Monday, October 14, 2013

Caroline Glick: Pew Report Doesn't Show American Jews Abandoning Judaism--They Never Knew About It

The Jewish communal world is all atwitter regarding the results of the recent Pew Research Center report on the American Jewish community, which showed a 71% intermarriage rate and an increasing percentage of American Jews--32% of Jews born since 1980 and 19% overall--who do not describe themselves as Jewish by religion. They instead identity themselves as Jewish by ancestry, ethnicity or culture. Indeed, 42% of those surveyed said that having a good sense of humor is a critical part of being a Jew, as opposed to just 19% who cited observance of Jewish law as a critical factor. Truly, bearing out that last finding, the joke is on us. Caroline Glick makes sense out of all this. In a column published online at Jewish World News, she points out that in an American Jewish community most prominently characterized by Jewish illiteracy, this result is hardly shocking. By Jewish illiteracy, she cites the definition promoted by Yoram Harzony, author of The Philosophy of Jewish Scripture, namely, lack of familiarity with Tanach (the Hebrew Bible) and its rabbinic commentaries. This ignorance is tragic for humanity, not just Jews, because, as Harzony explains in his book:
The Jews were the people who brought the idea that an individual was responsible for discovering truth and right and for bringing it into the world. That is the idea that freed mankind. That is the biblical idea. The Bible is about the expectation that a human being is going to take responsibility for discovering the truth and what's right and devote his or her life to bringing what is right to the world.
Or, as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote decades ago, modern Jews are a messenger who has forgotten the message. I would add that an essential aspect of the lost message is the sender. As we read in the current Torah portions, it was God who sent the message, choosing Abraham and his descendents to be the messenger. The command said by God to Abraham that set Jewish history in motion, the phrase, Lech l'cha m'artzecha, m'meladecha u'm'beit avicha," is often translated as "Go for yourself yourself from your land, your birthplace and your father's house," reflecting Rashi's comment that God was informing Abram (his name at the time) that his departure from Haran and travel to Canaan would be for his own benefit. However, one might also, still consistent with Rashi's explanation, translate "l'cha" as meaning "to yourself." In other words, Abram's journey was not merely travel to a new land that his descendents would someday possess, but also to his true identity. Forget the message, forget the messager, and one also has forgotten one's Jewish identity.

Friday, October 04, 2013

President Obama will only Negotitate with non-GOP Terrorists

Yesterday, Senior Whilte House adviser Dan Pfeiffer remarked to CNN's Jake Tapper:

“We are for cutting spending, we are for reforming our tax code, we are for reforming entitlements. But what we are not for is negotiating with people who have a bomb strapped to their chest.”

Actually, this Administration is all for negotiating with people who have a bomb strapped to their chest, or at least those who sponsor them.  The Administration will negotiate with Syria and Iran, both of which the U.S. Government officially designates as state sponsors of terrorism.  It pressures Israel to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority, which pays monthly stipends to the families of suicide bombers.  It is only Republican members of Congress with whom the White House refuses to talk. 

Ho-Hum: Professor Kmiec Found the 2012-2013 US Supreme Court Term to be Pleasantly Uneventful

Pepperdine Law Professor Douglas Kmiec ["Eyeballing Eqality," California Lawyer, Sept. 2013] views the recently concluded term of the Supreme Court to have been decidedly and delightfully uneventful.  His  imaginary interlocutor objects:

Wait a minute, you say. Didn't the Court endorse same-sex marriage (United States v. Windsor, 133 S.Ct. 2675 (2013))? Limit the use of race to achieve diversity in admissions (Fisher v. Univ. of Texas at Austin, 133 S.Ct. 2411 (2013))? Overturn the preclearance portion of the Voting Rights Act, decimating its effectiveness (Shelby County v. Holder, 133 S.Ct. 2612 (2013))? Continue to favor corporations (Mutual Pharm. Co., Inc. v. Bartlett, 133 S.Ct. 2466 (2013) (holding that makers of generic drugs could not be sued for defects in product design))? And isn't the Court now so profoundly divided that civility has succumbed to the delivery of apocalyptic dissents and the eye-rolling of Justice Samuel Alito?

Professor Kmiec responds, "No, no, no; not really; and don't be silly."

He goes on to describe how the Court's holdings, even in the so-called headliner cases, carefully adhered to Supreme Court precedent and, more importantly, to the duty of the Court, as perceived by Chief Justice Roberts and Chief Justice Rehnquist before him, "to keep the Court from opining about difficult and controversial policy questions."  For the details of his analysis, please read the article.  But lawyers and non-lawyers would be well-served to mull over Professor Kmiec's conclusion:

A blockbuster term it was not, yet the fidelity of the Court to the rule of law was consistent and praiseworthy. The Roberts Court answered legal complaint by adhering closely to its judicial vocation. When other nations try to persuade an anxious world that the way to advance democracy is by military intervention, it is a notable and wise achievement for the high bench to reaffirm how law already decided invites "we, the people" to discern the full scope of human equality. 
It is up to us - and not the justices - to determine whether the command for equality enshrined in our Constitution actually adds up to a living reality.
Gee, I wish I had written that.