A piece I wrote about asylum seekers was published by Religion News Service, and can be read here.
Twelve Congressional Representatives introduced a formal resolution taking a side in the ongoing and robust debate in Israel over judicial reform.
Didn’t their mothers ever tell them not to meddle in the affairs of others?
To read why their resolution is objectionable, click here.
In the wake of Israel’s recent raid on Jenin, various Arab and Islamic countries, playing as they must to their “streets,” registered their condemnation of the operation; the US State Dept. defended Israel’s right to proactively defend herself from terrorism. And members of Congress either joined that judgment or didn’t comment at all.
With one exception. No less repugnant than it was predictable.
You can read about the lone stand-out here.
Peripatetic, petulant Professor Cornel West is running for president!
You can read more about that development here.
The model for all subsequent demagogues in history, Korach told the people that his grievance was really their grievance, that he was standing up not for himself but for them. And he used snideness as a tool to ingratiate himself with his audience.
As Rashi, quoting the Midrash Tanchuma on the words “And Korah assembled the entire congregation” (Bamidbar 16:19), elaborates:
[Korach assembled them] with words of mockery. All that night, he went to the tribes and enticed them [saying,] “Do you think I care only for myself? I care for all of you. These [people] come and take all the high positions: the kingship for himself and the kehunah for his brother,” until they were all enticed.
“The entire congregation,” Rav Yaakov Moshe Charlop, the Mei Marom, points out, certainly did not succumb to the blandishments and deceptions of Korach. Most of the crowd surely perceived, at least logically, the essential self-centeredness of the rally speaker, and recognized the cynicism of his characterization of the Mitzrayim from which they fled as a “land flowing with milk and honey” (16:13).
Which, Rav Charlop explains, is why, when Moshe and Aharon pleaded with Hashem to not destroy the nation (16:22), they invoked Hashem’s knowledge of “the thoughts of every man” – the fact that there were true followers of Korach but also others who may have attended his rally and enjoyed his mockery but knew in their hearts that the populist inciter was evil (see Rashi).
Yet, in the moment of the rally itself, they nevertheless “were all enticed” by the agitator’s words. Why?
Explains the Mei Marom, because “it is one of human beings’ weaknesses” that they are pulled to conform to the behavior of those around them, to “act like monkeys” in imitation of the crowd. The Rambam (Hilchos Deios 6:1) calls such conformity part of “the way humans are formed.”
And so the warning here, as timely today as ever, is to beware not only of dangerous demagogues but also of falling prey to the pull of others’ embrace of them.
© 2023 Rabbi Avi Shafran
For a great example of sheer, rabid hatred of Israel, lightly disguised antisemitism and the sort of imbecility sometimes born of youth, you couldn’t do better than CUNY School of Law student Fatima Mohammed’s vomitus of venom, in the form of her May 12 commencement speech.
Or, for an example of a well-earned misstep, any better than Palestinian activists’ ill-fated demand that Ms. Mohammed’s diatribe, which had been livestreamed on the school’s YouTube account but then removed, be reposted. Which it was, on the 25th.
The overheated orator praised CUNY Law’s faculty and students for endorsing the BDS movement (that endorsement an ugliness of its own), and accused Israel of “indiscriminately rain[ing] bullets and bombs on worshippers, murdering the old and young, attacking even funerals and graveyards, encouraging lynch mobs to target Palestinians, as it imprisons their children and continues the project of settler colonialism…” And so on. You know the litany of lies.
She also used the occasion of her graduation (as a future lawyer – the thought boggles) to lambaste the New York Police Department and the U.S. military as “fascists”; to allege that “daily, brown and black men are being murdered by the state”; and to defend five leaders of the now-defunct Holy Land Foundation who are serving time for providing material support to Hamas.
“May we rejoice,” she righteously declared, “in the corners of our New York City bedroom apartments and dining tables, may it be fuel for the fight against capitalism, racism, imperialism and Zionism around the world!”
On the 26th, a CUNY representative soberly explained that “Members of the Class of 2023 selected student speakers who offered congratulatory remarks and their own individual perspectives on advocating for social justice. As with all such commencement remarks, they reflect the voices of those individuals.” One had to wonder if the rep would have been as sanguine had the commencement speech attacked blacks or Arabs.
Then came the richly deserved backlash.
New York Congressman Ritchie Torres tweeted: “Imagine being so crazed by hatred for Israel as a Jewish State that you make it the subject of your commencement speech at a law school graduation. Anti-Israel derangement syndrome at work.”
Former New York Republican congressman Lee Zeldin called for CUNY’s taxpayer funding – its 2023 budget amounted to about $ 4.3 billion, most from the state, some from the city – to be revoked “until the administration is overhauled and all Jewish students and faculty are welcome again.”
World Jewish Congress head Ronald Lauder called for the law school’s dean, Sudha Setty, who applauded the ungracious graduate’s speech, to be fired.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams condemned the diatribe, as did New York governor Kathy Hochul and a host of other elected officials.
Eventually, CUNY Chancellor Felix V. Matos Rodriguez and the Board of Trustees issued a statement asserting that, while “free speech is precious…. but hate speech… should not be confused with free speech and has no place on our campuses or in our city, our state or our nation. The remarks by a student-selected speaker at the CUNY Law School graduation, unfortunately, fall into the category of hate speech, as they were a public expression of hate toward people and communities based on their religion, race or political affiliation.”
To be sure, rushing predictably to Ms. Mohammed’s defense were anti-Israel groups, including, sadly, Jewish ones. CUNY Law’s Jewish Law Student Association called the reactions to the hater “pander[ing] to the most cynical reactionaries (ie. @NYCMayor).”
“Jews for Racial & Economic Justice” tweeted that its heroine was being thrown to “the wolves. Utterly shameful.” Well, something was, anyway.
As it happens, with her commencement address, Ms. Mohammed was following in her own muddy footsteps. In a May, 2021 tweet, she expressed her wish that “every Zionist burn in the hottest pit of hell.” And the next day, she referenced the fact that she “pray[s] upon the death of the USA.”
In the wake of the uproar over her repulsive remarks, Ms. Mohammed was reached by a reporter at a relative’s home. She told the journalist, “I do not want to speak to anybody.”
It was a little late for reticence. She had already spoken more than enough, and revealed a thickly sullied soul.
© 2023 Ami Magazine
A piece adapted from an essay to be included in a Haggadah due to be released next year, appears at Religion News Service, here.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams recently waved something of a red flag before some overly broadminded bulls — so to speak — when he addressed the role of religion in public service.
You can read about the flag, the bulls and more here.
There wasn’t a need to compose a Purim satire when the news provided enough to stimulate giggles. As you can read here:
Former Vice President Mike Pence has added to his sins — to date, they include calling his childrens’ mother “mother” and declining to dine privately alone with any woman other than his spouse — a deeply offensive (at least to some) menorah.
Read all about it here.