Rabbi Boteach’s empty spin

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s December 18 column, “American Fanatics,” reminded me of playing dreidel: lots of spin and little to show for it. Here are four points, representing the four sides of a dreidel:

Nun: Rabbi B compares Donald Trump’s base to the Maccabees and, by extension, President Trump to Mattathias or Judah Maccabee. The Maccabees were smart enough to follow leaders who were honest, intelligent and actually cared about them.

Gimmel: “America’s Rabbi” claims the fanatics and extremists “get crazier by the day.” By the end of the column, he seems to praise today’s Maccabees who may, at any moment, “spring into battle.” Proud Boys, anyone? Oh yeah, I forgot. “Stand by!”

Hay: The science that Rabbi B decries as godless, hopeless and pessimistic is the same science that created at least two vaccines. Science is our source of hope and optimism and there is room for God too!

Shin: Rabbi B perpetuates the dangerous myth of America’s “rugged individualism.” I’m sure that the millions of enslaved Africans who enriched the planter caste and the United States would disagree. As would the unionists and labor unions, many of which were organized and led by Jews. As would the Landsmanschaften, our own and those of other immigrant groups.

Sorry, Rabbi Boteach, your dreidel landed on nun. Better luck next time!

Peter Herbst 


The importance of Israel

Bravo Michael Cohen (“The communal bridges we must build better,” December 18). You delivered a timeless message that must be repeated in different ways and as often as possible.

I have just one comment to add to your message of Jewish unity for the State of Israel.

Several days before I read Mr. Cohen’s article, I was talking to a friend about the aging process. The body changes as we age, politics change, etc. Still, most people do not have the mindfulness to take themselves to a place they don’t, can’t or haven’t experienced, and therefore can’t understand implications of change.

Our generation has been blessed to live with the protective bubble of the State of Israel, where all Jews are welcome. For 2,000 years the Jewish people wandered, believing that one place or another (including the USA) is their safe haven. Yet for 2,000 years we have been persecuted, maimed, killed for the same reason — because we were born a Jew.

Through the 1980s there were still Jews, of all sorts: left, right, observant, or not, of all levels and all colors, the widest of spectrums, who understood the protective bubble of the State of Israel. Why, because many of them lived a life during a time without the State and they understood well, even if they didn’t need Israel in that moment, but if at any time they did, they would be welcome in one small piece of land on the entire planet.

Unfortunately, many surveys over the last few decades have reflected the lack of understanding of this phenomenon. Each year fewer Jews connect to Israel, or even feel that their lives would be affected whether Israel existed or God forbid didn’t.

Without getting into politics or psychology, it should be a simple understanding: when people, leaders, decision makers, populations begin to chant “from the river to the sea,” they are not just speaking of the destruction of Israel, but of all the Jewish people. It is a sly way to make all Jewish people vulnerable again. It was but 82 years ago (July 1938) at the Evian Conference when the world decision makers (now defunct League of Nations) determined there was no room in any of their countries for a Jew. If there had been an Israel, there would have been no Holocaust.

Here are some numbers worth remembering. Before WWII the world population was 2 billion. Today we are at 7.8 billion. Prior to WWII the Jewish population of the world was 18 million, after WWII 12 million. If the Jewish population kept up with world growth, today it would be approximately 42 million. BUT our population is at 14.7 million as of 2019. 14.7 million doesn’t even bring us back to our population prior to WWII.

From the beginning of time, enemies who proclaimed a desire to destroy the Jewish people never was good for us — with the exception of Purim. The Purim story has many lessons for many people but the main lesson is that when the Jewish people are united we will live and thrive. So let’s all get around that idea, let us be united around the State of Israel. As Mr. Cohen said, we don’t have to agree about all the politics, but let’s agree that Israel, at all costs must exist — your lives depend on it!

Varda Hager 


read more: