June 26, 2019

Jewish Meditation, Beach Shabbat, Ben Shapiro

“The Hatmaker’s Wife”


“The Joy of Change”
Sinai Temple honors Matt Baram, millennial director at Sinai, at his final Orden Family Friday Night Live Shabbat program. 7 p.m. doors open. 7:30 p.m. services. 8:30 p.m. dinner for all ages. $20. Registration required. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd. (310) 474-1518.

“The Hatmaker’s Wife”
Inspired by the Jewish folktales of Sholem Aleichem, playwright Lauren Yee has written a fairy tale comedy, “The Hatmaker’s Wife,” which may remind Long Beach Playhouse audiences of Aleichem’s broad style. Swinging between the realistic and the fantastical, “Hatmaker” is the story of a young woman who moves in with her boyfriend in hopes of domestic bliss, only to be repeatedly disappointed. She finds assistance from the unlikeliest of places — a wall in her home. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Through July 6. $20 Fridays, $24 Saturdays and Sundays. For seniors, $18 Fridays, $21 Saturdays and Sundays. $14 students all performances. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach. (562) 494-1014.

N’ranena Service
Adat Ari El’s musical Shabbat service, N’ranena, features performers from The Miracle Project, which serves those with autism and other differences through an inclusive theater, film and expressive arts program. Challah is provided. Guests are invited to bring their own vegetarian or dairy picnic dinner along with a dessert to share, or they may purchase a meal. 6-8:30 p.m. Free, $10 meal. Adat Ari El, 12020 Burbank Blvd., Valley Village. (818) 766-9426.

“Friday Night Inspire”
Beverly Hills-based Beth Jacob Congregation’s young professionals minyan meets for “Friday Night Inspire,” which is dedicated to the memory of Aaron Sichel, who died of cancer four years ago. The hosts are Lauren and Daniel Packer. 6:45 p.m. Mincha. 7 p.m. Kabbalat Shabbat. 7:30 p.m. Kiddush, refreshments and shmoozing. (310) 278-1911. RSVP to YP@bethjacob.org to obtain the address.

Shabbat on the Beach
Members and friends of Mishkon Tephilo in Venice gather for “Na’or: An Enlightened Shabbat,” as the congregation leaves behind its building and moves its Friday night services to the beach in Santa Monica. Attendees convene at South Beach Park, located at the southern end of the Ocean Park parking lot, just off the boardwalk, and are asked to bring their own picnic dinner, arrive early and enjoy the beach. 6 p.m. BYO picnic dinner. 6:45 p.m. musical sunset Shabbat service. Free. Open to the public. (310) 392-3029.

John Biewen

“The Illusion of Whiteness”
Journalist and documentarian John Biewen leads three conversations at Temple Isaiah on race in America and its meaning and impact in our lives. On Friday following Shabbat services, he discusses “Whiteness — A Historical Overview.” On Saturday morning, he offers “A Deeper Look Into Race in America.” And on Saturday afternoon, his topic is “Looking Backward and Moving Forward.” June 14: 6:15 p.m. services. 8 p.m. lecture. June 15: 10:30 a.m. lecture. 12:30 p.m. lunch. 1:30 p.m. lecture. Free. RSVP required. Temple Isaiah, 10345 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 277-2772.

Shabbat Under the Stars
Kick off summer with University Synagogue as the Westside congregation holds its first Shabbat Under the Stars of the season. The scene is the back patio, and guests are encouraged to bring a jacket or sweater for comfort from the ocean breezes. 7:30-9 p.m. Free. University Synagogue, 11960 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 472-1255.


Father’s Day Remembrance
A Father’s Day Remembrance Service at Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary features Rabbi Jonathan Aaron of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills (TEBH), Temple Akiba Cantor Lonee Frailich, University Synagogue Cantor Jay Frailich, TEBH Cantor Lizzie Weiss and storyteller Joe Koplowitz. 10 a.m. Free. Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary, 6001 W. Centinela Ave., Los Angeles. (310) 641-0707.

“Sacred Sounds Unbound”
To honor fathers on their special day, Temple Beth Am and musical partner Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills hold a “Sacred Sounds Unbound,” starring song leader and composer Joey Weisenberg. The creative director of the New York-based Rising Sound Institute, Weisenberg is accompanied by Los Angeles musicians and immerses the crowd in two types of nigunim, the familiar and the new. This is the second in a series of concerts put on by Beth Am and Temple Emanuel. 2 p.m. $18 suggested donation. Temple Beth Am, 1039 S. La Cienega Blvd. (310) 652-7353.

“Who Will Write Our History”

“Who Will Write Our History”
Seventy-six years after the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, American Jewish University (AJU) holds the screening of “Who Will Write Our History.” The documentary is about a clandestine scholarly group that hid treasured archives from the Nazis that were not discovered until after World War II. The Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) co-organizes the evening. The film featuring rare footage also includes new interviews and reflections. Following the screening, Michael Berenbaum, director of AJU’s Sigi Ziering Institute, appears in conversation with Roberta Grossman, the documentary’s director, writer and producer. 7:30 p.m. $15. Warner Center Marriott, 21850 W. Oxnard St., Woodland Hills.  (310) 440-1572.


“Mental Health and Memory”
Dr. Jennifer Logan, a family medicine specialist at UCLA, offers an overview of the causes and recommended treatments for anxiety, depression and dementia. Logan explains how these conditions affect memory and certain kinds of recollections. 2:30-4 p.m. Free. Kehillat Israel, 16019 W. Sunset Blvd., Pacific Palisades. (800) 516-5323.  

Improv Comedy Night
Comedy Sportz, one of the most popular improv groups in Los Angeles as it emphasizes audience participation, comes to Adat Ari El for “Improv Comedy Night.” With two teams of comedians pitted against each other, audience members holler suggestions and the the crowd eventually votes for the winning side. 7:30-10 p.m. $18 pre-registration. $25 door. Adat Ari El, 12020 Burbank Blvd., Valley Village. (818) 766-9426.

Gina Nahai

Libraries Conference
The diverse, tightly packed three days of the 54th annual conference of the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) at the Warner Center Marriott includes presentations on research skills for high schools, talks by Russian-born author and artist Eugene Yelchin and author Gina Nahai, a look at new Jewish fiction for adults, museum tours and a visit to American Jewish University. Through June 19. 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. each day. Prices vary. Warner Center Marriott, 21850 Oxnard St., Woodland Hills. (201) 371-3255.


Alison Laichter

Jewish Meditation
Find a solitary moment in a noisy world to learn and master meditation techniques. Alison Laichter’s Jewish meditation class is for beginners and practitioners. Laichter, who founded the Jewish Meditation Center when she lived in New York, marries the concepts of intention, understanding and Jewish texts in her 60-minute class. Noon-1 pm. $5 general admission. Free for Skirball members. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500.


Story of Truman and Israel
Actor and playwright Arnie Weiss tells the story of an unknown haberdasher who convinced President Harry S. Truman to recognize the State of Israel in his one-man play, staged over lunch with the Renaissance Senior Group of Kol Tikvah synagogue. 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. $12.50. Kol Tikvah, 20400 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills. RSVP required. (818) 348-0670 or dshayer@koltikvah.org 


Ben Shapiro

Ben Shapiro
Political conservative Ben Shapiro, a nationally syndicated columnist since he was 17 years old and the author of eight books, appears at Valley Beth Shalom for “An Evening With Ben Shapiro.” The Jewish Republican Alliance (JRA) organizes the appearance of Shapiro, whose syndicated radio program is on more than 150 stations. 6 p.m. VIP check-in. 6:30 p.m. VIP reception and event check-in. 7:30 p.m. speaker. No entry after 8 p.m. $25 JRA members, $35 general admission. Advance purchase only; no tickets at the door. Photo ID and copy of receipt required. Valley Beth Shalom, 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (310) 478-0752.

Have an event coming up? Send your information two weeks prior to the event to ryant@jewishjournal.com for consideration. For groups staging an event that requires an RSVP, please submit details about the event the week before the RSVP deadline.

Don’t Give Anti-Semites What They Seek

Members of the Chabad of Midtown pray during a service for members of the Poway San Diego Chabad Synagogue, in New York, U.S., April 29, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

When you look at a rabbi with a white beard wearing a black hat, a long black coat and a gartl, what do you see? Anti-Semites see a refugee from the ghettos of Europe, a secret emissary of a global power intent on ruling from within. But what do you see?

When you look at an Israeli living in Sderot, what do you see? Anti-Semites see an emissary of Israeli intolerance, a thumb in the face of Palestinians, a hypnotizer of the world. But what do you see?

When you look at a 60-year-old Jewish woman living near San Diego, what do you see? Anti-Semites see a recipient of privilege, an inherent victimizer in the hierarchical power structure. But what do you see?

Anti-Semites see the Jews as part of a pattern. Each Jew is a data point in that pattern; every Jew can be pigeonholed as a member of a broader conspiracy. Right-wing white supremacist anti-Semites see the Jews as an eternal threat, a racially “mongrelizing” threat to white purity, a religious blot, a nefarious group of schemers threatening their race-based civilization. Radical Islamist anti-Semites see the Jews as the sons of pigs and monkeys, religious threats who must be exterminated. Left-wing anti-Semites see the Jews as defenders of brutal hierarchies, purveyors of exploitation.

Each of these types of anti-Semitism carries its own level of threat. White supremacist anti-Semitism, in the United States, is the type most likely to end with dead bodies: White supremacists have been responsible for an ever-increasing number of terrorist attacks, as more and more young men are radicalized through online forums. Radical Islamic anti-Semitism is the type most likely to end with dead Jews worldwide, in anti-Semitic attacks throughout Europe, as well as terrorist attacks against Jews in Israel. Left-wing anti-Semitism is the type most likely to be mainstreamed — just view The New York Times’ decision to print a virulently anti-Semitic cartoon that could have come from the pages of Der Sturmer. The fact that the Times’ editors didn’t even notice the anti-Semitism shows how easily anti-Zionism has merged, for the mainstream left, into outright anti-Semitic propagandizing.

If you don’t oppose all types of
anti-Semitism, you don’t oppose

Members of the media, unfortunately, wish to distinguish the three types of anti-Semitism. Because the media lean to the left, they wish to downplay left-wing anti-Semitism, even as they engage in it — and thus media members come out of the woodwork to defend both Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who has engaged in anti-Semitism openly and repeatedly, and the Democratic Party that rushed to cover for her. Because the media generally dislike Israel and see it as an imperialist power, they have sympathy, too, for the claims for the radical Islamist brand of anti-Semitism — they simply dismiss the murderous anti-Semitism of radical Muslims as a form of anti-Zionism. They’re more than happy to point out white supremacist anti-Semitism, however, because they believe they can blame that type of anti-Semitism on President Donald Trump.

Here’s the truth: If you don’t oppose all types of anti-Semitism, you don’t oppose anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, many Jews are just as political as media members when it comes to anti-Semitism. We find excuses to let purported allies off the hook by disassociating with our co-religionists. Thus, I ask: What do you see when you see a fellow Jew? Do you see an “other” — a person with no relationship to you, who can be safely excised? Do you see a tool, to be used for political purposes? Or do you see that fellow Jew as a brother or a sister — a person who, if attacked for their Jewishness, must be defended? Do you see the rabbi in Poway as a Trump supporter who supports gun ownership — or as a Jew shot for his identity? Do you see Almog Peretz as an Israeli citizen, and thus as a victim of anti-Zionism — or as a Jew shot for his identity? Would you feel the same way if a rocket had hit his home in Sderot? Do you see Lori Gilbert-Kaye as a woman of intersectional privilege — or as a Jew shot for her identity?

The anti-Semites are evil. But they are right in one respect only: Jews are members of a family. If we fail to see one another as members of the same family — a family wherein an attack on one is an attack on all — then we will be giving anti-Semites that which they have so long sought: an end to the Jewish people.

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

Shapiro on The Economist Calling Him ‘Alt-Right’: ‘They Defamed Me’

Screenshot from Flickr.

The Economist issued an apology for calling Daily Wire editor-in-chief and Journal columnist Ben Shapiro “alt-right” in a March 28 piece; Shapiro told the Journal in a statement via email that The Economist should have apologized for defaming him.

The article was initially titled “Inside the mind of Ben Shapiro, the alt-right sage without the rage.” The alt-right is a far-right movement that espouses white nationalist identity politics. After Shapiro confronted them on Twitter on the matter, The Economist issued an apology as an editor’s note at the top of the piece: “A previous version mistakenly described Mr Shapiro as an ‘alt-right sage’ and ‘a pop idol of the alt-right.’ In fact, he has been strongly critical of the alt-right movement. We apologize.”

Shapiro told the Journal, “The Economist should apologize — they didn’t do their basic research, and they defamed me in the process. Lumping in conservatism with the alt-right is nefarious and disgusting.”

Earlier in the day, Shapiro pushed back against the Economist labeling him “alt-right” on Twitter, tweeting: “This is a vile lie. Not only am I not alt-right, I am probably their leading critic on the right. I was the number one target of their hate in 2016 online according to ADL (Anti-Defamation League) data. I demand a retraction.”

Shapiro went on to highlight a section from his new book, “The Right Side of History: How Reason and Moral Purpose Made the West Great,” where he calls the alt-right “racist”:

Anne McElvoy, an editor at the Economist, tweeted,“In fairness, I think we said [something] like a figure in Alt-right thinking, not a ‘label,’” prompting Shapiro to reply, “Your headline literally reads ‘the alt-right sage without the rage.’ So spare me the ‘in fairness” bulls***.’”

The Economist’s Twitter account eventually issued an apology to Shapiro.

“We have deleted an earlier tweet for an article that mischaracterized Ben Shapiro, who has been strongly critical of the alt-right movement,” the tweet states. “We apologize.”

The headline now calls Shapiro “a radical conservative.” Shapiro tweeted, “At least that’s defensible.”

Shapiro’s “Right Side of History” is currently ranked No. 1 on The New York Times’ Non-Fiction Best Sellers List.

Year in Review 2018: Top Stories

Photo courtesy of zioness.org

The Jewish community and Jewish Journal were busy this year. Take a look back to see what we were reporting on in 2018.

Photo courtesy of zioness.org

“Zioness Movement Joins Women’s March” By Kelly Hartog Jan. 17

Well-wishers place mementos the day students and parents arrive for voluntary campus orientation at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, for the coming Wednesday’s reopening, following last week’s mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, U.S., February 25, 2018. REUTERS/Angel Valentin

“So, What The Hell Do We Do Now?” By Ben Shapiro Feb. 15


“Before Insulting Israel, Natalie Portman Should Have Done Her Homework”
By David Suissa April 19



“Lucia, Survivor / 24415”
The last Holocaust survivor in Rhodes, Greece.

“Photographer Trains Her Eye on Vanishing Jewish Communities”
By Danielle Berrin May 16


Photo by Pexels

“How My Graduation Was Ambushed” By Morin Zaray May 22


“Why Tikkun Olam Can’t Fix American Judaism” By Gil Troy July 18



“Dear Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez” By Karen Lehrman Block Aug. 15



Linda Sarsour speaking onstage during the Women’s March on Washington in Washington, D.C, Jan. 21, 2017. Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images

“Sarsour: American Muslims Shouldn’t ‘Humanize’ Israelis”
By Aaron Bandler Sept. 6



From left: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Roseanne Barr and David Suissa discuss “Is America a Forgiving Nation?”
(Photo courtesy of World Values Network)

“Roseanne: Between the ‘Sacred and the Profane’” By Ryan Torok Sept. 26



Mourners react during a memorial service at the Sailors and Soldiers Memorial Hall of the University of Pittsburgh, a day after 11 worshippers were shot dead at a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S., October 28, 2018. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

“My Name Is Jew, and I Want My Name Back” By Rabbi Zoe Klein Miles Oct. 28



Photo courtesy of Gin & July; Instagram: ginandjuly

“Weekend Chuppah in the Midst of a Fire” By Debra L. Eckerling Nov. 12


“Silent Pain: Depression Within the Persian Community” By Tabby Refael Dec. 14


See more from our Year in Review here.

Shootings, Elections and Dust in the Wind

There are certain weeks in the news business when the pressure becomes almost unbearable. Last week was one of them.

First, there was the continuing shock of the deadliest attack against Jews in U.S. history, when 11 Shabbat worshippers were shot dead by a neo-Nazi at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh. This was not an event that we could just grieve over and move on. This was a communal trauma. The shock lingered. The questions multiplied. The grieving stayed.

Virtually every synagogue in the world honored the 11 victims on the Shabbat following the massacre. If you’re looking for signs of Jewish peoplehood, consider that Exhibit A.
A few days later, on Nov. 6, all eyes were on what some called the “most consequential midterm election of our lifetime.” That night at the Journal, we extended our print deadline to midnight so we could include an initial take of the results in the Nov. 9 print edition.
In the aftermath of those two major events, our online staff was tested. Day after day, they posted stories and analyses on both Pittsburgh and the elections, including videos and special podcasts.

For this week’s cover story, our plan was to do a deep dive into the election results.
Then, before we could catch our breath, another mass shooting grabbed our attention late on Nov. 7, this one at a bar in Thousand Oaks that left 12 people dead.
We managed to get in touch with one of the survivors, Ben Ginsburg, who put into words the story of his nightmare, which you can read in this week’s issue.
Then, the next night, all hell broke loose as vicious Santa Ana winds unleashed their rage across large swaths of Malibu, Westlake Village, Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Agoura Hills, Calabasas and surrounding areas, forcing hundreds of thousands of residents to evacuate and wreaking devastation over the next two days that damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes and some Jewish institutions.

“So, which nightmare to put on the cover?”

Nightmare was following nightmare.

On Saturday morning, Nov. 10, as I walked out of synagogue on Pico Boulevard, I could smell the burn. Shifting winds had brought smoke and tiny flakes of ash from those distant fires to our cozy Jewish neighborhood, creating a reddish haze that hovered in the distance. We felt the pain of our faraway neighbors through the dust in the wind.
Dark stories were colliding and overlapping. Some of the families touched by the Thousand Oaks shooting had to evacuate their homes because of the fires. A rabbi from the area, Rabbi Paul Kipnes, who had written a poem of mourning for the shooting victims, now wrote a special prayer for these “fire-filled days.”

So, which nightmare to put on the cover? I had already asked our columnist Ben Shapiro to write a cover story on how to deal with the madness of mass shootings. But we couldn’t ignore these apocalyptic fires, which have touched everyone in the greater City of Angels (not to mention all those in Northern California).

“Dark stories were colliding and overlapping. Some of the families touched by the Thousand Oaks shooting had to evacuate their homes because of the fires.”

As you can see, we decided to feature both events on the cover and give each story top billing. Shapiro analyzes the complexity of the mass-shooting phenomenon, and what we can do to address the epidemic of gun violence; and the Journal’s reporting staff and editors cover the devastation of the fires and the compassionate response from our community.

We also have a column from Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles head Jay Sanderson on how he and his team dealt with the crises over 72 hours.
And, as if all that weren’t enough, the winds of war were blowing again in Israel, with nearly 500 rockets fired at Israel from Gaza within a few days. (As I write this, it looks like a ceasefire is in the works.)

One of the cruel aspects of journalism is that it doesn’t allow much time for emotion. We hear about a horrible event and, almost instantly, we have to think about getting you the story, and how quickly and accurately we can do so.
As we continue our coverage during these nerve-wracking times, I’m tempted to come up with words that will make us all feel better, or at least help us cope. Beyond the usual cliches, I don’t really have any.

My only wish is that we will be blessed, very soon, with a few weeks free of human tragedies.

We All Care About Gun Violence, But There’s No Easy Solution

The video was heartbreaking.

A father, Jason Coffman, spoke before the cameras of his 22-year-old son, Cody, who had just been murdered in yet another mass shooting, this time in Thousand Oaks. “I am speechless and heartbroken,” he said through tears. “I cannot believe that it’s happened to my family. I just want him to know that he is going to be missed.”

They will all be missed: In Pittsburgh, where 11 people died in the hail of bullets in a shul; In Florida, where 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School; In Texas, where 10 people were killed at Santa Fe High School; and at other schools and public places too numerous to list here. Mass shootings have become so common that one of the victims in Thousand Oaks, Telemachus Orfanos, had survived a previous mass shooting — at the country music festival in Las Vegas last year in which 58 people were murdered.

Mass shootings can happen anywhere. Mass shootings,  unfortunately, are unstoppable.

Thousand Oaks is listed as the third-safest city in the United States by Niche, a service that ranks livability of communities across the country. California is the most heavily gun-controlled state in the country, too, with laws including “may issue” statutes that enable authorities to summarily reject concealed-carry permits, ammunition purchased through a federally licensed firearms dealer, 10-round limitations on magazine size, and a 10-day waiting period for firearm purchases, among other limitations. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence says California has the nation’s toughest gun laws.

Yet California has also seen, in the past five years alone, mass shootings in San Bernardino (14 dead), Rancho Tehama Reserve (five dead), Isla Vista (six dead) and Santa Monica (five dead).

The problem of mass shootings isn’t limited to California, of course. It isn’t even limited to the United States. A study of mass shootings across the world from 2009 to 2015 shows that on a population-adjusted basis, Norway experienced the world’s highest mass shooting death rate (the Anders Breivik massacre of 2011 ended with 77 dead), followed by Serbia, France, Macedonia, Albania, Slovakia, Finland, Belgium and the Czech Republic. The United States, by this metric, ranked 11th globally. 

“California is the most heavily gun-controlled state in the country.”

We’ve heard from many of those on the political left that “thoughts and prayers” aren’t enough in the wake of mass shootings. But neither is emoting that “something must be done” without actually attempting to determine the correlation between proposed legislation and possible outcome. Banning sales of AR-15s might sound good in theory but the weapon used in the Thousand Oaks mass shooting was a handgun. Requiring universal background checks wouldn’t have stopped the Thousand Oaks shooter, either — California already has them. 

But isn’t doing something better than doing nothing? It depends on the “something.” Mass shootings have been prevented or minimized by good citizens with guns, too: A former NRA instructor used his own AR-15 to shoot the perpetrator in the Sutherland Springs church shooting in Texas in 2017. And law enforcement’s use of guns is usually the key factor in ending mass shootings once they start.

Perhaps it’s too narrow to talk about mass shootings in the context of gun violence. While mass shootings provide political flashpoints, the truth is that mass shootings are a tremendous statistical outlier. School shootings in the United States have actually been in steady decline since the 1990s. Perhaps we truly ought to talk about minimizing gun violence more broadly through gun control policies.

The problem here is that there is no obvious correlation between severity of gun laws and overall murder rates. If we truly care about people dying, we should worry less about method of murder than number of murders — and by that metric, states that heavily regulate gun ownership are no better than states that don’t. As professor Eugene Volokh of the UCLA School of Law has written, “states with more gun restrictions on average have very slightly higher homicide rates, though the tendency is so small as to be essentially zero.” And as for the idea of gun buybacks and bans, as statistician Leah Libresco wrote last year in The Washington Post, neither the United Kingdom nor Australia “experienced drops in mass shootings or other gun-related crime that could be attributed to their buybacks and bans.” In fact, the United States has approximately 400 million outstanding weapons in public hands — and the murder rate has dropped precipitously since the 1990s. 

All of this suggests that there is no silver-bullet gun control solution to stopping mass shootings or homicide more broadly. That’s because there isn’t. 

Now, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do to mitigate risks at the margins, both with gun control measures and with other measures, too. On the gun control side, we should start by enforcing existing laws: Too many shooters have fallen through the cracks thanks to flaws in state reporting systems or failures by individuals to take lawful measures to prevent dangerous individuals from accessing firearms. David French of National Review also has suggested gun violence restraining orders: statutes aimed at allowing spouses, siblings, parents or a person living with a potentially threatening person to petition a court for an order to temporarily remove Second Amendment rights from that person. That law is already on the books in California — obviously, it didn’t stop what happened in Thousand Oaks, even though the police were called to the home of the gunman’s mother back in April.

“We must acknowledge that heated rhetoric has a tendency to raise the general temperature —  and that a boiling pot spills over the edges more than a lukewarm one.”

We also have to harden existing vulnerable targets. Synagogues across America have been doing this for years — and it does, in fact, help minimize risk. In 1999, a white supremacist mass shooter scoped out the Simon Wiesenthal Center on Pico Boulevard and Roxbury Drive as a shooting target; he was dissuaded from attacking because of the presence of guards. Instead, he drove to the unprotected West Valley Jewish Community Center. Shooters tend to choose targets where they believe they will be most successful in wreaking havoc. The Thousand Oaks bar was a gun-free zone — until a shooter invaded the premises armed with a gun. 

On the media side, we must stop giving outsized attention to shooters, who revel in precisely that attention. At the site I run, Daily Wire, we stopped doing so earlier this year, citing social science studies that found that “media contagion” could make mass shootings more common by catering to potential shooters’ desire for fame. Malcolm Gladwell has posited a slow-motion “riot” of mass shootings in which “young men no longer need to be deeply disturbed to contemplate horrific acts.” As a society, we’ve decided that it’s more important to home in on mass shootings than to downplay shooters, hoping that our attention will focus the minds of our political opponents. It isn’t working.

“We should start by enforcing existing laws: Too many shooters have fallen through the cracks thanks to flaws in state reporting systems.”

When it comes to social policy, we must emphasize the presence of fathers in the home, too. Of the 27 deadliest mass shooters in American history, just one was raised with a biological father in the home since childhood. Violent crime has been consistently linked to family instability in every country in which such measures have been available.

We should also de-escalate the rhetoric on matters both political and moral. Not all mass shootings are politically driven — they’re often driven by the mental illness of a disturbed individual. And while we cannot blame politicians for radicals taking their words to the level of violence without their intent or consent, we must acknowledge that heated rhetoric has a tendency to raise the general temperature — and that a boiling pot spills over the edges more than a lukewarm one. Responsible rhetoric would be a welcome change from our current rage. (I plead guilty in this respect, and I have tried to work to change how I address issues on precisely this basis.)

In the end, though, no set of policies can completely insulate us from tragedies. The only thing we can do is attempt to build a social fabric together: a place in which we trust our neighbors, in which we are aware of rising threats, in which we rely on one another in times of grief but build with one another in times of strength. If we tear one another apart over tragedy — if we suggest that our political opponents don’t care enough about those who die in acts of evil — we become complicit in fraying precisely the social fabric so necessary to the preservation of both a free and safe society.

Ben Shapiro is editor-in-chief at 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.”

What’s Happening: Erwin Chemerinsky, Ben Shapiro, BJE Service

The annual 2K walk 4 Friendship will take place at Shalhevet High School.



Pride Shabbat Service
The community is invited to a Pride Shabbat service focusing on unity, equality and inclusion for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The service is led by Rabbi Jon Hanish, Rabbi Becky Hoffman and Cantor Noa Shaashua. Guest speaker is David Kazdan of JQ International, who will discuss “The Need for LGBTQ Role Models in the Jewish Community.” Coffee and dessert to follow. 6:30–8 p.m. Free. Kol Tikvah, 20400 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills. (818) 348-0670.

National Refugee Shabbat
Kehillat Israel Synagogue is one of many temples throughout Southern California participating in a nationwide Shabbat experience dedicated to refugees. Guest speaker is Rabbi Rachel Grant Meyer, director of education at HIAS. 7–8:30 p.m. Free. Kehillat Israel Synagogue, 16019 Sunset Blvd., Pacific Palisades. (310) 459-2328. Visit ourki.org or hias.org.

Boomer’s Dinner with David Suissa
Jewish Journal Publisher and Editor-in-Chief David Suissa participates in a community evening at modern Orthodox congregation B’nai David-Judea. 7–10 p.m. B’nai David-Judea. 8906 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. $30 members, $35 nonmembers. (310) 276-9269.

Erwin Chemerinsky

Weekend With Erwin Chemerinsky
Join lawyer and legal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky, the 13th dean of Berkeley Law School and former dean and professor at UC Irvine, Duke University and USC, for the Abner & Roslyn Goldstine Scholar-in-Residence Lecture Series at Sinai Temple. On Friday at 8:30 p.m., Chemerinsky speaks about “Free Speech on Campus.” Free. On Sunday morning, Oct. 21, Chemerinsky and Rabbi David Wolpe engage in a conversation on the topic of “We the People: A Progressive Reading of the Constitution for the 21st Century.” Light breakfast provided, and book sales and signing available for Chemerinsky’s “Free Speech on Campus.”  9:30 a.m. Admission $33 at the door for Sinai Temple members, $40 for nonmembers. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 474-1518. .


National Refugee Shabbat Havdalah
Join members of IKAR, Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, Temple Beth Am and other L.A.-area congregations for a special event at the close of National Refugee Shabbat. Guest speaker, Rabbi Rachel Grant Meyer. Attendees are encouraged to bring diapers or school and art supplies for local refugee families supported by the Tiyya Foundation. 7–9:30 p.m. $15. RSVP required. Temple Beth Am, 1039 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 652-7353. Visit tbala.org or hias.org.


BJE Day of Service Learning
Join Builders of Jewish Education, in partnership with Mountain Restoration Trust, for a family-friendly day of community service and learning at Malibu Creek State Park. Participants plant native plants, including purple needle grass and creeping wild rye. Other activities include mulching, weeding and watering new and young plants. Dress appropriately to work in the outdoors: closed-toe shoes, comfortable clothes, hats and sunscreen. Water and snacks provided. Parking is free. RSVP required to Millie Wexler at Mwexler@bjela.org or (323) 761-8631. 10 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Malibu Creek State Park, 1925 Las Virgenes Road, Calabasas.

Ben Shapiro

Ben Shapiro at Politicon
Ben Shapiro is the keynote speaker at Politicon, which bills itself as the “Unconventional Political Convention.” The weekend event will feature panels, debates, town-hall discussions, art, podcasts, comedy, Q-and-A’s, book signings and more. Shapiro is editor-in-chief of DailyWire.com, host of “The Ben Shapiro Show” podcast, a New York Times best-selling author, a frequent speaker on college campuses and a Jewish Journal columnist. Speech, noon. $70. Children 12 and younger free with paid adult. Full convention, $70–$400. Los Angeles Convention Center, 1201 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles. (213) 741-1151.

The annual 2K walk 4 Friendship will take place at Shalhevet High School.

Walk 4 Friendship L.A.
This annual 2K walk raises vital funds and community awareness for the Friendship Circle of Los Angeles, a nonprofit organization that brings joy and comfort to children with special needs and their families. Inflatables, Lego party, puppy party, games and drinks. Free. Food for sale. Registration and T-shirt pickup, 1:30 p.m. Opening ceremony, 2:45 p.m. Walk begins, 3 p.m. Concert, 4 p.m. Visit website to sponsor individuals or teams, and for parking tips. Shalhevet High School, 910 S. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles. (310) 280-0955.

Klezmer Sounds
Homegrown chamber klezmer band Tribe makes its debut at Hollywood Temple Beth El. Formed by jazz stalwarts Dan Spector and Mike Werner, the sextet presents a mix of traditional klezmer and new klezmer sounds. Refreshments available. Two sets between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. $15. Hollywood Temple Beth El, 1317 N. Crescent Heights Blvd., West Hollywood. (323) 656-3150.


Jenna Fields

“What is Jewish about Breast and Ovarian Cancer?”
Jenna Fields, California regional director of Sharsheret, a nonprofit supporting Jewish women and their families facing breast cancer, gives a detailed presentation that provides tools for recognizing the disease and how to respond. 12:20–1:10 p.m. Free. Academy for Jewish Religion, California, UCLA Hillel building, 574 Hilgard Ave., Third Floor, Los Angeles. (213) 884-4133.


Understanding the Nov. 6 Ballot
The Beach Cities League of Women Voters helps explain 11 statewide propositions in advance of the Nov. 6 election. 10:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Free. $5 for lunch following the program. Congregation Tikvat Jacob, 1829 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Manhattan Beach. (310) 546-3667.

“The Presence of Their Absence”
Fred Zaidman, a son of Holocaust survivors, tells his family’s wartime story in this 2018 documentary produced by Donna Kanter. Zaidman’s mother, Renate, spoke often of her lasting pain while his father, Wolf, was silent. In researching his family’s story, Zaidman received help he could not have anticipated, including when a Baptist minister from Atlanta led him to a cemetery in Poland. A post-screening Q-and-A features Zaidman, Kanter and minister Steven Reece. 8 p.m. $12 general admission. $8 students. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500.


Symposium on Mortality 
“What Mortality Can Teach Us About Living” is the subject of an all-day symposium organized by Neshama: Association of Jewish Chaplains. Presenters include Dr. Ira Byock, a palliative care physician and Rabbanit Alissa Thomas-Newborn of B’nai David-Judea. Group discussion leaders are Rabbi Jason Weiner, director of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s Spiritual Care Department; Rabbi Rochelle Robins, vice president and dean of the chaplaincy school at the Academy of Jewish Religion, California; Joel Kushner, director of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Kalsman Institute on Judaism and Health; and Rabbi H. Rafael Goldstein, executive director of Neshama. 9 a.m.­–5 p.m. $36, includes kosher lunch. RSVP mandatory. Academy for Jewish Religion, California, 574 Hilgard Ave., Los Angeles. (213) 884-4133.


Saskia Keeley

“Love Thy Neighbor”
Four art exhibitions seek to raise awareness and inspire hope in “Love Thy Neighbor, the Refugee Experience.” Photojournalist Saskia Keeley brings together Orthodox Israeli women and Palestinian women for photo workshops in “Roots Non-Violence,” Jean Edelstein blends the sacred with crisis scenes in “Disaster Series,” IsraAID shows on-the-ground photographs of Syria’s civil war in “Stories of Courage and Resilience,” and artist Betty Green’s “Earth Rhythms” examines patterns in nature and the energy connecting all living forms. Exhibition opening 7–9 p.m. Through Dec. 20. Gallery hours 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Monday–Friday. Opening is free. Hillel at UCLA, 574 Hilgard Ave., Los Angeles. (310) 208-3081.

Jews of China 
At a lunch-and-learn program, professor Xu Xin traces Jewish history in China from the 9th century to today’s Chinese Jews. Xin is the Diane and Guilford Glazer chair professor a Nanjing University, director of the Glazer Institute for Jewish and Israel Studies at Nanjing University, and president of the Chinese National Institute of Jewish Studies. American Jewish University President Jeffrey Herbst provides introductory remarks. Noon. $10. American Jewish University Familian Campus, Berg Dining Hall, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. (310) 440-1572.  

A Night for Singles
Seeking fresh paths for meeting your bashert? Try your luck at “Game Night & Mixer for Young Jewish Professionals.” Mingle with singles in their 30s and 40s, the evening promises an opportunity to meet new people in a relaxed environment. Tickets sold in advance only. Space is limited. 7:30–9:30 p.m. $20 plus a one-drink minimum. The Phoenix, 8480 W. Third St. (844) 454-7354.

I’m a Teenager Who Craves Conversation

Photo from Pinterest

Before Americans became divided, people turned to advice columns or blog posts for conversation starters. These days, people seem to be looking for conversation stoppers. Expressions such as “bias” and “offense” infiltrate our conversations as vague statements that serve to dissuade discourse.

At a summer program on international relations, I asked a Lebanese participant about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I was caught off guard when he told me that my argument was shaped by “media bias.”

The conversation shifted away from what was going on in the region and into an argument about whether Western media favors Israel. He used millennials’ hyperawareness of “media bias” to evade uncomfortable dialogue.

He continued arguing that Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians and others, including “his people.” He also called the conflict a “tragedy of white supremacy.” 

White supremacy? That’s a real conversation stopper. King Leopold of Belgium was seen as an example of white supremacy during the “Scramble for Africa.” He monopolized the Congo and ordered his men to tie natives to trees and slash them so that they bled to death in front of their children. Recently, violent white nationalists protesting in Charlottesville, Va., displayed a horrid modern-day example of white supremacy. 

But a democracy trying to survive in a region surrounded by oppressive governments? I don’t think so. 

Nuance hardly seems to matter anymore. Instead, it is OK to trivialize terms with profound significance if it means halting uncomfortable dialogue. 

One example is the misuse of words such as “misogynist” and “sexist.” Sexism describes discrimination based on gender. Misogyny is contempt for women, and the attempt to prevent them from succeeding in roles traditionally attributed to men. 

Journal columnist Karen Lehrman Bloch addressed this issue in her Aug. 17 column, “Dear Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.” In response to Ben Shapiro’s request for a debate, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “Just like catcalling, I don’t owe a response to unsolicited requests from men with bad intentions.”

Bloch wrote, “You and your millennial cohort were never taught real feminism. … You were taught to see anything you don’t like as sexist.”

I see no similarity between a man calling after my friends and me and a political pundit seeking to hear ideas from all parts of the political spectrum. Shapiro complimented her as the “future of the Democratic Party.” A man giving credit to a female minority candidate and suggesting a debate is not the same thing as a man hollering objectifying catcalls at women. 

Clearly, Ocasio-Cortez has ideological disagreements with Shapiro. But rather than expressing those disagreements, she halted the conversation by accusing him of sexist catcalling.

As a feminist, I am humiliated on behalf of the feminist movement. We were given the opportunity to engage and be heard by those with different views. Our response? The distorted use of the word “sexist” that exploits its validity. 

Here’s a potential conversation stopper: If a man says something to me such as, “Don’t wear that, you’ll distract boys,” I could raise my voice and call him sexist. If I want him to understand why I should be able to dress how I want without comment, I would formulate sentences in a calm manner and express my views. 

I adore my generation. Some of the most passionate people I’ve met are teens fighting for causes they believe in. I hope our interest in global politics emboldens us to seek a deeper understanding of what we argue. I hope we avoid using ambiguous terms as arguments. If we want to articulate our opinions, I hope we will learn to justify the narratives we use and modify our approach to create productive discourse.

Our beliefs and views should be used as conversation starters, not conversation stoppers.

Charlotte Kramon was a Jewish Journal intern this past summer.

Sukkot’s Blueprint for a New Home

At this moment, I can see the sky through the holes in my roof.

That’s not because I’m celebrating the holiday of Sukkot early. It’s because for several years, our roof has been leaking, and we’re now having it replaced. Lacking a roof makes you feel vulnerable. It makes you feel as though the elements are suddenly a part of your life that they simply weren’t before. It makes you worry every time the skies grow cloudy and it annoys you every time the weather gets too hot.

Lacking a roof makes you unhappy.

By contrast, the holiday of Sukkot is always a joyous time. It’s particularly joyous with children, as I’m now learning: their wonder at the beauty of the sukkah, their happiness in decorating it, their excitement at running out each meal to dine in it. What makes the sukkah so special, in contrast to your house lacking proper covering?

It’s the feeling that the impermanence is temporary. Soon enough, you’ll be able to go back in your house and live under a roof again. You’ll be able to feel the stability and protection of living in a home. Were Sukkot indefinitely long, it would be a difficult holiday.

That’s the message of Sukkot. Our world is the sukkah; our home is the broader sphere of the spiritual realm. In our sukkah, we rely on God to ensure that we’re not subject to the elements — we can protect ourselves to the best of our ability, but we’re never going to be able to avoid the vicissitudes and difficulties of life. But our lives are a mere moment in time, a time filled with great pleasure and great pain. Before and after our lives lies a fundamentally different eternity: solid and permanent, predictable and understandable. That is the promise of Sukkot.

What does this say about our politics? Something similar.

“We’re living in a political sukkah. But it doesn’t have to be that way — if we understand the lesson of the sukkah.”

It’s difficult not to be depressed watching our politics. Every day seems to bring some new storm of divisive nonsense: allegations dressed up as facts, opinions dressed up as facts, rage dressed up as facts. Every new day brings spin and anger, countered by more spin and more anger. Outrage follows outrage. It feels as though the cycle will never stop.

It will. We’re living in a political sukkah. But it doesn’t have to be that way — if we understand the lesson of the sukkah.

The reason the sukkah is only temporary is because we earn our way out of it. The Jews wandered the desert for 40 years living in booths because they refused to trust in God and live by His values. They would not believe that a more permanent state of affairs could be in the offing; they rejected the Land of Israel, believing themselves incapable of conquering it. And so God led them back into the wilderness. 

We must believe that a more permanent state of affairs is possible, but to earn our way back to that state of affairs, we have to be true to Godly values. Those values include a belief in telling the truth, no matter the consequences; valuing and having compassion for other human beings, even while fighting against sin; and recognizing that we are incapable of shaping reality to our whim. If we do that, we’ll build a new roof for ourselves, with God’s blessing. We’ll live together in the home we’ve built with one another. Impermanence will give way to permanence, uncertainty to certainty. 

With that promise, let us sit together on Sukkot and plan a more permanent home: a home where we share a common set of values and fight for the same goals. Then we can learn to enjoy the journey, even as we long for the destination.

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

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


‘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.


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


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


‘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.”