16 April 2019

Pesach in America. It's Not Ham on Matzah

American Jewry's greatest challenge (at least until now) has been how to maintain our Jewish identity while living in the most free and accepting land we have ever encountered in our long exile, (Moshiach should come immediately and redeem us all). While Jews have flourished in America, Judaism struggled until it emerged into a strong, vibrant force where yeshivas are over-flowing with both men and women learning at levels in many cases, that their parents and grandparents never would have imagined nor were able to achieve.  The strength and fortitude of previous generations granted us both the blessings of financial and spiritual achievement in America.  Freedom and free will combined with fortitude and sacrifice has created a Torah world that would be envied by Lithuanian, Polish or Belarusian Jews (had they lived to see it HYD).  Freedom and free will also triggered the yetzer hara of those inclined to convince themselves that Hashem's eyes were averted to their misdeeds and fantasies of plausible deniability.

In Egypt, by contrast the struggle was a different one - a two part survival struggle of body  and soul. A nation - Mitzrayim choking individuality with crushing servitude and a Paroh who represents as a god-king an overwhelming personality supplanting all others, erasing respective individuality all at once. Yet the more they Jews were oppressed the stronger they became. 

When HaShem sends Moshe to begin the redemption from Egypt, the task before him seems impossible, enough that he complains about his assignment and experiences rejection by the very people he was sent to liberate.

Against all natural odds, redemption does indeed happen, but only in miraculous ways.  G-d manipulates nature to fight both Egyptian mastery and false moral authority.  Paroh and his Egypt are broken enough to not only allow the Jewish slaves, the lowliest part of their society (but still their society -"their" meaning ownership over domination) to venture away from Egypt  -  but to worship a foreign deity (the Creator, G-d of the Heavens and the Earth, the Jewish people's G-d in a non-Egyptian holiday lasting for three days.  That's it - 3 days.  Physical and spiritual liberation are at hand.

No other event in Jewish history marks the reality of and uniqueness of Jewish existence. Well before the revelation of Torah at Sinai (with which Jews will encounter 50 days later) will eventually record in Dev. 23:9 "..

"For from their beginning, I see them as mountain peaks, and I behold them as hills; it is a nation that will dwell alone, and will not be reckoned among the nations."

No other event in history records the separation of one nation from another nation in such miraculous fashion.  The Haggadah relates:
"Has any G‑d ever tried to take for himself a nation from the midst of another nation, with trials, signs and wonders, with war and with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, and with great manifestations, like all that the L-rd your G‑d, did for you in Egypt before your eyes!"
(Perhaps a strong hand to punish the aggressors and an outstretched arm to draw His people to Himself).

To become a nation of priests, a holy people, and a special treasured people, the Jewish people had to be redeemed from Egypt.  No other holiday in the Jewish calendar screams G-d loves you and wants you to be His own more than Pesach.

Jewish wealth is not houses and gold. The everlasting Jewish wealth is: Being Jews who keep Torah and Mitzvot, and bringing into the world children and grandchildren who keep Torah and Mitzvot.
HaYom Yom Nissan 9

The redemption from Egypt, we learn was solely G-d's doing. G-d rescued Israel, a nation with little merit beyond the promise made to it's Forefather Avraham.

 "And we cried out to the L-rd, the G‑d of our fathers,"

as it is said: "During that long period, the king of Egypt died; and the children of Israel groaned because of the    servitude, and they cried out. And their cry for help from their servitude rose up to G‑d."
"And the L-rd heard our voice"
as it said: "And G‑d heard their groaning, and G‑d remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."
"And he saw our suffering,"
this refers to the separation of husband and wife, as it is said: "G‑d saw the children of Israel and G‑d took note."

In order for there to be a Jewish people, it had to be possible to identify who was Jewish.  It seems trivial and logical, but a slave nation is unable to determine its destiny. All the decisions and directions of a prisoner are determined by the guards and rulers.  A free nation, a free people can live out its own destiny. 

What makes a Jew - well - Jewish is Torah and halacha.  Without Torah and halacha, destiny is left to whims and fancies follow the path of secular knowledge and secular belief.  Torah and secular have very different sources of authority. The latter is no longer bound to core values.  Make no mistake, if a Jew walks away from the path G-d chose for the Jew, to be his means of influence in the world his destiny will find him nonetheless. 

Jews choosing another path, trying to abandon their past and their destiny will be reminded who and what they are.   Esoterically speaking, Ha Lach Ma Anya, included early in the Magid portion of the Haggadah is saying.  "this is the bread of affliction our fathers ate in the land Egypt"  Ate? Bread? The yoke of being chosen as first born, is wrapped over our people. Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat - The Jew has entered the world to bring Torah, those who want to learn, come and learn. Whoever is in need, let him come and conduct the Seder of Passover - leaping, passing from his previous way to a new and higher path. This year we are here, next year we will be free people. The time to start is now. Leave your current place and grow, leave your Egypt behind and seek Sinai, come to the Torah. You can only be free when you find yourself.  Ha Lach Ma Anya invites all to come, not just Jew but anyone hungering for truth. 

הָא לַחְמָא עַנְיָא דִּי אֲכָלוּ אַבְהָתָנָא בְאַרְעָא דְמִצְרָיִם. כָּל דִכְפִין יֵיתֵי וְיֵיכֹל, כָּל דִצְרִיךְ יֵיתֵי וְיִפְסַח. הָשַּׁתָּא הָכָא, לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בְּאַרְעָא דְיִשְׂרָאֵל. הָשַּׁתָּא עַבְדֵי, לְשָׁנָה הַבָּאָה בְּנֵי חוֹרִין

This is the bread of affliction that our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat; whoever is in need, let him come and conduct the Seder of Passover. This year [we are] here; next year in the land of Israel. This year [we are] slaves; next year [we will be] free people.

The flip side of the equation comes near the end of Magid. 

וְהִיא שֶׁעָמְדָה לַאֲבוֹתֵינוּ וְלָנוּ. שֶׁלֹּא אֶחָד בִּלְבָד עָמַד עָלֵינוּ לְכַלּוֹתֵנוּ, אֶלָּא שֶׁבְּכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר עוֹמְדִים עָלֵינוּ לְכַלוֹתֵנוּ, וְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מַצִּילֵנוּ מִיָּדָם.

It is this [promise] that has stood by our ancestors and us. More than one [enemy] has risen up against us to destroy us. Rather, in every generation they rise against us to annihilate us. The Holy One, blessed be He, however, saves us from their hand.

There,  you now have a positive and negative reminder.  Both paragraphs contain a reference to an undefined "this".  The bread of affliction and the promise seem tied together, anchoring the Magid portion of the Seder.  This is your portion Israel, G-d will help you in your task. 
Which brings us to the article below.  The prescription below is a remedy for ending Judaism in America. This is 'dayenu' surrender to modernity.  The Haggadah challenges the Jew to move past Egypt not to return to it.  To become Egyptian is what Paroh wants us to do, saying - forget about freedom and live as slaves within the Egyptian culture and Egyptian rituals.  The Haggadah tells us that leaving Egypt is a beginning not an ending. We must continue to leave Egypt every year, month, week and day. 
While it is clear the Haggadah invites everyone to the Seder, as discussed above, it says, leave your past behind you. The evening of the 15th of Nissan's special character involves matzah.  Matzah, is flat, honest and real.  Noted by many, matzah's deflated nature is symbolic of the need to find our true selves. Where leavening is allowed, self imagery in portrait form blocks the mirror's reflection.  The mirror reflects the heart of the Jew. The artist's license and picture is artificial.  
Asking Judaism to accept a pathway for destruction is schizophrenia.  Jewish law does not and should not be asked to radically diverge to match the waywardness of a generation.   The writer below quotes statistics to justify his assertion that the problem with Judaism is - Judaism.  This false dichotomy is defeated by the very statistics the writer quotes.  By virtue of the fact that "Orthodox" Jews marry Jews, live as Jews and will have Jewish progeny, it makes no sense to adopt the suggestions below. 
It is not Judaism alienating anyone.  However, like the Jews unable to leave Egypt or grow beyond the enticements of the Egypt they choose, generations of Jews will be lost to the world and to the ultimate redemption.  Those Jews who have exercised their free will to marry out, choose "other" when offered a Torah class or when asked to visit the shul, and send their Jewish children to schools which teach everything but how to live Jewishly have no leg to stand upon calling for other Jews to follow their lead.  However, the door is open going in the other direction.  The Rebbe stated many times, all Jews, inside want to do what is right, even if they actively say otherwise.  The holy spark inside may be flickering but it can be ignited.  So often, they are merely waiting to be convinced to change, to return, to be drawn in and sadly are turned away not finding the inspiration their souls seek.  Pesach is the time to find that inspiration.  A seder can be a moving experience but only when the seder can be a seder and not a compromise.  Happy Pesach. 

But a Judaism for Jews only is alienating to the vast majority of liberal Jews who do intermarry, to their partners and to their families.

Expressing a preference that our children marry Jews conveys a message that partners from different faiths and interfaith relationships are suboptimal. That risks alienating those who do intermarry, as so many will. We cannot prefer inmarriage and be as radically inclusive as we need to be.

Haggadah, Bible excerpts from Chabad.org, Sefaria.org

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11 April 2019

Dear Representative Omar, (D,MN)

As a friendly reminder, this is where you came from:


This is where you fled to:

Any Questions?

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17 April 2012

Liberal Dissembling on Romney and Taxes

By Sen. Vincent Hughes - Romney tax plan isn't about fairness - from Pennlive.com


The Buffett Rule is one step among many we need to take to keep investing in prosperity for all Americans without increasing the deficit so that everyone gets a fair shot and does their fair share.

Asking the wealthiest Americans to do their part is not class warfare — it’s just fair. Of course, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney opposes the Buffett Rule. Romney’s tax plan asks the middle class to pay for tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires that we can’t afford.

Even deep cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are not enough to pay for Romney’s tax cuts and a defense buildup without a strategy behind it. That means there would be additional cuts to Head Start, local schools, Pell Grants that help students pay for college, and investments in our transportation and infrastructure. All these cuts would hurt the middle class.

At the very core of this debate — and this election — is a straightforward choice. We either can continue to level the playing field and make the investments that made the American middle class the envy of the world or we can keep giving tax breaks to the wealthiest, widen loopholes for big corporations, and stick seniors and the middle class with the bill. But we can’t do both.

While President Obama is fighting to restore economic security and fairness for the middle class, Romney is fighting to maintain the status quo so his fellow millionaires can keep taking advantage of loopholes in the system and doing less than their fair share. America will not thrive without a healthy and robust middle class. The idea of America is a country where anyone can achieve their dreams through hard work and responsibility.

If we are going to succeed as a nation, we must level the playing field so everyone has the same shot at success.

Liberal dissembling. The idea that "fairness" means picking winners and losers is dishonest and the type of politics we have so come to expect from the left that no one questions it anymore. A government that can pick tax winners and losers, financial winners and losers - is the same government that could more likely than not pick who lives and who doesn't. A "fair" government treats everyone equally. Fairness translates into an equal playing field, protected by a government that assures that liberty is preserved without a preference as to outcome. A truly "fair" tax is a flat tax. The more you earn, the more you pay. To proffer an argument that someone has benefited more than someone else and thereby should be held to a different standard of "fairness" is sheer nonsensical hypocrisy. If as a standard, private sector banks were to choose to whom they would lend money based upon a subjective standard and not a financial/business model this would rightly by viewed as a discriminatory business practice. Yet, the left continues to bombard America with a self-righteous false morality of "the rich should pay more because they benefited more". Save it for the stupid. I, for one, am not buying it.

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02 December 2011

Jewish Federations Tell Israel to Bug Off

Can thin skinned be excused for ahavas Yisroel? Can the national interests of the State of Israel be confused with causing hatred amongst Jews? Is the accusation itself a form of anti-Jewism? INN ran THIS STORY: American Jews Take Issue with 'Come Home' Campaign describing the angst of the The Jewish Federations of North America; unhappy that the State of Israel is trying to bring home ex-patriots - those who have descended from Israel (yireda) back to Israel. I thought that we, as Jews - lovers of Israel, supporters of Jewish ownership of the land and concerned for its well-being - were supposed to be upset when Israel's national interests were struck from the outside?

That is only true, of course when the issue is secular. Jewish Federations (sounds like an organized labor movement, no?) are held hostage to Identity Jews, those lacking in yiras Shomayim, married to the culture of Edom - and well off. The money flowing in to and its counter threat to be withheld (even a perceived and not real threat) determine the positions taken by The Jewish Federations of North America not what is in the interests of Torah or Israel.

Even worse is the contradictory nature of the culture of The Jewish Federations of North America. Millions of dollars are contributed every year to the Jewish Federations for the purpose of advocating for and educating about the importance of Israel. Teens and others are sent on free exploration style trips or junkets to learn about the land and build attachments. Yet for Israelis living abroad - living in North America, its different. One the one hand, organized efforts are made to advocate for building connections to Israel, on the other hand and to the contrary - opposing the efforts of that very same nation to reach out to its home born overseas.

This quote tells the story

"We fear this campaign will only backfire, and rather than simply bringing Israelis back, will alienate and divide Diaspora Jews from Israel. Rather than playing Israeli Jews against American Jews, we should be seeking to reinforce our shared love of Zion and to build the bonds of Jewish people hood worldwide."
What they are saying is that we don't want our donors to see the truth of living in exile. We are concerned that upon realizing that Chanukah Bushes and children knowing more about the other cultures in which they inter-mingle than their own - one in their eyes which is backward, repressive, anti-woman, racist and overall inferior to the wonders provided by the "modern" world will be offensive and result in a loss of donations (HaShem yirachem). After all Jewish Federations represent all Jews - even those who need the most Jewish - (read Torah) influence, education and enlightenment. We don't want to offend anyone - even at the risk of mis-representing what our our holy Torah teaches us and what our tradition demonstrates for us. The children of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov have a unique culture and law. It is not to be held hostage to The Jewish Federations of North America and their kowtow to its donor base.

In this weeks parashah Vayeitzei, Yaakov is sent away by his parents - away from the hatred of his "brother" Eisav and to find a wife. As he lay down to sleep, he protects his head with a set of stones. In one of my favorite Torah commentaries Vedibarta Bam, Rabbi Bogomilsky quotes Rashi explaining the rocks are to protect Yaakov from "wild animals". He then brings this gem "Yaakov knew that in the world at large there are many forces that are alien to Torah and mitzvot and hostile to the religious Jew. These forces influence the mind of the Jew and try to persuade him to leave the path of Torah. Therefore, Yaakov made a great effort to protect his "head," to prevent negative influences from interfering with his yiddishkeit." Further Rabbi Bogomilsky brings another explanation:
"He took of the stones of the place, and he placed them around (under) his head, and lay down in that place to sleep." (28:11)

QUESTION: Why did Yaakov rest his head on a stone?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Bava Kamma 30a) says: "He who wants to be a chassid should observe the laws of nezikin — damages" (being careful not to hurt anyone or damage property). Rava says that he should follow the teachings of Avot (Book of Ethics), and others say that he should be observant in the laws of berachot (recognizing the supremacy of Hashem and thanking Him for everything). The word "even" — "stone" — is an acronym for "avot, berachot, nezikin."

As Yaakov was preparing to enter the "outside world," his first resolution was to be a chassid. The placing of the placing of these three stones as the guidepost for his "head," was, as though to say, that his thoughts would always be directed to exceling in these three matters.

The three stones united to emphasize that each approach is equally important and that through these three things one can make the world a "beit Elokim" — a "house of G-d."


It may also be said that "berachot" — recognizing the supremacy of Hashem and thanking Him for everything — is an allusion to the relationship between man and Hashem. Being careful not to hurt or injure a fellow man, "nezikin," represents inter-human relationships. To be exemplary, one must conduct himself within these two realms, in accordance with the guidelines and teachings conveyed by "avot" — our ancestors.

To answer the criticism that my opinion is too negative, note the above paragraph. We must balance our approach to our relationships with fellow Jews (and all mankind) with recognition of Hashem's supremacy and the lessons of our Avos - whose actions lead us still. And to fend off "wild animals", one needs to live within fences.

In other words, the actions to oppose Israel's interests in bringing back Israelis to Eretz HaKodesh by the Jewish Federations is contrary to the needs and interests of the Jewish people and is being espoused for the wrong reasons.

Israel Matzav posts the videos of the advertising campaign

And here is the contrary view: Israeli ad campaign suggests Israelis shouldn’t date Americans (VIDEO). What this article sarcastically points out is an all true phenomenon that many an observer of the Jewish world can point towards as the best reason why the Israeli absorption effort is needed. I have known far more Israelis than I care to remember - who came here for "a short time" to "make some money" or "learn a professional" with the goal of returning to Israel later. Most of them become very comfortable in America and decide "for their family's ie. children" to stay in America. Really? For the children? They have learned from the politics of America how any policy choice can be advocated - its for the children. The same justification of the Jewish Federations to fund Israel programs... I'm confused.

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20 May 2011

Obama's Israel Policy Goes Native

To my most holy Jewish brethren - those who still worship at the feet of the idol O'Ba'alma and who drink from the bitter waters flowing from Jstreet, the time has come for you to do teshuva, if you still can.

Yesterday, in what must have a been like removing a load of bricks off his back, (not to be confused with the fallen ruins of the Twin Towers), the president of the United States of America shrugged off national interest and the hard and painful lessons learned from history in favor of his latent anti-Jewism, born of his early-years Medrassa education. How much of a relief it must have been for him to express his real inner feelings of despise for the lives of the Jewish people in the land of Israel?

Perhaps due to the frustration of having wasted two full years of solitary liberal rule in DC, the emir in chief has finally decided to "be himself" and express his true intentions. Israel, he told us must be reduced to the size it once was when former Ambassador Abba Eban coined the phrase, "the Auschwitz lines".

Since yesterday afternoon's Obamaism, many pundits have made reference to the 1967 "lines" where both friend and foe of the Jewish people have not justly explained what this means. On the surface, it merely means the pre-Six Day war line separating arabians and Jews. What it really means is the 1949 armistice line - the line separating between the Jewish army and the retreating arabian armies who attacked Israel immediately following Israel's declaration of Independence in 1948. The "green-line" as it was known became the Berlin wall of the middle east - demarcating not between freedom and tyranny as in Europe but between civilization and barbarism. So in reality Obama the terrible is calling for re-do, back to 1949, back to the Auschwitz line, back to the time before the humiliating defeat of the arabian armies at the hands of the descendants of monkeys and pigs. Sultan Hussein Obama's inner muslim is on display.

The next few days should be interesting to say the least. This Shmuly Boteach story kinda says it all. Obama will arrogantly speak at AIPAC and tell the Jews and supporters of Israel, that his recommendations are in Israel's best interests and that America's support for Israel is unshakable - just like he said in his Middle East speech on Thursday.

So let's backtrack a little to yesterday and look at just one paragraph of Obama's speech:

For decades, the conflict between Israelis and Arabs has cast a shadow over the region. For Israelis, it has meant living with the fear that their children could get blown up on a bus or by rockets fired at their homes, as well as the pain of knowing that other children in the region are taught to hate them. For Palestinians, it has meant suffering the humiliation of occupation, and never living in a nation of their own. Moreover, this conflict has come with a larger cost the Middle East, as it impedes partnerships that could bring greater security, prosperity, and empowerment to ordinary people.

We could really hours on every word, every innuendo, every inflection, etc. But with better things to do, lets be brief. In the eye's of the president, the conflict is about death to the Jews vs. humiliation. Plain and simple it is what Obama said. I don't know that many Israelis that are constantly worried about buses blowing up or a rocket falling on their home - not to belittle these things are say they are not serious. But they are not worries. What does worry Israelis is having the carpet, (a prayer carpet, perhaps) pulled out from underneath them the way Obama did yesterday. What worries Israelis is the possibility of a major regional war with missiles flying in from Iran along with a newly muslimized Egyptian army attacking from, not in, the Sinai joined with a Syrian-Hizbollah offensive in the north. That is a worry. The pali-terrorists are a thorn in the side in comparison.

To equate the two ideas of death to the Jews and humiliation is of course, a demonstration of how little Jewish blood must be valued by the president. And as to the idea that the poor palis have never had a nation of their own, well who is to blame here? I wonder if Obama expressed this same concern to the little King Abdullah II who rules as a minority tribal sultan over millions of "palis" living on the east bank of the Jordan river? I wonder if Abdullah, in the midst of protests in Jordan, feels any safer today? One could argue of course that no arab living in an arabian land today has a country of his own unless he is prince or of royal ancestry. In those lands where an Emir or King or Prince or even Colonel or someone acting like one without the title rules, is the country really theirs? Where tyranny rules, one cannot be free. And where arabians rule, freedom is stifled and only those in power or support those in power can claim any form of ownership.

What is the nature of this statement by Prince Hussein Obama: "Moreover, this conflict has come with a larger cost the Middle East, as it impedes partnerships that could bring greater security, prosperity, and empowerment to ordinary people". Is he saying that the US and arabians are suffering diplomatically and strategically because of "the conflict"? Really? Is peace in the middle east contingent upon the palis building a thug-terror state in Judea and Samaria? He could mean something else but knowing the president and his historically cold view of Israel which is well-documented on this blog and other places, it is a fair assumption to read between the lines and expect the least from Obama's intentions.

When PM Netanyahu speaks to the Obama today, what will he say? More importantly, when Bibi speaks to the joint session of Congress on Monday, what will he say. If I were Obama, I would be very careful how I treat Netanyahu today and with what I say at AIPAC. Netanyahu may not be the perfect Israeli Prime Minister but I would not want anyone else speaking at AIPAC and more importantly before the Congress of the United States of America. My hope is that Bibi will clearly state before Congress that Israel is under no more moral or legal compulsion to negotiate with the terrorist thugs of a party which honors and trusts Hamas as an equal party than the US has a moral need to negotiate with al-Qaeda. Any party which routinely calls for the destruction of Israel and cannot even draw a map where Israel can be found is no partner for peace - only a partner for war. My hope is that strongly and unequivocally states "Jerusalem is not for sale" while calling upon the US to once and for all move the embassy to Jerusalem, not because it is Israel's capital but because it is Hakadosh Baruch Hu's capital.

See Ketzaleh's speech he wishes PM Netanyahu would deliver.

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02 September 2010

Privacy and Technology

Thoughts about changing technology and how it affects the public need for and access of public records and the relationship to identity theft.

Does new technology which enhances access to information pose an inherent danger to the privacy rights of individuals? Does ease of access to information increase the number of identity theft victims? Are more people likely to fall victim to information based frauds because of the World Wide Web?

These questions on the surface require an analysis between two ideas which have been in conflict since mankind has sought to build a better mouse trap. The essence of the dispute can be explained with the following debate question: do new technologies which change an existing process so much that even though all agree the process is vital, the new process brings with it costs that were not conceived of when the previous process existed. At such time, should the process be banned or changed into something else?

In English, what do I mean? Virginia, resident, Betty "B.J." Ostergren , runs a website named The Virginia Watchdog whose mission is to expose public records of public officials found online in order to bring attention to her supposition that the availability of electronic public records is a cause of identity theft. Ms. Ostergren contends that public records should only be available at a clerk’s office. So the question becomes, is there a fundamental difference in the nature of safety for consumers between access of public records which might contain personal identifying information electronically, online vs. electronically or by hand in a clerk’s office? With no dis-respect to Ms. Ostergren, I want to look at the question from a different perspective. Can’t identity theft occur under either scenario? (Note that data shows that most identity theft results in old fashioned theft of information by hand not by computer)

New technologies or new ways to do things have always come with new or shifting perceived costs and benefits. It is safe to say that before the introduction of automobiles, the frequency of significant traffic accidents where people were left with life-long injuries often resulting in costly court trials to determine who is liable for the costs of the disability was insignificant compared to today. Okay, horses occasionally threw riders and could damage someone else’s property or even another horse. But when automobiles came along, land speed increased and new dangers quickly became apparent. What did we, as a society gain with automobiles? For a start, quicker access to emergency medical care, ability to be mobile to visit family, to move out of crowded living environments, to travel to places we would never have scene otherwise and plenty more. Both new benefits and costs followed the mass introduction of the automobile. New businesses creating good wage jobs supporting the automobile also arose. And, along with the automobile came the shift from urban horse by-products to urban air and noise pollution.

Which was worse? It depends. Streets perceived as already crowded, and designed for slow horse traffic quickly became insufficient. Imagine driving in the middle of a city without traffic control. But it wasn’t necessarily the automobile itself which resulted in the negatives or the positives but how it came to be used and how society learned to manage the new challenges posed by automobiles. Yes, criminals too learned how to use a getaway car. But, police also learned how to use sirens and lights. So did ambulances and fire trucks. Did people learn to drive recklessly? You bet. Was law written to address reckless driving? Yes. Does the law deter reckless driving? Sometimes it does, and sometimes it does not.

Let us apply the lesson to identity theft. What causes identity theft? Is it easy access to personal information or a realization that most identity thieves are never caught or prosecuted? Maybe it’s some of both. But if identity theft were not so easy to commit and the perceived cost of perpetrating it so low, no matter how much personal information were to be accessible, the crime would not be amongst the biggest of consumer fears and result in losses to the US economy of $50 billion annually.

Is it a moral crisis that leads perpetrators to steal identities from other consumers or is the business of identity theft just too profitable to resist? Is the threat posed by possible prosecution for the commission of the crime too unconvincing? Does the perceived benefit or profit of committing identity based crimes exceed the perceived costs of apprehension and prosecution? These are questions which merely reflect upon the debate question above, a question which has arisen in every generation and with every new idea or new technology which opens the door for those who wish to exploit it for bad instead of good. Those who defend society from those whose intent is to exploit the situation for criminal means must decide between spending limited resources on either or both deterrence and remediation. Is the situation different with technology and identity based crimes than any other societal challenge previously faced?

interesting related read

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09 August 2010

Chief Rabbi Amar Speaks on the Conversion Bill

Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar has spoken and written in strong support of the proposed Rotem law (AKA Conversion bill). His support for the bill is based upon the idea that Olim with questionable Jewish status (or no Jewish status) will be able to work with local Rabbis under Rabbinate supervision to officiate at conversions, thus insuring that halachic standards are met for conversion in Israel. Rabbi Amar also expressed great concern that foreign intervention in Israel's internal affairs could jeopardize the effort to keep Israel a Jewish state. As posted previously on APRPEH, American non-Orthodox interests feel threatened by Chief Rabbinate conversion supervision in Israel.

The Conversion bill has an interesting coalition of supporters in Israel. Missing in the minds of the American non-Orthodox who preach regularly on their pulpits and at their conventions (unfairly) that Orthodox (ie. Jews committed to halacha) are divisive is the fact that this bill is supported by the Orthodox political parties and secular nationalist parties in Israel. As Rabbi Amar implies, significant numbers of Russian Olim are not halachically Jewish and would be more inclined to become Jewish if the path to conversion were not stifled by red tape. Interestingly, even in the US where strong voices within liberal Orthodoxy have sought to garner publicity by advocating local rabbinical autonomy, by opposing the Rotem bill they are arguing for exactly the opposite in Israel.

Critics of the bill in the US and other diaspora communities seem to have a point that Israel is a place for all Jews and therefore they command a right to intervene in Israel's internal affairs for reasons of personal interest. However, the quote from Rabbi Amar below strongly rebuts that idea. Israel is indeed a land for all Jews. It is the Jewish homeland and as such, all Jews much seek to protect and support the land even when its government might not be all that we would like it to be. What should be consistent in the approach of diaspora Jews concerning issues in Israel is a rule that criticism is okay but pressure beyond argumentation should not be utilized.

In recent years, perhaps since the late 1980s, we saw liberalism's infectious breaking down of conventional wisdom expressed within the context of breaking Jewish consensus on Israel. This pervasive and dangerous threat of backing off of support for Israel in general, if this law were passed or that law were passed is becoming the strategy of first not last resort. It should never be an option.

The observation that consensus on Israel was breaking was made by Rabbi Zalman I. Posner in a radio interview conducted by Rabbi Jacob J. Hecht (date uncertain)
(real player format) see "Who is a Jew" Tape 4 side B (at time of posting, this audio is not working). Rabbi Posner pointed out that for the first time, during one of the previous "who is a Jew" debates, threats to cease supporting Israel or not going out of the way to support Israel within the American political context were first heard. Rabbi Posner went on to say that US pressure on Israel vis a vis the arab conflict became stronger as a result of a perception that American Jews were divided.

I find it ironic that the same Jews who loudly protest the anti-Zionism crowd amongst the charedim, are themselves, with righteous indignation claiming the possibility of deep divisions resulting from a conversion bill affecting Israelis only. "Look at what the Israeli government is doing? How could we support them?" From which camp do you expect to hear such words, Neturei Karta or the Rabbinical Assembly of Conservative Judaism? What about JFNA?

The true Jewish heart needs to stop for a moment of reflection, especially in this month of Elul to consider what sort of interests should prevail - the political and financial vested interests, positions taken that are framed within a context of egotistical minded fear of irrelevancy or true unification the Jewish people? Should there be more than one definition of Jew? Should there be people with the status of Jew in some congregations of America but not others, all the more so not in Israel? These questions require deep soul searching within. Conservativists and Reformists have built a career writing their own rules all the while claiming that ancient halachic rules cannot stand in the place of their own new and improved versions. The time has come to base decisions of status not rooted in what is seen as easy for the masses of people and convenient for their leaders but what is right for the future of Judaism and Torah.

'Diaspora Jews 'coercing the Israeli government'' - JPOST
“Israeli laws should be determined by residents of Israel who defend its security and bear its burdens,” he said. “If our Jewish brethren immigrate to Israel, we will welcome them with great joy, and then they would be entitled, as citizens, to struggle for the adoption of their perspective. Diaspora Jews who are coercing the Israeli government to drop the proposed legislation are causing great damage. The bill, within the framework of Jewish law, would expand the ambit of conversion, prevent the application of unjustified stringencies, and provide more leniency and flexibility in administration. Many Russian Israelis would benefit substantially. In fact, this legislation was proposed by Israel Beiteinu – a secular party – representing more than a million Russian Israelis,” Amar’s letter read.

NYT Letter to the editor by Rabbi Amar

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What Words Offend Arabs? The Truth.

Children's Poetry Booklet Recalled After Arabs Complain
(Israeli censorship kowtows to Arabs.
When Will We Tell The Truth Without Fear)

(IsraelNN.com 7 Sivan 5768/June 10, '08) Ynet's web site and Arab complaints against a ten-year-old boy's poem about terrorists has resulted in the recall of all of the Nes Ziona municipality's children's poetry booklets.

Ynet boasts that its coverage of the poem resulted in its being recalled.

The text of the poem (Ynet's translation):

Ahmed's bunker has surprises galore: Grenades, rifles are hung on the wall. Ahmed is planning another bombing!What a bunker Ahmed has, who causes daily harm.Ahmed knows how to make a bomb. Ahmed is Ahmed, that's who he is, so don't forget to be careful of him.We get blasted while they have a blast!Ahmed and his friends could be wealthy and sunny, if only they wouldn't buy rockets with all their money.

Poetry competition director Marika Berkowitz, who published the booklet, was surprised at the protests and told Ynet: "This is the boy's creation and this is what he wanted to express. Of course there should be a limit, but I think the there is no racism here. 'Ahmed' is a general term for the enemy. These are the murmurings of an innocent child."

The Education Ministry told Ynet: "The local authority that published the booklet should have guided the students in a more correct manner through the schools. The district will investigate the issue with the local authorities."
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