Archive for category Politics
The death of education?
Posted by Yonason Goldson in Culture, Education and Parenting, Jewish Unity, Politics on April 9, 2013
In his letter of resignation to the Superintendent of Westhill Central School District in Syracuse, New York, vetern teacher Gerald Conti describes a litany of problems arising from the unwillingness of administrators to defend educational values against the relentless pressure of ideology and political correctness. But the problem does not begin with administrators; it begins with parents, parents with egos so utterly dependent on the perception of success that they prefer to cripple their children for life rather than hold them accountable for living up to standards that will prepare them for genuinely successful lives and careers.
It is difficult to fathom the lengths to which people will go to tear down educators and their institutions when, by doing so, they can deflect from themselves responsibility for their children’s poor performance, attitudes, or behaviors. No form of malicious gossip, character assassination, or outright slander is taboo, even from individuals occupying the highest levels of communal leadership.
History offers tragic examples of the damage inflicted on individuals and whole communities through irresponsible speech. Innuendo, exaggeration, and outright lies, repeated often enough, seep into the consciousness of even the most well-intentioned people, until the damage eventually becomes irreversible.
Read the whole article here.
The Midpoint of the World
Posted by Yonason Goldson in Culture, History, Philosophy, Politics on March 6, 2013
What would you ask of a time traveler from a hundred years ago? And if you traveled a hundred years into the future, what would you want to tell the people you found there? Perhaps it would sound something like this:
What did you do to handle the overpopulations we predicted? How did you protect the seashores? What did you do to keep the ozone layer intact, the energy supplies, the trees? Have you eliminated ignorance, brutality, greed?
There might be no better way to discover unexamined truths about ourselves then by composing a letter to our grandchildren’s grandchildren. This was certainly on the mind of award-winning essayist Roger Rosenblatt a quarter century ago when he penned his deeply thoughtful Letter to 2086.
Read the whole article here.
Hat tip: David Rich
Leadership is not (yet) dead
Posted by Yonason Goldson in Culture, Ethics of Fathers, Politics on February 21, 2013
From Beyond Twelve Gates by Rabbi Ze’ev Smason:
Our persistent need to rank events and people has led to the proliferation of year-end ‘Best of the Year’ lists; Top 10 Sports Moments of the Year, Top 10 News Stories of the Year, Top 10 Gefilte Fish Recipes of the Year (well, maybe things haven’t gone that far …yet). However, an intriguing year-end list, put forth by the Times of Israel, was ‘ Gentiles of the Year 2012.’ One name relatively unknown on this list was Istvan Ujhelyi. Unfamiliar with Mr. Ujhelyi? His name is worth knowing.
After a far-right Hungarian politician called for Jews to be screened as potential security risks, Istvan Ujhelyi, the deputy speaker of Hungary’s parliament, led colleagues in wearing yellow stars as a sign of solidarity with the country’s Jewish community. While presiding over a parliamentary session, Ujhelyi, bedecked in his own yellow star, said, ”One of our fellow deputies stepped over a line that I thought until now could not happen in the halls of the Hungarian national assembly. As far as I know I do not have Jewish ancestry, but should (someone) uncover that I have such roots, I will be proud of them.” Some 550,000 Hungarian Jews were killed in the Holocaust, including a third of the victims who died at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Hungary’s Jewish population is estimated at 100,000 today, and while physical attacks are rare, an elderly rabbi was insulted recently near his home and Jewish and Holocaust memorials have been vandalized.
Istvan Ujhelyi’s action and words brings to mind the teaching of Hillel (Ethics of the Fathers 2:6) “…..and in a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.” There are times when circumstances in life require that we go against the tide. Even when no one else has the wisdom or courage to do the right thing, even when everyone else has become part of the faceless crowd, we still must rise to the occasion.
Posted by Yonason Goldson in Culture, Politics on November 7, 2012
Dated April 18, 2011, the following is from the Prager Zeitung, a publication in the Czech Republic:
“The danger to America is not Barack Obama but a citizenry capable of entrusting an inexperienced man like him with the Presidency. It will be far easier to limit and undo the follies of an Obama presidency than to restore the necessary common sense and good judgment to a depraved electorate willing to have such a man for their president. The problem is much deeper and far more serious than Mr. Obama, who is a mere symptom of what ails America. Blaming the prince of the fools should not blind anyone to the vast confederacy of fools that made him their prince. The Republic can survive a Barack Obama. It is less likely to survive a multitude … such as those who made him their president.”
Netanyahu Advisor Strikes a Blow for Responsible Journalism
Posted by Yonason Goldson in Israel, Politics on December 19, 2011
To the New York Times:
I received your email requesting that Prime Minister Netanyahu submit an op-ed to the New York Times. Unfortunately, we must respectfully decline.
On matters relating to Israel, the op-ed page of the “paper of record” has failed to heed the late Senator Moynihan’s admonition that everyone is entitled to their own opinion but that no one is entitled to their own facts.
A case in point was your decision last May to publish the following bit of historical revision by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas:
It is important to note that the last time the question of Palestinian statehood took center stage at the General Assembly, the question posed to the international community was whether our homeland should be partitioned into two states. In November 1947, the General Assembly made its recommendation and answered in the affirmative. Shortly thereafter, Zionist forces expelled Palestinian Arabs to ensure a decisive Jewish majority in the future state of Israel, and Arab armies intervened. War and further expulsions ensued.
This paragraph effectively turns on its head an event within living memory in which the Palestinians rejected the UN partition plan accepted by the Jews and then joined five Arab states in launching a war to annihilate the embryonic Jewish state. It should not have made it past the most rudimentary fact-checking.
The opinions of some of your regular columnists regarding Israel are well known. They consistently distort the positions of our government and ignore the steps it has taken to advance peace. They cavalierly defame our country by suggesting that marginal phenomena condemned by Prime Minister Netanyahu and virtually every Israeli official somehow reflects government policy or Israeli society as a whole. Worse, one columnist even stooped to suggesting that the strong expressions of support for Prime Minister Netanyahu during his speech this year to Congress was “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby” rather than a reflection of the broad support for Israel among the American people.
Yet instead of trying to balance these views with a different opinion, it would seem as if the surest way to get an op-ed published in the New York Times these days, no matter how obscure the writer or the viewpoint, is to attack Israel. Even so, the recent piece on “Pinkwashing,” in which Israel is vilified for having the temerity to champion its record on gay-rights, set a new bar that will be hard for you to lower in the future.
Not to be accused of cherry-picking to prove a point, I discovered that during the last three months (September through November) you published 20 op-eds about Israel in the New York Times and International Herald Tribune. After dividing the op-eds into two categories, “positive” and “negative,” with “negative” meaning an attack against the State of Israel or the policies of its democratically elected government, I found that 19 out of 20 columns were “negative.”
The only “positive” piece was penned by Richard Goldstone (of the infamous Goldstone Report), in which he defended Israel against the slanderous charge of Apartheid.
Yet your decision to publish that op-ed came a few months after your paper reportedly rejected Goldstone’s previous submission. In that earlier piece, which was ultimately published in the Washington Post, the man who was quoted the world over for alleging that Israel had committed war crimes in Gaza, fundamentally changed his position. According to the New York Times op-ed page, that was apparently news unfit to print.
Your refusal to publish “positive” pieces about Israel apparently does not stem from a shortage of supply. It was brought to my attention that the Majority Leader and Minority Whip of the U.S. House of Representatives jointly submitted an op-ed to your paper in September opposing the Palestinian action at the United Nations and supporting the call of both Israel and the Obama administration for direct negotiations without preconditions. In an age of intense partisanship, one would have thought that strong bipartisan support for Israel on such a timely issue would have made your cut.
So with all due respect to your prestigious paper, you will forgive us for declining your offer. We wouldn’t want to be seen as “Bibiwashing” the op-ed page of the New York Times.
Senior advisor to Prime Minister Netanyahu
It’s not either/ or
Posted by Yonason Goldson in Culture, History, Philosophy, Politics on December 13, 2011
Apparently, I’m not the only critic of Dennis Prager’s last column. In a follow-up piece, Mr. Prager presses the point that competence is a more important requirement for leadership than character.
I agree. But that is beside the point. I would much prefer a Bill Clinton in the White House than a Jimmy Carter. But far more than either I would prefer a Washington or a Lincoln, a Teddy Roosevelt or a Harry Truman.
To ask whether we are better off with an adulterous statesman or a virtuous bungler merely muddies the waters. Needless to say, we often have to choose between the lesser of two evils, but my objection to Mr. Prager is that he is rationalizing immorality into irrelevancy. We need moral leaders as desperately as we need capable governors. That we may have to make compromises when there is no Harry Truman to be found is an unpleasant fact of life, not a reason to diminish the value of virtue.
Mr. Prager goes on to prove, anecdotally, that not every case of adultery is as bad as every other. This is obviously true, just as not all acts of robbery are equal and not all acts of spilling blood are equal. But that is the point precisely. It is only when we have leaders of moral stature that we retain the ability to make meaningful value judgments and not slip into the moral anarchy that characterizes so much of our society by elevating “nonjudgmentalism” to the highest strata of virtue.
Regarding Biblical interpretation, Judaism operated for over 3000 years within a system of rabbinic authority built upon the authority handed down to Moses at Sinai. Separatist groups like the Hellenists, the Sadducees, and the Kaarites attempted to overturn those conventions with only fleeting success. They all disappeared, and authentic Torah tradition endured.
But their spiritual descendants keep coming back. The lessons of Jewish history rest upon a solid understanding of how the prophets and sages chose to transmit their teachings. We cannot reinvent them to fit the sensitivities of our times, although sometimes we have to try to find a new way of explaining them to which modern ears will be receptive.
Of those who have commented, some clearly have not read or do not care about what I wrote in the linked essay about David and Bathsheba. Others have offered explanations, even in David’s defense, that have no basis in Torah tradition that I know of. Oddly enough, the same people who would never argue against going to a doctor for medical advice, going to an accountant for tax advice, and going to a mechanic for auto advice, believe that they are fully justified in offering their own unschooled interpretations of manuscripts that have been analyzed and annotated by the most brilliant minds over the last hundred generations.
This is what we call chutzpah.
Email of the Week
Posted by Yonason Goldson in Culture, Politics on July 28, 2011
An Israeli is on vacation and is visiting a zoo in the Englandwhen he sees a little girl leaning into the lion’s cage.Suddenly, the lion grabs her by the cuff of her jacket and tries to pull her inside to slaughter her, under the eyes of her screaming parents.
The Israeli runs to the cage and hits the lion square on the nose with a powerful punch.
Whimpering from the pain the lion jumps back letting go of the girl, and the Israeli brings her to her terrified parents, who thank him endlessly.
A reporter has watched the whole event. The reporter says to the Israeli: ‘Sir, this was the most gallant and brave thing I’ve seen a man do in my whole life.’
The Israeli replies, ‘Why, it was nothing, really. The lion was behind bars. I just saw this little kid in danger and acted as I felt right.’
The reporter says, ‘Well, I’ll make sure this won’t go unnoticed. I’m a journalist, and tomorrow’s paper will have this story on the front page. So, what do you do for a living and what political affiliation do you have?’
The Israeli replies, “I serve in the Israeli army and I vote for the Likud.”
The journalist leaves.
The following morning the Israeli buys the paper to see news of his actions, and reads, on the front page:
RIGHT-WING ISRAELI ASSAULTS AFRICAN IMMIGRANT AND STEALS HIS LUNCH
Hat tip: Steve Glassman
Obama’s Mideast Farce
Posted by Yonason Goldson in Israel, Politics on May 27, 2011
As usual, Charles Krauthammer is a lone voice of truth and reason in the wilderness of international and media groupthink:
President George W.Bush gave a written commitment that America supported Israel absorbing major settlement blocs in any peace agreement, opposed any return to the 1967 lines and stood firm against the so-called Palestinian right of return to Israel.
For 21 / 2 years, the Obama administration has refused to recognize and reaffirm these assurances. Then last week in his State Department speech, President Obama definitively trashed them. He declared that the Arab-Israeli conflict should indeed be resolved along “the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.”
Nothing new here, said Obama three days later. “By definition, it means that the parties themselves — Israelis and Palestinians — will negotiate a border that is different” from 1967.
It means nothing of the sort. “Mutually” means both parties have to agree. And if one side doesn’t? Then, by definition, you’re back to the 1967 lines.
Live From New York
Posted by Yonason Goldson in Culture, History, Philosophy, Politics on February 1, 2011
I am pleased to announce that I will be a featured speaker at the Yeshiva University book sale on the topic:
Why Jews are Liberals
Jewish history and the origins of political ideology
Wednesday 23 February
2495 Amsterdam Ave
Manhattan (Washington Heights), NY
A book signing will follow for my overview of Jewish history and philosophy, Dawn to Destiny.
For directions and location information, click here.
For the Record
Posted by Yonason Goldson in Culture, History, Politics on November 28, 2010
First they came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.
Pastor Martin Niemoller (1892–1984), imprisoned by from 1937-1945 in Sachenhausen and Dachau concentration camps for speaking out against the Nazi party.