UCLA’s Jewish Newsmagazine· Winter 2017
Table of Contents 4
Business, Environment and Judaism
Prayer and the Life of a College Student
Economic Analysis of Modern Judaism
Journalism and Judaism
In an Attempt to Explain and Save Religion
by Noah Wallace
by Jasmine Kiaei
by Raziel Kohanbash
by Matana Shams
by Daniel Levine
by Shaina Kashanirokh
The Singularity and the Messiah
Sino-Israeli Relations under Trump
The Growing Split Between Left and Right
Plastic Surgery and Judaism
by Joey Levin
by Inbar Goren
by Samuel Bressler
by Jessica Behmanesh
History of UNâ€™s Hypocrisy Toward Zionism
by Jacob Belson
Winter 2017 Staff
Letter From the Editor
Editor-in-Chief: Asher Naghi
Managing Editors: Jessica Behmanesh (Internal) Noah Wallace (External) Content Editors: Matana Shams Shaina Kashanirokh Copy Editors: Jacob Schaperow Ellie Fridman Staff Writers: Daniel Levine Inbar Goren Joey Levin Samuel Bressler Raziel Kohanbash Jasmine Kiaei Jacob Belson Design Team: Edwin Korouri (Lead) Alyssa Bonchik Staff Artists: Allison Hernandez Melody Lopez Social Media: Daniel Levine Alyssa Bonchick Stephanie Nusenow
We chose “The Divide” as our theme for Ha’Am’s winter print edition. It seems as if all around us, our world is fracturing: Distrust and hate are on the rise. Thus, our purpose in this edition of Ha’Am is to expose some of those divides and heal them. In Augustan elegiac poetry, there sometimes exists a door that separates passionate lovers. Classically, that door is locked, and it torments the lovers. They lament beside the door, begging the inanimate barrier to open and allow them to be together. This motif is known as a Paraklausithyron. We see a similar motif in Jewish scripture, specifically in Shir Ha’shirim — Song of Songs. At its climax, the two lovers stand on opposite sides of a barred door and the lover knocks at the door, pleading for entrance. “Kol Dodi Dofek” — “Hark! My beloved is knocking.” Yet the woman delays for too long; she tarries and doubts: “I have taken off my tunic; how can I put it on? I have bathed my feet; how can I soil them?” When she goes to open the door, her lover has already disappeared into the night. “I sought him, but found him not; I called him, but he did not answer me.” The Paraklausithryon can be seen as a metaphor for many divides. I do not claim to be interpreting Song of Songs; instead, I simply wish to derive from it a lesson. What if she had not paused? What if she had not waited to tear down the divide between herself and her lover, to unbar the door? Would the outcome have been different? Therefore, with the passion of lovers, it is our duty to tear down the walls that divide us and not to tarry. Don’t let the moment for reconciliation slip through our fingers. With much joy, Asher Naghi Editor-in-Chief
Business, the Natural Environment and Jewish Values: Competing Interests or Symbiosis? By Noah Wallace
Many businesses have long premised the foregoing public sentiment when forging their corporate strategies, believing that emitting fewer pollutants or adopting greener technologies — both of which help to reduce the environmental impacts of operating a business — involves increasing costs. Businesses traditionally believe that to retain the same profit margin on goods sold after increasing the costs of production for those goods, they have to pass on the increased costs to consumers.
over the last three years, for example. In layman’s terms, that is to say: collectively, leading environmentally and socially conscious companies have achieved greater financial results than standard leading companies in the last three years. Beyond socially responsible investing, many industries benefit from pursuing a strategy considering both the en-
However, to stay profitable in a competitive marketplace, firms cannot raise prices or they risk losing customers to their competitors. Therefore, financial interests must be repugnant to their environmental counterparts and financial interests must come first, according to the traditional theory. However, newer studies have revealed a much more nuanced, complex narrative. Take, for instance, the growing movement toward socially responsible investing. Conventional investing philosophy premises that public companies are beholden to and constrained by the interests of their shareholders. As providers of the capital necessary to finance the company‘s operations, shareholders underwrite the risks companies take every day. They often do so when other sources of funding, like credit facilities from banks, will not do so or will only do so at an exorbitant cost. The conventional philosophy posits that as a result of the risks shareholders take in providing these funds, company management ought to place a premium on pursuing shareholders’ interests, which usually prioritize the earning of handsome profits over any other objective. Without prioritizing shareholder interests, it would be impossible to entice investors to use their hard-earned money to buy ownership rights in corporations. However, shareholder interests are rapidly evolving. Indeed, many investors are now qualifying their willingness to invest in a firm with other stipulations beyond profitability. For instance, many investors — both retail and institutional — have taken an interest in ensuring the companies in which they buy ownership are not merely profitable and fundamentally sound financially but are also environmentally friendly and socially conscious. These shareholders have — to the surprise of conventional investors and to the chagrin of climate change deniers — enjoyed great success: Green stock indices such as the S&P 500 Environmental & Socially Responsible Index fund have outperformed the standard S&P 500 benchmark
vironment and profit and suffer from considering just one or the other. This is true especially for pure public goods — an economic term describing a service or commodity that everyone can enjoy and that is not made less enjoyable by another person using the service or commodity. Pure public goods pose problems when they are left to the whims of those seeking profit on the free market because the social costs of using the good are much greater than the private costs of using it.
today’s world, from a firm emitting chemicals that pollute individuals’ drinking water to an individual smoking a cigarette that causes lung damage to bystanders. Of all the issues characterized by the tragedy of the commons, however, few have the potential to do more harm than the problem of over-fishing. According to “The Tragedy of the High Seas,” an article published in The Economist, a preponderance of the world’s protein emanates from the ocean in the form of fish. In addition to harboring fish crucial for human dietary needs, the ocean also produces more than half of the world’s oxygen supply. Oxygen, of course, is crucial not just for biotic survival on land and sea but also for maintaining current levels of photosynthesis and carbon sequestration. Despite the ocean’s importance, its status as a “commons” leaves it susceptible to individuals pursuing their current self-interest at the expense of the long-term viability and well-being of the resource. In this case, fishermen looking to profit individually catch as many fish as possible, eventually depleting the fish populations that sustain those same fishermen, destroying oceanic ecosystems and endangering the human food supply. Currently, more than two-thirds of global fish stocks are over-exploited, according to the aforementioned piece in The Economist. This problem results in both a lack of profits (in the long term) and environmental degradation (in both the long and short term); nobody wins.
Where does the Halacha stand on all of this?
Soon after God’s creation of the universe, Genesis 2:15 says: “God took man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and preserve it.” While Halachic interpretations of this quote abound, most Jewish scholars agree on one point: God gave humans the world and entrusted them with caring for it.
Garret Hardin first outlined this problem of overuse in his seminal work, “The Tragedy of the Commons.” He describes a scenario first postulated by William Foster Lloyd in 1833, wherein shepherds share common grassland. Each Deuteronomy 20:19–20, which describes the laws of shepherd is given an war, proscribes the felling incentive to let addiof trees that bear fruit. The tional cattle from his When we can sacrifice the long excerpt has been extrapoherd graze the land, lated to form the basis for term to enrich ourselves in the since the land is free to Bal Tashchit, a Jewish tenet the shepherd, and as he short term, we are committing prohibiting senseless deadds additional cattle, struction. he enhances the value an ethical violation of his own herd. How From this, a clear conever, as each shepherd clusion emerges: When we permits more cattle to graze, less and less grassland remains have opportunities to avoid senseless waste — like by adoptand, eventually, the common resource becomes depleted or ing environmentally friendly technologies at a reasonable destroyed. cost — we ought to do so; when we sacrifice the long term to enrich ourselves in the short term, we are committing an In economic terms, Hardin describes the concept of a ethical violation; and when we can identify solutions benenegative externality – when individuals who benefit from a ficial to both the environment and to business, we ought to resource do not bear the full social cost of using it. We obembrace them. serve this problem with many ecological and social issues in
onventional public sentiment presumes that pursuit of profit and protection of the environment are mutually exclusive interests. Where does the Halacha — Jewish religious law — fall on these issues?
The Life of a College Student—Finding Inner Peace Amidst All That’s Going On
By Jasmine Kiaei
ust picture it: You’re sprinting up Janss Steps, attempting to get to class on time while your phone is buzzing in your pocket begging for attention. Your grandma’s birthday party is scheduled on the same weekend that you were planning to study for your microbiology exam. You barely survived midterms, and now finals are creeping up like that dreaded monster in a bad scary movie. The news of natural disasters or perhaps even the recent U.S. presidential election has been inducing stress. To top it all off, we live in the age of social media, in which we are conditioned to assess our self-worth through the number of ‘likes’ our breakfast received and in which our attention spans have been cut to a matter of seconds because of the hundreds of websites constantly over stimulating our minds. The life of a college student is certainly exciting and stimulating, but it can definitely be stressful.
plus suicides that were associated with the economic crisis of 2008, according to a 2014 study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. True faith in G-d is supposed to give you a greater sense of security than winning a $200 million lottery ticket since money can disappear overnight, but faith will give you the sense that you are being taken care of no matter the situation. Once you begin placing your trust in G-d, not only will you be able to accept hardships, but you may also begin to embrace them.
Prayer can be used as a tool to develop inner peace and in turn relieve the stress that comes with a busy college life. But don’t take my word for it, the mind-body relationship has been explored in the scientific community as well. The effects the mind can have on the body are demonstrated in an article, published in 2007 in the Journal of Health Psychology, called “The Influence of Prayer Coping on Mental Health among Cardiac Surgery Patients.” The study found that patients undergoing open-heart surgery had better recovery rates due to the optimism that comes with prayer. The kinds of prayers used were conversations with G-d and memorized prayers. The patients who prayed also showed improved post-operative mental health as compared to those who didn’t, who showed stronger signs of depression. Patients were able to manipulate their physical and mental well-being using prayer. The researchers assume that the positive effects of prayer on these patients were due to a habitual practice of praying throughout the patients’ lives and prayer would not necessarily have been as effective if the patients picked it up on surgery day. But prayer and inner peace are not just valuable for open-heart surgery patients. Researchers have found that people who specifically pray for others are less affected by the stress that accompanies financial hardships. Again, we find that the power of the mind can have great strength when dealing with difficult situations.
The storms of life will seem a lot less tempestuous if we conduct our days with a sense of bitachon — a powerful sense of confidence in G-d. We need to realize that, at the end of the day, G-d is the one in charge and that whatever struggle we are trying to overcome are truly meant to be. Maimonides suggests finding G-d through nature. The intricate workings of the human body particularly fascinate and inspire me to recognize the infinite wisdom of G-d. The complexity of our bodily systems and the way each individu With this mindset, you’ll realize that any sense of woral organ works with another so perfectly is just one example ry is wasted energy and wasted human potential. of G-d’s orLife is full of trials and tribulations. If we choose chestration to look at each challenge — i.e midterms, finals, We must develop the tools throughout traffic, California rain and social tensions — as the world. to help us embrace our a test of our emotional flexibility, we’ll develop Recogresilience and gain a deeper understanding of life. nition of struggles and come out We must develop the tools to help us embrace G-d’s wonour struggles and come out of them stronger than stronger than we went in ders inwe went in. creases our perceptive One way to develop our trust in a Higher Being and to ness and allows us to see His involvement on a more minute achieve inner peace is through tefillah — prayer. Many of us level. tend to turn to prayer as an emergency measure in times of need — we ask G-d to help us do well on an exam or to heal According to Rabbeinu Bachya, the 11th century aua loved one. However, by only praying in difficult times, we thor of the “Duties of the Heart,” if a person is not placing are not using prayer his trust in G-d, he is automatically trusting another entity. to its maximum poOften, we look to money to provide us with a sense of secuIt is certainly exciting tential. Regular prayer rity and peace of mind. However, as Rabbeinu Bachya excan also have beneplains, the money necessary for life-sustaining needs is guarand stimulating, but it ficial effects on our anteed by G-d. There you go; I just took care of that worry. daily lives. can definitely be stressful The second type of money is the one we depend on for our sense of security. This is similar to a child’s security blanket. The blanket cannot provide the child with any greater protection. Even so, it brings about a certain sense of tranquility. In actuality, money can’t guarantee you anything. Putting faith in money is foolish. If you don’t believe me, analyze the stock market trends during the 2008 Great Recession. The American people’s savings and their sense of security burst like a bubble with the collapse of the market. If these people had secured themselves emotionally with belief in a higher entity, we might not have seen the 10,000
As an added bonus, there’s a part of tefillah where you can make individualized requests of G-d, in your own words. It’s basically a one-on-one therapy session with G-d where you get to vent and let it all out. And I mean all out! Tefillah can be used as the time and place where you hand over your hardships and struggles to G-d, trusting that He’ll handle them — unquestionably, you leave with a greater sense of inner peace.
Our hectic lives certainly affect our peace of mind and perhaps explain the growth of yoga practice throughout the world; the same could be said of society’s burgeoning psychiatry and mental health bills. Mastering the trait of menuchat ha’nefesh, or calmness of the soul, will give you the ability to handle anything that life throws at you, no matter how big or how tough. As Simcha Zissel Ziv, the Alter of Kelm and a leader in the Mussar Movement, explained, “A person who has mastered peace of mind has gained everything.” The ability to separate yourself from the struggles of life, on a cognitive level, will enable you to view the world with renewed vision.
Although the word tefillah is often translated as prayer, a better translation for the word would be communion — defined as the union of mind and spirit. tefillah is called “the service of the heart” according to the Talmud. It is not meant to be a ‘lip service’; rather, it is supposed to have a direct effect on us in a spiritual sense through the use of our mind’s intent. So the next time you feel yourself collapsing at the thought of another homework assignment, remember that connecting to G-d and the developing our inner peace can help us navigate an otherwise hectic and chaotic world.
Economic Analysis of Modern Judaism By Raziel Kohanbash
e are insatiable creatures. We desire to posish human capital, there is a good chance one would choose These regulations are part of the Jewish religion, which we sess whatever we see, even though we might to forego a good portion of it after a certain amount of time. said before was a “time-intensive” good. Traditional Jews be better off not having anything at all. HowThis leads to a complete decline in Jewishness. However, this wait until sundown every Friday to start Shabbat and holiever, this being said, there are neither enough trend does not stop after one person. If one decides not to days; and since a good handful of modern Jews work late on items floating around nor enough resources to buy everybe Jewish, there is Fridays, they state that they cannot thing we could possibly want. This problem of limited goods a high chance that make Shabbat or Yom Tov because and resources is called the “scarcity” problem, and it is the his or her children they “do not have the time.” Without The answer is plain and fundamental problem faced in the field of economics. So if would not be Jewthe observance of Shabbat or Yom simple. We should not treat this is a problem, what is the solution? How do individuish either. If this Tov, these individuals do not build als deal with this issue? Well, they try to figure out a way to persists, we can up their Jewish identity. FurtherJudaism as secondary or maximize their total happiness given the resources they have expect to find absomore, with the increase in the new at their disposal. Although that may sound simple at first, it lute assimilation of work-oriented culture, many men substitutable to our secular is often tough for individuals to decide how many of these the Jewish culture and women opt not to invest in their pursuits. goods to give up and how many to keep. Nonetheless, we into the secular Jewish education. In “American make these choices on a daily basis. world. Jewry: An Economic Perspective Although not physical in nature, economists have been We must take and Research Agenda,” Chiswick classifying abstract concepts as “economic goods,” meaning actions to decrease this divide among Jews if we want to argues that the amount of time an individual possesses ingoods that individuals would allocate their resources to or keep our religion alive and well. But how do we do this? directly correlates with the amount he cares about Jewish away from. Judaism, as a religion, can be argued to be an How are we supposed to earn money while practicing all institutions, like synagogues. As an individual earns more, economic good, aspects of Judaism, when Judaism requires a lot of time? he or she may tend to have less as people spend The answer is plain and simple. We should not treat Judaism time to attend synagogue and, As an individual earns more, he their resources— as secondary or substitutable to our secular pursuits. We therefore, get a Jewish educanamely their should treat both sides of our lives as complements to each tion. Without this development or she may tend to have less time time— trying to other. This means that we should definitely not stop earning in education, there is definitely practice it. And money. However, our focus should not only be on using all a decrease in Jewish identity. to attend synagogue and, therealthough peoour time to earn this money. We should split our time evenly In addition to understandfore, get a Jewish education. ple now treat between both Judaism and secularism, as they both reinforce ing the short-run effects of Judaism and each other. If we have strong attachment to Judaism, we various events, economists like secularism as could possibly enter the secular world with new insights and to measure long-term trends as substitutes—as in Jews have to decide how much of each to new ethical mindsets. Likewise, if we have some connection well. In this case, the short-run effects of a decrease in obsergive up— an economic analysis is helpful to show that they to the working world, we can use our resources to fully invance and Jewish education is a decrease in Jewish human should really be treating the two goods as complements. vest in Jewish learning and education. capital, which we said before to be a decrease in Jewish iden The value of time is an important factor in understandtity. But let us step back and consider what would happen in ing the economic choices a Jew makes in his daily life. From the future. If one were to not continuously build up his Jewthe end of World War II to today, there has been a steady increase in the number of men and women working in various high-ranking industries. So much so that today’s workforce looks nothing like it did a century ago. Among these new professional workers are a large number of Jews, whose incomes are nothing like they were before. With these great new jobs and high incomes naturally comes great responsibility and devotion to work. Consequently, since more Jews are dedicated to working long hours, there are an increasing amount who have less free-time in their schedule to commit to other things. Since we can think of Judaism as an economic and “time-intensive” good, Jews must choose to allocate their time between their “secular” life and their Judaic life, with most people choosing to limit their consumption of the latter option. This pattern of shifting consumption away from Judaism to secularism is “evident in American Jewish patterns of observance and non-observance,” according to researcher Barry Chiswick. When people have less time on their hands, they tend to shy away from pursuits that build up their Jewish “human capital,” meaning the pursuits that fully build up Jewish potential. In that sense, many turn to secular ventures that require less commitment to time. For instance, Jews have long established the laws for Shabbat and Yomim Tovim.
Journalism and Judaism By Matana Shams
ews articles are the primary source of information on important events locally and around the world. Journalists have the opportunity to report vital stories and, in some cases, express their opinions on current issues in politics and society. Journalism is the vessel that writers use to expose the truth and inform the public about threatening events. News articles are meant to help readers understand the world through a clearer lens.
Clarifying and informing the public about issues is crucial and necessary, but individuals must be meticulous in how they present information.
Jews play an important role in the world of journalism, from Dana Bash, who writes for CNN, to Elizabeth Rubin, a journalist for the New York Times, to Ben Shapiro, the editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire. Jews are very involved in journalism on college campuses as well, including papers like our very own Jewish newsmagazine at UCLA, Ha’Am, and Stern College’s paper, The Observer. With so many Jewish journalists in modern society, it is important to make sure the content of these Jewishly-authored articles are property expressed. The Torah gives insight on how to present information that is both beneficial for readers and is void of biases.
According to the Jewish law, in certain situations where the public needs to be warned or when a threatening situation needs to be prevented, we are required to publicize relevant information. For example, false witnesses’ punishment is publicized in order to prevent similar incidents from reoccurring.
Jewish law, in general however, is careful not to embarrass any public figure or individual for their wrongdoings. Circumstances in which a person acts inappropriately and still ignores the issue when confronted about it may require that he be exposed publicly by a newspaper, especially if his wrongdoing affects the public. Even so, one must be very scrupulous with what information is published. The prohibition of lashon hora — advertising derogatory or harmful information about another — does not apply when it comes to a “wicked” person. If there are a substantial number of rumors about a person’s sinful actions and the general public considers this person guilty, then it is permissible to embarrass him through the news. Through this, the individual may come to change.
Today, most Jewish communal and college newspapers lack a Halachic basis, or a basis in Jewish law, for what they can and cannot publish. This means that even information presented in Jewish owned newspapers can potentially transgress numerous Torah prohibitions. To be knowledgeable about the laws of journalism can help writers understand their responsibility to society and how to properly carry out their duties.
Examining the differences between a Jewish and standard, non-religious newspaper will help us further understand the requirements Jewish journalism faces. It is common for standard newspapers to ask legal advice before publishing an important story — journalists want to make sure their articles allow no room for lawsuits. The content of a story must be accurate, worded correctly and properly cited. Revealing certain information is at times safe but at other times can result in negative outcomes and have legal repercussions. A lawyer will inform a newspaper of opportunities and of the limits of journalism. Jewish newspapers, however, must take further steps to ensure that their media is acceptable. They must consult before publishing sensitive information about a person or an institution. It is important to run the story by a posek, an expert in Jewish law, who can help them avoid violating a Torah prohibition.
The Torah discusses that an individual who is considered a public figure is held under a microscope. Even the priests in the time of the first and second Jewish temple were watched very closely. Anytime the priest Jourwould leave the room where the community nalism funds were held, he was searched. There is a commandment involves investigating social, political and ideological issues. that demands of the priests, “And you shall be clean before Debating an issue should not be confused with creating G-d and (the people) of Israel.” They would search the priest controversy, or machloket. According to the Torah, journot because they suspected him of thievery but instead to nalism should be a means of clarifying an issue and not of instill confidence in the eyes of the pubic. To comply with promoting dispute between indibeing clean “before viduals. Needless to say, it would G-d and (the peobe improper to inflame emotions, Publicizing accusations ple) of Israel,” the causing individuals to stand against Torah encourages about an individual purely one another. The Talmud in tracorganizations and tate Shabbat describes this sort of individuals to pubfor entertainment is unaccontroversy as causing hatred and licize their actions slander, or lashon hora. When creceptable. and to be extremely ating quarrels among individuals or clear about their groups, undoing the damage is diffiintent. This is where cult to control and the disputes often escalate. Additionally, journalism comes into play. publicizing accusations about an individual purely for entertainment is unacceptable.
With all this being said, can a newspaper publicize the inappropriate actions of an individual or an institution?
Judaism also works to enforce standard journalistic expectations. Jewish law tells us that journalism should be directed to uncover the reality of a situation. This requirement may prove useful in presenting stories with less bias. In addition, Jewish law places a great responsibility on journalists. Limitations, many of which have been mentioned above, are crucial to allowing writers to discover the truth, promote integrity, create harmony and provide a crucial resource to society. Basic guidelines for writers: 1) Make sure your information is accurate. 2) Inform the article’s subject about their wrongdoing before publicizing. 3) Do not exaggerate. 4) Journalists should seek the truth, aim to help individuals and avoid harming individuals/organizations. 5) Avoid publicizing harmful or derogatory information when situation can be alternatively resolved. 6) An investigation may not be reported if the subject will suffer more than deserved (physically, financially, etc.) and the damage cannot be undone. 7)Review your purpose and objective for reporting information.
In an Attempt to Explain and Save Religion By Daniel Levine
Many people make the error of thinking that conceptions of the “holy” and of “moral” conscious are fused or are one and the same. As we will see later, this is the root of most problems in the modern religious landscape. However, when we deeply analyze the history of religion and religious ideas, we will see that it is not only appropriate but absolutely necessary to treat these ideas as different from each other. By way of introduction, I feel that it is necessary to lay out some of the premises and assumptions that this argument will be based on. First, I am assuming that the world has always run the way it does now and that the laws of the universe have remained unchanged. This premise does not allow one time events such as hierophanies or prophetic revelations to tell mankind what is true/untrue and right/ wrong. Second, I am assuming that our species has been evolving both intellectually and morally from our inception. In other words, morality is something that can be somewhat measured by various methods that will not be delineated here. This is not to say, however, that there is one “objective morality” — I think that many different moral systems can individually reach the “end of the moral road” from a human perspective. It is our imperative as a religious community, as
this is the common denominator between all groups that call themselves religious. By philosophically immutable, I do not mean that the form of the “holy” (Polytheism, Monotheism, Pantheism, etc.) does not change. Rather, I mean that It has already been well displayed by religious theorists the idea that there is something that is “holy” that mankind that man has an inherent spiritual dimension. Now, it is not attempts to connect to is a constant. We can then define this my desire to discuss whether or not this dimension is reflec“holy” aspect of religion by saying that it is “the attempt of tive of something that is true (which is my personal belief) an individual or group to connect to something outside the or simply an illusion; rather, I wish to make the claim that realm of everyday life this spiritual dimension is at or empiricism — via the center of religious beOur idea of what is moral is ritual, prayer, or other lief. This connection to the methods.” “holy” is something that is constantly changing as we Before we begin completely separated from sharpen our logic and ration, as to discuss the “mormundane or profane life. To al” aspect of religion, be “holy” or to entreat some they are indispensable tools in a couple of importentity that is “holy” means ant points must be that mankind must sepathe evolution of morality elucidated. Given rate himself from ordinary that my definition or routine life and enter a of morality largely realm where rationale and hinges on the rational capacities of man, it must be stated logic break down. Not to say that this is irrational but rather that the realm of the “holy,” which we defined as irrational, unrational. In this realm of the holy, there is no logic or rationale to be found: A community or individual may feel this can often come into conflict with the moral realm. It is for this reason that often times religious men and communities connection that they have to something that is “holy,” and are able and willing to carry out abhorrent acts for a “holy” the only thing that we can say about this connection is that sake while they would never allow the same act in the realm it must exist in some capacity (again, real or illusory), given of the profane. Furthermore, in this dichotomy between the that many have experienced it. “holy” and the “moral,” we see that in the short term, the The realm of the “holy” is the realm of religion that is “holy” often wins but that in the long term the “moral” wins. largely unchanging from generation to generation or from This is due to the fact that something that is fundamentally one religion to the next. A modern religious man can fulnon-rational cannot win in the long term against a direct ly understand what another religious individual, no matter challenge from something that is rational. When this hapin what time or place, feels when he says that he is expepens, the form that the “holy” takes can even be changed. In riencing or connecting with the “holy.” As we will see in a this sense, the idea of what the realm of the “holy” demands moment, this is the half of religion that is philosophically from human beings can often be shaped by the rational immutable from one community to another, meaning that realm of the “moral”. will be argued below, to allow our moral process to continuously evolve — without being stymied by issues of dogma — to ensure the continuity of our religion.
t seems to me that we need to separate what we call “religion” in our modern world into two disparate entities. On the one hand, we have the moral ideas that a religious man views as central to his faith. On the other hand lies the spiritual connection aimed at achieving a higher purpose, generally displayed through prayer or ritual on both an individual or communal level. As we will soon see, these two entities or realms of religion — the “moral” and the “holy” — must be separated if we wish to discuss religion both historically and how it should relate to the modern world. Now, this split is an unconscious one, as will be made clear below, and each of the two entities is fueled by its own unique forces.
I think that we can fully reduce the “moral” aspect of religion to societal needs. Every group of humans needs a system of ideas to govern their interactions with one another. For a society to work and thrive, this implicit social contract is needed to ensure that members of that society are able to leave their concerns of basic safety and thereby be able to climb the ladder of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Now the idea of what is “moral” is an idea that is constantly evolving from one generation to another. Furthermore, for the purpose of this article, I am not interested in delving deep into questions concerning moral epistemology. Suffice it to say that there is an idea that we have called morality — whether the result of a Deity or nature — and that our idea of what is moral is constantly changing as we sharpen our logic and ration, as they are indispensable tools in the evolution of morality. Now everything that I have written thus far regarding the split nature of religion is only applicable to a pre-modern or pre-enlightenment era. The modern idea of a separation between religion and the secular was non-existent, as all of humanity and society was involved in what we would now call religion. When this split happened, the realm of the secular attempted to extract the “moral” component of religion — leaving only the holy aspect. Religion, now feeling robbed of its control over the “moral,” fought back with the only tool that it had left, namely the “holy”.
I cannot stress enough that this fundamentalism is not how religion has functioned over the vast majority of human history. We see examples in all religions of religious thinkers using their sense of “morality” to change their religion. It is obvious that these religious thinkers are not using the “holy” to dictate what is “moral”; rather, they are using their rationale to dictate what is “moral” and then subsequently redefining the realm of the “holy” to jive with their moral thought.
9 stages. The era of the prophets is the era where the Torah that were so fantastical, that they were completely stripped was written, and the struggle between what is “moral” and of their original intent. Again, the Rabbis used their morwhat is “holy” is a struggle that al intuition to is ubiquitous throughout the change religion, text. On the one hand, we seem and their idea In this sense, the idea of what to have rules set in place by pure of the “holy” the realm of the “holy” demands “moral” reasoning, such as the changed with it. laws of business, charity, and The Rabbis now from human beings can often be other areas of civil law. However, claimed that shaped by the rational realm of the laws that were created via an the desire of the allegiance to the “holy,” even if “holy” was althe “moral” they contradicted the “moral,” most completewere still followed. Thus, a man ly subservient could be killed for breaking the to the desires of Sabbath or an entire city could be destroyed if the majority the interpretive community. It was not the “holy” that deworshiped idols. As we will see shortly, it was only a matter manded these changes, but rather these changes demanded changes from the “holy”.
In every subsequent generation of pre-enlightenment Judaism, we can find this same pattern on a micro scale (the many Tekanot of the Geonim, Maimonides, the Zohar, etc). It is crucial for my argument to reiterate the fact that this split between the “holy” and the “moral” is a fact that has lay in the subconscious of religious thinkers all throughout history. I say subconscious because an admittance of this idea would necessarily contradict what the religious man thinks he is doing in being religious. In other words, while in truth it is the maturing of human logic and rationale — as seen via “moral” intuition — that drives religious evolution, religious men in every generation are blind to this fact and think that their conception of right and wrong stems from the “holy.”
If we take Judaism as a test case, we can see this entire process play out in a less abstract manner. Ancient Judaism started with an idea of the “holy” along with a “moral” code — the two entities that make up religion. The moral code of ancient Judaism had basic, rational laws of morality such as “do not kill” and “do not steal”. However, often times the conception of the “holy” came into conflict with these “moral” laws. Often times Jews would kill, steal and pillage when they thought that it was desired by the “holy.” In the short term, the idea that Yahweh desired sacrifice, whether in the form of animals, enemies or even Jews themselves (human sacrifice has been well documented in ancient Canaan amongst our ancestors) overpowered the strength of the “moral.” However, as argued earlier, in the long run, the realm of the “holy” was overpowered by the “moral.” The age of the Jewish prophets was ushered in, with morality at its center. It was determined that sacrifice was negative and that resources should be used to help the poor rather than be thrown at the temple. Furthermore, the early seeds of universalism were planted, causing some prophets to argue that nonJews also have a place in the world and in divine service. In short, the realm of the “moral” overpowered the “holy” and actually of time until these “holy” laws were overtaken by the “morcaused Jewish thinkers (the prophets) to change or reevalal” force. uate their conception of the “holy.” Again, it is important to About 500 years after the era of the prophets marks the note that the moral evolution was based purely on ration beginning stages of rabbinic and logic. The prophJudaism. Over hundreds of ets logically realized In short, the realm of the years, people began to realthat it made no sense ize that many of the “holy” to rank sacrifice over “moral” overpowered the laws in Judaism were in dithe basic livelihood of rect contradiction to their their fellow men. Only “holy” and actually caused “moral” intuition. In an efonce this idea of moJewish thinkers (the prophets) fort to keep Judaism relevant, rality had evolved did the Rabbis were forced to the idea of the “holy” to change or reevaluation their reinterpret the entire relichange with it. gion according to the moral conception of the “holy” While the weltanschauung of the time. prophets were a maNo longer was breaking the jor step in the moral evolution of Judaism, there were still “holy” laws of the Torah punishable by the death penalty, as many “moral” precepts that were in nascent or immature the Rabbis interpreted many of these verses and laws in ways
Left in this secular age with only control over the “holy,” the post-enlightenment religious man has attempted to keep control over society by largely replacing the “moral” with the “holy.” Rather than allow their “moral” intuition to continue to evolve as its own entity, they infused it with the “holy,” stymieing its growth. Now, most of the modern religious world mistakenly thinks that “morality” is fundamentally a subset of the “holy.” These religious fundamentalists will then use their notion of the “holy,” found in the words of their holy scriptures and exegesis, and they think that these words contain all of human “morality.” In this scenario, the ration and logic that is the “moral” disappears, as it is fully subjected to the irrational whims of the “holy.”
With the advent of the enlightenment, Judaism was forced to defend itself against the secular. We can now see that the creation of the secular moral realm is really just a conscious split between the “moral” and “holy” aspects of religion. The consequence of this was that the realm of the secular was able to advance moral thought at a speed unheard of throughout history, as they did not have to compete with the “holy.” In disposing of the “holy,” the secular realm was able to accomplish in a few generations what religions have been doing throughout the course of hundreds of years. At this moment, religion felt under attack by the secular. Orthodox Jewish thinkers did not want Judaism to be devoid of the “moral” aspect, and so they fought back with the only tool they had left, the “holy”. They attempted to reaffirm their religious community, but this time they only used their notion of the “holy” to interpret the world. Thus, the “moral” became fully subservient to the irrational realm of the “holy,” and it has blocked all further evolution from within the new fundamentalist Jewish community. Now this fundamentalist, Jewish community mistakenly thinks that they are continuing the tradition from the start of their religion, while in reality they could not be more wrong. They block all sense of the “moral” because it does not jive with their sense of the “holy;” however, this cyclical phenomenon has been stuck in time, since the “holy,” which is based on pre-enlightenment morality, has been unable to evolve. Thus, the fundamentalist sects of religion are a modern beast that must be dealt with on their own terms. Since the fundamentalist does not allow for “moral” arguments, given that it contradicts their notion of the “holy,” we must constantly be pushing back and arguing against their conception of the “holy.” It is only through a recognition that the “holy” does not teach us the “moral” that we can continue the religious process of moral improvement — and truly save religion from becoming completely obsolete.
The Milo Yiannopoulos Divide By Shaina Kashanirokh
ooking for a name that stirs up as much controversy as “Trump” among the American public? Well, I have got one for you: Milo Yiannopoulos. Yiannopoulos, a self-professed gay, Catholic born of a Jewish mother, who seems to be spearheading the alt-right movement, has drawn alarm and anger from many. The alternative right, known as the alt-right, opposes a great deal of the ideologies that have arisen in the modern age. Rejecting mainstream conservatism as part of the far-
ter. Yiannopoulos, who continuously champions the First Amendment right to free speech, objects to political correctness. Given his offensive outspokenness on sensitive subjects and political issues, Yiannopoulos sparks outrage with his deliberate provocations. He has sparked so much outrage that on his tour, “The Dangerous Faggot Tour,” he was confronted by violent pro-
derstandable — or perhaps even justified — many have been questioning how the First Amendment, our right to freedom of speech, plays into all of this chaos. By reacting toward Yiannopoulos’ remarks with physical violence and protests in a country where free speech is championed, liberals have put to question where the line of free speech is drawn. Yiannopoulos, speaking out in opposition to inhibition of free speech, which he refers to as “trigger warning culture,” believes there should be no holds barred on free speech. A trigger warning is an explicit indication that a forthcoming topic may evoke a distress in a population with a trauma history. The following outlays Yiannopoulos’ view on the matter, as he proudly proclaims in a speech: “I believe that everybody should have the opportunity to share their views, however noble or odious, and be given the full spotlight of public opinion. They should be given the opportunity to sell themselves to the American public to find success or be found wanting.” On the other hand, while Yiannopoulos’ proclamation in support of an unbarred freedom of speech sounds gloriously democratic, the results — such as overwhelming anger, pain and fear as cultures, races, ideologies and even rights are attacked — are not quite so glorious. Following the violent protests at Berkeley, the student-run newspaper at UC Berkeley published five op-eds that defended the violence in reaction to Yiannopoulos, citing violent police, hate speech, self defense and fear as the protesters’ reasons for violence. One op-ed by Josh Hardman stated: “The principle of freedom of speech should not be extended to envelop freedom of hate speech, for the unchecked normalization of hate speech will have real consequences.” Before the provocateur’s speech, Berkeley News published an article by Chancellor Nicholas Dirks in response to all the concerns over the impending “Dangerous Faggot Tour” speech:
right, the alternative right opposes multiculturalism, feminism, homosexuality and political-correctness and champions a white nationalist mindset. While the alt-right seems unified in a majority of these political, societal and racial stances, its followers seem divided on the issue of anti-Semitism. Some perceive Jews as simply other white people, while others engage in neo-Nazism and anti-Semitism, accusing Jews of undermining the Christian societies in which they live.
tests. On Feb. 1, Yiannopoulos visited UC Berkeley as per his tour schedule; however, protests in opposition of Yiannopoulos grew so violent that the speech was canceled and the alt-right provocateur was rushed off campus before his speech even began. Videos show masked demonstrators dressed in black charging toward the building where Yiannopoulos was meant to give his speech. They used police barricades to smash in windows, threw rocks and set fires with portable lights.
This was certainly not the first violent protest Yian As white-supremacist groups are generally homophonopoulos was confronted with on a college campus. At the bic and at least partially anti-Semitic, Milo Yiannopoulos’ University of Washington, while Yiannopoulos gave his involvement in the movement is a bit of a headscratcher. speech, protesters who stood outside threw fireworks, paint Yiannopoulos is a gay, conservative, Catholic of Jewish deand bricks at policemen in riot gear. The violence grew so scent who often blatantly states in interviews that he has chaot“black boyfriends.” Still, ic that he is the former senior a man As our culture is divided by its desire to be editor for the right-wing was shot news website, Breitbart, honest and true to itself and by its desire to among and is often perceived proas the face of the altbe considerate, careful, non-offensive and testers right movement. In an in the inclusive, college students are left to pick a interview with CNBC, crowd. Yiannopoulos said that side of this divide. At UC the alt-right cares about Davis, “Western values,” which Yianhe described as being “Western democracy,” and “democratnopoulos’ speech was canceled because of violent protests. ic values of freedom and equality,” both of which, he said, are Even at UCLA last year, Yiannopoulos’ “Feminism is Cancurrently under threat. Yiannopoulos has spoken out in supcer” speech was met with angry Bruins blocking the entrancport of Islamophobia, anti-feminism, anti-abortion, cultural es to the venue, delaying the event for an hour. appropriation and freedom of speech and is an active force online, trolling and making offensive comments on public While there is no denying that outrage and rejection in online forums — so much so that he was banned from Twitresponse to the provocateur’s inflammatory remarks are un-
“The concerns around the upcoming visit of a controversial speaker to campus make it necessary for us to reaffirm our collective commitment to two fundamental principles for our campus. The first of these principles is the right to free expression, enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and reflected in some of the most important moments of Berkeley’s history. The second of these principles has to do with our values of tolerance, inclusion and diversity — values which we believe are essential to making this university, and indeed any university, a site of open inquiry and learning.” As Dirks his article, of Amerthe valdom of tolerinclusion diversity at times in sion with another. As our culture is divided by its desire to be honest and true to itself and by its desire to be considerate, careful, non-offensive and inclusive, college students are left to pick a side of this divide.
goes on to write in these aspects ican life — ues of freespeech, ance, and — are tenone
End of Days: The Singularity and the Messiah
By Joey Levin
magine a world in which there is no war. All humans are happy and society has advanced to the point where there are no poor people and everyone has enough food to eat. Humankind has made advances in science to achieve immortality or has gotten close to such a point. What is this world am I describing? Depending on whom you ask, you will get two very contrasting ideas. From a religious perspective, this is clearly the messianic age. From a scientific or technological standpoint, this is an idea known as the singularity. The concept of a Messiah in Judaism is well known. Though not explicit in the Torah, the Messiah is prophesied in the prophets and writings, such as in Isaiah. The Messiah will bring universal peace, revive the dead and usher in a perfect age. There will be an end to evil, and all humanity will be unified. The Messiah him/herself won’t be some su-
the messianic age. The singularity offers a way to explain how some of the descriptions of the messianic age will happen. Things like agricultural prosperity are easy to explain: the singularity will have advanced science so much that it knows the most efficient ways to get food, and we will have armies of robots performing these tasks for us. These robots will also help achieve universal peace, as they will defend any countries from attack and ensure no more wars are fought. They will be the best police, preventing any crimes from taking place.
The Messiah is supThroughout history, everyone has assumed posed to bring all the that science and religion are two parallel dead back to lines that will never intersect. However, life. There are a lot of questhey intersect at infinity, where messiah tions with meets singularity. this. There have been an estimated 108 pernatural being but will be an ordinary person with great billion people to ever live on Earth, leadership. In Isaiah it says that predatory beasts will no according to the Population Reference longer hunt prey and there will be agricultural abundance in Bureau, so how are that many people this age. All these help to create a more ideal world. going to suddenly come back, given There is a concept called the singularity in technology. limited food, space, water, even air? The singularity describes the situation in which we continue The singularity provides an easy andeveloping artificial intelligence and reach a point where AI swer to this. When the singularity hits, has the power to upgrade itself and increase its own intelliour knowledge of the universe will gence faster and faster. Once this happens, there will be no improve at an incredible rate. We will way to stop this intelligent being from improving itself and swiftly achieve interstellar travel and it will swiftly become more intelligent than any of us. The populate other stars and solar systems. superintelligent being will discover advances in science and There will be plenty of space for everymedicine that it would have taken centuries for humanity to one to live. Advances in science and discover in days. Add in robots, especially nanotechnology, medicine will allow people’s bodies to and this AI will have access to every aspect of our world. As live incredible lengths, and once their its intelligence increases exponentially, it will very quickbodies do degrade we will be able to ly figure out ways to answer every major question known upload people’s consciousnesses to mato humankind and figure out how to create an ideal future. chines, allowing them to live forever. And this is where the singularity connects to the Messiah. Another important idea for the At this point you might be thinking that I am cramessianic age is that everyone will zy, that this is some weird conspiracy theory I dredged up. become united as one world. Judaism believes in one God, However, the Zohar comments on the flood in the Noah’s and in the messianic age everyone else will recognize this ark story: “And six hundred years into the sixth millennium one God and a sense of oneness will be prevalent throughthe gates of wisdom from above and the fountains of wisout the world. The singularity will help achieve this. One the dom from below will open, and the world will be corrected one hand, as science continues to advance it discovers more as a preparation for its elevation in the seventh [millenniand more connections between everything in the universe. um.]” The gates from above are the gates that will allow in Instead of separate branches and laws, we are getting closer wisdom from heaven, Torah wisdom, into the world. The and closer to the true universal laws, which will give a sense gates from below will bring in knowledge of science and of oneness to all of nature and us. On the other hand, the about the world. The elevation into the seventh millennisingularity will connect all of humanity as one. There will be um will be the messianic age, so this shows that it will be instantaneous communication between all of humanity — through religious and secular knowledge combined that the everyone will have access to all the knowledge of humanity, messianic age will begin. In religious texts, it is assumed that and people will no longer be divided. the messianic age will require a revelation of The Zohar is adding is that the messianic age Torah. What the Zohar is adding is that will also require advances in scientific knowlthe messianic age will also require advances edge that will help usher in the messianic age. in scientific knowledge that will help usher in
However, the truth is that in both these ideas, no one really knows what is going to happen. Though there are many prophecies of the Messiah, more important is the idea that there will be much peace and prosperity in the world. It would be impossible for our human minds to try and comprehend what would happen in a “singularity world,” as we have no way of understanding what a super-intelligence would do for us. Scientists can try and predict what will happen, but super-intelligence will increase so fast once it surpasses the human intellect that we will be like ants in comparison to its knowledge. Though we don’t know what they will bring, both these concepts will hopefully create ideal worlds for us to live in. There is a concept in math that two parallel lines will never intersect each other. However, you can theoretically add a line at infinity where these two lines would intersect. Throughout history, everyone has assumed that science and religion are two parallel lines that will never intersect. However, they intersect at infinity, where Messiah meets singularity. Religion and science have been at odds with each other for so long, but it is very ironic that they are actually working toward the same goal but from two different directions.
Sino-Israeli Relations Under the Reign of Trump By Inbar Goren
Many in China assumed that Trump’s criticism of China was just part of his campaign and that his harsh rhetoric would die down once he took office. However, this does not seem to be the case. One of Trump’s first actions as President of the United States was to accept a call from Taiwan, which goes back on the “one China” diplomatic tradition. Since
Soviet Union was no longer a threat, China was seen by US strategists as a key rival. Additionally, a number of developments led to a souring of relations between the two world powers. In the 1990’s two very large military exercises in the Taiwan Straits took place. This perceived aggression against Taiwan angered U.S. officials and resulted in the deployment of two aircraft groups. The tensions were further exacerbated following the accidental bombing of a Chinese embassy in Belgrade and due to fears of a possible massive espionage string by the Chinese. This growing tension between the U.S. and China had great implications for Israel as Washington now began to heavily scrutinize Israeli weapon sales to China. During the 1990’s American officials began to accuse Israel of illegally providing China with certain high tech weapons such as the Lavi jet fighter and the Patriot Missile system.
However, the thriving relationship between Israel and China is once again under threat.
1979, the US has accepted China’s notion that Taiwan is part of China and therefore has not pursued diplomatic relations with the island. After China complained, Trump escalated the situation and seemed to say that the “one China” policy would be contingent upon a favorable deal with China. Now reports are coming out that it was Trump himself who told Taiwan to call him. In response to this perceived aggression by the U.S., China has seized a U.S. drone in international waters, engaged in live fire exercises near Taiwan and deployed an aircraft carrier to patrol the East and South China Seas. Throughout its history, Israel has always had a lot to lose when relations between the U.S. and China take a turn for the worst. Traditionally, as Sino-American have worsened, so have Israel’s’ relations with China. In 1950, Israel became the first Middle Eastern country to extend diplomatic recognition to China. However, for the first couple of decades, relations between the two countries were at a standstill, as China aligned itself with the Arab and Muslim countries against Israel. China’s attitude toward Israel began to shift in 1978, when Deng Xiaoping became the leader of China. Deng steered China away from Mao’s ideological approach to international relations in favor of a more pragmatic strategy that emphasized foreign trade. In 1992, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, China established full diplomatic relations with Israel. Following this development, arms sales, which were Israel’s main export to China, became more open, and trade increased to the point that Israel became China’s second-largest weapons supplier. Unfortunately, Israeli officials failed to address the growing U.S. unease with Israeli weapon sales to China. During the Cold War, the U.S. supported Israeli weapons sales to China because they saw the arms supplied to the Asian nation as a counter to Soviet power. However, when the Cold War came to an end and the
he election of Donald Trump signifies a dramatic shift in how the U.S. interacts with the world. Trump has promised to uphold his promises to prioritize America’s commitments abroad and to follow a foreign policy of “putting America first.” Throughout his campaign, Trump has criticized China for a long list of perceived wrongdoings from the “rape” of the U.S. economy, to the devaluation of the yuan, to masterminding the global warming “conspiracy.”
The situation reached a boiling point in 2000 when during a historic visit to Israel, Chinese President Jiang Zemin was promised by Prime Minister Ehud Barak the sale of the Phalcon Airborne Early Warning System. This technology would have gone a long way in advancing China’s military by allowing them to track 60 planes and ships across the Taiwan Straits and South China Sea. However, once the U.S. got wind of the sale it began to put extreme pressure on Israel to cancel the deal. Left with no choice, Israel had to go back on its promise to China and renege on the deal. The Chinese were extremely upset by these turn of events and became extremely critical of Israel. The positive relationship that Israeli officials worked hard to construct was put back decades as Chinese officials began to heavily criticize Israel in the international scene, supporting figures like Yasser Arafat and condemning Israel’s relations with the Palestinians. Additionally, they demanded an unrealistic $1-2 billion
in compensation. The botched arms deal was one of many negative consequences of Sino-American tensions. In the years following, the relationship between Israel and China was repaired and trade between the two countries has risen dramatically from $50 million in 1992 to $11 billion in 2013. However, the thriving relationship between Israel and China is once again under threat. The U.S. and China are once again divided, with naval faceoffs in the East and South China Seas and growing trade disputes. Considering the scale of bilateral trade between Israel and China today, relations between the two countries will not be crippled as they were in 2000 unless Trump engages in a full-scale trade war or if a military confrontation between China and the U.S. occurrs. Both of these, although unlikely, cannot be ruled out. Since it is not guaranteed that Sino-American relations will not deteriorate even further, it would be wise for the government of Israel to take the initiative and develop a triangle of communications between the three countries so that it does not find itself in a tight position if Chinese-American relations take a turn for the worse.
The Growing Split Between Left and Right in Our Community
By Samuel Bressler
he election of Donald Trump as America’s president has reverberated throughout the world. In the Jewish community, the new administration has caused intense soul-searching and an increased sense of suspicion between the left and right. This, however, is not a new phenomenon; rather, it is the acceleration of a decades long trend away from communal unity and toward factionalism. The fundamental factors at work here, combined with external events, suggest that this split will continue. Perhaps the best way to understand what the future might have in store for us is to look at the demographics. It has been a consistent observation for many years that the most rapidly growing wings of the Jewish community are on the religious edges: the secular, non-affiliated on one side, and the Orthodox on the other. For example, the 2013 Pew poll of the American-Jewish community found that 32 percent of Jewish millenials today considered themselves to
These demographic shifts have had repercussions in several aspects of Jewish politics, most prominently within AIPAC. Originally founded by both liberals and conservatives, AIPAC has gradually been shifting to the right since its founding. This at least partially reflects the increasing Orthodox influence within the organization, as noted by longtime observers such as The Forward’s J.J. Goldberg. He contrasts the 2016 conference’s ecstatic applauding of Trump to the scene in 2004, when only half the audience applauded during then-President George W. Bush’s speech to the organization.
non-Zionism, is increasing in membership and prominence with its demonstrations against the Trump administration. Unlike Jewish Voice for Peace, which will remain outside the community for the foreseeable future, INN may well attract enough support from the left-wing of the community to become relatively mainstream, despite (or because of) its active demonstrations against the Israeli and American right. Much more concerning is the fact that efforts are being made to resurrect the ultranationalist, racist Jewish Defense League (the spawn of the extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane). The young activists pushing this revival advocate allying with the so-called alt-right against Muslims and the left-wing (Jews among them).
have no religion, compared to only 22 percent of all Jews. The same poll also found that the median American Orthodox Jew in the country is over a decade younger than the median American Jew (40 vs. 52 years old). In coming decades, this trend will likely accelerate. Not only are these two groups polar opposites on the religious spectrum, but their politics diverge widely as well: While in total 70 percent of American Jews lean Democratic, 75 percent of unaffiliated Jews lean Democratic, and 57 percent of Orthodox Jews lean Republican. All this is taking place simultaneously with the drastic decline of the Conservative movement, which historically occupied the central position on the religious spectrum and facilitated communication on all sides. What this suggests is that the playing field on which ideological battles are fought is becoming more stark, and we are seeing the establishment of a left-wing, Reform or secular pole, and a right-wing Orthodox pole.
There is the possibility that these trends might even be accelerated by the rise of even more radical actors. On the left, the militant group If Not Now (INN), which straddles the border between Zionism and
The young activists pushing this revival advocate allying with the so-called alt-right, against Muslims and the left-wing
ment and subsequent growth of the right-wing Students Supporting Israel, and the reinvigoration of our J Street chapter (of which I am a member).
Un Indeed, despite AIderIn such conditions, cooperation on even PAC’s continued dominance lying of the Israel discussion in the most basic issues will prove difficult. this the Jewish community, it is growincreasingly ceding ground ing on both sides. To the far-right ZOA (Zionist Organization of institutional polarization is one basic emotion — fear. Under America), they have lost influential donors such as Sheldon President Obama, right-wing Jews viewed the Democratic Adelson. AIPAC has seen many disillusioned former liberals party and the left as selling out Israel to its enemies. They flock to J Street’s banner. believed that the survival of the state itself would be endangered until Obama was neutered. From there it was only a In our own Jewish community at UCLA we may be short step to calling them anti-Israel and then anti-Semitic. observing a similar phenomenon, with the recent establish-
Special scorn was reserved for those Jews actively allied with the left — they were seen as doing the bidding or carrying water of an Israel-hating administration. David Friedman, Trump’s nominee for ambassador to Israel, encapsulated this right-wing attitude when he denounced J Street and other Jews supporting the Iran deal as “worse than kapos” — Jewish collaborators who the Nazis used to supervise fellow prisoners in concentration camps. Now the shoe is on the other foot. Left-wing and centrist Jews view the new president, Donald Trump, as emboldening anti-Semites, whether the so-called alt-right or outright neo-Nazis. They point to special-adviser Steve Bannon, to the deliberate omission of Jews from the Holocaust remembrance statement and the wave of bomb threats, vandalism and other acts of violence against Jewish targets. They ask if a new anti-semitism is brewing in America. Then they observe the alliance formed between right-wing and Orthodox Jews and the Trump administration over Israel, epitomized by the appointment of David Friedman as ambassador to Israel, and they wonder if the right-wing is selling out American Jewish well-being for the price of a more favorable Israel policy. As a result, the response of the left wing of the community has been as strong as the right-wing’s towards Obama: Groups such as J Street and If Not Now have been joined by mainstream groups such as the Union for Reform Judaism. Let us pause to fully digest that the largest Jewish organization in the country is vocally opposing the appointment of an Israeli ambassador. These are not normal times. So we have one wing of American Jewry that has long viewed the other as stalking horses for anti-Israel forces. Now the other wing is beginning to view the first as stalking horses for anti-Semitic forces. In such conditions, cooperation on even the most basic issues will prove difficult. What happens next is difficult to say, except that American Jewish communal relations will be tinged with bitterness and suspicion. What has held the disparate elements of the community together is the general view that all stood for each other, as well as for Israel, when in need. If neither side believes this about the other, the two camps might finally grow too far apart to fit in the same tent. Whether this leads to an explicit or implicit schism, only time will tell.
Plastic Surgery and Judaism By Jessica Behmanesh
he Jewish people are a diverse nation. Although Jews share a common ancestor and share a national identity, throughout history, they have dispersed to every corner of the earth — China, Iran, Rome, India, Brazil, Kurdistan and the list goes on. Perhaps the single most significant factor that kept this dispersed nation rooted in their Jewish heritage was their sacred book — the Torah. For many Jews around the world, the Torah is perceived as the blueprint through which one may live his or her life. The holy book does so by both outlining various commandments — observing the Sabbath, honoring one’s parents, refraining from stealing or committing murder to name a few — and recounting stories of the Jewish people’s ancestors. In telling these stories, Jews may learn from the transgressions of their predecessors and ensure that those wrongdoings are not repeated.
ing that it is necessary to rectify damages caused by a serious accident or alleviate psychological pain — if it will lead to or improve a marriage or if it will allow for the patient to contribute to society and establish a livelihood. Rabbi Jacobovits’ responsa and criteria then served as matter for further interpretation by the Jewish legal community.
Perhaps the three most notable responsum following
Perhaps one of the most famous and respected lines of the Torah comes close to its beginning in the book of Genesis. Within Genesis 1:27, it says “…G-d created man in His own image, in the image of G-d created him.” Here, it is explicitly written that G-d created man according to His image, meaning that man is, in essence, a reflection of G-d. If the Jewish people are to believe that G-d is an omnipotent and perfect metaphysical being, then they must also believe that G-d, as a perfect entity, cannot make mistakes. Therefore, when G-d creates an individual with a certain appearance, His actions are intentional. However, despite this reasoning, in today’s day and age, one may often come across members of the Jewish nation that have gone under the knife in an effort to reform their external appearance, thus changing their G-d given image.
appearance and expedite the process of finding a partner. He reasoned that the issue of harming oneself would not apply to this matter, and he used several instances from the Talmud and Tosofos to prove that one’s appearance may cause her more psychological harm than the risk of physical harm posed by surgery. Moreover, he explained that with modern medicine and surgical technology, the risks accompanying surgery are minimal and, thus, not great enough to constitute an absolutely forbidden act. Finally, Rabbi Weiss, who wrote Minchas Yitzchak and led Jerusalem’s Eis Chareidis rabbinical court, wrote a dissenting opinion regarding the matter. Although he did concede that the issues of inflicting harm on another individual or oneself does require malicious intent in order to be a sin, he still found surgery to be a matter with risks too dangerous to allow for reasons of improving one’s image. Moreover, he clarified that, in Jewish law, one may only use surgery in life-threatening instances. In his opinion, while psychological pain may cause an individual harm, it does not endanger the person. Therefore, in Rabbi Weiss’ opinion, it would appear that plastic surgery would not be permitted. Yet, despite his interpretation, Rabbi Weiss closed his opinion with the recommendation for this issue to be further studied.
that of Rabbi Jacobovits were authored by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (1895-1986), Rabbi Mordechai Yaakov Breish (1895-1976) and Rabbi Yitzchak Yaakov Weiss (1902-1989). From 1964 to 1967, these three scholars Many individuals often decide provided unique answers to the question to get surgery with the goal of of the permissibility of receiving plastic surimproving oneself, rather than gery to improve one’s causing harm, plastic surgery, external image.
The viewpoints of these three scholars, while different in their approaches, ultimately influenced the most recent responsa on the issue of plastic surgery, written by Rabbi Shlomo While the concept of plastic surgery and observance of Zalman Auerbach (1910Judaism do not seem to immediately go hand in hand, in re1995). In his response, he ality, the concept of plastic surgery in Judaism has been one in this case, may be acceptable. Rabbi Feinstein, stated that “if the plastic of great debate among the Jewish community’s sages, and a Lithuanian-born Orsurgery is done to prevent the perspectives given regarding this topic are multifaceted. thodox rabbi who later suffering and shame caused In this article, we will explore some of the many opinions on moved to the United States, was said to be the leading expert by a defect in his looks (for instance a nose which is very this topic in an effort to reflect the diversity of perspectives on Jewish law for the Orthodox Jewish community of North abnormal) this would be permitted based on the Tosafot and regarding the ethical ramifications of cosmetic surgery. America. In his responsa, Rabbi Feinstein first addresses the Gemara, since the purpose is to remove a blemish. Howthe prohibition of ever, if the only reason is for beauty, this is not permitted.” The earliest recausing harm to In his opinion, Rabbi Auerbach understood that one’s image sponsa regarding the someone. Some has the power to either give a person confidence or lower legality of cosmetic In telling these stories, Jews may assert that plastic their self-esteem to the point where it causes them grave surgery within Julearn from the transgressions of surgery, by posing psychological harm. In such an instance, Rabbi Auerbach daism came during a risk to the paviewed the idea of plastic surgery as something acceptable the late twentieth their predecessors and ensure that tient, goes against rather than a forbidden source of danger. century. Rabbi Imthose wrongdoings are not repeated. Jewish law. Howmanuel Jacobovits, Although these responses do not constitute an exever, citing MaiChief Rabbi of Great haustive list of legal opinions, they do come to reflect the monides’ “Mishna Britain from 1967 to diversity of approaches and perspectives of respected Jewish Torah,” Rabbi Feinstein clarifies that this prohibition reflects 1991, addressed the legal issue of cosmetic surgery in 1961 scholars to the concept of cosmetic surgery. Moreover, these harm with malicious intent. Because many individuals often before the American Society of Facial Plastic Surgery. In his responsum come to evince the fact that while cosmetic surdecide to get surgery to improve themselves rather than to address, Rabbi Jacobovits — who was considered a leading gery might, on the surface, seem to be an obvious transgrescause harm, plastic surgery, in this case, may be acceptable. figure in the field of Jewish medical ethics — explained that sion, it is actually an issue that, like many others, must be if the goal of plastic surgery is to boost one’s external image, Rabbi Breish, a leading Jewish scholar in Switzerland given great thought and handled on a case by case basis. The it is generally forbidden to do so, unless one’s reasons also and the author of Chelkat Yaakov, gave his opinion on the above article is based on the information in “Judaism and meet particular criteria. Cosmetic surgery may be acceptable idea of a woman getting surgery in an effort to improve her Cosmetic Surgery” by Daniel Eisenberg, M.D. if it poses little danger, if it is “medically indicated” — mean-
History of Hypocrisy in UN Attitudes Toward Zionism
By Jacob Belson
Further evidence comes from King Abdullah I of Jordan’s statement to a French consul on May 23rd, 1948, eight days into the nine-month conflict. He said he was “determined to fight Zionism and prevent the establishment of an Israeli state on the border of his kingdom.” Egyptian diplomat and the first secretary-general of the Arab League, Abdul Rahman Azzam Pasha, stated in a late 1947 report titled “A War of Extermination”: “I personally wish that the Jews do not drive us to this war, as this will be a war of extermination and momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Tartar massacre or the Crusader wars…. The Arab is superior to the Jew in that he accepts defeat with a smile: Should the Jews defeat us in the first battle, we will defeat them in the second or the third battle … or the final one… whereas one defeat will shatter the Jew’s morale! Most desert Arabians take pleasure in fighting.” Since then, the United Nations has grown, and the world has seen an increase in voting-member states recognized by the United Nations. From what was once 51 original members, the United Nations has become a 193 member body. Although the size of the U.N. has progressed, its attitudes toward the Jewish state have emphatically regressed. In December 2016, former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a statement addressing the UN Security Council, said that the United Nations has a “disproportionate” volume of resolutions targeting Israel, “foil[ing] the ability of the U.N. to fulfill its role effectively.” Ban continued, “Decades of political maneuvering have created a disproportionate number of resolutions, reports and committees against Israel.” Much of the integrity of the U.N. has diminished because of its painfully obvious anti-Israel bias. For instance, since its formation in 2006, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has attacked Israel more than every other country combined, which includes North Korea, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran and other countries generally deemed gross human rights violators. Not only that, but as of 2014, a staggering one-third of the UNHRC’s special sessions have targeted Israel. Perhaps the largest piece of hyper-hypocrisy is that while Syria commits genocide against its own people in places like Aleppo and while Saudi Arabia
still sentences women to lashes for “bad language” during private arguments over WhatsApp, they constantly vote against Israel as a human rights violator.
ence that same year.
So, the question to ask is, why does the United Nations, as Ban expressed in Jerusalem August 2013, suffer Just in 2016, Ban justified Palestinian terror against “bias—and sometimes even discrimination” from the United Israeli civilians by saying, “it is human nature to react to Nations? The answer dates to the Cold War, when the U.N. occupation.” The U.N. women’s rights commission also igwas dominated by a political competition between Eastern nored abusers of women’s rights such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Western voting blocs. By 1968, while the U.S. was still Pakistan and many others, instead condemn Israel as a viofighting Communism in Vietnam, the United Nation’s rolls lator of women’s rights increased to 126 member (the only two countries states — up from 82 in 1957. against the resolution Many of these new member Much of the integrity of the were Israel and the U.S.). states were recent former UN has diminished because of The World Health Orgacolonies who rightfully won nization (WHO), which their independence as naits almost obvious anti-Israel works through the U.N., tion-states. Together, these bias. also singled out Israel new member states formed as a violator of “mental, what became the leading physical and environbloc at the U.N., the Nonmental health.” And arguably most egregiously, in an epic Aligned Movement (NAM). presentation of not just anti-Israel sentiment but anti-Semi The states that composed of the Non-Aligned Movetism, UNESCO adopted a resolution that denied thousands ment were, at least officially, not formally aligned with or of years of Jewish heritage, religion and culture when adoptagainst either West or East power bloc. During the Havaing Islamic-only terms for Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. The na Declaration of 1979, Fidel Castro famously said that the United Nations has become a platform on which to scapepurpose of the organization is to ensure “the national indegoat Israel for the world’s problems — much as the world’s pendence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of Jews have been scapegoated throughout history. non-aligned countries” in their “struggle against imperial But beyond 2016, one of the sharpest, most obvious ism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, racism, and all forms of moves of anti-Israel sentiment by the United Nations came foreign aggression, occupation, domination, interference or with its General Assembly Resolution 3379, which dates hegemony as well as against great power and bloc politics.” back almost 45 years. On November 10, 1975, in a vote of Simply put, the NAM was anti-colonialist. Because of its 72 to 35 (with 32 abstentions), the U.N. General Assembly goals, the bloc was (and in many ways, still is) inherently the (UNGA) determined that “Zionism is a form of racism and anti-Western party of the United Nations. Due to its sheer racial discrimination.” Labelling Zionism as racism was a size, the NAM reigned dominant. With President Nasser of blow against Israel’s fundamental legitimacy to exist, regardEgypt among its most vocal leaders and with the many Arab less of any political border or its own character. Zionism, and other Muslim states among its members, NAM’s role in founded in the late 19th century, is largely considered as a reshaping the body’s stance toward the Middle East and its movement for the establishment and protection of a Jewish central “conflict” was of vital importance. state and is a reaction to racism and racial discrimination As of today, there are 120 members in NAM, characthroughout Europe. The move towards this resolution took terizing nearly two-thirds of the United Nation’s members. place a year after UNGA 3237 granted the Palestinian LiberThe only European country in NAM is Belarus, a country ation Organization (PLO) “observer status.” The irony of this characterized by blatant political and economic corrupis that the countries that sponsored this labeling of Zionism tion. Of the 120 members and 17 observers of NAM, a clear as “racism” were the same countries that expelled their Jewmajority of them have vehemently and disproportionately ish population after the State of Israel declared its indepenopposed Israel in a countless number of resolutions. Due to dence. 23 of the 25 countries that sponsored this anti-Zionist NAM’s own self-interest, criticizing their own countries has become in-between rare and invisible, while rushing to criticize Israel, the “issue” in the Middle East, has become ubiquitous, expected and trite. When judging NAM, however, it is important to ask: If NAM were to be as prominent in 1948, legislation were predominantly Muslim, with Sharia Law would United Nations Resolution 181(II) have ever passed? codified in many of them. And the 35 countries against this Would there be U.N. recognition of the State of Israel? Or resolution were seen to be nations of a mostly Western bent. does historical precedent show that NAM would have vehe UNGA 3237’s decision that “Zionism is a form of racmently opposed the right of a Jewish state from ever existism and racial discrimination” was eventually revoked in ing? 1991 by U.N.GA 46/86, after Israel made its revocation a condition of its participation in the Madrid Peace Confer-
here were 33 countries in favor of United Nations Resolution 181(II), which called for the partition of Palestine into independent Arab and Jewish states. At the time of the resolution, 56 countries were members of the United Nations. The 33 nations to vote in favor of the formation of the Jewish state (along with a Palestinian state) were predominantly Western nations, while the 13 countries who voted against it were exclusively members of the “freedom belt” (i.e., Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan and Egypt). Besides Jordan, which was not yet a member of the U.N., all of Israel’s neighboring states voted against the resolution. And it was these same states (members of the Arab League) that led an invasion against Israel during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, showing that it was not their opposition to a distinct, independent Palestinian State alongside a Jewish State which led their objection; rather, it was a deep seated hatred for the existence of a non-Muslim, Jewish state in the region.
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