A roundup of the most talked about political and global stories in the Jewish world this week:
With Rick Santorum bowing out of the GOP race this week, it appears that the nomination is now going to go to Mitt Romney. “If he can allay Jewish concerns about the influence of Christian conservatives on his social agenda, Romney might convert enough Jewish votes in places where it could theoretically make a very big difference,” said Chemi Shalev at Haaretz. However, there’s no evidence that Jews will go Republican, warned Gershom Gorenberg in The American Prospect: “If the GOP is even less popular among Jews than it was a generation ago, the reason is apparent: The party has become ever more rigid and homogenous in its economic and social conservatism, and its tests of ideological purity send none-too-coded messages to Jewish voters.” And, after all, Romney’s Mormonism might be an asset for him.
Gunter Grass fracas
Israel banned Nobel-winning author Gunter Grass from the country this week over a poem of his published last Wednesday that suggested Israel is as big a threat as Iran. “The poem is, to put it bluntly, morally obtuse and politically embarrassing,” said Jeffrey Herf in The New Republic. A Jerusalem Post editorial tore into Grass. “We hope he regains his moral bearings and issues a complete retraction. Anything less will cast a shadow on Grass’s reputation as a moral voice for Germans who came of age in the generation after the Shoah.” But not everyone thinks the punishment fit the crime. “The entire nation suffers when a poet is barred from its land. That is not the democratic response to bad speech. Nor is it the response of the Jewish tradition, which thrives on debate and dissent. It should not be the Israeli response,” wrote Alan Dershowitz in The Huffington Post.
Sparks fly in Connecticut
A candidate for Senate in Connecticut called Rep. Chris Murphy a “whore” for his support of Israel during a local debate last week. Lee Whitnum is “obsessed with AIPAC and Zionism and spends a great deal of space on her campaign website trying unsuccessfully to assert that she is not an anti-Semite. But at least she comes by her bias honestly,” said Jonathan S. Tobin at Commentary. “Ms. Whitnum’s threadbare debate manners did not advance her arguments a whit, and Mr. Murphy emerged from the verbal fisticuffs with his pro-Israeli halo undented. Not a bad showing, on the whole, for Israel, Mr. Murphy, AIPAC and neo-conservatives, all of whom should remember Ms. Whitnum in their prayers,” said Don Pesci in the Providence Journal. Organizers requested more decorum at the next debate.
Each year at this time rabbis and thinkers and, yes, even bloggers hope to convey a succinct message for what we should take away from the Passover story. Here are a few of the suggestions: “Today the flow of information is so rapid that in order to have a real impact, conveying an idea only once is no longer enough. Messages must be passed on through constant repetition, utilizing many different channels both overt and discreet,” said Dovid Efune at The Huffington Post. “Even as Egypt’s political transition remains murky, all Americans have a moral stake in its outcome,” and we should connect with the country today, said Ari Ratner at SavannahHow.com. Isi Leibler in the Jerusalem Post, on the other hand, encouraged sticking to tradition. “The Haggada carries a universal theme of human rights that apply to all people. But the trendy Jewish modernists who seek to transform the seder into a universal freedom-fest should be resisted.”
After some teenage girls left anti-Semitic graffiti on a neighbor’s front walk as a prank, comedian Jon Lovitz fought back via Twitter and got the girls expelled from their school, according to reports. He tweeted: “Thanks for all your support on the hate crime. No one should be bullied for any reason. We’re all people who should be treated w/ respect.” Many people saluted Lovitz for his aggressive response. I am proud of Mr. Lovitz for not being afraid to stand up for his friend, for what was right, and for Jews. His actions matter. We live in a world where kids are shot while out to get Skittles, and you can commit a hate crime and not be held accountable. It’s sad, wrong, and scary. Jon Lovitz stood up for all of us, and loudly proclaimed that we must keep the faith,” said Ilana Angel in the Jewish Journal.