How Conservative Judaism Lost Me


“Focusing on egalitarianism was a distraction from the real problem: that Conservative Jews were not committed to halakhah and Jewish learning.”

Read more at Forward

More about: Conservative Judaism, Egalitarianism, Halakhah, Jewish observance


Why the White House Is Manufacturing a Crisis in Relations with Israel

February 27

The Obama administration’s ongoing pique over Netanyahu’s upcoming speech to Congress is not over protocol, argues Elliott Abrams. Rather, the White House has specific reasons for deliberately encouraging a spat with Israel. Most disturbingly, it wishes “to use the current tension to harm Israel’s support in the United States permanently.” Abrams writes:

All opinion polls in the last several years show a partisan edge in support: overall support for Israel is steady and high, but its composition is changing. More and more Republicans support Israel, and the gap between Democratic and Republican support levels is growing. President Obama acts as if he sees this as a terrific development, one that should be enlarged as much as possible before he leaves office. That way he would leave behind not just an Iran deal, but weakened support for Israel on Iran and everything else. Support for Israel would become less of a bipartisan matter and more a divisive issue between the two parties. It is not hard to envision Obama in retirement joining Jimmy Carter as a frequent critic of Israel, pushing the Democratic party to move away from its decades of very strong support for the Jewish state.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: Barack Obama, Benjamin Netanyahu, Congress, Politics & Current Affairs, US-Israel relations


Could the Current Disorder in the Middle East Lead to Greater Stability?

February 27

Paradoxically, Daniel Pipes believes, it could. As a result of the vicious civil war in Syria and Iraq, with the concomitant violent persecution of religious and ethnic minorities and the mass movement of refugees, the region seems to be reorganizing itself along more cleanly demarcated and hence more stable lines. Pipes explains:

Syria and Iraq have undergone strikingly similar developments. After the demise of monstrous dictators in 2000 and 2003, each has broken into the same three ethnic units: Shiite Arab, Sunni Arab, and Kurd. Tehran dominates both Shiite-oriented regimes, while several Sunni-majority states (Turkey, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar) back the Sunni rebels. The Kurds have withdrawn from the Arab civil wars to build their own autonomous areas. . . .

In brief, Iraq and Syria are devolving into their constituent religious and ethnic parts; Lebanon is becoming more Sunni and Jordan less Palestinian. However gruesome the human cost of the Syrian civil war, its long-term impact potentially renders the Middle East a less combustible place.

Read more at Daniel Pipes

More about: Iraq, ISIS, Jordan, Middle East, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war

Undoing a Feminist Misreading of the Book of Esther

February 27

Queen Esther has been criticized, most notably by feminists, for her alleged passivity, deviousness, and reliance on her beauty alone. Michael V. Fox argues that such a reading not only is ahistorical but profoundly misunderstands Esther’s evolution from a passive naïf to a brave and intelligent operative and heroine. The pivotal moment, Fox writes, occurs the second time Mordecai urges her to take action against Haman’s genocidal plot:

[Esther] resolves to do her duty and immediately a change comes upon her. She abruptly and surprisingly commands Mordecai [who until now has done all the commanding] and, using the imperative, with no polite circumlocutions, instructs him to assemble the Jews for a public fast. In convening such an assembly and issuing directives to the community, Esther is assuming the role of a religious and national leader. She has taken control. . . .

She now takes her fate in her hands with a courageous declaration: “And in this way I will go to the king, contrary to law, and if I perish, I perish.” This is the courage of one who realizes she must do her duty without certainty of success, and even without a simple faith that a higher being will protect her. . . .


More about: Bible, Esther, Feminism, Judaism, Purim, Religion & Holidays

Meet Emerson Swift Mahon: Canada’s First Black Jew

February 27

Emerson Swift Mahon, born a Christian, left his native Grenada for Canada in 1912 in search of higher education and harboring a deeply-felt interest in Judaism. Two years later, he enlisted in the Canadian army to fight in World War I, and there met a Jewish chaplain named Herman Abramowitz. Eiran Harris writes:

Mahon persuaded Rabbi Abramowitz of his sincere desire to convert, and after a lengthy course of instruction in the intricacies of Judaism, an appropriate test of knowledge, and a religious ceremony, Rabbi Abramowitz signed the conversion certificate.

After the war Mahon settled in Winnipeg and graduated in 1929 with a science degree from the University of Manitoba. . . . Unfortunately, the Depression forced him to accept a job as a sleeping-car porter with the Canadian Pacific Railway. . . . In Winnipeg, Mahon joined Young Judaea, a Zionist youth organization, and quickly rose through the ranks. His work on the railway enabled him to organize chapters throughout Western Canada as well as to photograph every synagogue between Winnipeg and Vancouver.

Mahon also became proficient in Hebrew and Yiddish: “on the way to synagogue on Saturday mornings, it was quite common to observe Mahon urging his children, in Yiddish, to hurry along.”

Read more at Canadian Jewish News

More about: Canadian Jewry, Conversion, History & Ideas, West Indies, World War I, Zionism

In the New Hierarchy of Victimhood, Jews Are at the Bottom

February 27

The latest obsession of the self-appointed constables of political correctness, writes James Kirchick, involves not simply identifying victims but constantly adopting new categories, upgrading some, and downgrading others. At the very lowest rung lie the Jews, whose persecution or murder merits scarcely a peep. Such thinking is not just the domain of far-left websites; in the promotion of “Islamophobia” as a hate crime, it has penetrated the highest reaches of the U.S. government. Kirchick writes:

Like gay men, Jews have been relegated to the bottom of the progressive victim pyramid, a low ranking that has held fast in spite of the rampant bigotry and violent attacks directed at them. . . .

Since the philosophy of the progressive speech police is so obviously shaping high-level U.S. government policy, it is hard to dismiss the efficacy of their tactics. Here it is important to note that all the hypersensitive concern about “Islamophobia,” and corresponding lack of ardor for combating anti-Jewish hatred, has no relation whatsoever to actual facts. The latest FBI crime statistics report six times as many hate-crime incidents directed against Jews as they do against Muslims. Likewise, in Europe, Jews are more likely to be victimized by hate crime than Muslims, who are themselves usually the perpetrators of anti-Semitic attacks.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Anti-Semitism, Barack Obama, Homosexuality, Idiocy, Islamophobia, Politics & Current Affairs