Category Archives: Uncategorized

Hatred, Hatred Everywhere

Even before the Pittsburgh Massacre, Damon Joseph, 21, who lives in a suburb of Toledo, Ohio, hoped to go on a “virtual jihad.” The murders of 11 Jews at the end of October in Pennsylvania, however, helped energize him, motivating him to make some real-world, concrete plans.

According to an F.B.I. affidavit, “Joseph stated that it would be ideal to attack two synagogues… and that he wanted to kill a rabbi.”

Joseph solicited a pair of AR-15 rifles, the weapon of choice among American mass murderers, and decided to commit his own slaughters, ideally on a Saturday, “so that more people would be present at the synagogue.” “Go big,” he allegedly wrote to an F.B.I. agent posing as an accomplice, “or go home.”

Although the Pittsburgh shooter attributed his anger to what he considered an overrunning of the U.S. by immigrants, and Mr. Joseph, a convert to Islam, posted photos of himself wearing a ring inscribed with an Islamic State screed in Arabic, the would-be jihadist was inspired to try to kill Jews by the right-wing nativist. Go figure.

In an unrelated but, oddly, also Toledo-centered case, city resident Elizabeth Lecron, 23, hoped to commit “upscale mass murder” at a Toledo bar and to plant bombs on a pipeline and a farm “that raises pigs or cows.”

Unholy Toledo.

Lecron, according to the F.B.I., “bought black powder and hundreds of screws that she expected would be used to make a bomb [and] through her words and actions, she demonstrated that she was committed to seeing death and destruction in order to advance hate.”

The latter would-be mass murderer’s heroes included Columbine School killers Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, and Charleston, South Carolina church mass murderer Dylann Roof, a white supremacist. She wrote the imprisoned South Carolinian a letter encouraging him to “Stay strong” since “You have a lot of people that care for you beyond those walls.”

The progressive environmentalist/animal rights radical looked up to the neo-Nazi. Go figure some more.

What a strange snapshot of murderous hatred the revelations of the Toledoan terrorists’ plans present: An Islamist inspired by a right-wing bigot, and a leftist radical enamored of neo-Nazis? What gives?

The answer, if you haven’t already guessed, is that evil harbors no static political allegiances. It just festers in underdeveloped or warped minds and gloms onto whatever convenient causes or role models happen to be available. Often there is some consistency to the hater’s convictions. But, as in the cases of the Ohio terrorists (both of whom are under arrest), sometimes there is none at all.

Our community, understandably, was particularly outraged and has been focused on recent attacks on Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn, including the beating of a 9-year-old boy.

But much other hatred was unleashed last week across the country too, and not just in Toledo. Pittsburgh officials reported, for instance, that anti-Semitic pamphlets were being spread throughout the city, including in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, the site of the October mass shooting. The next day, as it happened, Nazi-themed posters were placed in various locations around the State University of New York’s Purchase College.

And in Lynnwood, Washington, seven men and one woman beat and stomped on a black man working in a dining establishment for no apparent reason, shouting racial slurs all the while. The assailants also injured an Asian man who came to the victim’s defense.

One of those accused attackers, Travis David Condor, is a former soldier who, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, “runs a hate-music record label.” (No, I didn’t know there was such a thing either.)

Condor, it was reported, was photographed at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last year. He was not, apparently, one of the very fine people there.

And speaking of Charlottesville, where “Jews will not replace us” was a chant of choice, last week also saw a jury recommend that James Fields Jr., who was found guilty of first degree murder for driving into a crowd of protesters at the right-wing rally in Virginia and killing a woman, spend the rest of his life in prison. (A second trial on federal hate crime charges could result in the death penalty.

This litany of lowlife activity of late is presented just as a reminder that murderous ill will remains a tragic fact of contemporary life. And that hatred, rat-like, can come crawling out of all sorts of cracks in the edifice of contemporary society. And that, like those creatures, it carries germs.

© 2018 Hamodia

Agudath Israel Letter to Turkish Consul Condemning Erdogan’s Ugly Words


December 11, 2017


BY REGULAR MAIL & E-MAIL ([email protected])

Honorable Ertan Yalçın

Consul General

Turkish Consulate General in New York

825 3rd Avenue

New York, NY 10022


Dear Mr. Consul General:

I write on behalf of Agudath Israel of America, a national Orthodox Jewish organization, to register outrage over the recent reported comments of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who ludicrously called Israel – the only true democracy and humanitarian country in the Middle East – a “terrorist state” that “kills children.”

Compounding the absurdity of that charge was Mr. Erdoğan’s ahistorical assertion that “Jerusalem was ruled by Muslims for many centuries but never closed to the believers of the other religions during that time.”  It is clearly documented that, at least from 1948 until 1967, Islamic authorities and Jordan prevented Jews and Christians from visiting their holy sites in the Old City, including the Western Wall.  And it is well known and entirely evident that Israel provides access to all religious sites within its territory.  To claim the opposite is nothing less than an attempt to create false “facts.”

Mr. Erdoğan’s further assertion that “Jerusalem is the worshipping center for mainly Muslims, Christians, and partially Jews” betrays not only further deep ignorance but even deeper prejudice.

Such baseless and incendiary rhetoric has become commonplace among barbaric enemies of peace who in fact murderously target innocents as a matter of policy.  That such language now emerges from the mouth of a head of state is utterly contemptible.

Turkey for many years represented a voice of sanity and responsibility in a region cursed with delusion and violence.  It is unfortunate, indeed tragic, that recent years have seen it influenced by the worst elements around it.


                                                                  Rabbi David Zwiebel

Executive Vice President

Agudath Israel of America


A Note from a Dear Friend in Milwaukee

The note below is from a dear friend of mine who lives in Milwaukee and shares my first name. 


I have been diagnosed with end-stage kidney disease, which is as serious as it sounds. This means that I will need a kidney transplant. The attached poster was produced by Renewal, a wonderful organization which seeks to match donors to recipients. Please feel free to distribute this through social media, or to print it out and hang it in appropriate places, such as shul bulletin boards.

Any and all enquiries from anyone interested in donating a kidney and thus performing the tremendous chesed and mitzva of pikkuach nefesh, should be directed to Renewal at 718 431-9831 or [email protected] .

With profound thanks in advance,

Avi Z.

Say It Ain’t So, Mike

In 1990, attorney Mike Godwin introduced what became known as “Godwin’s Law,” the contention that if an electronic discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on for long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone to Hitler, ym”s.

Philosopher Leo Strauss referenced something similar back in 1951, coining the means of argument that compares an opponent’s view to that of Hitler as “reductio ad Hitlerum.

Over recent weeks some critics of the U.S. administration have characterized its approach to curbing Iran’s nuclear weapons as dangerous appeasement, and President Obama as a reincarnation of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who famously crowed that the 1938 Munich Agreement with Germany heralded “peace for our time.”  Less than a year later, of course, Germany would invade Poland and Europe would be plunged into World War II.

Needless to say, even for those among us who consider the Iran deal ill-advised, there is a considerable gulf between proudly waving a piece of paper as proof of an evil man’s good will and an arduously crafted and enforceable agreement requiring an evil regime’s submission to intrusive inspections and monitoring.

But, inflated though it was, the Obama-Chamberlain comparison was one thing.

Another thing entirely was Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s contention last week that President Obama was marching Israelis “to the door of the oven.”  The candidate – no other way to read it – was calling the president a Nazi.

I have personally always found Mr. Huckabee’s voice to be a refreshing one in the political arena.  On moral and educational issues, the former Arkansas governor and Southern Baptist minister generally reflects ideals valued by most religious Jews.  He has visited Israel numerous times. And he has a sense of humor (very important in my book), as evident in his naming the musical band he formed, “Capitol Offense.”

But his Iran deal comment was grotesque.

To be sure, the designs of Iran’s leaders today can certainly be compared to those of Germany’s 77 years ago.  That doesn’t, however, make anyone who wants to thwart Iran’s nuclear weapon dreams without declaring war a Hitler.

Criticism of Mr. Huckabee’s words drew fire not only from Democratic politicians but from nonpartisan groups like the ADL, and from Israeli officials.  Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, called the comment inappropriate and Israeli Transport Minister Yisrael Katz, while stressing that Mr. Huckabee was “genuinely concerned” with Israel’s future,  said: “Dear Mr. Huckabee, no one is marching Jews to the ovens anymore.”

Mr. Katz’s chiding, however, came from a brash Zionist place, evident from his further words: “That is why we established the State of Israel and the Israel Defense Forces; and if necessary, we will know how to defend ourselves by ourselves.”

To those of us familiar with the phrase kochi v’otzem yadi, such braggadocio is saddening. In this case, though, it’s also entirely beside the point.  What was offensive about Mr. Huckabee’s words wasn’t their insinuation that Israel is helpless; it was the vulgarity of the comment itself.

To wax meta, the comment is itself a comment – on the state of political discourse in the United States today.  Yes, there has always been a measure of rudeness in political partisanship, a small serving of snark in the way politicians and their fans refer to other politicians and theirs.

But there once was some degree of dignity that reined in excess when it came to political speech.  No more, though.  Decorum has left the building.

Part of the blame, of course, is the media.  Not just talk radio and other electronic forms of verbal blood sport.  But print media too, which seem to endorse not only “If it bleeds, it leads,” but “If it’s hating, it’s a high rating.”

And so, politicians eager for attention vie to outdo each other (and in Mr. Trump’s case, to outdo himself) in outrageousness, hoping to seize the news cycle for a day, or even a few hours. That all the shameful showboating seems to garner increased support says something about at least part of the contemporary electorate, and it’s not pretty.

What’s even more disturbing, though, is that even Jews are drawn into the jeering crowd around the boxing ring.

“The response from Jewish people,” Mr. Huckabee said as the criticism of his “oven” remark swirled around him, “has been overwhelming positive.”  How overwhelmingly sad.

There’s hope, though.  Later, the candidate admitted that, “Maybe the metaphor [of the oven] is not a good one.”

If he continues on that more thoughtful track, he may yet win back his dignity.  And who knows?  Maybe it will even prove contagious.

© 2015 Hamodia

Is Metzitza Bipeh In Fact Dangerous?

A tentative agreement was reached yesterday between NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and an association of mohelim and Orthodox representatives with regard to the practice of metzitza bipeh.

An article of mine that appeared in Haaretz yesterday on the ostensible tie between the rite and the cold sore virus (which can be dangerous to babies) can be read here.

Letter to Editor in Hamodia

The following letter appears in this week’s Hamodia:


“John Doe New Yorker”’s diatribe against Mayor de Blasio is an unfortunate example of how some “commentary” these days in Orthodox media mirrors the worst of the angry rhetoric and illogic that passes for political commentary outside our community.

Emboldened by anonymity, the writer mimics the overheated labor union leader who blamed the mayor for indirectly causing the recent murders of two police officers.

The mayor’s sin?  Having publicly shared his personal experience of worrying about the safety of his son, who is black.  (Mr. and Mrs. de Blasio told their son that he should act respectfully and obediently in any interaction with police.)  That, the writer contends, told “society’s worst elements that the men in blue are the enemy.”

He then interprets the mayor’s efforts to keep the recent New York protests of grand jury decisions peaceful (which they overwhelmingly were) as a “failure to stand up for” police, as if police are always in the right – and as if declaring that falsehood would have discouraged, rather than encouraged, violent reaction.  What nonsense.

We visibly Jewish Jews are fortunate to live in a place and time when we do not feel threatened by the police.  If, chalilah, there were some rash of suspicious police actions against young members of our community, would Jewish mothers and fathers not be concerned, and not advise their children to act with caution in the presence of police?  If we wouldn’t, we would be criminally negligent parents.

One can feel, and express, support for police officers (who deserve it), be critical of those who refuse to accept a grand jury’s decision, and even point to excesses on the part of some minority activists, all without unfairly smearing innocent people.  We don’t have to buy into the crass “us versus them” narrative of partisan hacks.

Guilt for the murder of the officers rests only on the murderer and on those few miscreants who called for such violence.  That doesn’t make for compelling, righteously indignant op-eds.  But it serves truth, which is what we as a community and Hamodia as its organ should be fostering.

Rabbi Avi Shafran

“Overheard” — New Hamodia Column


“Overheard” is a new column of quotes and occasional commentary that is being published by Hamodia each Wednesday.  The first offering is below.



 “I know [Hamas] well.  They have no relation to Islam, from their highest ranking sheikh to the youngest of them. Many Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, asked me to marginalize Hamas and were opposed to my reconciliation deal with it.”

Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, to the emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani during a meeting in Doha, according to the Hezbollah-affiliated Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar.  Mr. Abbas also confided to Mr. al-Thani that Hamas tried to assassinate him in 2006.

(He should have taken his friends’ advice.)



“We Germans will never forget this.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, recalling how Nazi Germany started a world war that resulted in the deaths of millions and resulted in her country’s reluctance to enter into conflict.  In the case of ISIS, though, she continued, she believed her government had to make an exception, and deliver weapons to Kurdish forces in Northern Iraq.

(Who’d have thought that German militarism would ever be cheer-worthy?)



“What a world we live in.”

CNN host Brian Stelter, incredulous, to his audience after curtly dismissing his guest, British Muslim activist Anjem Choudair.  Mr. Choudair had defended choosing “9-11” when asked to count numbers for a studio sound-check, telling his host “Well, you know if you had a sense of humor, maybe you would have laughed.”

(Welcome to reality, Brian. Stick around a bit.)



“When they asked me questions about the Holocaust, because they hadn’t heard about it, it was very difficult to respond as a professor without getting emotional.”

Dov Waxman, a Jewish professor of political science, recalling his first teaching job in Ankara, Turkey, at the beginning of the Second Intifada

(“…hadn’t heard about it…”  As Brian Stelter said, “What a world we live in.”)



“On Sunday, there was a rally in London to protest something I never thought would need protesting in modern Britain: the rise of anti-Semitism.

Historian and Daily Telegraph (London) columnist Timothy Stanley

(Actually, it needs considerably more than protesting.)



“It could be seen as provocative in some parts in Brooklyn if it was parked in certain areas, I guess. It doesn’t really bother me too much.”

Unidentified Brooklyn resident, when asked by the New York Daily News for a reaction to a license plate “HAMMAS” on a black Dodge in the Bay Ridge neighborhood.  The car also sports a Palestinian flag.

(“All it takes for evil to prevail…”)



“LOL And how much is it in spare parts? Check and see if you can get kidneys or livers there is demand.”

A supporter of ISIS, responding in a tweet to a like-minded person who had tweeted that Yazidi captured by the group were available for purchase as slaves for anywhere between $180 and $350. 

(Hearts, however, they have little use for.)



“With love to Mom, from Avram. Lodz Ghetto. March, 1943”

Inscription on an amulet made from two old coins, found in the ghetto’s ruins by a Polish man whose heirs turned it over to the Shem Olam Institute for Education, Documentation and Research on Faith and the Holocaust, located in Kfar Haroeh in Israel.  The amulet was apparently intended to be a keepsake in the event its creator were to be murdered by the Nazis.



“We appear before you today, after having lost our dearest beloved, who was loved by young and old alike – the famous puppet, who angered the enemy for many, many years… the heroic martyr Muhammad Al-Arir, who would put a smile on the faces of children…”

The moderator of a recent episode of the Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV channel’s “Pioneers of Tomorrow” children’s show, paying tribute to the actor behind the giant bee character Nahoul, who was killed in the Gaza war.  Nahoul famously encouraged a boy from Jenin to attack his Jewish neighbors and “turn their faces into tomatoes,” and encouraged a little girl to follow her dream to become a policewoman so that she could “shoot the Jews.”  Nahoul asked her with a smile, “All of them?” and then, when receiving an affirmative answer, replied “good.”

(The only good malevolent giant bee…)


“He told them he was sick and didn’t want to eat.”

A fellow hostage of journalist Stephen Sotloff, H”yd, murdered by ISIS terrorists, describing how Mr. Sotloff managed to fast on Yom Kippur while in captivity.

(Yesh koneh olamo bisho’oh achas…)

© 2014 Hamodia