islam’s war against the West, not an outlier nation that can be cast aside for political convenience. What starts on the streets of Jerusalem usually finds its way to the streets of London. The non-Israeli West would be smart to recognize that fact, if only to protect itself.


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

Letters to the Editor: Trump, Marriage, Partisan Divide on Israel and Women’s March

Trump and the Cycle of Violence in Israel

In the Jan. 19 cover story, “The Trump Gap,” Shmuel Rosner asserts that a “Trump-friendly” Israel “becomes an outlier” in the view of Israel and the Europeans — as evidenced in the U.N. actions of late. Is Rosner not aware that Israel’s existence has been as an outlier in the U.N. and Europe since long before the Oslo Accord? Or the U.N. Security Council’s continuous focus on destroying Israel? All of this predates the latest U.S. election by far.

Worse, in “Jerusalem, What Comes Next?” (Jan. 19), Joel Braunold argues that asserting Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem has surrendered the United States’ ability to broker peace, and that building grass-roots peace movements is the answer. What deluded bubble must one occupy to think that building communities “of collective humanity” will magically create an atmosphere of peace while our purported peace partners teach their children to become martyrs for the “holy” cause of killing Jewish women and children, and Arab supporters of peace are executed as collaborators?

David Zuckerman, Phoenix


Alternative Secrets to a Happy Marriage

Rabbi Benjamin Blech’s story was great, but I have my own three secrets to a happy and long-lasting relationship/marriage (“Three Secrets to a Long and Happy Marriage,” Jan. 19).

They are: 1) Always hold hands when walking; 2) Sit next to each other in a restaurant, not across; 3) Never watch TV after a date or after an evening out.

Robert Geminder, Palos Verdes


Nature and God

I read with interest “Why I Don’t Worship Trees” by David Suissa (Jan. 26).

He says that there is a difference between loving nature and worshipping God. This is interesting to me because, according to Spinoza, God and Nature are one and the same.

So, it depends on which philosopher you are reading, as to what is “true and correct” — or rather, “an adequate idea” in the words of Spinoza. I love and worship Nature, which to me is synonymous with God.

Debora Gillman, Los Angeles

I have great respect for, though not agreement with, David Suissa’s argument that Jewish tradition calls for transcending Nature and aiming for a higher place. It was such an argument that propelled the Amsterdam Jewish community to excommunicate Spinoza, who saw divinity in all of Nature, thereby incurring the anathema of being a “polytheist.”

The relevancy in our world today is that such a separation must now become anathema in order to preserve the only place in the universe we have to live. We must see nature and divinity as indivisible or risk continuing on the path that in an accelerating manner threatens to leave us as the “masters of nothing.”

Sheldon H. Kardener via email


Republicans, Too, Must Widen Their Views

Ben Shapiro, in his column “Partisan Divide Over Israel” (Jan. 26), only exacerbates that divide by insisting that only the Democratic Party has to “re-evaluate its moral worldview in the Middle East.” In fact, there are many Democrats, myself included, who strive to enhance the long-term security and prosperity of Israel by desperately working (sometimes it’s more like “hoping”) to leave the door open for a workable two-state solution. Additionally, we struggle to encourage Israel’s democratic institutions and pluralism, to reverse the increasing rejection felt by liberal Jews. Conservatives talk a good game when it comes to supporting Israel, but in reality their strategies have done more harm than good — none more so than President George W. Bush’s removal of Saddam Hussein’s counterbalance to Iranian expansion followed by his encouragement of an independent entity and “free” elections in Gaza, which led to the ascendancy of Hamas and the ensuing conflicts. It’s time for the Republicans to take off their blinders and widen their views of what will and won’t work in the Middle East.

John F. Beckmann, Sherman Oaks


The Women’s March

Thanks to Karen Lehrman Bloch for her brave piece “Why I Didn’t March” (Jan. 26). I hope her writing will open the eyes of many women who do not recognize the manipulative, anti-Zionist agenda behind the progressive movement. We can fight for human rights without allowing ourselves to become robotic pawns in a crowd led by the likes of the hateful Linda Sarsour. Let’s march for acceptance of thought and speech and let’s celebrate individual choice.

Alice Greenfield via email

I think mostly everyone can agree that our country is extremely polarized on issues concerning Israel, immigration, education, taxes, trade policies, health care, the environment, women’s rights and abortion. Very often, it’s only one issue that is paramount to the individual and it is so powerful that they will overlook positions on all the other important issues facing us. That’s why the Women’s March is so important. To assert that women were following the leaders of this march and were told what to think is absurd and demeaning. I never heard of Linda Sarsour before reading Karen Lehrman Bloch’s column and learned that she is anti-Israel and an anti-Semite. I marched with the hundreds of thousands of men, women and children in Los Angeles who are concerned about a multiplicity of issues and, like me, have no knowledge of Linda Sarsour’s political views.

Frima Telerant, Westwood


Parties Split Over Support of Israel

Danielle Berrin, who appears to be left-leaning, and Ben Shapiro, who is right-leaning, seem to agree on something: There is a lot of partisan division in politics in the United States and in Israel which affects support for Israel. According to recent Pew research data, 79 percent of Republicans say they sympathize with Israel and just 27 percent of Democrats say they identify with Israel. That should not be surprising given the fact that at the 2012 Democratic National Convention there was booing when the platform was amended to identify Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Now the No. 2 person in the DNC, Keith Ellison, is an avowed Israel-hating Jew hater.

Marshall Lerner via email


Tablets Belong in Our Schools

It was sad to read the uninformed opinion of Abigail Shrier on getting iPads out of our schools (“Smash the Tablets: Get iPads Out of Our Schools,” Jan 19). Hardly any student goes to college without a laptop or iPad these days. Not too long ago, the Yale School of Medicine gave each of its students an Apple iPad 2 for use in the classroom and their clinical responsibilities.

Litigators create their deposition outlines on iPads, and during depositions they typically have a separate iPad that’s linked to the court reporter. The use of this technology simply makes sense unless Shrier also thinks that attorneys’ brains are being compromised because of these technology tools.

The correlations she cites are just that — correlations — unproven statistical comparisons that may turn out to be false. The explicit intention of using iPads in the schools was to reach a rainbow of learners, which it accomplished, with or without the agreement of Shrier.

Joel Greenman, Woodland Hills


CORRECTIONS

The founder of Netiya was misidentified in a Jan. 26 story (“A Tu B’Shevat Question”). Rabbi Noah Farkas founded Netiya, a Los Angeles-based food justice organization; Devorah Brous was hired as its founding executive director in 2011.

The former name of de Toledo High School was misreported in the Jan. 26 edition (“De Toledo Goes Green”). It formerly was called New Community Jewish High School.

The Meaning of Cool

Photo from Pixabay

“That’s cool,” I said somewhat offhandedly to my son after he showed me something, well, cool.

It’s not a word I use very often. In fact, I probably hadn’t used it for at least a decade. But he had said it a couple of times, so I thought that maybe it’s made a comeback among the ninja turtle set.

“What does that mean?” he responded.

I paused. I frowned. I think I even looked around to see who else was listening.

“Well,” I began promisingly. “Cool means …”

How to begin? How to sum it up? Why was it so much easier to define coolness 10 or 20 years ago, before everything changed? Before I began to feel completely out of sync with the group of people and ideas that I had associated with coolness?

My introduction to coolness didn’t come till high school. Like most teens in suburban America, I was fairly rebellious. At 14, I believed that meant: Do what other teens who seem rebellious are doing. I let my hair grow long and wild, wore the most bohemian clothes my mother would allow, and spouted the “benefits” of socialism.

At 16, my first real boyfriend introduced me to the works of Ayn Rand, and my entire world was turned upside down. After devouring every word the Jewish-Russian author wrote, I stopped copying what everyone else was doing and began to look within, to look for me.

It was liberating and inspiring. I stopped caring whether the other girls thought I was pretty enough to be part of their clique: I didn’t want to be part of anyone’s clique. I began to seek out the most interesting, thoughtful friends, and we had endless discussions about literature, philosophy and art.

This nonconformist rebellion continued throughout college, shaping and cementing my classical — now called universal — liberal views.

This has not always led to happiness. One of the flaws of capitalism is that it often rewards people who know how to “work a room” over developing innovative ideas. But it has led to a sense of inner peace. If I wasn’t always as successful as I would have liked, at least I knew that I had never sold my soul to the highest bidder.

The illiberal leftism that high school and college students are devouring today makes my initial conformity look almost cool. Students are taught not how to think, but what to think — about politics, film, art, even fashion. Nothing is left to individual choice. In fact, nonconformity is frowned upon. The closer one adheres to the leftist agenda, the higher one’s status.

What would I tell teens who have been brainwashed by their Marxist professors into thinking that following leftist orders is the definition of cool?

We are the artists of our lives. Resist fashions, both political and aesthetic. Listen to Maajid Nawaz, the Muslim reformer fighting against radical Islam; to  Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the ex-Muslim feminist activist fighting against genital mutilation and other forms of female oppression. Listen to Ben Shapiro even if you disagree with him.

The rebels today are rebuilding liberalism, after a quarter century of identity politics, intersectionality and victimhood. As Bob Marley put it: “None but ourselves can free our minds.”

It’s a little harder to talk about this with my son, now 8. He’s already dealing with peer pressure to wear a certain type of clothes and talk in a certain manner. He has learned that being bad equals cool. In fact, he’s already moved on from cool to sick, monster, beast. But he still wants to know what it means.

Students are taught not how to think, but what to think. … The closer one adheres to the leftist agenda, the higher one’s status.

“There’s a difference between questioning things and being bad,” I’ve told him. “You should question things all the time. But being bad is actually uncool. It means you’re trying to get the approval of your friends, instead of following your heart.”

He looked at me as if he was going to cry; he didn’t understand.

I tried again. “Do you know what’s really cool? Creating something incredible. Becoming an awesome artist or athlete or scientist.”

The cry face went away. I continued. “But do you know what’s the coolest thing of all?”

I whispered in his ear: “Just being yourself.”


Karen Lehrman Bloch is a cultural critic and author living in New York.

Partisan Divide over Israel

Pew Research Center reported on Jan. 23 the disturbing results of a poll on Israel. According to the poll, 46 percent of Americans support Israel over the Palestinians; just 16 percent support the Palestinians over the Israelis. Those results have been relatively consistent for years.

The disturbing part arises in the context of party identification. While 79 percent of Republicans say they sympathize with Israel, as do 42 percent of independents, just 27 percent of Democrats say they identify with Israel. Since 2001, Republican support for Israel has skyrocketed from 50 percent to 79 percent; in that same period, support from Democrats has declined from 38 percent to 27 percent.

Why the increasing divide?

The easiest answer would be President Donald Trump. A plurality of Americans — 42 percent — say that Trump is “striking the right balance” on the Middle East, while 30 percent say he unfairly favors Israel; 47 percent of Americans said President Barack Obama had struck a good balance, with 21 percent saying he favored the Palestinians too much. This obviously means that a solid number of Democrats were comfortable with Obama’s anti-Israel policies. Trump has reversed that polarity, driving down Israel’s numbers with Democrats.

The second easy answer would be Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had an icy relationship with Obama and has a warm relationship with Trump  This has consequences for public relations: 52 percent of Republicans have a favorable impression of Netanyahu, compared with 18 percent of Democrats.

Republicans live in a post-9/11 world; Democrats live in a pre-9/11 world.

But both these answers are too easy. The divide between Republicans and Democrats on Israel predated both Trump and Netanyahu — the gap began to grow with Sept. 11 and yawned wider with the Obama administration. I attended the 2012 Democratic National Convention at which the attendees loudly booed the reinstatement of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in the party platform. Some deeper element is driving this newfound division over Israel.

That deeper element is worldview, exposed by 9/11 and exacerbated over time by increasing partisan bickering over Islamic terrorism. From 1978 through the Oslo Accord, support for Israelis declined while support for the Palestinians stayed approximately even. About as many Americans said they supported “neither party” or “both” as said they supported the Israelis. That’s because the United States faced virtually no threat from Islamic radicalism. After Oslo, support for Israel jumped, particularly as Israel was hit by wave after wave of Palestinian terrorism.

Then, after 9/11, support for Israelis jumped among Republicans and never stopped growing. Conservative Americans, who had been more likely to draw a moral equation between Israel and her enemies, identified with the Israelis — they saw Israel as an outpost of Western civilization in a region rife with Islamic terrorism. They saw Palestinians handing out candies as the World Trade Center towers fell, and they knew that Israelis had been facing down the same threat. The real, meaningful conflict between Islamist barbarism and Western liberalism was thrown into sharp relief.

Democrats, too, initially responded to 9/11 with more support for Israel. But as the war on terror progressed, Democrats began to see Western civilization as the provocative agent. Too many on the left saw Islamic terrorism as a response to Western cruelty — cruelty to which Israel was supposedly a party. Nowhere was this clearer than in the media coverage of the Gaza War, which glorified Hamas at the expense of Israel, even as Israel tried to avoid civilian casualties and Hamas tried to inflict them. The Obama administration reflected that viewpoint, which is why it pursued Iranian regional growth with alacrity. The West, Obama and the Democrats thought, had to withdraw from the Middle East in order to empower dispossessed Islamists (hence State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf’s asinine suggestion that ISIS be given jobs to help them avoid terrorism).

Unfortunately, the gap yawns ever greater. Republicans live in a post-9/11 world; Democrats live in a pre-9/11 world. That has dramatic, unfortunate implications for Israel: In a polarized political environment, the historic bipartisan support for the Jewish state is quickly eroding. That’s not a bipartisan problem. That’s a specifically Democratic problem, and one that should encourage Jews to examine whether the Democratic Party ought to re-evaluate its moral worldview in the Middle East.


Ben Shapiro is a best-selling author and editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire.

Letters to the Editor: Islam, Mensch List, Trump and Immigration

A Meaning Lost in Translation

In his Jan. 12 column “A Hunger for Memory,” David Suissa quotes Aomar Boum’s book “Memories of Absence” as translating the word dhimmi as “people of the book.”

The term dhimmi always has been translated inaccurately as meaning “people of the book” or “protected people,” who are exempt from Islamic law. However, the term is not native to Arabic and its usage is descriptive rather than factual translation. It is borrowed from Hebrew, related to the biblical Hebrew word d’mama, which means silent or still (as in the kol d’mama daka, the “still, small voice” that the prophet Elijah hears in 1 Kings 19:12 and as in numerous Psalms such as in Psalm 62:2 (al dhomi lach, “don’t hold Yourself silent”).

The Quran does not mention dhimmi and it is stated only in the Hadith in various agreements between the Prophet and Jewish tribes in Medina. It has always struck me as a derogatory and humiliating term referring to Jews in the Muslim world as a “silent second-class,” who were expected to stand when a Muslim walked by, not allowed to ride horses or own a piece of land. In most Arab countries, Jews were allowed to live only in limited closed quarters called hara. In contrast, Hebrew has the term ger, referring to non-Jews who live among the Jews and accept and observe the seven Noahide laws. The term, as used in the Torah and discussed lavishly by Maimonides, never implies discrimination or humiliation against the ger but rather full acceptance and total respect.

Ed Elhaderi, Los Angeles


Journal’s Hits and Misses

My compliments on Larry Greenfield’s reflections on the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (“King’s Dream,” Jan. 12”). He promotes King’s vision of racial friendship, and points out the growing voices of black separatism and leftist violence. The Journal is to be commended for thoughtful diversity of views. “Antifa” is not our friend.

Norman Epstein, San Francisco

Just wanted to tell you I like your new format and human interest stories. Very good — sharing how people are helping people. But I miss some of your columns that offer intellectual and challenging thought — like Dennis Prager.

Karen Rae, Sherman Oaks

The 11 vignettes in the “Mensch List” cover story (Jan. 5) were heartwarming. But one omission troubled me. Our species is devastating the biosphere, including countless wild species. Reportedly 98 percent of U.S. charitable contributions are to organizations whose concern is our species whereas only 2 percent are to organizations whose principal concern is the environment or wild species. The Journal’s list follows in the same spirit. The efforts of all 11 honorees are human-focused. Was there no one in the “overwhelming influx of inspiring nominees” who works to protect nature and who is deserving of recognition?

Ben Zuckerman, Los Angeles

Susannah Heschel’s essay was a “blast from the past,” bringing to the fore the incredible insights, acumen and razor-sharp mind that characterized her father’s work (“What Would My Father Say?” Jan 12). Most importantly, Heschel emphasized her father’s unrelenting search for the truth and the homeostasis that was universally acknowledged between his fiery words and his concomitant nonviolent actions of resistance.

Contrast that with the dissembling screed that Ben Shapiro penned about the reported scatological remarks made by President Donald Trump in his self-deified role of a (“who shall live and who shall die”) present-day Nero. To offset this treasure trove of conservative tried but not true journalistic legerdemain, Shapiro sprinkles in a few seemingly apolitical political crumbs about Trump being a charismatic boor with a volatile yellow streak running down the center of his back.

Defending that which is best about Judaism (defining a religious person as maladjusted; attuned to the agony of others and never satisfied but always questioning) is the gist of Heschel’s gift to the Journal reader, while Shapiro’s gift is the benighted defense of that which is indefensible.

Marc Rogers, North Hollywood

President Trump has been in office for a year, so let’s look at the facts. Third-quarter economy grew 3.2 percent. Unemployment at a 17-year low. Stock market sizzling. Stopped foreign college graduates from coming here and taking our jobs. Illegal immigrants are leaving. Foreign countries are opening plants here. American companies are coming back. Retail sales for December were up over the previous year. All this despite two major hurricanes and major wildfires in California. If you bashers are going to bitch in good times, what are you going to do in bad times?

Joseph B.D. Saraceno, Gardena

Ben Shapiro hit the nail on the head. When the entire Michael Wolff affair is said and done, it won’t be Donald Trump who emerges worse off. It will be the fake news mainstream media who subscribe to Wolff’s journalistic style, namely, if you like what you read, take it as truth. That’s the essence of confirmation bias that the mainstream media are foisting on the public.

The mainstream, liberal, left media blew their integrity in the desire for a cheap hit by defending Wolff, the author of “Fire and Fury.” They relied heavily on the falsehoods of Wolff’s book while ignoring some of the major achievements of Trump, such as tax relief for the middle class, defeating ISIS, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announcing the moving of the American Embassy to Jerusalem.

Marshall Lerner, Beverly Hills


Trump’s Comment About Certain Nations

I am the daughter of an immigrant. As we are confronted with the most recent profane and derogatory comments by President Donald Trump concerning groups who have sought and wish to seek refuge in the United States, we must remember Jews who were turned away from entry into this country only to be returned to a country where they were murdered.

Some Jewish groups have ignored previous vulgar and bigoted comments made by Trump. How can they remain silent now? Every Jewish organization that claims to promote freedom and tolerance should denounce his words.

Cynthia Hasday, Los Angeles


and FROM FACEBOOK:

‘Sacred Protectors,’ Jan. 12:

I have spent time in Morocco and this is mostly true. Of course, like anywhere on Earth, there will be some Moroccans who will not behave so gallantly. One of the most beautiful, oldest Jewish cemeteries is in Marrakesh. … Rabbis request being buried there. It is like little else you’ve ever seen; simply breathtaking and moving. The old Jewish quarter is pretty amazing too.

La Pickwell

Respect is due to these Moroccan, Muslim protectors of Jewish cemeteries and synagogues. A good story of humanity gone unnoticed.

Herman Meltzer

We need to hear more stories like this. I’m sure that they are out there.

Ginny Baldwin

Thank you, Aomar Boum. Shalom. Aleikum-as-Salaam. Peace be upon you.

Eb Hoene

‘A Hunger for Memory,’ Jan. 12:

Beautiful and touching story.

Ruth Solomon Wolitzer

Nice to hear a positive story about living in a Muslim land.

Beth Anderson

Biased Media a Win for Trump

Michael Wolff. Photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Over the past two weeks, the media world has been agog with reactions to the new gossipy tell-all from the West Wing, Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury.” The book is riddled with errors both small and large, and relies heavily on unverified anecdotes, particularly from former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon. Bannon’s comments have prompted the majority of headlines: He apparently called Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian-backed lawyer “treasonous,” suggested that President Donald Trump was an insane person, and attacked Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump with alacrity. Trump responded in Trumpian fashion: he attacked the book as fake news, and slammed Bannon — rightly — as a self-aggrandizing boor with a penchant for overwrought drama.

But put aside all the chaos regarding Trump — after all, we already knew most of this stuff in a broad way. We knew that Trump wasn’t exactly the “stable genius” he professes to be; we knew that Bannon was a nefarious force motivated to strike down Jared and Ivanka; we knew that the White House seems to function with the force and efficiency of a hamster wheel, with Trump’s itchy Twitter thumb starring as the hamster.

There’s something else more disturbing: the tendency of the media to believe that which they find comfortable, and to disbelieve everything else. The most egregious example came courtesy of Wolff himself, who stated, “If it rings true, it is true.” The meaning of this rather self-serving phrase: If you like what you read, take it as truth. That’s the essence of confirmation bias — the bias we all have toward believing that which confirms our already-decided views. Wolff made that statement to MSNBC’s Katy Tur, who responded, “Congratulations on the book, and congratulations on the president hating it.” Can you imagine such a congratulatory message from Tur to muckraking anti-Hillary Clinton author Ed Klein? Of course not.

Then there was Brian Stelter, CNN’s supposed journalistic ombudsman. Stelter stated, “Wolff’s errors are sloppy, but many Trump experts say the book ‘rings true’ overall. My advice: Read it — skeptically.” Stelter’s own colleague, Jake Tapper, fired back, “Having many errors but ‘ringing true’ is not a journalistic standard. That said, quotes are quotes. And if facts can be ascertained by further reporting as true, that’s also a service.”

But the damage has already been done. Not to Trump — to the media.

When the entire Wolff affair is said and done, it won’t be Trump who emerges worse off.

Trump has been making political hay out of the media’s bias against him for over two years. This week, he’s attacked the media again, suggesting that next week he hopes to hold a “Fake News Awards,” which presumably will come complete with little gold statuettes. The only way for the media to fight back would be with intrepid truth-telling: double-sourced non-rumor-mongering, a real attempt to fight back against confirmation bias. Instead, the media have chosen to run with anonymous sourcing that often turns to dross; they’ve been unable to hide their smiles when the news is bad for Trump, and unable to hide their frowns when the news helps Trump. That lends Trump credibility.

When the entire Wolff affair is said and done, then, it won’t be Trump who emerges worse off. Trump is what we always thought he was: an unstable, charismatic, volatile human being. The media, however, may have blown their credibility in the desire for a cheap hit — and all to promote Steve Bannon’s personal profile. That’s a major win for Trump, not the media that hate him.


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

Jerusalem Move Blows Up Mideast Myths

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Two weeks ago, President Donald Trump made what was, according to the media, a cataclysmic decision: He declared that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel, and that the United States would move its embassy there.

This move, we heard, was unprecedented and dangerous. It was supposed to launch a massive terror campaign against Israel and the Jews worldwide. It was supposed to sink the so-called “peace process.” It was slated to blow up the Middle East.

None of these things have happened.

They haven’t happened because Trump merely recognized reality. The reality is that Jerusalem is the Jewish dream, the heart of the case of Israel as Jewish territory. If we forget Jerusalem, we forget our right hand. If Jerusalem is not linked to Israel, Israel might as well be in Montana. Jerusalem has far more to do with Israel than Tel Aviv.

Furthermore, there is no moral case for Jerusalem to be placed in non-Jewish hands. Under Jewish rule, holy sites have been preserved and access to those sites granted; while under Muslim rule, holy sites have been destroyed and defaced, and access to those sites denied. Jerusalem is mentioned hundreds of times in the Old Testament; it isn’t mentioned once in the Quran. Jerusalem is only important to anyone because it was first important to the Jews.

This means that Israel was never going to give away Jerusalem in any negotiation with the terrorist Palestinian government. Here is Yitzhak Rabin, the father of Oslo, in 1995: “Jerusalem is the heart of the Jewish people and a deep source of our pride. We differ in our opinions, left and right. We disagree on the means and the objective. In Israel, we all agree on one issue: the wholeness of Jerusalem, the continuation of its existence as capital of the State of Israel.”

Nor should Israel give away Jerusalem — particularly not to the Palestinian Authority, whose charter still denies the legitimacy of the state of Israel. And Israel should never be discussing handing over any territory to Hamas, an actual terrorist group that has stated its dedication to Israel’s destruction.

“We all agree on one issue: the wholeness of Jerusalem … its existence as capital of the State of Israel.” — Yitzhak Rabin

Recognizing this truth means setting a serious groundwork for peace. No divorce can be negotiated without a common frame of negotiable items. Jerusalem is not negotiable. End of story. Trump recognized that, and in doing so, he undermined the chief rationale driving Palestinian terrorism: the delusional hope that spilling enough blood would cause the West to push Israel into surrendering its spiritual and physical capital.

Trump’s move also fostered peace by formally recognizing that Israel’s new alliances with Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia against Iran are more important than any religious dispute over Jerusalem. There have been no serious protests from any of those governments — each of which attacked Israel in 1948, 1967 and 1973. Those governments now recognize that Israel is an important strategic ally in the region.

The lack of blowback from Trump’s decision has left only two groups angry: Democrats and the media. Democrats are angry because they have been publicly humiliated: The Senate voted 90-0 to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital not six months ago, and yet Democrats were now forced to denounce Trump for taking their words seriously. The media are angry because they have spent years building the myth that conflict in the Middle East centers on Israeli intransigence. Now it’s clear that it was Muslim intransigence all along that caused conflict, and that Muslim willingness to side with Israel against Iran supersedes religious conflict.

So, well done, President Trump. And thank you for speaking plain truth and acting bravely when most were willing to offer empty only verbiage backed by inaction and fear.


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

Does God Want Higher Taxes?

Photo from Flickr/401kcalculator.org

Last week, Republicans did what they always do when they have power: They passed an across-the-board tax cut.

Not a single Democrat voted for the tax reform bill in the Senate or House. That’s a major shift since the 2001 tax cuts under George W. Bush, when 12 Democrats voted for that bill in the Senate, and 28 voted for it in the House.

Last week, Democrats rightly complained about the process, which was perfunctory and messy, complete with handwritten notes in the final Senate version. They wrongly complained about the structure of the tax reform bill, which they said raised taxes on the poor (false) to decrease taxes on the rich. And they hypocritically complained about increases to the deficit — when’s the last time Democrats complained about too much spending?

But it was peculiarly perplexing to watch religious Democrats complain about the tax bill by citing biblical text. Conservatives were high-handedly informed that God mandates higher taxes — that to care for the poor and the orphan, governments were instituted among men.

Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg led the charge, stating on Twitter, “If the Bible is so against systemic solutions to poverty, why is a jubilee year declared that releases people from debt to alleviate intergenerational poverty? What is leket, shikhah, pe’ah, and maaser if not taxes meant to create a safety net for those in need?”

Let’s begin with the bizarre contention that the Bible requires higher taxes. That’s simply untrue. The Bible talks about “taxes” (Hebrew: mas) in the traditional sense in only a few places: Solomon raised taxes, as did his son Rehoboam, with the result that the kingdom of Israel was split in half; Ahasuerus raised taxes at the end of the Book of Esther, a move that isn’t exactly seen as an unmitigated positive in the Talmud. The Torah’s emphasis on tzedakah is about private giving, not about government-enforced giving.

The Torah isn’t a guidebook for government welfare programs. It’s a guidebook for personal goodness.

Now, let’s talk other forms of biblical “taxes.” First, there’s maaser, tithing; Ruttenberg here probably is referring to maaser sheni, which in Deuteronomy 14 is directed toward the Levite, the stranger, the orphan and the widow (maaser is directed toward the priests alone). It applies only in the third and sixth years of the sabbatical cycle, and it’s 10 percent of the produce.

Then there’s shikhah, which occurs when you forget a sheaf in the field; you’re supposed to leave it for the widow and the orphan (Deuteronomy 24:19). That’s a rather de minimis contribution. Leket and pe’ah are referenced in Leviticus 19; leket refers to ears of corn forgotten on the ground, which are to be left there for the poor (again, this is de minimis); pe’ah refers to the corner of your field. The minimum amount for pe’ah is 1/60th of your field.

At best, then, we’re talking about a biblically mandated 11.7 percent of your produce every third and sixth year. Democrats want to maintain the highest tax rates at over 50 percent, if we include state and local taxes.

Finally, there’s shemitta and yovel. Shemitta mandates the waiver of all debts in the seventh year (Deuteronomy 15); yovel restores all land ownership to its original owner in the 50th year (Leviticus 25). Ruttenberg says that these mechanisms were designed to prevent accumulation of wealth. That’s untrue. Actually, they were designed to maintain tribal land ownership, since the Talmud says that yovel applies only when the tribes were living in their prescribed territories. And the rabbis designed an entire system, pruzbul, in order to avoid the impact of yovel and shmitta loans. It turns out that a system that routinely devaluates loans prevents their issuance, thereby harming the poor.

None of this is designed to undercut the notion that the Torah cares about the poor. It most certainly does. But our obligations are personal, not government-created; God wants us to act out of personal desire to help the poor. And not coincidentally, studies show that those who are most religious tend to give the most to charity, not those who point to the Bible in order to justify government cash-grabs.

The Torah isn’t a guidebook for government welfare programs. It’s a guidebook for personal goodness. To turn it into the former is to prevent the cultivation of the latter.


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: U.N. 1947 vote, Roy Moore, PLO and ‘Wonder’

The Miracle of the UN’s 1947 Decision

While I enjoyed David Suissa’s editorial, I would correct one error: The date Nov. 29th is important enough to Israelis that streets are named after that date (“Homeless for 1,900 Years … and Then a U.N. Vote,” Dec. 1).

Louis Richter, Reseda


Where Does Truth Lie in Moore Controversy?

I see Ben Shapiro’s point in equating the sexual harassment allegations against Sen. Al Franken and Judge Roy Moore (“Roy and Al,” Nov. 24).

However, Al Franken was photographed with his victim on that USO Tour — caught in the act, clearly a crime. He has acknowledged that interaction and apologized. Other accusers have come forward, citing a propensity for his behavior.

Roy Moore, who is running in Alabama for a U.S. Senate seat, has vehemently denied any veracity to allegations by several accusers, 40 years after they supposedly occurred. His attorney requested to have the only tangible “evidence” — an autographed yearbook — belonging to accuser Beverly Young Nelson, be submitted for independent, forensic examination. The accuser’s attorney, Gloria Allred, has refused.

We have seen this mischief many times before.

Last year’s presidential campaign saw even The New York Times gather several women who had worked with Donald Trump. The slanted point of view of The New York Times was that Trump was a sexual harasser and unqualified for public office. The women, to their credit, immediately said that their comments were misconstrued and manipulated.

The current brouhaha with Moore was propagated by The Washington Post, another “leftist bastion.” After several statewide election campaigns in Alabama, why have these allegations of sexual impropriety against Moore not surfaced before? Why now, when Moore is leading in the race?

Allegations in the mainstream media grab attention, but where is truth?

Enriqué Gascon, Los Angeles


A Hanukkah Poem

Rock of ages
Mount Sinai’s thunders,
Angels whisper
Masada’s secrets of old.

Of freedom almost lost
In the City of Gold,
A Temple defiled
And Maccabees had restored.

The miracle of oil
A spark in our soul,
Liberty for all creeds
Letters on dreidels spins.

Holocaust’s nightmares
Never again shall repeat,
The promise of a rainbow
The waters that split.

The gathering of exiles
To their promised land,
Where mountains rejoiced
And bright stars tallied twelve once again.

Danny BenTal, Tarzana


How to Change the Mood in America

Another great editor’s note: “Make America Grateful Again” (Nov. 24). While reading it, I felt the uneasiness of David Suissa to “balance polarities.” And he is quite honest in describing the mood of this country. His first sentence is quite correct: “America is in a lousy mood.” I was myself in a worse than lousy mood for the past three years, so I can relate to that. And I know how difficult it is to get out of the “mess.”

I have always considered good journalists to be like the consciousness of the society and to be among its teachers. Yes, good teaching begins with asking questions. And the better teaching begins with asking the right or more important questions. For example: How can one change the mood for the better of a society of 300 million people?

I was born and lived most of my life in a socialist country. If most of my countrymen were grateful for and had faith in our leaders at that time, my country would have not changed toward democracy.

So, I am very grateful to live in a democratic society now.

Svetlozar Garmidolov, Los Angeles


Plight of the Rohingya Has Many Facets

Stephen D. Smith effectively shines the light on the plight of the innocent Rohingya living in Myanmar. However, he omits historical context which harshly judges the Buddhist government and fails to address its  legitimate  fears (“It’s Time to Speak Up for the Rohingya,” Dec. 1).

In the past millennium, approximately 80 million non-Muslims were killed by Muslim jihadists. Smith quotes the Polish Jew Raphael Lemkin and the 1933 Madrid conference, which tried to legislate against barbarity.

Ironically, Smith mentions the book “The Yellow Spot: The Destruction of the European Jews.” Smith seems unaware that Nazis borrowed the yellow Jewish badge from the Muslim practice adopted in the eighth century called the Pact of Umar, which relegated Jews and Christians to subservient class status beneath Muslims. Hitler heartily approved of the Muslim approach toward Jews.

Perhaps the words of history scholar Andrew Bostom best explain the current religious conflict in Myanmar: “The origins of the Bengali Muslim Jihad in Western Myanmar in the late 19th century through the World War II era, illustrates that it is rooted in Islam’s same tireless institution of expansionist Jihad which eliminated Buddhist civilization in Northern India.”

Richard Friedman, Culver City


PLO Hasn’t Changed Its Spots

The 1993 Oslo Accord recognized the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as the sole representative of the Arabs of Palestine. This terrorist group was supposed to change its spots, but it has not.

In return for ignoring other Arab leaders and factions, it was invited to set up headquarters in Ramallah and to begin a peace process with Israel. It pledged to prepare the population for life alongside Israel and to end violence and enticement to violence. It also pledged not to attack Israel in international forums.

Well, it lied from Day One. It has rejected every peace offer from Israel, even those offered by Barack Obama’a administration. It is apparent the PLO/Fatah has manipulated everyone. It’s time for them to leave the stage. With support of major Arab League players and the United States, the Palestinians can find new leadership. If not, they will remain the world’s major welfare recipients and others will determine their fate.

Brian J. Goldenfeld, Woodland Hills


Jews, Christians Share Love of Israel

As the holiday season nears, I’m reminded how grateful I am that tens of millions of American Christians strongly support the State of Israel. It’s a miracle that so many Christians have reversed nearly two millennia of anti-Semitism and joined Jews in our pride and love for Israel.

Because Christian loyalty guarantees continued American support, vital for Israel’s survival, they have become our true brothers and sisters under God, and I welcome them with love and joy.

Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas!

Rueben Gordon, Calabasas


AND FROM FACEBOOK …

“‘Wonder’: A Call to Our Better Angels” (Dec. 1)

This is an excellent film. I find it sad and disgraceful that people use this film as the latest way to attack President Donald Trump. Why can’t we just enjoy a good film without someone dragging this nonsense into it?

Jay Lehman

“So many lessons to learn in this beautiful film. Well done.”

Marilyn Sommer

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.”

Fixing Hollywood’s Shameful Culture

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

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

Good Gun Policy Starts With Reality

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

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.”

Jewish identity beyond bagels and lox

Photo from Wikipedia

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.”

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

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

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