Religious Institutions Lead the Fight against Urban Decay

The past decade has seen a resurgence of some of the many problems—including crime, homelessness, and drug use—that have often afflicted American cities. To Joel Kotkin and Anthony Lemus, faith-based organizations are often those doing the most to help:

At a time when big-city public schools are emptying, the Brilla Public Charter Schools offer Bronx parents an option that structures education along the lines of classical Catholic education—a model increasingly in demand these days. . . . Since 2019, Brilla’s four nonunionized Bronx-based schools, with a student body roughly 70-percent Latino and 30-percent black, have doubled enrollments, even as public-school enrollment has declined by 23 percent. Two more Brilla schools are planned. “We have a totally different approach,” explains Denise McCrummen, principal of Brilla College Prep Elementary. “We have a code of conduct that wants something better from the kids and parents.”

Kotkin and Lemus also point to the Jewish institutions that are also doing their part:

As was the case in the European ghettos and on New York’s Lower East Side, [Jewish] religious organizations often augment sketchy public provisions for security and emergency services. “You have to be careful in the mean streets that are taking over L.A.,” suggests Simcha Mandelbaum, who directs Hatzolah, a community-funded emergency-services provider for people speaking Farsi, Russian, Yiddish, and Hebrew. “People are comfortable with people they know and who can respond quickly.”

Most L.A. synagogues engage in some form of philanthropic activity, but Orthodox philanthropies increasingly lead the way. They operate an extensive food and clothing operation and deliver meals to struggling families. . . . These services help 635 families, most with one adult, or sometimes two adults, in the workforce but struggling to pay private-school bills, the high cost of kosher food, and L.A. rents.

Watching 150 volunteers, mostly young people, packing boxes of supplies for the Sabbath while listening to Israeli music, one can sense the connectiveness that has helped Jews worldwide survive through much harder times.

To Kotkin and Lemus, “the power of religious communities lies not in sounding like a politically correct Disney character but in their focus on timeless virtues and ethical principles—and their devotion to building a better life for families.”

Read more at City Journal

More about: American Religion, Education, Philanthropy

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy