Rabbis’ ‘magical thinking’
The Dec. 10 issue contained news of a letter written by HIAS to Congress and signed by 1,200-plus rabbis (“1,200 rabbis tell Congress to welcome refugees,” WJW). The full wording of the letter is available at the HIAS.org website.
The letter, which has a date of Nov. 17, proclaims that the refugee-vetting program is very secure and there is no need for congressional action to improve security. This was after the FBI director on Oct. 20 stated that there was no sure way to distinguish a genuine refugee from a predatory migrant. This is also after numerous former [Guantanamo Bay detention camp] detainees, released after thousands of hours of vetting found them to not be a threat, have returned to active terrorism.
The letter was delivered to Congress on Dec. 2 — the same day as the San Bernardino terror attack, which demonstrated a failure to distinguish a terrorist in a K-1 visa application. I think this shows the 1,200 rabbis are engaging in a form of magical thinking and also, perhaps, pathological altruism.
HIAS ignores threat from refugees
It is alarming to see a full page HIAS ad (Dec. 10, WJW) listing the names of 20 percent of American rabbis advocating open borders for Middle East refugees. It compares the plight of Jews in the 1930s with the plight of these refugees.
Despite its prior excellent reputation assisting Jews in distress throughout the world, HIAS has now sullied this record by wearing blinders while striving to be politically correct. “Refugees” include individuals from Syria, Pakistan, Iraq, etc., with some dedicated to destruction of our way of life. HIAS ignores the worldwide threat of vast numbers of Muslims to Jews, whether in Israel or not.
The rabbis disregard the testimonies of FBI, CIA and DHS officials that there is no way these “refugees” can now be vetted. There are no reliable databases or ground intelligence systems available to identify and vet “refugees” and to thwart the Islamic State promise to infiltrate.
It is ludicrous to compare the plight of the 1930 Jews with these refugees. Jews were no danger to America. Jews had no other place on earth to go, in contrast to the 57 Islamic countries available to migrant Muslims. Jews assimilated into America as distinct from vast numbers of Muslims wanting to come to the West, not to assimilate, but to practice and hopefully impose their concept of Islam with many, according to recent polls, desirous of living under Sharia [law].
The nation has just recoiled at the horror of the murder of 14 Americans in California by radical Islamic terrorists. Our entry officials failed to detect the sordid history of the murderer prior to entry into America. Do we really want to witness the likely influx of additional radical Islamists from within the ranks of these “refugees” who could join forces with existing threats in the country?
A struggle for identity
Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz emphasizes (“Chanukah: Creating a light that will be meaningful,” Voices, WJW, Dec. 10,) that “what interested the assimilated Jews was the Greek gymnasium, the contemporary sports … .” This cult of the physical body epitomized what the Maccabees resisted, opposed and actively fought against.
How ironic and hyper-assimilationist then, that in recent history, so many Jewish sports organizations (including those affiliated with synagogues) have adopted as their nickname “the Maccabees.” Moreover, the international Jewish Olympics is known as the Maccabiah Games.
A contemporary equivalent would be like creating a Jewish Stockbroker of the Year award and then naming it the “Bernie Madoff Prize.”
Steinsaltz contends that the “very essence of Chanukah … is the struggle for identity.”
If so, that struggle has long been lost.
Another achievement for Haberman
In your Dec. 10 issue, an article profiles Rabbi Joshua O. Haberman (“The book of Joshua,” WJW).
Here’s one more item to add to his considerable achievements as a rabbi: He has served as a guest chaplain in Congress seven times. That ties him for the second-highest number of times in history a rabbi has opened a session of the House or Senate in prayer (eight is the most for a rabbi).
Haberman was Senate guest chaplain six times and House guest chaplain once.
In February 1995, he opened the Senate with prayer on four consecutive legislative days, an unmatched record for a rabbi.
Also, Rabbi Haberman’s June 4, 1985, prayer opening the House is the oldest guest prayer by a rabbi in Congress for which video still exists.
The danger of Trump
Donald Trump is dangerous, not just because he preaches hate, but because he has an eager, enthusiastic audience. He taps the basest instincts of his followers who are, by the way, voters. These are the same instincts that can trigger secret feelings of delight at the spectacle of a bully taunting a helpless child on a playground; the same instincts that led ordinary Germans, Poles, Ukrainians and others to gleefully cheer on the public torture of Jews in the 1930s and 1940s; the same instincts that fueled slaughters in Srebrenica and Darfur. The not-unfounded fears of this day, elevated by recent attacks in France and the United States, might be giving Trump a rallying point, but without those instincts he would be powerless.
He would just be a man preaching hate from a soap box.
Those who think that Hitler’s rise was an aberration — that it was merely of its time and place, not a part of ordinary society — might reconsider Trump’s rallying calls and their own reactions.
Those who applaud his views might ask themselves, “Why?” They might answer, “Because he isn’t afraid to speak his mind,” or, “Because he has a spine.” But, what about the content of his mind? Doesn’t that matter too? Countless bullies and tyrants — past and present — have spoken their minds and shown plenty of spine, but to what effect?
Those who listen and look on in disgust might ask themselves, “How am I responding to this bully’s playground taunting? What am I doing to push back against his hateful rhetoric? Am I speaking out for my Muslim neighbors? What would I do if called to shelter or protect my neighbors — or anyone else?”
Hopefully, you will do something; hopefully, you will not just listen and look on in disgusted silence.
VICTORIA A. GREENFIELD
The writer is a public-policy analyst in the Washington area. She writes on national security and international economic and social issues, including crime control, and was a senior economist in the Clinton Administration.