Comments to Rabbi Avi Shafran’s Opinion in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Below we have republished a portion of an opinion that appeared in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, written by Rabbi Avi Shafran of Agudath Israel. We would like to thank the person who sent this our way, though we are certain he would not agree with our conclusions. Thankfully, there is a mutual respect for differing opinions. We thank him for that also.
There are a few points that should be made about Shafran’s opinion in JTA. The first is we believe you can criticize over-development and the draining of the public school system for the benefit of private yeshivas (and parochial schools) and still defend against anti-Semitism and resentment. The two are not mutually exclusive. While he refers to the links as “indirect” he spends an inordinate amount of time criticizing efforts to uphold educational standards, presumably albeit indirectly linking criticism to hate.
We take the position that only when these uncomfortable subjects are aired can the differences in perception (that often create resentment) be either resolved or peacefully tabled. One can agree to disagree so long as both sides can be vocal and respectful.
Second, Safran’s comments about the criticism of the substandard Yeshiva education in many (but not all) Hasidic yeshivas is, in our belief misguided. Contrary to Shafran’s opinion, a fair indictment of a school system that public money is also partially funding does not detract from defending the religious beliefs that the children who graduate from those yeshivas share. It is simply a criticism of the leadership and the political governmental system that allows the education of these kids to be neglected. If public money is being used to fund these yeshivas, even a single dollar of public tax funds, then they should comply to certain state mandates. To do otherwise is an unfair requirement on all taxpayers; and that does not even address the future tax burdens that stem from inadequate education.
If Shafran’s comments are to be taken to their extreme, then perhaps this country should allow schools for white supremacists, schools for radical Muslims, schools for the Church of Latter Day Saints, Scientologists, and an endless list, all without any oversight guaranteeing that the children have some level of conformity to basic subjects when they graduate. According to Shafran, if applied equally to all faiths, any criticism of any non-conforming schools, whatever the religious belief, is contrary to a peaceful co-existence. That is absurd. Demanding certain standards be met is not indicting an entire religious belief system. Rather, it is holding an educational system to a conforming standard. The United States is based upon a system of equality and laws should be upheld equally. For the yeshiva system in New York, equality has gone out the window.
Jewish Rabbis and Highly Damaging Comments
We are reposting below the following Facebook post without the permission of the author, the Distinguished Fellow in Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College, Professor Shaul Magid.
This will allow non-Facebook members to see his comments and follow the various links.
Your takaway should not be that Professor Magid endorses this site. He is likely wholly unfamiliar with this site. His comments are profound.
We ask that you watch the accompanying 3 minute video which, for a litany of reasons, we find more than a little unpalatable.
In our view the Rabbi’s “attacking Trump” are expressing a position that is entirely contrary to the basic architectural tenets of Judaism and dangerous to all Jews everywhere. We note, as does Professor Magid, that the Rabbis do not speak about Israel but about “Eretz Ha-Kodesh” or “The Holy Land.”
They do not recognize the formal State of Israel.
We could go on and on but Professor Shaul Magid is far more eloquent.
Please watch this three minute clip of Rav Elya Brudny of the Mirrer yeshiva at a recent Agudah convention on the “three Jews attacking Trump” and then read, if you’re interested, my remarks below. Thanks to Yossi Newfield.
This clip of Rav Elya Brudny of the Mirrer yeshiva, speaking about the impeachment hearings at a recent Agudat Yisrael convention is an illuminating and a fascinating document worthy of our consideration, in particular in regards to American Orthodoxy’s relationship to Trump but more significantly how many in the “Yeshiva Orthodox” world view their place, and the place of Jews more generally, in America. R. Brundy is not making a pro-Trump case here but decrying what he views as assimilated Jews (“they don’t even know what it is to be Jew”) leading the impeachment of a sitting president. R. Brundy views this as a breach in the precarious “covenant” between Jews and the “host” societies in which they live. That is, “we should be thankful they do not throw us out” and thus engaging in what he determines is the political morass of impeachment, endangers the Jews. He notes that the real place for the Jews is “eretz ha-kodesh” (curiously not saying “the state of Israel”) and thus we are guests here in America and should act like guests. Is this a kind of “sha-schtill” position? Should Jews just stay out of political controversy?
There are a number of things here worth noting. First, of course, given the present state of things, R. Brundy could live in Israel (which he views is where Jews should live) and chooses not to. Second, the notion of the Jews as “guests” contradicts, or at least, questions, the very nature of what America is for the Jew, the “Tri-Faith” society in which are, or should be, on equal footing with “Protestants and Catholics” (at least). The very notion of civil society in America is that we, and other minorities, are not “guests” but integral parts of the fabric of the society in which we live. His position is a difficult one to maintain in a democracy, more reminiscent of a monarchy and Czarist regime. Third, we do not know if R Brundy would have said similar things, or did say similar things, when Obama was being viciously attacked. What would he say, for example, about Stephen Miller, or other “unpopular” Jews in the Trump administration? In short, is this a political statement or not? Fourth, his denigration of those “Jews who don’t even know what Judaism is” (Schiff, Schumer, et al) seems like an old model of Orthodoxy’s animus toward “the left” that we can see at least as far back as the mid-19th century. How much is this also implicit in Orthodoxy’s Trumpism?
Finally, R. Brundy is a fairly well-known Rav in the Agudah world. He is a rosh yeshiva in the Mirrer yeshiva in Brooklyn. How common is this view? How much does this reflect contemporary Orthodoxy in its politics and its attitude toward those “Jews who don’t know what it means to be Jewish” which would include not only those referenced, but most or all non-Orthodox Jews in America (to say nothing of secular Israelis)?
Dear Editor of Lost Messiah:
We are asking you to print the following letter along with the link to the documents substantiating our claim. This is the story as we understand it based upon the documents we found.
We don’t even know how to explain this secret that has surfaced…..and it looks right on track.
It’s 11 PAGES OF CHANGES FOR JACKSON land use rules.
Story has it there was a secret meeting between Ken Bressi and Agudath Israel of America back in November; and behind closed doors decisions for Jackson Township/Lakewood were made. As you can see from the document the new developments are being designed, the Kapparot Ordinance which would allow the ritual slaughter of fowl during the High Holy Holidays was presented along with the Eiruv Ordinance. It is all in the documents.
I ask you thiss?
WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON WITH THE REST OF THE COUNCIL???
Are they to busy too working for Jackson because it seems it’s all Ken Bressi.
Please read the rest below presented from Rise Up Ocean County:
Dormitories, schools, mikvahs, synagogues, community centers, parking waivers, eruvim…all discussed in a closed door meeting between representatives of Agudath Israel of America, Jackson Township Attorney Jean Cipriani and Jackson Township Councilman and Planning Board member Ken Bressi. No one else. No other councilmen…just BRESSI! Why is this guy neck deep in all of this?
Anyhow, when civil litigation is filed there is a requirement for mediation and settlement discussions before an actual trial. There is no requirement that you bend over, grab your ankles and prepare for the worst and yet…last November, as part of that process, this meeting took place to establish common ground and areas that might become common ground. As a result, an eleven page notice of surrender, there is no other way to describe it, was drafted. You can read the entire document by clicking the link below.
In short, these terms of surrender, if approved, would make Lakewood look tame compared to Jackson. Special provisions for almost every orthodox Jewish demand and, you are starting to see some of these being put into place on Tuesday night. A township wide eruv and an ordinance that PROTECTS the ritualistic slaughter of chickens during Kaporos are just the first two steps of capitulation. In essence, your government has given up.
Remember when Mayor Reina said “the gloves are off” signaling that he was ready to fight? How about the announcement that Jackson Township had hired religious land use attorney Marci Hamilton to help guide the town through the lawsuits, fight for home rule and to provide counsel on future ordinances? Well the gloves are back on, Marci Hamilton has left the building and only one thing stands between Jackson staying a rural, blue collar and family friendly town and Lakewood 2.0. YOU!
So let’s all put on our big boy/girl pants because quite literally it is time to take the fight to town hall.
Thank you for publishing this letter.
VIDEO (log in through Facebook):
VIDEO (log in through Facebook):
A storm is brewing in Rockland County, N.Y., a campaign ad says.
As dramatic music pulses in the background, the Rockland County Republican Party’s video first targets what the party considers overdevelopment in the county of about 329,000 people.
Then it takes a turn. County Legislator Aron Wieder, an Orthodox Jew who supports new housing developments, is “plotting a takeover” that threatens “our way of life,” the advertisement proclaims. After the video asks what’s at stake, the words “Our Families” are overlaid on a photo of a white, non-Orthodox couple and their children posing on a front lawn.
Development, and how much of it is too much, recently has been a flash point in Rockland County. A town board meeting in Ramapo this month featured nearly two dozen speakers complaining that 220 planned housing units favored ultra-Orthodox Jews at the expense of secular residents, the Rockland/Westchester Journal News reported.
In March, Rockland County banned unvaccinated children from public spaces amid New York’s largest measles outbreak in decades. Day said during a news conference at the time that authorities would not search for unvaccinated children, but parents who were found to be in violation could be charged with a misdemeanor. The action came at a time when health authorities were raising concerns about decreased vaccination rates and measles outbreaks in communities including ultra-Orthodox Jews. An outbreak in Rockland “has mainly affected the Orthodox Jewish community in Spring Valley and Monsey,” the lohud.com news website reported.
To read the article in its entirety click here.
DURING A FOX BUSINESS INTERVIEW IN MARCH, Donald Trump’s former campaign advisor Jeff Ballabon called Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar “filth.” When host Stuart Varney suggested that, perhaps, “filth” might have been too strong a word for the Muslim congresswoman and Somali refugee, Ballabon doubled down. “She is a filthy disgusting hater,” he spat. It had been over a month since the start of the media fracas over Omar’s tweets criticizing the pro-Israel lobby, for which she faced calls to resign as well as death threats. By April, a 55-year-old Trump supporter was calling the congresswoman’s office and threatening to “put a bullet in her fucking skull.”
At first glance, Ballabon’s Fox appearance might seem like just another iteration of what has become a sad, dangerous routine in American politics—another Trump surrogate spewing invective and riling up the base on daytime TV. But Jeff Ballabon is not just another Trump surrogate.
A former media executive—he once headed communications for CBS News—and a veteran Republican operative, Ballabon has worked for roughly two decades to turn Orthodox Jewry into a mature political force allied with the Republican Party. Now, under Trump, that alliance has begun to pay big dividends—not only on Israel, long a focus of Orthodox politics, but on domestic issues as well. Indeed, never before has Orthodox Jewry, and the Jewish right more broadly, had such access to a president.
With this increased power and influence has also come a change in political style—one that Ballabon’s comments in March, as well as his Twitter feed at all times, exemplify. Angry, vitriolic, even vulgar, contemptuous of “political correctness” and unafraid to traffic in racist tropes, this is Jewish politics in a new key—and Ballabon wants to be a leading composer. His transformation from behind-the-scenes campaigner to aspiring movement leader reflects the emergence of an assertive, aggressive Orthodox Jewish right that has already reshaped American politics—as well as intra-communal Jewish politics—and could continue to for years to come.
Ballabon’s path from political fixer to Trump proxy maps the Republican Party’s trajectory from the “compassionate conservatism” of the George W. Bush era to the gleeful cruelty of Trump. He began his career not on the fringes of the right but at its center—as legislative counsel for Missouri Sen. John Danforth, who by today’s standards would be considered a moderate. In the 1990s and early 2000s, Ballabon cultivated close ties with the Christian Right, then at the apex of its power, which he identified as both a potential model for a new Jewish politics and a more natural partner for Orthodox Jewry than liberals in the Democratic Party, which was (and remains) the political home for the majority of American Jews.
After Bush’s victory in 2000, Ballabon became, as the right-wing Jewish paper The Algemeiner put it, the administration’s “unofficial liaison to Orthodox Jews.” In 2004, he worked on the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign, during which he devised a strategy to turn the Orthodox into reliable Republican voters. He succeeded. In Long Island’s heavily Orthodox “Five Towns,” for instance, support for Bush jumped from less than 30% in 2000 to more than 60% in 2004; in the ultra-Orthodox Rockland County enclave of New Square, which went for Al Gore in 2000, Bush won in 2004 with roughly 98% of the vote. The Orthodox communities that shifted to the right in 2004 have, for the most part, heavily favored Republicans ever since.
Having made his name as the keeper of the keys to the Jewish vote—Ballabon was the subject of a fawning 2005 New York Observer profile by Ben Smith, now the editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed News—he would go on to work for several Republican campaigns, among them Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential bid.
Today, Ballabon has become one of President Trump’s most prominent Jewish surrogates, making regular appearances on various Fox News shows and weighing in on Jewish-related matters as an authentic, kippah-wearing spokesman. (Ballabon comes from a non-hasidic Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, community.) He has appeared on the America First radio show hosted by Sebastian Gorka—a member of the Viteszi Rend, a racist Hungarian nationalist order founded by Hungary’s antisemitic, Nazi-collaborationist leader, Admiral Miklos Horthy—and he has defended Gorka from charges of antisemitism. While Instagram grifter Elizabeth Pipko has played the face of the bungled “Jexodus” initiative—which claims to be leading American Jews out of a Democratic Party turned irrevocably antisemitic—it is Ballabon who has led the astroturf movement from behind.