I have spent much of my adult life working to bring Jews and Christians together. In particular, I have tried to explain to fellow Jews that traditional Christians are our best friends in the world today.
“Israel’s great challenge: gun-hating, gay-backing, grass-smoking young Americans.” That was the title of an article published on April 5 in Haaretz, Israel’s most prestigious newspaper, and — this is relevant here — the most left-wing of Israel’s prominent papers. The author is Chemi Shalev, U.S. correspondent for Haaretz from 2007 until 2011.
This week, Jews around the world observed Holocaust Remembrance Day. This day ought to be universally observed, because the lessons of the Holocaust are universal. Here are some of them:
Kudos to the Jewish Journal and writer Danielle Berrin for a fair and balanced article about Newsweek magazine’s “America’s Top 50 Rabbis” list. Given the prominence of Los Angeles rabbis at the top of the list, one might have expected the article to cheerlead on its behalf. But the article was not only balanced; it probably left most readers with a negative view of the list.
Most non-Orthodox Jews venerate secularism. Virtually every movement and organization advancing secularism in the United States has been founded or led by Jews, and Jews are disproportionately active in these movements.
I will use my old friend Richard Gunther’s accompanying letter as a jumping-off point for a discussion of the self-esteem movement.
If I were asked to identify the greatest Jewish teaching, the most important lesson to be learned from all of Judaism, I would argue that, aside from ethical monotheism, it is that behavior matters more than anything else, and certainly more than feelings.
Not many people today can say that they found God or religion at college or graduate school. Most universities, after all, are thoroughly secular institutions that either ignore or disparage belief in God.
As I explained — yet again — in my last column, I made the case in my original column, “Why Is Murder Wrong?” “that if there is no God who declares murder wrong, murder is not, in fact, wrong. While human beings can believe that murder is wrong, without God, right and wrong are our moral opinions, not moral facts.”
In my last column, I made the case that if there is no God who declares murder wrong, murder is not, in fact, wrong. While human beings can believe that murder is wrong, without God, right and wrong are our moral opinions, not moral facts.
I take it as a given that every reader of this journal believes that murder is wrong. (By murder, I mean the immoral taking of a human life — not killing in defense of self or others; not a just war of defense; and not taking animal life.)
In the Pacific Coast waters off the Northern California city of Eureka on Nov. 10, a mother, a father and their teenage son all died.
One of the most frequent questions Christians ask me as a Jew is, “Why aren’t Jews committed to protecting the unborn?”
I spent last week speaking to thousands of Romney supporters in four “battleground” states: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and Virginia. I traveled with my Salem Radio Network colleagues Hugh Hewitt and Michael Medved and the actor Jon Voight, one of the few Hollywood stars who is a politically outspoken conservative.
Americans who care deeply about Israel have to make two decisions regarding the upcoming election.
You don’t have to be a Jewish scholar to note a glaring difference between Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Jan. 1, the secular New Year.
Some thoughts for Rosh Hashanah: If we took a vote on what trait we human beings most value, goodness would undoubtedly win. Certainly goodness is the trait that we most want everyone else to possess. But if we say we value goodness above everything else -- and surely Judaism does -- why aren't there more good people? A big reason is that it is easier to value other things -- including, and especially, positive things -- more than goodness. So it's much easier to be just about anything rather than good. It’s easier to be religious than to be good.
There are many admirable values. The list includes, of course, goodness, integrity and compassion.
It is a given among liberal and progressive Jews that gun ownership among the general population is a bad thing. The ideal is near-universal disarmament with only a handful of individual exceptions and, of course, the police.
On July 20, Jewish Journal columnist Dennis Prager conducted a lengthy interview on his radio show with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, author of “What’s Right With America,” who is best known for his plans to build an Islamic community center, including a mosque, near the World Trade Center in New York. What follows is the transcribed text of that interview.
Some news items from the Islamic world in the past month.
A few weeks ago, California voters narrowly rejected another tax increase not only on cigarettes, but also on those mass murderers — cigar and pipe smokers. As expected, proponents of Proposition 29 blame its defeat on all the money tobacco companies spent on ads against the proposition. Whenever a candidate or vote supported by progressives is defeated, the loss is attributed to money. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was not recalled?
When it comes to the subject of the existence of heaven and hell, most contemporary Jews – meaning Jews who have graduated college, who are essentially secular and who consider themselves progressive – know exactly where they stand: There is no heaven, and there is no hell.
Years ago, a Muslim woman called my radio show and asked me why I was not a Muslim. She asked this question with complete sincerity, and I answered her with equal sincerity.
Readers who think I am preoccupied with political issues may find it interesting to learn that I lecture on the subject of happiness more than any other single topic. And, every Friday for the past 12 years, I have devoted an hour of my radio show to this subject.
Next Tuesday, the culmination of one man’s life and thought will be published. I am that man. And the book is “Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph” (HarperCollins).
Two weeks ago, Jewish Journal blogger Tamara Shayne Kagel wrote a piece titled, “I Don’t Want to Date a Republican!”
How would most American Jews react to the following historical assessment by a noted Yiddish scholar, professor Gennady Estraikh of New York University?
Perhaps the most sobering realization I have come to in the second half of my life is the role of luck in life. I have always wanted to believe otherwise. And I suspect that most people want to believe otherwise.
Many years ago, one of the most respected Orthodox rabbis of our generation, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the chief rabbi of Efrat, told me the following story — and, of course gave me permission to tell it in his name.
Every year around Christmas and Chanukah time, writers, commentators, pundits and many rabbis, priests and ministers exhort Americans against spending money on things. We are too materialistic, we are told every year. Happiness, not to mention a meaningful life, depends on our having non-material things, not material things.
In my two columns on why thoughtful people might be skeptical about the apocalyptic global warming/climate change scenario, I addressed the issue with a seriousness and respect that Joey Green does not exhibit in his response. He apparently felt that sarcasm and put-downs comprise an adequate response. They don’t.
This is how I began Part 1 of this column, two weeks ago: “In the belief that there are people on the left who are more interested in understanding the right rather than in simply dismissing its decency, I would like to briefly explain why many thoughtful people are skeptical of the claims made on behalf of global warming.”
In the belief that there are people on the left who are more interested in understanding the right rather than in simply dismissing its decency, I would like to briefly explain why many thoughtful people are skeptical of the claims made on behalf of global warming. By “global warming” I am referring to the claims of Al Gore that man-made carbon dioxide emissions are causing dramatic increases in the Earth’s temperatures; increases that will devastate much of the Earth.
The purpose of the High Holy Days (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) is moral introspection: Every year, Jews meditate on the issue of becoming a better person.
Jews get to celebrate the new year twice a year — on Rosh Hashanah and on Jan. 1. But there are differences between the two holidays: Rosh Hashanah is used more for introspection, and New Year’s is more a time for celebration and partying.
Every year, Jewish listeners to my radio show write to me from around the country about their rabbi using the High Holy Days to deliver political sermons.
There is only one solution to the world’s problems, only one prescription for producing a near-heaven on earth.
Some 20 years ago, I was putting my older son, then about 8 years old, to bed and asked him what he learned that day in school. Normally he would answer, as boys usually do, “Nothing.” But that night, he had an answer.
For two decades I have been on a crusade: to convince adults who have cut off all communication with a parent to re-establish contact.
If San Francisco succeeds in banning circumcision, some good may come of it.
While most American Jews and other liberals believe in the intrinsic goodness and moral superiority of liberal policies, powerful arguments can be made that liberal policies actually diminish a society’s moral character. Many individual liberals are wonderful people, but the policies they advocate tend to make a people worse.
About 20 years ago, a Jewish publication in Australia invited me to make a list of my basic Jewish beliefs. I found the exercise much more difficult and much more significant than I had anticipated. I have come to believe that all those who consider themselves thoughtful individuals should draw up a list of their fundamental beliefs — not only religious ones, but political, social and moral as well. At least as much as our psyche and our nature, our core beliefs are what make us who we are.
We live in a time very different from any in the past.
On April 3, under the auspices of the American Jewish University, in its Gindi Auditorium, five Los Angeles rabbis competed with one another in an evening titled “Dancing With the Rabbis.” As reported in this newspaper, the sellout crowd loved the evening.
I devoted my last column to the Torah’s insistence on taking the life of murderers. I noted that this was the only law in all five books of the Torah; that, unlike every other time the Torah calls for capital punishment, only with regard to murder is the death penalty declared a value; and that God gave this law to Noah, not to the Jews alone, as a fundamental basis of civilization.
Last week, Rhode Island announced that it will release Michael Woodmansee from prison this August, 12 years early, because of “good conduct.” He will have served 28 years of his 40-year sentence. His crime? In 1975, Woodmansee tortured a neighbor’s 5-year-old son to death.
I spent last week in Vietnam and Cambodia. Visiting these two long-suffering countries made me revisit some of the basic beliefs that have shaped my life. The most important of these is communism. Nothing has shaped my political and social outlook as communism has: its mind-boggling evil — more than 125 million civilians killed, countless others tortured and enslaved — and the amoral reactions to it among so many in the West. Unfortunately, this reaction also has a lot to do with 20th century Jewish life, which I will address shortly.
Every reader of this column — no matter how alienated from religion — is familiar with the adage, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Even the United Nations issued a postage stamp with these words chiseled into stone. I suspect, however, that many people who are familiar with this verse either have no idea where it’s from, or believe it’s from the New Testament. In fact, it is from the Torah, the very middle of it, as if to say, “this is what the Torah is all about.”
To make the case for the Torah, I can think of no better verse with which to begin than the fifth of the Ten Commandments: “Honor your father and your mother so that your days be lengthened on the land that I give you.” Proper understanding — and living by — this commandment is indispensable to making a good society. And to properly understand it, perhaps the most important point to be made is that the Torah commands that we honor our mother and father; it never commands us to love them.
With this first column of the year, I have decided to devote a number of my columns this year to making the case for the Torah.
When I was 20, I spent my junior year in college in England. When classes let out for the last two weeks of December, I traveled to Morocco, where something life-changing occurred.
The Wall Street Journal recently published a column about ultra-Orthodox (Charedi) Jews in Israel who do not work for a living. Sixty-five percent of ultra-Orthodox men ages 35-54 do not go to work. Instead, they study Torah while demanding increasing amounts of money from the taxes paid by Israelis who work for a living. The author of the column, Evan R. Goldstein, wrote: “Voluntary unemployment has become the dominant lifestyle choice for [Charedi] men. And even if there was a desire to work, [Charedi] schools leave students unprepared to function in a modern economy.”
According to every liberal editorial page in America (and virtually every editorial page abroad), according to President Obama, the United Nations and every other liberal institution, and according to Jews on the left, the major impediment to peace in the Middle East is Israel’s continuing construction of settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
If my mail is any indication, I suspect I aroused considerably more anger among Jews by arguing that man is not basically good (and that the belief in man’s innate goodness is neither rational nor Jewish) than I would have had I argued that there is no God.
Ask most Jews if they believe that people are basically good and you are likely to get a positive response.
One of the most brilliant individuals writing today, a man who goes by the pen name of Ibn Warraq, writes in his book “Defending the West” that a unique aspect of the West has been its self-criticism.
As listeners to my radio show hear me say almost daily: 1) There are good people on both the left and the right (and bad people, too), and 2) We should prefer clarity to agreement. So if my correspondents and I can clarify where the decent people who are for and the decent people who are opposed to the proposed Islamic center and mosque two blocks from Ground Zero differ, we will have engaged in a public service.
Jews who call themselves “progressive” and are overwhelmingly in favor of building a $100 million Islamic center and mosque two blocks from Ground Zero need to explain why, 26 years ago, “progressive” Jews were just as adamant in opposing the Catholic convent that was built near Auschwitz.
If there is anything that religious and secular Jews, liberal and conservative Jews, can agree on, it is that we live in a country that has treated Jews better than any other in which Jews have lived.
When I was a kid in yeshiva, we played a game during davening (prayer services) called siddur (prayer book) baseball. We mostly played this at Orthodox summer camp during Shabbat services — because it was baseball season, and because Shabbat services were much longer than the daily service.
Jewish liberals, like other liberals, believe that there are three positive traits that describe liberals far more accurately than they describe conservatives — compassionate, intellectual and open-minded.
Most Jews, whether Orthodox, non-Orthodox or secular, acknowledge that Chabad is a uniquely successful Jewish enterprise.
My 15 years in yeshiva and a lifetime of work with Orthodox Jews and Orthodox organizations have given me an immense respect for Orthodoxy. It is impossible to
imagine Jewish life without the Orthodox, their seriousness about Judaism, and their commitment to learning and practice.
Anyone who has the chutzpah to write a public letter to 6 million people needs to explain where he is coming from, so permit me to briefly identify myself.
As my radio show listeners across the country have heard innumerable times, a guiding principal of my show is that I prefer clarity to agreement. Instead of trying to out-argue their ideological adversaries, I suggest to my listeners that they should strive for clarity about where they and their opponents differ. This not only prevents shouting, insulting and defensiveness, it helps each side see where they really differ and where, perhaps, they do not. Married couples have told me that this approach has been helpful in marital disputes.
There is a good chance that being a Jew means little or nothing to you. That would make a great deal of sense because few Jews have been raised to take Judaism seriously. This is not a judgment on your parents. Most of them weren’t raised that way either. It is just a fact.
“There should be absolutely no division when it comes to condemning the use of the Holocaust and Holocaust imagery for domestic political purposes.”
— ADL Statement
In 28 years as a radio talk-show host, I have not consciously humiliated a single person — whether a caller to my show or a public figure.
Two of my favorite journals ever since I was in college have been Commentary and The New York Review of Books. The first is a major right-wing publication, the second a major left-wing one. Though on opposite sides of just about every issue, they both have a feature that should be present in any journal that takes ideas seriously: a response from the authors to letters to the editor.
Why do most American Jews support the president’s and the Democratic Party’s health care plan?
We Jews need to face a sad, even tragic, fact. Things are not going very well in the relationship between God and most Jews.
All polling data agree that among Americans, Jews believe in God less than any other ethnicity or religion-based group. More Jews are agnostic, more Jews are atheist, more Jews are secular than any other group.
Years ago, I attended a funeral officiated by a prominent Los Angeles Conservative rabbi. In his remarks at the grave site, he told the grieving family and friends of the deceased that Judaism does not affirm a belief in an afterlife, rather “we live on through our good works and in the memories of loved ones.”
Given these difficult economic times, I would like to make a suggestion that, if enacted, can save many readers $200,000 or more per child. Do not send your son or daughter to an expensive college.
For my first column as a contributing writer for The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, I thought I would share some thoughts on 40 years in Jewish life and introduce myself to readers through a brief, specifically Jewish, autobiography.
Harvard Law professor Alan M. Dershowitz is that rare individual who is both a highly respected academic and well known to the general population.
If Jews do no seek converts, they must make peace with the fact that the rest of mankind will either remain where it is, adopt other religions, or invent new ones.
Early this past summer, Mel Gibson invited me to see "The Passion," his film on the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. The invitation was significant in that I was the first practicing Jew and active member of the American Jewish community to be invited.
Decades of lecturing around America and of speaking with parents on my radio show have led me to an incredible conclusion: More American parents would be upset with their teenage children if they smoked a cigarette than if they cheated on a test.
Some Americans apparently believe that we have gone to war with Iraq "because of the Jews." Having written a book explaining anti-Semitism ("Why the Jews?
The Reason for Anti-Semitism," Simon & Schuster, 1983), all I can do is marvel at the durability of anti-Semitism and the eternality of the charge that the Jews are responsible for everything anti-Semites fear.
No group in the world has been the target of nearly as many twisted and ludicrous accusations.
Some Americans apparently believe that we are going to war with Iraq "because of the Jews."
This past Saturday, something extraordinarily rare took place: My team, the Anaheim Angels, was positioned to win a post-season series -- against the New York Yankees no less. And my friend and radio colleague Hugh Hewitt, who could not use his seats (first row, near home plate), sent them to me.
Is there an issues that some Hollywood star -- director, producer, actor actress -- has not publicly commented on? It's hard to name one. Producer-director Rob Reiner has devoted years to imposing onerous taxes on poor people who smoke and to putting perhaps half of California's cigar and pipe stores out of business. Barbra Streisand has devoted yeoman efforts to promoting leftist causes (sometimes with malice, as in her recent letter to House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt in which she writes that "industries, run by big Republican donors and insiders, clearly have much to gain if we go to war against Iraq"). Ed Asner has devoted much of his life to defending leftist tyrannies.
During Passover and on Good Friday the Los Angeles Times published a front-page article titled "Doubting the Story of Exodus."
I wish to defend Hillary Clinton against the charge of anti-Semitism. The charge emanates from her allegedly calling Paul Fray, the Jewish manager of husband Bill's failed 1974 Congressional campaign, a "Jew bastard."
The Reform rabbis' recent resolution on same-gender officiation affirms two mutually contradictory actions: It supports any Reform rabbi who wishes to perform a same-sex ritual, including, though not so specified, marriage; and it supports any Reform rabbi who refuses to perform same-sex rituals.In an important way, there is nothing new in this resolution. A Reform rabbi could always have performed a same-sex commitment service. Nothing in Reform Judaism would have prevented Reform rabbis from doing so 10, 20, or 50 years ago, because there are no religious standards in Reform Judaism (this is not criticism, it is description). Reform rabbis can do anything they want ritually. So a Reform Jew can celebrate Shabbat on Tuesday. Indeed, for decades many Reform synagogues held Shabbat services on Sundays.
Imagine that it is 1940, and Great Britain is fighting Hitler's Nazi Germany almost alone. Imagine, further, that an American who loves both America and England and hates the Nazis works in American intelligence and has access to secret files concerning Germany that, for whatever reason, the United States has not shared with Great Britain. This American gives the secrets to England and is caught.