Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Here is my (nearly) annual edit of this piece - It needs to keep up with the times even though the message never really changes.
I am a Jew. I find that after many years of conflicted feelings, I have come full circle on being wished (and wishing others) “Merry Christmas”. No, I am not loosing my Jewish identity; on the contrary, I am very sure that it is stronger than ever.
I grew up in an observant Jewish home ( I am observant still) in which we greeted Christmas with a mixture of fascination, respect and a little irritation. At some point I became fond of expressing my ambivalence by quoting Jackie Mason, who once said:
“I don’t understand something about Christians; maybe you can explain this to me? Why is it that this time of year you bring the trees inside and put the lights outside?”
That line, for many years summed up the bemusement that I affected about the whole public Christmas celebration.
My feelings were mixed for a variety of reasons. My Dad had a retail store so the weeks leading up to Christmas were always a time of tension and brutally long hours of work. The traffic on the roads, crowds in the stores, and the saturation of television (especially in those pre- cable times) and radio airwaves with Christmas programs and music were overwhelming. I found the frenzy mentally punishing, the free-floating goodwill unsettling and the talk about Jesus (in whose divinity I was not supposed to believe) uncomfortable.
It left me very glad to have it over on December 26th.
And I was always more than a little unsure of how to respond when some well-meaning person would wish me a Merry Christmas. I was often caught between wanting to thank him noncommittally, try to summon a convincing Merry Christmas in return or to say,” Thanks Very much but I don’t celebrate Christmas and then have to deal with the uncomfortable silence or explanations and apologies.
I am ashamed to admit it today but I was, at first, pleased when I saw, over the years, the ACLU and Multi-culti types pushing “Merry Christmas” out of the vocabulary of cultural discourse in favor of the more generic “Happy Holidays”.
I’ve grownup, though, and I’ve grown into a new perspective on this whole question and, today, when someone wishes me a Merry Christmas, I have a new response. It’s really simple-
I stop what I am doing. I don’t have any hesitation or second thoughts. I wish them a great big “Merry Christmas” in return. I would like to encourage all my fellow Jews, all Christian friends and anyone else who may be listening to join me in this.
I have come to see quite clearly that even if there are politically correct, multi-cultural, morally relativistic, post-modern progressive busybodies who would like us to believe that our Christian friends’ and Neighbors’ spontaneous Christmas wishes are somehow injurious to us and our culture, they are nothing of the kind. A sincere “Merry Christmas is more American and better for the republic and her people than the blandest, most guarded “Happy Holidays”
You see, the U.S. was founded by Christians. Not just any Christians. The early colonists were both devout and independent. They were fervent Protestants whose purpose in coming here was to leave the Kings, Priests, state religions and archaic laws of the Old World behind. Even if some of them were supersessionists and dogmatic, they were also egalitarian and self-reliant. They came here to build a country where every man could read scripture for himself and be his own priest- where he could be free to elect political leadership that he could follow gladly.
By the time of the founders, a century and a half later, much of that initial fundamentalist fervor had evolved into a more complex mix of Mainline Protestantism, Masonic brotherhood and Deist spirituality. Hardened on the forge of a yeoman’s life, annealed by the day-to-day and season-by-season struggle to wrest a living from this still untamed land where God’s will could be imagined alive in the caprices of the weather, soil and the forests. They learned self-reliance and independence by daily practice. Above all, they came to know that it is not enough to expect, that to survive and thrive you must always study, be openminded, learn new things and, above all, be reverent.
It was those fiercely independent Protestants who set the tone for the nation in which we now live. Their adamant spiritual presumption of the liberty of the human soul is, still today, the great central mast that holds the canopy of democracy and aloft. It is the very center of our sanctuary from the extremes of despotism and effete decay that afflict most of the rest of the world.
The devotion of a deeply religious population and spiritually awakened souls like Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams are what have made the this country the true standard of self rule, prosperity and freedom in the history of the human race. They codified it and crystallized it all in the constitution that they wrote for us.
At over two hundred years old, that constitution and the government that flows from it is still the one in the entire world that best honors the individual and guarantees most rights to any individual who accepts the constitutional responsibilities of a citizen.
Among all their unique achievements, the decision that there should be no Official Religion in our country, shows that they understood that full human freedom means spiritual freedom too- Freedom of Religion.
To honor their genius fully, we have to understand that Freedom of Religion must never be allowed to be a mandate for Freedom from Religion. As a Jew, I am exquisitely aware that freedom to practice my form of religion exists in this country because of those Christians and their vision of what a Christian country should stand for.
This uniquely Christian openness is one of the reasons why America has become the destination of choice for any one wishing to escape repression or lack of opportunity elsewhere in the world- and it’s why Jews (and everybody else) have gravitated here for two hundred years. But we all (Christians, Jews, Muslims and Atheists) are in danger of forgetting how this all works and I think this whole “anti-Merry Christmas” thing is a symptom of that amnesia.
My grandfather told me stories about life in turn-of-the(last)–century Eastern Europe so I have some idea of what he escaped by coming here in 1915. And its not just that, thirty years after he left for America, he was not trapped with many of his Aunts, uncles, and cousins in Zhitomir, his Ukrainian home town, when the Waffen SS slaughtered thirty six thousand Jews there in one day! That is a gift indeed, but it is in and of the past. No, it is the gift of equality and the opportunity to prosper that still lives on. It is that continuing gift that sustains the American dream and should call upon our constant love and loyalty.
The United States of America, as conceived by her Protestant founders, has been a miracle and a blessing to the entire human race. It has been especially important to the Jewish people.
We Jews are barely over one percent of the population here. We (a lot of us anyway) take pride in our contribution to America’s dynamism. We point with satisfaction to the fact that the founding fathers of this country were inspired and informed by our holy book which they called The Old Testament. Thomas Jefferson (among others) others used to read from it every day in the original Hebrew, something few of us “modern” Jews can do.
But why do I need to explain this? Why don’t we all accept the centrality of the Protestant ethic to the goodness of America? Partly, it’s because of a lack in our educational system. But it’s also because our media, whose responsibility it should be to make us aware of the important ideas, events and issues has other agendas. Our “Mainstream” media is often found to be doing just the opposite.
In the media, America is assailed daily for her imperfections; and if not assailed, then damned by the faintest of praise. The media emphasizes the imperfections instead of the achievements- the discords not the harmony.
Historical revisionism has been used by the joyless progressives, secular humanists and multiculturalists to sap the optimism, goodwill and meaning out of all religious practice including (or especially!) Thanksgiving and Christmas.
It has even come to pass that from 2004 until now our President goes abroad and cannot seem to visit another country without some pathetic apology for America’s past- as if there is any country on earth whose history is so pristine that they are in a position to judge us.
I am only one Jew- not a Rabbi and not a spokesman for a community organization, just a simple Jew. Nevertheless, I would like to call on all Jews, indeed, all Christians, Muslims and whoever else will stand up with me and celebrate the blessing that The United States of America is to us and to the human family- and not just the nation, but all of the good people in it and their predecessors. Let us bow our heads together every Thanksgiving and resolve that instead of fretting about how saying “Merry Christmas” might make us an overly Christian country, we will thank our own, private God that we live in this country where “Happy Thanksgiving” and “Merry Christmas” mean what they mean here.
We need to loosen up and get a perspective on this “Merry Christmas” thing. It is not the people who say “Merry Christmas” and mean it that we need to be discouraging in America at this time. It is the people who find something wrong and suspicious in the energy, enthusiasm and good-will that animates that “Merry Christmas” that we need to discourage.
We must side with our fellow Americans, the overwhelming majority of whom are warm-hearted friends with morals and ethics or we will have become unwitting dupes to heartless enemies with no moral compass who think they can rationalize almost anything and undermine our great civilization with reasonable sounding, non-judgmental sophistry.
By saying “Merry Christmas” in public we are not necessarily agreeing that Jesus was the son of God, we are just acknowledging that some very good people believe it. It also shows his followers that we see them as fellow countrymen, friends and brothers-in-arms in the defense of the highest ideals of our civil society and Judeo-Christian culture.
What it boils down to is this: every human being needs something to have faith in. I am very much more comfortable with people who are cheerful, sincere and open than with those who are guarded, grudging, censorious and angry. That is precisely the difference between the people who have faith that there is a higher power or guiding force in the universe and those who believe that the greater good requires us to worship cold and arbitrary intellectual concepts. If there is no God or faith in your life you can become confused. You begin to think that freedom of religion leads to freedom from religion and that equality of outcomes is the logical extension of equality of opportunity or that tolerance means that you must accept the intolerable or that you cannot talk about things that are somehow verboten. Those are all deadly errors. So, give me a traditional, “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Thanksgiving” any day over a tense “Happy Holidays” any day.
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
I was going to let this go because, at this point, I have had it up to here (insert hand gesture way above my head) with the "jewish reactions" to the President-Electhood of Mr Trump. If I feel that way I can only imagine how my christian and other friends must be feeling by now. But today one of my beloved but hopelessly liberal relatives sent me yet another of the hysterical articles by a progressive Jewish "journalist" andI could not help but rise to the bait. Here is a link to that article but you will be doing yourself a favor if you skip it. I wish I had. Most of them are pretty much the same anyway.
In the process I think I wound up giving a pretty good account of some of the dynamic we are seeing- especially from the Jewish point of view. You may have noticed that leftwing Jews are beside themselves to make this about Jews when is has almost nothing to do with us.
Interestingly on of the hooks here is that Trumps daughter is an observant convert to Judaism and her husband is observant. You have to understand the internal baseball of Jewish life in America to appreciate that is why the leftist Jews are so worked up that they feel the need to for all the lying and character assassination we have seen.
My wife and I, as Modern Orthodox Jews, have found that liberal, secular Jews often hate the thought that anyone, by choice, could be more observant and (whisper this very softly) “more Jewish” than they are. Even if we don't judge them in this way, they feel it nevertheless and it makes them feel like hypocrites. It is a sad irony that the thing that makes them hypocrites is not their lack of observance nor is it the opprobrium that (as I have said) we do not have, it is the fact that they feel conflicted and guilty about it. They hate feeling that way so they sneer at us either openly or behind our backs.
That is the main reason that the Conservative Movement (which I belonged to most of my life and still love) is shrinking both here and in Israel. It is being torn apart by the tension between those who love our religious and community practices and those who think themselves either above them or unmoved by them. Jews are moving to Modern Orthodoxy and the secularists are going to Reform, Reconstructionism and other permutations. In the meantime they always feel as though they need to talk about “The Jews”, as this moron does, in the third person.
The entire article, in fact, is a fabric of out-of-context and unsubstantiated innuendo. For example, just read the way he writes about Israel:
"So ultra-nationalists might admire Israel either because they see it as standing up to those they deem the Muslim enemy …,”
Of course by "ultra nationalists" he means to connect anyone who does not have one of those stupid COEXIST bumperstickers on his or her Prius. Then he overlooks the fact that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and is surrounded by countries that vastly outnumber her and most of which still publicly call for her annihilation on religious grounds. Even so he apparently cannot forgive her for seeing Islam as an enemy, even though in most of those Muslim countries they teach their children to aspire to kill Jews and Christians - Israelis and Americans first of all as a high religious calling. So he curls up his little lip and says “…those they deem the Muslim enemy…”? He says it that way because he wants us to join him in thinking that this is as he calls it, “a nasty right wing…” thing to think. Its not, you know, its just true.
Anyone who is unconfused by their political prejudice or religious angst must come to understand that the accusations of antisemitism (and misogyny and all the other awful things they accuse them of) against Trump and Bannon are ridiculous, dangerous and self-serving.
Ridiculous, because they are so entirely untrue. Even ultra-liberal Hillary's and Obama's court Jew, Alan Dershowitz, agrees they are at best unfounded. Dershowita said, “ ...it is not legitimate to call somebody an anti-Semite because you might disagree with their policies. Or because in one instance, like in the Bannon case, an aggrieved wife in a divorce may have said something which he himself has denied having said. I think you always have to have a presumption of innocence and of good faith. And so, I am not prepared to accept those conclusions based on the evidence that I have now seen..."
Furthermore, every Jew who has worked with Bannon calls the allegations lies and distortions. One of the most commonly used quotes to make these allegations is the line about Bill Kristol being a “renegade Jew”. That line was written by David Horowitz (an observant Jew) about William Kristol a neo-conservative “Never Trumper”. Does is make Bannon antisemitic because he allows one Jew to have an argument with another Jew in his Media? I say no and, furthermore, I agree with Horowitz about Kristol. The Jewish neocon Never-Trumper were a counter productive and oh so precious roadblock which Trump pushed aside just as he did with all the phonies and politically correctists who tried to stop him.
The only thing that makes Liberal Jews even more distraught than Jews who are more observant than they are, is Non-Jews who care more about Israel’s survival and strength than they do- and that is demonstrably the case with Trump Pence and Bannon.
For example take these articles from Breitbart and tell me that there is a bias against Jews or Israel:
Did you find any Jew-hatred or Anti Israeli propaganda? There isn’t any! Quite the contrary! They make a picture of a much more whole hearted support than any leftist Jew has ever mustered. They are, after all, full of qualifiers like "I don't have to agree with all of Israel's policies to defend her right to exist." and "I am not a fan of the Israeli government but Israel is necessary." Gee, Thanks a lot... I would like, especially to point out that last article in the list. See, you think Israel has not dodged a bullet with the election of Donald Trump? Why would the Clinton Foundation give award to a woman who teaches Jew-hatred to children and is the wife of a convicted terrorist? Hillary and her family trust are just as willing to sell out to Jew-hatred and terror as they are to sell America's Uranium supply to Russia or betray the devastated people of Haiti. And she doe it all without any coverage from the mainstream media.
Here is an article from Austrailia that shows a clear understanding from a totally foreign perspective.
But don't take my word for it, maybe the best answer to the absurd charges of antisemitism comes from Daniel Goldman who writes under the pen name Spengler. Here is what he wrote:
H/T Dan Friedman and Josh Katzen
H/T Dan Friedman and Josh Katzen
The hysteria in the Establishment is astonishing: today's email blast from the usually staid Financial Times begins, "Donald Trump has chosen Reince Priebus, the establishment head of the Republican National Committee, as his chief of staff, while naming Steve Bannon — his campaign chair who ran Breitbart News, a website associated with the alt-right and white supremacists — as his chief strategist and counsellor." To claim that Bretbart is associated with white supremacists is a despicable lie, but the FT feels compelled to say such things because polite opinion requires ritual anathemas of Trump. And the liberal Jewish website The Forward writes, "The reaction was quick and furious from Jews and anti-hate groups. The Anti-Defamation League, which stays out of partisan politics and vowed to seek to work with Trump after his election, denounced Bannon as 'hostile to American values.'" The Forward headline asks, "Will Steve Bannon bring anti-Semitism into Trump's inner circle?"
This again is a foul slander. I know Steve Bannon, and have had several long discussions with him about politics. I first met him when he approached me at a conference to tell me that he liked my writing, which is unabashedly Zionist. Steve is strongly pro-Israel, and it is utterly ridiculous to suggest that he is anti-Semitic.
The Establishment is floored and flummoxed. It doesn't understand what it did wrong, it doesn't understand why it has been evicted from power, and it can only explain its miserable situation as the consequence of an evil conspiracy. In short, the Establishment is having a paranoid tantrum, compounding its humiliation with a public meltdown. Sadly, that includes liberal Jews.
Trump's election is the best thing that has happened to Israel in many years. It eliminates the risk of a diplomatic stab in the back at the Security Council and sends a dire warning to Iran, the only real existential threat to the Jewish State. The security of the Jewish people in their homeland is vastly enhanced by the vote on November 8, and Jews everywhere should thank God that the head of state of the world's most powerful country is a friend of Israel with Jewish grandchildren. Instead of slanders, Jews should offer up prayers of Thanksgiving.