Friday, August 30, 2019

Fake Rabbis Then - Fake Rabbis Now - Some Things Never Change!

The clever fake rabbis who made millions off of Prohibition - The 1920s liquor ban left a loophole for sacramental wine -- suddenly it paid to be Jewish in America 


 The Roaring Twenties was a raging headache for Jewish leadership. 


READ IT ALL: http://theunorthodoxjew.blogspot.com/2010/03/i-accuse-very-great-rabbis-leaders-of.html

The kashrus question has recently been discussed in the Yiddish press, but only one side of the question, viz. concerning the unscrupulous butchers who sell treifos without a hechsher or with a false one. The press has remained silent, however, concerning the second side of the question, about the treifos being sold under rabbinical supervision and under rabbinical signs in butcher shops.

The press is silent about this problem, perhaps because of the honor of the rabbis, or, perhaps, because of other reasons. The honor of the rabbis is dear to me too. But, the honor of the Torah which is lying in the garbage, and the honor of the truth, which is trodden under foot, are dearer to me. Where there is chillul Hashem we do not impart honor to a rabbi, I, therefore come forward with an accusation.

I Accuse!

I accuse many rabbis, who grant hechsherim, who knowingly or otherwise, or out of neglect, permit non-kosher meat to be sold under their stamp of approval both wholesale and retail; the seller is an unscrupulous person with Torah sanction.


The 18th Amendment, which prohibited the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors,” soared through state legislatures and into law in 1919 fueled by the efforts of groups like the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the Anti-Saloon League. It resulted in a period of angst, imposters and outrage — but not for the reasons you might imagine.

Suspicion abounded in the 1920s, especially among Jews and Catholics, that Protestants were seeking to cleanse America of immigrants and racial religious minorities. Prohibitionists claimed that ridding the nation of “demon rum” and other intoxicating liquors would cure social ills such as domestic violence, but others suspected the temperance movement was another example of a Protestant establishment shackling American Jews and Catholics.

Regardless of intent, politicians did not foresee the incentives that would lead to all kinds of subterfuge — the growing class of “fake rabbis,” for one.

Because wine plays a role in both Catholic and Jewish rituals and customs, leaders of both faiths felt prohibition would violate their First Amendment rights. The Volstead Act provided the details of how the 18th Amendment would be enforced, including allowing an exemption for sacramental wine.

This exemption allowed for the use of wine by permitted individuals in religious functions and likely was a concession for the Jewish and Catholic vote. Catholic priests were permitted to serve wine in the church. Given that Jews conduct some ceremonies in the home, rabbis served as middlemen for their congregations, submitting a list of their congregation membership to Prohibition officials in exchange for permits for their members to purchase 10 gallons of wine per year from authorized dealers.

This workaround led, perhaps unsurprisingly, to a rapid expansion in Jewish congregations and the number of rabbis. Rabbi Rudolph I. Coffee of San Francisco told Prohibition officials that “for the first time in the history of the Jewish religion, there are black, yellow and even red members of the Jewish faith.” This growth was due not to an increased desire to share and understand the Torah, but rather the working of fake rabbis.

In some states, a person only needed 10 signatures to a petition attesting that he was a rabbi in order to get a rabbinical license from the secretary of state. License in hand, the only obstacle to the wine permits was a list of congregation members. Fake rabbis took names from city directories, phone books and other public listings to create congregations.

According to a Sept. 9, 1922 article in the San Francisco Examiner, The Jewish World newspaper had claimed Irish, Swedish, Scottish and Greek residents of San Francisco were getting monthly supplies of sacramental wine “under the names of Goldstein, Blumberg, Silverstein, Levinsky and other adopted Jewish cognamens.”

Banning booze did not halt its demand, and thus offered ample opportunity to intemperate spirits. Running — that is, smuggling — liquor paid better than manufacturing in the 1920s, making the former relatively more lucrative.

The decision to participate in an illegitimate business is based upon a simple cost-benefit analysis, and for many poor young men, the math just made sense: One former junk dealer from Denver made more than $100,000 in profits by selling wine under a permit issued by the government — nearly $1.5 million in 2019 dollars. Fake rabbis often sold permits to restaurants for $200 to $500 ($3,000 to $7,500 today) apiece.

The likelihood of getting caught was reduced by enabling and participating law enforcement officials and politicians. Furthermore, for those who were caught caught, the punishments were not severe.  For example, the Volstead Act stated that the fine was at most $500 for a first violation, which barely made a dent in what many violators typically made selling the illicit drinks.  

Officials tried to make getting permits more onerous to deter imposters and prohibit rabbis from storing wine outside of their homes, but the measures were no match for the potential profits.

Some Jewish leaders began calling for a removal of the sacramental wine exemption, so that the Jewish religion could no longer be used as an “instrument of convenience and nefarious practice for bootleggers, hijackers and all the vicious and criminal elements connected with the liquor traffic,” as The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle put it in a May 1, 1925 article titled “The Wine Evil Should be Abolished to Protect the Good Name of the Jew.” These rabbis believed that Judaism could be followed well enough without sacramental wine, particularly if it meant stopping the imposters.

They were not successful in this endeavor, but the illicit liquor market was dashed by the passage of the 21st Amendment in 1933, becoming the first and only constitutional amendment repealing another.

Altering human behavior is a messy business and often begets nasty side effects. The unforeseen incentives provided by the 18th Amendment wrought crime, graft and harmed thousands of Americans. It would behoove politicians to remember that people are clever, and troublesome laws can often inspire an individual to change his or her behavior in unforeseen ways.


Thursday, August 29, 2019

Many Orthodox Jews are dissatisfied with how Orthodoxy is practiced today and this will prompt change. “The 1990 National Jewish population survey indicated that ‘among those raised Orthodox, just 24 percent are still Orthodox.’”

Orthodox Judaism is Changing: A Book Review


Professor Chaim Waxman, a prominent and highly respected sociologist of contemporary Orthodoxy, has made a superb assessment of the history, development, and current and future situation of Orthodoxy in his relatively short but comprehensive 178-page book, “Social Change and Halakhic Evolution in American Orthodoxy,” with 48 additional pages of bibliography and index. Readers will receive a wealth of information from the book and much in it will surprise them, especially the finding that Orthodoxy is changing and different styles of Orthodoxy exist in different countries. The following is a summary of a few of the many insights that he offers in his insightful book.

A few statistics of Jews in the US
Waxman quotes the Pew Center Survey that estimates that 1.5 percent of US citizens, about 3,638,000, are Jews by religion. Pew also estimates that about 12 percent of this number, 437,000, are Orthodox. Of these 12 percent, 66 percent, about 291,000 are ultra-Orthodox, and half this number, 33 percent, about 146,000, are Modern Orthodox. Orthodox Jews have an average income lower than non-Orthodox Jews, and ultra-Orthodox have a lower income than Modern Orthodox. Pew found that the percentage of divorced or separated Orthodox Jews, 9 percent, is lower than that of Mainline Protestants, 12 percent, and Catholics, 10 percent. Pew also found that among Jews with no denominational affiliation, only 31 percent had a Jewish spouse, while the figure for Orthodox was 98 percent. Surprisingly, while 79 percent of ultra-Orthodox are married, only 52 percent of Modern Orthodox are married, a slightly lower rate than that of Conservative Jews.

The origin of Orthodoxy
The term Orthodox did not exist before the nineteenth century. It was invented by Reform Jews in eastern Europe who used it to disparage what they considered backward, old style, more observant Jews. Soon thereafter, the more observant Jews accepted the title as a badge of honor. The term Orthodox is based on Greek words: ortho = right or true, and dox = belief or opinion.

 Despite what Orthodox means, many Orthodox Jews in the past and today are not literally people who agree with the traditional “beliefs and opinions.” They are Orthopractic, Jews who have decided to continue all or many of the traditional “practices” of Judaism. They accept many ancient Jewish laws and traditions “but not meticulously or rigidly so.”

Among Ashkenazi Orthodox Jews, those descendant from Europe, there are two main groups today, each divided into sub-groups: Ultra-Orthodox and Modern Orthodox. The former is subdivided into yeshivish who contend that Jewish males should separate themselves from modernity as much as possible and spend their life studying Talmud, and hasidish who follow the demands of Hasidic leaders called Rebbes. Modern Orthodox is subdivided into Centrist Orthodox and Open Orthodox, with the last adopting less restrictions and are more open to the involvement of women in the synagogue.

The Orthodox in America have a stronger attachment to Israel than do non-Orthodox American Jews. Orthodox Jews place greater emphasis on the law focusing on humans, bein adam ladam, while the ultra-Orthodox emphasize laws that focus on God, bein adam lamakom, generally ignoring the former. Thus, for example, 56.9 percent of Modern Orthodox feel that homosexuality should be accepted by society, but only 35.6 percent of ultra-Orthodox agree.

Contrary to what people suppose, ancient rabbis did not have a significant role in synagogues, they were “viewed as talmudic scholars and halakhic experts. Particularly in the area of isur veheter, ritual law, which includes kashrut, sexual conduct, sabbath observance, and so on.

However, when it came to questions relating to broader matters, such as issues of communal policy, most people gave no special weight to the rabbi’s opinions and did not consult with them.” Rabbis “did not reign supreme” as they do today. The current notion that rabbis are elite individuals whose views must be followed did not exist in America until the twentieth century, is not a traditional teaching, but a copy by Orthodox Jews of the Hasidim and the Hasidic Rebbe.

Also contrary to what many think, “customs start with the masses, and go from the bottom up, sometimes to the point where they become actual laws.” Thus, despite the recent powers given to rabbis, we can expect that the more educated Orthodox Jews of today will bring about changes in laws and behavior. Many Orthodox Jews are dissatisfied with how Orthodoxy is practiced today and this will prompt change. “The 1990 National Jewish population survey indicated that ‘among those raised Orthodox, just 24 percent are still Orthodox.’”

In the recently published “Megillat Esther Mesorat Harav,” Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik recognized this phenomenon. He is reported as recognizing that Purim was instituted as a holiday by common people, not rabbis nor Jewish leaders, and it was only after the people instituted the practice that the rabbis accepted it. He is right. This is how the book of Esther portrays what happened.

Turning to the right
Just as the Orthodox swerved to the right in copying the Hasidic view concerning rabbis, they did so also regarding education. While Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik is highly respected in Modern Orthodox circles, and despite his co-educational classes in his Maimonides School in Boston, many Modern Orthodox day schools today separate boys and girls in different classes. Similarly, because the ultra-Orthodox insist on their own “higher” standards for the laws of kosher, many certifying agencies require food sellers to bow to their requests to obtain their certification resulting in much higher prices for kosher foods, often twice the price of non-kosher foods. Still another radical change was pioneered by ArtScroll and Mesorah Publications which publishes many books on Judaism and Jewish history, “Critics have argued that ArtScroll censors its books to present only Orthodox accounts and Perspectives.” 

Also, lamentably, many Orthodox synagogues have recently rejected the teaching of Maimonides, who quoted the Greek non-Jew Aristotle in his writings, and who explained that “The truth is the truth no matter what its source,” and replaced the highly respected “Pentateuch” by Chief Rabbi J. H. Hertz with the censored ultra-Orthodox ArtScroll Chumash because Rabbi Hertz included explanations of the Torah from non-Jewish scholars. Many other examples of mistaken turnings to the right can be cited, such as the new stringencies that the Chief Rabbinate in Israel have placed on conversions.

Waxman states: “The ‘turn to the right’ in American Orthodoxy was in large measure, a reflection of the broader turn to the right and the rise of fundamentalism in a variety of different countries and continents.” This seems to put the lie to the claim of many Orthodox Jews that they are not affected by non-Jews. “Much as many might deny it, Orthodoxy is affected by and does respond to its social environment. This is why American Orthodoxy today is different from what it was a century ago, and it is different from Orthodoxy in the United Kingdom, Europe, and even Israel.”

Torah from heaven
As late as fifty years ago, Orthodox Jews were united in believing that both the Written Torah and the Oral Torah were given by God to Moses at Sinai, with some, “such as Joseph B. Soloveitchik and Moshe Tendler, [who] went so far as to axiomatically assert a literal version of both parts of the credo, while others simply expressed a general allegiance to the credo itself without discussing the detailed implications.” But, “Today the situation is dramatically different.” Orthodox Jews in America, and even more so in Israel, are accepting many critical views about the Torah, as can be seen on the website “The Torah.com.” Waxman attributes the change to “the emergence of a generation of college-educated Jews” in the second half of the twentieth century. Orthodox schools, including yeshivas, in the past were like the Catholics of the Middle Ages who prohibited the translation of the Bible because they felt that when the masses read the Bible, they can be misled away from Catholicism. Like them and for the same reason, Orthodox schools did not teach Torah only Talmud and selected books on ethical behavior in the past. But now, there is an “increase in the [study of the] Bible within the religious and traditional communities since the 1960s.”

Similarly, while Orthodoxy in the past rejected the idea of evolution and even called it heresy, most Orthodox Jews today accept it as a fact: “in 2005, even the [Orthodox] Rabbinical Council of America issued an, admittedly very guarded, pro-evolution position.”

Waxman concludes: “As has been shown throughout this book, American Orthodoxy is anything but static. It has changed and will continue to do so…. Although we cannot know precisely what the group will be like in the future, one thing is certain: it will not be the same as it is now.”


Wednesday, August 28, 2019

If a person with measles walks into a room, the pathogens can linger there for two hours after the person has gone. In the New Square shul, this meant that as many as seven thousand people had shared airspace with the young man from Israel. It was fortunate that the room was so big and even, perhaps, that the women (and their small children) were in the balcony, away from the men and Patient Zero; pregnant women and small children are at the greatest risk....

The Message of Measles

As public-health officials confront the largest outbreak in the U.S. in decades, they’ve been fighting as much against dangerous ideas as they have against the disease.

“It’s shocking how strong the anti-vax movement is,” Zucker said. “What surprises me is the really educated people who are passionately against vaccinations. I see this as part of a larger war against science-based reality. We need to study vaccine hesitancy as a disease.” 

One day in the early sixties, Saul Zucker, a pediatrician and anesthesiologist in the Bronx, was treating the child of a New York assemblyman named Alexander Chananau. Amid the stethoscoping and reflex-hammering of a routine checkup, the two men got to talking about polio, which was still a threat to the nation’s youth, in spite of the discovery, the previous decade, of a vaccine. At the time, some states had laws requiring the vaccination of schoolchildren, but New York was not one of them. In his office, on the Grand Concourse, Zucker urged Chananau to push such a law, and shortly afterward the assemblyman introduced a bill in the legislature. The proposal encountered resistance, especially from Christian Scientists, whose faith teaches that disease is a state of mind. (The city’s health commissioner opposed the bill as well, writing to Chananau, “We do not like to legislate the things which can be obtained without legislation.”) To mollify the dissenters, Chananau and others added a religious exemption; you could forgo vaccination if it violated the principles of your faith. In 1966, the bill passed, 150–2, making New York the first state to have a vaccination law with a religious exemption. By the beginning of this year, forty-six other states had a version of such a provision; it has proved to be an exploitable lever for people who, for reasons that typically have nothing to do with religion, are opposed to vaccination. They are widely, and disdainfully, known as anti-vaxxers.

Saul Zucker died in June, five months short of his hundredth birthday. Less than two weeks later, the New York Legislature voted to remove the religious exemption, after a contentious debate during which anti-vaxxers harangued from the galleries. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill that night. Following all this on a live stream was Howard Zucker, Saul’s son. Zucker is a doctor—a pediatrician and an anesthesiologist, like his father, and a cardiologist—as well as a lawyer. He is also New York State’s commissioner of health. For more than six months, he’d been at the forefront of an effort to beat back the anti-vaccination movement, as a result of a measles outbreak in the state. Its severity had goaded politicians to change the law, with his support. Because of the success of the anti-vaccination movement, measles cases have since turned up in twenty-nine other states, but New York has had by far the most cases: 1,046 as of last week, out of a national total of 1,203. This has threatened to wind back decades of success in the containment of the disease since the first measles vaccines were introduced, in 1963—an era when the United States saw between three million and four million cases a year. In 2000, the U.S. declared that measles had been eliminated in the country; if this outbreak isn’t contained by October, it could jeopardize the nation’s so-called measles-elimination status. This would be a dire step back for our public-health system, and a national embarrassment. (Britain, well acquainted with national embarrassment, lost its elimination status this year.)

The outbreak began last October, in the Rockland County village of New Square, an enclave of roughly eighty-five hundred Hasidim founded in 1954, on an old dairy farm, by Grand Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Twersky and his followers, who had moved there from Williamsburg, Brooklyn. (Like the many other ultra-Orthodox hamlets that have sprouted up in the area, it is technically in the town of Ramapo.) Twersky’s sect originated in the Ukrainian town of Skvire; when the village in New York was incorporated, Skvire became “Square.” His son David Twersky, who has been the Grand Rabbi since 1968, lives in a house that abuts the New Square synagogue. On religious holidays, Skvire Hasidim come from all over the world—New Square has fifteen sister cities—to worship with him. Although you wouldn’t be wrong to say that New Square is a small, insular monoculture, in epidemiological terms it has the characteristics of an international city.

One such traveller, a fourteen-year-old boy from Israel, became Patient Zero in the state’s largest measles outbreak since 1992. On October 1st, in observance of Simchat Torah, he attended services at the synagogue, for the fifth time in four days. The shul is more than twenty-two thousand square feet and holds seven thousand people, and the bleachers that ring the inside of the building from floor to ceiling were full, as was the gallery upstairs, where the women sit. Feeling ill, the boy left the synagogue and walked up the hill with his father to the Refuah Health Center, which has been delivering medical services to the community since 1993. Most of the clinicians there had never seen a measles case, but they had observed, for a decade, the growth, among their patients, of misgivings toward vaccines. The boy had the telltale rash. Refuah administrators, even before the blood work had come back, notified the county department of health, which advised them to isolate the patient and shut down the health center.

It wasn’t hard to determine where the measles had come from. The boy had caught it in Israel. The theory was that he’d got it from another Israeli, who had travelled to the city of Uman, in Ukraine, for the Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage known as the Hasidic Burning Man. Because of a low vaccination rate, there have been more than fifty thousand cases of measles in Ukraine in the past year. Patient Zero had not been fully vaccinated, but not because of any objection on his parents’ part. In Israel, which is experiencing a measles outbreak of its own, vaccinations are administered in school, and, according to a patient advocate at Refuah, on the day the boy’s classmates had received their shots for measles, mumps, and rubella (known as M.M.R.) he was home sick. The boy’s twin brother, and the rest of his family, had been vaccinated.

It was harder to figure out, in a necessarily timely manner, who’d been exposed. The state and county health departments sent a pair of epidemiologists to New Square—both of them male, out of deference to Hasidic customs of gender separation. The state’s man was Robert McDonald, a doctor and Epidemic Intelligence Service officer from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who had embedded with the state for two years and had, with Zucker and others in the health department, dealt with various recent crises, such as drug-resistant fungus and a hepatitis-C outbreak. McDonald began working on a so-called line list of anyone who might have shared airspace with the boy. He started at the synagogue, where he was greeted by Yitzchok Sternberg, a rabbi with the Khal Mishkan Yosef congregation, whose wife, Chanie Sternberg, is the C.E.O. of Refuah. McDonald drew a map of the interior of the synagogue and set about learning where the boy had been and when, and who else might have been there, too.

Earlier this summer, I visited the New Square synagogue with Rabbi Sternberg, a wry and genial fifty-eight-year-old with a reddish beard. The interior of the shul features arched windows, chandeliers, and a linoleum floor. Rows of tables and plastic chairs face an ornate wooden pulpit, or bimah. (A new, much bigger temple is being built on an adjacent lot. “The day we drove in the last nail on this one, it was too small,” Sternberg said.) Morning prayers were winding down; Rabbi Twersky’s grandson had got married there the night before.

“Bobby McDonald was able to ascertain exactly where we would need to suspect that potentially contagious people had gone and come from,” Sternberg told me. “ ‘O.K., he was standing over there? What was his path? He went from that door to that door? Who was standing here, who was standing there?’ ” The boy had been halfway up the bleachers just to the right of the bimah. Sternberg indicated the path the boy had taken to the door.

McDonald and his counterpart from the county set out to reach everyone who might have been exposed. The task was complicated by the religious holiday; the congregants, and a lot of the other passengers on the boy’s flight from Israel, weren’t answering their phones. But, as soon as the holiday was over, the officials managed to inform those who were at risk and to establish, for the most part, who among them had been vaccinated. The vaccination records, especially among people from the era of paper files, were far from perfect. For every new case of measles, public-health workers have to engage in these painstaking forensics; it’s a little like working dozens of murders at once.

“We had no idea what to expect,” Sternberg said, referring to the number of transmissions. “We were afraid it would be in the hundreds. The day it happened, no one knew anything.” Synagogue members, ignorant of how the virus works, had the whole building scrubbed. “They took the towels off the racks and changed the water in the ritual bath. Not a bad idea anyway, but all this had nothing to do with measles.”

Measles, often called the most contagious disease on earth, is an airborne virus. If a person with measles walks into a room, the pathogens can linger there for two hours after the person has gone. In the New Square shul, this meant that as many as seven thousand people had shared airspace with the young man from Israel. It was fortunate that the room was so big and even, perhaps, that the women (and their small children) were in the balcony, away from the men and Patient Zero; pregnant women and small children are at the greatest risk. Still, McDonald told me, “people are very close. A cough or a sneeze by someone higher up in the bleachers would have the opportunity to dispense to a great number of people.”


Tuesday, August 27, 2019

“What if there is no ‘next level?’ What if it’s just an idea you made up in your head? What if you’re already there and not only are you not recognizing it, but by constantly pursuing something more, you’re preventing yourself from appreciating it and enjoying where you are now?”

The Disease of More



Success is often the first step toward disaster. The idea of progress is often the enemy of actual progress.

I recently met a guy who, despite having a massively successful business, an awesome lifestyle, a happy relationship, and a great network of friends, told me with a straight face, that he was thinking of hiring a coach to help him “reach the next level.”

When I asked him what this elusive next level was, he said he wasn’t sure, that that’s why he needed a coach, to point out his blind spots and show him what he’s missing out on.

“Oh,” I said. And then stood there awkwardly for a moment, gauging how brutally honest I was willing to be with someone I just met. This guy was very enthusiastic, clearly ready to spend a lot of money on whatever problem someone decided to tell him he had.

“But what if there’s nothing to fix?” I said.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“What if there is no ‘next level?’ What if it’s just an idea you made up in your head? What if you’re already there and not only are you not recognizing it, but by constantly pursuing something more, you’re preventing yourself from appreciating it and enjoying where you are now?”

He bristled a bit at my questions. Finally, he said, “I just feel like I need to always be improving myself, no matter what.”

“And that, my friend, might actually be the problem.”

There’s a famous concept in sports known as the “Disease of More.” It was originally coined by Pat Riley, a hall of fame coach who has led six teams to NBA championships (and won one as a player himself).

Riley said that the Disease of More explains why teams who win championships are often ultimately dethroned, not by other, better teams, but by forces from within the organization itself.

Riley said the 1980 Lakers didn’t get back to the finals the next year because everyone became too focused on themselves.
The players, like most people, want more. At first, that “more” was winning the championship. But once players have that championship, it’s no longer enough. The “more” becomes other things — more money, more TV commercials, more endorsements and accolades, more playing time, more plays called for them, more media attention, etc.

As a result, what was once a cohesive group of hardworking men begins to fray. Egos get involved. Gatorade bottles are thrown. And the psychological composition of the team changes — what was once a perfect chemistry of bodies and minds becomes a toxic, atomized mess. Players feel entitled to ignore the small, unsexy tasks that actually win championships, believing that they’ve earned the right to not do it anymore. And as a result, what was the most talented team, ends up failing.

More is not always better

Psychologists didn’t always study happiness. In fact, for most of the field’s history, psychology focused not on the positive, but on what f@#$% people up, what caused mental illness and emotional breakdowns and how people should cope with their greatest pains.

It wasn’t until the 1980s that a few intrepid academics started asking themselves, “Wait a second, my job is kind of a downer. What about what makes people happy? Let’s study that instead!” And there was much celebration because soon dozens of “happiness” books would proliferate bookshelves, selling millions of copies to bored, angsty middle-class people with existential crises.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

One of the first things psychologists did to study happiness was a simple survey. They took large groups of people and gave them pagers (remember, this was the 80s and 90s), and whenever the pager went off, each person was to stop and write down two things:

1) On a scale from 1-10, how happy are you at this moment? 

2) What has been going on in your life to cause these feelings?

They collected thousands of ratings from hundreds of people from all walks of life. And what they discovered was both surprising, and actually, incredibly boring.

Pretty much everybody wrote ‘7,’ like, all the time, no matter what.

At the grocery store buying milk. Seven. Attending my son’s baseball game. Seven. Talking to my boss about making a big sale to a client. Seven.

Even when catastrophic stuff did happen — mom got cancer, missed a mortgage payment on the house, junior lost an arm in a freak bowling accident — happiness levels would dip to the 2-5 range for a short period, and then, after a certain amount of time, promptly return to seven.

This was true for extremely positive events as well. Lottery winners, dream vacations, marriages, people’s ratings would shoot up for a short period of time, and then, predictably, settle back in around seven.

This fascinated psychologists. Nobody is fully happy all the time. But similarly, nobody is fully unhappy all the time either. It seems that humans, regardless of our external circumstances, live in a constant state of mild-but-not-fully-satisfying happiness. Put another way, things are pretty much always fine. But they could also always be better.

But this constant ‘seven’ that we’re all more or less always coming back to, it plays a little trick on us. And it’s a trick that we all fall for over and over again.

The trick is that our brain tells us, “You know, if I could just have a little bit more, I’d finally get to 10 and stay there.”

Most of us live most of our lives this way. Constantly chasing our imagined 10.

You think to be happier, you need to get a new job, so you get a new job. And then a few months later, you feel like you’d be happier if you had a new house. So you get a new house. And then a few months later, it’s an awesome beach vacation, so you go on an awesome beach vacation, and while you’re on the awesome beach, you’re like, “YOU KNOW WHAT I F@#$%  NEED? A GDDAMN PIÑA COLADA? CAN’T A F@#$%  GET A PIÑA COLADA AROUND HERE?” And so you stress about your piña colada, believing that just one piña colada will get you to your 10. But then it’s a second piña colada. And then a third. And then… well, you know how this turns out. You wake up with a hangover and are at a three.

But that’s OK.

Because you know that soon you’ll be back at that seven.

Some psychologists call this constant chasing of pleasure the “hedonic treadmill” because people who are constantly striving for a “better life” end up expending a ton of effort only to end up in the same place.

But wait… I know what you’re saying:

W-T-F, Mark. Does this mean that there’s no point in doing anything?

No, it means that we need to be motivated in life by something more than our own happiness. It means that we have to be driven by something greater than ourselves.

Otherwise, you will simply run and run towards some vision of your own glory and improvement, towards your perfect 10, all the while feeling as though you’re in the same place. Or worse, like Riley’s championship teams, slowly undermining what got you there to begin with.

Self-Improvement as a Glorified Hobby

Back in my early 20s, when I was what I would characterize as a “self-help junkie,” one of my favorite rituals every year was to sit down around new years and spend hours mapping out my life goals, my vision for myself, and all of the amazing shit I was going to do to get myself there.
I analyze my desires and values and end up with a sexy and impressive-sounding list of largely-arbitrary goals, filled with stuff like taking a bongo class or making a certain amount of money or finally nailing that ever-elusive six-pack.

But I eventually learned that the funny thing about self-improvement for the sake of self-improvement is that it doesn’t inherently mean anything. It’s just a glorified hobby. It’s something to keep you occupied and to enthusiastically discuss with other people who have the same hobby.

It took me a long time to accept the fact that just because something can be improved in my life, does not mean that it should be improved in my life.

The improvement is not the problem, it’s the WHY that’s motivating the improvement that matters. When one compulsively looks to improve oneself, without any greater cause or reason driving it other than self-aggrandizement, it leads to a life of immense self-preoccupation, a light and beneficent form of narcissism where one’s constant attention and focus is on oneself.
And ironically, this will probably make your life worse off.

Years ago, a friend of mine once told me: “The best decision I ever made in my life was to join a support group. Three years later, the best decision I ever made in my life was to stop attending my support group.”

I think the same principle is true with all forms of self-improvement. Self-improvement tools should be used like bandages, only to be opened and applied when something is hurt or seriously wrong, and with the goal always being to eventually remove them.

Life is not a Game of Improvement, but Rather a Game of Tradeoffs

I think many people see life in terms of linear growth and improvement. This is probably only true when you’re young.

As a kid, your knowledge and understanding of the world grow massively each year. As a young adult, your opportunities and skills grow rapidly as well.

But once you hit adulthood, once you’re established and have developed expertise in certain areas, because you’ve already invested so much time and mental energy into your skills and assets, life is no longer simply a question of improvement, but rather of trade-off.

I’ve spent 10 years developing my ability as a writer. I’ve managed to conjure a successful writing career for myself. If I turned around and wanted to become a DJ, on the one hand, you could argue, I’m “improving” myself, by expanding my talents and skill set, but to put the hundreds of hours to become competent at an entirely new artistic endeavor would force me to give up some opportunities as a writer. That 500-hours or whatever is necessary to DJ competently could be spent writing another book, starting a column at a prestigious magazine, or simply shitting out a bunch more of these blog posts.

The same was true with the NBA players who won championships. In their eyes, they were just moving up in the world. Yesterday, they won their first championship. Today, they’re getting more commercials, a better locker, a big, brand new house.

What they didn’t realize is what they were trading off. Their time and energy, now occupied by all sorts of new luxuries, was no longer able to focus on the nitty-gritty of basketball. And as a team, they suffered.

Which brings me back to the guy in search of a coach I met a couple weeks ago.

Ultimately, my advice to him was simply to be careful. Be careful with the drive to improve for the sake of improvement, the desire for more for no other reason than it’s more. Be careful adopting new dreams and goals that could harm the success and happiness you’ve already built for yourself today.
Or as the cliche goes, be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.

Life is not a checklist. It’s not a mountain to scale. It’s not a golf game or a beer commercial or whatever other cheesy analogy you want to insert here.

Life is an economy. Where everything must be traded for something else and the value of all things rise and fall with the amount of attention and effort you put into them. And in that economy, we each must eventually choose what you’re willing to trade based on what you value. And if you’re not careful with your values, if you are willing to trade things away for the sake of another hit of dopamine, another temporary trip to your own personal psychological 10, then chances are you’re going to f@#$ things up.


Monday, August 26, 2019

Starting the following year, students split off into studying one of the two languages intensively. There are also a few different religious studies tracks kids can choose — from world religions to Jewish studies to a more intensive, four-day-a-week traditional Jewish track run by Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz, director of Chabad Lubavitch of Sarasota & Manatee Counties, that will have a handful of kids this year.

 You Can't Make This Stuff up!

Chabad Lubavitch of Sarasota & Manatee Counties


At this Florida Jewish day school, half the students aren’t Jewish

SARASOTA, Florida (JTA) — Most American Jewish day schools go all in on Hanukkah, in part to remind their students that Jews have a winter holiday of their own.

But when December rolls around at the Hershorin Schiff Community Day School in southwestern Florida, you’re almost as likely to see kids drawing Christmas trees as menorahs or dreidels. That’s because the school asks its students to design their own holiday plates — and almost half the students at this Jewish day school are not Jewish.

“Even though we only teach about Hanukkah, if they say, ‘we’re excited that we have a Christmas tree and a menorah in our house,’ if it’s important to our kids, we’re going to honor that and create a space for them to share that,” said Dan Ceaser, the head of school. “So while we’re teaching our Jewish traditions, we are creating a space for families to share their traditions and we are honoring those as well.”

The school has always been open to non-Jews, but it began emphasizing that inclusiveness — including a mission statement welcoming “children of all faiths” — when Ceaser, in his first job at a Jewish school, came on in 2015. Since then, Community Day’s enrollment has more than tripled, from 67 students in 2015 to 275 in the upcoming school year. It has students from preschool through eighth grade in a city with about 20,000 Jews.

The school is trying to strike a balance between teaching Jewish values, culture and practice on the one hand, and remaining inclusive on the other. In addition to its Judaism, the school appeals to families by emphasizing its diversity (students’ families hail from 40 countries) and a philosophy of independent, project-based learning.

The school is explicitly trying to serve as a model for other Jewish day schools as non-Orthodox Jewish schools struggle with rising costs and declining affiliation. Another experiment in pluralistic Jewish education, the American Hebrew Academy boarding school in North Carolina, closed abruptly this year, citing financial challenges.

For more than a decade, Hebrew-language charter schools have pursued a similar model. They’re open to students of all faiths and backgrounds and, in order to accept public funding, emphasize Israeli culture, not religious identity. What sets the Sarasota school apart is that, unlike charter schools, it is explicitly Jewish. Students pray, eat kosher-style food and celebrate Shabbat. Tuition is on a sliding scale, but averages $9,300 per child.

“The best way to fight anti-Semitism and injustice is not just to educate Jews but to educate non-Jews about the importance of advocating for all,” Ceaser said. “We welcome you as you are and we’ll celebrate what you bring to us. That’s in terms of faith, affiliation, culture, ethnicity, families that identify as non-traditional.”

Dan Ceaser, the head of school of Hershorin Schiff Community Day School, has made the school's diversity a centerpiece of its message. (Ben Sales)

Dan Ceaser, the head of school of Hershorin Schiff Community Day School, has made the school’s diversity a centerpiece of its message. (Ben Sales)
Students at the school learn about the Jewish calendar, holidays and Israel, and pray each morning. Through second grade, they all study English, Hebrew and Spanish. 

 Starting the following year, students split off into studying one of the two languages intensively. There are also a few different religious studies tracks kids can choose — from world religions to Jewish studies to a more intensive, four-day-a-week traditional Jewish track run by Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz, director of Chabad Lubavitch of Sarasota & Manatee Counties, that will have a handful of kids this year.

“It’s kind of cool to compare the two religions,” said Matthew Cook, who will be entering 8th grade at the school and is a practicing Catholic. “The challah and the wine, there’s something a lot similar, it’s bread and wine — almost the same thing. Just [to me] it represents the body of Christ and the blood.”

In Hebrew class, the emphasis is on learning how to order falafel, or listening to classic Israeli singers, said Snait Ben-Herut, a Hebrew teacher. Ben-Herut said she gives kids an overview of Jewish history, which can get them interested in the language. Middle schoolers also travel to Israel every other year.

“The emphasis is less on writing and reading and more on the possibility of expressing yourself in Hebrew,” she said. “There’s an emphasis on the cultural side — Israeli slang, Israeli music, Israeli food. There’s an emphasis on Hebrew as a living, relevant language.”

The school also tries to cater to its diverse student body by being flexible in general. Classes will often have students from multiple grades. The curriculum is project-based, so students can (literally) get their hands dirty in a garden, choosing which vegetables to plant, or can devise a way to build a chicken coop on school grounds — a thing that actually happened.

Eric Pressman, who is Jewish and has two children at the school, appreciates that he can place them in a Jewish environment that does not cloister them away from the country’s non-Jewish majority.
“It allows our children to be raised with Jewish values, but it still embraces a multicultural feel,” he said. “It allows for children to prepare to engage in a diverse community, whether they do so academically or multiculturally or whether they do so occupationally. We don’t live in a Jewish microcosm.”

The school has a hallway of flags representing the 40 countries its students' families hail from. (Ben Sales)

The school has a hallway of flags representing the 40 countries its students’ families hail from. (Ben Sales)
Rev. Kelly Fitzgerald, who leads the First Presbyterian Church of Sarasota, began sending her three kids to Community Day two years ago and is now on the school’s board of trustees. She appreciates the school’s project-based learning and gardening lessons, but also sees value in sending her Christian kids to a Jewish school.

Recently, she was walking with her daughter in the supermarket and pulled a prepackaged school lunch of meat, cheese and crackers off the shelf. Her daughter made her put it back: It wasn’t kosher. Her kids also asked to light a menorah on Hanukkah.

“I don’t feel threatened in going to a Jewish school,” Fitzgerald said, “There’s maybe some understanding in the [Christian] community that that wouldn’t be a faithful choice, but I think it’s where we need to live as a society, in an interfaith culture.”
Ceaser said the school’s atmosphere and philosophy aim to make the students empathetic to each other’s divergent experiences, religious or otherwise. One hallway in the school displays the flags of all of the students’ families’ home countries. Ceaser remembers when, after the flags were hung, a group of seventh-grade girls approached him urgently in the hallway to demand that the Nepali flag be rotated. It was hanging in the wrong direction, they said, and could hurt the feelings of their Nepali friend.

“They’re like, ‘No, we need to talk to you now,’” he recalled. “‘You hung that flag and our friend, we feel like if she sees it hung upside-down, she’s going to feel really disrespected.’ I’m the principal, and they’re stopping me to advocate for one of their friends.”


Friday, August 23, 2019

It's This Time Of Year Again --- Preparations For The Agudah Coverup Convention 2019 Are Underway - Mimicking Our Theme From 2010 --- Because We Never Change Our Mind No Matter What!

Sunday, November 07, 2010 - The UOJ Classics

"Don't Ask Don't Tell" - Theme of Agudah Convention 2010!

By a contributing editor to NACGMBLAA ( National Association of Circumcized Girly Man Boy Losers At Agudah)

As advertised in the Yated Ne’eman this year’s convention will focus on major issues that are pressing in Klal Yisroel regarding our children. We have publicized the questions that will be addressed, but have not yet given any kind of glimpse at the answers that our Gedolim have “divined”. The following are the questions advertised, with a sneak peek at the solutions that the convention will provide us, based on inside knowledge from someone who was at the last meeting of the Moetzes:

1. How can parents and mechanchim work together to help our youth confront unprecedented challenges?

a) Challenge number one: Internet, cell phones, text messages, CDs, DVDs and MBDs. These are horrors that our parents never had to face. Agudas Yisroel is proud to announce a new campaign: Rabbi Gedalia Weinberger, Shlita and Rabbi Abe Biderman, Shlita have teamed up under the leadership of Moreinu Harav Avraham Chaim Levine, Shlita to invest new resources into providing schools and homes with metal detectors to keep out these challenging infiltrations of modern technology.

b) Another big challenge that parents and mechanchim face is the continued struggle to silence the children who claim they are molested. Those who come up with the exaggerated “tawdry tales” of being sexually abused without even at least being penetrated! In the words of Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz, Shlita of Aguda’s Project YES: “Lma’an Hashem!” We have warned them that they won’t get shidduchim, we warned their parents that all their other children will be thrown out of yeshivas, and we have told them that they are breaking the issur of mesirah, the worst sin of all, if they go to the cops. But still there are those cowardly and weak children who cannot withstand the challenge of keeping their mouths shut and have fallen victim to the temptation to cry out for help.

 Moreinu Harav Matisyahu Salmon, Shlita and Moreinu Harav Malkiel Kotler, Shlita will explain to us how their community in Lakewood even had a family’s house burned down for daring to talk about their son who died after being molested, just to “send them a message,” and how they ran a family out of town to Detroit for daring to go to the police. But it is not enough. We must use the same devious methods as the molesters themselves to “groom” the families into trusting us. Moreinu Harav Shmuel Kaminetsky, Shlita will explain how he has personally covered up for Yudi Kolko, Moshe Eisemann, Chaim Abrahamson, Shmuel Levitt, Yossef Ahron Kolko and many, many others, while telling victims that they have a mitzvah to reveal their molesters. This trick lets us know who the loudmouths are so they too can be run out of town.

c) The biggest challenge is really for us, the parents and mechanchim. Mishpacha Magazine recently described the newest problem we face: Kids who look the part of good yeshiva boys and bais yaakov girls, but who use drugs, go on the Internet on Shabbos and ignore halacha totally. This is sooooo confusing. We yearn for the days of old, when the off-the-derech boy would grow his hair long, and the off-the-derech girls would dress not tznius, and they would both get tattoos and body piercings. How are we supposed to know which kids to disown? We have no choice but to utilize crime prevention techniques, like giving our children polygraphs and forensic evaluations, to screen out the dangerous ones and protect the innocent.

2. How can we ensure the fiscal viability of our embattled yeshivos?

Some may think that this question is kefirah because only Hashem can make such assurances. Nonsense. It is up to our Gedolim, Shlita to divine His will and to keep our sinking enterprise alive by any means necessary. So:

a) We will hear from Nat Lewin, Shlita and Pinny Lipshutz, Shlita about gathering gantz Klal Yisroel together --- to send a powerful message to the government --- they cannot stop us from doing what we need to do to support our family businesses – the yeshivas. We will defend even violent criminals like convicted cop-killer Martin Grossman Z”TL for the same reason. If the government were to think we are weak, they could come after our yeshivas and put an end to money laundering, tax evasion and fraudulent government grants. This, we cannot afford.

b) It’s the tuition stupid! We must sock it to the parents continuing to instruct them to have more children than they can afford so we can hit them up for more tuition and line our pockets with their hard earned money.

c) For those who are getting tired of supporting yeshivos, Agudah has decided to offer an incentive that no self-respecting follower of Daas Torah could refuse. For every financial supporter of our yeshivas we will now have personalized letters of guarantee from the Gedolim of Eretz Yisroel that they will win the lottery, that their children will also win the lottery, and that they will do shidduchim with other people who will also win the lottery.

3. Is educational elitism “pushing” some of our children through the cracks?

The short answer is yes, it is. B”H our yeshivas and bais yaakovs have inculcated an attitude of disdain for anyone who is in any way religiously inferior, and by promoting a kollel lifestyle that cannot possibly work for most people, and educational standards that few can even think about achieving. But we can do better. There are still “undesirable” kids left in our schools. There are high school bais yaakov girls who are willing to marry a so called “working boy”.

B’avonoseinu Harabbim, there are schools in Lakewood "ir hakodesh" that have started ---introducing  secular education on the high school level, Hashem yirachem, for the purpose of creating adults who can function in the so-called “real world,” not having to resort to a life of dependence on government programs and “genaivishe shtick.” This is unacceptable. Moreinu Harav Ahron Feldman, Shlita will inspire the olam with his brilliant analysis of how the chinuch in Eretz Yisroel which does not allow such “bittul zman” must be instituted here, if we are to survive. Our schools must “push” ALL "deviant" children through the cracks so we can succeed in our mission as an Am Hatorah led by Daas Torah divined by Gedolei Torah, and financed by people who are Machshiv Torah.

4. How can we better help our youth forge a meaningful connection with their Yiddishkeit?

First of all, just because some Baalei Teshuvah have started using this term “meaningful” when for thousands of years we used to wish each other simply an “easy fast” before Yom Kippur, does not in any way mean that this concept is a kosher one. In fact, it is quite “New Age,” and Shlomo Carlebachy. “Meaningfulness” is not an authentic Daas Torah word or expression. Rabbi Avi Shafran, Shlita will lecture on the dangers of allowing children to question what they are taught, to think critically, or to, chas v’shalom, express even the slightest amount of individuality, and why we must brainwash them into conforming into mindless robots. Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zweibel, Shlita will address the radical departure from our Mesorah “presumptuously promoted” in books like Rabbi Slifkin’s, and “The Making of a Gadol”. A panel discussion about finding the true meaning of Yiddishkeit for Jewish girls and women will be co-chaired by Rabbi Leib Tropper, Shlita and Rabbi Mordechai Tendler, Shlita.

5. Are we doing enough to protect our children from outside influences and dangerous people?

This is complicated. Some think that by dangerous people we mean people like our very own Moreinu Harav Ahron Shechter, Shlita, who tells parents to send their “bad” kids to abusive “boot camps” in Jamaica, Moreinu Harav Moshe Eisemann, Shlita, who enjoys massaging the behinds of young bochurim, and Moreinu Harav Lipa Margulies, Shlita who allows predator pedophiles access to children in the classrooms of his yeshiva. But no, these are the “good guys!”

We are referring to the real dangerous individuals. We have already banned Lipa Shmeltzer, because his concerts can lead to mixed seating, mixed dancing and eventually getting married and sending your kids to modern orthodox schools, rachmana litzlan. But we need to do more to protect our kids from bloggers like UOJ, and child advocates like Rabbi Nochum Rosenberg and Dr. Asher Lipner and Mark Mayer Appel who fill their heads with ideas that are very, very dangerous for us, because they show them how hypocritical and immoral we are. And to this we must regretfully say that the answer is no, we are not doing enough. With Hashem’s help, we “outed” UOJ, really showing him who is boss, and Moreinu the Novominsker Rebbe, Shlita has publicly denounced the advocates. But there is much more to be done to protect our children from these people who are so dangerous to the Agudah. On a scale of 1 to 10, we are only at a one, or at most, a one and a half.

Harav Yisroel Belsky Shlita, ZTL, will be making a surprise appearance at shalosh seudos aka shalashudis ---- distributing templates of hazmanas to demonstrate the power of bais din to coverup for child-rapists through the power of hazmanas. You do not have to stop eating through the presentation!

In addition to the important message included in these presentations, we will also, I”YH, be showing via a live video hook-up a special presentation from Eretz Yisroel. Rabbi Dr. Avraham Mondrowitz, Shlita will give a drasha, on how best to give love to children. We will also feature at the convention Rabbi Yudi Kolko, Shlita on how to get the most out of the rebbe - talmid relationship, and Rabbi Weingarten, Shlita another former rebbe at Yeshiva Torah Temima, on how fathers can instill real kibbud av in your daughters and get them to fulfill all of your earthly desires. Moreinu Harav Reuvain (EJF) Feinstein, Shlita will introduce his nephews, Rabbi Ahron and Mordecai Tendler Shlita, who will speak on “Chinuch Habanos: Preparing teen-age girls for marriage – a hands-on approach.” The Tendlers will introduce their uncle Rabbi Sholom Tendler, Vice President of the RCC of California - "When Sleeping With The Women You Give Counsel To - Actually Helps Their Marriage"! He will demonstrate via videos the technique that he uses, and the various mitzvas involved! A video you do not want to miss!

Please do not leave right after Shabbos --- Stay for the Melave Malka, where we are flying in Rav Heshy Nussbaum shlita from Toronto and awarding him the Mike Tress Pirchei Leader of the Century award ...followed by him introducing the Toronto Pirchei his favorite boys choir...with a special composition by him introduced for the first time ever -  "chitty, chity, bim bom, BANG BANG". Soon to be recorded by Bad Apple records.

Finally, we want to remind you of our catchy theme for our convention: “For the sake of our precious vulnerable youth, our beautiful and sweet children, our seductive Lolitas, our innocent young boys... 
Don't Ask Don't Tell!




Thursday, August 22, 2019

Who exactly is Wayne Allyn Root and why are he and Trump so fond of each other? Here are some answers.

Who is Wayne Allyn Root, the evangelical Christian Trump quoted to validate his comments on Jews?

WASHINGTON (JTA) — On Wednesday morning, President Donald Trump quoted a conservative talk show host named Wayne Allyn Root to defend comments he had made the day before that angered many in the Jewish community: that Jews who vote for Democrats show “a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”

“Thank you to Wayne Allyn Root for the very nice words,” Trump said before quoting something Root has said previously about the president.

“President Trump is the greatest President for Jews and for Israel in the history of the world, not just America, he is the best President for Israel in the history of the world … and the Jewish people in Israel love him … like he’s the King of Israel. They love him like he is the second coming of God,” the quote said.

It’s not the only Jewish thing Root has said about Trump. Just two weeks after Trump was elected, Root sought to reassure Jewish Americans, who had voted overwhelmingly for his rival, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, about the president-elect’s bona fides.

“I believe Donald Trump should be called ‘America’s first Jewish president,'” he wrote on the Fox News website. “I should know. I’m an Ivy League-educated Jewish kid from New York.”

Maybe, in the sense that Saul was a Jewish kid from Tarsus — Root is an evangelical Christian, something he did not mention in his Fox column.

Root, speaking Tuesday evening on his talk show on Newsmax, also a conservative news site, was a little more candid about where he was faith-wise.
Who exactly is Wayne Allyn Root and why are he and Trump so fond of each other? Here are some answers.

He says he’s Jewish and has interesting ideas about Jewish identity.

He told The Jewish Telegraphic Agency that all four grandparents are Jewish and that his DNA shows him “99.5” percent European Jewish.
Root, who lives in Las Vegas, says he founded the Republican Jewish Coalition chapter in Nevada.

Matt Brooks, the RJC’s executive director, confirmed that Root was involved in the group but says he has not been for more than a decade. (Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate who is a major funder of the RJC and Republican candidates along with Jewish causes, hired Root to write a column for the Las Vegas Review-Journal after buying the newspaper in 2015 — a move that raised eyebrows among fans of the paper’s hard news tradition.)

Root told JTA he “took Jesus Christ as a savior” about 30 years ago, but he still considers himself Jewish.

Notably, several other Trump defenders are Jews turned Christian, including Trump’s lawyer, Jay Sekulow, and the right-wing activist and lawyer Larry Klayman.

The lessons Root takes away from being born Jewish comport with hoary Jewish stereotypes — some flattering, others less so.

“I am a Jew and you can’t take away from a person being a Jew,” he said, noting that Islamist extremists and white supremacists would target him as Jewish. “I’ve got Jewish blood and passion and zeal.”

“Jesus Christ was a Jew, and the CEO of the Christian religion,” Root said, adding that he, too, was born Jewish and was a CEO.

Root, who calls himself a “capitalist evangelist” told Daniel Davis, a syndicated radio host, that his Jewish background informed his philosophy. Jews were “relentless,” he said.

“They like to hammer down the door till they get what they want,” he said.

In the Fox column, Root said Trump “is your typical Jewish parent.”

“Donald’s children are all Ivy League graduates — just like my daughter who recently graduated magna cum laude from Harvard,” he said, adding that “Donald is handing his business over to his children. That is the goal of every Jewish businessman in history.”

Elsewhere in the column: “Donald is a big success in Hollywood as a TV producer. He joins an exclusive club that is predominantly Jewish.”

Add forthrightness to the list of traits Root finds Jewish.

“He says whatever is on his mind, even if it offends,” he wrote in the column. “All of those are traits I’ve seen in my Jewish friends, relatives and business partners for my entire life.”

He can be emphatically evangelical.

A few months before the 2016 election, writing on another conservative website, Townhall, Root used a more Christian pitch in addressing coreligionists who were put off by Trump’s brashness and viciousness.

“Let me repeat my message to Christians: ‘YOU’RE MISSING THE BOAT,'” Root said. “God is about miracles. We don’t need a ‘nice guy’ or a ‘gentleman’ right now. It’s the fourth quarter and we’re losing 14-0. We need a miracle. I believe Trump is our miracle.”

He’s been on the Trump train longer than most.

Root, the Libertarian Party’s vice presidential nominee in 2008, announced his support for the businessman and reality star almost as soon as Trump announced he was running in June 2015. He emceed one of the candidate’s first rallies, in Las Vegas. Trump, unsurprisingly, praised Root’s book “Angry White Male: How the Donald Trump Phenomenon is Changing America” published that year.
Root, who ran a sports gambling business, told JTA that the Republican Party has not done enough to shake Jewish voters out of their adherence to Democrats.

“I’m one of the best salesmen in America, and I believe I can sell conservatism to Jews,” he said.
Root went on to say that he would soon announce that he will head a “major Jewish organization” and planned to set up a Jews for Trump political action committee.

He’s called a conspiracy theorist — he says he asks questions.
Liberal outlets have long singled out Root for peddling conspiracy theories, including that the 2017 shooting massacre in Las Vegas that killed 58 concertgoers was the work of Islamist extremists. No motive has been ascribed for the attack, which was carried out by a white non-Muslim man named Stephen Paddock.

Root has also questioned whether white supremacists were behind the deadly violence at a neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, and whether there is more to the 2016 murder of Seth Rich, a Jewish Democratic Party staffer. (Police believe Rich was killed in a robbery gone bad; conspiracy theorists believe Hillary Clinton was behind the killing.)

Root told JTA that conspiracy theories proliferate on the right and the left, and that he does not necessarily endorse the theories — he asks questions. That, he said, was a very American thing to do, and that pluralities of Americans do not buy into the accepted narratives behind the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 or the suicide of disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein this month.
“I question everything coming out of the mouths of government officials,” he said. “They’re egomaniacs who lie about everything to protect themselves.”


Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The religious Jews in New York were super Jewish. They were intense about a dozen things I’d never heard of — which kinds of kosher foods were not kosher enough and the exact measurements of long skirts, for example. Many of them had never met a Jewish family unlike their own. They couldn’t imagine the encounters I had while walking on the street, and I could never understand why they were always running somewhere...

Should we have laughed at this joke about New York Jews?

CLEVELAND (JTA) — My husband and I don’t go out often, but somehow we found ourselves on a date at a super small, local comedy event. My husband wears a kippah and woolen tzitzit. I wear a wig, my skirts reach below my knees, and my neckline and sleeves conform to the conventional laws of modesty. Let’s just say we look pretty Jewish.

The headliner spotted us in the crowd, took one look and said something surprising. 

“Look at that couple over there. Y’all know they have their life together,” he said. “Like they’ve got a 401 (k), they know what they’re doing tomorrow night. They’ve got it together.” 

It was cute, especially since we often joke that we have no idea what we’re doing with our lives. But when the comic came back around, he looked at my husband and said, “Oh sir, I just noticed the skullcap — are you by chance a member of the tribe?” 

My husband nodded. The headliner looked into the audience and said, “Nah y’all, they’re all right — these are Ohio Jews, not New York Jews. They’re not in real estate or whatever.” 

We all laughed. He then went on to tell us that he had lived in a predominantly Jewish area, adding it was the safest he ever felt in his life because so many kids and families were always on the street. 

Here’s how he finished the bit: “One thing the Jews know how to do right is dress their sons. Those boys look dope with those hats and suits, and they’ll be like 20 years old or something.” 

Following his set, the comic walked over to see if we were fine. We were. We really were. It was over and we went home. I fell asleep on the car ride back. (It was 9:15, after all.)

Comedians use stereotypes to get responses. The audience laughed, and I doubt anyone considered whether the exchange was anti-Semitic.

A few days later I remembered the incident and asked my husband if he thought it was anti-Semitic. We both agreed that it didn’t bother us. We had lived in New York and understood there are differences between Jewish communities that must be obvious to outside groups: Anecdotally, Jews outside of New York are less likely to be engaged in real estate. Visibly Jewish people in Ohio are generally less politically active and many have less accumulated wealth than Jews in New York.

I’m still thinking about it, though. Because while Jewish communities might internally call out differences among ourselves, it can sometimes border on bigotry when other communities join in. 

When I swap the word “Jews” with any other group, the comedian’s statement sounds pretty bad. But when I consider the fact that Jewish communities in different areas have marked differences, it’s difficult for me to say for certain that the statement was hate-filled — though it’s definitely on a fence somewhere.

At the most basic level, it’s obvious that any statement that broadly paints a group of people as “bad” is, at the very least, prejudicial. The added layer of mentioning the real estate industry seems especially cringe-worthy. 

But I understand what he meant. I grew up Orthodox and outside of New York. I knew from a young age that we Pittsburgh Jews were not like New York Jews. The religious Jews in New York were super Jewish. They were intense about a dozen things I’d never heard of — which kinds of kosher foods were not kosher enough and the exact measurements of long skirts, for example. Many of them had never met a Jewish family unlike their own. They couldn’t imagine the encounters I had while walking on the street, and I could never understand why they were always running somewhere. 

Then I moved to New York and so much became clear. The lifestyle is expensive, the needs are great and the opportunities can be overwhelming. There are millions of people! Running, competing, creating standards — these are the ways individuals and communities balance it all.

But beyond the individual differences are institutional ones. New York also is the home of massive Jewish institutions that carry significant political and social clout. Orthodox Jews in New York are very visible in a way that Ohio Jews simply are not: We don’t have elected officials with payot. There are no minyanim at City Hall. And we have fewer visibly Jewish folks on the cover of local newspapers, for better or for worse. 

Not two months ago, I wrote about the way that Orthodox Jewish magazines covered rent control policy and the connections they made — to the world — between “Orthodox Jews” and “the real estate industry.” No such piece would be written in Ohio, let alone by an Orthodox Jewish media outlet. If a non-Jew were to point that out, would that be anti-Semitic?

Here in Ohio, where many Jews live in some of the most segregated regions in the country, most visibly Jewish folks live clustered in suburban areas. If someone in a New York City comedy club were to look at the kippah-wearing guy in the audience and note, “nah, these Jews aren’t awful — these are New York Jews, they’re one of us, not like those Ohio Jews who live out in the suburbs,” would that be anti-Semitic? Or is it simply hometown pride?

Some have told me that the statement was anti-Semitic, or at the very least it had anti-Semitic undertones. 

That might be true. But let’s say it’s inappropriate for an outsider to joke about Jewish communities and their practices. Are non-Jews allowed to highlight practices that might appear to be sketchy or illegal in more serious contexts? 

Jews within the Orthodox community are strongly discouraged from criticizing our own. So who is allowed to comment on the practices of the visible Jew? Who is allowed to highlight our similarities and differences across geographic, class-based and gender lines? How do we ensure our community stays in check? 

Perhaps we need folks from the outside to remind us that we don’t live in an insular world of our own, even when we attempt to maintain very closed communities. The basement comedian might not be the right person to call us out, but if not him, then who is?

is a PhD candidate in Urban Studies and Public Affairs at Cleveland State University. She is also a writer for Cleveland Scene where she writes about metropolitan and urban governance. Her work has appeared in CityLab and the Forward. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

"That the Jews in Israel, mostly white, and the Palestinians are browner, so they must be innocent and correct, and the Jews must be wrong,"

Bill Maher called the anti-Israel boycott movement 'A bulls--- purity test' after Israel barred supporters Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from visiting

Bill Maher criticized the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel on his show Friday night, following Israel's ban on permitting Democratic representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from visiting the country. 

"It's a bulls--- purity test by people who want to appear woke but actually slept through history class," Maher said on HBO's "Real Time."

Following pressure from President Donald Trump, Israel on Thursday banned reps. Omar and Tlaib, both of whom are vocal supporters of the BDS movement, from visiting the country. Tlaib asked Israel to allow her to visit her 90-year-old grandmother living in the West Bank, promising to "respect any restrictions and will not promote any boycotts against Israel." But when Israel accepted her offer, she rejected it

The BDS campaign seeks to further isolate Israel from the international community under the charge that Israel's treatment of Palestinians is akin to apartheid. It's supported by a minority of Democratic lawmakers — the House of Representatives in July passed a measure to condemn it by a vote of 398 to 117. But Trump has sought to make it a wedge issue as part of his political strategy to erode bipartisan support for Israel, and to make Tlaib, Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Ayana Pressley — four Democratic representatives on the left — the face of the Democratic party

Maher, who has a history of inflammatory comments about Muslims, suggested that the occupation of Palestinian territory arose from violent uprisings, referring to the history of Palestinian suicide bombings and intifadas — organized grassroots violent attacks on Israelis

"It's predicated on this notion, I think — it's very shallow thinking — that the Jews in Israel, mostly white, and the Palestinians are browner, so they must be innocent and correct, and the Jews must be wrong," he said. "As if the occupation came right out of the blue, that this completely peaceful people found themselves occupied." 

The current conflict between Jewish and Arab populations in the region dates back to as early as the 1920s, when large groups of Jews migrated to the area in reaction to worldwide anti-Semitism.
Maher also criticized Omar's history of antisemitic comments, for which she's apologized

"She apologized for it, but it's out there: Jews control the world, control the money," he said, adding of the lawmakers: "I can see why they don't get a hero's welcome." 

Tlaib's grandmother, Muftia Tlaib, criticized Trump after he pressured Israel to bar her granddaughter from visiting. 

"Trump tells me I should be happy Rashida is not coming," the elder Tlaib said. "May God ruin him."