Jewish Journal

This week in power: Newtown shootings, Hagel, Mirvis, Yeshiva abuse

by Danny Groner

December 20, 2012 | 2:50 am

A roundup of the most talked about political and global stories in the Jewish world this week:

Newtown aftermath
It's hard for anyone to process and make sense of the tragic deaths of 20 children plus six others last Friday. As the smalltown of Newtown tries to begin to move on, some are highlighting the personal stories of the victims, including one Jewish child. Others, however, felt that the Jewishness of the young victim is irrelevant. "Although I don't feel much connection to the religious beliefs, I am deeply connected to my Jewish roots and its heritage. But I feel just as deeply that this is a time to leave our differences aside and simply love each other," read a letter to the editor of JTA. Others have focused on cutting back on the the traditional gun culture of the United States. "If the United States, itself awash with weapons, wishes to benefit from Israel’s experience, it must make sure it learns the right lessons. The first and most universal one is that ever more stringent gun control is bad policy: As is the case with drugs, as was the case with liquor during Prohibition, the strict banning of anything does little but push the market underground into the hands of criminals and thugs," said Liel Leibovitz at Tablet. And then there were the fringe conpiracists...

Hagel opposition
President Obama may pick former senator Chuck Hagel to replace Defense Secretary Leon Panetta when he steps down, but the main knock coming out about Hagel this week is that he won't act in srael's interest. "Defeating a Hagel nomination, however, will be more difficult than mounting a vocal opposition, in large part due to the Senate’s tradition of collegiality. Tradition indicates the Senate would extend a former senator — one whose Senate colleagues would be directly involved in his confirmation — considerable latitude," reported National Review. "I and others have documented Hagel’s objection to sanctions against Iran and his particularly anti-Israel voting record. But these remarks are something different — the expression of rank prejudice against American Jews. Hagel has never apologized for, retracted or even sought to explain his remarks," said Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post. It's time to speak up, said The Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens. "Jewish Democrats like to fancy their voice carries weight in their party. The prospect of this nomination is their chance to prove it."

Mirvis in
Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis was chosen as the next British chief rabbi, according to reports. He's served at the Finchley United Synagogue, one of London’s modern Orthodox shuls, since 1996, and was previously chief rabbi of Ireland. Lord Sacks wil retire next fall. "Highly respected among his rabbinic colleagues, Mirvis is a good speaker and has a reputation for warmth, though he is not considered a bold thinker," said the Times of Israel. How important this role is in modern times is unclear, said Jeremy Rosen at the Algemeiner: "The model of a centralized Chief Rabbinate looks to have failed as a paradigm for effective, dynamic Judaism. The more open flexible American model of much freer association is now seen as a far more creative model. Increasingly people make their own decisions as to where they choose to place themselves on the Jewish spectrum and in many communities there is increasing choice and variety."

Abuse coverup
A Jewish Daily Forward investigation found that two staff members at Yeshiva University High School for Boys’ had sexually abused students during the late 1970s and early ’80s but they weren't dealt with appropriately. Norman Lamm, who was president of Y.U. from 1976 to 2003, said that he rememebered dealing with the allegations privately to minimize the embarrassment and attention. "Joe Paterno turned a blind eye and was rightfully fired from his position – is Rabbi Lamm’s turning a blind eye to these issues any different? YU needs to begin the healing process by firing Lamm and launching a proper investigation," said Ronn Torossian at the Algemeiner. "YU's house needs to be cleaned immediately, and the generations of students who venerated Lamm and so many other deeply flawed YU figures need to realize that their heroes are not only flawed – they are deeply, offensively, duplicitous and awful people," wrote another blogger.

What would we do to Jesus?
Outrage over the official Facebook page of Israel’s embassy to Ireland sparked up this week after a message was posted saying “hostile Palestinians” would “lynch” Jesus Christ and his mother, Mary, if they could today. It was live for about two hours before being removed. A spokesman for the embassy told BuzzFeed that the post was a "total misunderstanding." "It is a good thing that someone in Israel’s Irish embassy caught the folly of whoever’s running their Facebook page (though they might want to take a look at the Twitter account, too), and I suppose that the apology, while rather anemic, is nice," said Emily L. Hauser at The Daily Beast. "The conflict between Israel and Palestine isn’t at bottom about religion—or, I should say, it shouldn’t be. Some on both sides try to pitch it that way, and considering the territory that is right now fought over, it’s not surprising religion plays that role and is made a justification for actions and policies and aspirations. It’s just surprising when the most basic elements of religious belief are so gravely misunderstood, or so deliberately flouted," added Haroon Moghul at Religion Dispatches.

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Danny Groner is a contributing writer to the Jewish Journal. He has worked in journalism since he was a teenager, starting off as an intern for a local publication. During his...

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