L.A. rabbis arrested at ICE protest

Jewish Journal:

Several area rabbis were among more than 30 protesters arrested April 13 in downtown Los Angeles for an act of civil disobedience to call attention to the treatment of undocumented immigrants.

The group was taken away after blocking a driveway to the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) Los Angeles, booked at Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) headquarters and released by mid-afternoon.

Bend the Arc Rabbi-in-Residence Aryeh Cohen said the act of civil disobedience demonstrated a refusal to accept Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) treatment of undocumented immigrants.

“What it says to ICE, the institution, is that we are intending to put our bodies in between them and … deportations and detentions of people who have been in this country for a long time,” Cohen said in a phone interview. “I think what it said to LAPD is our fight is not with them but with ICE.”

The protest, which began around 10 a.m. several blocks away, brought together Jewish, Muslim and Christian faith leaders and community members who chanted, “Exodus from detention!” as they marched toward the Detention Center, from where vans leave to round up immigrants. The center, itself, is a federal jail downtown that holds individuals for immigration-related crimes, among other offenses.

Participants in the protest, which came on the third day of Passover, drew parallells between the Israelites’ Exodus story from bondage to liberation and the plight of undocumented immigrants who live in fear of being detained.

“I’m standing with my brothers and sisters in faith … on behalf of the undocumented and the refugee and immigrant communities that are being targeted now. Especially now during Passover, it is time we remember our own liberation,” Rabbi Sarah Bassin, associate rabbi at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, told the Journal, as she was locking arms with Wilshire Boulevard Temple Rabbi Susan Goldberg, before their arrest.

Approximately 200 members of Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE) and other faith-based social organizations turned out.

Among those arrested were Bassin, Goldberg, Cohen; Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, director emeritus at Hillel at UCLA; and Rabbi Susan Laemmle, dean of religious life at USC.

Goldberg said the purpose of blocking the entrance to the detention center was to prevent ICE vehicles from doing roundups.

I don’t recall these rabbis going to Israel and getting arrested preventing Israeli law enforcement from rounding up and expelling illegal immigrants.

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Politico, Trump, Chabad and the new anti-Semitism

Rabbi Dovid Elezrie writes:

Not every day do you wake up to find you run the world. That’s what I discovered reading Politico the day before Passover. According to the long article, the key link between Putin and Trump is Chabad. You see, those Chassidim tentacles reach out everywhere. They are the cabal that binds Washington and Moscow. According to Politico, Jewish Russian oligarchs are buddies with Chabad rabbis in Russia who are connected in some convoluted fashion to Jared Kushner and others in the Trump orbit.

For centuries Jews would tremble before Passover, fearing a new blood libel that they were using Christian blood to bake matzahs. This went out style after the Mendel Beilis trial in 1914 in Czarist Russia. Next the Protocols of the Elders of Zion declared the Jews run the world. This too fell out a favor after the Holocaust. Now Politico has created a new version of the old story, only this time it’s not all Jews. The new kind of anti-Semitism is only against those guys in the black hats and the beards, the ultras, or Chassidim. And it’s not just Politico, CNN took a shot at the “ultra-orthodox” in hour long special a day before Passover. The production was so off base that even Israeli’s ultra-left publication, the anti-orthodox Haaretz, lampooned CNN for its bizarre depiction of orthodox Jews.

Politico’s theory is if you follow the connections — built over an abundance of lox and bagels served at a bris in New York, weddings in Mar-a-Lago and meetings in Trump Tower—they all lead to Chabad. To make these connections, Politico creates its own facts, distorting the development of the Jewish communal structure in Russia after the fall of Communism as having been orchestrated by Putin. It fails to reveal that Chabad sustained Judaism during the anti-religious Soviet Regime. Many of its rabbis sent off to Siberia and even death for keeping Judaism alive. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Chabad emerged from the underground to continue its leadership. It wasn’t “brought in” by Putin. It was there, serving at a time of great danger, all along.

Politico claims it’s the Chabad connections that cement the bond between Putin and Trump. But why stop there? The article could have revealed the true depth of the Chassidic conspiracy. It didn’t mention the links between Chabad and the Democrats. Former Obama Chief of Staff Jack Lew, an observant Jew, attended the same synagogue that the Kushners do. Bernie Sanders’ closest friend and college roommate is a Chabad Chassid, beard and all. And what about Hollywood? Steven Spielberg dedicated a Chabad synagogue in LA , Beis Bezalel, in memory of his stepfather. His late mother was a member there. Mark Zuckerberg was caught dancing with the Chabad Rabbi at Purim party in Harvard. It’s even the New York Times! Tom Friedman recently attended the wedding of his niece in the Chassidic bastion of Crown Heights in Brooklyn.

If Politico had done the most basic fact checking it would have discovered that Chabad is unique amongst major Jewish groups — it never gets involved in politics. While others are busy with press releases on everything from immigration to who should be the US Ambassador to Israel, Chabad never says a word. Not in the US and not in the 90 countries around the world where it has centers. Chabad’s mission is Jewish education, outreach and social service. Its stays out of politics. It does not endorse anyone for any political position, even if it’s just for dog catcher in Iowa.

As a Chabad rabbi, I find Politico’s contentions bittersweet. Over forty years ago when I started as a young campus rabbi, we were viewed as a quaint cultural relic. Liberal Judaism was triumphant, those Chassidim from Brooklyn a bit like a gaggle of Tevyes from Fiddler on the Roof. However, Chabad taught as its central tenet the love of all mankind, the responsibility for Jewish destiny, the return of Jewish scholarship and spirituality as the foundation of Jewish life. Slowly Jews around the world were receptive to that message, and today Chabad is a global phenomenon. With size comes the lies and distortions. This Passover we have learned that not only are we popular, we are the secret cabal between the world powers.

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What’s wrong with Jews’ emphasis on intellect?

Dennis Prager writes:

The fact is, there is no correlation between intellect and goodness. In fact, a disproportionate number of intellectuals, in the 20th century and today, have been, to put it bluntly, moral idiots — and therefore disproportionately supported the greatest evils of their time. Almost all the support in the West for Soviet Communism came from intellectuals, not hard hats. Within Germany, the university was one of the most passionate pro-Nazi institutions. In America today, a Christian plumber is far more likely to support Israel than a Ph.D. in sociology, or in any other subject (including Judaic studies). And the number of bright, even “brilliant,” college students whose moral compass is broken is enormous.

Finally, intelligence not only is not as important as goodness, it is not nearly as important as common sense. A person of average intelligence with common sense will navigate life far better, by making far more intelligent decisions, than a brilliant person who lacks common sense. According to Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics, in at least one important area — binge drinking and getting drunk — more intelligent people actually have less common sense. They do both more.

Parents who overemphasize brains to the detriment of other positive values, such as character, common sense and the ability to deal with life’s vicissitudes (think of all the bright college students who need “safe spaces” because they can’t deal with speakers with whom they disagree) are doing long-term damage to their child. And, to return to my opening question about looks and brains, they are not doing their daughter any favor if they neglect looks. In real life, they matter, too. But you need common sense to acknowledge that.

I don’t think he is right. Morality boils down to the ability to empathize. Empathy is a form of abstract thought and it basically correlates to brai power aka IQ. Civilization is only possible with an average IQ above 97.

Philosopher Gedaliah Braun writes:

My first inklings about what may be a deficiency in abstract thinking came from what I began to learn about African languages. In a conversation with students in Nigeria I asked how you would say that a coconut is about halfway up the tree in their local language. “You can’t say that,” they explained. “All you can say is that it is ‘up’.” “How about right at the top?” “Nope; just ‘up’.” In other words, there appeared to be no way to express gradations.

A few years later, in Nairobi, I learned something else about African languages when two women expressed surprise at my English dictionary. “Isn’t English your language?” they asked. “Yes,” I said. “It’s my only language.” “Then why do you need a dictionary?”

They were puzzled that I needed a dictionary, and I was puzzled by their puzzlement. I explained that there are times when you hear a word you’re not sure about and so you look it up. “But if English is your language,” they asked, “how can there be words you don’t know?” “What?” I said. “No one knows all the words of his language.”

I have concluded that a relative deficiency in abstract thinking may explain many things that are typically African.
“But we know all the words of Kikuyu; every Kikuyu does,” they replied. I was even more surprised, but gradually it dawned on me that since their language is entirely oral, it exists only in the minds of Kikuyu speakers. Since there is a limit to what the human brain can retain, the overall size of the language remains more or less constant. A written language, on the other hand, existing as it does partly in the millions of pages of the written word, grows far beyond the capacity of anyone to know it in its entirety. But if the size of a language is limited, it follows that the number of concepts it contains will also be limited and hence that both language and thinking will be impoverished.

African languages were, of necessity, sufficient in their pre-colonial context. They are impoverished only by contrast to Western languages and in an Africa trying to emulate the West. While numerous dictionaries have been compiled between Euro­pean and African languages, there are few dictionaries within a single African language, precisely because native speakers have no need for them. I did find a Zulu-Zulu dictionary, but it was a small-format paperback of 252 pages.

My queries into Zulu began when I rang the African Language Department at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and spoke to a white guy. Did “precision” exist in the Zulu language prior to European contact? “Oh,” he said, “that’s a very Eurocentric question!” and simply wouldn’t answer. I rang again, spoke to another white guy, and got a virtually identical response.

So I called the University of South Africa, a large correspondence university in Pretoria, and spoke to a young black guy. As has so often been my experience in Africa, we hit it off from the start. He understood my interest in Zulu and found my questions of great interest. He explained that the Zulu word for “precision” means “to make like a straight line.” Was this part of indigenous Zulu? No; this was added by the compilers of the dictionary.

But, he assured me, it was otherwise for “promise.” I was skeptical. How about “obligation?” We both had the same dictionary (English-Zulu, Zulu-English Dictionary, published by Witwatersrand University Press in 1958), and looked it up. The Zulu entry means “as if to bind one’s feet.” He said that was not indigenous but was added by the compilers. But if Zulu didn’t have the concept of obligation, how could it have the concept of a promise, since a promise is simply the oral undertaking of an obligation? I was interested in this, I said, because Africans often failed to keep promises and never apologized—as if this didn’t warrant an apology.

A light bulb seemed to go on in his mind. Yes, he said; in fact, the Zulu word for promise—isithembiso—is not the correct word. When a black person “promises” he means “maybe I will and maybe I won’t.” But, I said, this makes nonsense of promising, the very purpose of which is to bind one to a course of action. When one is not sure he can do something he may say, “I will try but I can’t promise.” He said he’d heard whites say that and had never understood it till now. As a young Romanian friend so aptly summed it up, when a black person “promises” he means “I’ll try.”

The failure to keep promises is therefore not a language problem. It is hard to believe that after living with whites for so long they would not learn the correct meaning, and it is too much of a coincidence that the same phenomenon is found in Nigeria, Kenya and Papua New Guinea, where I have also lived. It is much more likely that Africans generally lack the very concept and hence cannot give the word its correct meaning. This would seem to indicate some difference in intellectual capacity.

Note the Zulu entry for obligation: “as if to bind one’s feet.” An obligation binds you, but it does so morally, not physically. It is an abstract concept, which is why there is no word for it in Zulu. So what did the authors of the dictionary do? They took this abstract concept and made it concrete. Feet, rope, and tying are all tangible and observable, and therefore things all blacks will understand, whereas many will not understand what an obligation is. The fact that they had to define it in this way is, by itself, compelling evidence for my conclusion that Zulu thought has few abstract concepts and indirect evidence for the view that Africans may be deficient in abstract thinking.

Abstract thinking

Abstract entities do not exist in space or time; they are typically intangible and can’t be perceived by the senses. They are often things that do not exist. “What would happen if everyone threw rubbish everywhere?” refers to something we hope will not happen, but we can still think about it.

Everything we observe with our senses occurs in time and everything we see exists in space; yet we can perceive neither time nor space with our senses, but only with the mind. Precision is also abstract; while we can see and touch things made with precision, precision itself can only be perceived by the mind.

How do we acquire abstract concepts? Is it enough to make things with precision in order to have the concept of precision? Africans make excellent carvings, made with precision, so why isn’t the concept in their language? To have this concept we must not only do things with precision but must be aware of this phenomenon and then give it a name.

How, for example, do we acquire such concepts as belief and doubt? We all have beliefs; even animals do. When a dog wags its tail on hearing his master’s footsteps, it believes he is coming. But it has no concept of belief because it has no awareness that it has this belief and so no awareness of belief per se. In short, it has no self-consciousness, and thus is not aware of its own mental states.

It has long seemed to me that blacks tend to lack self-awareness. If such awareness is necessary for developing abstract concepts it is not surprising that African languages have so few abstract terms. A lack of self-awareness—or introspection—has advantages. In my experience neurotic behavior, characterized by excessive and unhealthy self-consciousness, is uncommon among blacks. I am also confident that sexual dysfunction, which is characterized by excessive self-consciousness, is less common among blacks than whites.

Time is another abstract concept with which Africans seem to have difficulties. I began to wonder about this in 1998. Several Africans drove up in a car and parked right in front of mine, blocking it. “Hey,” I said, “you can’t park here.” “Oh, are you about to leave?” they asked in a perfectly polite and friendly way. “No,” I said, “but I might later. Park over there”—and they did.

While the possibility that I might want to leave later was obvious to me, their thinking seemed to encompass only the here and now: “If you’re leaving right now we understand, but otherwise, what’s the problem?” I had other such encounters and the key question always seemed to be, “Are you leaving now?” The future, after all, does not exist. It will exist, but doesn’t exist now. People who have difficulty thinking of things that do not exist will ipso facto have difficulty thinking about the future.

It appears that the Zulu word for “future”—isikhati—is the same as the word for time, as well as for space. Realistically, this means that these concepts probably do not exist in Zulu thought. It also appears that there is no word for the past—meaning, the time preceding the present. The past did exist, but no longer exists. Hence, people who may have problems thinking of things that do not exist will have trouble thinking of the past as well as the future.

This has an obvious bearing on such sentiments as gratitude and loyalty, which I have long noticed are uncommon among Africans. We feel gratitude for things that happened in the past, but for those with little sense of the past such feelings are less likely to arise.

Why did it take me more than 20 years to notice all of this? I think it is because our assumptions about time are so deeply rooted that we are not even aware of making them and hence the possibility that others may not share them simply does not occur to us. And so we don’t see it, even when the evidence is staring us in the face.

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Jewish leaders owe an apology to Trump and America

I cover similar ground in my essay on “Jews for Consistency.”

Dennis Prager writes:

Last month, I wrote a column under the headline, “There Is No Wave of Trump-Induced Anti-Semitism or Racism.” I was right. But my being right is not what matters. What matters is that the mainstream media and the Jewish left — which is now essentially almost all of Jewish life outside of Orthodoxy — were wrong. So wrong that it was morally inexcusable.

Some Jewish leaders need to either publicly apologize — to the Jewish community, to conservatives, to America and to President Donald Trump — or be fired from their positions.

The entire claim that America was engulfed in a rising tide of anti-Semitism was a lie — “fake news.” And the claim that Trump’s election is what aroused all this anti-Semitism was not merely a lie, it was malicious libel.

No Jew has disseminated this libel as much as Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect in New York, part of a worldwide network. The man has engaged in chillul Anne Frank — a desecration of the name of Anne Frank.

Here are a few examples of Goldstein’s public comments:

“The cancer of Antisemitism has infected his [Trump’s] own Administration.”

“Make no mistake: The Antisemitism coming out of this Administration is the worst we have ever seen from any Administration.”

“The most vicious antisemites in America are looking at you [Trump] and your administration as a nationalistic movement granting them permission to attack Jews, Jewish institutions, and sacred Jewish sites.”

If the organization doesn’t fire this man, it is complicit in his radical politicization of an institution calling itself a center for “Mutual Respect,” and in the misuse of Anne Frank’s name to disseminate political hate.

More important than Goldstein and his so-called Center for Mutual Respect is Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of what is supposed to be the leading American-Jewish organization dedicated to exposing and combating anti-Semitism, the Anti-Defamation League. He has played a leading role in disseminating the narrative that since the Trump election, America has been drenched in anti-Semitism — even comparing its levels to those of Nazi Germany.

As reported by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in December:

“ ‘Anti-Semitic rhetoric in the United States has reached levels unprecedented since 1930s Germany,’ Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt warned a gathering of Israeli lawmakers in Jerusalem on Monday.

“ ‘Anti-Semitism has wound its way into mainstream conversations in a manner that many Jews who lived through Nazi Germany find terrifying,’ he said at the Knesset meeting, which was convened to discuss the plight of American Jewry under the incoming Trump administration.”

Greenblatt’s allusion to Nazi Germany cheapened the evil of Nazism and of the Holocaust; I wrote about left-wing Jews doing this very thing in another column in mid-February.

And note Haaretz’s inflammatory description — “the plight of American Jewry under the incoming Trump administration” — made six weeks before there was a Trump administration!

In December, Greenblatt told NPR:

“We found it so deeply problematic when some of the images and some of the rhetoric [from Trump] seemed to evoke longstanding anti-Semitic conspiracies.”

Greenblatt repeated this charge in February in an op-ed he wrote for The Washington Post:

“Last year, we watched as the Trump campaign repeatedly tweeted and shared anti-Semitic imagery and language, allowing this poison to move from the margins into the mainstream of the public conversation.”

That whole charge — made by the left within and outside of Jewish life — was false. But the left has always believed it is OK to falsely accuse conservatives of racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, bigotry, xenophobia, hate, etc. It’s effective, after all.

Greenblatt also wrote in that Washington Post column:

“Trump could have said he condemns anti-Semitism and takes incidents, such as the dozens of threats made to Jewish Community Centers, seriously. But instead, he lashed out against those asking the question.”

It turns out that President Trump was right: There was no eruption of anti-Semitism in America, let alone in the White House. And “those asking the question” did indeed deserve the contempt the president showed them.

It turns out that some disturbed American-Jewish kid in Israel was the source of nearly all these threats against Jewish Community Centers (JCCs). And the handful of other threats to JCCs came from a Black radical.

So, it turns out, as I wrote here four weeks ago: “[T]here is no wave of Trump-induced anti-Semitism or racism in America. This is only one more example of left-wing hysteria. … ”

And, it turns out that the conclusion to my column was also valid:

“Jews who think there is such a wave do so because they hate Donald Trump so much, they want to believe it. In other words, a lot of Jews want to believe that Jews are hated in America more than ever. Yet another way in which leftism has poisoned Jewish life.”

That’s the “poison” that ought to concern Jonathan Greenblatt.

In the meantime, he owes the president of the United States and the American people an apology.

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The Happy-Go-Lucky Jewish Group That Connects Trump and Putin

From Politico:

Chabad of Port Washington, a Jewish community center on Long Island’s Manhasset Bay, sits in a squat brick edifice across from a Shell gas station and a strip mall. The center is an unexceptional building on an unexceptional street, save for one thing: Some of the shortest routes between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin run straight through it.

Two decades ago, as the Russian president set about consolidating power on one side of the world, he embarked on a project to supplant his country’s existing Jewish civil society and replace it with a parallel structure loyal to him. On the other side of the world, the brash Manhattan developer was working to get a piece of the massive flows of capital that were fleeing the former Soviet Union in search of stable assets in the West, especially real estate, and seeking partners in New York with ties to the region.

Their respective ambitions led the two men—along with Trump’s future son-in-law, Jared Kushner—to build a set of close, overlapping relationships in a small world that intersects on Chabad, an international Hasidic movement most people have never heard of.

Starting in 1999, Putin enlisted two of his closest confidants, the oligarchs Lev Leviev and Roman Abramovich, who would go on to become Chabad’s biggest patrons worldwide, to create the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia under the leadership of Chabad rabbi Berel Lazar, who would come to be known as “Putin’s rabbi.”

A few years later, Trump would seek out Russian projects and capital by joining forces with a partnership called Bayrock-Sapir, led by Soviet emigres Tevfik Arif, Felix Sater and Tamir Sapir—who maintain close ties to Chabad. The company’s ventures would lead to multiple lawsuits alleging fraud and a criminal investigation of a condo project in Manhattan.

Meanwhile, the links between Trump and Chabad kept piling up. In 2007, Trump hosted the wedding of Sapir’s daughter and Leviev’s right-hand man at Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach resort. A few months after the ceremony, Leviev met Trump to discuss potential deals in Moscow and then hosted a bris for the new couple’s first son at the holiest site in Chabad Judaism. Trump attended the bris along with Kushner, who would go on to buy a $300 million building from Leviev and marry Ivanka Trump, who would form a close relationship with Abramovich’s wife, Dasha Zhukova. Zhukova would host the power couple in Russia in 2014 and reportedly attend Trump’s inauguration as their guest.

With the help of this trans-Atlantic diaspora and some globetrotting real estate moguls, Trump Tower and Moscow’s Red Square can feel at times like part of the same tight-knit neighborhood. Now, with Trump in the Oval Office having proclaimed his desire to reorient the global order around improved U.S. relations with Putin’s government—and as the FBI probes the possibility of improper coordination between Trump associates and the Kremlin—that small world has suddenly taken on outsize importance.

Trump’s kind of Jews

Founded in Lithuania in 1775, the Chabad-Lubavitch movement today has adherents numbering in the five, or perhaps six, figures. What the movement lacks in numbers it makes up for in enthusiasm, as it is known for practicing a particularly joyous form of Judaism.

Mort Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, recalled having this trait impressed upon him during one family wedding at which the two tables occupied by his first cousins, Chabad rabbis, put the rest of the celebrants to shame. “They were dancing up a storm, these guys. I thought they were black. Instead they’re just black-hat,” Klein said, referring to their traditional Hasidic garb.

Despite its small size, Chabad has grown to become the most sprawling Jewish institution in the world, with a presence in over 1,000 far-flung cities, including locales like Kathmandu and Hanoi with few full-time Jewish residents. The movement is known for these outposts, called Chabad houses, which function as community centers and are open to all Jews. “Take any forsaken city in the world, you have a McDonald’s and a Chabad house,” explained Ronn Torossian, a Jewish public relations executive in New York.

Chabad adherents differ from other Hasidic Jews on numerous small points of custom, including the tendency of Chabad men to wear fedoras instead of fur hats. Many adherents believe that the movement’s last living leader, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who died in 1994, is the messiah, and some believe he is still alive. Chabad followers are also, according to Klein, “remarkable” fundraisers.

As the closest thing the Jewish world has to evangelism—much of its work is dedicated to making Jews around the world more involved in Judaism—Chabad serves many more Jews who are not full-on adherents.

According to Schmuley Boteach, a prominent rabbi in New Jersey and a longtime friend of Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, Chabad offers Jews a third way of relating to their religious identity. “You have three choices as a Jew,” he explained. “You can assimilate and not be very affiliated. You can be religious and Orthodox, or there’s sort of a third possibility that Chabad offers for people who don’t want to go the full Orthodox route but do want to stay on the traditional spectrum.”

This third way may explain the affinity Trump has found with a number of Chabad enthusiasts—Jews who shun liberal reform Judaism in favor of traditionalism but are not strictly devout.

Posted in Chabad, Donald Trump, Russia | Comments Off on The Happy-Go-Lucky Jewish Group That Connects Trump and Putin