Wednesday, January 16, 2019

An Email from an Old Friend

Michael Lumish

An old buddy of mine recently sent me the following note. I am curious about what you guys think of it and of my response.

My friend writes:

"Just curious- what are your thoughts are on the less than full status of ethnic Jews that immigrate and who have great difficulty converting and on the article below. I have difficulty wrapping my head around the ethnic/indigenous concept and reconciling that with a religious/tiered class system. If you have non- believers that are Jews, does any historical or religious argument become weaker? 

There is a greater and greater proportion of Jews in Israel who are not of the Jewish faith or not recognized as such. The rules of determining who is properly religious and how one converts are only getting tougher. 

My concern is this will only further divide the diaspora and create division among the growing "secular" population in Israel.

If you can recommend any reading on the subject, let me know."


My response was:

"Oh, man, these internecine squabbles within Judaism have been going on forever. As a secular Jew, this is not the kind of argument that I tend to get involved with and, from what I can tell, only really has a nominal influence over Israeli / diaspora relations.

My particular area of concern is the growing schism between Israel and the western-left, which is the political movement that I come out of.

The real schism between Israeli Jews and American Jews is over politics. Israelis are more conservative and hawkish while the Americans are more "progressive" and prone to the Democratic Party two-state-solution. American Jews are more concerned about Jewish standing in the world, while Israeli Jews are more concerned about the survival of their kids in the face of majoritarian Arab hostility within the Middle East.

As for ethnic Jews and immigration, that is not a problem. For example, as an ethnic Jew, I have full rights to citizenship within Israel. So, y'know, when the Kossacks come riding through the countryside like Klansmen, I will have someplace to go, as would Laurie, despite the fact that she is not Jewish.

Thankfully, this is not likely to happen in Oakland anytime soon... or so we fervently hope.

Questions do arise concerning the making of aliyah if a person who claims Jewishness does not have a Jewish mother. I am not exactly certain of the rules, but I am pretty sure that anyone who is at least half Jewish is eligible.

In terms of ethnic Judaism versus religious Judaism, many people find this difficult to understand. For me it is as natural as day. Judaism is both an ethnicity (or nation or tribe) and a faith. The Jewish faith is simply the traditional religion of the Jewish nation. Just as one need not be Buddhist to be Chinese, a person of Jewish ethnicity may not be a practitioner of the faith, but is still a Jew.

When you talk about a "religious/tiered class system," however, I am not really certain what you are talking about. Can you clarify what you mean?

Because, y'know, the way that I see it, the Jewish nation is actually the most open nation on the planet. Say, for example, that I was a Francophile and loved French culture and cuisine and the language and the arts and I moved to Paris and converted to Catholicism and lived there many years. I could still never possibly be French. 

This is untrue with Judaism. 

Anyone who jumps through the various hoops that the rabbis fling in your way for conversion and, in fact, converts to the faith is -- voilà  -- one of us. Some Jews are more accepting of converts than others and sometimes the rabbinate in Israel will question a conversion if they believe the source unkosher. Nonetheless, anyone who converts to Judaism is a Jew.

That is it and that is all.

You ask:

<"If you have non-believers that are Jews, does any historical or religious argument become weaker?">

Not in the least. 


It is a bit like asking if the Japanese claim to Japan is weakened by the fact that so few Japanese are Shinto."



Monday, January 14, 2019

Jewish people are not "white."

Michael Lumish

Jewish people are not "white."

That is, if the word "white" refers to a person of European descent then Jews are not "white."

Genetic studies have clearly shown that Jewish people, including the Ashkenazi, are from the Levant. That makes us of Middle Eastern descent. We are the people from the Land of Israel. This is where Jewish culture was formed and the Hebrew language and the Jewish faith and the various traditions, all got their start. This is what makes us indigenous to Israel.

Western feminists and Leftists, like Tamika Mallory of the Women's March, claim that "white Jews" -- because she sees us as "white" people -- are thus White Supremacists... because, naturally, all "white" people are supremacists.

In truth, of course, "whiteness" is not a biological concept. It is a political concept.

When I was growing up to be "white" meant to be a person of European descent, now it refers to something akin to evil.

The racist Left has decided that "whiteness" refers to an oppressive state of consciousness wherein those heinous "white" people lord their "privilege" over their not "white" victims. And now they want to force it down Jewish throats. The notion also reinforces the idea of Israel as a Euro-Colonial "settler state" with the Arabs as the bunny-like indigenous victims.

In the middle of the twentieth-century the Euros did not consider us "white" and many demanded that we repatriate ourselves back to our homeland in "Palestine." Now they do consider us "white" and many progressive-left "people of color" want us to go back to Europe.

In truth, it is just the latest way to screw over the Jews and, thereby, justify the ongoing violence against us from Jerusalem to Paris to Crown Heights... not to mention South Africa where recently the head of the SA Likud was assassinated.

It is a way to rob us of our history and identity in order to force us into the role of the monster... as racists like Mallory and Linda Sarsour and Louis Farrakhan have always done. If the Women's March thinks of itself as anti-racist, it is sadly mistaken. It is blind and it is what racists have always done to the Jewish people.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

A flaw in I Will Await Him's factual reasoning

Sar Shalom

The Lehrhaus has a recent review by Shmuel Silberman of Yirmiyahu Cohen's I Will Await Him (Achekke Lo in Hebrew, from the 12th Ani maamin summarizing Maimonides' 13 principles) arguing why the State of Israel violates halacha. While Silberman makes clear that he does not agree Cohen and explicitly discusses the difference between opposing the birth of a state that doesn't exist yet and calling for the elimination of an existing state, he misses a factual gap in Cohen's case.

Cohen's case against Israel stems from a three-fold oath discussed in Ketubot 111a.
These Oaths adjure the Jewish people not to prematurely end the Exile by (1) rebelling against the nations and (2) ascending to Eretz Yisrael “like a wall.” The third Oath adjures the nations not to oppress Israel “too much.”
Cohen argues that the creation of the State of Israel was a rebellion against the nations because:
The British fled, the UN lacked jurisdiction and their Partition Plan was a recommendation that was never implemented, and the Arabs objected.
Missing from Cohen's case is any mention of the San Remo Declaration and the Treaty of Lausanne. Unlike the subsequent Partition Plan by the UN, the Treaty of Lausanne did have the force of law as a decision by the League of Nations within its authority. Further, that authority was carried forward into the era of the UN by Article 80 of the UN's charter. While the Treaty of Lausanne did not call for creating Jewish sovereignty immediately, it did allocate land for eventual Jewish sovereignty and assigned Britain trusteeship to create the conditions that would facilitate that eventuality. As such, Israel's declaration of independence was merely acting on the rights that the nations had given the Jews 23 years prior and thus was not a rebellion against those nations.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Harry Lumish: May His Memory be a Blessing

Michael Lumish

יהי זכרו לברכה

Hebrew Orphan Asylum,
373 Ralph Avenue, Brooklyn, New York
A few weeks ago my father, Harry Lumish, passed of natural causes just short of his 99th birthday.

The odds of a man born in 1920 and living to the age of 99 are about 200 to 1.

He arrived in this world in Medzhybizh, Ukraine -- the home of Baal Shem Tov and the Chasid Movement -- during a period of violent pogroms. I assume that many of those folks in Crown Heights are actually relatives of mine, but I do not know.

My grandfather, Beryl, fled with his immediate family, including my grandmother, Sarah, from Medzhybizh, because they were not fond of sword and rifle-wielding Kossacks. They were running for their lives. They sought legal access into the United States but were not obliged by the United States government. They were able, however, to relocate briefly to Argentina.

Shortly before the paperwork came through and my family received permission to legally migrate into the United States, my grandfather died and his daughter, my aunt Betty, was born in Argentina. Not long thereafter Sarah passed through Ellis Island with Harry and Betty in her arms on their way to Brooklyn. Before my grandmother got on her feet, they stayed at the Hebrew Orphan Asylum in the Bedford–Stuyvesant neighborhood of that borough. Family legend has it that Sarah actually scrubbed floors at that institution in the early-mid 1920s.

The rest of my father's side of the family who stayed in Medzhybizh were slaughtered by the Germans during World War II under Operation Barbarossa, which was the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. Medzhybizh was simply on the road in one of the German routes to Russia. When the Nazis arrived they separated the Jews from the non-Jews of that small town and put both populations to road building. When that task was done they had the Jews dig ditches. When the ditches were dug they had the Jews line-up within those ditches.

I feel reasonably certain that you know what happened after that. That was when my family lost the great majority of my father's side.

His story, though, like that of many millions of other Americans, is a sort-of classic American truth. He and Sarah and Betty came through Ellis Island with nothing. My dad ran around Brooklyn as a child during the Depression. He described himself as a "wild kid" which is hard for me to grasp because the guy who raised me was a middle-class accountant and philatelist.

{And, I have to say, I have a great deal of affection for that mint Israeli stamp collection that he poured through over decades.}

Shortly before 7 December 1941, which Franklyn Roosevelt referred to as "a date which will live in infamy," he enrolled in St. John's College in New York. His intention was to become an accountant. Unfortunately, the world powers got in the way of that small personal endeavor and they dragged him off to the Central Pacific; Kwajalein, the Marshall Islands, Enewetak. He became a skinny twenty-year-old corporal with a rifle slung over his shoulder, sleeping in foxholes as Japanese snipers shot at United States soldiers from trees.

He lasted the duration of the American participation in the war, but he came through OK... otherwise I would not even be here.

Upon returning home to New York City, he met my mother, Rita, from the Bronx, finished his degree, built a family and moved into the suburbs while listening to Glenn Miller. He did it with practically nothing. What he had was the GI Bill of Rights which paid for the rest of his education.

He had his family.

And he had Glenn Miller who filled his soul.

This is for you, dad.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Wampanoag, Geronimo, and Anti-semitism vs. Anti-Zionism

Sar Shalom

When the settlers first arrived in New England, they formed an alliance with the Wampanoag Indians which protected them from other Indian nations of the region and helped them adapt to the territory. In exchange, the settlers agreed to allow the Wampanoag to maintain their traditional religious ways. This agreement held for the first generation of settlers. The children of these settlers reneged on this agreement and started to move the Wampanoag into "praying villages" in order to teach them a proper Christian lifestyle and obliterate the Wampanoag way of life. The Wampanoag responded with what became known as "King Philip's War," which the settlers won and subsequently exterminated much of the Wampanoag community, comparable to what happened to some Jewish communities in Europe during World War II.

Centuries afterward, the United States started settling the southwest territory, including the Apache homeland. While many Apache resigned themselves to accept foreign control of their land, one notable resister was Geronimo. Eventually, federal forces captured Geronimo, ending the Apache resistance against US control of the native land. During the centuries between King Philip's War and conquering the Apache, America had advanced civilizationally such that Geronimo did not suffer King Philip's fate, that of having his head placed on a pike. Instead, Geronimo was merely brought east of the Mississippi where he subsequently became an honored guest at events like Teddy Roosevelt's inaugural and at the St. Louis World's Fair. However, for all the honors Geronimo received in the East, he was never allowed to travel west of Missouri.

With this background, one can now discuss the relationship between anti-Zionism and anti-semitism. Someone can be an anti-Zionist without believing that what was done to the Wampanoag should be done to the Jews. There are those who believe that that should happen, for instance, there was an event where David Horowitz spoke and a woman from the Muslim Students Association challenged him during question and answer. In response, Horowitz asked if she supports or opposes Hezbollah's statement that they welcome the Jews moving to Israel so as to make it easier to eliminate all of international Jewry in one shot, to which she expressed support. However, that is not an essential element of opposing Zionism. One can oppose Zionism and support Jews receiving all the honors that Geronimo received, provided that they receive those honors, as Geronimo did, far away from their homeland. If you hold no amount of honors bestowed on Geronimo justly compensates him for being torn from his homeland, then you must admit that no honors bestowed on Jews in the diaspora removes the stain of anti-semitism from denying the Jews their homeland.

Update: It was David Horowitz, not Richard Landes as initally reported, who exposed the hater from MSA. I have also added a link to the video and specified the organization of Horowitz's challenger.