Sunday, August 25, 2019

Jewish Rabbis and Disloyalty - Ilya Feoktistov

by Ilya Feoktistov

Some American Jews seem to be more loyal to an increasingly anti-Jewish and far-left Democratic Party than they are to the Jewish people.

Like the boy in the tale of the emperor’s new clothes, President Trump has once again spoken a taboo truth: Some American Jews seem to be more loyal to an increasingly anti-Jewish and far-left Democratic Party than they are to the Jewish people. That’s not necessarily an immoral position for most American Jews to take: As individuals, they have no concrete duty of loyalty to the Jewish people, and it is their absolute right to seek stronger allegiances through political, rather than through religious or ethnic affinity. But American Jewish leaders, picked and paid as such by the Jewish community, are in a different position. Those Jewish leaders whose fiduciary duty of loyalty is to the Jewish missions of their organizations, but whose primary loyalty is to the Tlaibanized progressive movement and the party that champions it, are betraying that duty in some truly indecent ways.

Consider Reconstructionist Rabbi Toba Spitzer. As president of the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis (MBR), and as the long-time rabbi of the cultish Congregation Dorshei Tzedek, Spitzer has aggressively promoted extreme left-wing causes. Many are direct threats to the Jewish community: embracing anti-Semitic Islamist extremists like Linda Sarsour, hostility toward the U.S. government, hostility toward the Israeli government, support for the anti-Semitic Occupy Wall Street movement, support for the anti-Semitic Black Lives Matter movement, and open border refugee policies are some examples. Yet Rabbi Spitzer and the MBR insist that these causes are Jewish religious imperatives, even as they proclaim Jew-haters like the Hamas front group, CAIR, and the terror-affiliated Islamic Society of Boston to be their friends and allies. At the same time, Spitzer and the MBR demonize in vicious terms those fellow Jews who don’t agree with their political viewpoints.

Last year, Spitzer wrote that, when it comes to Israel, American Jews should ask themselves: “Do we believe that the physical continuity of the Jewish people supersedes other Jewish values?” In other words: Should the Israelis choose to die en masse instead of committing what Rabbi Spitzer feels is the unforgivable sin of perpetuating the fight with the Palestinians? Implicitly answering in the affirmative, Spitzer challenged the “existential narrative” of Israel, arguing that Jewish sovereignty -- and the Jewish lives protected by its existence -- should not supersede the Jewish values of “lovingkindness” (chesed) and “mercy” (rachamim) toward “supporters of Hamas” -- her words, not mine.

Rabbi Spitzer’s question, and the argument implicit in it, comes from ignorance. According to the Jewish canon, which deals with the laws of armed conflict at length, war against the likes of Hamas is literally a mitzvah. Beyond Judaism, the principle of individual and collective self-defense of life and property is a universal human value enshrined in the law of nations and in free sovereign legal systems like those of the United States. It is an inhuman demand, most often made by totalitarians, that a class of people die or submit to being robbed without putting up a fight -- for the good of another class or people.

Indeed, pikuach nefesh -- the preservation of innocent life, through war if necessary -- is the highest Jewish value, which supersedes all other Jewish values, except for the bans on murder, sexual crime, and sacrilege. Indeed, some Jews during the Holocaust, like those victimized by the Bitch of Belsen, might have been forced to take part in all three to survive. Having not been faced with the choice, most of us have little standing to blame them. “Shabbat, Yom Kippur, Pesach, if they come in conflict with the question of survival,” said Israel’s former chief Ashkenazi rabbi and Buchenwald survivor Yisrael Meir Lau; “if they are in a clash with the desire of living, of existence -- the Torah says... to live, not to die.”

This year, Rabbi Spitzer expanded on her argument in an article chillingly titled “Beyond Erasure,” in which she faulted “the American Jewish establishment” for embracing an “existential frame” of thinking that Israel “is vitally connected to Jewish survival in the modern world,” because this thinking “has led to an attempt to erase Palestinian history.” After almost four millennia of supreme religious devotion to a Jewish state in Israel, Spitzer urged American Jews in 2019 to detach themselves -- emotionally, religiously, morally -- from commitment to Israel’s physical continuity and to national self-determination for its Jews.

Along with detaching American Jews from Israel, Spitzer seeks to detach them from their money. In a 2017 interview, Rabbi Spitzer echoed the insidious economic anti-Semitism that is one of the unifying hallmarks of socialism: “The Jewish community in Boston is -- certainly with exceptions -- disproportionately well-off. I think that real change is going to require that we give up some of that economic privilege.” Ironically, Spitzer’s Massachusetts Board of Rabbis is largely funded by the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston, whose new president, Rabbi Marc Baker, pledged in his inaugural speech to make the Boston Jewish community’s continued existence, prosperity, and connection to Israel among his top priorities.

While making common cause with anti-Semites and attacking fellow Jews, Spitzer conveniently ignores the threats facing the Jewish community. As she told her congregation in 2010: “Jews in modern America face little to none of the hatred and pressure that gays and lesbians and transgender people continue to face.” Spitzer is empirically wrong, but politically correct. In 2010, Jews were statistically almost one-and-a-half times more likely to be victims of hate crimes than LGBT persons. Within the leftist moral universe, however, Jews often exist as privileged millionaire fat-cats, Wall Street ‘banksters,’ and murderous baby killers committing genocide against the Palestinians. The implications of contemporary Jewish victimhood therefore make leftist Jews like Spitzer uncomfortable, unless they can be used against Donald Trump.

Even if hate crime against both Jews and LGBT persons entirely disappeared, and even if Hillary Clinton was in the White House, Spitzer’s true issues with “modern America” would remain. America is “the belly of the beast,” Spitzer complained about our capitalist society. “Like the ancient Israelites,” she prophesized about entitlement cuts under President Obama in 2011, “our failure to acknowledge the covenantal obligations that we owe one another as American citizens… is sure to bring in its wake a Deuteronomic list of curses,” unless we “end the travesty of poverty in a country -- and a world -- in which we have so much.” As Newmann quips: “For all their condescension toward the Christian Right, in their own way, liberal Jews affirm no less strongly the principle that voting for certain politicians can seal your place in Heaven or Hell.”

Writing about why a leading Jewish rabbi – the president of the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis, no less -- is so sanguine about Jewish life, property, and religious values requires brutal bluntness:
Rabbi Spitzer is a secular radical who dresses up in a kippah and tallit to exploit the Jewish religion in the name of leftist politics. The Jewish values that she preaches are not Jewish. They are nothing more than tired 19th-century socialist totalitarianism clothed in the postmodern garb of social justice and “Tikkun Olam.” Rabbi Spitzer is willing to sacrifice Jewish money and lives at the altar of Marxist envy, and to blend the sanctity of her people’s religion with the profanity of her own politics. The Jews must not let her.
I was born into poverty in the Soviet Union, of the kind that Rabbi Spitzer would certainly deplore in the United States, after my Jewish family’s wealth was redistributed by Spitzer’s ideological kith and kin some sixty years prior. My great-great-grandfather, a wealthy gem merchant, sympathized with his Bolshevik employees, and allowed them to meet secretly at night in the dark corners of his warehouses. His sympathies saved his own and his family’s lives, though not his wealth; but those sympathies also destroyed his country and the lives of many others. I hope that the Massachusetts Jewish community and its donors understand the consequences of Rabbi Spitzer’s sympathies; and the plans that her comrades have in store for Jewish wealth and physical continuity -- in Israel, America, and anywhere else.

Ilya Feoktistov


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