This year, above all others, we should turn our thoughts and deeds to the millions of refugees fleeing from war and violence, a reincarnation of our great-grandparents fleeing from pogroms, conscription into the army of the czar and abject poverty. HIAS, our agency for resettlement of refugees in the United States, has prepared a Hagaddah supplement with striking photos and drawings of what it means to be a refugee today.
When the Democrats launched a filibuster against the confirmation of Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, some claimed that it was only nasty revenge for the refusal of the Republicans in 2016 to vote, or even hold hearings, on the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland. The comparison is not apt.
Judges Gorsuch and Garland are both highly gifted members of the U.S. Courts of Appeals, judicial offices second in rank only to the justices of the Supreme Court. There the similarity ends. [Read more…]
With its new ban, the Transportation Safety Administration has adapted to the Trump Administration too easily. “Intelligence showing that the Islamic State is developing a bomb hidden in portable electronics spurred the United States and Britain on Tuesday to bar passengers from airports in a total of 10 Muslim-majority countries from carrying laptop computers, iPads and other devices larger than a cellphone aboard direct inbound flights, two senior American counter terrorism officials said,” according to the New York Times.
We need to take a long breath and think about what is happening. Laptop computers and tablet readers might pose a danger to air travel. But singling out ten Muslim-majority Middle East nations is not our way, and is not logical.
The Legal Intelligencer reports that lawyers from the firms Langer, Grogan & Diver and Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg teamed up with HIAS and the American Civil Liberties Union to form two groups. One group went to the airport to try to help those who were detained, unable to enter the country. A second group went to work on court papers, assisted by lawyers from the immigration law firms of Landau, Hess, Simon & Choi and Green and Spiegel.
By Sunday, this volunteer effort succeeded in ending the detentions. Fully resolving the issues, however, will require substantial litigation, in which these lawyers will play a significant role.
Despite the cold, over 100 people came to Congregation Adath Jeshurun (AJ) in Elkins Park on a Sunday morning to hear Trudy Rubin speak about foreign policy, including the politics and prospects for the Middle East. Rubin is the well known “Worldview” columnist for “The Inquirer” and is syndicated in other newspapers across the nation. The event was sponsored by the AJ Adult Education Committee.
Coming just two days after President Trump’s travel ban on Muslim countries, Rubin had much to say. The travel ban, she pointed out, does not reach the countries from which the largest number and worst terrorists have come to the United States. (Editor: By far, the majority of U.S terrorist attacks are perpetrated by Americans!) Neither does it take into account its possible destabilizing effects. For example, she noted that Jordan is an important ally of the U.S. But it is also host to one hundred thousand Syrian refugees, and is unable to afford to house or feed them or find them jobs. The American ban sets a precedent that is bad for the situation in Jordan. The government of Jordan holds a tenuous grasp on the situation, and our action endangers it. [Read more…]
For those of us immersed in social media, there is an endless assault on our senses by happenings large and small.
The president-elect sends a Twitter message criticizing the leader of a local union of the United Steelworkers for doing a “terrible job” and sending American jobs abroad. The tweet goes viral, and the union leader receives random threats from people on the basis of no known facts whatsoever.
A baseless charge linking Hillary Clinton to sex crimes is tweeted by a retired army officer, now in line to be the national security adviser in the new administration. The tweet is part of a deluge of fake news that reaches a particularly susceptible reader in North Carolina, who goes out and shoots up a pizza parlor to “investigate” the charge.
Being lampooned on social media is particularly harmful because there is no effective redress. Even if you find the source, there is no way to reverse the damage. The hundreds or thousands of viewers are beyond reach. Social media also offers an enticing immediacy and anonymity. Retweeting takes just a few keystrokes. One need not know the original author nor have any independent opinion of the worth of the message.
However, it would be wrong to single out Twitter in this regard. Moving at a slightly slower pace, but still beating out all news media, is Facebook. And not far behind is talk radio, a continuing stream of facts, fiction and innuendo.
We can’t help but respect movie stars, politicians and even friends and neighbors who achieve high numbers of “followers.” But we know that the path to achieving those inordinately large numbers is often just flavored or off-flavor gossip.
In Jewish law, gossip is a serious sin. Lashon ha-ra, the evil tongue, is a temptation we must resist. Yet in an age of social media, gossip is always too easy, too nearby and seemingly too impersonal.
Devout Jews perceive the injunction of lashon ha-ra to include two obligations: First, not to speak evil or gossip about others. And second, not to listen to gossip, because it is understood that the listener is an enabler and hence an inextricable part of the sin. So upon hearing gossip, a Jew should cover his ears, at one time a familiar motion.
Is there a similar defense while tapping on a cell phone, clicking at a computer or listening to your car radio? If not, we need to invent one. Perhaps there should be a special button on our electronics to mute evil gossip. Until that button is invented, however, we need to observe the mitzvah of “lashon ha-ra” and strike an electronic pose comparable to covering our ears.
Our election works: the political “body press” stays outside the polling place. Inside your election board from both major parties admits you to the voting machine, or if your right to vote is in doubt, gives you a provisional ballot. If you need help try 1-866-OUR-VOTE. You can read the rules and good practices on the Pennsylvania Department of State website.
Donald Trump’s “Locker Room Talk” tape wasn’t released until after this panel discussion, but even based on his other past behavior, it is incredible that Trump outscores Hillary Clinton by far on the question, “does the candidate share your religious beliefs?” Is it possible to make sense of the attitudes and preferences of American voters this year? The National Museum of American Jewish History presented a panel of journalists and academics to explain “Religion, Politics, and the 2016 Election.” [Read more…]
The staff of the PJVoice joins with the world wide Jewish community in mourning the passing of Shimon Peres. Many American Jews, particularly those old enough to have experienced the formation of the State of Israel, see a direct line from Ben-Gurion to Shimon Peres. Peres helped shape the development of the Jewish State to a great extent.
The founding Israeli leaders were never divorced from the hard reality of Israel’s security situation. Each of them took a turn leading the military, and fully understood the need for protection from both internal and external enemies.
Still Peres, especially later in life, saw the need for an accommodation with the Palestinian Arabs, while protecting the State of Israel. When the opportunity came, he applied his utmost effort to carry out the goal of a two-state solution. He shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, for his work as Foreign Minister negotiating the Oslo Peace accords. [Read more…]
One seat on the nine-member Supreme Court has been vacant since Justice Scalia died unexpectedly on February 13, 2016. To rectify this problem, will President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court be headed for a vote, for withdrawal or for a recess appointment? [Read more…]