January 15, 2019

Jews, Is Trump Responsible for Thousand Oaks Too?

Demonstrators at Chicago’s O’Hare airport protesting Donald Trump’s executive order on Jan. 29. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

(Looking at the outcome of a JStreet survey of Jewish voters)

 

I am not much impressed by the fact that J Street – the leftist Jewish lobby – endorsed so many candidates who made it into Congress. Supporting “128 winning candidates” is not that difficult when one knows well in advance that a Democratic victory is to be expected. However, I am impressed by something else: that so many Democratic candidates embrace the support of J Street. Ten years ago, some of them would hesitate, fearing to be tagged as not-pro-Israel-enough. That they no longer hesitate means that A. J Street succeeded in legitimizing its politics and B. that the Democratic Party is indeed changing its tune on Israel (in my view, not for the better).

Following the midterm election, J Street released its midterm survey of Jewish voters, a commendable exercise conducted after every election. This is a useful tool for understanding Jewish sentiments and political tendencies. Crosstabs are also available for everybody to look at.

The two main headlines produced by this survey were essentially:

Most Jews voted Democratic. No big deal.

Most Jews partially blame Trump for Pittsburgh. A very big deal.

 

A.

 

The wording of the question sets a premise: “How much do you think Donald Trump’s comments and policies are responsible for the recent shooting that took place at the synagogue in Pittsburgh?” So – the question hints that there is responsibility that needs to be measured. Still, respondents could choose “not at all responsible” – and only 16% of them did. They could choose “not really responsible” and only 12% of them did. 72% picked “somewhat” (33%) or “very” (39%) responsible.

The implications of such assessments are profound. Most Jews in America believe that their president is partially responsible for the massacre of Jews in a synagogue. In my weekly print-edition article I explain what this means for Israel-Diaspora relations:

“American Jews feel that Israel is willing to throw them under the bus of anti-Semitism in exchange for the temporary political support of a bigoted president. Israeli Jews feel that American Jews are utilizing a tragedy for political purposes and thus alienating Israel’s strongest supporters in the United States.”

With 72% of US Jews thinking Trump has responsibility for Pittsburgh – with a majority of Israelis considering Trump a true friend – no wonder that we look at each other with horror.

 

B.

 

I wonder what would happen had we asked Jews a similar question about this week’s shooting:

“How much do you think Donald Trump’s comments and policies are responsible for the recent shooting that took place at the bar in Thousand Oaks?”

And then let’s try this one:

“How much do you think Donald Trump’s comments and policies are responsible for the recent shooting that took place in a San Bernardino Christmas Party?”

Oh, he was not yet president at the time of San Bernardino? Sorry, erase that question.

 

C.

 

Amid the recurrent talk about a present danger of distancing, it is worth looking at the J Street question about emotional attachment to Israel for Jewish voters. So as not to stay in the dark, I decided to compare J Street 2018 to the Pew survey of Jews from 2013. The question is the same, the answer is, well, almost the same. And just to make sure you understand what we see here: there is no sign of significant decline in the emotional attachment of US Jews to Israel.

 

 

Want more of this good news? J Street inserted the following question to the survey: “Compared to 5-10 years ago, do you feel more positive, more negative, or about the same toward Israel?” The answer, all in all, is encouraging. There are more Jews who feel more positive about Israel, than Jews who feel more negative about Israel. And this is not me saying. It is J Street, for which the argument of distancing is a frequently used tool.

 


D.

 

The survey has many questions about the two-state solution – J Street’s raison-d’etre. The bottom line: US Jews support this solution. So why do I choose not to elaborate on these many questions? Two reasons. One, because there is nothing new, or counterintuitive to report. Two, because the proposed “solution” is currently unavailable and hence it does not much matter if US Jews do or do not support it.

Take just this one example. In the J Street survey, the premise for future agreement is that “the Palestinians recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, and Israel recognizes the Palestinian state as the nation-state of the Palestinian people”. Is there a Palestinian leader that’s willing to recognize Israel “as the nation-state of the Jewish people?” The answer is no. Not one with which Israel can negotiate. So, the premise is false, and hence the result insignificant (23% strongly support, 54% somewhat support).

E.

 

US Jews also support the nuclear deal with Iran (71% in this survey). They oppose settlements. They oppose Israel’s Orthodox domination. We know all of this.

But apropos Orthodox domination: It is quite striking to see that appreciation of US Jews for PM Netanyahu – the man who cancelled the Western Wall deal – is almost identical among Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews (53% and 48%). Appreciation of the Israeli PM has to do much more with political affiliation (Clinton voters vs. Trump voters) than with religious affiliation (Reform vs. Orthodox). The only religiously-defined group that stands out in its unappreciation of Netanyahu is the unaffiliated.

 

F.

 

The unaffiliated are also the least attached to Israel. So disliking Netanyahu goes hand in hand with not feeling much towards Israel, which goes hand in hand with not having connection with Jewish life.

Still, a notable difference in strong attachment to Israel (very attached) can be found when we look at Reform vs. Orthodox Jews (33%-52%) and synagogue attendance or lack of it (59%-20%).

In the next J Street survey, it’d be interesting to analyze how J Street supporters fall into these categories.

 

G.

Health care and gun violence were the top issues for Jews as they headed to the polls. The Jews voted as they usually do, only a little more so. In a GOP wave in 2010, less Jews voted Democratic, in a Democratic wave in 2018, more Jews voted Democratic.

 

 

And if you want to know why Jews were more Democratic this time, don’t look to the most progressive group. They voted Democratic when the country turned rightward and voted Democratic again this time. It is the more conservative Jews – Conservatives and Orthodox – who changed their vote this time and moved to the left.

 

 

H.

 

My understanding of the Orthodox vote in this election? In presidential elections, Israel is more at the forefront – and Trump will benefit due to his favorable-to-Israel policies. In midterm elections, domestic issues (and maybe the echo of Pittsburgh) take precedent, and hence more Orthodox voters decided to go with the Democratic Party.

 

Cox Seeks Upset Win for Governor on Nov. 6

John Cox

During a recent appearance at Valley Beth Shalom (VBS) in Encino ahead of the Nov. 6 election, Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox was aspirational about California’s future while expressing his affinity for the policies of President Donald Trump. 

“There’s the California that we have and the California we ought to have,” Cox said on Aug. 21 at VBS. “What President Trump has done for the country, we need do that right here in California.”

Cox, 63, a Republican businessman whose endorsement by Trump this past summer helped him finish in second place in the June primary behind his Democratic challenger, outgoing Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, is hoping to achieve an upset against the favored Newsom and succeed termed-out Governor Jerry Brown.

Addressing an overflow crowd in the VBS sanctuary, Cox framed the choice between himself and Newsom as a choice between “change and the status quo.” 

He expressed opposition to the California gas tax and his support for Proposition 6 on the statewide ballot, which, if passed, would repeal new taxes on gas and diesel fuel imposed by lawmakers.

“California spends twice what Texas does to build a mile of road — let that sink in for a second,” Cox said. “Yet, instead of reforming Caltrans and building roads efficiently, they decided to stick their hand in our pocket and raise the gas tax, a regressive tax that hurts the working poor, that hurts the working people who need the help the most.

“We are going to repeal that gas tax, everybody,” he said.

Discussing the lack of affordable housing in California, Cox said the best way to tackle the crisis is to build. 

“We are also going to build houses. We are under-housed in this state by 3 million homes. We are going to build homes. But you know what we are going to do? We are going to build truly affordable housing,” he said. “My opponent wants to float more bonds and hand out more subsidies, basically institutionalizing high-cost housing.”

Taking the opportunity to tell the gathering about himself, Cox said his mother was a public school teacher in Chicago. She was Jewish, though he was not raised Jewish, and instilled in him the importance of helping others.

“She always talked to me about the spirit of public service because the essence of our lives here on earth is to help other people, and my mom lived it,” he said. “She raised me to care about what happens in our community.

“Her experiences there [in a public school in the south side of Chicago] really seared in me a desire to do something about political corruption because she had to deal with the worst high school principals she could ever imagine,” he added. “You know why? Because they were chosen mainly because they were friends of the [politicians].”

“I’m not a celebrity. I’m not a career politician like my opponent. I’m a working guy, like all of you.” — John Cox

Cox grew up a “liberal Democrat,” he said, imitating President John F. Kennedy’s famous words, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”  

However, with what he saw as the leftward shift of the Democratic Party, he grew disillusioned with the Democrats — as he suggested Kennedy would have been if alive today. “He’d be a Conservative Republican today, by the way,” Cox said.

While Cox has no political experience, he turned that into a selling point. 

“I’m not a celebrity. I’m not a career politician like my opponent,” he said. “I’m a working guy, like all of you.”

Echoing Trump’s position on immigration, he called for an “end to the sanctuary state.” 

“We need to secure our border,” he said. “This should not be controversial. The first role of government is to protect the people of their state.” 

The Jewish Republican Alliance organized Cox’s appearance at VBS, with the group’s co-founders Bruce Karasik and Mitch Silberman, and Republican Townhall.com columnist Bruce Bialosky welcoming Cox to the bimah. 

Dressed in suit and tie, with an energetic demeanor, Cox called for a return of California’s former glory, when the state was a leader in business, education, affordability and quality of life.

“California had the best business climate, the best education, the best job opportunities the best roads, the best schools, plentiful water, wonderfully affordable gas and electricity, all the wonderful qualities of life you want to have. What do we have now? We lead the nation in poverty—that is sad, isn’t it, ladies and gentleman? The golden state leads the nation in poverty,” he said.

“You know, ladies and gentleman, let me tell you it doesn’t have to be this way,” he said. “This is going to be a pivotal year. We are going to turn around this state. Help is on the way.”

This report of Cox’s appearance at Valley Beth Shalom was based on a YouTube video posted after the event by the Jewish Republican Alliance. 

Jews, Blinded by Trump

The midterms are coming, and I’m worried about the state of mind of American Jews. 

Not because most of them are going to vote for Democratic candidates, as a survey from last week revealed. That’s to be expected. 

Not because most will vote for Democrats even though Israelis would prefer Republicans to retain control of Congress. There is nothing new in this divide of preferences. 

It’s also not a surprise — and doesn’t much worry me — that most disapprove of President Donald Trump. 

And it’s not a surprise that although pro-Israel, many are critical of some (35 percent) or many (24 percent) of its policies. Join the club: Israelis, too, are critical of some of many of Israel’s policies, while still voting for the same government for quite some time (as to why, read David Suissa’s column “Why Are Israeli Voters So Stubborn?” (Oct. 5). 

No, I’m worried about one question in the survey that was published by the Mellman Group. It is a tricky question to analyze, as it refers to two separate issues: Trump is No. 1, Jerusalem is No. 2. 

“Large Majorities Disapprove of Trump’s Handling of Nearly Every Issue,” declares the summary of the findings. Indeed, the only issue that a majority of American Jews are satisfied with is the handling of U.S.-Israel relations. That’s important because it indicates at least some American Jews retain a grain of common sense even in these highly charged days of partisan politics. How many is “some”? A little more than a half approve of Trump’s handling of the relations: 51 percent. What does the other (almost) half want him to do? What must Trump do to satisfy the discontented half? 

“There is no shame in being honest about your preferences. Israel wants a supportive U.S. president; Trump, thus far, has provided it with one.”

Whatever the answer, the other question I have clearly shows that common sense is out of fashion. It’s the question about Trump’s handling of relocating the American Embassy to Jerusalem. A clear majority of American Jews disapprove of this decision. Does the majority disapprove because it generally disapproves of everything Trump does (except by a scant majority, his handling of U.S.-Israel relations)? Does it disapprove of it because of how Trump made this move specifically? Had he made it in some other fashion, would the majority have approved? Does the majority disapprove of it because it has no desire to see an American Embassy in Jerusalem — or maybe only if and when the Palestinians would agree to such a move (which might be never)?

There are two basic possibilities: Either American Jews don’t understand the significance of the American Embassy’s move to Jerusalem or they are so disenchanted by Trump that even the embassy’s relocation wouldn’t make them squeeze out a compliment about him. Either way, I’m worried. It’s not good for the Jewish people if Jews no longer wish for the main empire of the era to have its embassy in the capital of the Jewish people. It’s also not good for the Jewish people if Jews can no longer see beyond partisan politics. 

In all seriousness, such a response to a simple question about a no-brainer issue is certain to puzzle a vast majority of Jewish Israelis. Among them, more than two-thirds supported the embassy’s move. All its political parties supported it, except for the Arab Party and the small party of the (small) left, Meretz. Their appreciation is shown by the polls proving that Israel is one of few countries to have a positive view of Trump.

Ha, you’d say: Israelis have a positive view of Trump. Shame on them. But no. There is no shame in being honest about your preferences. Israel wants a supportive U.S. president; Trump, thus far, has provided it with one. There is no shame in showing gratitude to a benefactor. 

There is a little shame in blind partisanship, and a little shame in blind disregard for positive action, and a little shame in opposing what Jews have dreamed of for so long. There is shame —  and thus, there’s worry.  

Who Owns the Truth?

There is something rotten in America. We all feel it in our bones. There is a deep sense of unease. A disturbing sense of anxiety. A gnawing feeling that something is desperately wrong. But we can’t quite put our finger on it. We think it’s the deep partisanship that has gripped our nation and the abominable hatred between left and right.

But these are merely symptoms of a much more serious disease.

First, we Americans bore witness to the death of decency, as public political life became about both parties bludgeoning each other with embarrassing insults and degrading put-downs.

But what has died in America is truth itself. Not, as some writers have argued, because President Donald Trump believes in “alternative facts” or because the Democrats hate him so much that they will never give him his due. No, the death of truth has come about because we have forgotten that no one party or individual ever owns the truth.

Truth is not monolithic but complex. It is not singular but multifaceted. It is not masculine or feminine but it is created through the synergy of both. Truth is comprised of right and left joining together and enriching one another to create a higher, more colorful whole.

China has no truth because it is controlled by one party who makes it up. Russia has no truth because it is determined by the whims of a dictator’s daily distortions. But America has truth because it has two parties representing differing views which — even when they disagree — coalesce into the vibrant harmony of democracy. I am shocked that we have reached the stage where we wish the other party would simply disappear.

Jews have known this verity — that no one party or person has the absolute truth and that truth is comprised of different pieces that cohere — better than any nation on earth, which is why we have never been a proselytizing faith. We have always known that Judaism is a truth, but not the truth.

We have never sought to impose our views upon the rest of the world, save one: The belief that God created every human equally in His image and, therefore, every human’s input and viewpoint matters. Jews hate totalitarianism because it imposes one viewpoint on all mankind. Find a dictator — from the extreme right, like Hitler, or the extreme left, like Stalin — and you will see that they identified the Jews as their foremost enemies.

We Jews know, as Maimonides said 900 years ago, that while we categorically reject Jesus as the Messiah, we accept that his followers have brought the knowledge of God and the Bible to people around the world; and that while we reject the prophecy of Muhammad we embrace Islam’s emphasis on the one true God. We do not seek to have Christians or Muslims become Jewish but rather to practice their own faiths peacefully and harmoniously.

Perhaps the greatest proof of modern American soullessness is the right’s and left’s insistence that they alone have the truth and their wish that the other side would be swallowed by the earth like Korach. That there is nothing to be gained by political opposition. That conservatives are brain-dead, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals and that liberals are smug, arrogant, out-of-touch elitists.

Underlying the conflict in America is something much more profound and of far greater consequence than political partisanship. America is facing a crisis of barren intellectual complexity and a void of spiritual depth.

“In our partisanship we fail to see the humanity in one another. In our self-absorption we fail to see the blessing of otherness. And in our hatred for views that differ from our own, we are becoming intellectually impoverished and emotionally warped.”

In our partisanship, we fail to see the humanity in one another. In our self-absorption, we fail to see the blessing of otherness. And in our hatred for views that differ from our own, we are becoming intellectually impoverished and emotionally warped. Our anger and our need to demonize one another betrays a stunning lack of vision. We can no longer see God’s countenance in a Republican or the spark of God in a Democrat. What we see instead is a demon.

Is this the America that Democrats and Republicans wish to inhabit? Will we be uplifted by the blessings of the world’s greatest economy or corrupted with a feeling that 50 percent of America is superfluous?

I will not take sides on the Brett Kavanaugh battle, not only because he has been confirmed and the matter decided, but because it would immediately put me into a box where I would lose half my readership when my essential message of American unity is critical to both right and left. Republicans see a good man wrongfully accused without evidence. Democrats see someone accused of sexual assault who displayed behavior unbecoming a federal judge elevated to the nation’s highest court.

But one side’s need to demonize the other is an affront to decency and ethics. To understand just how far we’ve taken our political differences, one need only scan the titles of the op-eds being written in America’s most prestigious news publications. Editorials covering the affair seemed to show little interest in offering a cool-headed, holistic take on the topic, opting instead to breathe fire into the minds of their readers. The New York Times ran columns calling Kavanaugh’s confirmation “A Complete National Disgrace,” along with another asserting that “The Jocks Will Inherit the Earth.” Another column was given the all-too telling headline: “Liberals, This Is War.” The commentator who wrote that piece summed up Kavanaugh’s confirmation with the simple, if not a bit hyperbolic, instruction to readers to “rend your garments.”

“America has truth because it has two parties representing differing views which — even when they disagree — coalesce into the vibrant harmony of democracy. I am shocked that we have reached the stage where we wish the other party would simply disappear.”

When Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, my friend of 25 years and now my senator from New Jersey, called Kavanaugh evil and said that it did not much matter whether he was innocent or guilty, he was not trampling on due process or the presumption of innocence alone. Rather, he was trespassing on his own stellar resume as a Stanford — and Yale-educated Rhodes scholar (who served as my student president at Oxford University), and on the Torah we’ve studied together and love.

For surely it is a man’s innocence or guilt that will determine his righteousness before God and fellow man.

Conversely, those Republicans who could not hear the aggrieved dignity and sense of violated humanity in Christine Blasey Ford’s soul-searing and heart-wrenching testimony have allowed partisanship to stifle their souls.

And how do the two co-exist? How could Kavanaugh and Ford both be telling the truth when one had to be wrong? How can we embrace competing narratives that contradict? How can antagonistic stories cohere?

Sometimes we frail and mortal human beings must admit, we just don’t know. Unlike God, we are not all-knowing. Unlike our Creator, we are not all-seeing. We just don’t know. And at such times we must fall back on the rules, law, and customs — some God-given, others mandated by the framers of our Constitution — that govern our democracy and move forward. And, for the love of God, stop abusing and hating each other.

Some readers may remember that I ran for Congress in 2012. I loved campaigning and meeting people of different ethnicities and faiths. I loved the heated debates with my opponent. And I wished that I had won. If you were to ask me, what was the most pivotal part of the campaign, it was, ironically, the night I lost. I remember how glorious it was to surrender to the majesty of the democratic system. I was living in a country that decided results by the will of the people. I had been allowed to passionately express my opinions. But when the people chose a different candidate, I felt not dejected but liberated. My God, my God, America the beautiful. A country that trusts its people enough to be able to govern themselves.

For 11 years I lived in the United Kingdom, and this November will mark 30 years since the Lubavitcher Rebbe sent me to serve as Rabbi to the students at Oxford University.

When I first arrived I knew I would have many challenges, but I never expected that one of the greatest would be bringing together liberal and conservative political views. Oxford, like most bastions of academia, was very liberal. But there were many conservative students. How would I bridge the divide between people that were rent asunder by the politics of left and right?

This was especially acute in light of the fact that a lot of the liberal students felt that Orthodox Judaism was too conservative in many areas, like the public position of women in a synagogue or the fact that women couldn’t be rabbis. Then there was Israel, where there was a deep divide between those on the left who believed that Israel should trade land for peace and those on the right who believed the left’s position showed irreversible weakness and invited further aggression.

So, I searched for an understanding and a metaphor that would capture the idea of the need for two opposing, even conflicting, perspectives in our search for a higher unity. How we all had to go beyond tolerance. Not just stomaching one another’s differences on some humanitarian or First Amendment basis, but understanding that we can be who we are only by including those who have opposing views.

I listened to Rev. Jesse Jackson’s eloquent Rainbow Coalition speech — delivered at the 1984 Democratic Convention — in which he famously coined the metaphor of America being a land of many colors that hew into one spectrum. But, that wasn’t good enough, since it didn’t explain why orange needed purple in order to be orange.

Then, I saw how David Dinkins, the former mayor of New York, used the example of an American quilt, which couldn’t be called such without the varying patchwork of different threads and fabrics. But that too fell short. Why, we might ask, do we need a multi-colored quilt, and not a simple uniform blanket?

It was then that I alighted on the brilliant metaphor of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the Alter Rebbe, founder of Chabad, in his Chassidic masterpiece, “Tanya.” There, he uses the metaphor of the two wings of a bird.

It’s not enough for the bird to have two wings. For if the wings were on the same side of its body, it would just flop around endlessly and never fly. The emphasis is not on the number of wings, but on their placement. They have to be positioned on opposite sides and against each other. There has to be antithetical propulsion. In other words, you can’t be right-wing without a left-wing, nor left-wing without the right-wing. Two sides pushing against each other is what gives the bird flight.

America today is guilty of believing in tolerance — that you have to endure someone else’s opinion because it is their human right to express it. And what’s happening is, because we believe in tolerance, we now are becoming intolerant since we believe the other side is damaging democracy. If we believe in the other side only for the sake of democracy, then when we believe the other side threatens democracy, we will seek to silence it. That’s why we see these large gatherings trying to silence members of Congress, or right-wing bloggers calling liberals “devils.” We have to go beyond tolerance to actually understand that truth is comprised of different parts that cohere, even when they conflict.

We have to go beyond tolerance to actually understand that truth is comprised of different parts — that I cannot hold my position or be complete in my viewpoint unless there is someone who pushes up against the bulwark of my understanding and challenges me.

Isn’t this the idea of marriage? In last week’s Torah reading, God creates Eve to serve as Adam’s “helpmate who is against him.” It is a fascinating phrase. Eve is not meant to be Adam’s doppelganger. She is not meant to be subservient. Being so is said to be cursed. Rather, she is his equal who sometimes works together with him and sometimes opposes him — even when doing so is always as his helpmate.

Which is more correct, being a man or being a woman? It’s a stupid question, isn’t it, predicated on the fraudulent belief that one is complete without the other.

And this does not apply only to marriage but to the entirety of the masculine and feminine energies in our world, competing dualities that ultimately cohere. They are essential for one another, one balances the other, softens the other. A man does not tolerate a woman, nor a woman a man. Rather, they look forward to joining together with each other to create a greater whole, all in the belief that each side has its virtues and through togetherness they are enriched.

“It’s not enough for the bird to have two wings… The emphasis is not on the number of wings, but on their placement. They have to be placed on opposite sides and against each other.”

The pain we are now witnessing in the explosion of the #MeToo movement was created, ultimately, by the practice of the masculine having insufficient appreciation for, or respect toward, the feminine; the masculine seeing the feminine not as something equal to be acknowledged but as something less — to be used, exploited, and objectified, as opposed to respected, admired, and appreciated.

In the realm of politics, liberals’ demonization of conservatives and vice versa comes from the fake belief that one is superfluous, even damaging, to democracy. Conservatives might be right that when it comes to immigration, in an age of terrorism we need to be a bit more circumspect, due to potential infiltration by terrorists, as we saw tragically in San Bernardino and across the European continent. But if they didn’t have the voice of liberals saying that America must always be open to asylum-seekers and refugees, is it not possible that America might cease to be the “land of the free and the home of brave”?

Conversely, if Democrats were to practice the policies that were embraced by Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel — a complete open-door policy that lets anybody in — it might lead to the backlash against immigration that is shoring up the extreme right in Europe. Both voices are necessary to have balance. (And this is aside from the fact that Merkel’s policy, which is in response to the Holocaust, is ironically now backfiring against German Jews who are now experiencing a rising wave of anti-Semitic attacks. Still, being a sanctuary to refugees is vital to a nation’s values and balance is what is key.)

For an appreciation of the other side to happen, you need each side to appreciate not only that the other must be tolerant, but that truth comes not in one form, but broken into parts. Truth is not a singularity but is rather multifaceted and complex.

Democrats are convinced that they have the whole truth and that there’s nothing to learn from Republicans. Republicans feel the same way about Democrats. Each condemns and demonizes the other, holding on to their ultimate copyright to truth.

I don’t accept the doomsayers who believe there might be a second American civil war, God forbid.

I do believe, however, that if there were a plebiscite today where Democrats and Republicans could agree to divide the country, and we could somehow peacefully rid ourselves of political rivals, most people would vote in the affirmative.

In a similar vein, we’re seeing the balkanization of media, where CNN, MSNBC and Fox News viewers wouldn’t dare to cross sides, each believing that the other lacks even a modicum of truth. Sure, they’ll tolerate one another being on the air. There won’t be calls for a ban. But, how often will someone of one viewpoint watch a rival station for any other reason than to be fired up with anger, even hate?

This week’s Torah reading is about Parshas Noach and the destiny of the world.

God says that every species lends itself to a more complete whole. God doesn’t just choose the larger, more robust animals in Noah’s time. He says that they must all come along in the ark, for each and every one of them is, in its own way, essential.

The same is true of why Moses was chosen to lead the Jewish people. The midrash relates that he was a shepherd who took his flock out to pasture. A small sheep went missing. Moses would not return without finding the little critter. Not because he believed in the individual sheep, but because the flock would have been imperfect without it.

The Bible says that every man and woman is a tree in the field. It’s a telling metaphor. A tree is rooted in its own soil but grows out and helps oxygenate the air. It represents the individual who is passionate about their culture and identity, but is not limited by it, participating instead in a wider multi-ethnic society. Together, these healthy individuals comprise a colorful orchard, each contributing its own shade. The orchard is a garden of all different plants, flowers, shrubs and trees. Each plant draws upon its own root, but comprises an essential part of a larger garden.

There’s nothing wrong with political parties. George Washington, for all his greatness, was wrong when he counseled against them. We don’t want to live in a one- party state. There is, rather, a problem with partisanship and the hatred and demonization of the other that comprises modern-day America.

“I don’t expect the political differences between us Americans to disappear overnight. I am realistic about the depth of the chasm. I do wish, however, that we wake up to how bad it has gotten and begin discussing remedies.”

To be sure, not everything fits into the garden and not everything would be accepted in Noah’s Ark. If there is a predator that wants to devour, then you fence it out of the garden. You leave it off the ship. It has no positive contribution to make. If one seeks to discriminate against or silence another, they should be kept out.

In the same way that I am arguing that we must go beyond tolerance toward mutual enrichment, I also believe that we must have no tolerance for intolerance. There are some issues where it’s black and white. No one disputes that terrorism is black and white, or that Iranian threats against the Jewish state are evil, just as no one disputes that white supremacists and neo-Nazis are vile and wretched and must be condemned outright.

While I absolutely believe we must be enriched by the legitimate contribution of all who practice decency, I also believe that tolerating the intolerable is the liberalism of fools. And if stoning women to death and hanging gays from cranes is not evil, then the word has no meaning.

I don’t expect the political differences between us Americans to disappear overnight. I am realistic about the depth of the chasm. I do wish, however, that we wake up to how bad it has gotten and begin discussing remedies.

This week, synagogues across the world will recount the story of Noah. They will read of a man who watched his world crumble amid the corruption that had infected the hearts of its inhabitants. Rather than guide his brethren toward a kinder future, however, Noah chose instead to seal himself off behind the tar that girded his wooden ark. And with none to tell them better, humankind’s fate would also be sealed — not behind the walls of a boat but beneath the waves of an all-destroying flood.

The holy Zohar, the most fundamental book of Jewish mysticism, recounts how God, upon the completion of the rains, sharply chastises Noah for his unwillingness to better his contemporaries. “As soon as you heard that you would be safe in the ark,” God tells Noah, “the evil of the world did not touch your heart. You built the ark and saved only yourself.”

As we read this story, we ought to take from it this vital lesson: As bad as things may be, we cannot just seclude ourselves within our own temperate and peaceful homes. Rather, we must raise our own voices, not to divide but to unite, not to assail but to heal, highlighting not our political differences but our shared American dreams and our shared human truths.

This is our country. It is the greatest country. We must act now to heal our beloved home and finally draw its warring factions together as one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.


Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the founder of The World Values Network. His latest book is “Lust for Love,” co-authored with Pamela Anderson. He is on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

The untold story of DACA’s Israeli recipients

Picture in your mind a “Dreamer,” an immigrant brought to the United States as a child and now living without documentation in this country. Chances are you’re not picturing an Israeli. But here in Los Angeles, young undocumented Jews from Israel are among those facing the looming threat of deportation.

President Donald Trump’s administration recently rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, with a six-month delay to provide time for Congress to plan a path for DACA recipients to gain permanent legal status. Whether that pronouncement sticks remains unclear. 

After a meeting with Democratic leaders and a swirl of messages out of the White House, some of them contradictory, Trump said on Sept. 14 he supports legislation to protect the Dreamers, and further consideration of a wall on the southern border would be done separately.

The policy was created during President Barack Obama’s administration in 2012 as a temporary reprieve to shield young undocumented immigrants from deportation. Trump’s Sept. 5 announcement has been roundly criticized by Democrats, many Republicans and Conservative, Reform and unaffiliated Jewish organizations.

There are an estimated 800,000 DACA recipients, the vast majority of them Latino, with 79 percent coming from Mexico. More than a quarter of the total live in California. At a Sept. 10 rally, hundreds of pro-immigration demonstrators gathered in Los Angeles’ MacArthur Park, many holding signs written in Spanish and waving Mexican flags.

Israel isn’t among the two dozen countries where most DACA recipients originate. But for various reasons — often having to do with fraudulent legal advice given to their parents — these young Jews are caught in a legal limbo, unable to receive federal student aid or travel outside the country.

While their status is identical to that of other Dreamers, they are different in subtle ways, as their individual stories suggest. For example, because the number of Latinos facing deportation is so much larger, they tend to feel more comfortable sharing their concerns and anxieties with one another.

Not so for Jewish Dreamers. For many, their status is an embarrassing stigma, something they would just as soon hide from even their closest friends. 

On the other hand, because Jews are often lighter-skinned than Latinos, they tend not to be subjected to the stares and derision from citizens who support the administration’s decision to eliminate DACA protections.

Furthermore, Jewish Dreamers tend to be better off financially than those from other countries, a distinction that provides securities — even if temporary — that others might not have.

In the end, however, all Dreamers are equal in the eyes of a government policy that would remove them unless a change is forthcoming from a Congress that is deeply divided on immigration issues.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), one of more than a dozen Jewish House members, is among those who favor continuing protections for all Dreamers, including those from Israel.

“The history of the Jewish people is characterized by migration in search of safety and a better future, and I believe our own experience teaches us to empathize with the Dreamers, although relatively few are Jewish or came here from places like Israel,” he said in an email to the Journal. “The administration would treat these young people as unwanted guests in the only country they know. But I view Dreamers as part of the fabric of our nation and believe Congress must act to ensure these young people can continue to live and work in the United States without fear.”

Below are stories of a few undocumented Israeli immigrants. They agreed to share details of their lives with the Journal under the condition that their last names not be used, and in some cases, that their first names be changed to protect their identities. Although the specifics of their cases differ, they share a feeling of being Americans first and foremost, and face an uncertain future.

‘I don’t even remember what Israel looks like’

Bar, a 16-year-old high school junior in the San Fernando Valley, has known for her entire life that she was undocumented.

“It did suck not to be able to go to Israel and visit when all my friends would go,” she said. “All my family is in Israel.”

A resident of Sherman Oaks, her parents arrived on a tourist visa in 2001, when she was 6 months old. Their visas expired a year after they arrived.

“We were hoping we could fix everything before becoming illegal. We had other people giving us suggestions and it was wrong … bad advice, and we didn’t have the money at that point to fix it,” her father, Ron, said.

Ron ran a clothing factory in downtown Los Angeles and insisted on manufacturing in the U.S. but had to shutter the facility because of the high cost of labor.

“We’re paying all the debts that society is asking to pay, and we’re getting zero benefit out of it,” he said.

“I’m from L.A. This is where I’ve lived my whole life. I don’t even remember what Israel looks like.” — Bar

Undocumented immigrants pay taxes but can’t collect benefits. He now runs a printing and packaging company that outsources to Mexico and China.

Bar’s mother, Karen, works for a catering business, serving and cooking food for weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, and other big events.

Bar joined the DACA program late last year. Some of her friends know she’s undocumented and hope one day she’ll be able to join them on trips to Israel and Mexico. She took a driver education course and hopes to get a license soon but might need to apply for an AB 60 license, available for California residents regardless of immigration status, if her DACA status expires.

She’s been a member of the Tzofim movement (Israel’s scouts program) since seventh grade. Her younger sister and brother are scouts, too. They were born in the U.S. and are citizens.

Bar counsels younger kids in Tzofim. “They all tell me before summer starts, ‘We’re going to Israel,’ and I ask them how is that. Even the youngest kids tell me about their experiences in Israel and their family. I’m very excited to be able to go,” she said.

Bar works for a birthday party business where she paints little kids’ faces, dances with them and dresses up as characters from the popular Israeli children‘s show “Yuval Hamebulbal,” a dinosaur and a fire-fighting dog. After she graduates from high school, she expects to go to community college and transfer to a four-year university to study business and fashion design.

If the DACA program is canceled, putting her at risk of deportation, she said it would be “really, really upsetting.”

“I’m from L.A. This is where I’ve lived my whole life. I don’t even remember what Israel looks like,” she said.

‘This affects kids who are pretty much American in every way’

Eli grew up in Beverly Hills and describes himself as “a typical Persian-Jewish kid” in all ways but one: He’s in the country illegally. He was born in Tel Aviv and came here in 1991, when he was 8 years old. His parents overstayed their visa when their green card application was denied.

He earned a degree from UCLA, paying his tuition out of his own pocket, and hoped to go to law school but knew he wouldn’t be allowed to practice. He struggled for years with low-paying jobs.

“A soon as I got my DACA [status] in December 2013, three months later I got hired by a Fortune 500 company,” he said. “I knew I had the ability all along but I couldn’t prove it, because I didn’t have access to a real job.”

Now in his mid-30s, he owns his own business, offering “professional services” to corporate clients.

Outside of a small group of friends and his girlfriend, nobody knows about his status.

“I don’t want to jeopardize my business or do anything that can cause harm to that. In the Persian-Jewish community people talk, and I don’t want that information out,” he said.

Eli is a fitness enthusiast, spending hours a day at the gym training in Brazilian jiu jitsu. He considers himself a hard worker, a self-made entrepreneur, and can’t understand why people wouldn’t want him to be a citizen. After all, he said, he had no say in his parents’ decision to come to the U.S. and overstay their visa.

“You can’t blame somebody who didn’t commit the crime,” he said. “If you pull somebody over and their grandson is in the backseat, you don’t give the grandson in the backseat a ticket.”

He knows plenty of Iranian-American Jews who support Trump, and he doesn’t fault them for it.

“None of them go to KKK or neo-Nazi rallies or anti-immigration rallies. They’re pro-Trump mostly because of his pro-Israel stance, and they make good money and want tax breaks,” he said.

But he said he thinks a lot of them do have a racial bias.

“They look down on Mexican immigrants as low-skilled labor. They mow their lawn and garden their backyard and take care of their kids. … A lot of them probably think we should send them back to Mexico. They don’t understand this affects kids who are pretty much American in every way other than the fact that they don’t have their citizenship here, don’t have their green card.”

‘I’ll take my American education and I’ll go somewhere else’

Rebecca’s parents came to the U.S. when she was 12 years old. They planned to return to Israel after their B-2 tourist visa expired.

“When we got here, we started to feel like we wanted to stay here,” she said. They hired a lawyer who “ended up being a crook,” and their visa expired, she said.

Now 23, Rebecca has spent roughly half her life in the United States.

“My heart is in two different places. It’s hard every day to make the choice to be here. And it’s still a choice, despite all the inconveniences of being undocumented,” she said.

When she gained DACA status in 2012, “everything really changed.” The California Dream Act enabled her to receive state financial aid at UCLA, where she graduated with a double major in anthropology and Arabic.

While at UCLA, she participated in UndocuBruins, a research grant program for undocumented students and received funding to work with a South L.A. nonprofit that trains previously incarcerated people to work on urban farms in “food deserts.”

After she “decided that urban farming is really cool,” Rebecca completed a three-month fellowship at a Jewish community farm in Berkeley called Urban Adamah. Much like a kibbutz, the fellows live and farm together. This summer she worked as a garden educator at a Jewish summer camp in northern California and is now working with other UCLA grads at a startup nonprofit called COMPASS for Youth, which provides counseling for at-risk and homeless youth in Los Angeles.

Her undocumented status has inspired her to help others.

“I feel really blessed for that, because it’s opened my eyes and made me empathetic toward the stories of so many people that I wouldn’t have been able to empathize with beforehand,” she said.

“A lot of doors have been closed on me, and I had to push through a lot of doors. I got a lot of help [and] a lot of community support. … I’m grateful.”— Rebecca

While at UCLA, she was active at Hillel and in the Jewish community, but she had to navigate her place among the mostly Latino undocumented students and the feeling of guilt that accompanies a recognition of privilege.

“Ironically, my dad is also a construction worker, just like the dads of many of the undocumented folks that I know … [but] my dad’s been able to be more successful because he has resources, and he’s not Mexican, so he’s not looked at in a particular way. I look like a white person, so I don’t experience the sort of racist reality that comes with being undocumented in America.”

Rebecca’s mother is a self-published writer of poetry in Hebrew and English.

“A lot of [the poems] are about being away from home and being separated from her family. Her dad passed away while we were here, a few years into being here. So she wasn’t able to see him for the few last years of his life, and then not at his death, not at his funeral, and not now, many years later,” she said.

Rebecca was afraid of deportation, but becoming a DACA recipient “has given me breathing room,” she said. She’d rather move to Israel on her own terms than be deported, but hopes to stay here. She’s trying to make the world a better place in her own way.

“If America doesn’t want that, too bad,” she said. “I’ll take my American education and I’ll go somewhere else.”

Despite the fear that comes with being undocumented, “the immigrant experience is the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” she said.

“I was totally uprooted and I had to cope, and assimilated to something that was 100 percent foreign to me. And that was really hard,” she added. “A lot of doors have been closed on me, and I had to push through a lot of doors. I got a lot of help [and] a lot of community support. … I’m grateful.”

‘The dreams come true here’

In the heart of affluent Beverly Hills, 17-year-old Jason harbors a secret. His family came from Israel when he was 5, and someone posing as a lawyer botched their citizenship applications and disappeared. Their work permits expired, and now Jason, his parents, and his younger brother live in the shadows.

His friends don’t know. Neither did his girlfriend, whom he considered marrying in order to gain a path to legal status. His parents actually pressured him to propose even though he knew “she would freak out, like, big time” if she found out he was undocumented.

Jason became a DACA recipient in 2015.

“I had no idea what it was,” he said. In fact, until that point, his parents hadn’t told him or his younger brother about their immigration status.

“They didn’t know we were illegal because we didn’t want them to talk to their friends,” his father, Avi, said. “Only when the DACA program came out, after talking to Neil [Sheff, their immigration lawyer], only then we told the kids.”

Jason plays guitar and plans to enroll in a music program after graduating from Beverly Hills High School. But his immigration status has complicated his plans.

“I do want to travel at some point, and if I’m not documented I can’t do that,” he said.

Returning to Israel is not an option, his parents say.

“I have nothing to do in Israel,” his mother, Ravital, said. “It’s hard to live there. Here, it’s an easier life. The dreams come true here.”

Daniel, their 13-year-old son, wants to be an actor. Because he’s too young to gain DACA status, he can’t get a work permit and audition for roles.

“Now that [Trump] canceled it, it’s a lot harder. It’s impossible, unless I get married to an American girl,” Daniel said with a laugh.

Ravital owns a skin care company, and Avi works in software development. “We do everything by the book, and we find a way to pay taxes on time,” Ravital said.

“We probably pay more taxes than Trump,” Avi added.

Many of their Israeli and Orthodox Jewish friends are Trump supporters, and they fear social alienation if their immigration status is discovered. “Before you called, we closed all the windows around the house,” Avi admitted. “The stigma of people who are illegal here is very bad.”

‘Remember the stranger and the foreigner in your land’

There’s a disconnect between Jews and undocumented immigrants, says Beverly Hills immigration attorney Neil Sheff, who speaks Hebrew and Spanish fluently. About half of his clients are Israeli, and he hears a lot of rhetoric against immigration reform from his fellow Jews, even those born in other countries.

“Their responses are usually, ‘We came here the legal way.’ When many of the Jewish immigrants came here, the immigration laws were so relaxed and the process was so much easier, everyone could come here the legal way,” he said.

“Their plight isn’t really acknowledged by the greater Jewish community, especially the Orthodox Jewish community.” – Neil Sheff

Sheff believes there are many Israelis living in L.A. without documentation, as well as Jews from South Africa, Russia and an increasing number from France, looking to escape their country’s rising tide of anti-Semitism.

“Their plight isn’t really acknowledged by the greater Jewish community, especially the Orthodox Jewish community,” which supports Trump because they consider him to be pro-Israel, Sheff said.

The Torah extolls Jews 36 times to treat strangers well, “for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:21).

“It’s part and parcel of who we are as Jews to remember the stranger and the foreigner in your land,” Sheff said. “That should translate immediately to empathy for the immigrants here, whether they are immigrants who have been here for generations or just arrived.”

Hackers portray Jewish Republican Senate candidate as David Duke supporter

Lena Epstein. Photo from Twitter

The Twitter account of a Jewish Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate was discovered to have been hacked after it showed that she liked several posts by white supremacist leader David Duke.

Lena Epstein, who is running for the nomination in Michigan and was a co-chair of the Donald Trump presidential campaign there in 2016, disavowed any support of or connection to Duke, the one-time Ku Klux Klan head.

“As a Jewish woman with deep roots in the Jewish faith, a proud lineage of Jewish leaders, and relatives who were killed in the Holocaust because of blind hatred and prejudice, there is little that could be more offensive to me than the suggestion that I support, ‘like,’ or condone David Duke, neo-Nazis, or any group that promotes hatred and prejudice,” Epstein said in a statement issued Friday.

The tweets with her likes gained traction after the state’s Democratic Party chairman, Brandon Dillon, began sharing screenshots of them, the MLive news website reported.

Epstein shared a screenshot of a message from Twitter asking her to confirm her email address attached to her Twitter account, indicating that the account had been hacked. She also shared the link to a report by a private investigative agency which determined that an “illegal intrusion” of her Twitter account had occurred.

Epstein in a tweet called on Dillon to apologize for spreading the screenshots and to delete his tweets. Dillon responded in a tweet by calling on Epstein to “apologizing (sic) for liking David Duke.” He also called on the Michigan GOP to apologize for Epstein’s Senate candidacy.

In a recent appearance on Fox News, Epstein praised Trump for his response to racism and violence and reiterated white supremacists and neo-Nazis are not representative of the Republican Party, according to MLive.

Her campaign website describes her as “a millennial who has spent the last decade as a savvy automotive-industry businesswoman, community leader and nationally recognized conservative.”

The only Republican in California’s Jewish Caucus quits over Trump criticism

State Senator Jeff Stone

The only Republican in the California Legislative Jewish Caucus has resigned after it released a statement strongly condemning President Donald Trump’s rhetoric.

State Sen. Jeff Stone of Riverside County said in an Aug. 17 statement that the group “has clearly become a vehicle for a Legislative Caucus that receives state resources to merely criticize our duly elected President.”

Earlier that day, the caucus released a statement criticizing Trump for failing to more strongly condemn a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. Responding to reporters’ questions at Trump Tower in New York City on Aug. 15, the president said there was “blame on many sides” for violence in Virginia over the weekend, and that “very fine people” had showed up to the rally.

That led to the caucus’ statement, which reads: “We cannot and will not stand silently by as Trump gives voice to organizations steeped in an ideology of bigotry, hate and violence. President Trump’s words betray American values and morality.”

Responding hours later in a statement, Stone said, “When I was invited to join the Jewish Caucus, I was expressly told that it was a nonpartisan Caucus, and the issues we were going to be involved with would focus on promoting the interests of the Jewish people in California and around the world. Since the election of President Trump, it seems that there has been a divergence from the Caucus’ original mission.”

Stone has supported Trump in the past. In a February op-ed in The Desert Sun, he called the president a leader with a “fresh viewpoint” who is “willing to take action on policies he campaigned on.”

Stone could not immediately be reached for comment.

Jenny Berg, a consultant for Assemblymember Marc Levine (D-San Rafael), the Jewish Caucus’ chair, wrote in an email to the Journal, “Assemblymember Levine regretfully accepts Senator Stone’s resignation and looks forward to working with him on their shared values.”

Pirkei Avot, the GOP and health care

Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, accompanied by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wy.) and Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), speaks with reporters following the party luncheons on Capitol Hill on Aug. 1. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

Moses received Torah at Sinai. He transmitted it to Joshua, and Joshua to the elders, and the elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets to the Men of the Great Assembly. They said: raise up many disciples, be deliberate in judgment, and build a fence around the Torah.

Mishnah Avot 1:1

It is procedure that marks much of the difference between rule by law and rule by fiat.

Wisconsin v. Constantineau (1971)

Process is boring, but it also is crucial, as the Supreme Court observed. And it is particularly crucial for Jews as we consider the Republican effort to repeal Obamacare.

This is a live issue. Despite July’s failure of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plans, Republicans have made clear that they will continue to pursue repeal. And both his and House Speaker Paul Ryan’s abuse of Congressional process show that they are adept at rule by fiat.

To be clear: I believe the repeal plans are a moral abomination. But apart from substance, let’s look at the procedure. The GOP’s Obamacare repeal process mocks democracy. Health care approaches one-fifth of the entire U.S. economy, yet the process was conducted in near total secrecy. On the House side, the bill was written behind closed doors without any input from the Democrats. Ryan rushed it to the floor before the Congressional Budget Office could even determine what its effects would be. If enacted, the American Health Care Act would strip 23 million people of coverage, but the process was designed precisely so that Congressmembers would be kept in the dark.

McConnell’s process was even more secretive; the Senate bill was cooked up in his office with no input from patients, health experts, advocacy groups — or even most of the Republican caucus. The March of Dimes paid for McConnell’s polio treatment as a child; he refused even to meet with the organization. His last-ditch attempt — the so-called “skinny” repeal — was introduced five hours before it was supposed to be voted on, with no hearings or public input whatsoever. GOP senators have announced yet another plan to rush through a health package with the same high-handed secrecy.

All legislation resembles sausage-making, but this was fetid even for a slaughterhouse. Julie Rovner, who has covered this issue since the 1980s wrote, “The extreme secrecy is a situation without precedent. … I have been here for 30 years and never seen anything like this.” Journalist Ezra Klein noted that “Republicans are making life-or-death policy for millions of Americans with less care, consideration and planning than most households put into purchasing a dishwasher.” John Podhoretz, no liberal, tweeted, “I have never seen such unanimity in the horror everyone on all sides is expressing toward the Senate process on this health care bill.” (Spare me references to the creation of Obamacare, which took 14 months, included literally hundreds of GOP amendments, dozens of hearings and extended bipartisan negotiations.)

But why is it a Jewish issue? Let’s consider the epigraph from Pirkei Avot. This Mishnah is perhaps Judaism’s most foundational text, and it links the chain of rabbinic authority to three central moral injunctions, particularly “be deliberate in judgment.”

Most classical commentaries, from Rambam to the Chasidic masters, do little with this passage. They gloss it as simply “do not move too fast” or “be careful.” This might be useful, but it really misses the point. Telling us to “be deliberate in judgment” requires us to consider the deeper question of how we do that: What conditions will make us deliberate? Unsurprisingly, much of Avot concerns the proper behavior of public decision-makers: It warns how the wielders of state power betray those who trust them (Avot 2:3).

Being serious about deliberation in judgment means we must establish institutional practices that make us deliberate. Both character and structure matter. This reflects virtually all Jewish spirituality: Our tradition creates practices to bring the soul closer to God. Commanding us to remember God is not good enough. We do it by practices such as uttering blessings, wrapping tefillin, observing Shabbat, etc.

In other words, Avot 1:1 is the “Jewish Due Process” clause. It holds that if anyone makes crucial decisions about people, they must follow proper procedure. Only then can they truly be “deliberate in judgment.” Like long-settled judicial principles of “due process,” “deliberation in judgment” requires that those affected by state power have a right to be heard, to contest those whose interests are adverse, to have transparent and open government, to have decisions made on the basis of evidence and rational judgment rather than arbitrary caprice. If leaders make decisions without hearing from those affected and subjecting their own thoughts to scrutiny, they are not really deliberating at all. Such “process” is not judgment. At best, it is no more than a series of irritable mental gestures; at worst, tyranny with window dressing.

When Congress holds literally tens of millions of lives in its hands, to refuse to listen to those who will suffer mocks the Torah’s requirement of deliberation in judgment. McConnell and Ryan do not care. Do we?


JONATHAN ZASLOFF is professor of law at UCLA, where he teaches, among other things, property, international law and Pirkei Avot. He also is a rabbinical ordination candidate at the Alliance for Jewish Renewal.

80% of Reform rabbis are Democrats. That’s higher than any other clergy.

A view of the KAM Isaiah Israel Synagogue in 2013. Photo by Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

The vast majority of Reform and Conservative rabbis affiliate as Democrats, according to a new study.

The study, published Sunday by Yale University, found that more than 80 percent of Reform rabbis, and about 70 percent of Conservative rabbis, affiliate as Democrats. Both were among the top five most Democratic clergy of the Jewish and Christian denominations in the United States, with Reform rabbis topping the list.

Among Orthodox rabbis, nearly 40 percent identify as Democrats and a quarter as Republicans.

By contrast, Evangelical pastors are almost all Republicans, as are most Baptists. The Black Protestant African Methodist Episcopal clergy, as well as Unitarians, are heavily Democratic. Catholic priests are evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.

The study’s findings reflect existing data on the politics of American Jews. Solid majorities of American Jews consistently vote for Democrats — 70 percent voted for Hillary Clinton in the November presidential race — with polls showing that Orthodox Jews are more likely to vote Republican. Reform Jews have been on the front lines of protests against President Donald Trump.

Orthodox Jews make up about 10 percent of the American Jewish population, various studies show. One-third, or 35 percent, of all U.S. Jews identify with the Reform movement, 18 percent identify with Conservative Judaism, 6 percent with other movements and 30 percent with no denomination, according to the Pew Research Center.

The Yale study also shows that rabbis’ political views track with congregants’ views on policy. For example, 40 percent of Orthodox rabbis are Democrats, and some 40 percent of Orthodox congregants are pro-choice, while about 30 percent of congregants believe gays and lesbians should be legally allowed to marry. Likewise, large majorities of Conservative and Reform rabbis are Democrats, and large majorities of their congregants are pro-choice and pro-gay marriage.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, told JTA earlier this year that Reform rabbis’ generally liberal politics are a reflection of their Jewish values.

“The idea of Jewish spiritual community being about feeding the hungry, clothing the homeless, caring for the stranger — these are fundamental core pieces,” Jacobs said in January. “If we don’t talk about those things in our religious communities, we’re irrelevant.”

Orthodox Jews also cite Jewish values in explaining their support for Republicans, noting a preference for the GOP on Israel and conservative support for school choice programs and religious exemptions for various government mandates.

In total, the data cover 186,000 clergy, including approximately 2,700 rabbis. The data were collected via denominational websites cross-referenced with voter registration records. Some denominations and religions — including Mormons and Muslims — are not included due to lack of reliable clergy lists.

The data also show that the Reform rabbinate is the second-most female of any denominational clergy. Forty-five percent of Reform rabbis are women, as opposed to an average of 16 percent across the denominations surveyed. About a quarter of Conservative rabbis are women; nearly all the Orthodox clergy are men.

An analysis of the data by The New York Times found that rabbis on average lived in the most affluent neighborhoods of any clergy. The median household income of Conservative rabbis’ neighborhoods is nearly $100,000 on average, compared to a national median household income of $53,000. The Times article noted that average neighborhood income does not necessarily reflect pastors’ salaries.

The pro-Israel right is starting to feel unease with Trump

President Donald Trump in New London, Conn., on May 17. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Zionist Organization of America launched two broadsides against a Trump administration it has ardently defended, signaling a growing unease on the pro-Israel right with the president’s Israel policies.

The ZOA, the flagship for the conservative pro-Israel community, slammed President Donald Trump for retreating from a campaign pledge to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It also attacked the appointment of Kris Bauman, a veteran Obama administration negotiator, as the Israel adviser on the National Security Council.

Criticism of Trump from the Jewish right, while growing, is almost always accompanied by a caveat that his Israel policies are better than those of his predecessor, Barack Obama, and praise for some of his appointments.

The ZOA statements came Wednesday, the same day an array of Jewish groups held a celebration in the Capitol of the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem.

During the celebration Republican lawmakers – without naming the Trump administration – decried the failure to move the embassy to Jerusalem. One of those present, New York Rep. Lee Zeldin, one of two Republican Jews in Congress, later released a statement explicitly criticizing Trump and urging the move.

Trump the candidate had vowed to move the embassy as one of his first acts upon assuming the presidency, but since elected has retreated from the pledge. This week, an unnamed top U.S. official told Bloomberg News that the relocation from Tel Aviv was off the table for now.

The story prompted expressions of concern of varying intensity from the Jewish right.

Morton Klein, the ZOA president, said in a statement that the slowness to move the embassy “sends a message of weakness” and called it “painful.”

Zeldin, one Trump’s most prominent Jewish supporters during the presidential campaign, said in his statement that the Bloomberg report was “an ill-timed mistake on the part of the administration to make this decision and announcement.”

Nathan Diament, the Washington director of the Orthodox Union, the umbrella group with a constituency that according to polls was lopsided in its support for Trump last year, said in an interview that those voters were likely “disappointed” with the delay.

Klein in an interview Thursday offered up the caveat that he was still grateful that Trump had won the election.

“This guy in his heart and soul is very pro-Israel in a serious way,” he said, naming among other appointments Nikki Haley, the outspoken U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. “So many of us had high expectations it would be 100 percent on Israel; that might have been too high an expectation. He’s so much better than Obama or than Clinton would have been,” referring to Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee.

Matt Brooks, the Republican Jewish Coalition director, said Trump’s Jewish critics should keep the bigger picture in mind: His first tour overseas, next week, will include Israel and a visit to the Western Wall.

“It should be comforting, and those who are critical should note the symbolism of the president doing it at this time,” he said, noting the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem. “It sends a symbolic message and one that should resonate throughout the Jewish community and the international community.”

Much of the pro-Israel right remains a strong area of Trump support on foreign policy. Breitbart News, with several alumni occupying key posts in the administration, has not advanced tough criticisms of the president’s Israel policy, although it has been critical of Trump on some domestic issues.

Conservative groups that reviled the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran, chief among them the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, are pleased with Trump’s policies. While Trump has not scrapped the deal, he has ramped up his rhetoric targeting the regime and added sanctions targeting Iran’s missile testing.

Conservative pro-Israel voices — among them Klein — have been outspoken as well in defending top Trump advisers who hail from the “alt-right,” a loose assemblage of anti-establishment conservatives that includes anti-Semites but also strident defenders of Israel.

Still, there are signs that unease with Trump’s Israel-related choices is deepening on the right. The tendency in Trump’s first months in office was to blame any decision that the pro-Israel right found unappealing on officials Trump did not appoint – civil service professionals whose tenure dated back to the Obama or George W. Bush administrations, or even further back.

But now, some of the fire is being directed at Trump appointees. H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, has earned opprobrium from the pro-Israel right wing for his bid to sideline Ezra Cohen-Watnick, a young NSC staffer who is known for his hard-line Iran views. Trump nixed McMaster’s decision to move Cohen-Watnick to another agency.

Now fire is being directed at Bauman, whom McMaster named recently as his chief adviser on Israeli-Palestinian issues. Klein in a separate statement called Bauman, who served on the U.S. team during the 2013-14 failed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, “pro-Hamas.”

Klein based his assessment on a screed against Bauman published last week in FrontPageMag, which unearthed a 2009 academic work by Bauman citing views that recommend accommodating Hamas as a necessary evil in any negotiations toward a final status outcome. Bauman also is unstinting in describing Hamas’ brutality and terrorism in the paper.

Daniel Shapiro, until January the U.S. ambassador to Israel, on Wednesday called Klein’s attacks the “lowest of low blows,” noting that Bauman’s brief was to improve security for Israel in the West Bank ahead of a final status agreement.

Also troubling for the pro-Israel right has been Trump’s warmth toward the Palestinian Authority leadership, particularly P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas, whom Trump welcomed at the White House earlier this month and with whom he will meet in Bethlehem next week.

“I’m disappointed he brought a guy who rewards terrorists who murder Jews to the White House,” Klein said, referring to P.A. subsidies for families of jailed and killed terrorists.

The White House said in its readout of the Trump-Abbas meeting that Trump raised the issue of the payments and urged Abbas to stop them.

James Comey, fired by Trump and reviled by Democrats, had admirers among Jewish security officials

FBI Director James Comey prepares to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill on May 3. Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

“You make us better,” James Comey told the Anti-Defamation League in his final public speech as FBI director.

Judging from the applause in the conference room at the venerable Mayflower Hotel here, the feeling was mutual.

Mired in investigations of the scandals of 2016 (Hillary Clinton’s relationship with her email server) and 2017 (Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia), not a lot of love ended up being lost between the FBI director and either party.

Democrats called for Comey’s firing last year when a week and a half before the election he reopened the Clinton case because of emails found on the laptop of former congressman Anthony Weiner in an unrelated case.

President Donald Trump, who repeatedly praised the FBI director as a candidate, fired Comey on Tuesday, ostensibly because Comey treated Clinton unfairly last July — he excoriated her for her email habits in a news conference, but recommended against legal action.

The firing was drawing attention for its timing: Comey is delving into ties between the Trump campaign and transition officials who may have had ties to Russia.

Among the folks whose business it is to keep Jews safe – like those gathered Monday in the Mayflower for the ADL’s leadership summit – admiration for Comey was fairly unequivocal. To a degree greater than most of his predecessors, he made the Jewish story central to the FBI mission.

Comey required all FBI staffers to undergo a tour of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“Good people helped to murder millions. And that’s the most frightening lesson of all,” he told a museum dinner in 2015. “That is why I send our agents and our analysts to the museum. I want them to stare at us and realize our capacity for rationalization and moral surrender.”

Comey, already known as a persuasive speaker, was especially adept at understanding what moved Jewish Americans. In his ADL speech this week, he recalled meeting a man who was not far from the scene when a gunman opened fire last June at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

“My name is Menachem Green and I’m Jewish,” Comey quoted the man as saying, pronouncing Menachem impeccably, and went on to say that Green was pleased to tell him that he ran toward the shooting alongside a police officer he learned was a Muslim.

“We were Jew and Muslim and Christian and white and black and Latino running to help people we didn’t know,” Comey recalled Green saying.

Comey also noted the “Muslim activists who raised over $100,000 to repair Jewish headstones in St. Louis and Philadelphia – that makes us better.”

The now former FBI chief also embraced one of the ADL’s signature issues, improving reporting of hate crimes by local authorities.

“We must do a better job of tracking and reporting hate crime to fully understand what is happening in our country so we can stop it,” he said.

Just a week earlier, Comey was due to receive a recognition award from the Secure Community Network, the security affiliate of the Jewish Federations of North America. Paul Goldenberg, the SCN director, said Comey was to be recognized for his work with the community in tracking down the perpetrator of dozens of bomb hoaxes on JCCs and other Jewish institutions.

“Director Comey put in extraordinary resources and showed tremendous commitment to the American Jewish community,” Goldenberg said, noting that the FBI had deployed agents to Jewish communities across the states.

Comey could not personally accept the recognition, and SCN delivered it to a surrogate, because Comey was on the Hill testifying to the Senate about how he handled the email and Russia scandals.

In his testimony, he noted one of the FBI triumphs of recent months as a defense of the agency – helping to solve the JCC bomb threats.

“Children frightened, old people frightened, terrifying threats of bombs at Jewish institutions, especially the Jewish community centers — the entire FBI surged in response to that threat,” Comey said in his opening remarks Wednesday to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In March, an Israeli-American teen was arrested in Israel on suspicion of calling in more than 100 bomb threats. Last month, the U.S. Justice Department charged the teen, Michael Kadar, with making threatening calls to JCCs in Florida, conveying false information to the police and cyberstalking.

“Working across all programs, all divisions, our technical wizards, using our vital international presence and using our partnerships especially with the Israeli national police, we made that case and the Israelis locked up the person behind those threats and stopped the terrifying plague against the Jewish community centers,” Comey said.

Comey may be gone, but the shock among Democrats – and some congressional Republicans — at his departure means his memory is unlikely to fade anytime soon.

“We must have a special prosecutor,” Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., the minority leader in the Senate, said in a statement delivered at a briefing for reporters late Tuesday. Schumer said he told Trump in a phone call that firing Comey was a “very big mistake.”

Trump fired back on Twitter, recalling that Schumer had said recently that he did not have confidence in Comey.

“Then acts so indignant,” Trump said, calling the New York lawmaker “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, which is also probing the Trump campaign’s Russia ties, said there was no contradiction between being appalled at Comey’s handling of the Clinton case and at his firing.

Schiff noted that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has recused himself from the Russia investigation because he had met with a Russian diplomat during the transition, had signed off on the firing.

“The decision by a president whose campaign associates are under investigation by the FBI for collusion with Russia to fire the man overseeing that investigation, upon the recommendation of an attorney general who has recused himself from that investigation, raises profound questions about whether the White House is brazenly interfering in a criminal matter,” he said.

Dating 101: Fingers Crossed

I have been quietly dating a lovely man for a few months. He is a wonderful father, grandfather, and son. He is kind, smart, funny, generous, gentle, and respectful. He treats me with a tenderness I have never experienced in a relationship before. He extends the same respect to my son, which I appreciate and admire very much. We have a wonderful time together and I feel nervous, but content.

We don’t have a lot of things in common, and are politically on opposite sides of just about everything, but he allows me to have my opinion. He also allows me to spend a lot of time trying to change his opinion. He is open to change and growth and knowledge. I adore this man am quite certain that if I can get out of my own way, we will be important to each other in a lot of different ways.

I have had a series of complicated and difficult relationships, and while my relationship with George is complicated in some ways and difficult in others, it is also easy, calm, nurturing, and fun. We laugh at many things, including each other, and I feel blessed to have stumbled upon this man. He is unlike anyone I thought I would ever date, but has all the qualities I was looking for in a man.

It is new, exciting, comfortable, and connected. I don’t know where we will end up, but being on this road with him has brought me happiness. I have been writing about my dates and relationships for years, always being clear that I only date Jews and Democrats. I am now dating a man who is not a Democrat or a Jew, and I am counting my blessings.

Time will tell what we become to each other, but we are both happy and hopeful. It is strange to be dating a man who is not Jewish, but I am working through it. It is frustrating to date a man who is not a Democrat, but he is working through it. It is unusual to be dating a man who takes such good care of me, so I am crossing my fingers and keeping the faith.

Sheldon Adelson gave record $5 million to Trump inauguration celebrations

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Sheldon Adelson, a casino magnate and major donor to Republican and Jewish causes, gave a reported record of $5 million for President Donald Trump’s inauguration celebrations.

The gift was the largest single contribution ever given to an inauguration, The New York Times reported Wednesday, adding that Adelson’s donation was “far from the only seven-figure check deposited by the committee responsible for carrying out much of the pomp leading up to Mr. Trump’s swearing in.”

Adelson and his wife, Miriam, were on the dais for Trump’s inaugural oath-taking, a rare honor for campaign funders.

Adelson did not commit to a candidate until last May, when he endorsed Trump at a time when it was clear the reality TV star and real estate magnate would be the Republican nominee. He subsequently donated tens of millions of dollars to the Trump election campaign.

Other large donors to support Trump’s inauguration festivities included New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a donor to many Jewish and Israeli causes who gave $1 million, Haaretz reported, citing new documents released Wednesday by the U.S. Federal Election Commission.

The Trump Inauguration Committee raised a record-breaking $107 million from both large public donors and dozens of corporations, including Google and Pepsi.

‘He’s not all bad’: A Democrat defends Trump

President Donald Trump. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Ever since Donald Trump was elected president, I’ve been trying to decipher the indecipherable psyche of The Trump Voter.

I want to understand how a person of conscience could have voted for him and how such a person would defend the actions of his office. 

So I did a little research project by calling my Uncle Rich, a 76-year-old cardiologist and Trump supporter. As far as I know, he’s sane, rational and verifiably humane since he’s spent the last 47 years saving people’s lives.

Uncle Rich and I have been arguing about politics since I was 15. Last week, he emailed me an article about Trump doubling down against anti-Israel bias at the United Nations under the subject line: “He’s not all bad.” I gritted my teeth, took a deep breath and invited him to argue with me a little more — if not for the sake of heaven, then at least for the sake of my column.

First, I asked why on earth he’s a Republican.

“I am a registered Democrat and have been since I was 21,” he declared.

“I have voted both ways. I’m a great believer that America comes first and the parties come second. So, I’m open-minded to any candidate — Republican, Democrat, Black, white, Jewish, woman, etc.”

I asked him to describe his paramount political values, but he said they change with each election cycle. In 2016, his top concerns were: terrorism, the economy and health care.

“In the beginning, I was a little bit ambivalent about [Trump],” he admitted. “But as time went on, I began to see that he was serious. And he was willing to step out of an unbelievably successful business and into a job that I don’t know if I envy. I began to say, ‘Wow.’

“I felt this was a man who really recognized the problem of terrorism. I liked that he was vigorous and emphatic on the necessity of vetting people, particularly from certain areas. You know, profiling is a term I think gets a bum rap.”

This is only one area where Uncle Rich and I part ways. To me, profiling is a form of legalized discrimination that contributes in no small part to the mass incarceration of people of color and the poor.

“I profile in medicine,” he said. “If I see a person of a certain background, I’ll order certain tests based on their background. To say there aren’t certain groups of people who are more likely to be terrorists, that’s foolish. We need to be exquisitely careful in order to avoid a situation of tremendous, tremendous terror …

“As far as [economics], the man is a financial success.”

Never mind his bankruptcies? Or his record of failing to pay employees what he owed them?

“I’m a businessman myself. When I started in medicine, we were told not to be businessmen. We were told, ‘You’re a doctor, and you’ll work for oranges and grapefruits,’ which I would have. We were discouraged from negotiating with a hospital, for example. ‘Just take the job.’ [Trump] is a negotiator, and I became a negotiator.”

If Trump was such a negotiating wizard, I asked, what about his signature failure to “repeal and replace” Obamacare?

“Health care is an extremely complicated issue. At the end of the day, I think Republicans and Democrats want the same things: quality care, access and preventative medicine. Obamacare had great ideas — who could argue with what I just said? The problem is cost. This is a business problem.”

I argue it’s also a moral problem. Part of the reason the legislation failed is because its underlining interests were providing tax cuts for the wealthy and eliminating vital health care services for the nation’s most vulnerable: the old and the poor.

“I don’t think Mr. Trump wants a program where someone who is 64 can afford health care and someone who is 65 can’t. What makes America great is that we have the ability to create a system with some equality. Certainly, you’re going to have concierge medicine the way you can have a Mercedes or you can have a Chevy — but a Chevy is a good car!”

Then why don’t more rich people drive Chevys?

Still, I countered, the Great Negotiator failed to unify his party and pass his first major piece of legislation.

“You want to feel good about the fact that you were right? Come on! He’s been in office for three months. If you tell me three years from now that he’s failed in all his legislation, I’ll say, ‘You know, you’re right, I made a mistake.’ But not three months in.”

Well, what about Trump’s Russia ties? Should he get a pass on that, too?

“I’m not bothered yet because I come from a school of medicine where you have to deal with results. If we find out that Trump did things undercover with the Russians, then I’m gonna be upset about it. But I’m not gonna get caught up in the rumor mill. This stuff is still unsettled.”

It’s clear that where I see moral and legal transgression, my uncle sees a man who hasn’t yet hit his stride. Surely, though, he wouldn’t defend the terrible things Trump has said maligning women, immigrants and Muslims.

“He’s sometimes quick to speak,” Uncle Rich allowed. “He’s a hand-to-mouth guy, and sometimes what he says doesn’t go completely to his brain.

“What I was thinking when that was going on was: If we lived in a dictatorship, I would have been much more worried about Donald Trump than I am in the system we are in, which is a checks-and-balances system. Because a man who sometimes speaks like that may try to act like that.” 

Finally, Uncle Rich, we agree.


Danielle Berrin is a senior writer and columnist at the Jewish Journal.

Senator Susan Collins backs David Friedman

U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME). Photo by REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst.

Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) — a moderate Republican who has already voted against one Trump nominee — told Jewish Insider that she is “inclined to support” David Friedman to be US Ambassador to Israel. In a brief interview on Tuesday, the Maine lawmaker explained, “I called Joe (Lieberman) to find out his views and he (Lieberman) speaks very highly of him (Friedman). That certainly is a good endorsement…  I’m inclined to support him.”

During the Senate Foreign Relations vote on March 9, all of the Republican committee members voted in favor of Friedman. However, nine Democrats opposed the New York attorney with Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) crossing party lines to join with the GOP. Along with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), former Senator Joe Lieberman introduced Friedman at his hearing and offered strong praise for the President’s nominee.

It appears likely that Friedman will pass the Senate floor if he is able to win over moderate Republican Senators such as Susan Collins. The question remains how much backing he will receive from Democrats. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has not yet announced his intentions and could play a significant role in swaying fellow Democrats. Last week, when asked by Jewish Insider if he backs Friedman, Schumer noted, “I’m waiting until I see him” and declined to comment further.

On February 16, Lieberman told a symposium at Yeshiva University, “I want to assure you that David Friedman will perform as Ambassador way above expectations.” The former Connecticut Senator is a partner at Friedman’s law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman LLP.

Meet the Republican congressman who calls for a settlement freeze

Representative Walter Jones (R-NC). Photo via Walter Jones/Facebook.

In many ways, Representative Walter Jones (R-NC), is a staunch conservative. He blasted former President Barack Obama’s “burdensome” environmental regulations as “completely out of touch with the American people.” The North Carolina lawmaker vehemently opposed the outgoing administration’s rule mandating that states offer Title X funding for abortion providers including Planned Parenthood. However, his views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are far outside the norm for a Republican member of Congress these days.

This post was originally published at JewishInsider.com.

In an interview with Jewish Insider, Jones called for a “moratorium” on Israeli West Bank settlement growth. Jones was one of four Republicans who voted with 76 Democrats against House Resolution 11 in January, a measure that criticized the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for condemning Israeli settlements at the end of the Obama Administration. While the overwhelming majority of Republican leaders including Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and President Donald Trump assailed the UN for engaging in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating process, Walter offered a dramatically different response. “I think they (the UN) can be part of a process that could be helpful,” he explained. When discussing America’s role as a mediator, the 74-year-old North Carolina lawmaker noted, “America because of its friendship and relationship with Israel – and I have great respect for Israel – I think it’s going to take more than just one country to put this together.”

Jones was one of only two Republicans to sign onto a letter currently circulating from Representatives Gerry Connolly (D-VI) and David Price (D-NC), which “affirms” the two state solution. In doing so, Jones joined 113 Democrats who back the measure. Explaining his support, Jones noted, “If we just sit back, watch and complain, and nobody is making any effort to get the two sides together, I think it is wrong.” The veteran GOP Congressman cites his Christian faith in motivating his desire to search for peace. In contrast to most lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, Jones repeatedly used the term “Palestine” throughout the interview.

Some pro-Israel organizations have worked tirelessly to unseat Jones given his unorthodox viewpoint as a Republican on the Jewish state. Breitbart called an ad from the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI) against Jones, which included anti-Israel protesters burning U.S. and Israeli flags while narrating Jones’ Congressional record, “brutal.” The ECI ad also warned that Jones was endorsed by the “anti-Israel group J Street.” In addition to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, Jones broke with his party in 2005 emphasizing that his vote in favor of the 2003 Iraq War was mistaken, years before candidate Trump made opposition to the war a mainstay of his presidential campaign.

Despite the numerous foreign policy challenges, Jones urged Trump to signal that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be “the number one issue” in order for America “to be a facilitator to find peace.” With Trump calling on Israel to “hold back on settlements,” and the President’s Special Assistant Jason Greenblatt meeting this week with Netanyahu, and visiting a West Bank Palestinian refugee camp, Jones may have reason to be more upbeat than usual.

Trump and the power of English

President Donald Trump pauses during his speech at a joint session of Congress on Feb. 28. Photo by Reuters

Well, was that all that difficult? President Donald Trump delivered a very nice speech last night in front of Congress and the media headlines this morning were … normal. After a month of craziness and chaos, normal feels like a miracle.

In a New York Times piece titled, “A Radical Move for Trump: A Conventional Address,” Glenn Thrush wrote that “At precisely the moment he needed to project sobriety, President Trump delivered the most presidential speech he has ever given.”

Chris Cillizza, in The Washington Post, wrote that “This may have been the best speech Trump has given since he entered politics in June 2015, and people rooting for his imminent demise may be disappointed.”

Over at Fox TV, Charles Krauthammer called it “without a doubt the best speech he ever gave. In fact, this should have been his inaugural address, a version of it. And it would have actually had an effect on the launch of his presidency and vastly reduced the hysteria that has emerged in the country on the left.”

Indeed, if Trump’s inaugural address was steak tartare, his speech last night was more like tiramisu.

What happened?

English happened. Life happened. Someone in the White House — it could be Trump himself, it could be an evil PR genius, it could be his daughter Ivanka, it could be the Dalai Lama on Skype — had this staggering insight that it’s OK to be nice.

Yes, it’s OK to be nice. It’s OK to say nice things, even if your preference is to say mean, divisive, macho things. In fact, one of the incredible truths about life is that you can say nice things and no one will think you’re a wimp or a loser.

Great presidents — strong, confident, powerful presidents — have been saying nice things since the founding of our nation and no one ever held these words against them. Last night, Trump tried to catch up with them.

“We are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms,” he said at the beginning of his address, noting our current celebration of Black History Month and recent acts of anti-Semitism.

“Each American generation passes the torch of truth, liberty and justice — in an unbroken chain all the way down to the present,” he continued. “That torch is now in our hands. And we will use it to light up the world. I am here tonight to deliver a message of unity and strength, and it is a message deeply delivered from my heart.”

A man known for his bullying speaking from his heart. Who knew?

A friend of mine who can’t stand Trump complained that, “He was just reading a speech, for heaven’s sake. It’s just words.”

Well, yes, it’s just words, which is precisely the point.

Insults are also “just words.” But words take on a reality of their own. Words, if repeated often enough, can shape reality.

It’s quite possible and even plausible that few of the words last night were written by Trump. But having delivered them, they are now his. He owns them. That speech is like a building with a big, flashy Trump logo on top.

Of course, not everything Trump said last night was nice—far from it. There were flashes of the dark side he showed in his inaugural address, and the press has covered it. But the point is this: When you frame your overall message in a positive way, when your tone is calm and sober rather than incendiary, you buy yourself some forgiveness. You buy yourself more positive headlines.

Do you move people who hate you? I doubt it. Trump haters are too far gone– there is zero trust and zero faith. As The Los Angeles Times reported, the speech was “inspiring to some, frightful to others.”

So, we shouldn’t get carried away with one speech, even if it represents a radical departure. By the time you read this, Trump may already have spoiled the whole thing with a series of nasty Tweets.

Still, for one night at least, our president showed us the power of positive language. If I were his chief adviser, I would do a mash-up of all his uplifting words and make sure he sees it every night before going to sleep, and every morning before going to work. And I would make sure to crank up the applause.


David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

Dating 101: George

I have been dating a new man for 6 weeks. We met online, chatted for a couple of weeks before meeting in person, and are now falling into something comfortable. We have practically nothing in common, and he is unlike anyone I have ever dated. He is a father and a grandfather, not Jewish, and a Republican. He works in law enforcement, and has a world view that is different than mine. We debate politics, speak about faith, and feel connected without words, which has value.

“George” is a lovely man and my long time readers will understand why I have called him George :-). I have struggled to write about this man.  Not because there is nothing to write about, but rather because I have doubted myself for dating a man who is so different from me. I define myself as a Jew, and have written for years about my search for a Jewish man. I do not often write about politics, but when I do, it is often about my difficulties in respecting the Republican party.

How do I tell my beloved readers, people who have become invested in my search for love and happiness, that I am dating someone who is the opposite of everything I told them I want? It then felt strange that I was concerned about what other people would think of me, when I have built a career on not caring what anyone thinks of me. At the end of the day, after much soul searching, it turns out my search has never been for one specific man. It has been a search for happiness.

I am a list maker. I like to not only make lists, but cross things off those lists. I love the feeling of accomplishment I get when a list has been completed. I have made a couple of lists about George. The list is long, and while one or two things may never be crossed off, the rest of the list is not only getting longer, but the checks are adding up. I keep adding things to perhaps make me walk away from the Republican goy, but instead he inspires check marks.

George takes care of my heart. He is thoughtful about things I had no idea would matter to me. He makes choices based on what I want, what I need, and what he feels I deserve. He puts me first. He has a genuine interest in my happiness on a level I have never experienced, except when offering the same care to men who did not appreciate it, or ultimately deserve it. George treats me in a way I have craved, but thought was perhaps only in the movies or imagined in my mind.

There are no uncomfortable silences. There are fair and interesting discussions. There is a desire from both of us to not only understand what is being said, but be kind when faced with differences. There is a meaningful and decent tone in the way we engage with each other, which is refreshing. I like this man and that is huge because rather than worry about whether or not I can love him, I am enjoying the simple pleasure of liking him, which I suppose is the moral of this story. I like him.

In the search for love we need to enjoy the story, rather than rush through to the ending. George is an interesting man and our story is a good one. I have no idea what the ending will be, and that is okay. In a time when I am working on being brave, our story has been a revelation. The bravery is coming not from searching for love as I originally thought, but instead in letting it find me. I am writing a new story for myself, trying to convert a Republican to a Democrat, and keeping the faith.

Republican Jews, Jewish Republicans differ on DNC race

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

The race for the new Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chair is highlighting a split among Jews who support the Republican Party. In many instances, the differences stem from a matter of two identities and whether ‘Republican’ or ‘Jewish’ is the adjective or noun.

[This story originally appeared on jewishinsider.com]

For Jewish Republicans, who are more likely to actively support the Republican National Committee over bipartisan groups like AIPAC, the idea of Rep. Keith Ellison, a candidate who has attracted controversy over past remarks, winning Saturday’s election to become the face of the Democratic Party is a welcome one.

“To my friends at the DNC please please elect this man [Ellison] Chair,” RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks tweeted on Thursday, in reaction to comments Ellison made on Wednesday night defending his Israel record.

However, given Ellison’s record and controversial past comments, some Republican Jews worry that his election would allow more extreme views and policy positions into the mainstream, in a way that could be harmful to any remaining bipartisan consensus on the U.S. – Israel relationship.

“Politically, Republicans love the idea of Ellison at DNC; Jews, however, should be frightened over the further mainstreaming of a hater,” Jeff Ballabon, a Conservative-Republican activist, wrote on Twitter.

“I do not prefer to see Ellison elected,” Tevi Troy, former Jewish Liaison for President George W. Bush, told Jewish Insider. ” I think that both Israel and America are better off if we operate under the bipartisan consensus in favor of strong ties between the U.S. and Israel.”

At the Conservative Political Action Conference [CPAC], Jewish attendees had divergent opinions. Yitchok (Ian) Cummings, 24, a first-time CPAC attendee from Linwood, NJ, told Jewish Insider that as a Republican Jew his partisanship doesn’t seep through when it comes to hoping Ellison wins the DNC Chairmanship. “I do think Keith Ellison’s anti-Israel views are dangerous. I think the fact that he’s such a powerful frontrunner for the DNC, is just indicative of the fact that the Democratic Party has moved to the far left and shifted on Israel,” Cummings said. “So even as a partisan, while there’s some advantage to see Ellison leading the Democrats, it makes me sad as a Jew that we may not have a loyal opposition that we respect and can work with.”

Eric Golub, a Trump supporter from LA, favored a more partisan approach. “Obviously as a Jew, I don’t want to see a Jew-hater get anywhere near the levers of power. As a Republican, I want the Democrats to have a complete whack job running their party,” Golub, a conservative comedian, explained while waiting for Vice President Mike Pence to take the stage at the annual gathering. “Now, my Judaism always comes first but here is why I am going to make an exception in this case: the heads of the parties are not significant. It’s not like he’s the presidential or vice presidential candidate. The DNC and RNC chairs are symbolic figureheads. So if the Democrats want to have the worst of all worlds for them, that’s a win-win situation for Republicans.”

During a televised debate on Wednesday, Ellison addressed the past comments and views that have caused many establishment Jewish Democrats to oppose his candidacy. “These are smears and we’re fighting back every day, he said. Adding, “I believe that the U.S.-Israel relationship is special and important. I’ve stood for that principle my whole service and my whole career. And you can trust when I’m the DNC chair that that relationship will continue. We will maintain the bipartisan consensus of U.S. support for Israel if I’m the DNC chair.”

The race between leading candidates Ellison and former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, an establishment favorite, remains tight, according to media reports and internal pollingamong the 447 electors. Regardless of who wins the DNC race on Saturday, Tevi Troy says he is worried “about the direction of the Democratic party on the Israel issue.”

GOP senators introduce bill forcing president’s hand on moving embassy to Jerusalem

Three Republican senators have introduced a bill that would force the president to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.

The bill introduced Tuesday by Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Dean Heller of Nevada and Ted Cruz of Texas would remove the presidential waiver from the 1995 law passed by Congress recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and mandating the move from Tel Aviv.

Successive presidents have exercised the waiver every six months, most recently President Barack Obama in December. They cite national security reasons over concerns that a move would lead to Islamist and Arab nationalist attacks on Americans and their allies in the region.

The bill would slash in half the funds that Congress disburses to the State Department for building, securing and maintaining embassies until the embassy opens in Jerusalem.

President-elect Donald Trump has said he would move the embassy to Jerusalem, but his transition team said declaring a timeline for a move would be inappropriate until Trump becomes president on Jan. 20.

Rubio and Cruz lost to Trump in the Republican presidential primaries.

Please keep calling us racists and misogynists

Turns out that the whole Democratic Party lost hugely on Election Day. In addition to losing the presidency, Republicans retained control of the Senate despite far more Republican Senate seats being on the ballot; they held their already substantial majority in the House of Representatives; and now 33 of the nation’s 50 governors are Republican. 

That’s two Republican governors for every Democrat.

One of the newly elected governors is Eric Greitens of Missouri. He is a former Navy SEAL and Rhodes scholar — and a committed Jew. Will he, too, be labeled a Republican racist, misogynist, xenophobe, homophobe, Islamophobe, bigot and the latest — transphobe?

That’s what the left has done for a half-century: libel and label conservatives. 

This past week was a prime example. Within hours of the Republican defeat of Democrats on the local, state and congressional levels, in addition to the loss of the White House, the left doubled down on its usual outpouring of calumnies at Republican voters as deplorable human beings.

Please continue. It is clearly working on conservatives’ behalf. More and more Americans — and I predict more and more Black and female Americans — will see these smears for what they are: a cover for an inability to intellectually counter conservative arguments.

It seems universally believed on the left that conservative opposition to Hillary Clinton was due to her being a woman. See Peter Beinart’s piece in The Atlantic titled “Fear of a Female President,” which says, “Hillary Clinton’s candidacy has provoked a wave of misogyny — one that may roil American life for years to come.” 

See the open letter written by Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank to his distraught 12-year-old daughter: “To my daughter: You are going to be okay.”

This is how his column begins:

“As I watched the returns at Donald Trump’s celebration here Tuesday night, the hardest part was trying to reassure my seventh-grade daughter at home, via phone and text, that she would be okay. She had expected to be celebrating the election of the first female president, but instead, this man she had been reading and hearing horrible things about had won, and she feared her own world could come apart.”

As a loving father, he might want to reflect on whether his own overwrought views contributed to his daughter’s fearing that “her own world would come apart” if a woman weren’t elected president.

Milbank made sure to inform his readers that he was a Jew by reassuring his daughter that she will feel better when she receives all of her family’s love at her upcoming bat mitzvah.

Of course, the reduction of Republican votes to misogyny, racism, xenophobia, etc., was hardly unique to Jewish leftists. In The Washington Post on the day after the election, Jill Filipovic, a young feminist writer, explained Hillary Clinton’s loss this way: 

“[It was] a clear statement of what so many of my countrymen (and the people who put Trump in power are mostly men) value: white male supremacy above all.”

And in The New York Times, Susan Chira, a senior correspondent and editor on gender issues, made up a rule: “We do know that voters disproportionately punish women who are seen as dishonest.”

For eight years, many on the left have described criticism of Barack Obama as racist. Similarly, leftists explain opposition to Hillary Clinton as an expression of misogyny and sexism. For the left, it is not possible that conservative opposition to either has been rooted in public policy and moral differences that have nothing to do with race or gender.

Then there is another hysterical charge on the Jewish left, that a President Trump will make anti-Semitism respectable. This, too, is old news. In 1980, Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King Jr., said, “I am scared that if Ronald Reagan gets into office, we are going to see more of the Ku Klux Klan and a resurgence of the Nazi Party.”

But the scare tactics apparently aren’t working as well as they once did. More and more Americans are catching on to the left’s crying wolf regarding racism, misogyny, sexism and all the other terms of opprobrium hurled at conservatives.

But leftists won’t stop, for two reasons: That’s all they have. And because they really do believe their libels about conservatives. Why wouldn’t they? It’s all they’ve ever read, heard or studied.

Incredibly, many Jews symbolically sat shivah at their synagogues last week. But for all the harm the left has done to universities, to Judaism, Jews, Israel, America and to Western civilization, they should have done teshuvah instead. 


Dennis Pragers nationally syndicated radio talk show is heard in Los Angeles on KRLA (AM 870) 9 a.m. to noon. His latest project is the internet-based Prager University (prageru.com).

Frustrated with Trump, Sheldon Adelson said to focus on Senate

Jewish philanthropist and top Republican donor Sheldon Adelson’s reported impatience with Donald Trump is reflected in the emphasis Adelson is placing on the battle for control of the Senate, CNN reported.

Adelson has given at least $40 million to super PACs focused solely on the fight for Congress, while the $10 million he dedicated to a pro-Trump super PAC is only advertising in states with competitive Senate races.

CNN and other outlets, citing unnamed figures close to Adelson, reported that Adelson — who has contributed up to $25 million to the Republican nominee’s presidential bid — regrets Trump’s “lack of focus” and misdirected attacks at fellow Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan as missed opportunities.

“Sheldon’s got to protect the House and the Senate, and Trump’s going after [fellow Republicans] isn’t helpful,” a source told CNN. “He’s really upset with the way Trump’s been running his campaign.”

Adelson and his wife, Miriam, were also reported to have attended a lunch with Trump and his family and other Trump allies prior to Wednesday’s presidential debate in Las Vegas. Fox Business reported that day, citing an unnamed “associate” of Adelson, that the donor sent an email to Trump urging him to stop attacking fellow Republicans and launching “counter-productive attacks” on the media.

The third and final debate came after a week in which Trump fended off charges by more than 10 women that he had initiated inappropriate contact with them in years past, and in which various Republican elected officials further distanced themselves from the candidate. Trump’s performance at the third debate was largely seen as a disappointment by Republicans and appeared to do little to improve his position behind Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in most polls.

Trump vs. Clinton, Round 2: Iran, Syria, dog whistles and deplorables

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump did not shake hands, and then they did. The Republican nominee called his rival the devil and said he would jail her. Clinton said that three minutes of a 2005 video in which Trump bragged about committing what constitutes sexual assault “represents exactly who he is.” He said it was “locker room talk” and – pressed hard by a moderator – said he did not commit the acts that he claimed in the video.

Those “highlights” from the debate are strewn throughout social media and are making headlines on Monday morning.

But sown throughout Sunday evening’s presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis, already dubbed the most intensely negative in modern history, were notes of substance and tone. Jewish and pro-Israel readers may want to heed a number of them.

Donald Trump mentioned Iran, often.

Trump slammed the Iran nuclear deal three times, emphatically, as had his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, in his debate last week with the Democratic vice presidential candidate, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia.

The deal reached last year between Iran and six major powers led by the United States, which exchanges sanctions relief for rollbacks in the Iran nuclear program, has become the Trump campaign’s exhibit A in depicting the Obama administration as a foreign policy failure.

On Sunday night, Trump called it “the dumbest deal perhaps I’ve ever seen in the history of deal-making” and again said it converted Iran within three years from a weak nation to a powerful one.

It’s a notable transition: Throughout the Republican primaries, Trump said the agreement was a bad one, but was coy about whether he would rescind it, saying he would first consult experts once he was in office. It wasn’t a foreign policy priority like renegotiating trade deals or walling off Mexico.

Now the deal has become a front-and-center issue, and while Trump still is not specific on whether he would scrap the agreement altogether or attempt to renegotiate it, it is nearing the top of his to-do list.

Hillary Clinton mentioned Iran, in passing.

Clinton’s main foreign policy thrust was to remind viewers of Trump’s coziness with Russian President Vladimir Putin and present herself as a tougher alternative. She mentioned the Iran deal as a means of showing that she is capable of cooperating with Russia, while confronting it as well.

“It’s how we got the sanctions on Iran that put a lid on the Iranian nuclear program without firing a single shot,” she said of her role as secretary of state in getting a reluctant Russia on board with the sanctions regime.

The Democrat’s notation was not the seven robust mentions her running mate gave the deal in last week’s debate. Kaine, who is close to J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group that backed the deal, was instrumental last year in shepherding the deal through Congress.

Clinton instead has emphasized her role in setting up the sanctions regime and has also sought to present herself as more of a hawk than President Barack Obama. The latest dump of hacked Clinton-related emails includes one from an adviser, Stuart Eizenstat, counseling just such a distancing on the Iran deal last year.

“Hillary cannot oppose the agreement given her position as the President’s Secretary of State and should urge its approval by Congress,” Eizenstat said in an email to Clinton’s top foreign policy adviser, Jake Sullivan. “But she can and should point out concerns with it … More broadly, she should appear more muscular in her approach than the President’s.”

Did Trump just hand Syria to Iran?

Trump delivered a rambling and at times inchoate response when a moderator asked him what he would do to stop the carnage in Syria.

One clear takeaway: He does not want to confront the regime of Bashar Assad, which is principally responsible for the nearly 500,000 lives lost in the civil war that has ravaged the country since 2011. Instead, he said, the United States should solely be focused on hitting the Islamic State terrorist group. Trump said, as he has in the past, that Russia should be a partner in that enterprise. He also said he outright disagreed with Pence, his running mate, who last week said the United States should hit Assad’s military if Russia continues to slam civilians with airstrikes.

More alarmingly for Israel, Trump appeared to say that Syria is otherwise a lost cause and should be left to Assad and his allies, Russia and Iran.

“I think you have to knock out ISIS,” he said. “Right now, Syria is fighting ISIS. We have people that want to fight both at the same time. But Syria is no longer Syria. Syria is Russia and it’s Iran.”

Israel sees few good outcomes in the Syrian war. One of the worst, though, is leaving Iran, its deadliest regional enemy, indefinitely in place on its northern border.

The Syria exchange provided a notable moment for Clinton as well. Not only did she robustly differentiate herself from Obama, counseling a no-fly zone and increasing arms and training for some rebels, the sole moment she interrupted Trump (he interrupted her 18 times, according to Vox) was when he charged that she was with Obama when he violated his “line in the sand” pledge to use the military to hit Assad should his regime use chemical weapons. Assad crossed that line and Obama blinked in 2013.

Clinton pointed out that she was no longer secretary of state in 2013.

“I was gone,” she said. “I hate to interrupt you, but at some point we needed to do some fact checking.”

Ears were perked up. Was Donald whistling?

Trump, whose mentor was Roy Cohn, a counsel to the Wisconsin Republican Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s, has exhibited a McCarthy-like penchant for guilt by association.

Many of the associations he cited Sunday evening were Jewish. Among them: Sidney Blumenthal, Clinton’s longtime friend, whom Trump (again) falsely blamed for having “started” the so-called birther rumor that Obama was born in Kenya — a rumor that Trump more than anyone else perpetuated (one mention); Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chairwoman forced out when hacked emails revealed her antipathy toward Clinton’s primaries rival, Bernie Sanders (two mentions); financier, philanthropist and Democratic Party donor George Soros, cited by Trump as, like him, a rich guy who takes advantage of tax loopholes (two mentions), and Goldman Sachs, the Jewish-founded bank that paid Clinton top dollar for her speeches (one mention).

Was Trump’s substantive following among anti-Semites within the alt-right paying attention? Jewish Twitter sure was and, like the notorious Star of David tweet and the Pepe the Frog meme, Trump may have been passing along names and themes that mean more to the alt-right than he is aware of or is willing to acknowledge.

On the other hand, Trump did not start the false rumor about Blumenthal and the Kenya birth; Wasserman Schultz was indeed DNC chairwoman, and her “victim,” in Trump’s narrative, Sanders, also is Jewish; Trump mentioned the non-Jewish billionaire Warren Buffett, another Clinton backer, when he brought up Soros, and while Goldman Sachs is only one of a number of banks that hosted Clinton, the most salient leaks in the recent batch of hacked emails were from her appearance at an event hosted by Lloyd Blankfein, the bank’s CEO.

The moderators asked Clinton about her comment last month at a fundraiser that half of Trump’s followers were “deplorables” motivated by race hatred, among other factors. At the time the former New York senator almost immediately apologized for saying it was “half,” and now she appeared to say it was down to one, Trump.

“My argument is not with his supporters,” she said. “It’s with him and with the hateful and divisive campaign that he has run, and the inciting of violence at his rallies, and the very brutal kinds of comments about not just women, but all Americans, all kinds of Americans. And what he has said about African-Americans and Latinos, about Muslims, about POWs, about immigrants, about people with disabilities, he’s never apologized for.”

Trump countered that “she has tremendous hate in her heart.”

Did Trump miss the Jewy moment?

As long as we’re circling back to the juicy bits, there was one moment I predicted would take place – but it didn’t go down exactly the way I thought.

It was a town hall forum, where undecided voters were supposed to ask questions (they kind of got lost in the sniping among the candidates and the assertive questioning by the moderators). One who stood out was the final questioner, Karl Becker, who asked: “My question to both of you is, regardless of the current rhetoric, would either of you name one positive thing that you respect in one another?”

I predicted this question and Clinton’s answer – past debates have featured similar questions, and usually the reply has to do with how one’s rival is a decent family man, if nothing else. Why would it be Jewy, this time? Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, is Jewish; his son, Eric, is married to a Jewish woman, and Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea, is married to a Jewish man.

“I think that’s a very fair and important question,” Clinton said, going first. “Look, I respect his children. His children are incredibly able and devoted, and I think that says a lot about Donald. I don’t agree with nearly anything else he says or does, but I do respect that. And I think that is something that as a mother and a grandmother is very important to me.”

Trump’s reply was that Clinton was a “fighter” who “doesn’t give up” (a little at odds with his multiple jabs about her “stamina”). But he appeared reluctant to accept Clinton’s reply as the compliment it was.

“I consider her statement about my children to be a very nice compliment,” he said. “I don’t know if it was meant to be a compliment, but it is a great — I’m very proud of my children. And they’ve done a wonderful job, and they’ve been wonderful, wonderful kids. So I consider that a compliment.”

It was an odd reply: Clinton was not saying that his good children were an anomaly, or that they turned out well in spite of him. “That says a lot about Donald,” she said, presumably crediting his parenting. (Chelsea and Ivanka are good buddies, so Clinton presumably knows whereof she speaks.)

Donald, parenting is the hardest job there is. When someone says you’ve made a good go of it, just run with it.

Pence refuses to validate Clinton’s ‘deplorable’ label in denouncing David Duke

Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence on Tuesday reiterated his refusal to label former KKK leader David Duke as “deplorable” not to validate Hillary Clinton’s term used to attack Donald Trump’s supporters.

“Donald Trump and I have denounced David Duke repeatedly. We have said that we do not want his support and we do not want the support of people who think like him,” Pence said at a press conference following a meeting with House Republicans on Capitol Hill. “The simple fact is that I am not in the name-calling business. My colleagues in the House of Representatives know that I believe that civility is essential in a vibrant democracy and it’s never been my practice.”

Pence came under fire for refusing to to use the term “deplorable” during an interview with CNN on Monday.

“There are some supporters of Donald Trump and Mike Pence who ― David Duke, for example, some other white nationalists ― who would fit into that category of deplorables. Right?” CNN host Wolf Blitzer asked, referring to Clinton’s emarks rover the weekend that half of Donald Trump supporters can be put into a “basket of deplorables.”

“Donald Trump has denounced David Duke repeatedly. We don’t want his support and we don’t want the support of people who think like him,” Pence replied. When pressed if he’d call Duke “deplorable,” Pence said, “No, I’m not in the name calling business.”

Following the interveiw, when contacted by a 

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Trump earns endorsement of 88 retired military leaders

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump earned the endorsement of 88 retired U.S. generals and admirals on Tuesday, as the campaign enters into full swing. 

“Enemies of this country have been emboldened, sensing weakness and irresolution in Washington and opportunities for aggression at our expense and that of other freedom-loving nations,” the retired military leaders state in a letter released after Labor Day. “In our professional judgment, the combined effect is potentially extremely perilous. That is especially the case if our government persists in the practices that have brought us to this present pass. For this reason, we support Donald Trump and his commitment to rebuild our military, to secure our borders, to defeat our Islamic supremacist adversaries and restore law and order domestically.”

The letter was organized by Major General Sidney Shachnow, the only Holocaust survivor to become a U.S. General, and Rear Admiral Charles Williams. “He has the temperament to be commander-in-chief,” Shachnow stated.

Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, (US Army, Ret.), a Trump surrogate, noted that Trump’s deep and growing support in the military community show “he’s the right person to lead our men and women in uniform.”

“It is a great honor to have such amazing support from so many distinguished retired military leaders,” Trump said in a statement. “I thank each of them for their service and their confidence in me to serve as commander-in-chief. Keeping our nation safe and leading our armed forces is the most important responsibility of the presidency. Under my administration, we will end the weak foreign policy of the last eight years, rebuild our military, give our troops clear rules of engagement and take care of our veterans when they come home.”

Tuesday’s letter is a counterbalance to Hillary Clinton’s “>joint statement saying they will not vote the Republican presidential nominee in the November 8 election. “From a foreign policy perspective, Donald Trump is not qualified to be President and Commander-in-Chief,” they wrote in a letter. “Indeed, we are convinced that he would be a dangerous president and would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.”

What turns many Jews away from Trump energizes his Jewish supporters

In August 2015, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) asked 1,030 American Jews to name their favored candidate in the following year’s presidential primaries. Hillary Clinton was the clear winner with 39.7 percent, followed by Bernie Sanders with 17.8 percent. Donald Trump came in third with 10.2 percent, more than any of the other nine Republicans named.

A majority of Jews will almost certainly line up behind the Democrat in the November election: The same AJC poll found 48.6 percent of American Jews identify as Democrats, compared with 19 percent who say they are Republicans.

But some of the same factors that have turned many voters off Trump — his unyielding stance on immigration and fondness for insult, for instance — are some of what’s driving another group of Jewish voters, even some in liberal Los Angeles, to support his candidacy.

“I like the idea that somebody fresh and new and a little bit vulgar is getting ahead,” said Culver City resident Leslie Fuhrer Friedman, who attends the Pacific Jewish Center on Venice Beach.

“Does he say uncouth things?” she said. “Of course. You know, he’s kind of like an Israeli in the Knesset. He’s a little rude.”

For all the offense many Jews have taken to the Republican’s musings, others have found a set of reasons, specifically Jewish ones, to support him — from his close relationship with his Orthodox son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to his disdain for an administration many feel has disrespected Israel.

And then there are some Republican Jews who see Trump’s candidacy as merely the lesser of two evils.

Brian Goldenfeld, a Woodland Hills paralegal who contributes to the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), said he’s disappointed with both candidates but doesn’t view Clinton as an acceptable option.

“I don’t think just because you’re conservative you have to support Trump,” he said. “But what other alternative do we have?”

For its part, the RJC has offered Trump its lukewarm support: When it became clear he would be the party’s nominee, the RJC released a statement congratulating him, but it has yet to endorse him.

Yet there’s a sense, at least among the Jewish Trump supporters interviewed for this article, that his shoot-from-the-hip style allows him to speak political truths others avoid, especially on issues of foreign policy.

Clinton “has never admitted there is such a thing as Islamic terrorism,” said Phillip Springer, a World War II veteran who lives in Pacific Palisades.

Springer said he supports Trump because he sees him as the candidate most suited to protect the United States from terrorist attacks of the type that are increasingly common in Europe.

“He does not want New York to turn into Paris and Washington to turn into Brussels,” Springer said. “That will happen if the gates are opened to anybody that’s trying to get into this country.”

Among some of L.A.’s Iranian Jews, Trump has won support by loudly rejecting the Iran nuclear deal authored by the Barack Obama administration.

“It struck a very bad chord for us,” Alona Hassid, 29, a real estate attorney, said of the agreement. “The deal was no good.”

Hassid said many Iranian-American Jews like her parents, who fled the Islamic revolution, have trouble stomaching any kind of engagement between America and the current Iranian regime. Recent revelations that the U.S. leveraged a $400 million payment due Iran in order to secure the release of American prisoners only make matters worse.

“These are not people that you can negotiate with and make a deal with and hope that the deal will work out,” Hassid said.

Hassid said the great majority of her friends support Trump, though many shy away from saying so publicly for fear of reprisal.

Michael Mahgerefteh, 45, a Beverly Hills resident born in Tehran, said many Persian Jews fault the Obama administration for not projecting an air of strength that would help shield Israel from her enemies.

“A lot of us feel like Israel is our country, more than the U.S., or Iran even,” he said. “All the stuff that’s happened in the last seven or eight years, which I think Hillary will continue, is bad for Israel — not just the Iran deal, but just the way that when the U.S. gets weaker, the bad people in the world, the terrorists, feel stronger. They fill in the void.”

But Mahgerefteh doesn’t have to look past America’s borders for a reason to support the Republican nominee. Many Iranian immigrants feel the freedoms that helped them climb the socio-economic ladder here are under assault, he said.

“If you want to work hard or go to school or do whatever you want, there’s always been a lot of opportunity here,” he said. “But it feels like that’s changing, mostly in the last seven or eight years.”

He added, “It might be irreversible after that.”

Steven Windmueller, an emeritus professor at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion who studies American Jewish political behavior, predicted that Jewish support for the Republican will decline compared with previous years due to Trump’s unpolished rhetoric and his failure to adequately disavow anti-Semitic supporters such as one-time Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

But some Persian Jews, along with Israelis, Russian Jewish immigrants and the Orthodox, constitute a “Republican emersion” that defies the Jewish liberal mainstream.

“Persians and Israelis come to this out of a sense of grave concern for national security, for protecting Israel, for isolating Iran and all the sort of foreign policy pieces,” Windmueller said.

As for observant Jews, polling indicates they are more likely to take a politically conservative stance out of concern for Israel’s security. In a 2013 Pew Research Center poll, 34 percent of Orthodox Jews in the U.S. said they believe Jewish settlements in the West Bank help Israel’s security, compared with 16 percent who say they hurt it. Among Reform Jews, the numbers flip: 50 percent say settlements hurt Israel’s security while only 13 percent say they help.

Yet the majority of American Jews are not observant, and supporting the Republican candidate has long been a minority position in Jewish L.A. If anything, Trump’s candidacy has made it even worse.

After Friedman put up a George W. Bush lawn sign in 2004, an Israeli friend ripped the sign out of the ground and stomped on it to demonstrate his opposition. But this election foists an additional stigma on backers of the Republican candidate: that supporting Trump makes them bigots.

“That’s one of the accusations that they throw out,” she said. “You’re probably not educated or you’re married to your cousins.”

“People just try to bully you,” Mahgerefteh said of his experience as a Trump supporter. “They say, ‘Only certain type of people are behind Trump.’ ”

As a result, many Republican voters have learned to remain wary when political conversations arise.

“If it’s not going to be a healthy debate,” Hassid said, “I’m not going to bring it up.”

Naked Trump statues draw dozens of onlookers in U.S. cities

An artists' collective took credit for exposing Donald Trump to unflattering scrutiny on Thursday, saying it was responsible for a life-sized nude statue of the Republican presidential candidate that turned up in a New York City park.

Copies of the orange-tinted likeness – featuring a massive belly, small fingers and missing some genital parts – were simultaneously unveiled in downtown Manhattan's Union Square Park and public places in four other U.S. cities.

The collective titled the work “The Emperor Has No Balls.”

In New York, the unauthorized installation appeared to surprise passers-by – prompting stares, giggles and shrugs of bemusement from park visitors.

Ina Cope, a 58-year-old retiree from the Bronx borough of New York, said she was not expecting to see the Trump statue when she got off the subway to meet a friend for lunch.

“It was crazy: I was coming off the train, minding my own business, and there it was,” she said, laughing.

By early afternoon, workers from New York's Department of Parks and Recreation had taken down the statue.

Mae Ferguson, a Parks Department spokeswoman, said the statue was removed because the installation of any unapproved structure is illegal in any city park.

The activist collective, a group called INDECLINE that includes artists, musicians and filmmakers, claimed ownership of the work, saying in an email that the statues were also placed in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle and Cleveland. It said an artist called Ginger helped create the likeness.

“These fleeting installations represent this fleeting nightmare and in the fall, it is our wish to look back and laugh at Donald Trump's failed and delusional quest to obtain the presidency,” INDECLINE said in a statement.

A Trump spokeswoman did not respond immediately to an email with a request for comment.

Trump stirs controversy with remarks on gun rights

Republican Donald Trump suggested in a speech on Tuesday that gun rights activists could stop his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton from nominating liberal justices to the Supreme Court, stirring another round of backlash during a week his U.S. presidential campaign had hoped to steer clear of controversy.

“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do folks,” Trump said at a rally at the University of North Carolina. “Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know,” he continued. The U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment guarantees a right to bear firearms.

Clinton's campaign called the comments “dangerous”.

“A person seeking to be the president of the United States should not suggest violence in any way,” it said. 

When asked to clarify what Trump meant, his campaign said in an emailed statement: “It's called the power of unification – 2nd Amendment people have amazing spirit and are tremendously unified, which gives them great political power.”

Asked for comment, the U.S. Secret Service, which provides security details for both Trump and Clinton, said: “The Secret Service is aware of the comment.” 

Tuesday's speech comes on the heels of a discordant week on the campaign trail during whichTrump came under fire from within his party for belatedly endorsing fellow Republicans in reelection races and a prolonged clash with the parents of fallen Muslim American Army captain Humayun Khan.

On Monday, Trump had seemed to be heeding Republican advice to keep to a message of criticizing Clinton and other Democrats when he gave a put forward economic policy proposals in a speech in Detroit.

Gingrich: Trump has become ‘unacceptable’ choice for POTUS

Newt Gingrich, one of Donald Trump’s most stalwart surrogates and a finalist in the race for vice president, on Wednesday  “The current race is which of these two is the more unacceptable, because right now neither of them is acceptable,” Gingrich said in an interview with The Washington Post. “Trump is helping her to win by proving he is more unacceptable than she is.”

The former House Speaker warned Trump that he has little time left to reverse course. “Anybody who is horrified by Hillary should hope that Trump will take a deep breath and learn some new skills,” he said. “He cannot win the presidency operating the way he is now. She can’t be bad enough to elect him if he’s determined to make this many mistakes.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Gingrich characterized Trump’s response to criticism by the family of a fallen soldier and his dissing of Republican national leaders as “very self-destructive.”

“He has not made the transition to being the potential president of the United States, which is a much tougher league,” Gingrich said on Fox Business Channel’s “Mornings with Maria” program. ”People are going to watch you every single day. They’re going to take everything they can out of context, and he is not yet performing at the level that you need to.”

CNN  Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani and RNC chairman Reince Priebus are apparently plotting an intervention with Trump to try to reset the campaign, NBC  Campaign chief Paul Manafort, appearing on Fox News, disputed the report. “The campaign is focused and the campaign is moving forward in a positive way,” he said. The only need we have for an intervention is maybe with some media types who keep saying things that aren’t true. The candidate is in control of his campaign. The turmoil — this is another Clinton narrative that’s been put out there and that the media is picking up on. The campaign is in very good shape. We are organized. We are moving forward.”

Trump “has become such a good counter puncher that he is about to knock himself out,” Ari Fleischer, former Press Secretary to President George W. Bush and a member of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said on CNN’s Newsroom on Wednesday. “He has got to stop counter-punching people who are not running for president. He needs to focus on Hillary, and only Hillary. Now, he can throw in a little Barack Obama because Hillary would be Obama’s third term. He his hurting his own cause in a race that he can win. If he would focus on Hillary, if he’d focus on the economy, if he’d talk Obama and we don’t want a third term, he could win this race.”

Gone missing: Actual Democrats in Republican Jewish Coalition ad bashing Democrats

A couple of weeks ago, the Associated Press encountered a “handful” of out-and-proud white supremacists credentialed for the Republican convention.

The reporter asked Sean Spicer, the spokesman for the Republican National Committee, to explain. Here’s what he said, per the AP:

Convention organizers release credentials in large blocks to state delegations, special guests and media outlets. Officials have little control over where they end up, he said, noting that even protesters from the liberal group Code Pink managed to get into the convention hall.

“People get tickets through various means, including the media,” Spicer said. “In no way, shape or form would we ever sanction any group or individual that espoused those views.”

Right. Conventions are diffuse, borderline chaotic affairs. Saying the views and actions of a handful of folks are emblematic of the entire party would be fundamentally unfair, you’d think.

You’d think, but not so much the Republican Jewish Coalition, which in an online ad it released last week arguing that the Democratic Party has been taken over by anti-Israel forces advances a definition of Democrat so loose as to be meaningless.

Included in the ad as emblematic of “today’s Democratic Party,” as the narrator puts it, are a group of masked folks burning a flag outside the convention.

“While the Palestinian flag was displayed inside the Democratic convention, the Israeli flag was burned right outside,” the narrator says.

Unlike the white supremacists in Cleveland, the flag burners are not credentialed – they are outside the convention, protesting what’s going on inside. It’s like blaming Hubert Humphrey for Abbie Hoffman. Notably, nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign condemned the flag burning. (The Palestinian flag inside the arena was unveiled for a brief moment and appeared to be the work of a handful of people.)

The man and the woman who speak in the ad condemning U.S. support for Israel are not credentialed, and appear outdoors – not inside the arena.

“Anti-Israel Democrats are all around Philadelphia,” the narrator says, without explaining how we know that the speakers are Democrats (there were plenty of Greens in Philadelphia).

The ad also implies that the very presence in the city of anti-Israel protesters indicts the entire party. In addition to the white supremacists in Cleveland, there were – as Spicer noted – Code Pink protesters inside and outside the arena. Does that render the Republican Party an amalgam of the Ku Klux Klan and the Yippies?

The RJC ad is on more solid ground in quoting Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., who, addressing pro-Palestinian groups, likened settlement activity to the destruction wrought by termites.

Johnson issued a non-apology, and his defenders have said he was referring to the “settlement enterprise” and not settlers, although that is not clear from his remarks: “There has been a steady, almost like termites can get into a residence and eat it up before you know that you’ve been eaten up and you fall in on yourself, there has been settlement activity that has marched forward with impunity.”

In any case, the distinction between likening humans to insects and likening human activity to insect activity does not exactly lessen the offense.

Johnson, however, spoke off-campus, at an event sponsored b the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and the American Friends Service Committee, not the DNC. Every mention of Israel from the convention stage was positive, including the one in Clinton’s acceptance speech. (You wouldn’t know this from Clinton’s only appearance in the ad, at its end, with a shot of her smirking.)

Still, trends we observed reporting the conventions suggested differences between the parties.

There were plenty of “I support Palestinian human rights” stickers and banners at the Democratic convention. Mentions of Israel at both convention stages were positive, but at the GOP convention, they were more frequent and more robust. Both parties had pro-Israel platforms, but the Republican language was approved unanimously, while there was a debate among Democrats over whether to refer critically to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. (The proposal was rejected.)

An ad mentioning those actual facts, and others, would have made a strong case that the Republican Party unambiguously supports Israel’s current government, while Democrats have a more contentious relationship with it. The RJC ad, relying on hyperbole and distortions, doesn’t make that case.