Thursday, June 18, 2020

The Stakes in Redefining America as Evil By Jonathan S. Tobin and After New York By BESA CENTER and Carol Burnett and I want to know when a restaurant is no longer kosher, shame or not

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Yehuda Lave, Spiritual Advisor and Counselor

Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher, and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money,  and spiritual engagement. Now also a Blogger on the Times of Israel. Look for my column

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I want to know if a resturant is no longer kosher

On Monday, June 8, The Jerusalem Post published a story on page 6 that the Tel Aviv Kashrut Rabbinate "shamed" a falafel bar by putting up notices that the business was no longer kosher. I will not put the name of the falafel bar to give it more publicity, but the story requires a comment. 

The story goes on to say that the falafel bar had certification for 42 years. Most people would assume after that the time the place was kosher unless they saw a notice that it no longer was, like the Kashrut Rabbinate properly did.

If a restaurant decided to save 500 shekels a month by not keeping health standards and I got sick and died by eating contaminated food, I would sure want the health department to post a notice. This is Israel and a Jewish country. The writer for the Jerusalem Post should certainly understand that when you can not trust the kashrut of a business for a religious person, the food is considered like poison if you eat it purposely (not accidentally like not knowing the place is no longer kosher after 42 years).

The owner felt that the notices that were put up were like death notices All that was put up were notices that to religious people that the place was no longer kosher. Notices were not put on computer media announcing it to hurt the business purposely. Only notices were given to the religious public that a business that was kosher for 42 years was no longer and this was perfectly necessary.

It is also a shame that the owner decided that this was the 500 shekels he could not spend to stay in business and feed the religious public (the Rabbinate had already reduced his fee from 800 because of the economic circumstances). It is exactly for this reason that the religious public relies on the Rabbinate. It is nice to say that the person quoted in the story trusts the restaurant's kashrut without a certificate.

 I don't and am glad I was informed. A person that cuts the most important corner for a religious food establishment can not be trusted to give me kosher food. The story is sympathetic to the owner of the restaurant, but it should not be, and for that reason, I write this blog.

Carol Creighton Burnett

Carol Creighton Burnett, actress, comedian, singer, and writer, whose career spans seven decades of television. She is best known for her groundbreaking comedy variety show, The Carol Burnett Show, originally aired on CBS. It was the first of its kind to be hosted by a woman.

Carol Burnett/Quotes

Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me.

Comedy is tragedy plus time.

When you have a dream, you've got to grab it and never let go.

My grandmother and I saw an average of eight movies a week, double features, second run.

Because nobody goes through life without a scar.

We don't stop going to school when we graduate.

Celebrity was a long time in coming; it will go away. Everything goes away.

It costs a lot to sue a magazine, and it's too bad that we don't have a system where the losing team has to pay the winning team's lawyers.

I have always grown from my problems and challenges, from the things that don't work out, that's when I've really learned. But I didn't ask to have somebody nose around in my private life. I didn't even ask to be famous. All I asked was to be able to earn a living making people laugh.

After New York By BESA CENTER

City dwellers tend to share a unique conceit that their city and lifestyle will last forever. The slightest knowledge of history should put that to rest. But the sheer speed of the collapse of New York State and New York City gives one pause. In a mere three months, both have been transformed, probably permanently, by the pandemic and now insurrection.

The coronavirus had already caused the economy to collapse. In April 2020, New York City's unemployment rate exploded from 4.1% to 14.5%, with some 891,000 jobs lost. Hotel occupancy dropped by 80%, while ridership on the subways dropped 74% and travel from the wealthy northern suburbs was down 94%. Commercial real estate occupancy underwent a stunning collapse. In early March some 1.4 million workers occupied 469 million square feet of real estate. In a few weeks this plummeted to 96,000 essential workers.

But the social and economic trends crippling New York were longer in coming. New York City's taxes run from 3.02 to 3.87%, on top of state taxes that bring the total to almost 9%. Movement out of New York City intensified in May even before the rioting, with the top destinations lower-tax states like Florida. Overall the state has seen an exodus of population for over a decade, losing 1.3 million residents.

The housing economics of New York City were complex and unsustainable even before the crises. In January, the average rent for a 703 square foot apartment in Manhattan was $4,208 and the average price to purchase a condominium was $1.6 million, a drop from previous years due in part to buyers being dissuaded by high taxes. Even the dizzyingly expensive luxury apartment market was soft before the crises, with some 25% going unsold.

Then, in the space of only weeks, the added value of urban life evaporated. The infrastructure—retail, restaurants, bars, cultural institutions, and the arts, all of which made New York City a popular home for corporations and individuals alike—completely collapsed. Corporations of all sizes—not least the huge financial firms whose employees pay the bulk of the city's income taxes—learned that they can function remotely without the need for expensive office space. Their employees learned that they can survive without either long commutes into the city or living in the city, with its exorbitant property taxes. It is difficult to see how urban markets and urban mentalities can be reconstituted, at least quickly.

To make matters much worse, just as the disease lockdown was ending, a seemingly random event—the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black suspect, in Minnesota—was the spark that set off a long-planned insurrection across the US. Co-opting "Black Lives Matter" protests against police violence, a diffuse but well-organized socialist-anarchist movement, "Antifa" (which stands for "antifascist"), unleashed violence against cities, instigating widespread looting by bored and disaffected urban youths with the goal of creating an anti-capitalist revolution.

Damage to New York City has been especially grave. Multiple nights of rioting caused tens of millions of dollars in damage to neighborhoods throughout the city, as they have in other places such as Washington DC, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis. The spectacle of the New York City police being held back and then overwhelmed, and mass looting, will make an indelible impression on residents and visitors alike.

The Antifa insurrection bears an interesting resemblance to the Palestinian "intifada." The careful, street-level orchestration of seemingly spontaneous unrest by professional instigators belonging in effect to a militant wing of a political entity (in Antifa's case, the Democratic Socialists of America) generates the impression of grassroots mass action. This is undertaken with the object of provoking violent countermeasures. Legitimate complaints about police behavior in the George Floyd case were folded into and ultimately masked by revolutionary anti-capitalism and specific absurdities such as the demand for the abolition of the police.

As in the Palestinian "intifada," the surrounding society bears the brunt of the resulting destruction.

It is not clear how New York will recover. Tactical mismanagement of the pandemic and rioting aside, the categorical refusal to control spending and taxation on the part of the Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, and the city's socialist mayor, Bill de Blasio, had already put New York in peril. New York City's deficit was $6 billion before either crisis, while the state's was $13 billion. Both have now demanded that the federal government provide financial bailouts. The governor's refusal to open up the state had already slowed the economic recovery, and the state was shocked as revelations of the death toll resulting from his policy of placing coronavirus patients in nursing homes was fully revealed.

But it is in New York City that the problems are most insoluble, again as the result of longer-term trends. The mayor's slow dismantling of the policing concepts that had tamed the city from the late 1990s onward has slowly driven crime rates back up, and his full-fledged assault on meritocratic schools in the name of class warfare has brought the educational system to new lows. Both policies are driving middle and upper class families out. The mayor has also displayed a striking animus toward the city's Jewish community, first by ignoring persistent violent attacks on it from his primary minority constituents and then by lashing out at it during the pandemic lockdown for conducting religious gatherings.

What are the long-term implications? Manufacturing is long gone from New York City, and the finance industry, along with its employees, has begun an exodus to the suburbs and other parts of the country. The loss of retail, the arts, and cultural attractions will reduce the city's appeal to both tourists and high net worth individuals who might once have been tempted to become residents. Without alternatives to finance, tourism, and construction, and their supporting service industries, the tax base will be crushed and the economy of the city will be transformed.

The massive destruction of commerce and employment will cripple the city for a generation if not permanently, as will the rise in outward migration. The city's infrastructure will erode rapidly even as the number of government dependents rises dramatically. New York City's unique role as conduit for immigrants to enter and become contributing Americans will be severed. The tarnishing of that symbol will rebound on the US as a whole.

The devastation of New York's arts and culture worlds are unique tragedies. The city's peerless museums and arts institutions like Broadway cannot be reproduced elsewhere. But this might matter only to a shrinking number, including tourists. New York City could become a hollowed-out museum, like Paris, with the population divided into segregated residential zones. The city's ability to create art, culture, and education will be diminished. What institutions or places will replace them is unclear. If they are not replaced, the US as a whole will have undergone a unique diminution.

Unless radical changes can be made to render New York a safer and more affordable place—changes that go far beyond the current hodge-podge of proposals such as removing cars from the streets—the city will decay. Oligarchic control of the remaining economy will intensify in whatever core zones and industries remain.

Mayoral elections are over a year away, but no credible candidates have stepped forward. One possibility is that a reformist leader will emerge in the manner of Rudolph Giuliani. More likely is a "progressive" leader who will make fantastic promises of "reforms" to the city's institutions and economy in order to reduce "inequality" and increase "sustainability." These will be financially impossible as people and capital leave the city or avoid it altogether. This will have national and global impacts.

Shorter-term political and cultural impacts are also likely. Should President Trump be reelected in November, all facets of New York political and cultural life will intensify to even more crazed levels of opposition. Should former VP Biden be elected, resources will be provided to New York that will only intensify preexisting conditions. Paradoxically, in both cases New York's immediate influence will expand even as its actual economic, social, and cultural power declines.

For the Jewish world the implications are especially ominous. More Jews, Jewish wealth, and Jewish cultural and political influence are located in New York than anywhere in the world outside Israel. The departure of the wealthy and middle class Jews upon whom the city, along with Jewish and secular institutions, depend for talent, philanthropy, and leadership will have untold effects. The devotion of wealthy elites to lost causes for the sake of superficial gratification should not be underestimated, but in the end they too will be forced to make hard choices. And as always, poor Jews will be forced to remain behind.

In some senses, the collapse of New York could mean the end of the American Jewish community as an identifiable political-cultural entity, along with its power, now fully ceded to Israel. For better or worse, New York was the "address" for America's Jews. Such marginalization is not unprecedented: witness the implosion of Jewish communities in the Netherlands, Spain, and Italy, not to mention Germany, over the past 600 years. But Jews have left a unique imprint across every facet of New York City that is unprecedented in their long diaspora.

What comes after New York? For all their size and complexity, indeed, because of it, cities are fragile entities. The twin shocks of the virus and the rioting are not like the single punch of 9/11 but are deep and pervasive, attacking every person, institution, relationship, and concept, revealing, perhaps usefully, the unsustainable nature of New York City as it is. If not somehow checked—quickly—the decline of New York as a working city and a symbol of a successful polyglot American experiment in capitalism, class, and culture will be tragic.

But nothing lasts forever, as the residents of Babylon can attest.

(Alex Joffe is a senior non-resident scholar at the BESA Center and a Shillman-Ingerman Fellow at the Middle East Forum)


The Stakes in Redefining America as Evil By Jonathan S. Tobin

It turns out that Nikole Hannah-Jones won more than the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary this year. The New York Times Magazine staff writer was the driving force behind the newspaper's decision to publish "The 1619 Project," an ambitious effort that sought nothing less than to redefine not merely the way that Americans think about their nation's history, but also about its contemporary society.

The effort earned her journalism's highest honor. But it's also clear that in the wake of the widespread outrage about the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis policeman last week, her revisionist version of history is helping shape the response to this crime by a broad cross section of the country. That's something that should concern everyone who cares about the fight for equality and freedom.

The problem with this is not the anger that so many rightly feel about an example of police brutality, or the fact that this incident and others like it has reminded us of the role racism plays in society. Rather, it is that in providing a patina of scholarly authority and the imprimatur of the legitimacy of the country's most important newspaper, Hannah-Jones is encouraging a way of thinking about America that is not only rooted in misleading history, but also seeks to persuade us to believe that the promise of American liberty is a lie.

In this fraught moment, it is especially difficult to push back against the Hannah-Jones narrative about America, which fits neatly into the vision of the country promoted by the Black Lives Matter movement. Black lives do matter, though for much of American history that has unfortunately not been true. But thanks to Derek Chauvin's callous snuffing out of the life of Floyd, that radical group has suddenly achieved normalcy, and the ability to command the respect and deference of both the mainstream media and leading corporations. While opposition to crimes such as the killing of Floyd is universal, to even question whether that group's approach is the only way to think about the problem of race in America is to invite opprobrium and being labeled a racist.

Yet while expressing solidarity with African-Americans is important, it is vital that those who represent other communities not fall into the trap of buying into a libelous rebranding of America as still a captive to its past sins. That is especially true for American Jews and the groups that speak for them. The Jewish experience in this country encapsulates the struggle for freedom—not only for themselves as a religious minority, but also to overcome the legacy of slavery. To accept the "1619" version of the past and the present as revealed truth and a source of inspiration for a woke revolution that will change everything about America is to betray basic truths about what this country is and can be.

In her introductory essay to the Times series, Hannah-Jones argued that 1619—the date that slavery was introduced into North America—rather than 1776 was the true beginning of the American republic. In her retelling the purpose of the American Revolution was about defending slavery, not freedom. Despite the enormous progress since the country has made since its flawed beginning, she claimed that the United States was still irredeemably racist and saw little reason for optimism about its improvement.

The curious aspect about what followed is that liberal historians who are deeply critical of much about the United States, as well as fierce opponents of President Donald Trump, adamantly refuted not only Hannah-Jones's essay but also much of the premise of "The 1619 Project." In a letter to the Times, a group of the country's most distinguish scholars denounced the effort as not only filled with important errors, but also fundamentally misleading. That is especially true about its depiction of the Revolution and also the claim that throughout the last 244 years, African-Americans have been "alone" in their efforts to fight slavery and bigotry. "1619" attacked former President Abraham Lincoln and ignored the fact that hundreds of thousands of white Americans not only struggled against slavery, but also fought and died in a Civil War that ended that pernicious institution.

The Times series was, as Princeton University's Allen Guelzo wrote in City Journal, filled with assertions that are based in ignorance of basic facts of history. As he rightly pointed out, it is a "conspiracy theory" that, like many such screeds, seeks to provide a single answer to all of the nation's woes. More than that, its purpose was to "hollow out the meaning of American freedom" so as to make contemporary Americans too ashamed of their country as to defend it, therefore making it easier to foist other notions about society that are not rooted in traditional American liberal democracy on us.

Slavery is the great sin of the history of the United States, and the subsequent 100 years of Jim Crow laws after its abolition has haunted us as a nation. But with starts and stops—and immense struggles—what followed the American republic's noble, though flawed beginning was an unprecedented march to freedom and equality, which would have been impossible had blacks truly been alone in that fight. The result was a transformed society that was not only capable of electing an African-American to the presidency twice, but also of reshaping its views about race in ways that would have been unimaginable not just to the founders, but to the Americans of the first half of the 20th century.

That progress would have been impossible without the ideal of American liberty born in the revolution and which sustained those who fought for a better society ever since then. Some of the founders may have been slave-owning hypocrites, and some of their descendants were equally flawed racists. But the ideas they promoted made it possible for the America of the 20th century to save civilization from the depravity of Nazism and fascism, and then communism.

To besmirch and deny that legacy is to essentially redefine America in such a way as to prevent if from continuing to play a positive force in human history. That might be no great loss for those who view the United States and its way of life as no better than other visions of governance, such as that of Socialist or Islamist tyrannies. But such thinking is not merely wrongheaded; it also undermines the very democratic structures that have provided the pathway to the progress we've already achieved.

It is telling that, armed with her Pulitzer and the adulation of the chattering classes, Hannah-Jones has been among those rationalizing the violence, riots and looting that, along with peaceful and necessary protest, followed Floyd's murder as a legitimate response to what she sees as the bankruptcy of American law and history. Just as the facts of American history that refute the conceit of the "1619 Project" mean nothing to her, so, too, do the facts about police violence against blacks, which also contradict the myths about contemporary America she and others seek to promote.

The notion that the proper response to the Floyd murder is not more advocacy for freedom but ideas promoted by the BLM movement about abolishing police—a cause also promoted by the Times—is similarly rooted in a vision of America as a fundamentally evil society that must be demolished rather than improved. Given that among the greatest problems facing African-American communities is under-policing (more than 80 percent of blacks and other minorities favor increased or the same amount of police in their neighborhoods as opposed to less law enforcement), its proposals are a formula that will hurt efforts to improve the lives of African-American citizens.

Though anti-Semitism has always been present on these shores, Jews did not suffer as African-Americans did. But their progress from marginalized minority to the acceptance and success of the 21st century also testifies to the fact that the ideals that strengthened the "better angels" of American society has been a profoundly positive force in human history.

The problem with the "The 1619 Project" from a Jewish perspective is not that it denigrates the small but significant Jewish role in the civil-rights movement. Rather, it is that by trashing the whole ideal of American liberty, this dismantling of liberal democracy threatens the basis on which Jews have themselves overcome past disabilities.

While it is appropriate for Jews to condemn police brutality and the vestiges of racism wherever they are to be found, it is equally important that they not embrace the myths that radicals like Hannah-Jones are peddling. To do so puts them in the company of those selling the lies of the intersectional movement that seeks to demonize Israel and Zionism, as well as those who are trashing the ideals that while not yet fully realized provide the only path to freedom.

See you tomorrow bli nder We need Moshiach now

Love Yehuda Lave

Rabbi Yehuda Lave

PO Box 7335, Rehavia Jerusalem 9107202


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