I guess you just can’t write a column on one topic in the age of Trump.
The news comes so fast and furious, so full of fire and fury, thanks to the Donald, that every week when I sit down to have my say, I’m finding there is too much going on to focus on just one thing.
So, once again, let’s look at just some of what’s happening in the Jewish world.
One. It seems it’s not bad enough that literally every Jew who has joined the administration has become beshmutzed in the process, shown either to be a creep or wound up acting like one.
We have Trump’s top policy advisor Steven Miller, who looks like a neo-Nazi and who so often acts like one, saying and doing horrible things about and to immigrants, saying crazy things like how the “president cannot be questioned.” We have Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who it is becoming clearer each day, is a major crook and an ignorant, arrogant weenie. Just the latest news is about how, when he was running his real estate empire, he falsified building permits and harassed tenants in rent-controlled apartments, forcing them to leave.
And now we have the only Jew in the cabinet, David Shulkin, head of the VA, who it has been shown has been having a fun time on the taxpayer’s dime. He took basically a vacation trip to Europe, brought his wife along, and had all of us pay for it, in both legal and moral violation of government rules. Trump is said to be mad at him, not for what he did, but that he got caught.
But what really gripes me is not only that every single Jew who is part of the administration brings shame upon the Jewish people, but that Trump is also bringing in Jews who are Jews, but who think they are not. First, we had one of Trump’s lawyers, Jay Sekulow, a nice Jewish boy born in Brooklyn, who now considers himself a messianic Jew, aka Jew for Jesus. He even wrote a long web posting telling the world about how, though born a Jew, he found salvation in you know who.
And now, we have Trump’s new top economic advisor, who is replacing the Jew Gary Cohn, who didn’t quit when Trump said there are good neo-Nazis, but did quit because Trump imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum. Showing what really matters to this former Goldman Sachs executive.
Anyway, his replacement is another Jew, Larry Kudlow. Except Kudlow, born Jewish and even bar mitzvahed, will tell you he’s no longer a Jew. Seems he converted to Catholicism because, he says, he was attracted by its “rituals and traditions.” G-d knows, Judaism doesn’t have any of those.
Sekulow and Kudlow make me sick. I try to be a tolerant fellow about all things and all people but I must admit I have no patience for Jews who “switch” religions. First, because whatever they say they’ve found in their new religion is there for them in Judaism, if they had only bothered to look. Second, because if you are born Jewish, you are Jewish for life, period. You don’t want to be observant, you want to make eating chopped liver the be all and end all of being a Jew, fine, zei gezunt, but to pretend you can shed your very essence, trade in your Jewish soul, shows a level of depravity that I find intolerable.
It’s not enough Trump’s Jews are spreading so much shandah, but on top of it, he’s giving us Jews like Sekulow the Jesus lover and Kudlow the Catholic.
Two. Can you please explain to me why it is that those who see themselves as super Orthodox Jews so often not only embrace but venerate crooks and creeps?
I truly don’t understand it. Just as I don’t understand how the vast majority of evangelicals can support Trump, who brags about having the right to grab women by their private parts and who has an affair with a porn star months after his wife gives birth, so I don’t understand how super Orthodox Jews can do the same.
Yes, I understand he recognized Jerusalem as the capitol and yes, he is opposed to abortion and yes, he will let Bibi have any dessert he wants, but does character no longer factor in, does Jewish tradition and law about how a person is to be, what he is to do and not do, not matter anymore?
Trump lies, cheats, name calls, harasses women, insults, all things the Torah is very clear we are not do, and yet the alleged Jewiest among us love the guy, voted for the guy and still are big supporters of the guy. And it’s not just Trump. There’s a guy named Sholom Rubashkin who ran a kosher slaughterhouse in Iowa which violated all kinds of health, safety, labor, immigration, and banking laws, not to mention the very spirit of what kosher is all about. And yet not only was it the super Orthodox who were the most ardent in trying to get him out of jail after he was sentenced to 27 years, but after Trump pardoned him, Rubashkin has been honored all over the super Orthodox community as if he was the second coming of Moses.
He’s been invited to speak at shuls, had dinners held in his honor, met with virtually every major super Orthodox rabbi. It’s one thing to say his years in jail earned him a pardon, but to make him out a hero, to hold him up as a shining star, is to send a strong signal about what kind of behavior, what kind of person is to be celebrated.
And so it is with the Mooch, Anthony Scaramucci, Trump’s communication director for all of 11 days. There is very little doubt that the Mooch is a creep. He took the Trump job without even telling his then pregnant wife. While working in the White House, he went on an obscenity filled tirade calling his White House colleagues the vilest of names. And yet the Mooch too has been a golden boy among the super Orthodox. A couple of months ago, a super Orthodox group took him to Israel as their guest. And just last week, the Mooch was the guest of honor at the annual dinner of the National Council of Young Israel, a super Orthodox organization. Yes, guest of honor.
Finally, Malcolm and Mayim. I wrote last week that Malcolm Hoenlein, who has done more damage to the Jewish community than any other organizational leader in the last 30 years, announced his retirement from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, a group that serves as the voice of American Jewry.
Well, sadly, not so fast. Malcolm clarified that he isn’t going anywhere. What he meant, he said, is that he has begun a transition process that will take one to two years to find his replacement. And Hoenlein insisted that even when the conference selects a new executive, “I am not going to leave. I’m going to hang around. I will remain, no matter what,” he said. No matter how much more damage he does, no matter how much more he fails to represent the range of views among American Jews.
But that’s not all we learned this week about Malcolm. Seems that while he is serving as the professional head of one of American Jewry’s most influential organizations, he at the very same time sits on the board of a large Israeli energy company.
Since June 2017, he has been on the board of directors of Delek Drilling, a private company that is a major stakeholder in Israel’s large offshore natural gas fields. Note please that the Conference of Presidents has been active on issues relevant to Delek’s operations. Note also please that the conference’s constituent groups did not know about Hoenlein’s seat on the Delek board, for which he is paid.
His role at the energy company may explain Hoenlein’s positive assessments of Egyptian strongman Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Sisi’s government recently signed a $15 billion deal to buy energy from Delek and Noble Energy, which control the natural gas fields. Malcolm has also been an advocate of stronger ties between Israel and Cyprus and Greece, which Hoenlein calls a “Mediterranean alternative” to Israel’s hostile neighbors. Oh, coincidentally, a pipeline from the natural gas fields would run through Cypriot waters.
Yet another example of Malcolm’s horrible, destructive leadership, and of the tenuous connection between prominent Jews today and Jewish values.
Finally, Mayim Bialik, star of ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ Every year to mark Israel’s Independence Day, Israel holds a ceremony on Mt. Herzl where 12 torches are lit by noteworthy Israelis. This year, for the second year, one of the torches will be lit by a member of Diaspora Jewry.
Last year, the Diaspora torch was lit jointly by Michael Steinhardt, co-founder of Birthright Israel, and Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. That’s Steinhardt, an atheist, who has drastically cut back his support for things Jewish because Jewish organizations didn’t just jump to adopt all his hair brained ideas for revolutionizing Jewish life; and Hier, head of the Wiesenthal Center, which honored Harvey Weinstein with its Humanitarian Award, and has refused to rescind that award.
So, great choices last year. This year the names swirling around include Ivanka Trump and Alan Dershowitz. Ivanka, who has been an embarrassment to us all, and Dershowitz, the great lawyer who has blasted Robert Mueller for daring to investigate Trump, so desirous is Dershowitz to frequently appear on Fox News.
And then we have Mayim. Since the process is open to the public, she actually went on Facebook to urge her fans to push for her nomination. Couple things. If you have to campaign for the honor, you are not deserving of having it. Second, why does the honor have to go to the rich or powerful or famous or influential among us? Are there not many worthy Jews in the Diaspora who, through their selfless service, their shining example of righteous behavior, deserve to represent those of us in the Diaspora?
How about, for example, one of those Jewish kids from Parkland, Florida who have been so eloquent in speaking up about the dangers of gun violence. After Steinhardt and Hier, do we really need Ivanka, Dershowitz or Mayim Bialik?
Come on. This is Israel’s 70th anniversary. One would hope that the honor of lighting one of the 12 candles on Mt. Herzl, of being the representative of all of Diaspora Jewry, would go to someone who truly represents the very best of not only Diaspora Jewry, but of Jewish values.
So one would hope. But the ways thing have been going in the Jewish world lately, they’ll probably pick Harvey Weinstein.