Sunday, December 07, 2014

Jewish Self-Hatred

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach writes: Cape Town, South Africa – The global center of the world BDS movement is, when you think about it, South Africa. BDS, in an attempt to sound more reasonable and less hateful, rarely compares Israel to Nazi, Germany, the way, say, arch-anti-Semite Roger Waters of Pink Floyd does. No, BDS argues that Israel practices apartheid the way that pre-Nelson Mandela South Africa did. You can imagine, therefore, that it’s not all that easy being a proud lover of Israel in South Africa. That the Jewish community here pulls it off, remaining staunch Zionists, is impressive. But there are fissures in the support. Israel is under constant assault by some ANC ministers who make the false and erroneous comparison of Israel’s existential war against Islamic terrorists to the ANC’s struggle against white apartheid rule. Last week I responded to this ridiculous comparison. This week I want to focus on what it’s like to be subject to it. It’s impossible for world Jewry to be the brunt of so much hatred, and to constantly be on the defensive about Israel, without some of that bile and poison seeping in. The constant attacks start playing with your head. Maybe there is something wrong with us Jews. With Christianity saying for 2000 years that Jesus is loving while the God of the Old Testament is vengeful, maybe Judaism is too rigid. Maybe in Israel we’re overdoing it. With the Palestinians saying they’re humiliated by checkpoints, perhaps Israel is purposely trying to degrade them as opposed to instituting security measures to stop buses filled with children from being blown up. And maybe, just maybe, we Jews who live outside of Israel are simply giving Israel too much mindless support. I remember twice visiting Dakar, Senegal, one of the poorest countries on earth, and being struck by the advertisements all over the city for skin bleaching agents. But maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. Gorie island in the city is where millions of African slaves departed through ‘the gate of no return’ to a life of chains in the Americas and Caribbean. When you’re brutalized with that kind of hatred just for the color of your skin you don’t always see beauty when you peer in the mirror. The gradual trickle of self-hatred into the Jewish soul is evidencing itself in the growing American Jewish call for Israel-hating speakers to be hosted by Jewish organizations at Jewish venues in order to demonstrate our open-mindedness. We first saw this with Swarthmore Hillel when it bizarrely announced its “Open Hillel” policy, opening their doors to anti-Zionist speakers. Asking people who wish to destroy Israel to come and address Jewish audiences – and make no mistake about it, BDS is only about destroying Israel – would be the equivalent of the ANC inviting white bigots to argue that apartheid should be reinstated. I am all for inviting Israel’s opponents to open, rules-based debates, where they are forced to rationally defend their positions in the marketplace of ideas, and indeed, our organization, This World: The Values Network, will be sponsoring debates along these lines across the United States, beginning at Columbia University on 31 March. I believe strongly in freedom of speech and fair and intelligent exchange. And if it’s a credible opponent but who has the intention of obliterating your very home it can only be a debate format and on neutral ground. But what fool would allow poisonous, anti-Israel, anti-Semitic propaganda offered to impressionable Jewish minds without a retort? To invite people who want to malign and defame Israel to address Jewish audiences is proof of the old adage that there is no hatred like Jewish self-hatred.

Europe & The Jews

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach writes: At the Oxford Union debate on Iran that I participated in last Thursday night, I waited for the inevitable argument that we’re wasting our time fighting over the Islamic Republic when the real wolf in sheep’s clothing is of course the Jewish state. Sure enough it came in the first thirty minutes when a bearded Islamic student who did not look much different to me (lucky, handsome devil) joined the floor debate. He argued that Israel, an apartheid state, is responsible for the real atrocities in the Middle East. So why bother with the Iranian distraction? Time was when an argument like that would have been shot down by the intelligent students witnessing the debate. Really? You’re going to compare a liberal democracy like Israel, with every freedom from religion to press to assembly, to a theocratic nightmare like Iran? Iran last year put 700 of its citizens to death, hangs gays and blasphemers from public cranes, and stones women to death on false accusations of adultery so their husbands can marry younger women. Are you seriously going to compare Israel to a country that used snipers to murder political protesters in the streets of Tehran in 2009 and infamously shot Neda Agha-Soltan in the heart? The martyred Iranian woman even has a scholarship at Queens College, Oxford named after her. Press accounts of the Oxford debate have our side demolishing those of the pro-Iran faction and for anyone who was there the huge applause I was fortunate to receive from the entire audience – easily in evidence on the video of the debate shows how well we connected with the students. But… we lost anyway. When it comes to Israel, British Universities seem impervious to reason.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Into the Cannibal's Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa by Ilana Mercer

I did this interview via email.

 1. LUKE: How eager was the publishing world and then the reading public for the messages of your book “Into the Cannibal's Pot”?

 ILANA MERCER: As is often the case, the “publishing world” was at odds with the reading public. The public was extremely eager for the message of “Into the Cannibal's Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa.” With the exception of the book’s heroic publisher, whose words of wisdom your readers can read on “The Cannibal’s” Amazon page (“This is a book about ideas and ideology,” he writes.) The courage and forethought of Stairway Press of Seattle paid off. The book has done well, given the fact that mainstream publishers ran from it horrified. The “Preface” to the book, available through Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature, details the ridiculous responses my agent received from what conservatives and libertarians consider their go-to imprints.

 2. LUKE: What are the chief lessons for America from South Africa's decline?

 ILANA MERCER: One crucial lesson, and I quote form the “Introduction” to “Into the Cannibal’s Pot,” is that “a highly developed Western society can be dismantled with relative ease. In South Africa, this deconstruction has come about in the wake of an almost overnight shift in the majority/minority power structure. In the U.S., a slower, more incremental transformation is under way. It began with a state-orchestrated, historically unparalleled, mass importation of inassimilable ethnic groups into a country whose creed is that it has no creed any longer.”

The US is fast becoming a mass of competing interests, in which the politically weak vie to keep more of their rightful property; the politically powerful fight to get their paws on that very property. Democracy is especially dangerous in such ethnically and racially divided societies, where majorities and minorities are rigidly predetermined and politically permanent. Like South Africa, America is destined to degenerate into a dominant-party state. Thirty years on, when the immigration Rubicon is crossed, the population of our country will be poorer, less educated and more welfare-dependent. One party will represent this majority. This party will serve as an instrument of perpetual oppression of the minority by a politically powerful majority, just as the African National Congress does in South Africa.

3. LUKE: Given the decline in South Africa since the end of apartheid, do you, in retrospect, give apartheid more credit? Do you think your father was right to protest apartheid?

ILANA MERCER: My book distinguishes between natural rights and political rights. Man is endowed with natural—but not necessarily political—rights. People fuss about apartheid having denied the majority its democratic rights (the vote). Citizenship rights, however, are not natural rights. It is natural rights that the law ought to always and everywhere respect and uphold. In denying blacks these rights, apartheid was reprehensible. To quote from “The Cannibal”: "In its police state methods—indefinite detention without trial, declarations of a state of emergency—apartheid destroyed the individual defenses of equality before the law, the presumption of innocence, habeas corpus and various other very basic freedoms. That the apartheid regime contravened natural justice by depriving Africans of rights to property and due process is indisputable as it is despicable." (Page 231.) Dad was right and heroic to oppose apartheid before it became fashionable to do so; he was wrong to place his trust in the ANC and in what I’ve termed “raw, ripe democracy.”

 4. LUKE: What do you think about Israel absorbing about 80,000 Ethiopians and calling them Jewish? Do you expect more non-Jews around the world to identify as Jews if it will get them into the prosperous modern state of Israel? Should Israel fall for this scam? Do you expect Israeli Ethiopian Jews to assimilate into Israel and to reach the same average levels of success as Ashkenazi Jews achieve? Do you think all peoples and races and religions are equally suited for flourishing in a first world economy such as Israel's or America's?

 ILANA MERCER: I believe that very many Russians have done just that—immigrated to Israel for a better life claiming Jewish ancestry. Unlike America’s preferred immigrants, these Russians are said to be right-leaning and nationalistic. However, Israeli leaders seem far more inclined than America’s louts to do what’s in their countrymen’s best interests. Bibi Netanyahu wants to retain Israel’s national character. He said as much recently to members of Israel’s Manufacturers Association. And I quote the Israeli PM: “We suffer from a problem that actually stems from Israel’s economic success,” he said, explaining the problems that arise from the breached border with Egypt. “We have become almost the only First World country that can be reached by foot from the Third World. We are flooded with surge of refugees who threaten to wash away our achievements and damage our existence as a Jewish democratic state.”

 Unlike the Demopublican quislings, Benjamin Netanayu doesn’t suffer any blind spots when it comes to the very real potential of Third-World refugees flooding Israel and transforming his country for the worse, forever.

As to the other part of your question: I’m not up on the Ethiopian issue, but I see societies as a reflection of the individuals that make them up, and individuals as a reflection of their actions. Thus, I have no doubt that certain Israeli Ethiopians will do very well in Israel. As an individualist, race as an organizing principle doesn’t work for me. Rather, the road to freedom lies in beating back the state so that individuals can regain freedom of association, dominion over property, the absolute right of self-defense; the right to hire, fire, and, generally, associate at will.

 *** ILANA Mercer is a paleolibertarian writer, based in the United States. She pens WND’s longest-standing, exclusive paleolibertarian column, “Return to Reason.” She is a contributor to the preeminent libertarian site Economic Policy Journal, and is a fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies, an award-winning, independent, non-profit, free-market economic policy think tank. Ilana’s latest book is “Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons For America From Post-Apartheid South Africa.” Her website is www.IlanaMercer.com. She blogs at www.BarelyaBlog.com.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Power Of Orthodox Judaism

William B. Helmreich writes: In 1964 the eminent sociologist Marshall Sklare declared Orthodoxy to be irrelevant. His view was that Conservative Judaism was the wave of the future in America. How wrong he was. Orthodoxy has become a powerful force in American Jewish life. And its power center is New York City, where, according to the latest census figures, the Orthodox comprise 40 percent of the Jewish population. At the same time, 60 percent of Jews living in the city are either nominally affiliated or have no religious identification with Judaism. A few months ago I chanced upon a remarkable book by Philip Fishman, A Sukkah Is Burning: Remembering Williamsburg’s Hasidic Community. It is a rich and detailed account of life in that Brooklyn neighborhood during the 1950s. The chassidim who came during this post-Holocaust period found an entrenched Modern Orthodox community with a different approach to Orthodoxy and, predictably, tensions ensued. Fishman, who is Modern Orthodox, was part of that community and attended Yeshiva Torah Vodaath, a school that became a flagship institution for a third community – strictly Orthodox or, if you will, yeshivish Jews. During this period the Orthodox community was weak. The Modern Orthodox were a small group and the survivors who made up much of the immigrant Orthodox were burdened with rebuilding their own lives. In that sense it’s not surprising that no one could foresee the movement’s future. How did it happen? How did a community seemingly marked for oblivion revive and thrive? The answers lie in an understanding of the internal dynamics of Orthodoxy and a comprehension of developments in the larger society.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

This Rabbi Gets Me Excited About Orthodox Judaism

Orthodox Judaism is tough. There are so many required rituals, it can drive you crazy if you're not born into it. One thing that keeps me going is inspiring Torah study and my favorite teacher for the past decade is historian Marc B. Shapiro.

I've often gotten discouraged with my Judaism. I feel like I'm just doing things by rote. It's so hard. I feel like my mind is dying. Then I put on a Marc Shapiro lecture and I get excited again about Torah.

From Wikipedia:


Marc B. Shapiro (Hebrew: מלך שפירא, born 1966) holds the Weinberg Chair in Judaic Studies at the University of Scranton and is the author of various books and articles on Jewish history, philosophy, and theology. His writings often challenge the bounds of the conventional Orthodox understanding of Judaism using academic methodology while adhering to Modern Orthodox sensibilities. Shapiro is a popular on-line lecturer for Torah in Motion and often writes for the Seforim Blog.
Shapiro received his BA at Brandeis University and his PhD at Harvard University, where he was the last of the students of the late Prof. Isadore Twersky. His father is Edward S. Shapiro who has published books on American Jewish history.

[edit]Books authored

  • Between the Yeshiva World and Modern Orthodoxy: The Life and Works of Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg, 1884-1966 (London, 1999)
  • The Limits of Orthodox Theology: MaimonidesThirteen Principles Reappraised (Oxford, 2004)
  • Saul Lieberman and the Orthodox (Scranton, 2006)
  • Studies in Maimonides and His Interpreters (Scranton, 2008)
  • Changing the Immutable: How Orthodox Judaism Rewrites Its History (scheduled for 2013)
  • Ed. Kitvei Ha-Gaon Rabbi Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg, 2 vols (Scranton, 1999, 2004)

[edit]External resources

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

What Do I Want In A Woman?

I don't want to go to bed with Rachel and wake up with Leah. I want someone who does not repulse me when I wake up in the morning and see her without make-up. I don't want to have to explain when I'm being sarcastic. I don't want to have to do a lot of explaining period. The more we have in common the better. I don't want a woman who's high maintenance. I'm not high maintenance. I don't need a ton of care and catering to. I'm solid. Reliable. My behavior isn't all over the map. I'm predictable. I want a woman who's reliable. Someone who reads social cues. Somebody who shows up on time, who pays her bills, is responsible and hard-working. Orthodox Judaism is hard work. I need someone who can shoulder the load. I want a woman who wants to take what I have to give and a woman who wants to give what I want to take. I want a good loving woman. I want someone who reads books. That way we're not likely to get bored with each other. I can bring to the relationship the qualities of the hard-working responsible man with good credit and good health. I'm well-read, curious about life, constantly seeking to grow and to improve. I'm committed to my weekly psycho-therapy and my daily writing, my daily Judaism and my daily 12-step work.

What Did I Think Love Was?

Love for me has primarily meant romantic love. Sexual love. Agape love is great in real life but it is not the stuff of fantasy. So love for me has primarily been a fantasy rather than a reality, an aching need rather than an actuality, a yearning, a wishing, a desiring, a song, a cloud floating by. My love always has an object, a young attractive female object, who takes away all my pain. Love meant to me connection, union, an escape from loneliness. Love meant rescue. Love meant transcendence from my self-destructive patterns. Love was a high, a fix, a pulsing rock song, a focus for my attention, an obsession. I first tasted steady reciprocation of my feelings at age 16. It was very sweet but its potential loss set off my jealousy, which doomed my fumbling connection. What do I think love is now? I fear that my emotional instincts and yearnings are not much changed from my earliest years. I want to suck that breast dry because I have no confidence it will be around later. My dad says propinquity breeds love. It's true. Women I've considered not worth a second look become over time the most attractive thing in the world. When I get to know a woman, her looks transform. My relationships have been sobering. I will never be able to relate to somebody on a different level of differentiation aka emotional maturity than myself. I'm stuck with my level. I can't climb. I'll have to love somebody as flawed and frightening and dangerous as myself. There's no escaping my limitations. There's no salvation in this life.

What Creates A Sex Addict?

I was struck by these few sentences by Patrick Carnes in his groundbreaking book on sexual addiction called "Out of the Shadows": Addicts report that as children they felt desperately lonely, lost, and unprotected. Not only was there a lack of nurturing, but also there was no one to show them how to take care of themselves or keep them from harm. Not being able to count on, depend upon, the adults in one's life to meet needs is a key element in addiction. As the child matures, there begins a search for that which is dependable -- something that you can trust to make you feel better. Trust and dependency are the issues that determine personal strength and confidence of vulnerability to enslaving addiction. For in the lonely search for something or someone to depend on -- which has already excluded parents -- a child can start to find those things which always comfort, which always feel good, which always are there, and which always do what they promise. For some, alcohol and drugs are the answer. For others it is food. And there is always sex, which usually costs nothing and nobody else can regulate.

Monday, August 13, 2012

What's My Role In Judaism?

Sometimes I think I'm the court jester. Other times, I think I have a powerful role. More people read me than hear any Shabbos morning sermon. People don't treat me trivially. I remain an outsider. Almost group I join (with the exception of 12-steps), I'm still an outsider. I could do with ten times as much personal connection in Jewish life. People read my blog. They come to my talks. I'm a circus attraction. I have a freak appeal. I think I'm slowly moving towards normality, connection. At times, I fear I'm recreating my father's stirrer role in Adventism. Was there any comfort in converting to Judaism? I'm happier since I pulled it off, particularly the Orthodox one in 2009. Much of the rage has dissipated from my blog. Every day, I feel more a part of Judaism. I know my purpose, my community, my direction, and what I'm good at. I know what's available in Jewish life.

Why Did I Convert To Judaism?

* I wanted to be part of the most effective group for making a better world. A group that had a divine recipe (Torah). * I wanted to improve myself. * I wanted to belong to a transcendent community (without sacrificing my rational inquiry). * I wanted to benefit from a wise tradition where God was the author. * I wanted some of that higher quality of life that Jews have. * I wanted to feel at the center of the world. * I wanted to get close to Dennis Prager and other great role models I met in Judaism. * I wanted to get emotionally and intellectually engaged with a tradition, a people, a text, and a country. * I wanted to be inspired, stimulated and pushed to be more. I wanted guidance and direction. * I wanted something worthy to struggle with.

Why Do I Keep Seeking Out Substitute Father Figures?

I was blessed with a good father. My dad is righteous. He's a rock. He's reliable. He's predictable. He's stable. And with my mother (who died of cancer before I turned four) and my step-mother, he gave us three kids a much better upbringing than he had. I'll always be grateful. My father taught me right from wrong. I didn't always listen to him, but he implanted good values within me. More importantly, he lived them. Dad took a great interest in my intellectual development as well. By age eight, I was in love with reading. Dad suggested many great books to me. He tried to dissuade me from wasting so much time following sports and watching TV. When I was nine or ten, he took me to the Avondale College library and explained how it worked. When we moved to Pacific Union College in 1977 when I was 11, he showed me how that library worked as well. Libraries became a second-home for me. Even though dad always had a frantic schedule, he frequently took time to play with me, be it soccer or Monopoly or the like. Dad had clear priorities. Number one was God (embodied in Jesus). Number two was family and religious community and health and learning. Dad never had hobbies. He had too much to do. Dad would rest and relax at times but only for the sake of accomplishing more in the long run. From an early age, I sought the mentorship of older men. I wanted people I could discuss politics and sports with. I wanted to just hang out. Dad was very busy and while he'd always make time for me when I asked, I didn't want to be a bother. It was easier to seek out other men. From grade school on, I was frequently more interested in hanging out with the fathers of my friends than with my friends. I loved to just kick back and talk. I always picked good friends and I always picked good mentors. Even though I've never been particularly righteous myself, I always had a good sense of the decency of others and always prefered to surround myself with those who wouldn't needlessly hurt me.

I Love The 12-Step Share

I've been going to 12-step groups for the past 18 months to find recovery from my emotional addictions. An integral part of meetings is the "share." Many meetings will have a lead speaker who'll give a share from 8-15 minutes on average. He'll talk about how his addictions ruined his life and how he found recovery through working the program. A good share is brutally honest. The person talks about his own struggles and which specific parts of the program helped him. A mediocre share is filled with advice-giving, theory and quotations from spiritual masters. Advice-giving is not the 12-step way. Instead people are encouraged to speak about their own experience and to not give cross-talk commentary on others shares. Two months ago, for the first time, I was asked to give the lead share. Then a couple of weeks ago, I walked into a meeting and five minutes before it was due to start, I was asked if I would mind substituting for the scheduled speaker who couldn't make it. On my first talk, I had a few days to prepare. This time I had but a few minutes. My talk wasn't as smooth, but I just spoke from the heart, shared what I had struggled with, and related how I had worked the 12-steps and which ones were the most difficult for me, starting with step one. I grew up a preacher's kid. I heard hundreds of sermons. Some were inspiring, some were boring. Right now, I prefer the 12-step share where people open up about how their addictions have destroyed their lives and then describe how a power greater than themselves restored them to sanity. As a writer, I rarely feel comfortable prescribing for others. I'm much more comfortable sharing my own struggles and things that have helped me. Take it or leave it. Your mileage may vary. My personality, my writing style, my life position, all feel much more comfortable with sharing rather than preaching.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Is My Writing Toxic?

In the first 11 years of my Jewish journey, I never wanted to write anything bad about any rabbi. I revered rabbis. I knew there were bad ones, but I revered the profession as a whole. Then I got kicked out of three Orthodox synagogues in Pico-Robertson in 2001 (after one expulsion in 2008) and my heart got very cold. About three years went by and I read the book "The New Rabbi" and I decided that rabbis deserved at least as much journalistic scrutiny as high school basketball coaches and I started writing about them, with few exceptions, with the same sort of detachment that I brought many years ago to writing about high school basketball for the Auburn Journal. One leading Conservative rabbi called my writing "toxic." That shook me up. The word is so powerful. I recognized that there might be something to what he said but I could not deal with it at the time. Now I'm 12-stepping and I'm willing to look anew at myself, my writing and my behavior and to look for the resentment and fear I'm exhibiting as I pursue my own selfish ends and decide to instead turn my will and my life over to God, to let go of my resentments and to stop depending on my own competency (which is not very competent or I would not be in the position I am in) and to instead turn to God constantly, asking, "What is your will?" I'm taking a second look at my toxic behavior and there's a lot more of it than I would like.