Jews shouldn’t be for Cruz

I was dismayed by “Jews for Cruz” (March 4) and remain perplexed by the amount of local support that has been expressed for Senator Ted Cruz by the local Orthodox community and its leaders.

I was brought up to believe that tikkun olam is a central part of our mission, but Cruz seems intent on exacerbating recent American trends of divisiveness and idle hatred, while reversing whatever progressive and humanitarian steps our country has taken in recent decades. This is a man who David Brooks, hardly a liberal, referred to in his New York Times column as being “far adrift from the American mainstream” and whose political profile Brooks described as “a slightly enlarged Rick Santorum but without the heart.”

Befitting his reputation as the most conservative (and hated) member of Congress, Cruz is a narrow-minded and prejudiced man. But instead of being honest about his narrow-mindedness, he employs code words such as “New York values” in order to express his disdain for diversity, tolerance, intellectual curiosity, and ambition. Cruz proudly presents himself as a devout Christian but, as blogger Mike Spindell and others have pointed out, his particular brand of Christianity, with its emphasis on Christian dominionism, is a far cry from the notions of sympathy to the poor, enmity to the rich, and love for humanity that were the backbones of Jesus’ message, as described in the Gospels. (Christian dominionism is predicated on the belief that the American government should be dominated by Christian fundamentalism and that our laws should be based on a literal interpretation of Christian biblical concepts.) In fact, given Cruz’s proud and avowed evangelical agenda, his repressive version of Christianity, and his regressive flat-tax proposal, it is impossible to see how a Cruz administration would make America a better place to live for anyone other than evangelical one-percenters. (Cruz’s tax policy proposal, when analyzed by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, actually would increase the average federal tax burden for the bottom 20 percent of Americans by 0.6 percentage points, while providing a 14.1 percent federal tax cut for the top 1 percent.)

Cruz has espoused privatizing Social Security by turning it over to Wall Street and weakening Medicare. Those probably are the two most successful entitlement programs in the country. His mantra about shrinking the role and size of government continues unabated, even as many American citizens cannot get unpoisoned water to flow from their taps. His extreme views on gun control include his opposition to any type of background checks on prospective gun buyers, even as mass shootings become a near-daily occurrence in the United States. Cruz was the proud and preening leader of the disastrous government shutdown in 2013 and has advocated that the United States default on its debts. Now that the Affordable Care Act has enabled tens of millions of disadvantaged Americans to obtain health insurance, Cruz, instead of improving it and working out its kinks, would repeal it, leaving millions of American families uninsured. Incredibly, while playing up his family’s immigrant roots ad nauseam, Cruz is opposed to a pathway for millions of undocumented immigrants in this country to become citizens. His idea for humanitarian aid for Syrian refugees is to limit it to helping those of the Christian faith. Cruz loves to flout his constitutional law credentials and to espouse his version of constitutional strict constructionism. That is, until it no longer suits him. On the death of Justice Scalia, Cruz, ever the hypocrite, blithely ignored the plain language of the Constitution that he claims to revere and stated that we “owe it to him and the nation for the Senate to insure that the next president names his replacement.”

When one listens to Cruz, it is easy to forget that we are supposed to be living in a country where one of the founding and bedrock principles is separation of church and state. Cruz, however, not only refuses to keep the two separate but actually confuses them, viewing his Christian beliefs as fact while denying scientific evidence of man’s role in climate change and then referring to climate change as “a religion.” His antipathy toward Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose is far more consistent with autocratic, right-wing religious theocracies than with enlightened, modern Western civilizations. Never one to care much or at all about what is true and what is not, Cruz referred to Robert Lewis Dear, the latest in a long line of right-wing Christians who were charged with murders at Planned Parenthood centers or abortion clinics, as a “transgendered leftist.” But hypocrisy does not bother Cruz at all; he unabashedly rails against Wall Street money, while his wife takes her cut as a partner at Goldman & Sachs, which helped finance his campaign.

Unfortunately, little of this seems to register with the many tunnel-visioned, single-issue voters within our community, particularly the ones who try to pass themselves off as leaders. Senator Al Franken notwithstanding, I always chuckle when I see actors, comedians, singers, and sports stars (yes you, Johnny Damon) veer wildly from their areas of expertise and engage in the public endorsement of political candidates.

Many of us believe that rabbis ought to focus upon studying, teaching, pastoral duties, scholarship, outreach, and youth activities, instead of telling fellow citizens who to vote for. The Torah teaches us, repeatedly, to try to lift up the status of downtrodden people and to love and welcome the stranger. A Cruz presidency, God forbid, would usher in a terrible era for many amongst us, including children and the elderly, who are sick, impoverished or need a helping hand. Community leaders should be troubled by Cruz’s embrace of Pastor Mike Bickle, a defender of the Holocaust, who actually referred to Hitler as a “hunter” sent by God to drive the Jewish people to settle in Israel, and a man who would have the Jews returned to concentration camps in preparation for the ultimate Christian redemption.

Sadly, what Cruz and his supporters fail to acknowledge is that we are a nation of laws that prides itself on its civil liberties. Cruz fails to comprehend the vital role that government plays in our society, in helping and protecting those who cannot protect or fend for themselves. Cruz’s oft-repeated “Christian-Judeo values” rhetoric is just more code used by his ilk to espouse conservative principles and does not in any way reflect the humanistic teachings of the Torah. The fact that our communal leaders have blindly bought into it saddens and disturbs me.

I could say that these leaders ought to be careful of what they wish for, but I remain confident that their wishes will never come to pass. Thanks to the proud “New York values” that permeate and suffuse our region and the winner-take-all workings of the electoral college, I am all but certain that come November, the aforementioned endorsements will amount to nothing more than forgotten ego trips because they will have had virtually no effect on the vote in the tri-state region.

Michael K. Eidman Esq.

What do you mean towering?

Amidst all the encomiums heaped upon Justice Scalia for his supposedly towering intellect in his search for the “original intent’ of the Constitution, something important has been overlooked: namely, that the geniuses who drafted that document were all men of English descent, steeped in the traditions of English common law. Under that system courts had been “making law” in the course of deciding disputes roughly from about the time of Magna Carta; and as a wiser jurist, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. pointed out, “The life of the law is experience, not logic.”

Thus, it is clear that in Philadelphia in 1787 the Founders understood that they were drafting a living document. They would have been horrified to be told that they had merely drawn a dead one. The only thing towering about Scalia’s jurisprudence, therefore, has been his monumental opposition to that original intent.

Sanford Kluger
Englewood Cliffs

Two rabbis and Torah

The two op eds in the March 11 Jewish Standard by Rabbi Engelmayer (“Letter of the law”) and Rabbi Goldin (“Understanding Orthodoxy”) present issues that relate to the manner by which the Torah has been kept as a living essential code for Jews for three and a half millennium. The adaptive Torah interpretations from that period have taught us how to endure, particularly in the 2,000 years when we were displaced from Israel, living among different nations and cultures. While the creative processes, discoveries, and advances have required Torah adaptations, this has enabled Jews to be faithful to their fundamental proven ancestral beliefs.

Both rabbis cherish and project the need for the Torah’s continued relevance as the basis for maintaining the survival of the religion. The need for loving Torah teaching and serving them with heart and soul goes well beyond just the relevance of our ancestral ties. Jews living as minorities in different cultures with only ancestral ties do not maintain the religion over generations. Our paucity of numbers attest to the fact that over the last 2,000 years — some 80-odd generations in the diaspora — we have lost more faithful then now exist. For those who still are faithful, our ancestral beliefs have nurtured our need for a foundation and code of living that gives us peace of mind.

Rabbi Engelmayer’s article again judges Judge Scalia as wanting in maintaining a conservative Orthodox discipline that will endanger the constitution’s survivability by making it resistant to change. It is somewhat ironic that Rabbi Engelmayer’s example of the Torah’s flexibility on a Shabbat staple is one that Scalia would approve. Judge Scalia prefers that the U.S. states deal with issues whenever they can. Rabbi Engelmayer indicates that rabbis, using what could be called an executive order, created states, where one interpretation would hold, but can be followed or reinterpreted by another group. In both cases, Judge Scalia and Rabbi Engelmayer seem to be in agreement on the separation of states of interpretation outside the fixed original document.

The real issue that Rabbi Engelmayer does not discuss involves those perceived needs that require interpretations that some would declare are out of order because they threaten the Torah’s viability. There must be a balance if Jews are to exist and perhaps even thrive as a small group living inside a dominant culture. It is a balance between those who feel that fairness, hurt feelings, inconvenience, and the opportunity not to be seen as alien to the dominant culture against a more conservative view that if change is to take place it must be done slowly. If not, Jewish identity will be lost forever.

Rabbi Goldin has taken up the challenge of providing a rational Orthodox view for conservative interpretation of the Torah. He indicates he has learned that those that want change quickly can be aggressive in their condemnation of the slower, more careful process of adaptation. I look forward to learning more from Rabbi Goldin. I am grateful to Rabbi Engelmayer for having raised the issue of Torah survivability through adaptation. I do challenge him to weigh in for those issues that face the Jewish denominations that evolved in the last 120 years, when major social Torah issues continue to separate us. The younger generations are confused and repelled by the social disunity.

For my part, I have come to believe that the Constitution and the Torah are documents that reflect the founding of free societies where individuals are free to be creative as is the Divine will. Jews should be proud that the Torah instructs us to perfect this world rather than look to another world after we die. The Torah speaks of the rewards to each of us in making the world better for our children.

Sidney Kaplan
Fort Lee

They’re too young to know

I must express my disagreement with Jewish Federation spending money for teen GLBTQ activity for Purim. They are pushing adolescents to make decisions on same sex attraction and sexuality which should wait until adulthood. This is politically correctness gone amok.

Teenagers are far too impressionable and immature to make a decision whether to identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. These decisions should at least wait until 18 years old to make that determination. One has to believe that individuals sponsoring this activity have their own agenda, namely absolute socially equally for a gay, lesbian or transgender relationship.

It is not fair to use adolescents for that purpose.

Seeing this announcement, I half expect a GLBTQ Purim party for preschoolers or first graders.

Alan Levin, Esq.
Fair Lawn

Don’t trample on Trump

Regardless of Mr. Trump’s controversial style and policies, he (like all of us) is protected by the constitution’s first amendment which guarantees freedom of speech and assembly (in any location).

All his political opponents are morally bound to speak out to denounce his victimization which forced the cancellation of his recent rally in Chicago. Clearly, he is not seeking the destruction of any individual, group, or the United States of America!

The President is bound by his oath of office to speak out to denounce this violation of the first amendment. But Mr. Trump’s opponents throw him to the wolves for their own political gain. Placing blame on the victim is an old egregious and dangerous ploy.

It is shocking to see how fear and desperation can override honor.

Jerrold Terdiman, MD
Woodcliff Lake

You’re welcome, Rabbi Sirbu!

Two weeks ago, the Jewish Standard ran an article on an upcoming Artist-in-Residence program that Temple Emeth was planning (“Freeing the Inner Artist,” February 25). It was testament to the power of the Standard’s reach; we had more people attend our “Painting with a Twist” evening from the greater Jewish community than I ever recall at previous similar programs. Thank you to Lois Goldrich for her interest in our guest artist, Mordechai Rosenstein, and for the extensive research she did.

The program has just ended, and Mordechai is packing his materials as I write, so this is the perfect opportunity to thank all those who attended and connected with our tradition through art. I’d also like to thank the committee of volunteers, who spent months preparing, including co-chairs Gayle and Michael Goldberg, and Lynne Graizel.

This partnership of resources that made the weekend successful is a wonderful reminder of the important role the Standard plays in strengthening our Jewish community.

Rabbi Steven Sirbu
Temple Emeth, Teaneck

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