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

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.

Fox News: Biden’s address to Congress left anti-Semitism unaddressed. Why?

Published on Fox News

We all expected President Biden to speak about hate in America during his first address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night.

He did not disappoint.

He talked about the murder of George Floyd, systemic racism, and white supremacy. He mentioned attacks upon Blacks, Native Americans, and women. He celebrated a hate crimes act to protect Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

This past weekend, in fact, provided Biden with an additional reason to discuss hate in America. Beginning Thursday night and proceeding through the weekend, four different synagogues and three vehicles were vandalized in a Jewish neighborhood in the Bronx. All were damaged in precisely the same way: smashed windows.

Every student of the Holocaust knows that the Nazis’ first wholesale, violent attack on Jewish property was Kristallnacht—the Night of Broken Glass.

Seeing it replicated in microcosm on the streets of New York traumatized the Jewish community, and gave Biden the opportunity to assuage its concerns with words of healing.

There’s one problem: he passed.

President Biden spoke about “the viciousness of the hate crimes over the past year,” but never mentioned the community that is, according to the FBI, overwhelmingly the most frequent victim. Given the small Jewish population of the United States, merely 2 percent of Americans, a Jew is several times more likely to be the target of a hate crime than all of those who earned Biden’s mention.

Could we imagine that President Biden would have said nothing if it had instead been four Black churches, or four mosques, vandalized last weekend?

Of course not. It would have been a leading element of his address, the centerpiece of his section on fighting bigotry.

For Biden to spend so much time talking about racism and hate in America, and to rattle off a long list of targeted groups—yet omit entirely the targets of multiple hate crimes carried out within the previous week—sends its own message: Jews don’t qualify as a targeted group.

Instead, Biden called for passage of a bill, the “Equality Act,” that would give state sanction to anti-Semitism. It provides a potent weapon to be used against anyone who dares to hold a Jewish wedding with a Mechitzah, a divider between men and women, in accordance with thousands of years of Jewish observance.

For Asians, Biden called for the passage of a new hate crimes act. For the more frequent Jewish victims of precisely the same random, violent assaults, he called to make their religious practices a violation of American statute… and to declare their Bible a bigoted document.

This is not entirely new. We did not have to wait for a joint session of Congress to wonder whether Jewish concerns were being ignored. One Biden appointee after the next has a track record of hostility towards the Jewish state and the Jewish people.

Biden placed Maher Bitar, whose animosity against the world’s only Jewish state is longer than his career, in charge of intelligence on the National Security Council.

As USAID Administrator he selected Samantha Power, the former U.N. Ambassador who, in 2016, architected the ridiculously anti-historical and obviously hateful UNSC Resolution 2334, which declared the site of the Jews’ Holy Temple, David’s city, the Mount of Olives, Judea and Samaria to all be “occupied Arab land.”

And as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Israel and Palestinian Affairs at the State Department, he picked Hady Amr, who responded to the neutralization of a notorious Hamas terrorist by decrying Israel’s “brutal murders of innocents” and implying that both Israelis and Americans deserved to be targeted in return. And this is by no means an exhaustive list of Biden appointees with similar records and attitudes.

Also, within the past week, dozens of rockets from Hamas terrorists have targeted Israeli towns, attempting to murder men, women and children indiscriminately for the “crime” of being a Jew trying to live on the Jews’ Holy Land.

Yet on Wednesday night, Biden claimed that “our intelligence agencies” not only regard white supremacy, biased thoughts, as terrorism, but “the most lethal terrorist threat today.”

The most frequent targets of terrorist threats would, of course, beg to disagree. But according to the Oval Office’s newest occupant, Jews aren’t a targeted group, after all.

More on the Equality Act, and Nadler leading the War on Religion

Constitution vs Nadler

Thanks to Jerry Nadler, I had to go back for a second go at the Equality Act. His comment indicated that he hasn’t read the Constitution, and even more, that he is entirely uninterested in the moral principles that built America as a bastion of freedom in the first place.

Defending Rep. Mary Miller Was A Moral Imperative

Mary Miller is a new member of Congress. An Illinoisan since birth, she ran on a platform of supporting farming and bringing manufacturing jobs back to her district. She won.

And then, two weeks ago, she quoted Hitler. Specifically, she said, “Hitler was right about one thing: Whoever has the youth has the future.”

A brouhaha of criticism followed, and my high-school age son asked me what the fuss was all about. I told him what she said, and he immediately declared, “That’s not anti-Semitic!”

When I explained that she wasn’t accused of being anti-Semitic per se, but of admiring Hitler, he dismissed the charge: “Saying that someone got one thing right doesn’t mean you admire that person.”

He’s correct, of course. In fact, it implies the opposite. Saying that Hitler got one thing right indicates that he got everything else wrong.

Once the full video of Miller’s remarks was released, it became apparent that those accusing her of “admiring Hitler” are guilty of nothing less than malicious slander. Miller quoted Hitler’s words to scare her audience and help them understand the danger of indoctrination – a subject Hitler understood well and exploited. If she and her audience didn’t regard Hitler as the paragon of evil, his actions wouldn’t have provided a potent example of the danger she was attempting to highlight.

Was it ill-advised for her to use Hitler to make her point? Yes. There were many better, less inflammatory examples she could have used.

Nonetheless, Rav Noach Weinberg, zt”l, once did something very similar. He took the leadership of Aish HaTorah on a tour of Nazi death camps to learn what one person with a single-minded focus and determination could do for evil, which only teaches us how much could be accomplished if we used that same single-minded focus for good.

Of course no one in his right mind would accuse an Orthodox rabbi like Rav Weinberg of admiring Hitler or even his “single-minded focus.”

Actually, that’s not correct. The Coalition for Jewish Values – the organization I serve as managing director – rejected calls for Rep. Miller’s resignation after the story broke and, as a result, we were called “Rabbis for Hitler.” This, despite the fact that the organization represents over 1,500 Orthodox rabbis.

Learning from history – including its paragons of evil – has always been the Jewish approach. We learn from Laban, Pharaoh, Haman, and the Roman general Titus who destroyed the Holy Temple and exiled us from our homeland. To learn how Hitler brought his evil plans to fruition – and the tactics he used to convince ordinary Germans that murdering of Jews was moral – is not merely commendable, but obligatory.

As George Santayana famously put it, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”

Some people told us that they agreed with our stance but believed that a public statement from the Coalition of Jewish Values in support of Miller was unnecessary. We disagree. We considered sending her only a private letter of support, but then we saw an increasing number of Jewish organizations and legislators calling for her resignation. These calls were both wrong and – considering the silence of these same people in response to disturbing statements from such people as Rep. Ilhan Omar – clearly partisan.

Defending Miller was the right thing to do. We were obligated to defend her, even if that meant entering a firestorm.

Those who find our statement disturbing will soon forget this entire episode. Rep. Miller, though, never will, which should go a long way to deepen her friendship with the Jewish community.

Originally published in The Jewish Press

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