Archive for category Politics

TEDx talk: How I Became my own Worst Nightmare

…or

Hitchhiking, Fundamentalism, and the Art of Ethical Communication

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My party, right or wrong

Why Republicans shouldn’t expect to win over Jewish voters

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If Moses won’t come to the mountain, bring the mountain to Moses.

This might be the tagline from conservative strategists’ latest brainstorm: according to Politico, the Republican Jewish Coalition is spearheading a multi-million dollar campaign to woo Jewish voters away from their generations-long love affair with the Democrat party.

A more accurate tagline might be: Good night and good luck.

The proposed PR blitz presumes that the party loyalty of American Jews can be weakened by a two-pronged attack.  First, invoking American policy toward Israel.  Second, attributing the resurgence of anti-Semitism to liberal political policy.

Both assumptions are flawed, and here’s why.

Most American Jews are deeply conflicted about the State of Israel.  As I explain in my article, “Why Jews are Liberals,” the average American Jew has largely abandoned every outward vestige of his Judaism.  All he has left is the echo of Jewish idealism, the mission to elevate human society by serving as a model of virtue.

That’s good as far as it goes.  But untethered from the practices of traditional Jewish observance, that idealism has no discernible outlet except through the causes of social justice – which, perforce, require supporting every underdog against every establishment, any David against any Goliath.

Based on that template, the First World, along with its every manifestation, is intrinsically evil.  Western Civilization, capitalism, the tech industry, and economic success – all these must be lumped together as villains and oppressors.  The success of American Jews themselves is atoned for through Jewish guilt and active support for victims.

Those victims are defined, for the sake of convenience, as any person or group opposing or opposed by people or nations of privilege.  And since Israel is an American ally, a military power, and an economic dynamo, by definition it automatically gets filed in the category of “oppressor.”

This is why the perverse rewriting of history that brands Israel as an aggressor and occupier garners so little objection from American Jews.  It doesn’t fit the narrative; therefore, it challenges the basic assumptions of what American Jews believe.  See no evil; hear no evil.

That’s why American Jews, 78% of whom supported Barack Obama in 2008, continued to support him overwhelmingly in 2012.  Despite a long record of undisguised and unapologetic animus toward Israel, Mr. Obama retained 69% of the Jewish vote when he ran for reelection.  There’s little cause to believe that Donald Trump could ever erode that margin significantly further.

The issue of anti-Semitism is even more of a non-starter, for much the same reasons.

Despite many generations of history proving otherwise, secular Jews have long believed that anti-Semitism is the natural consequence of drawing attention to themselves.  The remedy is to blend in.  And, since most American Jews associate only with liberals and progressives, they can’t even conceptualize deviating from the party line as a viable option.

With so much invested in progressive ideology, American Jews won’t let little details like Democrat Congresswoman IIhan Omar’s open anti-Semitism or Beto O’Rourke’s slur of Benyamin Netanyahu shake their party loyalty.  Always, ideology trumps ethnicity.

It’s worth noting that the large majority of Orthodox Jews identify themselves as politically conservative.  The failure of social justice programs, abandonment of traditional values, and militant hostility toward Israel provide more than enough reason for the religious to reject progressive liberalism in general and the Democrat party in particular.

But the religious still make up only a small minority of American Jews, and the Republicans don’t need a campaign to win them over.

What strategy should be employed to turn American Jews?  The same one that should be used toward mainstream liberals. Rather than trying to shame them by challenging the political allegiance, quietly leave them agonize over their party’s abdication to the extreme left wing.  They may not vote Republican, but they may stay home and note vote at all.

Published in Jewish World Review and the Jewish Press

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Unmasking Frum Women

My unpublished letter to Mishpacha Magazine, 12 November 2016:

Dear Editors,

I found interesting the juxtaposition between last week’s letters regarding Hillary Clinton’s cover picture and Rabbi Grylak’s weekly insights into the parsha.  His essay began with the introduction, “From age three, Avraham was asking questions, challenging the pervading belief system of the time.”

So I’d like to ask some questions of my own.  If I can sit across from a woman at the Shabbos table, if I can pass a woman in the grocery store aisle, if I can survive spiritually crossing paths with the secular women who live in my neighborhood or work in my office, why is my neshoma so profoundly threatened by a picture of a modestly attired woman in a magazine?

And, assuming that there is indeed a reasonable answer, then what about this:  is it not possible — given the mores of the modern world — that some young women and girls in our communities might interpret the exclusion of feminine images from Torah publications as symptomatic of a society that degrades the value and contribution of women, and who therein find a pretext to reject normative hashkofah?  If so, is the gain worth the loss?

I’m no gadol, so these are not my questions to answer.  But I’m reminded of what Rav Nota Schiller is fond of saying, that the Torah allows the Jews to change enough to stay the same.

It’s worth at least contemplating which changes will ultimately benefit Klal Yisroel in the future even as we fiercely defend the traditions of the past.

Yonason Goldson

Click here to see what prominent rabbinic figures have to say on the issue.

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The Priorities of Progressives

I offer here a remarkably savvy insight into progressive thinking and priorities from Jim  Geraghty of the National Review, cited by Eytan Kobre in Mishpacha Magazine:

 

imgresA list of progressives’ fears would offer a mix of the insignificant, the theoretical, the farfetched, and the mundane… climate change a century from now, the Koch Brothers, insufficient cultural sensitivity in video games… New York mayor Bill DeBlasio is on a crusade to save his city from charter schools and horse-drawn carriages…

You notice progressives don’t spend a lot of time and energy fearing flights of people from countries with Ebola, and unsecured border, ISIS, al-Qaeda, Vladimir Putin’s aggression, the declining number of two-parent families…

This may be a bit of psychological transference.  When the Leftists notice things like ISIS, Putin’s aggression, or the collapse of the family, on some level — perhaps subconsciously — they realize their prefered options are unlikely to be effective.  Confronting that fact would force them to reevaluate how they see the world — and sometimes, after a sufficiently dramatic or frightening event such as 9/11, some people actually do change their worldview.

But a lot of people can’t or won’t overhaul their entire philosophy and understanding of how the world works.  So they deny the idea that any of these are real problems or worthy of much attention or discussion — they reflect GOP scaremongering, others’ paranoia, etc.

But all that fear and anxiety and anger has to go somewhere… and thus it gets expressed at much more convenient and much more philosophically aligned targets — i.e., climate change a century from now, the Koch Brothers, insufficient cultural sensitivity in video games, and so on.

 

In other words, if the big problems of the world are likely to remain insoluble unless I change my approach to political, economic, and social dynamics, then I’m likely to shift my focus to more abstract issues that don’t force me to question my own ideological predisposition.

This reminds me of a meeting I once had with my editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  In the course of the conversation I mentioned columnist Charles Krauthammer.  Without missing a beat, my editor said, “I hate him.”

“Really?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.  “He’s so articulate that I find myself agreeing with him… and I don’t!”

Had I been less protective of my position at the time, I would have suggested that she reexamine some of her positions.  Oh, well.  I guess I can suggest it now.

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Revisiting the Cause of Terror

Adapted from an essay in Mishpacha Magazine for the Times of Israel.

Question:  When is a new shul considered successful?
Answer:  When it’s big enough to spawn its first breakaway minyan.

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This past August, observers went to great lengths to show, correctly, the silver lining of achdus within the dark clouds of terrorism.  The three martyred yeshiva students, the barrage of rocket fire, the mass retreats into bomb shelters, the cost of the Gaza operation in precious Jewish lives – all of these brought Jews in Israel and around the world together and, for at least a moment, put an end to the divisiveness that too often characterizes our community.  Now, the brutal terrorist attack in Har Nof promises a similar response.  This is a genuine consolation, and should not be discounted.

What compounds these tragedies, however, is the cycle of missed opportunity that has repeated itself again and again and again.
Read the whole article here: Revisiting the Cause of Terror | Yonason Goldson | The Blogs | The Times of Israel http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/revisiting-the-cause-of-terror/#ixzz3JdkIQb4p
Follow us: @timesofisrael on Twitter | timesofisrael on Facebook

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Groupthink: blinded by “I’m right”

Published on Hubpages.com

A child’s brain is like a sponge, absorbing everything with which it comes in contact. As the brain gets older it learns to process, to analyze, to interpret. And eventually it begins to slow, begins to forget, begins to lose function.

Few prospects are as forbidding as mental decline, the specter of which haunts us as we advance toward old age. And so the experts tell us to keep our minds active, that using the brain is the surest way to stave off mental deterioration.

Crossword puzzles. Sudoku. Word games. Logic problems. These are common recipes from the diet books for the mind. Go traveling. Take up knitting or gardening. Learn Italian. Drive a different way to work. Get an advanced degree. Anything and everything that piques cognitive activity belongs in our catalogue of mental health activities.

“That’s all good,” says Barbara Strauch, author of The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind andNew York Times health and medical science editor. But the most intriguing advice Ms. Strauch has heard is this: “Deliberately challenge your view of the world. Talk to people you totally disagree with.”

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More Moral Confusion over Israel

Published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

imagesAfter Charles Krauthammer wrote so articulately about the moral clarity in Gaza (July 18), it is astonishing that there remains such profound moral confusion.

Exactly why are Arielle Klagsbrun, Hedy Epstein and Maya Harris (“The American Jewish community must value all life,” July 22) so eager to misrepresent the history of Israel, and to condemn their fellow Jews for the unspeakable crimes of self-defense and survival? They denounce the “illegal occupation” of captured territories. Why are they not equally concerned about the Jewish-owned land appropriated by Arab governments — all 38,625 square miles of it (compared to Israel’s total area of 7,992 square miles)? Why do they condemn Israel as oppressors when it was the Palestinian Authority that rejected Ehud Barak’s offer — after the Camp David Accords of 2000 — to return an equivalent amount of territory to that captured in the defensive 1967 war?

Have they forgotten that Israel withdrew unilaterally from Gaza and handed it over to the Palestinians, who promptly destroyed much of the infrastructure the Israelis left behind and embarked on a campaign of terrorism against Israel?

Most important, by what twisted logic do they suggest that Israel is guilty of murdering the Palestinian civilians used by Hamas as human shields to protect the rockets targeting Israeli civilians in an unprovoked rain of terror? It should be obvious that there would be peace tomorrow if the Palestinian leadership would stop seeking Israel’s destruction today.

Even the Washington Post editorial staff has reached the inevitable conclusion that the leaders of Hamas have no motive other than to sacrifice their own people on the altar of public opinion in hope of inciting world condemnation against Israel for defending itself. If they read the letter written by Ms. Klagsbrun, Ms. Epstein and Ms. Harris, the Hamas terrorists will rejoice, as their people die, knowing that their stratagem has not been completely in vain.

 

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