Exclusion Via Inclusive Language

The Extraordinary World Zionist Congress took place in Jerusalem last week, filling the place of the canceled convention of 2021. As a delegate of the new Eretz HaKodesh slate, I was asked to serve as the Vice Chair of the committee on “Diversity in the Zionist Movement”—and thus I had a ringside seat as leftist voices jammed through a pair of resolutions designed to ignore and exclude Jews who follow the Torah.

The opening plenary featured high-sounding verbiage regarding the unity of the Jewish People, and the need to preserve that unity while allowing for the expression of diverse ideas. Yet the Chair of our committee, a lawyer selected for the purpose, proceeded to discard those opening admonitions. He wrote rules designed to favor one side, rode roughshod over the rules of order, and ensured that the resolutions passed without even a substantive exchange of ideas, much less an attempt to find consensus or common ground.

The resolution concerning “strengthening the relationship between the LGBTQIA communities in the Diaspora and the State of Israel” provided a case study in the misuse of the language of inclusion to enforce ideological conformity and silence dissenting voices. It calls for “education… related to the inclusion of the LGBTQIA community,” and for the World Zionist Organization to join in “Pride Week,” a weeklong celebration of “alternative lifestyles.”

Ensuring the rights of people to behave as they wish does not, and cannot, impinge upon or curtail the rights of others, or demand that others endorse that behavior. To the contrary, genuine liberty allows all of us to behave in ways that others find objectionable. And that is exactly the point.

Proponents of the resolution apparently believe that bringing back eunuchs and female mutilation are actually good ideas, Hashem Yerachem, may G-d have mercy. But these woke policies claim innocent victims, especially once they advocate for men depriving women of scholarships, much less entering their private spaces. Yet the activists deride those women who recognize biological differences and refuse to welcome “trans women” as TERFs—”trans exclusionary radical feminists,” as if there were anything radical about biology or common sense.

This agenda is also entirely tangential, at best, to that of the Zionist Movement, which is to strengthen the Jewish homeland as the national home of all Jews. Israel is already so welcoming to those of diverse orientations and lifestyles that its enemies accuse Israel of “pinkwashing,” using that very tolerance to purportedly mask its so-called persecution of its Arab minority. And, contrary to the resolution’s claim that it is those identified with LGBTQ who need special protection, it is those who refuse to personally celebrate Pride Week who have been persecuted and driven out of business in Israel.

And here is the key issue: in this week’s Torah Reading, the Torah demands of us that Kedoshim Tiyhu, you shall be holy. As Rashi explains, this directs us to withdraw from lewdness and immorality. No Jew who subscribes to the Torah’s dictates will celebrate any form of sexuality, much less a “Pride Week.” Jewish religious schools at all levels teach the value of every person and every Jew, but will not “include” alternative lifestyles as equivalent to or valid methods of building a Jewish home. This resolution thus calls for the exclusion of Jews who follow the Torah from the Jewish Agency and Israel’s other national institutions, via an ideological litmus test.

It is time the “Pride” activists awaken from their delusion: Jews have 3300 years of experience with other groups and governments telling us that our values and beliefs are wrong. Yet we remain Jews, while the Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Crusaders, Cossacks and Nazis—and Sadducees, Sabbateans, and Karaites—are all relegated to the dustbin of history.

Hinei Lo Yanum v’Lo Yishan Shomer Yisrael, Behold, the Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. An effort that demands of other Jews that they abandon complete fealty to Torah is doomed to failure. We remain a nation and a people precisely because this is true.

So if they want to put the lie to all their language of unity and ignore the lessons of history, then they can pass resolutions like these. But no one who actually values the unity of the Jewish people can vote for a resolution that requires violating a Torah principle, because Torah cannot and will not be negotiated.

They had the opportunity to hash out language that did not contradict the Torah, while highlighting that Israel welcomes all Jews regardless of beliefs, religious affiliation, or relationships. They blew that opportunity.

So now, only one question remains: in the delayed electronic voting to happen next week, will the World Zionist Congress support an effort with a 3300 year track record of unmitigated failure? Or will they reject a divisive effort railroaded through committee, and instead call for better consideration of all voices at a future conference?

Considering the closed minds of the name-calling left, I confess I do not have high hopes. But I could yet be surprised.

This op-ed first appeared in Israel National News.

Judaism’s Stance on Gender Is Clear, Despite Attempts To Rewrite Torah

As published in Newsweek.

In 2020, various Jewish progressives organized a tendentious campaign of statements, articles, and even rallies insisting that Judaism permits—indeed, demands—unfettered abortion. I observed then that “few things have been said about Judaism by its purported adherents that are more clearly untrue.” Now, following a new wave of opinion pieces and even news articles over the past few months, it seems necessary to add another item to the list: the notion that Judaism recognizes a range—perhaps even a “multiplicity”—of genders.

These claims popped up almost overnight, like mushrooms on a damp field after too much rain. Left-wing clergy, parents of prepubescent children, and even a sitting member of Congress all tried to obscure the obvious and promote the preposterous.

The idea of a “gender identity” distinct from biological sex is, of course, entirely modern. But there is an even more obvious reason why “gender identity” cannot be found in Torah or millennia of Rabbinic literature. Or, it should be obvious, at least, to anyone able to read even the first chapter of the Jewish Bible, in any of the over 700 languages into which it has been translated.

Genesis 1:27 declares (in English translation): “Male and female He Created them.” The following chapter explains that male and female were Created together, and then separated so that husband and wife might rejoin, once again becoming “one flesh” through the forming of their offspring. And that is the sum total of what the Bible has to say about “gender identity:” that men and women are distinct Creations, complementary to each other, each made the way G-d wanted them to be.

What the rabbis still needed to address, of course, were birth defects and other physical aberrations, to understand how affected individuals should observe Jewish laws that differ for men and women. Since the four such phenomena described in the Talmud are mischaracterized by those who now promote modern notions of gender identity, it is worth briefly describing each of them in turn.

A saris is a eunuch, or one who has been castrated. This is the only one of the four examples discussed in the Talmud that could result from either acts of man or acts of nature. For a Jew to do this, however, even to an animal, violates, according to a commonly used 13th-century compilation, Commandment number 291 of the 613 Commandments found in the Torah.

The other three phenomena are all exclusively accidents of birth. An aylonis is a woman who is unable to develop physically, whether due to lacking a womb or a hormonal imbalance. An androgynous exhibits both male and female biological characteristics, and a tumtum, by contrast, has a membrane of skin covering the pubic region, such that his or her sexuality cannot always be determined.

The Talmud records a case of a tumtum who cut the membrane open, and went on to father seven children. Far from being some sort of early transgender procedure, this story proves that a tumtum is indeed of one or the other innate biological sex—it is just that it is masked.

Advocates often latch on to one singular phrase, “Rabbi Yossi says, an androgynous is a Creation of its own” [Bikkurim 4:5], yet, amazingly, do not finish the sentence: “and the rabbis could not prove conclusively if he is man or woman.” In other words, this discussion of a minority opinion makes clear that the determination is an objective one, to be made by neutral judges. The individual’s subjective self-perception is irrelevant; the only question is how he or she was Created by G-d.

This is the sole context of all such Talmudic discussions, which the advocates deliberately ignore. Not only is there no recognition of “gender identity” in Rabbinic literature, but aberrations are neither desirable nor a human choice; rather, they are unfortunate physical defects which legal decisors must address.

As stated at the outset, Judaism teaches that G-d Created male and female so that they might partner with Him in creating a next generation. Surgical and pharmaceutical interventions do not render a woman able to produce sperm or a man able to conceive, gestate, and deliver a baby.

No one can claim with a straight face that procedures resulting in permanent infertility, ongoing medical needs, and shortened lifespans are sanctioned under the moral beliefs of Judaism. All they do is deprive a person of healthy biological function while giving him/her a superficial resemblance to the other gender. Far better for a person to come to embrace what Divine Wisdom has bestowed upon each and every one of us.

Newsweek: The Gray Lady’s Yellow Journalism

At its root, the recent critique of Hasidic schools in The New York Times is not about education, much less “substantial equivalency.” Rather, during a time of increasing antisemitism, with violent incidents centered specifically in Hasidic neighborhoods in the New York area, a pair of Jewish writers decided to engage in deliberate incitement, using stereotypes, exaggerations, and generalizations to portray Hasidic Jews as foreign, money-grubbing, incapable of independent decision-making, and worthy of the hatred directed against them.

Some would say that one cannot accuse a pair of journalists with obviously Jewish surnames of antisemitic bias. But the Talmud teaches that an ignorant Jew hates Jewish scholars even more than antisemites hate Jews; and throughout history, individual Jews have made a name for themselves characterizing old antisemitic canards as present-day truth. The Times writers took aim at Hasidic Jews in a way that the Times itself would loudly denounce as bigoted if done against any other minority community. They not only used the sensationalism, lies, and exaggeration characteristic of yellow journalism but did so while applying ancient tropes to their current targets.

The first belief of the antisemite, per an essay from Rabbi Naftali Berlin, dean of the leading rabbinic seminary at the end of the 19th century, is that all Jewish property is somehow ill-gotten gain. What is correct and just for all others is deemed stolen property if it ends up in Jewish hands.

Thus, the Times announced that Jewish parochial schools received $1 billion over four years, rendering them “flush with public money.” Note that this amount is more accurately described as $250 million per year. Then do the math: given the annual per-child cost to operate New York’s public schools and the total number of students sent instead to Jewish schools, the costly decision of parents to send their children to these schools saves the public system over $3 billion per year, meaning the funds invested by government programs in those children is a pittance by comparison.

Still worse, the funding described was overwhelmingly not for educational expenses. A large chunk was one-time COVID relief, given to businesses and nonprofits of all kinds. Another was for busing, given to all schools to reduce accidents and fatalities on city streets. And a third was for the federal universal school lunch program, which is astounding: a program for the benefit of every American child was portrayed in the Times as the pilfering of public funds when the recipient children were Hasidic Jews. This is undeniably the antisemitic trope outlined by Rabbi Berlin over a century ago.

Corporal punishment is still permitted in 19 states and was far more common until recent decades. Yet the Times reporters reached back into time, describing incidents that happened in all schools as if they were transpiring today—and uniquely in Hasidic ones. As with its specious claim regarding funding, NYPD statistics and testimonies of recent graduates demonstrate that the Times has it squarely backwards: Hasidic schools are much safer environments, where a child is vastly less likely to be the victim of any sort of violence than a peer in the public schools.

To claim that graduates are unprepared, the Times looks not at average income, the relevant metric, but at the poverty line, because that bar is higher with each added family member. Unbelievably, the Times used family size to assert inadequate education.

An obvious implication from the Times is that Hasidic parents are monolithic and incapable of independent thought, their children corralled into these schools. Despite the writers’ obvious awareness that Hasidic schools are either completely independent or tied to one Hasidic leader, they paint with a broad brush, declaring that “the Hasidic Jewish community has long operated one of New York’s largest private schools,” as if all were the same, and jointly responsible for the standards of one school. This sort of stereotyping is considered repugnant when used against any other community. Why is it acceptable here?

It is also preposterous, as each couple chooses a particular community and invests many thousands of dollars per child per year in the schools they select. The Times interviewed a single, non-custodial malcontent while ignoring the hundreds of thousands of satisfied parents who wrote letters demanding that they and not government choose the curricula for their children. This is not legitimate journalism.

Yet the foregoing is merely a sampling of the illogical and classically biased formulations used by the Times writers to target Hasidic schools. What is most appalling, though, is that these very schools are, by neutral standards, setting a standard of excellence that other New York schools would do well to try to emulate. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Martin Luther King, Jr. all said that the primary goal of education is not to memorize the state capitals or even multiplication tables, but intellectual and moral development.

Hasidic school alumni are not found in bars, on street corners, or participating in smash-and-grab robberies. They are homeowners and taxpayers, who build stable families and work to provide for them. Even the Times admitted, in a backhanded fashion, that drug or alcohol addiction, a recurrent aftereffect of leaving the community, is practically unheard of among the great majority who remain. They remain committed to education throughout their lifetimes; their homes are filled with books rather than flat-screen TVs. One would have to do tremendous harm to these schools for their preparation of students for productive adulthood to be “substantially equivalent” to that of the New York City public school system.

This past weekend, yet another incident of antisemitic violence was caught on camera on the streets of New York. The perpetrator, a white woman who knocked the Hasidic shtreimel off a stranger’s head, demonstrated that antisemitism is fostered in diverse populations in many, diverse ways. But the notion that antisemitic incitement leads to antisemitic violence is beyond dispute—as is the fact that the Times article, riddled with demonization, distortion, and double standards, contributed to the noxious environment of hate that made such a crime imaginable.

Originally published in the Newsweek

The Squad’s Afghan Silence; Nothing Sacred about Killing a Baby

In which I elaborate on my piece in Town Hall, “The Silence of the Squad,” before turning to the Texas law that recently took effect, prohibiting most abortions after six weeks’ gestation. The accompanying photo shows what a developing fetus looks like at that age. A “rabbi” writing in JTA claims she “accidentally conceived” on Rosh HaShanah — and having an abortion was both a “blessing” and a “sacred choice.”

There’s nothing sacred about killing a baby.

Tragedy in Afghanistan

The heart-rending scenario now unfolding in Afghanistan, the abdication (and show of weakness) from the United States, and the lack of concern shown by people who portray themselves as concerned for all of human rights, women’s rights and Muslim rights add up to a humanitarian disaster of epic proportions — which could have been prevented.

Inversions on Israel, Judaism, and Orthodox Secular Success

Although Yaakov Katz, editor of the Jerusalem Post, claims that “Bennett can liberate Israel from haredi chains on religion,” what he really means to say is that Bennett can “liberate” Israel from being a Jewish state, by breaking the deals made between Ben-Gurion and religious authorities, primarily the Chazon Ish, to build a society in which religious and secular coexist.

In the second part, I turn to Miriam Shaviv’s attempt to dismiss the blowback against the lies told by Julia Haart in “My Unorthodox Life.” I call this defending malicious mendacity—Shaviv claims the women display “underlying insecurity and anxiety” because they don’t talk about their religious accomplishments. Besides being untrue in many cases, Haart’s lies specifically focused upon secular “repression,” and thus it was simply logical for the responses to focus upon that as well. Shaviv wants you to believe that rebutting silly lies and educating people about the truth reflects “insecurity.” It is clear that this reflects Shavav’s own bigotry and animus towards the observant women she derides.

Demonizing America vs. American Exceptionalism

In this podcast I discuss my recent piece in TownHall about American Exceptionalism, how the left has been trying to tear down the country for decades, and how they only care about crime when it can be blamed on the political right. That’s why they demonized police for trying to protect Federal buildings in Portland, but celebrate the tally of arrests—over 500 and counting—in the Capitol Riot, which they ridiculously call an “insurrection.”

Fake News and the Jews – Redefining Orthodoxy

The phenomenon of “Fake News” has been around since long before Donald Trump gave it that name. This is something he was clearly right about, and I go through a series of examples (mostly provided by Jake Turx in Ami Magazine) of Trump’s correct complaints.

But the real point is that observant Jews have faced this for a long time: left-wing progressives trying to redefine reality to either defame or dismantle Orthodoxy, in as much as the term means Torah-observant. Articles claiming that “Modern Orthodoxy” might accept same-sex marriage, that “Orthodox rabbis” are performing same-sex marriage, or that “Orthodox schools” ordain women are all cases in point. The CJV Statement on Orthodoxy sets the record straight.

Defending the Indefensible in Foster Care

I discuss my current piece in Newsweek, with some background on the case and religious liberty issues. But most of all, in the podcast I talk about the silly reactions from supposedly-educated professors, falling over themselves to contradict basic logic, reason, and economics, to defend a bigoted policy—when the facts themselves are quite clear.

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