A brave commentary
Wow. Meyer Lewis’ drash (“Was Abraham autistic?”) on Abraham’s differing responses to Sodom and Gomorrah versus the Akedah was articulate and insightful, not to mention brave. I so appreciate his giving us another way to think about these biblical stories as well as educating us about autism. Kol hakavod!
Bernie supporters: shame!
In 2000, the Jewish community in the United States was excited at the prospect of Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, becoming the first Jewish vice president of the United States. Lieberman was a greatly admired and respected politician. Unfortunately, hanging chads and a Supreme Court decision put paid to the Gore/Lieberman presidential ticket.
This year, Bernie Sanders is in line to be the Democratic Party nominee for the presidency. But Sanders is no Joe Lieberman. He is a self-hating Jew, although of late he has repeatedly said he is a proud Jew, almost like he is trying to convince himself. In 2016, competing against Hillary Clinton, he never referenced his Jewishness. This time around he has acknowledged Israel’s right to exist (never referring to it as a Jewish state) but is severely critical when Israel defends itself to ensure it will continue to exist.
Sanders has assembled around him spokespeople and surrogates who are outspoken Jew-haters and Israel bashers par excellence. From his chief of staff, Faiz Shakir, to Rep. Ilhan Omar (it’s the Benjamins, baby); Rep. Rashida Tlaib, like Omar a recognized hater of Israel who speaks from the floor of the House of Representatives wearing a kaffiyeh scarf; Linda Sarsour, a champion of Louis Farrakhan; Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose anti-Israel pronouncements are more vicious by the day, and Amer Zahr, a relentless demonizer of Israel and guilty of anti-Semitic outbursts.
Describing the democratically elected prime minister of Israel as a “reactionary racist” and AIPAC as “fostering bigotry” and refusing to speak at the conference but accepting an invitation from the Islamic Society of North America, whose speaker list included an array of Jew haters and the worst Israel bashers, Bernie Sanders clearly is not good for the Jews. And if you voted for him or plan to vote for him, shame on you!
Bernie’s AIPAC no-show
Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders recently refused to go to the AIPAC conference because he claimed AIPAC was “bigoted toward Palestinians.”
Sanders has called the democratically elected Israeli government “right-wing and racist.” He has embraced Democrat “squad” members who have called Israel an “evil nation” and who have accused American Jews of dual loyalty. And remember, he honeymooned in the Soviet Union, praising their hospitality, while millions of Jews were held prisoner there.
And what is even more painful and deeply saddening is that I know were he to run against President Trump, the majority of my fellow Hebrews would be “feeling the Bern.”
A Torah-values voter
A political candidate’s support for Israel has always been an important if not overriding consideration among the vast majority of Jews. Indeed, it is for good reason, as the survival of the State of Israel is not only integral to our identity but to the survival of the Jewish people. Our Torah as well, is integral to our survival and identity. Our Torah not only defines us, but its principles have guided us throughout centuries of discrimination, anti-Semitism and oppression. Our Torah is our law.
In Parashas Mishpatim, we recently read how G-d commanded us, “You shall not taunt or oppress a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not cause pain to any widow or orphan” and “Do not oppress a stranger; you know the feelings of a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
Aren’t these Torah principles G-d has commanded us to follow as important to consider as is support for Israel — if not more so; after all, it’s our Torah — when judging the president or any of the Democratic presidential candidates? When the president or any other presidential candidate acts in contempt of our fundamental Torah principles, is it appropriate to support such a person anyway just because he or she expresses support for Israel? I don’t profess to have definite answers to these questions. All I know is that these questions must be asked.
Mark P. Cohen
UC Berkeley chancellor sidesteps responsibility
According to the UC Berkeley Principles of Community, every member of the UC Berkeley community has a role in sustaining a safe, caring and humane environment in which critical inquiry, debate, discovery, innovation and a deep commitment to contributing to a better world can thrive.
Yet Chancellor Carol Christ chose not to address the incident at the ASUC meeting where pro-Palestinian students caused a student government meeting to erupt into chaos over a measure to censure a display at the school by a pro-Palestinian student group featuring terrorists (“UC Berkeley chancellor addresses controversial Bears for Palestine display”).
Chancellor Christ’s response, “I am not able to adjudicate what happened on Monday, and nor am I interested in blame,” is a statement of inaction that is contrary to the “role in sustaining a safe, caring and humane environment” statement in the Principles of Community. Instead she opted for a generalized, nonresponsive statement that the university is against intolerance.
Chancellor Christ overlooks what she prefers not to deal with: that the Bears for Palestine’s use of a campus location to honor those who have murdered unarmed Jewish civilians and/or bombed, or planned to bomb, places frequented by Jewish families is in no way the equivalent of one student’s expression of some unacted-upon desire to eliminate Palestinians.
Were that student in fact to “eliminate Palestinians,” does anyone actually believe his photo would be displayed on campus in an exhibit honoring him? Or that Chancellor Christ, in the interest of consistency, would celebrate that student as a fighter for a cause and defend his right to express that support as fully protected by our country’s constitution?
Clearly, Chancellor Christ prefers to avoid taking ownership of this problem. Look to the Lawfare Project for action if UC Berkeley fails to take meaningful, enforceable steps to ensure that at future ASUC meetings all students will feel safe.
Reparations are about justice
I write in response to Jeffrey Carmel’s letter (“Slavery reparations are misguided,”) about Rabbi Julie Saxe-Taller’s opinion piece on the recent URJ resolution supporting reparations. I, too, was at the URJ biennial and voted in favor of the resolution, and my reaction was similar to Rabbi Saxe-Taller’s.
Unfortunately, it appears that Mr. Carmel did not read the article very carefully. Had he done so he would have seen that the reparations advocated by the resolution are not simply to redress slavery but “the historic and continuing effects of slavery and subsequent systemic racial, societal and economic discrimination against Black Americans …” Sadly, there is no shortage of people alive today who have experienced this systemic discrimination, including those who were subjected to segregation and Jim Crow, or who could not buy homes due to redlining, or who were denied jobs, or who were stopped and frisked, or arrested, convicted and harshly sentenced all because of their race.
We sadly do not have to go back 150 years to find victims of systemic discrimination deserving of redress. Nor do reparations necessarily mean simple payments. There are many forms that reparations can take, and the URJ resolution specifically did not call for a particular form of reparations. What the URJ resolution called for is passage of HR 40, which would create a commission to study the issue.
Finally, Mr. Carmel expresses concern that reparations could lead to too much justice. That others, such as Japanese Americans interned during World War II, Chinese Americans and Native Americans might be due reparations as well. Mr. Carmel is apparently unaware that Japanese Americans were given reparations by the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 and this opened no floodgate of justice. In any event, unlike Mr. Carmel, I do not regard too much justice as a problem.