Orthodox Jews’ Principled Case against Anti-Religious Discrimination

In 1961, a prominent American Orthodox activist named Moshe Sherer testified at a congressional hearing in favor of legislation that would grant federal funds to religious as well as secular private schools. By doing so, he broke with the mainstream of U.S. Jewish opinion, and the major Jewish advocacy organizations, which have consistently favored the strictest possible application of separation of church and state. His position has since then grown even more popular with Orthodox Jews in America, who must pay significant sums to send their children to religious schools. But, Michael A. Helfand explains, this position is not based solely on pragmatic concerns:

At their core, such calls for including religious schools in government funding programs were grounded in principles of equal standing and equal citizenship. Sherer, in his testimony, did highlight the budgetary struggles of Jewish day schools, noting that they “labor under the pall of constant financial crises.”

The bulk of his testimony, however, pressed for an inclusive approach to government funding on the basis of “American ideals.” . . . On this account, the denial of government funding to religious schools was wrong not because of the financial impact, but because it harmed religious citizens due to their faith, which Sherer described as discrimination.

[Yet] the core values underlying Orthodoxy’s advocacy for equal funding—anti-discrimination and equal citizenship—have often been ignored. Instead, the thrust of such advocacy is often misdescribed, in the form of characterizations that lionize separationists as advancing “principled” arguments against government funding, while describing Orthodox advocates as advancing “pragmatic” arguments in favor.

In this way, continued debates within the Jewish community over the appropriate degree of separation between church and state amount to principled clashes going to the heart of American Jewish identity. Both visions of church and state—one that demands absolute separation and another that requires a commitment to neutrality—draw from different visions of the appropriate space for religious pluralism in the public square.

Read more at Sources

More about: American Judaism, church and state, Freedom of Religion, Jewish education, Orthodoxy

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7