Table of Contents:
Mordy Getz Makes Erledigen Miracles Happen in Borough Park: Armin Rosen, Tablet, May 1, 2020
When Did Elderly People Like Me Become Disposable?: Paul Socken, JTA, Apr. 27, 2020
American Jewry’s Organizational Crackup: Caroline B. Glick, Israel Hayom, Apr. 24, 2020
Jewish Politics and the Sin of False Prophecy: Matthew M. Hausman, Arutz Sheva, April 2020
The porch minyan rules are strict on Mordy Getz’s block. There’s never a Torah service—reading from the Torah requires too much crowding around a single point in space for it to be safe or practicable, even into the eighth week of New York’s coronavirus plague. No one leaves their porches or balconies; if someone tries praying from the street the daveners begin clapping in order to shoo away the scofflaw.
On a rainy Friday morning shacharit had already wrapped up by the time I got to Getz’s block, but the shouts of a chazzan echoed from a street over, followed by the responses of his atomized congregants. The scene further up 18th Avenue divested the morning service of any possible whimsy. A line of people snaked around the block outside of PS192, many of them in black coats or long skirts or kipot. Entire Jewish families waited on line. Days earlier, the city government announced it would begin providing free kosher meals to anyone who needed them. But in Borough Park the needs are still daunting—according to Masbia soup kitchen Executive Director Alex Rapaport, some 80% of people showing up at the neighborhood food pantry are first-time recipients, even now, nearly two months into the crisis.
The youthful and energetic Getz, who speaks quickly yet calmly and who can handle a visiting journalist and five home-bound young children and Shabbat preparation and avalanches of WhatsApp messages and phone calls without seeming to surrender an inch to chaos, is not easily daunted. Sitting at safely distant opposite ends of a long dining-room table, myself near a cabinet of glittering silver Shabbos supplies and under a tasteful chandelier that resembles an inverted ziggurat, he gave me a brief life story: “First, let me tell you about myself. I got married, I was in kollel for a few years, I went to work—baruch HaShem, I was successful.”
Getz’s empire now includes a chain of urgent care centers, various real estate ventures, and Eichler’s—one of the New York’s major Judaica hubs. It is also a vehicle for Getz’s strong communal and charitable feelings, which are rooted in personal experience. “About three years ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I struggled,” he tells me. “Four months of treatment and then two months of recovery, and then another year of issues, complications.” As Getz recovered, he learned about research into how lengthy illnesses could sap their victims’ ability to reintegrate into their previous lives. He began wondering how he could use his own experiences and resources to help people who had been through similar ordeals.
Then the coronavirus hit. In mid-April, Getz announced that until Rosh Hashana, he would pay for groceries for any Borough Park family that had lost a primary breadwinner during the epidemic, as part of a program run through Masbia. A couple of dozen families now qualify. They will be able to buy directly from local grocery stores with Getz footing the bill, at an anticipated cost of around $7,000-$8,000 per family, in the hopes of covering the period between the parent’s death and whatever the next step might be, whether it comes from government assistance, remarriage, or new employment. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 is shaking the world in disturbing ways. As someone who is no longer young, I find one aspect of the crisis to be particularly unnerving: the attitude toward the elderly. The media is filled with stories about the problem represented by the elderly. What will happen if there aren’t enough respirators for everyone? Should the elderly, who have lived their lives long enough, have the same right to medical care as young people who have their whole lives ahead of them? There are cold, calculating cost-benefit analyses associated with this grim reaper scenario. One columnist came down on the side of “saving Grandma” only after weighing the pros and cons as if it were an accounting problem. Others have said that the elderly should sacrifice themselves for the good of the country.
But this is not the Jewish attitude. Psalm 92 proclaims that “in old age [the righteous] still produce fruit, they are full of sap and freshness.” In his Mishneh Torah, the great philosopher and doctor Maimonides states that “even a young scholar should rise before an old man distinguished in age.” In Guide for the Perplexed, he writes that “with the ancient is wisdom.” I always thought that the psalmist’s plea “Do not cast me off in old age; when my strength fails, do not forsake me” was addressed to God. Now I understand that it is an appeal to our fellow men and women as well not to abandon the elderly when their “use” is no longer manifest.
It is heartbreaking to see so many deaths due to the virus and the personal stories associated with those losses. In many countries, a large proportion of the dead are in nursing homes where the elderly are warehoused with inadequate staffing and medical care. In Canada, otherwise a deeply caring society, over half the deaths have been in nursing homes where revelations of what goes on behind the doors of those institutions have shocked the nation. We can and we must do better than this for the elderly and for everyone.
When this crisis is finally over, and a semblance of normalcy resumes, we will need to answer many questions about the economy, health care, the appropriate political response to an extreme emergency and the nature of our global world.
But no less important is the question of the very nature of our society and its values. What lack within us gave rise to the discussion of the disposability of the elderly? This crisis has exposed a materialistic calculus, a coarsening of society’s discourse since the dismissal of the religious sensibility that built our system of values and ethics over millennia of civilization.
If we have, indeed, entered a post-Christian, post-religious society, a trauma such as the current one reveals its consequences. I would argue that we have seen the underbelly of a society that has forgotten its roots, no longer has a strong set of values and does not understand the importance of honoring all life. If ever there was a time to rethink the journey we have taken as a society and recalculate our direction, it is now.
What an irony it would be if we learned to preserve physical life infinitely better than previous generations only to abandon their more sophisticated search for truth and meaning in life. What will it profit us to reestablish our economy, restructure our health care and solve our global problems if we ignore the human issues that underpin it all? What is the purpose of life if we fail to see the humanity in everyone around us?
Last week an event occurred that will be remembered as a key moment in the disintegration of organized American Jewish support for Israel and American Jewish organizational life itself.
Last Friday, the leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations announced that the Conference’s nominating committee had selected Dianne Lob, the former president of HIAS to run unopposed for the position of chairman of the Conference’s Executive Board. Her election is scheduled to take place on April 28. The Conference of Presidents – an umbrella group that comprises 53 Jewish American organizations – is widely viewed as the most important Jewish organization in the United States.
Why is Lob’s selection important? On the face of things, it was unremarkable. People who have known Lob for decades describe her as a garden variety New York Jewish liberal whose views on Israel are in keeping with the views of the vast majority of American Jews.
Members of the Conference of President, for their part, claim not to know her at all. During her term as chairman of HIAS, from 2016-2019, she didn’t participate in major Conference events like its trips to Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Lob’s selection is an earthquake in American Jewish organizational life is not because of anything she has said or done, but because of her organizational affiliation with HIAS. HIAS was established at the end of the 19th century under the name Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, to assist the hundreds of thousands of penniless Eastern European Jews who were immigrating at the time to the US. The last major group of Jewish immigrants HIAS was involved in resettling in the US were the Jews who left the Soviet Union between the 1970s and 1990s.
In 2014, HIAS officially set its Jewish roots aside. It abandoned its full name in favor of its acronym. HIAS CEO and President Mark Hetfield claimed that the world “Hebrew” is exclusionary. As the Zionist Organization of America documented in a letter to the heads of the Conference of Presidents following Lob’s selection, in a declaration before a US federal court, HIAS attested that the refugees they serve today come from “Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Ukraine, Bhutan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Burundi, South Sudan, Uganda, Russia, Belarus, and Burma, among other countries. Many of these clients are Muslim.” Lob herself attested that 90% of the Syrians and 60% of the Iraqis that HIAS brings to the US are Muslim.
HIAS’s contribution to Muslim immigration to the US is significant for two key reasons: First, it is indisputable that many of the Muslims immigrating to the US are anti-Semitic. As ZOA noted, “According to the ADL Global 100 Anti-Semitism Index, in 16 Muslim majority Middle Eastern countries, 74% to 93% of the population is antisemitic.” So by bringing Muslims from Syria and Iraq to the US, HIAS is in all likelihood bringing anti-Semites to America. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
The Democrats’ shameful tolerance for progressive antisemites has not inspired many Jews to quit the party or restrained non-Orthodox leaders from counseling their followers to vote against President Trump in November. The continuing loyalty of secular Jews to a party that has turned against Israel, legitimized her enemies, and overlooked leftist bigotry is mindboggling, though not entirely shocking considering that many equate Jewish self-rejection with spiritual introspection and Democratic politics with rabbinic tradition.
Whatever the motivation, it would not be possible without an alarming rise in cultural illiteracy. Jewish voters can dislike Trump for any reason or no reason at all, but given his record of support for Israel and Jewish causes, they cannot reasonably base their antipathy on religious tradition or cultural history with which they are largely unfamiliar.
Secular communal leaders and non-Orthodox clergy who preach Democratic politics and Trump-hatred as doctrinal imperatives play on the ingrained partisan orientation of their followers, many of whom know little about Jewish law, tradition, or history. Indeed, many define Jewish identity negatively in relation to the Holocaust and think the history of Israel began only in 1948. The ritually-liberal movements have marginalized the sacred and sacralized the profane. Rather than indoctrinating their congregants with politics, they should be analyzing why the collective non-Orthodox intermarriage rate exceeds seventy percent.
The ritually-liberal movements have marginalized the sacred and sacralized the profane. Rather than indoctrinating their congregants with politics, they should be analyzing why the collective non-Orthodox intermarriage rate exceeds seventy percent and how their relaxed educational standards have failed to sustain Jewish continuity. It seems clear they have traded Jewish values for secular causes (e.g., gun control, green politics or transgender activism) that have little or nothing to do with normative Judaism.
Outside of Orthodoxy, Jewish identity has been weakened by poor education and the conflation of secular sensibilities with Torah obligations. By equating partisanship with rabbinic tradition and interpreting Jewish history consistent with progressive ideology, Reform and Conservative leaders have compromised the ability of their congregants to identify as Jews first and political beings second (or not at all). Far too often, progressivism and unbalanced criticism of Israel are touted as authentic values reflecting tikkun olam, musar, and devotional self-reflection. This is nonsense; but whereas progressive views on religion and Israel frequently contradict traditional beliefs and national claims, secular Jews are often unable to recognize the dichotomy.
American Jews have largely identified as Democrats for generations. However, Jewishness does not demand allegiance to any particular party, and certainly not one that refuses to rebuke elected officials like Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib for maligning Israel or calling forth abhorrent stereotypes. Nor does it justify supporting presidential hopefuls who staffed their campaigns with anti-Israel activists or boycotted the 2020 AIPAC convention. And it certainly does not mandate respect for Bernie Sanders, who falsely accuses PM Netanyahu of racism, seems to acknowledge his Jewishness only when politically expedient, and surrounds himself with Israel-haters like Omar, Tlaib, and Linda Sarsour. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
For Further Reference:
U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band and Israel Defense Forces Musical Tribute: US European Command, YouTube, Apr. 29, 2020 — A very moving tribute by the U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band and the Israel Defense Forces who collaborated and prepared a musical surprise to honor a very special person.
Trump Praises ‘Spirit and Resiliency’ of Jews, at Start of Jewish American Heritage Month: Algemeiner, Apr. 30, 2020 –– US President Donald Trump issued a proclamation on Wednesday ahead of the start of Jewish American Heritage Month.
The Coronavirus and the US Jewish Community: Setbacks, Strategies, and the Silver Lining: INSS, YouTube, May 3, 2020 –– INSS Research Fellow Dr. Michal Hatuel-Radoshitzky and Mr. Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation, speak about the coronavirus and the Jewish community in the United States.
Lob’s Hostile (but Disarming) Takeover: Caroline B. Glick, Israel Hayom,Apr. 27, 2020 — Apparently, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations is sensitive to criticism. Over the past week, it received enormous – and well-deserved – flak after it announced the decision of its nominating committee to select former HIAS chairman Dianne Lob to serve as the Conference’s next chairman.
Where Should the Conference of Presidents Go from Here?: Jewish Insider, May 1, 2020 —In the mid-20th century, during the Eisenhower administration, the American Jewish community was said to lack a cohesive voice with which to communicate with the country’s leaders.