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.

Shutting Down Faith-Based Foster Care Agencies Harms Children

As published in Newsweek

The Supreme Court has the chance this month to protect religious freedom, religious minorities and foster families. In Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, the Court will determine whether Catholic Social Services (CSS) will be permitted to resume providing foster care services, as it did for more than 200 years.

The city of Philadelphia shuttered CSS because, hypothetically, a same-sex couple could approach CSS for a “home study” (an intimate, detailed family evaluation) that the agency could not complete in a way that both affirms same-sex marriage and remains consistent with its Catholic beliefs. CSS stated that it would help such couples find a different agency (there are dozens across the city) that could complete the “home study,” and noted that no same-sex couple has ever approached it. Yet the city refused all compromise.

Although the Fulton case specifically involves the Catholic Church, freedom of religious practice for all is at stake. If Philadelphia gets its way, the Court will have handed governments a legal tool to use against minority religious communities.

Some argue that, on the contrary, a decision favoring CSS is more likely to enable discrimination against religious minorities. This claim rests upon the same illogical—and profoundly dangerous—distortion activists use to claim anti-LGBT discrimination: misrepresenting freedom of association and pursuit of a religious mission as a “license to discriminate.”

Another agency, South Carolina’s Miracle Hill Ministries, has become a national focal point due to its religious limitations. Like CSS, Miracle Hill is a religious ministry, committed to serving foster children in accordance with its beliefs. But unlike CSS, Miracle Hill makes evangelism part of its mission, and requires those who wish to provide services under its auspices to sign a statement affirming its doctrine.

Two things are immediately obvious: first, the aforementioned requirement entirely precludes, for instance, a Jewish family from providing services through Miracle Hill; second, this is in no way discriminatory. Miracle Hill does not prevent Jews—or anyone else—from serving as foster parents. Nor does it impinge upon anyone else’s religious expression. The public square is big enough for everyone.

Ignoring this reality, some tarnish Miracle Hill (and separately, CSS) as engaging in “government-funded discrimination.” This is both wrong and misleading. No government funds are provided to Miracle Hill for administration, advertising, recruitment or evaluation of potential foster care families. CSS receives no payment for carrying out home studies. Private agencies and families receive partial reimbursement for the costs of caring for each individual child successfully placed, while relieving government of providing the same service at far greater taxpayer expense.

As all children requiring foster care go through state-operated social service departments, what is at stake for religious foster agencies is their very ability to participate in public life. There is no credible argument that eliminating faith-based foster and adoption agencies expands availability of loving homes for children. On the contrary, eliminating those agencies means eliminating their public outreach, and removes from the adoption pool any families that would choose to work with those agencies because of their shared religious creed. Given the severe shortage of foster care homes for needy children, closing these agencies causes clear and demonstrable harm.

For the Jewish community, foster care and adoption are deeply connected with our most basic beliefs. We regard it as a religious obligation to place Jewish children in Jewish homes, where they will receive a Jewish education and participate in our observances. Were it to be deemed “discriminatory” for Miracle Hill to limit its providers to those who share its beliefs—or for CSS to step aside and allow other agencies to perform home studies for same-sex couples—our own religious obligation to place a Jewish child with a Jewish family could likewise be infringed.

This threat to religious freedom has real implications for children. Because Philadelphia refuses to work with CSS, children in need of foster care are being kept in institutional settings, rather than being placed with loving foster parents. Both the city and LGBTQ activists claim that this flagrantly inhumane outcome is good for society.

Furthermore, we see a clear and compelling pattern of harassment. Philadelphia prohibits CSS from operating due to what the city admits is an entirely hypothetical concern. Miracle Hill’s threat comes from a woman whose own religious authorities say that she could affirm its doctrine—but who refuses to do so, simply to give lawyers at Americans United for Separation of Church and State a case to prosecute. And in other cases across the country, from small businesses to major universities, institutions which have served the public for decades if not centuries are being told to choose between abandoning religious principle, refusing funding available to all others, or closing down outright.

The idea that minority religious groups will benefit if success is granted to this tactic could hardly be more ludicrous.

Marjorie Greene’s Mask-Holocaust Madness

Rep. Marjorie T. Greene (R-GA) made some really inappropriate comparisons between mask mandates and Jews being sent to gas chambers; when challenged, she said any “rational” Jew would agree with her.

There was internal debate about whether or not to say anything, and criticism of our condemnation of those remarks.

But we didn’t want to be like Chuck Schumer, who is happy to condemn a Republican who does precisely what AOC did in 2019, which he greeted with silence — and vastly less serious than the openly Antisemitic statements of Reps. AOC, Bush, Omar and Tlaib within the past month, which none of the Democratic leadership have condemned at all. We have an obligation to be consistent.

At the end I point out that Facebook had to stop censoring discussion of the possible origin of COVID in the Wuhan virology lab, which means calling it the “Wuhan Virus,” which was never racist (no matter how many race-baiting idiots may say otherwise), may be entirely true.