In response to my latest column, “The Torah and the Transgendered,” the Jewish Journal was deluged with emails to the editor and comments on the Journal’s website. Virtually every one of them is shameful. If you care about the moral nature and intellectual viability of American Jewish life, they are actually frightening.
I am accused of cruelty, intolerance, bigotry, hate, publicly humiliating someone, ignorance and more. Yet, there is not a hint of any one of these things in my column. That’s why, the perceptive reader will notice, not a single letter has actually quoted me. They can only mock, denigrate, demonize and insult. But not provide a shred of evidence to support their attacks.
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It is these letters and comments that are filled with hate; it is these writers who intend to humiliate; it is these people who are intolerant of any view but their own. With one or two exceptions, all these people live in an intellectual bubble that shields them from having to contend with opposing views. And when they encounter one, they get mean and throw childlike tantrums.
It is a complete lie that I attacked, let alone, humiliated, Rabbi Becky Silverstein.
I wrote a total of two sentences about the rabbi:
“Likewise, a Southern California synagogue has hired as its director of education a biological female rabbi who identifies as male, wears masculine clothing, is referred to as male and insists on being called by her/his given female name. Obviously, the congregation and the rabbi believe that the Torah’s view on gender distinction is irrelevant.”
How is that an attack? How is it humiliating? Why did Joshua Levine Grater, Denise Eger, Sharon Brous, and Adam Greenwald — rabbis all — make such false public accusations? Does honorable behavior apply only to Jews one agrees with?
And for the record, the reason I did not mention the rabbi or the temple by name was so as not to make any individual or temple the issue.
Rabbi Denise Eger, the president of the Reform rabbinate, writes that “Sadly, the Journal has a long history of publishing Prager’s vitriol and personal attacks on hard-working and devoted rabbis.” Rabbi Eger should back up that charge and that of “character assassination,” or retract them both. They are both lies.
Other letters and comments accuse me of intolerance, bigotry, ignorance, transphobia, maligning, defamation, slander, xenophobia, foolishness, mean-spiritedness, inflicting “spiritual violence,” lacking compassion, anti-knowledge and more — all without providing a single example. Because there is no example to provide.
But these writers’ letters are more than merely libelous. They are insidious because at bottom they are all an attempt to shut me up, to shut the Jewish Journal up — in other words, to do to Jewish dissenters what the left is doing to all dissenters on campuses — fire them, disallow them from speaking, and bully opponents into silence. And they are largely successful both on campuses and in Jewish life. It will be interesting to see how many Reform, Conservative or Orthodox rabbis now write in support of my column. So far, apparently, none has. Even the Orthodox rabbinate is afraid of being attacked by the Jewish left.
The only reason I mentioned the rabbi was that I take issue with the rabbi retaining a female name while identifying as a man. I did not and do not take issue with the rabbi identifying as a male. I take issue with deliberate blurring of male-female identities. When Bruce Jenner came out as a woman, he/she took a female name, Caitlyn. Once he presented himself to the world as a woman, Jenner thought being called Bruce would be confusing and inappropriate. Rabbi Silverstein could have taken a male name — if only, for example, by shortening “Becky” to “Beck.” Had the rabbi done so, I would never have cited this example.
Retaining a distinctly female name while being called a man represents a desire to blur gender distinctions — which is all I care about in this matter, and which is precisely what Rabbi Silverstein intended. The rabbi said so in an article published in the Jewish Journal:
“I’m pretty attached to Becky and he, and creating that dissonance in the world … satisfies my need to push people, and to push society.”
If one wishes “to push society,” why is society not allowed to respectfully push back?
But to all these progressive letter writers, any push back is characterized as “hate” and “attack.”
My column was not about transgender men and women. It was not about hiring trans-gendered people. It was about whether Jews view the Torah as a guide for living, and about the current unprecedented attempt to blur male-female distinction in biology and society.
Virtually all the letters and comments proved my original point.
In an attempt to show that the Torah does not seek to preserve male-female identities and the male-female distinction, some responders have distorted the verse in the Torah that I cited: “And God created man in His image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” They claim that the Torah, according to some rabbinic midrashim, didn’t really mean that God created male and female persons.
That is not what the midrash teaches. The midrash, which consists of homilies, not literal statements, simply offers the notion that Adam (meaning humanity), like God himself, had female and male aspects. But no one contradicts the peshat, the Torah text itself, which is crystal clear. The text, to repeat, says, “male and female He created them;” “them” (human beings) — not “him” (Adam).
The notion that male and female has no objective reality, but is a subjective identity, is so contrary to scientific reality that these people have earned one of the epithets they throw at opponents: anti-science. It is not merely Torah and 3,000 years of Jewish affirmation of the male-female distinction that these people cavalierly reject; it is science itself. A human being who has two X chromosomes, mammary glands, a vagina, a uterus, produces eggs, and menstruates is a female. That is not opinion. That is science. No amount of midrash or left-wing dogma can rewrite science or the Torah.
My heart goes out to anyone who does not identify with his or her genetically assigned gender. But my heart also goes out to the vast number of young people who have to endure the left’s Brave New World experiments with them. To be told at the earliest age that the male-female distinction does not really exist because male and female are essentially the same, and therefore male-female distinction is not a blessing, but a patriarchal, sexist form of “binary,” “black-white” thinking is to deprive children of one of the blessings of human life — the infinitely complex and beautiful complementarity of man and woman, mother and father.
To believe that is compassionate, and true to both Judaism and reality, as challenging as both may sometimes be.
I welcome a public dialogue on this matter with any or all of the letter writers. The event can be run by the Jewish Journal and proceeds can be divided among the charities of our choice.
Dennis Prager’s nationally syndicated radio talk show is heard in Los Angeles on KRLA (AM 870) 9 a.m. to noon. His latest project is the Internet-based Prager University (prageru.com).