This Is Jewish America


A new survey of American Jewry finds that young adults are substantially less religious than their grandparents, the rate of intermarriage is climbing—and Orthodoxy is growing.

Read more at Pew Research

More about: American Jewry, Conservative Judaism, Intermarriage, Orthodoxy, Reform Judaism


While Insulting Netanyahu, the Administration Admits That Iran Will Go Nuclear

October 30

Disparaging comments about the Israeli prime minister by anonymous administration officials offer an “appalling display of hypocrisy, hostility to Israel, and warmth toward the very powers (Iran, Hamas, et al.) that have killed almost as many Americans as al-Qaeda,” writes Danielle Pletka. More disturbing still is the admission that the U.S. has given up on stopping Iran from getting nuclear weapons:

But let’s forget about Obama’s own ideological dislike of the state of Israel and its leaders, whoever they may be. . . . Let us instead focus on the fact that an unnamed “senior American official” is waxing triumphant over the fact that it is now “too late” for Israel to strike Iran’s nuclear weapons complex. This is good news? The fact that American officials believe it is more advantageous to have a nuclear Iran than to have someone in power in Israel who will not kowtow to the U.S. president says something about the fundamental rot at the core of the Obama administration [and] its contempt for the national security of the American people—who are at terrible risk from an Iranian nuclear bomb. . . .

Read more at AEI

More about: American-Israeli Affairs, Barack Obama, Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran

Egypt’s War on Terror in the Sinai

October 30

In response to deadly attacks on its troops in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt is creating a buffer zone between Gaza and Sinai, as it is convinced that Hamas played a role in planning and carrying out the attacks. This move, writes Tom Wilson, is an important step toward preventing the Sinai from becoming a lawless region rife with terrorists, of which there are already too many:

Egypt plans to create a buffer zone that will destroy some 680 homes—one can scarcely imagine the international reaction if Israel undertook such a security measure. . . . Today large parts of the Sinai have become . . . an ungoverned vacuum where al-Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood-linked groups have dug themselves in and established strongholds. . . . The problems in the Sinai have been dramatically compounded by the peninsula’s proximity to another area of unstable statelessness: Gaza. When Israel withdrew in 2005, Gaza was theoretically handed into the care of the Palestinian Authority, but as some on Israel’s right had already predicted, it did not take long before the power vacuum created by the absence of the IDF was replaced by the militiamen of Hamas. The same, of course, had already happened after the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon, as the non-state actor Hizballah entrenched its position in the area, turning it into a kind of Iranian backed fiefdom.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Hamas, Sinai, War on Terror


Al-Qaeda Is Using the War with IS to Plan Its Next Move—in Pakistan

October 30

Al-Qaeda’s leadership may not have been happy about Islamic State’s declaration of a new caliphate, but it now wishes to use the current war between IS and the U.S.-led coalition as a smokescreen while it plans its next move. Fortunately for Israel, it is not (yet) al-Qaeda’s top priority. But al-Qaeda is particularly dangerous because it wants to reclaim its stolen thunder, contrary to what some U.S. officials have claimed.

[Al-Qaeda head Ayman al]-Zawahiri . . . is striving to leverage international focus on IS in order to divert attention from his organization’s preparations to take advantage of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan at the end of this year. Al-Qaeda . . . also used the Syrian theater to identify and recruit new volunteers with suitable credentials, in order to expand its manpower and train operatives for future operations. That was apparently, the purpose of the “Khorasan Army,” whose existence and objectives were recently unveiled, following the bombardment of its camp in Syria.

These preparations are also reflected in the establishment of the “Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent” (AQIS) organization, whose founding was announced by al-Zawahiri at the beginning of September this year. The declared purpose of the organization is to reinforce jihadist activity in Pakistan, India, Burma, and Bangladesh. According to both official reports from Pakistan and the organization’s own announcements . . . the new organization has already tried to carry out an ambitious and daring attack designed to damage a Pakistani warship and to attack an American destroyer. Action on this scale, had it succeeded as planned, would have caused great damage and cost many lives, in addition to harming the prestige of the fleets of the targeted countries. Furthermore, the planning of such attacks indicates that al-Qaeda is not resting on its laurels, and refutes the assessments by senior American administration officials that al-Qaeda is a spent force.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Al Qaeda, ISIS, Pakistan, War on Terror

What Does the Bible Mean When It Forbids “the Practice of the Land of Egypt”?

October 30

Leviticus 18:3 commands “Like the practice of the land of Egypt where you have dwelled, you should not practice, and like the practices of the land of Canaan to which I am bringing you, you should not practice, and in their laws you should not go.” This verse is both ambiguous (what practices?) and potentially far reaching (does it apply to practices of other non-Jewish nations as well?). A recent study by Beth Berkowitz examines the different ways Jews and Christians have understood this verse over the centuries. This discussion continues into modern times, as Jonathan Boyarin writes:

[Berkowitz’s] concluding—and longest—chapter deals with the complex, imaginative, and in certain ways surprisingly pragmatic and generous readings of the verse by perhaps the two most prominent decisors of the latter half of the twentieth century, Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef and Rabbi Moshe Feinstein. The former relied on his own assertion that non-European Jews had not been subjected to the same degree of pressure to assimilate as their Ashkenazi brethren in holding that some of the strictures based on observed non-Jewish practice need not apply to Sephardim in Israel. The latter permitted Orthodox Jewish men in America to dress in business suits just like those of their non-Jewish neighbors. Yet both evinced profound ambivalence about customs that, on one hand, had certainly not been observed by their ancestors (Thanksgiving is a prominent example), but on the other did not clearly involve halakhically prohibited acts and did not seem to be religious practices of non-Jews.

Read more at Marginalia

More about: ancient Judaism, Bible, Halakhah, Jewish history, Ovadiah Yosef


No, Grammar Does Not Cause Sexism

October 30

Hebrew, like many languages, has a strict system of grammatical gender. Most verb forms indicate whether the subject is male or female; nouns are always either masculine or feminine. A group of females is addressed with a feminine form; a group of males, with a masculine form. For mixed groups, one uses the masculine form—but a few intrepid pioneers of political correctness have attempted to repudiate this last rule. Their reasoning is based on the long-debunked claim that language conditions thought, write Philologos:

The time-honored Hebrew convention . . . was that in addressing a sexually mixed group of people, one employs the masculine form, so that a resort to the feminine sounded bizarre. This had nothing to do, I maintained, with sexism. One should not confuse grammatical form with semantic content. The speakers of any language are quite capable of making the distinction between the two, and Hebrew speakers have no trouble understanding that addressing a classroom of 16 women and 11 men in masculine language is a grammatical technicality that does not exclude the women or privilege the men. In Hebrew, to take another example, the word for “father” is av and the word for “woman” is isha, but in the plural av takes the grammatically feminine form of avot while isha takes the masculine form of nashim. Does this mean that Hebrew speakers think of two or more fathers as females and two or more women as males? That would obviously be an absurd conclusion.

Read more at Forward

More about: Hebrew Grammar, Language, Political correctness