The Parliament of the Jewish People to Convene in Jerusalem – October 20-23


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This month I will be attending the World Zionist Congress (WZC) meeting in Jerusalem (October 20-23) as a delegate of the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA), representing 1.4 million American Reform Jews from 900 Reform synagogues and communities nationwide.

Known as “The Parliament of the Jewish people” this will be the 37th meeting of the WZC since Theodor Herzl convened it for the first time in Basel, Switzerland in 1897. Though mandated by its constitution to meet every five years, for a number of reasons the WZC has not held elections since 2005, so this will be a meeting of some significance.

Given the challenges and changes taking place in the Jewish world today, the WZC will meet in the wake of Secretary of State Kerry’s failed Middle East peace efforts and following successful negotiations between the P5+1 nations and Iran to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

In this upcoming WZC conference, 500 delegates representing the Jewish people world-wide will debate cutting-edge issues confronting the state of Israel and the Jewish people. The 500 delegates are chosen based on the following demographic formula: 38% are from Israel and are divided along Israeli political party lines as determined by the results of the last Israeli election earlier this year; 29% come from American Zionist organizations according to the last American Zionist Congress elections, also earlier this year, and the remaining 33% come from other countries of the Jewish Diaspora.

The American delegation is composed of 145 delegates out of the total of 500: ARZA (Reform movement = 56), Mercaz (Conservative Movement = 25), Religious Zionists (Orthodox AMIT, B’nei Akiva and RZA = 24), American Forum for Israel (Russian speaking Jews = 10), HATIKVAH (Progressive Zionists = 8), Zionist Organization of America (far right-wing Zionists 7), Zionist Spring (7), World Sephardic Organization (4), Alliance for New Zionist Vision (2), Green Israel (1), and Herut North America (1).

There is a natural alliance (though not yet formal) within the American delegation on many issues between ARZA (the largest vote-getter in the American Zionist election), Mercaz, HATIKVAH, and Green Israel for a majority of 87 of the 145 (60%). The Israeli delegation includes natural partners with ARZA and ARZENU (the international progressive/Reform Zionist movement) of representatives from the Labor-Zionist Union, Meretz, and Yesh Atid. Because ARZA was the largest vote-getter of the American delegation, we are in a position to chair a number of important committees and assure funding for projects benefiting Israel’s Reform movement (the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism – IMPJ).

As goes the Jewish world, so too will those views be reflected in the WZC as a whole, and strong debate on virtually every issue is expected.

Resolutions will be presented, debated and voted upon on many cutting-edge issues including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, settlement growth, Israel’s relationship with world Jewry and vice versa, the status of democracy and religious pluralism in Israel, egalitarian prayer at the Kotel (Western Wall), the religious rights of Israel’s non-Orthodox Jews, the rights of Israel’s LGBT community, and current Israeli policy concerning asylum seekers from Africa and Syria. Many of the resolutions to be presented originated with ARZENU, the International Federation of Reform and Progressive Religious Zionists.

Our ARZA delegation, in conjunction with ARZENU (as well as our natural allies in the Israeli and international delegations), is in a strong position to make a significant impact on the future of the World Zionist Organization, which means that we will be working hard to assure the continued growth of democracy, religious pluralism and diversity in the state of Israel for all its citizens, religious streams and those under its control (i.e. Palestinians living in East Jerusalem and the West Bank who are not Israeli citizens).

I will file reports from Jerusalem on this blog as the pre-conference deliberations with ARZENU begin on October 18, and upon the commencement of the WZC itself on October 20. Upon my return I will also file a longer report for The Los Angeles Jewish Journal.

For those who live in Los Angeles, I invite you to an early morning briefing at Temple Israel of Hollywood upon my return. We will meet on Wednesday morning (8-9 AM), October 28.

Note: To understand the mission and action statement of the Association of Reform Zionists of America, see the ARZA Website at and ARZA, as well as its parent body, the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), supports a negotiated two-state final resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as being in Israel’s best interests as a Jewish and secure democratic state.

Boggling the Mind – A New Super-Fast Camera


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I recently watched a 5-minute piece of footage from PBS’s NOVA (from the 2013 season) about the development of “Super-Fast Cameras.” It not only inspired in me a sense of awe and wonder  about the character and behavior of light, but also about the current state of our technological and scientific know-how.

This video shows that which humankind has never been able to observe before – the fastest thing in the universe – light.

In the 1950s, a 2000-mph bullet was photographed passing through an apple. The video shows a picture of that bullet as if suspended in time, in one particular moment.

In the past 60 years, a new Super-Fast Camera has been developed that can break down what happens to a one-trillionth of a frame per second, thus enabling us to see, moment by moment, light moving into a scene.

We can even see the moment a shadow is formed after light hits an object, not simultaneously as we once assumed.

We can watch light traveling at 600 million miles-per-hour, and observe what occurs in one-billionth of a second.

This NOVA PBS segment offers suggestions about how this new Super-Fast Camera can one day benefit the fields of medicine and many other human endeavors.

We will read on Simchat Torah next week the mythic story of the Creation of the universe and the human being (Genesis 1 and 2). After seeing this video, I marvel in a completely new way at the workings of the universe and at our human capacity for invention on the one hand, and the experience of awe and wonder on the other, which leads me to an insightful analysis of the differences between the two accounts in the Hebrew Bible of the creation of the human being (Adam) that appear in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2.

The great scholar Rabbi Yosef Soloveitchik commented on the essential differences of these two creation narratives of Adam. He named the first Adam of creation “Adam I” (Genesis 1:26-27) and the second Adam of creation “Adam II” (Genesis 2:7, 18, 21-24).

“Adam I” of Genesis 1 is a utilitarian man/woman. S/he is charged with the task of ruling over the world, mastering and subduing it to his/her purposes. The man partners with the woman who are created simultaneously, and their goals are practical, purposeful and productive. They embody the principle that two are better than one, but each, by virtue of being created “b’tzelem Elohim-in the Divine image,” are empowered with intelligence and the ability to create and be productive. Such people through history have been farmers, artists, scientists, legal scholars, physicians, architects, builders, manufacturers, fashioners of institutions, and creators of community. They are this-worldly and are energized by virtue of being useful. They find meaning and relevance when they are productive, and as long as they are they are never rebellious nor ever lonely, for they do their work in partnership with others.

“Adam II” of Genesis 2 is an existential being. He/she is created from the dust of the earth (adamah) and is endowed with divine purpose by means of being infused with  divine breath (nishmat chayim). He/She does not lord over the earth. Rather, s/he watches over creation and protects it by virtue of being one with it. Nevertheless, s/he is alone and lonely and needs an intimate partner, to be in relationship with another. So God, the Creator, draws from Adam II a tzela (often translated as “rib” but it could also mean a side, part or aspect of the primordial human) to make woman-isha.

Adam II responds to the world spontaneously, and s/he yearns for intimacy and a life of quality and meaning. S/he is neither controlling nor power-centered. S/he intuits God’s presence everywhere and strives for “ach’dut-unity” with God. (i.e. to be at one-yichud with the root-shoresh of his/her being and life in God).

Adam II is an existential being, a seeker and an appreciator, and s/he is ever-aware of God’s Infinity, Eternity and Ineffability. S/he aspires for the religious experience of community, sanctity and transcendence. S/he is faith-oriented, needs a soul mate (i.e. beshert) and a faith community.

I mention Adam I and Adam II in the context of the invention of this Super-Fast Camera because our human engagement with it embraces both Adam I and Adam II.

My brother, an awe-struck scientist, remarked to me when he shared this video with me that this Super-Fast Camera and what it can show about the behavior of light would “even boggle Einstein’s mind!”

Chag Sukkot Sameach.

High Holiday Sermons – 2015-5776


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For those interested in listening/watching on You Tube or reading the text of any of the three High Holiday sermons I delivered this year at Temple Israel of Hollywood on Rosh Hashanah evening, Rosh Hashanah morning and on Kol Nidre, they are now posted together in written form and on YouTube on the Temple Israel of Hollywood website ( and can be accessed directly here:

Erev Rosh Hashanah – “Radiance in this Austere World”

There is a vast difference between what I call “good speech” about others and gossip (l’shon ha-ra – the evil tongue). The former builds ethical relationships and the latter destroys them. There are no innocent by-standers when we gossip, so the rabbis teach, and we all do it – according to polls 80% of all speech between people is about other people, for better and worse. Recognizing “gossip” as a serious ethical challenge, Judaism has developed a rich series of rules governing our use of language, how we speak to and about others and what we choose to say or not say. My sister in-law put it well recently when she noted that “Candor is golden; diplomacy is divine!” The problem is that people say far too much to each other and about each other, and allow their anger, frustration and self-righteous belief that they are duty-bound to be honest at all times whether harm and hurt comes to others as a consequence or not. The High Holidays reminds us that not all thoughts ought to be expressed, written, shared, or read. In these days leading to the Presidential primaries, we are seeing far too much destructive speech coming from candidates, but that is just a reflection of the coarseness and insensitivity that is happening across society as a whole.

Shacharit Rosh Hashanah – “Fighting for the Soul of the Jewish People”

We Jews are living in a very difficult, threatening and complicated world, and we have been divided by our own extremists about what is in the Jewish people’s best interest relative to the State of Israel’s long-term security and peace as the democratic nation state of the Jewish people. The unity of the Jewish people is essential to our future strength and security, but policies of the government of the state of Israel, led by fear and arrogance and buttressed by an unholy political marriage between ultra-orthodox Hareidi Jews and right-wing one-state believing settlers has now gained significant influence in the policies of the government and threatens to take Israel over a cliff as it becomes increasingly isolated internationally and a source of consternation for the Jewish people in America. We risk losing a generation of young liberal Jews who want to love Israel but are increasingly torn between the values on which they were raised and policies that emphasize security to the exclusion of everything else. The recent battles in the United States over the Iran Agreement, the failure of the Kerry effort to forge a two-state solution, and the vicious attacks on liberal left Jewish supporters of Israel and on other pro-Israel supporters who have taken a different view by both the left and the right, but primarily by extreme right-wing Jews need to be stopped – and soon, or we could lose everything the Jewish people has striven to build since the beginnings of the Zionist movement.

Kol Nidre – “Six Life Lessons”

In this very personal sermon, I share my own spiritual journey and six life-lessons I have learned over the 65+ years of my life. These lessons have broad applicability.

For those interested, on the Temple Israel site are posted the sermons of my colleagues, Rabbi Michelle Missaghieh and Rabbi Jocee Hudson – all well worth reading.

L’shanah tovah u-m’tukah – A good and sweet New Year.

Falling on “God’s Face”



There are a number of prayers in the High Holiday liturgy that evoke the core purposes of this season. One of these is the Aleinu HaGadol (“The Great Aleinu”).

To better understand the meaning of this prayer it is important to recognize a significant difference between the English word “prayer” and the Hebrew word “t’filah” (often translated as “prayer”).

While “prayer” includes the expression of gratitude and praise, the petition of God for help, strength, courage, restored health, sustenance, and peace of mind, and communion with God, t’filah, though encompassing praise and petition as well, is associated with the Hebrew word nafal (The infinitive of nafal is Lipol: lamed-yod-peh-lamed – from the Hebrew root: nun-peh-lamed; the nun is silent in t’filah) – meaning “to fall.” (Note: I learned this interpretation years ago, but I do not recall who taught it to me)

Unlike the English word “prayer,” the Hebrew word t’filah entails falling before God.

This idea of t’filah is captured in an early interaction between Avram and God.

When God gave Avram his new name, Avraham, and explained that Abraham’s new status would be as the patriarch of Israel in return for which God promised Abraham the blessing that he would become av hamon goyim – “Father of a multitude of nations,” the Torah says that in response Vayipol Avram al panav – “And Abram fell (vayipol) on his face” (Genesis 17:3-5).

Even as Avram assumed his new spiritual status and responsibility, he recognized the enormity of the task of leading his people, and he acknowledged his need for God’s help. Hence, Vayipol Avram al panav.

This phrase reasonably can be read in one of two ways: The most common is “Abram fell on his own face,” expressing through prostration the physical attitude of supplication and humility before God.

The second way it can be read is this – “Avram fell on God’s face.”

What might it mean for Avram to fall upon God’s face?

In addition to assuming the physical attitude of supplication and humility in prostration, Avram may well have yearned to become One with God, thus falling upon God’s “Face.” Chassidism teaches that this is one goal of all t’filah. It fulfills the yearning of the mystic to become one-achdut with God.

Twice each year the Jewish people prostates  before God. The first is on Rosh Hashanah and the second is on Yom Kippur. Both are during the Aleinu Hagadol, the Great Aleinu.

Muslims too assume through prostration this attitude of submission to Allah five times daily. I am told that in Los Angeles, Catholic Priests of the Archdiocese prostrate together before the altar on Good Friday in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, otherwise known as the Catholic Downtown Cathedral.

Many Jews in my congregation take this opportunity to assume the most humble attitude before the open ark on the afternoon of Yom Kippur when, led by the Rabbis, we chant the Aleinu Hagadol in a prone position. It is a most powerful and emotionally charged moment.

This year I invite those of you who have not fallen before the ark upon your faces and upon God’s face to do so.

G’mar chatimah tovah – may we all be sealed in the Book of Life.

L’shanah tovah.

Overcoming Despair and Beginning Again


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The central theme of these High Holidays is teshuvah, a process that brings us back to ourselves, to our families and friends, to our community, Torah, and God. Teshuvah is ultimately an expression of hope, that the way we are today need not be who we become tomorrow.

Teshuvah is essentially a step-by-step process of turning and re-engaging with our most basic inclinations, the yetzer hara-the evil urge that is propelled by desire, lust and need and our yetzer tov-the good inclination that is inspired by humility, gratitude, generosity, and kindness.

A key beginning in the process that is teshuvah is, however, a sense of despair, hopelessness and sadness, the feeling that we are stuck and cannot change the nature, character and direction of our lives.

Judaism, however, rejects pessimism, cynicism and everything that impedes personal transformation and a hopeful future.

In the story of Jonah, to be read on the afternoon of Yom Kippur, we read the tale of the prophet’s descent into hopelessness and what is required for him to change direction.

Jonah is the epitome of a unrealized prophet who runs from himself, from civilization and from God. Every verb associated with his journey is the language of descent (yod-resh-daled). He flees down to the sea. He boards a ship and goes down into its dark interior. He lays down and falls into a deep sleep. He is thrown overboard down into the waters by his terrified ship-mates. He is swallowed and descends into the belly of a great fish, and there he stays for three days and nights until from that place of despair and utter darkness Jonah decides that he wishes to live and not die. He cries out to God to save him.

God responds by making the fish vomit Jonah out onto dry land. Jonah agrees this time to do God’s bidding and preach to the Ninevites to repent from their evil ways. While the town’s people are all putting on sack cloth and ashes and promising to change, God provides Jonah with shade and protection from the hot sun. Jonah, however, becomes mortified because he still believes that change is impossible and that the Ninevites are destined to fail. Their success, in his mind, makes him to appear the fool.

Teshuvah is never easy. It is for those of us who are strong of mind, heart and soul, who are willing to work hard and suffer failure, but to get up every time, to own what we do, to acknowledge our wrong-doing, to apologize to ourselves and others, and to recommit to the struggle, step-by-step, patiently, one day at a time, one hour at a time, and even one moment at a time.

When successful, teshuvah is restorative and even utopian, for it enables us to return to our truest selves, to the place of soul, to the garden of oneness.

Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik taught that in teshuvah we are able even to transcend time itself. He said, “The future has overcome the past.”

L’shanah tovah u-m’tukah.
A good and sweet New Year to you all.

Teshuvah – An Ultimate Spiritual Reality at the Core of Jewish Faith

The midrashic tradition teaches that teshuvah (i.e. repentance, turning, returning) is an ultimate spiritual reality at the core of Jewish faith, and was one of the ten phenomena that God created before the creation of humankind thus giving us the capacity to extricate ourselves from the chain of cause and effect.

Teshuvah is a central theme of the High Holiday season – return or turning to one’s core spiritual essence, to family and dear ones with whom we have become alienated, to friends and community, to Torah, the Jewish people, and God.

The following are selections from classic Jewish texts and from some of our people’s most inspired and profound thinkers (ancient and modern) on the meaning, nature and impact of teshuvah on the individual, community, world, and God.

Teshuvah is a manifestation of the divine in each human being…Teshuvah means “turning about,” “turning to,” “response” – return to God, to Judaism, return to community, return to family, return to “self”…Teshuvah reaches beyond personal configurations – it is possible for someone to return who “was never there” – with no memories of a Jewish way of life…Judaism isn’t personal but a historical heritage…Teshuvah is a return to one’s own paradigm, to the prototype of the Jewish person…The act of teshuvah is a severance of the chain of cause and effect in which one wrong follows inevitably upon another…The thrust of teshuvah is to break through the ordinary limits of the self…The significance of the past can only be changed at a higher level of teshuvah – called Tikun – tikun hanefesh – tikun olam…The highest level of teshuvah is reached when the change and correction penetrate the very essence of the sins once committed and create the condition in which a person’s transgressions become his/her merits. – Gleaned from “Repentance” by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, 20th-21st century, Israel

For transgressions committed between an individual and the Omnipresent, the day of Atonement atones.  For transgressions between one individual and another, the Day of Atonement atones only if the one will regain the goodwill of his fellow. – Mishnah, Yoma 8:9, 2nd century CE, Palestine

Even if one only injured the other in words [and not in deed], he must pacify him and approach him until he forgives him. If his fellow does not wish to forgive him, the other person brings a line of three of his friends who [in turn] approach the offended person and request from him [that he grant forgiveness]. If he is not accepting fo them, he brings a second [cadre of friends] and then a third.  If he still does not wish [to grant forgiveness], one leaves him and goes his own way, and the person who would not forgive is himself the sinner. –  Maimonides, Mishnah Torah, Laws of Repentance, 2:9-10, 11th century CE, Spain and Egypt

The primary role of penitence, which at once sheds light on the darkened zone, is for the person to return to himself, to the root of his soul. Then he will at once return to God, to the Soul of all souls…. It is only through the great truth of returning to oneself that the person and the people, the world and all the words, the whole of existence, will return to their Creator, to be illumined by the light of life. – Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, early 20th century, Palestine)

Humility is the root and beginning of repentance. – Bachya ibn Pakuda, 11th century, Spain

Know that you must judge everyone with an eye to their merits.  Even regarding those who are completely wicked, one must search and find some small way in which they are not wicked and with respect to this bit of goodness, judge them with an eye to their merits. In this way, one truly elevates their merit and thereby encourages them to do teshuvah. – Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav, Likutei Moharan 282, 18th century, Ukraine

Rabbi Abbahu said, “In the place where penitents stand, even the wholly righteous cannot stand.” – Talmud Bavli, Berachot 34b, 3rd century, Palestine

L’shanah tovah u-m’tukah

A Good and sweet New Year!

The Challenge of Contemporary Israel – What to do about Asylum Seekers?


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The establishment of the state of Israel fundamentally changed the situation of the Jew in the world, who we had been and who we would become. For most of the past 3000 years Jews lived in exile, subject to the rule of others, without national sovereignty and power of our own, without the enormous challenges that come with ruling a nation.

Today, Syrian refugees are desperate to find safe harbor outside of their tortured land, and many want to come to Israel for asylum.

Israel has been tested already over the last number of years about how to accommodate 50,000 Eritrean and Sudanese Refugees who had crossed the border into Israel from Africa seeking asylum from some of the worst dictators in the world.

Every nation has the right and duty to protect its borders. No nation as small as Israel can be expected to be the home for every suffering human being.  However, as we Jews know only too well what it means to flee persecution and violence, we might expect that the government of the state of Israel, of all nations given our most recent history of being a hunted people, would have in place a compassionate and reasonable policy to welcome refugees and asylum seekers that could enable these stateless people to live with dignity until conditions in their nations of origin change and they can go home without fear.

Rabbi Dow Marmur put the challenge succinctly this week as he reflected upon a new wave of asylum seekers from Syria seeking refuge in Israel:

“We Jews found it easy to preach morality when we had no power to put it into practice. Now with a state of our own and the paramount need to protect it, national interests seem to take precedence. The challenge of contemporary Israel is how to live up to the lofty teachings of Judaism while responding to the challenges of a modern democratic sovereign state surrounded by hostile forces.”

Israeli Left Collapse but the Left’s Policy Positions Still Held by Most Israelis – Says a New Israeli Poll


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A new poll measuring Israeli attitudes towards that country’s left wing was conducted recently by Molad – The Center for Renewal of Democracy, and its findings are curious, to say the least (Note: this is according to TLV1 The Promised podcast – I have not found reported in the English language this poll, nor does it yet appear on Molad’s website).

The poll found that most Israelis consider the left’s diplomatic and security doctrine to have been a failure. From its peak of power and influence during the Rabin years, the left wing’s influence in the Israeli government has declined consistently since the Prime Minister’s assassination, the collapse of the Barak-Clinton Camp David Summit and the second Intifada, and most recently following the failure of the Kerry negotiations. However, when asked if Israelis still support the Clinton Framework that emerged out of the Oslo Peace Process that proposed a 2-state solution, a border between Israel and a future state of Palestine drawn roughly along the pre-1967 armistice lines with land swaps, Palestinian refugee resettlement only in the to-be-established state of Palestine, demilitarization of the West Bank except for a Palestinian police force, and a shared Jerusalem in which both states have their capitals, 46% of Israelis still support it as opposed to 40% that are opposed.

When Arab-Israeli citizens were removed from the polling sample to measure only the attitudes of Israeli Jews, 45% supported the Clinton Framework with 40% opposed.

When the Clinton Framework was considered in the context of larger multi-lateral agreements including Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, Israelis favorable ratings increased to 50% and 39% opposed.

Other findings, however, suggest another side of the very same Israeli electorate that reveals deep distrust and fear of the Palestinians, which many commentators believe is a direct consequence of years of events accentuated by aggressive fear-mongering by Israel’s right wing:

• 72% of Israelis are somewhat or highly convinced that Hamas will not stop its violence against Israel after a 2-state peace agreement is achieved;

• 70% are afraid that the West Bank will turn into a second Gaza ruled by Hamas;

• 68% believe that Palestinians will always want more and more Israeli land until Israel ceases to exist;

• 67% believe that Israel will be flooded with Palestinian refugees even if the agreement designates that the refugee population can only resettle in the state of Palestine;

• 63% believe that a serious rift in Israeli society will form if settlements are evacuated that are not included in the West Bank’s large settlement blocks;

• 61% do not want Jerusalem divided though they support the Clinton Framework that calls for a shared city.

What does not seem to be reflected in the polls is the strong cooperation that has existed in the last several years between Israel’s security forces and the Palestinian Authority that has resulted in a dramatic reduction of Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israelis; nor does the fact that during the two years prior to the outbreak of last summer’s war against Hamas, Hamas had held to a negotiated cease-fire with Israel; nor do Israeli attitudes seem to reflect President Abbas’ commitment to non-violence, though he has been inconsistent.

In a recent podcast on TLV1 The Promised (“Peace by the Numbers” – August 27, 2015), journalists Noah Efron, Don Futterman and Allison Kaplan Summer debated what these conflicting statistics mean, what opportunities there may be still to advance a peace process leading to a two-state solution and what is to blame for the inconsistencies.

The Molad poll revealed that the issues that have most concerned the Israeli left wing, such as income inequality, peace with the Palestinians, Israel’s relationship with the European Union, and Israel’s diplomatic and economic ties with the West, are not considered particularly important to the right-wing and therefore are not priorities to the current Israeli government, even though these concerns are still of important concern to the majority of Israeli voters.

The TLV1 segment addresses all the related substantive issues and considers what dynamics within Israel and among the Palestinians are contributing to the continuation of the status quo, which likely will lead to ongoing violence and war.

This 15 minute segment is well worth your attention – click on

Calling Donald Trump Out for the Bigot and Demagogue That He Is


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Finally, someone is taking Donald Trump seriously and not as “entertainment” in this pre-primary season.

Tom Friedman (“Bonfire of the Assets, With Trump Lighting Matches” – August 26, NY Times) called Donald Trump out as the intolerant bigot that he is.

More than any other political figure since Joe McCarthy, Trump is second to none in his insensitivity and lack of empathy for other human beings.

“You’ve Been Trumped,” is a 2011 documentary by the British filmmaker Anthony Baxter that documents Trump’s construction of a luxury golf course on a beach in Balmedie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland and the ensuing battles Trump provoked between the local residents, legal and governmental authorities. Trump effectively destroyed that community for the people who lived there.

Tom Friedman wrote of Trump’s campaign this week:

“And now we have Trump shamelessly exploiting this issue [illegal immigration]… He’s calling for an end to the 14th Amendment’s birthright principle, which guarantees citizenship to anyone born here, and also for a government program to round up all 11 million illegal immigrants and send them home — an utterly lunatic idea that Trump dismisses as a mere “management” problem. Like lemmings, many of the other G.O.P. presidential hopefuls just followed Trump over that cliff.

This is not funny anymore. This is not entertaining. Donald Trump is not cute. His ugly nativism shamefully plays on people’s fears and ignorance. It ignores bipartisan solutions already on the table, undermines the civic ideals that make our melting pot work in ways no European or Asian country can match (try to become a Japanese) and tampers with the very secret of our sauce — pluralism, that out of many we make one.

Every era spews up a Joe McCarthy type who tries to thrive by dividing and frightening us, and today his name is Donald Trump.”

I have been asking politically savvy people whether they think Trump could become the Republican nominee for President, and everyone believes this to be impossible, that he is so ignorant and ill-informed about policy and substance that it is only a matter of time before the public realizes that there is nothing there there.

I pray they are right, but I confess to being very worried that they are wrong as we watch Trump’s ratings grow (24% now of the Republican primary voters), and his savvy management of his image as a truth-telling take-no-prisoners business guy whose “politically incorrect” statements of “fact” attract more and more angry, bigoted and frustrated people to his campaign. Yes, the boil that is Donald Trump could be lanced and he could exit the political scene at some point in the near future, but I’m not counting on it.

Tom Friedman was right to reference the Joseph McCarthy era in relation to Trump. It can happen again. As a reminder, here is an account from the US Senate History of the McCarthy hearings of June 9, 1954 when the pivotal turning point of the McCarthy hysteria was finally reached after several years of McCarthy’s attack on thousands of Americans:

“…The army hired Boston lawyer Joseph Welch to make its case. At a session on June 9, 1954, McCarthy charged that one of Welch’s attorneys had ties to a Communist organization. As an amazed television audience looked on, Welch responded with the immortal lines that ultimately ended McCarthy’s career: “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness.” When McCarthy tried to continue his attack, Welch angrily interrupted, “Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?”

Overnight, McCarthy’s immense national popularity evaporated. Censured by his Senate colleagues, ostracized by his party, and ignored by the press, McCarthy died three years later, 48 years old and a broken man.”

Why is this not happening in the Republican Party at the very least?

I’m reminded of what William Butler Yeats said as a possible explanation:

“Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned; the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

And so, what ought we to do about this?

Every journalist, every editorial page of every newspaper in the country, every political leader, every decent American ought to be calling Trump out for the bigot and demagogue that he is before he can do any more damage to the American body politic and American democracy itself.

“Memo to U.S. Jews: Defend Israel, Support the Iran Deal” by Carlo Strenger, Haaretz, August 26


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I am tired of the sound-bite ads supporting and opposing the Iran Nuclear Agreement, the political hype and the slanderous accusations (mostly but not exclusively coming from the right-wing) against good and honest people who care deeply about both America’s and Israel’s security and well-being.

I am not a scientist, nuclear physicist or a security expert. Israel and the United States have plenty of both and it is these people who I listen to when assessing the strengths and weaknesses of this P5 +1 negotiated Iran Nuclear Agreement.

Israel’s former security chiefs who are no longer bound to silence, as opposed to Israel’s current security chiefs who are (though have talked off the record in support of the agreement), and a number of Israeli and American nuclear scientists support this agreement. That is why I do as well, despite its flaws.

Here is the complete Haaretz op-ed by Carlo Stenger (if you have not called your congressional representative to voice your support for the agreement, now is the time to do so):

Dealing with Tehran is not a matter of ideology but rather carefully balanced probabilities. Israel’s current and former security chiefs know this.

Jewish Americans are going through a harrowing dilemma. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been calling the nuclear deal with Iran a mistake of historical proportions. He has made opposing it the shibboleth of whether you are a good Jew and a true friend of Israel, or whether you let Barack Obama throw Israel under the bus. So Netanyahu keeps repeating it: By cranking up sanctions even more, a better deal with Iran can be reached, but Obama and the P5+1 group have been weak and defeatist.

Netanyahu’s tactic has created enormous problems. He has dealt further blows to Israel’s relations with the United States, created deep rifts in the U.S. Jewish community, and worst of all, he has turned the discussion into whether you are for Israel or against it. He has turned it into good versus evil: Care about the Jewish people or be willing to let them perish in the next Holocaust.

The shrillness of the debate has made many forget that dealing with Iran is not a matter of ideology but rather carefully balanced probabilities. Get the best deal under the given circumstances, and the best deal isn’t a matter of rhetoric but careful calculation.

This is my call to U.S. Jewry. Turning the Iran deal into a partisan issue is about as wrongheaded as checking your doctor’s political convictions rather than credentials and experience. This is why it’s best to listen to top Israeli security officials, who have both the professional competence and dedication to care about what serves Israel best.

U.S. Jews might therefore wonder: Why are there no prominent Israeli voices supporting the Iran deal? Well, the noise has drowned out the fact that a phalanx of security chiefs has publicly supported the deal.

I’ll mention just a few. There’s former Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin, who heads a leading Israeli defense think tank — and who was one of the pilots who destroyed Iraq’s Osirak reactor in 1981. There’s Isaac Ben-Israel, a former weapons developments chief and current chairman of Israel’s space program. And there’s Ami Ayalon, a former head of Israel’s naval commandos and the Shin Bet security service, and Efraim Halevy, a former Mossad chief.

These men have spent most of their lives defending Israel; they are more competent than any politician to assess the security implications not only of the Iran deal but of the dire consequences of reneging on it.

Furthermore, as esteemed military analyst Amir Oren has reported in Haaretz, the majority of Israel’s serving military leaders disagree with Netanyahu’s position on the Iran deal. But as befits a democracy, officers in active service don’t take public positions. Senior security officials have expressed the same position to me on condition of anonymity.

The consensus on the Iran deal among security experts is very wide-ranging, and not only in Israel. I have just spent a number of days at the World Federation of Scientists’ annual meeting on planetary emergencies in Erice, Sicily, a group that I have been part of for 11 years. The Iran deal was discussed in depth, but not in the shrill tones of politicians trying to show how tough they are on Tehran. I heard experts who know the details of the deal to the last dot and have the intellectual tools to assess its viability.

Most prominent among them is Prof. Richard Garwin, one of the world’s leading nuclear scientists who with Edward Teller designed the first hydrogen bomb. Garwin, who has been an adviser to eight U.S. presidents on nuclear strategy, gave a presentation on the deal and came to a very clear conclusion: Under the current circumstances, this is as good a deal as we will get.

Let there be no mistake: Garwin has been dealing with situations in which humankind’s survival has been at stake; he by no means trusts the Iranian regime not to try to cheat. He gave very precise assessments on how the monitoring regime and the West’s technological means make it virtually impossible for Iran to surprise the West in the coming decade.

He has given me express permission to quote his speech, and I hope we will soon be able to upload it in its entirety. Let me add that Garwin is by no means a lone voice in this assessment but has been a leader of more than 70 nonproliferation experts who have endorsed the deal.

I have deep empathy for the plight of the U.S. Jewish community, which wants to stand by Israel in these difficult circumstances. Doing so means making up your own mind and not letting Netanyahu define for you what it means to be pro-Israel.

You should not forget that Israel’s security experts have no less an investment in Israel’s safety than Netanyahu, and that their expertise on the matter is superior to his. They have no political axes to grind but simply continue their work of keeping Israel secure. If all of them think the Iran deal is good for Israel, you can safely assume that it is and support it.




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