Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Prayer for These Troubling Times

An Hour at the Ezra Schwartz’s Shiva Home 
Guest contribution by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz 

Ezra Schwartz, H'YD and his siblings(Forward)
I am once again pleased to host a guest contribution from Rabbi Yakov Horowitz. Unfortunately I am not pleased by the circumstances that generated it. As he indicates below and as I have often wondered, Why does it take tragedies to unite us? And I mean all of us? Even those of us that are not observant. There are very few civilized people that do not sympathize – and even empathize with the victims of terror.

One very prominent Jew showed it by having his sports team observe a moment of silence before a nationally televised game. That Jew is Robert Kraft, owner of the last year’s Superbowl Champions, The New England Patriots. And as a further gesture he was Menachem Avel (paid a Shiva call to) the Schwartz family during the game.

Rabbi Horowitz was also Meanchem Avel the Schwartz family. And brought with him a list of people who had e-mailed their condolences. The rhetorical question asked of God is once again evident: Mi K’Amcha Yisroel? -  Who is like Your people Israel? Rabbi Horowitz’s words follow.

On behalf of Ezra’s parents, Ari and Ruth Schwartz, I would like to thank the 140+ people who took the time from your busy schedules to write shiva/condolence emails to them. The emails were deeply appreciated on so many levels. Ari read the top letter in the stack to the people in the room, and as he scanned the poignant notes from Jews worldwide he was simply overwhelmed that so many people were sharing their family’s sorrow. 

Another 30 emails arrived since I left home early this morning. I will print and overnight those to the Schwartz family tomorrow morning; so if you would like to convey a shiva message to them, please email it to before noon EST tomorrow.

Often, when I find myself at a loss for words to describe something, I “go small” and think of one-word descriptions for those emotions.

Such was the case this morning after a shiva call to the grieving family members of Ezra Schwartz Hy’d, who was recently murdered in yet another horrific terror attack in Eretz Yisroel. And the words that came to mind were:

Ordinary & extraordinary.

Similar feelings permeated the homes of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali last summer when they were sitting shiva for their beloved sons (See Basically; Just What You Saw which I wrote after observing their generosity of spirit during those awful days.)

A consistent theme that emerged during discussions in their home this morning was the level of achdut (unity) they were experiencing – meaning that they were getting emotional support from Jews of all backgrounds and all levels of religious observance.

For example; one of Ezra’s aunts approached me as I was leaving and shared with me that a Satmar chasid who owns a bus company personally drove a bus to New Jersey to pick up friends and family members of the Schwartz family. She was moved to tears as she described how this man they never met took them to Sharon, MA for the funeral, drove them home when it was over – and refused payment!  

After her words settled in, all of us in the room looked at each other, thinking the same thing: “Why does it take unspeakable calamities to engender this level of unity? Shouldn’t we try and maintain this in good times as well?”

With that in mind, permit me to share a prayer that I imagine Reb Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev, the “defense attorney” of the Jewish people, would compose nowadays as the blood of our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisroel is being spilled each day:

“Master of the Universe; we commit ourselves to building and maintaining unity among our people. In this merit, spare us from this gezeira (decree), and usher in the coming of Mashiach, speedily in our times.”

To help us reach that goal; please find below the lyrics of “Aderabe;” a beautiful song which is taken from a moving prayer written by the chassidic master Reb Elimelech of Lizensk.

Here are two musical renditions composed for these verses by my friend Yossi Green; one by Avrohom Fried and one by by Ohad Moskowitz with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

Play it at home, hum it to yourself, teach it to your children and sing it with your family this Shabbos. Speak to your kids about the values these stirring words represent and think of ways you can model these values to them.

Please share these lines and/or a link to this post with your friends and on your social media and let’s collectively work to foster the unity that will usher in Hashem’s blessings to all His children.

Yakov Horowitz  

Aderaba, ten belibeinu
Shenireh kol echad mal’as chavereinu
Velo, velo chesronom

On the contrary, place in our hearts the ability to see only the good in our friends and not their shortcomings

Veshenidaber kol echad es chaveiro
Bederech hayashar veharatzui lefonecha
Ve’al ya’aleh belibeinu, shum sin’ah
Me’echad al chaveiro cholilah

May we speak to each other in a way that is proper and desirable in Your eyes and may there be no hatred between friends, Heaven forbid.

Usechazek osonu be’ahavah, be’ahavah ailecha
Ka’asher goluy veyodua lefanecha
Sheyehei hakol nachas ruach
Nachas ruach ailecha

Strengthen our ties and our bond to You with love, as it is revealed and known to You that we strive to give You only satisfaction and pleasure.

Omain kein yehi rotzon

Amen, may it be your will.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Two Kinds of Terrorism and How to Stop Them

Typical scene of  Palestinians celebrating attacks against the US or  Israel
What will the United States do if it is God forbid attacked by ISIS in a Paris style terrorist attack? I think I know the answer. Or at least what should be the answer for our Commander and Chief whose primary obligation is the security of the American people. Given this assessment, why aren’t we doing that before we are attacked? 

When the homeland is attacked, we must do whatever it takes to defeat the attackers. We have the most powerful and technologically advanced army in the world. Homeland Security says that an attack by ISIS is highly likely – given the promises by them to do so; their proven ability to carry them out; and willingness to do so on pain of death.

This question has been on my mind and the minds of many people ever since ISIS slaughtered 129 innocent people in Paris about 10 days ago. ISIS - and what to do about them has become the focus of both the media and political candidates on both sides of the political aisle. There are almost as many opinions about that as there are people expressing them. 

But the one thing almost everyone agrees upon is that the President’s policy isn’t working. Airstrikes will do a lot of damage. But unless troops are sent in to secure the areas that were bombed, ISIS will just retake them. Nature abhors a vacuum. The world has to respond in a unified manner with joint troops on the ground.

After Paris, US leadership should be able to convince our European allies – and perhaps more importantly to have a untied allied force consisting of proportional members from every civilized nation.  We have to enter Syria; re-take and secure all the land captured by ISIS. If they are defeated to that level, they won’t be able to do much recruiting. 

What to do afterwards? Good question. I have in the past suggested a Marshall Plan of the type that rebuilt a crushed Germany after World War II. It might have to be done a bit differently since Middle Eastern culture is so different from European culture. But I think it can be done if the world (including Syria’s neighbors) unite. But first things first. The status quo cannot be allowed to remain.

But this isn’t even the main purpose of my post. I bring it up in the context of the daily carnage taking place in Israel. Carnage that has been going on for months. Every day we hear of yet another random and sudden attack from individual terrorists. One or two or three killers at a time attacking innocent Israeli civilians going about their business. If one adds up the number of people killed during that time it may number as many as were killed in Paris. 

And yet it is hardly a blip on the world media radar screen.  The focus on this comes mostly from the Jewish media – both secular and religious. Is it any less tragic when terror is spread out over months accumulating masses of victims than it is when it happens all at once? I think not. The victims were all killed or maimed and their families no less affected. In fact I would think that spreading out unlimited terror over time on a daily basis is even more terrifying.

I can understand why the media focuses on the kind of grand scale attack that happened in Paris and not on the daily individual attacks going on in Israel. No one will say it is less tragic. Nor do I believe it is antisemitic. It is just much scarier to see major carnage happening in one day than it is to focus on an individual being killed in Israel on the same day. Making it harder to see it from the perspective that I described. Added to that is the fear of that happening here. By contrast no one is worried that a Palestinian in America will come out of the woodwork and start stabbing people on a daily basis.

Which is why I bring it up. Despite the inclination to see Paris as a much bigger deal than Israel right now, I don’t think it should be. Ask the families of those killed.

The obvious question is what to do about it? How do we stop these knife wielding attackers? The answer to solving this problem is – in my view – exponentially more difficult than solving the ISIS problem. These attacks are generated by on factor. And it isn’t ‘the occupation’. It is plain and simple rabid Jew hatred. 

Arabs in all of Israel’s neighboring countries and beyond have been indoctrinated to hate Jews. Decade upon decade of hate has been instilled into every Arab man, woman and child in the Middle East. They see us as infidel usurpers of their land, coming from Europe under the pretext of a Holocaust that - to many of them - never happened. And even if it did, it isn’t their fault. Why should they give up their land? Our grievances should be to Europe, not to them. Why should they suffer because of what Europe supposedly did to us? They are of the variety that would just as soon exterminate us as look at us.

I don’t see how we can just change hearts and minds now, no matter what we do. This is no doubt what fueled young teenage girls to attacked innocent shoppers in Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda open air market. One of those attacked was an Arab innocently shopping there. Those teenagers thought he was a Jew. 

At this point it doesn’t really matter anymore what precipitated all these attacks. Success breeds more success. So they are no doubt going to continue attacking us this way. So rabid is their hatred of us that they don’t care what happens to them – knowing full well that they may very be killed themselves by police or civilians carrying guns. They don’t care - as long as they succeed in terrorizing us. 

How do you fight something like this?

Ezra Schwartz, H'YD
Which brings me to the following. One of the more heart rending murders reported in the Jewish media is that of 18 year old Ezra Schwartz of Sharon, Massachusetts. He was a was a gap year student at a yeshiva in Bet Shemesh. Can it be that every single Muslim is so heartless to the point of cheering his death? This often seems to be the case among Arabs of he Middle East. 

They see every successful attack against us as a victory for Islam. Who will forget the cheering Palestinian masses on the West Bank as they heard of the successful attack against the World Trade Center. I will never forget those images anymore than I will forget the images of those twin towers coming down. 

But they are not all like that. There are some like Abdul Rahman Ahmad the Imam of a mosque in Sharon.  His condolence letter to the Schwartz family was so poignant that is actually gives me some hope. It can be read in its entirety in the Forward,  who said about it that ‘It was a heartfelt and genuine gesture that did not feel forced or fake’. I agree. We need a lot more Imams like this. And a lot less Imams or Muftis like the far more common Haj Amin al-Husseini types.

And therein lies the problem. This is not the first time I have seen a Muslim leader express sincere regrets over what fellow Muslims are doing to the Jewish people. Nor is it that uncommon to find isolated pockets of cooperation and even love between Arabs and Jews in Israel. Haddasah Hospital comes to mind. They are blind to ethnicity and religion there. 

Sharei Tzedek Hospital is another. Who can forget the lifesaving operation performed by an Arab surgeon there on a young Jewish American woman who was seriously injured on a bus blown up by a Muslim suicide bomber?  They created a bond to each other that no doubt exists to this day.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s something about the nature of hospitals that can break through the hatred. But at least we know it can and does happen. The only problem is that it is so rare, that it is seems to be the exception that proves the rule. Which is the  extreme hatred of the Jew by indigenous Muslims of the Middle East.

The real key to solving the problem there has little if anything to do with settlements. It is all about the over 100 years of hatred passed on from one generation to the next. That has to be changed. How we do that is a mystery to me. But that is the solution. And in my view the only one that will really work.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Female Halachic Advisors

Yoetzet Halacha, Dr. Deena Zimmerman
For me the argument in favor of Yoatzot Halacha is compelling. I have been a supporter of this innovation since I heard about it over 10 years ago. I wrote about it back then. It was one of my earliest posts. I have not changed my view. In fact my support for it has been strengthened.

For those who don’t know – a Yoetzet (singular for Yoatzot) is a halachic adviser specially trained in Hilchos Niddah (commonly referred to as the laws of family purity). These are an intricate set of laws involving a woman’s menstrual cycle and when intimacy with her husband is or isn’t permissible.

Breifly (and perhaps to over- simplify) it is severe violation of Halacha for a man to have sexual relations with a menstruating woman. The violation applies to both the man and the woman. That prohibition remains in place until the menstrual cycle ends. When no more blood is detected and after a short waiting period the woman immerses in a Mikva, and sexual relations between a husband and wife may resume until the next menstrual cycle begins.

Although this sounds pretty straight forward and uncomplicated (I almost hate to use the overused cliché – but here goes…) the devil is in the details. These laws are very complex and require a lot of knowledge to be properly observed. I am not going to go in to any of the details. There are volumes upon volumes of Halachic written material that deal with this issue. Which are certainly beyond the scope of this post.

Although most observant men and women learn the basics prior to marriage, situations often arise requiring more than basic knowledge. These situations require a Shaila (a Halachic question) to be asked of an expert in these laws - a Posek that has studied them extensively and had Shimush – a kind of internship with an experienced Posek in the field.

The problem is that that sex is obviously an embarrassing subject to talk about with your rabbi. Especially for a woman . It cannot be easy for a woman to ask a man a question about the most intimate part of her life. But that is the way it has been done throughout the ages. And it has worked. Up to a point.

But as I have said in the past (and as Shoshana Keats Jaskoll said so much more eloquently than I ever have) embarrassment leads to not asking a Shaila at all in many cases. That results in 2 possible outcomes – neither of which are good. In some cases a couple may think a problem is no big deal and violate these laws. But in a far greater number of cases, refraining unnecessarily creates its own set of Halachic problems. It can also cause serious problems in the relationship – and even prevent conception.

This is where Yoatzot Halacha come in. They have been trained in these laws exclusively and are prepared to answer many common questions that come up. The more difficult questions are referred to a Posek that has the knowledge and the years of experience to answer them properly. The advantages of this system are evident in the statistics cited by Mrs. Jaskoll in her Cross-Currents article: 
To illustrate: in one particular community, the rabbi had been hearing 5-6 questions on taharat hamishpacha over the course of a month; when a yoetzet joined that same community, she received 5-6 taharat hamishpacha questions per DAY. The number of questions skyrocketed when the voice on the other end of the line belonged to a yoetzet…
The yoetzet hotline for halachic questions fields between 30 and 40 questions each night, not including calls made directly to independent or community yoatzot. Approximately 16,000 questions have been catalogued on Nishmat’s website, which gets an average of 300 hits per day. Indeed, it is likely the largest repository of halachic responsa on taharat hamishpacha in the world. 
These statistics speak for themselves. And yet there has been no endorsement of this innovation by any rabbinic leader. Certainly not in the Charedi world, but even in much of the Modern Orthodox world.

I have never understood this opposition. Except to say that it might be rooted in the fear that the Yoatzot Halacha program is rooted in 21st century feminism. Or that they fear the slippery slope. While I’m sure that the first concern may be true in some instances. I don’t think this is what motivates most of the women who seek this knowledge. They are not rabbis and don’t claim to be. They are women who are aware of the need and responded. A need that is mainstream and not based on the spirit of the times that fuels Open Orthodoxy. Nor do  I know of a single Yoetzet that has slid down any kind of slippery slope. To the best of my knowledge none of them have decided to become rabbis. They continue to be Yoatzot and fill a need.

As mentioned Shoshana Jaskoll has written a powerful argument in favor of Yoatzot Halacha in Cross-Currents, I could not agree with her more. That article includes a thoughtful rebuttal by opponents. It is well worth the read. 

What is significant about this is that it was published on a Charedi website. Although Cross-Currents is moderate, I do not recall them ever publishing a view that was in opposition to the broad consensus of Charedi rabbinic leaders. They have done so here. I am also that are other Charedi rabbis (albeit moderate ones) that have changed their minds and are now aboard with this program.

For the record, I did not buy the opposition’s arguments. Their concerns which may or may not be legitimate, pale in comparison to the obvious benefits. Which are primarily enhanced observance of Hilchos Niddah.

Just to refute one of their objections. They seem to be saying that the expertise of a Rabbi who is steeped in these laws having studied them for many years is far more knowledgeable that any Yoetzet ever could be. We should therefore retain the old system and not worry about women being too embarrassed to ask them questions. Because it will be the husband doing the asking.

The problem is that it hasn’t worked to the extent that the Yoatzot program has. One can see that just by the statistics cited above. What about the greater expertise of the Posek? That is actually built into the program. These women are trained to ask them the more difficult questions.

What about the rabbinic opposition to this program? One of the primary arguments made against the innovation of female rabbis is that it is vehemently opposed by all rabbinic leaders of any stature in both Charedi and Modern Orhtodox circles. I am 100% convinced that they will never be accepted. I stand by that.

The opposition to Yoatzot on the other hand has not generated the kind of heat. They have not been ‘thrown out of Orhtodoxy’. In essesne they are tolerated to an extent even if they are opposed in principle.

Chicago has innovated a program of its own. Founded by the Rosh Kollel of the YU Kollel Torah MiTzion, a group of women have been trained to answer common Shailos on Hilchos Niddah and a hot-line has been created. They are not called Yoatzot  in order to avoid the politics of the issue. Nor do they have the extensive training that Yoatzot do. But they essentially perform the same function. And they have a Charedi Posek they ask Shailos to. The Charedi rabbis in the city have not given their blessing. But they have not spoken out against it either. I’m sure it is because they see the value of it.(Not to mention that Charedi Posek that answers the more difficult questions.)

I don’t know if the rabbinic leaders that have opposed Yoatzot will ever come around with a more positive approach rather than a ‘look the other way’ approach. I hope they will. We’ll have to wait and see. But stranger things have happened.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Another Voice in Opposition to Open Orthodoxy

Guest Contribution by Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky

Three recently ordained Open Orthodox Rabbis (Ha'aretz)
Spare me your tears. This might be the response I get for expressing my sentiments about the direction taken by the left wing of Modern Orthodoxy. I understand the umbrage. If I were in their shoes I might feel the same way. But I can’t help it. I am sad - depressed even. I cannot think of a more devastating blow to observant Jewry than yet another break away from it. Especially if it attracts otherwise observant Jews. 

And yet that is exactly what has happened. Open Orthodoxy (OO) has broken away and created a new denomination… for the same reasons the Conservative Movement was created. The latter having been a reaction to the excesses of Reform and designed to appeal to the melting-pot spirit of the times. I am not going to re-hash the problems inherent in OO. I have done that more times than I can count. And as far as this post goes it is almost irrelevant.

What is relevant is that they are becoming increasingly ostracized from mainstream Orthodox movements and rabbis. It is plainly obvious to me that they will never be accepted in their current incarnation. Unless they return to their roots and abandon their questionable compromises in pursuit of current trends, they will become just another heterodox movement. I cannot tell you how much this pains me. I have close relatives that support and are even a part of Open Orthodoxy. Relatives that I love and who are among the finest and most sincere people I know. But then again I also have relatives that belong to the Conservative movement – and I can say the same thing about them.

There are many that ask, ‘Why should they care what those to their right think’? That may be a valid question. But they do care. They would not be fighting so hard to retain their status as Orthodox if they didn’t. That’s what’s so frustrating. I want to retain them under the big tent of Orthodoxy. There is a place for the left just like there is a place for the right. But they have chosen to be divisive while accusing mainstream Orthodoxy of it by their strident opposition to them.

Well I guess it depends which side of the fence one is standing on. But it is they who are departing from the mainstream. The rest of us are just reacting to it. It is with that in mind that I present a submission by Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky. He is yet another voice in an increasing number of voices across the spectrum of Orthodoxy to oppose them. He is responding to an article written in their defense in Ha’aretz. His words follow.

Criticism has been directed at the RCA resolution about ordaining women as being politically based, rather than Halachically based. Rather than obfuscating the issue, I believe the RCA should own up to that accusation, since the justifications given for ordaining women, and for most of the Open Orthodoxy agenda, is political in nature, rather than Halachic. Politically based decisions deserve politically based responses.

A recent article by Yehoshua Looks, published in Ha’aretz, shows just how much the Open Orthodox (OO) agenda is governed by politics, and how little by Halacha and authentic traditional Jewish sources. There is nothing wrong with a Jewish group basing their decisions on sources that are not rooted in Torah. But it can’t be called “Orthodox Judaism”, Open or Otherwise.

Some excerpts from that article make the political nature of their arguments clearer than anything we could accuse them of.

In posing the question about the authority to define Judaism, the author introduces two models of Judaism, implying that both are rooted in the foundations of our tradition: authoritarian and democratic. This certainly smacks of politics, and moving us away from a discussion of religion, since the authority to define Judaism is supposed to be the Torah. What he probably meant was “who has the authority to interpret the Torah.” But the dialectic he presents demonstrates without a doubt the he is not speaking about Judaism, but about a politically based aberration of it.
“The authoritarian model views Judaism as theology and dogma. The democratic model is more nuanced (isn’t that a nice-sounding adjective – sk); it views Judaism as process oriented, as a journey, the goal of which is to discover one’s authentic voice (by what measure? – sk) within the tradition.”
While the “democratic” model he describes has no basis in our traditional (authoritarian?) Torah sources, and “process” has always been the foundation of Talmudic study and authentic Halachic decisions, the historical example used to illustrate this “democratic” model demonstrates the complete inverse of his thesis.

In an almost breathtaking sleight of hand, he contrasts...
“…the authoritarian mitnagdim (those opposed) and the original Hasidim, the Baal Shem Tov and those that followed him. The Baal Shem Tov saw the holiness in all human beings, as a spark waiting to be ignited.”
So original Hasidim and the Baal Shem Tov serve as the source of this “democratic model” in contrast to the authoritarian model! The Baal Shem Tov, and most Hasidic Rebbes must be turning in their graves. Hassidut was always a completely authoritarian model of Judaism – the Rebbe’s voice was THE authority, unquestionably followed.

What Hassidut introduced was the emphasis placed on daily actions of the simple Jew, in contrast to the emphasis on a more intellectual practice of Judaism. But to use this as a model to justify the free-for-all that OO is creating in the Halachic decision making process is a perversion of Jewish history and Jewish philosophy. Calling this “democratic” is one of many indications of the truly political dimension of OO.
After misrepresenting Hasidut in a way that was sure to make the Baal Shem Tov turn over in his grave, he quotes Hertzel Hefter quoting Eric Fromm about proper way for the Halachic system to operated, implying that our great poskim from Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and Rav Moshe Feinstein back to the Vilan Gaon, with their “authoritarian “view, create the danger that our relationship with God was becoming stagnant and ossified.

Anyone delving in to the finely tuned balance of fidelity to our sources and penetrating vision of the contemporary situations manifest in the complex responsa of these poskim, would find it an uniformed insult to accuse them of being “blind to the unique circumstances of the present. And instead seeing them only in terms of the past, …incapable of appreciating the challenge of what is new and fresh… characterized by fear and lack of faith in the Torah’s ability to meet the challenges of the present authentically.

Really amazing words.

It is of course the OO people who have no faith in the ability of the Torah to authentically meet those challenges. That is precisely why they need to import political arguments to justify their positions, while casting doubt on the Divine nature of the Torah and Talmud on which we base our Judaism. We have been through this before. The arguments they use are not new. They are valid from a political and even religious perspective. They just have nothing to do with Orthodox Judaism. Their insistence to the contrary leads them right in to historical revisionism and logical fallacies.

Public discourse is wonderful for political decisions. I don’t think the author would want a cardiologist or oncologist to throw open life and death decisions to public discourse influenced by political agendas. And he would certainly insist that “seats at the table” to make these decisions not be open to doctors whose credentials are based on internet degrees or access to searchable databases.

In medicine we want our opinions coming from great doctors with many years of rigorous study, training, and field experience. We want their qualifications screened and acknowledged by a broad spectrum of other experts. The foundation of Orthodox Judaism is the belief in a Torah, both written and Oral, that is a Divinely revealed system. The transmission and interpretation of that system was given over by God to human beings who are completely immersed in the study and continuity of that system, and our standards for “seats at the table” are very high. 

If Open Orthodoxy wants to be a player in influencing the ongoing development of Torah Judaism, it has to start by being Orthodox. Otherwise, it will suffer the same fate we are witnessing with other heterodox movements in Judaism.

Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky is co-founder and Dean of Shapell’s/Darche Noam and Midreshet Rachel v’Chaya in Jerusalem. He has been involved in the education of English speaking Ba’alei Tshuva for 35 years, and has over 3,000 graduates. (Bio from Klal Perspectives)

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Differences are Significant

Abdelhamid Abaaoud 
I guess my article opposing Syrian refugees entry into this country at this point in time - resonated with both supporters and opponents of that view. I was interviewed by’s Cody Derespina yesterday after he read my article in the Times of Israel. He has published my off the cuff responses in his own Fox News article. Which is sympathetic to my point of view. Which I truly appreciate.

But  Ha’aretz columnist, Chemi Shalev had a different take. Quoting from my Jewish Press article he argued against my primary reasons for severely restricting Syrian refugees entry into the United States. Here is the excerpt he published from my blog: 
“There is a big difference between Jews seeking refuge then and the Syrian Muslims seeking it now,” blogger Harry Maryles wrote in an article published in the right wing Jewish Press, in an effort to explain how a Jew whose parents survived the Holocaust could join the restrictionists. “Not a single subset of the Jewish people threatened the world with take-over under a caliphate. They were not threatening to destroy democracies like Israel or rattling their sabers shouting, ‘Death to America’. Or burning American flags. No segment of Jewry was beheading infidels. No Jew ever blew himself up in a suicide attack. There was not a single Jew that wanted anything more than refuge in a safe country.” 
To me that makes all the difference in the world.

As I said ISIS has caused so many Syrians to uproot themselves from the only home they ever knew and make a dangerous trek into foreign countries unsure of what their fate would be. Those images broadcast all over the world is one of the hardest things that I have ever witnessed. The obvious identification I have with them as a child of the Holocaust is palpable. That’s because (as many supporters of allowing Syrian refugees into this country have noted) we Jews know what it means to seek refuge and be denied it. And we know the carnage against us that ensued because of that. But as I said there are major differences militating for extra caution in our day.

But Shalev tries to undermine those reasons. Here in part was his response: 
But that’s easy to say now; it’s not what most Americans believed at the time… For many Americans, the Jews were not refugees running for their lives or simple people looking for save haven. They were Communist agents if they came from Russia, Nazi saboteurs if they hailed from Germany and Austria, criminals, lowlifes, swindlers and scavengers if they arrived from anywhere else. 
These as well as some additional comments along these lines is what negates my arguments according to Shalev. But I would argue that they might actually reinforce them. For example to say that Jews were ‘Nazi saboteurs if they hailed from Germany and Austria’ is such nonsense that only an antisemite would make them.  Can anyone imagine a Jewish Nazi in Hitler’s Germany? 

That Jews were kept out of this country during Hitler’s era for reasons similar to those made today about Syrian refugees is so ridiculous that it hardly deserves a response. But I’ll give one anyway. It is the same response I gave in the first place. 

ISIS Muslims in Syria have proven just how much they desire to sabotage every western democracy in the world, and have clearly indicated that the US is their primary target. Not only with words. But with deeds like those of last Friday in Paris, And again this morning in Mali

It has also been established thaAbdelhamid Abaaoud, the mastermind of the Paris attack immigrated to Belgium through Syria. The likihood of someone like this entering our country as a Syrian refugee is exponentially higher than it was for a German Jew to be a Nazi saboteur in Hitler’s era. If anything Chalev makes my argument for me. There is a major difference between Jews fleeing Nazi Germany seeking refuge here then – and Syrian refugees now that have been shown to have ISIS terrorists embedded with them disguised as refugees. 

In the first instance antisemitism played a major role. In the second instance anti Islamism has nothing to to do with it. How do I know that anti Semitism was the real reason for barring Jews –and not because people really thought they were Nazi Saboteurs? Aside from that being obvious, Chalev answers that question himself: 
Decades of nativist, anti-Semitic incitement that had started with the arrival of waves of Jewish immigrants at the end of the 19th century had left Americans fearful of the hordes of Jews that were coming to take over their livelihood and their lives. 
So I stand by my original opposition. Not because of any innate prejudice against Muslims or Syrians. I do not have an ounce of prejudice against them. And if it were possible to call 411 in Syria and properly vet them, I would welcome them all with open arms. But since that is currently a virtual impossibility, better to be safe them sorry. 

As I have also said, if any Syrian could be properly vetted, I would have no objection. I just don’t think it is really possible. But the humane nature of this country being what it is, security personnel may unknowingly allow ISIS terrorists into this country by giving some of them the benefit of the doubt. We will then have an increased ISIS presence. An ISIS that promises to do to America what they did to Paris last Friday.

What about the fate of these poor refugees and their families? I feel truly sad about the conditions they may be forced to live in. Refugee camps are not Disneyland. But they will live. Literally. Until Syria can be liberated – when they can return to their homeland. Which was not the option Jews had when they were refused refuge. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Agudah and the OTD Phenomenon

Guest Submission

Image taken from Unpious
I received a communication from a highly respected and well credentialed mental health professional. He is not only well respected professionally, but as a Charedi Jew he is well respected religiously by that community as well.

It is with these impressive credentials in mind that I feel his words have added meaning. He speaks from experience about a subject discussed here many times - most recently in a guest submission from a ‘card carrying’ member of Agudah who reported his impression of their recent convention weekend. One of the primary topics of that weekend was about the OTD (Off the Derech) phenomenon. (I hate that phrase but it has become the common identifier of those who were raised to be observant and have chosen to abandon it.)

His observations on this subject should be taken very seriously by all segments of Orthodoxy. These are observations much of which are based on his practice in which many of his clients (they are not really patients) are young people that have gone OTD and/or their parents. In fact Agudah has consulted him on this issue many times. For reasons which will become obvious in his message - he has asked to remain anonymous. I have agreed. My hope is that the Agudah leadership – both lay and rabbinic will somehow read these words and absorb its message. His words follow unedited in their entirety.

I have not viewed any of the videos from the convention, nor have I read detailed transcripts of what the speakers said.  But I perused the comments on the report in an earlier post. Some reactions.

Firstly, some of the commenters would gripe about anything said at the convention, except perhaps Shema Yisroel at davening. 

Secondly, I would join many in expecting the speakers to have presented “party line”, where they bash parents and defend chinuch.  It seems this did not happen. 

Thirdly, it was pleasing to see that they did not make fools of themselves to blame it on the internet (one version of chareidi OCD), which would explain none of the OTD cases that predate the web.  For those who know the OTD scene, the internet follows the move to leave the derech.  It doesn’t cause it or even play a role in the initial steps.

The topic is well chewed already, and the brief breath of fresh air by several speakers finally saying the obvious is welcomed.  I am put off by the nonsensical comments that refer to keeping kids in the fold by “singing extra zmiros on Shabbos”.  That is, defensively, an effort to make Torah and Mitzvos enjoyable. 

The kid that finds davening a pleasant experience, whether the singing, or better yet, the emotional transcendence of connecting to HKB”H, will come on time and not miss.  All the discipline (punishment) in the world cannot accomplish what a little Ahavas Hashem can.  Meanwhile, our average yeshiva talmid is told that the failure to excel or to conform means he is an “oisvorf”.

Pray, tell me, where is the Ahavas Yisroel here, and in what way are we fulfilling the mitzvah of ואהבת את ה' אלקיך –  שיהא שם שמים מתאהב על ידך (יומא פ"ו ע"א)?  The mitzvah of Ahavas Hashem is fulfilled by causing others to take pride in HKB”H and his mitzvos.

Kids go OTD for varying reasons.  Mostly they are emotional, but a few are intellectual.  All cases of OTD are kids escaping.  Why are they running from Yiddishkeit?  Because it is somehow painful for them.  Exactly what and how is unique to each. 

Another common theme, which is actually universal, is rejection.  This rejection can come in the form of abuse (whichever kind is politically acceptable to discuss), or the undeserved punishment, the suspensions and expulsions, the public shaming, the labeling a talmid as a failure, etc.  Ask anyone who has been involved with the kids and/or parents.  The rejection factor is universal. 

The community prefers to avoid this issue, as no one will admit to the mistakes of rejecting, nor does anyone feel safe recognizing the massive amounts of rejection that characterize the current chinuch system.  That is horrifically unpopular. 

The subject of yeshiva expulsions has been discussed in some of the frum media, and it was addressed at Torah Umesorah.  All the Gedolei Yisroel at Torah Umesorah were in agreement that the current state of affairs is not good.  There is better understanding of the subject now than there ever was, but the fears about tampering with the status quo of chinuch are intense.  Overcoming them will be a challenge, at the very least. 

It is easier, in the short run, to exact punishment and compel every talmid to comply with rules and conform.  But this will rarely, if ever, produce a talmid who loves Yiddishkeit, Torah and Mitzvos, and conducts his life with Ahavas Hashem.

Many of today’s Gedolim speak to the public about the critical role of Emunoh.  But there is precious little in the curriculum of the yeshiva that helps talmidim develop and refine emunoh.  The speakers at the convention highlighted that, from the panelists on the OTD forum, the Sadigurer Rebbe shlit”a, and others. 

Mechanchim are notorious for refusing to respond to questions on the subject, and are more apt to label the questioner an apikores and slate them for expulsion.  This rash statement is not outdated, nor is it exaggeration.  Everyone has questions, and we should engage in the process of inquiry until we reach a satisfactory answer.

I have no answer for the community at large.  I do, however, lend my voice to those who seek to instill Ahavas Hashem in children from birth and onward.  If we are told לפתח חטאת רובץ, we should at least try to counter with the soul gratifying connection to HKB”H.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Open Orthodoxy, Modern Orthodoxy, and Rav Aharon Feldman

OO founder Rabbi Avi Weiss and Rabba Sara Hurwitz
There is an interview (excerpted from Hamodia) with Ner Israel Rosh HaYeshiva and Agudah Moetzes member, Rav Aharon Feldman - on Cross-Currents. It is on the subject of Open Orthodoxy - in response to the Agudah Moetzes condemnation of the movement.

I have had more than one disagreement with Rabbi Feldman. For example on the subject of banning the books of Rabbi Natan Slifkin which deal with Torah and science, he supported the ruling of Rav Elyashiv. Who banned those books calling them Apikursus (heresy). That was an abrupt change for Rabbi Feldman, who until Rav Elyashiv’s ban endorsed those books.

On the other hand, Rabbi Feldman’s poignant words about homosexuals struggling with same sex attractions are something I agreed with.

On the issue of Open Orthodoxy, he and I are in general agreement. If what he has quoted them saying is true, I don’t see how anyone can consider them Orthodox at all. Here is what he said in response to a question of what Halachic bounds they have crossed: 
The basis of Orthodox Judaism is a belief in the Divine origin of both the Oral and Written Torah. Yeshivat Chovevei Torah’s (YCT) leaders or their graduates have said clearly or implicitly on many occasions that they do not accept that the Torah was authored by Hashem, that parts of the Torah can be excised, and that the Oral Law was developed by Rabbis to adjust the Written Torah to the realities of the time that they lived in. This basic philosophy is what writes them out of Orthodox Jewry. 
He later added: 
The positions their leaders have espoused put them unmistakably beyond the pale of Torah Judaism, and have made them no di­fferent than the Reform or Conservative movements who admittedly deny the divinity of the Torah. One of their lecturers wrote that the Divine Word depends on man’s moral consciousness and that the moral compass of man writes the Torah. This idea, which was praised by Asher Lopatin, president of YCT, is total kefirah. The foundation of Torah Judaism is the belief in the divinity of the entire Torah, and by such statements they have openly written themselves out of the Torah community. 
These are sentiments I have expressed on this subject before. Many times. I was challenged by those sympathizing with Open Orthodoxy saying that Modern Orthodoxy itself is considered outside the pale and that as a Centrist right wing member of Modern Orthodoxy I too would be considered outside the pale! That was addressed by Rabbi Feldman as well. And he clearly stated that Modern Orthodox Jews are clearly  well ‘within the pale’: 
Modern Orthodox leaders are clear about their belief in Torah miSinai. Their core beliefs are the same as those of anyone else in the frum world. But Open Orthodoxy is a movement purporting to be Orthodox while espousing the theology of the Reform and Conservative movements. That’s something that the world has to be made aware of… 
(C)hareidim are not an isolated group. We are one Jewish people. This is especially so as regards the Modern Orthodox, who share our fundamental belief system. Open Orthodoxy is something that is cutting away at the fringes of Am Yisrael. It’s the business of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah to care about Klal Yisrael. We cannot only be concerned if our Shabbos kugel comes out well; we must worry about the Jewish people as a whole. 
My only quibble with Rabbi Feldman is what he said about the RCA. That their rejection of female rabbis misses the point - which is their denial of the fundamentals of belief in the Torah. While I agree that this is indeed where Open Orthodoxy went wrong (and have said so repeatedly) it is unfair to label the RCA as missing the point. 

They were not addressing Open Orthodoxy. I'm sure that the most members of the RCA would agree that denying the fundamentals of belief is a game changer. They just targeted an issue that felt was concretely undermining Modern Orthodoxy. Some Modern Orthodox Shuls were beginning to hire female rabbis (Maharats, Rabbas...) as interns and the like. They wanted to nip this in the bud by making a clear statement that Shuls what do this undermine the ideals of Modern Orthodoxy.

One can ask why they didn't address the larger issue of Open Orthodoxy. But it is unfair to say they missed the point.

The interview published in Cross-Currents is well worth reading. I’m sure that it will generate a lot of push-back from Open Orthodox supporters. Some of it heated. Which is fine. I have no issue with that. But I will again state the obvious. All disagreement should be respectful. Please leave the vitriol out of it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Agudah Convention, an Insider's View

Guest Contributor

Dr. Jerry Lob addressing the Agudah convention (YWN)
Those who read this blog regularly know that I have my issues with the Agudah. But they will also know that I still consider Agudath Israel of America to be an asset to the Jewish people. My issues are usually in the form of disagreeing with the opinions of their rabbinic leadership on various issues - mostly based on our differing Hashkafos. And they will know that I nevertheless have great respect for them as rabbinic leaders. Disagreement does not equal disrespect.  

It is with this in mind that I offered a self described ‘active card carrying member of Agudah who attended their recent annual convention to report on what he saw. This should not be seen as any endorsement of what they said, nor should it be seen as disagreement with it. It should only be seen as an insider’s honest perspective. He submitted the following guest post yesterday which I present in full. Needless to say, if there is any disagreement or criticism offered in the commentary, it should be done in a respectful manner. I will not tolerate any mean spirited comments. His words follow.

I am a regular reader of Rabbi Maryles’s blog, and although we do not always agree, I do appreciate his insights and very thoughtful essays.

Full disclosure, although for various reasons I am remaining anonymous, Rabbi Maryles knows who I am. I am what one would describe as a card carrying active member of Agudath Israel, and I attended the convention held this past weekend in Stamford CT.

As two of the topics discussed at length by the convention were topics that have garnered much discussion on this blog recently, namely kids going OTD and Open Orthodoxy, Rabbi Maryles was gracious to allow me to share some thoughts heard at the convention

When the convention program was first released to the public, and it was revealed that there would be a major session on kids going off the Derech (OTD), Rabbi Maryles lamented the fact that a personality such as Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz was not part of that panel. While I have no idea if he was invited or not and was not present at the conclave, Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, the Agudah CEO, in his keynote address  did reference Rabbi Horowitz and said that it was from that very podium of the convention some years back, where Rabbi Horowitz first mentioned the problem of "kids at risk".

The actual speakers at the session were Rabbi Dr. Yitzchok (Jerry) Lob, a psychologist from Chicago, Rabbi Mordechai Becher a senior lecturer for gateways and Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff, Rav of the Agudath Israel Bais Binyomin Shul in Flatbush., formerly a Rav in Minneapolos, MN.

 All three speakers at the session stressed in one form or another importance of giving time and attention to kids as one of the main ways to prevent kids from going OTD. Surprisingly there was very little talk of kids going off for emotional or intellectual reasons.

Rabbi Lob told a poignant story about Rabbi Zev Cohen who on his way to shul one Shabbos crossed a street to stop into a park where kids were hanging out. None of the boys were wearing yarmulkes and many of the girls were dressed in a manner that a person like Rabbi Cohen would not want to see. Nevertheless he walked over to a boy without a yarmulke smoking a cigarette, told him Good Shabbos, it’s great to see you and gave him a hug all while the kid still had a cigarette in his hand. He then gave the same greeting (sans the hug) to many of the girls as well. Dr. Lob said that one of the kids was his client and lamented to him that if only every Rabbi would show the love of Rabbi Cohen he would have turned out differently.

Dr. Lob also shared his own experience as a fifth grader where he had a Rebbi that was so cruel to him, he actually wished this rebbe would die. In a similar vein, Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein, in another session over Shabbos, recounted how he was beaten in the third grade, Both Rabbis Lob and Wallerstein felt that it was actions like those that turn kids OTD, and how fortunate we are that both of them were able to rise above it and become the accomplished people that they are.

Rabbi Mordechai Becher from Gateways stresse three important points. 1) to allow kids to ask questions 2) to not put down others 3) to teach basic emunah from an early age.

It was a much inspiring program and can be seen on video here

In the keynote session on Motzei Shabbos the Sadigura Rebbe from Israel Rabbi Yisroel Moshe Friedman ( who grew up in the US and speaks perfect English) touched on the same theme. He related how he was once sent to test a class of 13 and 14 year olds on maseches kiddushin. Before he asked them the questions he had prepared he asked a few basic ones. 

He asked one boy why do you wear tefillin and the boy said because my father bought them for me. Another boy said he keeps Shabbos because that's how they do it in his house.  He realized how so many boys are not aware of the basic elements of yiddishkeit and felt that is a reason why they go OTD.The rebbe related how the Sefer HaChinuch, written about 800 years ago, writes in his introduction that he is teaching taamei hamitzvoth so children should not go astray

There was also discussion on open orthodoxy. The Novominsker Rebbe in his address (delivered via video, as he was in Israel for the wedding of a grandchild) referred to the “apikursus of that new malignancy called open orthodoxy".

There was even a special session devoted to it Friday night with Rav Aaron Feldman, Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Yisroel of Baltimore and Rabbi Aaron Lopiansky Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Gedola of Greater Washington in Silver Springs. Rav Feldman explained some of the rationale behind the recent psak of the Moetzes which does not recognize OO rabbis as a need to draw a line in light of the many questionable rulings and thoughts that have emanated from this movement.  Rav Lopinasky related that seven shuls in the Greater Washington area already have OO rabbis.

Someone asked Rav Feldman why if there are perhaps 100 students at YCT, why should we even care. After all there are probably 100 kids born in Lakewood each week. The Rosh Yeshiva answered that those in the Brooklyn, Lakewood, Monsey corridor are often unaware of what goes on out of town, but  that many shuls are looking to hire YCT graduates, as they subsidize their salary for the first year and it is becoming a real threat.

He gave an example by using their approach to Akeidas Yitzchok which he says has become a favorite Rosh Hashonoh drasha with many expressing the sentiment that Avrohom went to far. In an article in Hamodia he quotes Sara Hurwitz (first Rabbah) as saying 'Avraham's willingness to sacrifice Yitzchok went too far... and is unrecognizable from the Avrohom we encountered up to this point". 

Said  Rav Feldman “Consider that based on this test Hashem called him a "yirei elokim (fearer of God) and promised great things for his descendants, how can we even begin to question Avrohom’s actions in the Akeida, which plays such  a central role in Yidishkeit, It is one of the reasons we blow Shofar on Rosh Hashonoh, and  indeed Avrohom’s willingness to sacrifice his son plays such a central role in our Tefillos on Yomin Noraim especially the bracha of Zichronos on Mussaf  of Rosh Hashonoh which is primarily based on the akeida.

As the session was on Shabbos, there is of course no video of it, but suffice to say it certainly garnered much reaction.

Monday, November 16, 2015

What about the Refugees?

Muslim refugees stuck in Hungary back in March
Who can forget the scenes just a few months ago of Muslim refugees primarily from war torn Syria who risked life and limb crossing dangerous waters in an attempt to escape the horrors of war and find refuge in Europe – or even America. The by now famous image of a Hungarian border guard carrying the lifeless body of a small child out of the water could not have been more heart wrenching.

Nor could the sense of outrage felt by many who viewed the hard line of many European countries that refused these refugees entry. This is how I felt viewing those images. On the other hand some countries did accept – or promised to accept - a limited amount of refugees, including the United States, the Medina Shel Chesed. France took in some of those refugees too. One or more of them (who came in via Greece) ended up as one of the perpetrators of last Friday’s terrorist attack in Paris that took the lives of 129 people and injured hundreds of others.

The Syrian suicide bomber that came in with refugees
That raises a serious question. Should the United States now allow those refugees in? Do we deny entry to all of those desperate innocent people just because a suicide bomber might come in with them?

For me the answer is very clear.  Absolutely. That may surprise some people. I am after all a child of the Holocaust. My parents were survivors who hid out during the war under deplorable conditions – living every day with the fear that they may be discovered by the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz. If anyone should support refuge for people whose lives are threatened by the likes of ISIS, it should be people whose close family members had similar experiences during the Holocaust and denied refuge in America. 

Images of the St. Louis come to mind. The St. Louis was a ship that set sail from Germany in 1939 packed with 908 German Jews seeking refuge in the United States, Canada, and Cuba – and denied entry!? We know what happened to them. Most of them perished in European countries that eventually did accept them but were later overrun by the Nazis. How can I not have sympathy for people that are seeking the same thing now? Have I not learned  anything from that experience?

There is a big difference between Jews seeking refuge then and the Syrian Muslims seeking it now. Not a single subset of the Jewish people threatened the world with take-over under a caliphate. They were not threatening to destroy democracies like Israel or rattling their sabers shouting, ‘Death to America’. Or burning American flags.No segment of Jewry was beheading infidels. No Jew ever blew himself up in a suicide attack. 

There was not a single Jew that wanted anything more than refuge in a safe country. Staying in Europe under a genocidal Nazi regime was a sure death sentence. Every single Jew was to be murdered under them. There were no choices given to them to convert to Nazism or die as there is to Syrian Muslims to convert to the ISIS version of Islam or die.

Now it’s true that the vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists. And that almost all of those seeking refuge today – do so legitimately with no ulterior motive. But the key word there is ‘almost’. There are enough ISIS type Muslims that will infiltrate the refugees and cross the border with them – only to come back and blow themselves up in front of a soccer stadium.

No country should be asked to accept that risk. Difficult as it is for me to say that refuge to so many innocent people in such desperate straits should be denied -  if I were in charge, I would have no choice but to protect the American people from that kind of threat. France has learned that the hard way and has closed its borders. I don’t think we should wait until it happens to us before we do that. At least as far as Syrian or Iraqi refugees are concerned.

There are those who might say that there is a way to allow the refugees into our country by vetting them. Homeland Security will do their due diligence to distinguish between those sincere in seeking only refuge, and ISIS terrorists that come in camouflaged as refugees. That would be wonderful solution if it were possible. But as Senator Marco Rubio said when asked that question yesterday, ’Who are you going to call in Syria to find out if a given refugee is who he says he is’?

So accepting refugees wholesale is just too dangerous at this point in time. I do not want to live in a neighborhood where Syrian refugees will have settled. Which in Chicago would very likely be in the Rogers Park area where I live. And where 2 of my daughters and their families live.  There is a very large population of Muslims living in that area right now and a natural destination for them..

That said, I would allow for exceptions where a refugee could be truly vetted. But since the likelihood of vetting 65,000 refugees (the number we have agreed to take in, if I understand correctly) is virtually  impossible, I would prevent that from happening.

What about the pain and suffering that will result from all those people being denied refuge? I have no answer. As a child of the Holocaust, my heart goes out to them. I fully understand their predicament. It is just as gut wrenching to me now as it was before. But we cannot afford to take the chance of letting an ISIS Jihadist slip through with them. ISIS has promised to do us what they did to France. It is only a matter of time. The least we can do is not help them.

The ultimate solution for those refugees is to get them their country back. Along with the rest of the civilized world - we can do that. We just need the will.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Idiot Rabbis and the World at War

Colors of the French Flag on the 'old city' walls in Jerusalem (J'lem Post)
It is beyond disgusting. But Rabbi Dov Lior is unfortunately not alone in making the kind of obscene statements VIN reported him to have made. Rabbi Lior was the Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Arba, the Israeli settlement town near Chevron. I have nothing but contempt for a leader that justifies the mass murder of innocent people. But that is exactly what he did: 
(Rabbi Lior) told mourners on Saturday during the funeral of an Israeli father and son gunned down by Palestinian terrorists that the attacks in Paris were deserved due to what Europeans “did to our people 70 years ago.”
“The wicked ones in blood-soaked Europe deserve it for what they did to our people 70 years ago,” Lior said. 
This is an indefensible statement. And it deserves worldwide condemnation. Let me be the first – if it hasn’t been done yet.

I don’t know why anyone gives this man any respect. That he is (or was) the chief ‘anything’ let alone a chief rabbi is inexcusable! 

Along with the rest of the civilized world I am saddened by the events of last Friday evening in Paris. 129 people were simultaneously killed in six different Parisian venues by Islamist terrorists. Hundreds more were injured.  ISIS has taken credit for it. This happened not to much after they brought down a Russian airliner over the Sinai Peninsula killing all passengers - in retaliation for Russian activity against them in Syria. (And possibly in retaliation for killing Jihad John - the British citizen who had joined ISIS and beheaded innocent captives on camera.)

It should be clear to anyone who is paying the slightest bit of attention that US policy with respect to fighting ISIS isn’t working. It is a complete failure. Someone in the Obama administration needs to stand up and tell that to the President.  We need a new strategy. This attack should make clear to all what has been clear to me for quite some time now. ISIS cannot allowed to continue to exist. The civilized world needs to unite in common purpose: to completely defeat these barbarians by destroying every last vestige of them. There can be no other strategy. The French President said it right. This was an act of war. Pope Francis this morning called it World War III in piece-meal fashion.

What was the President’s reaction to this attack? He called it a barabaric act of terror perpetrated on the entire free world and has pledged US help in bringing the perpetrators to justice!

Really? This is his reaction?! This isn’t about some criminal street gang that has to be captured and brought to trial. This is an organized war against all of civilization and has to be fought on that level. ISIS and other Jihadists sympathetic to their cause needs to be defeated no less that the Nazis of World War II. And similar resolve and actions need to be undertaken along with.

The civilized world needs to unite. And just as in WWII where the US led the allies in defeating the Nazi evil, so too the US needs to take the leadership role now. It is in fact our invasion of Iraq toppling Saddam Hussein that has led to all of this. Is there any doubt that ISIS would have never gotten off the ground has Hussein been in power? …a man who had no compunction gassing tens of thousands his own people (the Kurds) when they challenged his power? He was an evil man. But killing him only opened up the current Pandora’s box! The hornets nest was stirred. And these are its results.

The model should be the invasion at Normandy Beach under the leadership of Dwight D. Eisenhower. Yes that will unfortunately mean ‘boots on the ground’. Enough boots that will do the job.  We must demand our allies in Europe and the Middle East contribute some of those boots. But the US will have to provide some too. And in the event that our allies don’t provide enough, we have to. This is not about fighting some foreign war that has no connection to us - over issues that we are not responsible for. This is not Viet Nam.

As noted, we do have some responsibility here. ISIS and their Islamist Jihadist buddies consider the US to be enemy number one. They have sworn to attack the US in the same way they attacked Paris. Now is the time for the US to act – before something like this happens here. The President has to act like the Commander in Chief that he is. And do what is necessary to defeat this monster. Nothing less than the fate of the free world is at stake.

There are those who might say that the American people do not have the stomach to send their sons into yet another foreign war. I don’t know if that is still true in light of what the world now faces if ISIS is not defeated. But even if it is, what is required here is doing the right thing – even if it does not get the approval of all the American people. Besides, the American army is an all volunteer army. Those who serve - enlisted knowing the risks to their lives it might entail. Armies are by nature subject to danger. Furthermore there are a lot of patriotic American soldiers that will be proud and be the first to volunteer for missions in Iraq and Syria. They are the true defenders of liberty – heroes that deserve our support and encouragement.

I have said in the past that fighting ISIS and other Jihadist is a far more difficult task since we are really fighting an ideology based in religious belief. This is true. You can’t kill an idea. But you can kill the people that promote it. Killing believers just makes the surviving believers more determined to succeed. Death is not a deterrent to religious fanatics that see themselves as martyrs for God. But the fact that it is more difficult should not weaken our resolve. It should strengthen it. Unless they are completely defeated, they will continue their ‘fight for God’. Something they have been pretty adept at doing.

If I were the President I would take this opportunity to create a new allied force of civilized nations to fight ISIS with everything we’ve got in our arsenal. The ‘diplomacy’ that has been the hallmark of the Obama administration simply cannot be applied here. Military action is the only real option we have with Islamist Jihadists.  They do not compromise their beliefs. They need to be completely wiped off the map (to borrow a phrase from Iran about Israel).

This is what needs to be done. If Obama does not step up to be the leader of the free world  he is supposed to be , he may go down as the worst President in history.