Loss of American Dream Bodes Ill for Jews: Atlantic Editor

Oct. 19, 2020

By JANICE ARNOLD

MONTREAL – The weakening of American democracy and status of the United States globally is “bad for the Jews,” whose flourishing has been tied to the country’s founding ideals, says Jeffrey Goldberg, editor-in-chief of The Atlantic magazine.

Jeffrey Goldberg
Jeffrey Goldberg

The influential journalist offered a bleak assessment of the state of America in a virtual lecture hosted by Congregation Shaar Hashomayim on Oct. 13, and he placed the blame squarely on President Donald Trump.

Trump’s mishandling of the COVID crisis has not only been disastrous for Americans, but accelerated the United States’ waning prestige in the eyes of its allies and those who hold it as a model, Goldberg said.

“The last four years have been a slow-rolling catastrophe that has profound consequences for the world…I think it is too early to say that America is in a kind of decline, but it is on a downward slope and headed to a bad place if we are not careful,” he said.

Undemocratic China, Russia and Iran are moving in to fill the vacuum left by the U.S.’s retreat from dominance, he said, and these countries are not “models of good behaviour.”

The trend is “not irreversible,” though Goldberg stopped short of predicting the outcome of the Nov. 3 election.

If Democratic candidate Joe Biden wins, Goldberg’s advice to him is to first get control of the coronavirus. “We will have no respect in the world unless we do that.”

Then, Biden should set about repairing the country’s reputation by going to its friends and essentially apologizing for what had been a “weird” episode in American history, he thinks.

The U.S. can and should resume its “exceptional role” in the world, Goldberg believes.

“Trump could have coasted to re-election if he had taken the virus seriously and gotten it under control,” he said. Instead, Goldberg regrets that his country has been “a sad joke over the past four years.”

The U.S. is accustomed to sometimes being hated or feared, but not to being “pitied” as it is today, especially in Europe, said Goldberg, who finds it shocking that a country so advanced could account for one-fifth of the world’s COVID deaths but only 4.25 percent of the population.

The situation is particularly worrisome for Goldberg because the “American dream is very much intertwined with the Jewish dream,” and the loss of the former puts the future of the latter in doubt.

“Historically, extremism and polarization have been bad for the Jews,’’ he said. The bitter fracturing between the political right and left, and the pitting of racial groups against each other do not bode well for the community, Goldberg said.

Trump, whom he called a racist and xenophobe, became president because he appealed to white reactionaries frightened by the change in the country’s racial makeup.

American Jewry represents almost half of the world’s Jewish population, he pointed out. A diminished U.S. is also not good for Israel, for which the United States has been a “blessing,’’ he added.

Even Jews in Canada are affected, he suggested.

“The Canadian Jewish community is unusually unified and organized, but it is still small. It benefits from having happy, secure brethren to the south.”

Goldberg was praised for being “fiercely courageous” by Lewis Dobrin, co-chair of the Shaar’s Tuesday Night Learning series, of which this talk was a part. He referred to Goldberg’s “bombshell” article in The Atlantic in September reporting that Trump had called American war dead “losers” and “suckers” during a 2018 visit to a French military cemetery – a report the president vehemently denied.

Why My Uncle Died

Oct. 9, 2020

The riots and violence in Brooklyn ultra-orthodox Jewish neighborhoods over pandemic regulations have been watched closely around the world. The CJR has received the following submission from the heart of Brooklyn.

By DOVID TEITELBAUM

My uncle, Moshe Teitelbaum, Z”L, just passed away after suffering from COVID.

Teitelbaum’s Family History

My uncle was the most decent, caring person you have ever met. He was my father’s older brother, but unlike my father, he kept more of a private life. He excelled at every subject. He loved all the sciences. He was a computer programmer by profession. He was a brilliant writer, and it’s because of him that we have the stories of my family history, in a three-volume book that he left for us.

Yet despite his academic genius, he was the most humble person you ever met. He was a talmid chacham, never missing a day learning with his chavrusa, and spent his vacation time learning in Lakewood’s Yarchei Kalla. He was a partner with my father in creating Torah Communication Network, but his name is nowhere to be found. He was more honest than honesty itself. He was a walking kiddush Hashem, and like a true Teitelbaum, he did what he thought was right no matter what anybody said. The last time I met him in person was on Purim as we delivered Mishloach Manos to his house in Boro Park. Feels like an eternity.

But let’s get something clear…

He didn’t die because of antisemitism. Or because New York Governor Andrew Coumo is inept or because New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is a hypocrite.

He didn’t die in an unfortunate accident.

He didn’t die because we were left in the dark. We were informed, we were warned, multiple times.

He didn’t die because of other complications – he was a healthy old man.

He died because many of our rabonim, leaders and askonim are too afraid or lazy to do their damn jobs.

He died because Boro Park, N.Y., where I grew up, is now run by the mob and not by rabbis.

He died because he had so much respect for daas torah that he believed them while they downplayed the seriousness of the virus.

He died because we were completely negligent.

He died because it was more important to say tehilim for Donald Trump than it was to care for the health of our elders.

He died because “the virus doesn’t kill 99 percent” and he was part of the one percent.

He died because “everyone already had it” when he clearly didn’t have it.

He died because “everyone has antibodies” and “it’s fake news” and “nobody can take our freedoms away.”

He died because our shuls and simcha halls were acting irresponsibly.

He died because we were just too lazy to put on a simple mask to protect one another.

He died because we are a stubborn people, but sometimes we are stubborn for the wrong reasons.

He died because G-d decided it was his time. Baruch Dayan HaEmes

Feel free to share if it helps spread awareness. May this suffering come to an end quickly.


Dovid Teitelbaum of Brooklyn, N.Y. is the son of Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum, Z”L, founder of Camp Sdei Chemed International and Torah Communications, among many other accomplishments; and grandson of Harav Avraham Yaakov Teitelbaum, ZT”L, Rav in Kew Gardens, Queens, and manhig ruchani of Camp Agudah for many years.

Amb. David Friedman’s Unforgiveable Misstep

Oct. 7, 2020

By DAVID H. GOLDBERG

U.S. President Donald Trump takes great pride in being a rule breaker, and in the fact that his administration has taken an approach to policymaking that has been, to put it mildly, contrary to traditional methods.

This non-traditional approach is certainly reflected in the Trump Administration’s approach toward Israel and the Middle East, and the list is substantial: Recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights; recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, with the transfer of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem; that the presence of Israeli civilians living on the West Bank does not violate international law; the promotion of a peace plan that favours Israel over the Palestinians, in part by seemingly supporting the application of Israeli sovereignty over a significant area of the West Bank; midwifing the historic Abraham Accords involving formal recognition agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, and doing so without the involvement of the Palestinians – thereby belying the longstanding belief that regional peace is dependent on a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

Value judgments aside, one must acknowledge that the above achieved the desired goal of demonstrating Trump’s determination to do diplomacy his way, by speaking painful truths and shake players from their complacency.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David M. Friedman has played a key role in formulating and facilitating the implementation of the “Trump Doctrine” vis-à-vis the Middle East. An Orthodox Jew and a bankruptcy lawyer by profession, Friedman is a longtime personal friend and political supporter of the president. He has proven to be an effective advocate of Trump’s strategy of shaking up Middle East diplomacy. Consistent with Trump’s policy, he has been a strong critic of the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas’s refusal to return to the negotiating table. He also has been a vocal supporter of the interests of Jewish settlers in the West Bank, for which he has reportedly occasionally been rebuked by the U.S. State Department.

However contentious his behaviour might be considered, Friedman was performing his professional duties. However, by recently adopting an overtly partisan position on the U.S. electoral process, he exceeded his professional boundaries and must resign.

In an interview on Oct. 6 with the UAE-based media outlet Al Ain News, Friedman cautioned that a victory in next month’s presidential election by Joe Biden would have an adverse effect on the region, especially with regard to efforts to curb the threat of Iran.

Linking then-Vice President Biden to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal pushed by the Obama Administration, “something that President Trump – and I share his view – thinks was the worst international deal the U.S. has ever entered into,” Friedman implied that a Biden victory would precipitate a U.S. re-entry into the Iran deal and to a weakening of sanctions against Iran’s efforts to expedite the acquisition of nuclear weapons.

“We worked really hard to get Iran, I think, to a much better place. I would hate to think a new administration would undermine that but, regrettably, if Biden wins, I think they might,” Friedman added. “If Biden wins, we will see a policy shift that, in my personal opinion, will be wrong and will be bad for the region, including for Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait,” he continued.

As an American citizen, Friedman has every right to express his personal opinion about policy issues driving the current U.S. electoral cycle. But he must do so only as a private citizen, not as a senior government official, and most certainly not as one of the most visible U.S. ambassadors.

The Trump Administration may pride itself on having broken many rules, but this one it cannot. Ambassador Friedman must go.


David Goldberg
David Goldberg

David H. Goldberg PhD, the author of eight books on Israel, formerly served as director of research and education for the Canada-Israel Committee and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.

Editorial: Hate Must Not Take Hold

Oct. 1, 2020 – This past week, we were treated to the sight of a petulant and bullying president of the United States who threatened his fellow citizens. He refused to disavow neo-Nazism and even asked his white supremacist minions to “stand back and stand by.”

It was a call that was heeded immediately by the preening white nationalist Proud Boys, who, within 40 seconds of Donald Trump’s shout-out, posted with glee on “Telegram,” a social media website frequented by racists, bigots, white supremacists, and violent extremists.

Canadians should resist feeling too smug: A co-founder of the Proud Boys is Canadian Gavin McInnes, who helped found Vice Media and later discovered an outlet at the right-wing Rebel Media.

The Proud Boys, like many other violent white nationalists and white supremacists, have grown significantly in number over the past decade. In 2015, Barbara Perry and Ryan Scrivens, top researchers in the study of hate groups in Canada, estimated there were at least 100 neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups active in Canada.

They also suggested that there were 30,000 Canadians practicing what they termed “sovereign citizen” philosophies which have no regard for Canadian law.

Recently they have updated their research. According to Perry and Scrivens we may now be seeing an increase of over 25 percent in hate group activity and recruitment. In an interview last year with the Toronto Star, Perry noted, “Now that we’ve started to sort of list the groups and name them…we’re getting close to 300 groups.”

In decades past, racists held rallies and meetings that were easily infiltrated by police and security officials. Today, radicalization, recruiting and ideas are most often conducted via social media and dark corners of the internet, to where visitors to more accessible sites are directed.

In late September, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh was accosted by a man threatening to make a citizen’s arrest. It turned out that the man, Brian Kidder, is part of an encampment of tents in Ottawa that has attracted a variety of fringe figures from Canada’s far-right.

It gets worse. Toronto police have laid charges in the murder of a Muslim Canadian who was supervising entry to his mosque for daily services. According to the Canadian Anti-Hate Network (chaired by CJR publisher Bernie Farber), it’s possible the alleged murderer may be aligned with a satanic Nazi cult known as 09A. Police have been urged to get outside expert assistance. To date, we have heard nothing from police.

Hate, violence and murder have now visited us, and police seem unable to take necessary action. Therefore, it’s up to government to hold the keepers of our laws accountable. Police must police. And politicians must ensure that if stronger laws are needed to corral this threat, they must be passed.

Proud Boys, Soldiers of Odin, Northern Guard, 3%ers…whatever they call themselves, they need to be put on notice. Canadians will not stand for their bullying and racism. We must all speak in one voice, loudly and clearly.

Editorial: May the New Year Bring Healing Stateside

Sept. 16, 2020 – As a New Year begins, it is time to take stock of the year we leave behind and determine what each of us can do to help shape a better world to come. Our tradition tells us that while we need not complete our work to effect change, we must not shirk from trying.

The Jewish year of 5780 has been the most challenging time since the end of the Second World War. Increases in world hunger, further climate damage, war, racial divide, hatred and extremism have all increased in numbers hardly imaginable even a year earlier.

And as this year draws to a close, the world is caught in the grip of a pandemic unseen since the Spanish Flu of 1918. All this happens at a time political leadership in many places seems incapable, unsympathetic, and in some cases, incompetent.

Nowhere is this in sharper relief than with our neighbours to the south. It used to be that no matter which of the two political parties held power, the office of president was revered and respected. With the ascension of Donald Trump, the United States has foundered to a knife’s edge of no return.

Never before have the American people elected a president as singularly unqualified for the job. In the last three and-a-half years, Trump has proven to be a racist and misogynist; an Islamophobe who tried to close the borders of his country to Muslims; has flirted with wild, extreme right-wing conspiracies; and divided his country to such an extent that ultra-conservative militias feel comfortable storming state legislatures with automatic weapons cocked and loaded.

During this presidency, we have seen protests in the streets in the wake of the shootings of numerous people of colour by police, while Republican Party apparatchiks seem oblivious to the fatal harm being caused by Trump.

And all this happens when COVID has taken the U.S. hostage, causing, as of this writing, more than 185,000 deaths, many of which were avoidable had the president acted sooner and had a plan. As we know by his own words in Bob Woodward’s latest book on Trump, Rage, the president was well aware of the dangers posed by the coronavirus, and openly lied to the American people in a hapless effort to avoid panic.

No less a light than Abe Foxman, former CEO of the most significant Jewish organization worldwide fighting antisemitism, the Anti-Defamation League, broke his self-imposed decision not to endorse or be publicly partial to any political candidate. Said Foxman in an opinion piece he wrote this week for the Times of Israel, “When our democracy is weakened, and nativism is stoked, the rights of Jews and other minorities will be diminished too.” He continued, ominously: “It may not happen overnight, but it will happen, and Jews know this from bitter experience.”

Foxman was sharp and critical outlining his fear of Trump and his minions adding that the president has “given succor to bigots, supremacists, and those seeking to divide our society…he and his administration dehumanize immigrants, demonize the most vulnerable, and undermine the civility and enlightened political culture that have allowed Jews to achieve what no Diaspora community outside Israel can claim in two millennia.”

Those in our community who support Trump point to his support of Israel, seen in the moving of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and peace deals with Arab nations. But it cannot simply be about Israel all the time. The danger Trump poses to the entire world requires us to look well beyond our personal backyard.

Everyone has a role to play in mitigating an American disaster. It’s in our interest as Canadians, as it’s clear that where America goes, so goes Canada. While it may seem there’s little we as individuals can do, we still have a voice. We have collectively many relatives and friends in the United States, and now is the time to speak out and implore them to fix their country before it is too late.

The coming year – 5781 – can be a harbinger of a new and changed society only if we recognize the work that must be done. We don’t have to finish it this coming year, but we all must engage.

Shana Tovah Umetukah to all.

We Should Denounce Jewish Bigots Too

Aug. 27, 2020 – By JOE SOLWAY

Normally, I’m pleased to see a fellow Jew succeed in the political arena, even if we don’t hold the same views. But not so in a recent primary in Florida.

That’s because the winner, Laura Loomer, is a self-described “proud Islamophobe.” She’s been banned from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Uber, Lyft, PayPal, GoFundMe, and Chase Bank, among others, for her bigoted views.

Laura Loomer
Laura Loomer

The rideshare services dumped her after she tweeted that “someone needs to create a non Islamic form of Uber or Lyft because I never want to support another Islamic immigrant driver.”

There’s “no such thing as a moderate Muslim, Loomer has said. “They’re ALL the same.”

Even so, it seems that Republicans in Florida’s 21st Congressional District love her.

That’s the stretch of Florida coast that includes Palm Beach, Delray Beach and Boynton Beach. On Aug. 11, Loomer defeated five others on the primary ballot to become the Republican nominee for Congress in this November’s election.

Loomer’s win came during the same week that Democrats held their convention, much of which focussed on calls for equality and social justice. In contrast, President Donald Trump praised his candidate’s win, tweeting, “Great going Laura. You have a great chance against a Pelosi puppet!” It’s worth noting that Trump himself is registered to vote in the 21st District.

Loomer has called Islam a “cancer on humanity” and its practitioners “savages,” adding that they should be disqualified from running for office. Where have we heard words like these before?

Dehumanizing a people or a race is something we as Jews know about first-hand. And we know what happens when those words turn to action. People are banned, persecuted and murdered.

When 51 Muslims were killed in attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, by a white supremacist, Loomer said she didn’t care, tweeting that she cared more about her free speech than what happened in that attack.

Yes, there are deep differences between some Jews and Muslims over issues in the Middle East, but when it comes to human rights and respect, Jews should be at the forefront of calling out hate, not fanning its flames.

Loomer has said she rejects being called part of the alt-right because of its links to antisemitism. That’s wonderful. But she’ll spout the same dangerous, hateful garbage they do: Inciting persecution and violence in the name of race.

Bigots like Loomer who sought elected office in Canada have been removed as candidates by their parties. But in the U.S., they’re now being embraced – at least by Republicans. Some of these same Republicans also embrace supporters of the Qanon conspiracy theory who believe that Trump is working to save them from a global conspiracy of Liberal, Satan-worshipping pedophiles who are plotting against him.

Why does all this matter?

First, Canada is not a vacuum and what happens in the U.S. has a profound influence on life here. Thankfully, the anti-immigration People’s Party of Canada received little support in the last federal election. However, hate groups are on the rise here. An estimate by Barbara Perry of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism puts the number of hate groups in Canada at more than 300. Loomer herself has a connection to this country. During the summer of 2017, she was the U.S. correspondent for Rebel Media, the social commentary site headed by Ezra Levant.

Second, a recent survey found that more than 167,000 Jews live in Palm Beach County. There’s no breakdown of how many support Loomer. I hope it’s zero. Furthermore, (as of this writing) the Republican Jewish Coalition had yet to comment on Loomer’s primary win.

Loomer’s Democratic opponent in the district will be incumbent Lois Frankel, also Jewish, and a former mayor of Palm Beach, who garnered more than 62 percent of the vote to win in 2016. So far, I’ve yet to see any statements from Frankel about Loomer’s bigotry. Frankel has spoken out about antisemitism and other forms of hate in the past, including Islamophobia, and I hope it becomes an issue in November. (It’s worth noting that from 2011 to 2013, part of the district had been represented by another notorious Islamophobe, Republican Allen West. The district’s boundaries have since been redrawn.)

I believe as Jews, we have an obligation to speak out against the type of inflammatory rhetoric in which Laura Loomer engages, wherever we find it, and whoever it comes from. Especially when it’s from one of our own.


Joe Solway
Joe Solway

Joe Solway is a retired current affairs producer who worked for various Canadian media, including the CBC. He lives in Bowmanville, Ont., where he’s on the board of the Rotary Club.