Conservative, With Reservations| November 22, 2022
In the aftermath of the Republicans’ midterm meltdown, the MAGA deep-freeze is thawing
ike green shoots emerging from frozen tundra under a warm spring sun, the Republican Party’s long ice age is over and the political landscape is coming back to life.
After Donald Trump’s 2016 victory — and even more so post-January 6th — challenging the party line became a ticket to political irrelevance. Voicing unease at the election denialism meant being primaried by Trumpian ultras, and relegated like Liz Cheney to the status of heretic.
But in the aftermath of the Republicans’ midterm meltdown, the MAGA deep-freeze is thawing and voices of dissent are once again sprouting everywhere.
Whichever version of the GOP emerges from the reckoning, the new openness could serve as a springboard for some fresh thinking about the way in which we ourselves think about the great questions of the day.
I’m referring to an embarrassing byproduct of the Orthodox world’s increasing identification with the Republican Party: the phenomenon of Torah Jews spouting conservative talking points seemingly heedless of the fact that our own mekoros might have something different to say on the matter.
Take immigration. Is it so obvious that Orthodox Jews should line up with fellow Republican voters in demanding that migrants be shipped back to Mexico? Our grandparents, for one, might have disagreed.
Speaking in the early 1930s about the Sedom of Avraham Avinu’s era, Mirrer Mashgiach Rav Yerucham Levovitz also seemed to take issue with the closed-borders approach (H/T Reuven Borchardt for the reference).
“Like America today, the America of that time [Sedom — G.G.] closed its borders because there was material wealth and they worried that everyone would come there, and therefore they instituted immigration laws, allowing visitors to stay only three days.”
“The fear of unemployment for existing citizens,” Rav Yerucham continued, “is against emunah. Who knows if because of this wickedness in closing the door to guests, the great world crisis [the Great Depression — G.G.] has come?”
Any number of factors — such as the rise of the welfare state, which could be bankrupted by too many migrants — might have changed Rav Yerucham’s calculus, but the point is that Torah sources have something to say about the issue.
The same holds true for the gun debate. Can anyone imagine that Chazal — endlessly cautious when it came to pikuach nefesh — would have had any patience for NRA drivel like “guns don’t kill, people do”?
Or abortion. While the heedless killing of fetuses contravenes Torah law, that doesn’t mean that halachah marches in lockstep with pro-life activism or the positions of the Catholic Church.
To be clear, none of this means that we should rush to vote for the Democrats, whose progressive wing is at war with family values and hostile to Israel.
It simply means that even if our natural place is with those dismayed by liberal social engineering, we’re not some seamless part of the conservative right.
The Torah world, to paraphrase a British political saying, is not the Republican Party at prayer.
Whether Donald Trump once more emerges on top, or the GOP moves on to Ron DeSantis or Nikki Haley, let’s take a deep breath next time around, and adopt a little more nuance.
Britain either needs to change its laws on anti-Semitic hate speech or get a new top prosecutor. That’s the only reasonable takeaway from last week’s decision by the head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to drop charges against two members of the infamous May 2021 “Convoy for Palestine.”
In that incident, at the height of last summer’s fighting between Israel and Hamas, two men from Blackburn, northern England drove through London’s heavily Jewish Golders Green neighborhood in cars draped in Palestinian flags, while calling for attacks on Jewish women.
Despite the fact that the convoy was caught on camera in footage that rattled the Jewish community, the CPS decided not to take the case to trial for fear that it couldn’t guarantee conviction.
The legal farce can have only one outcome: to embolden already radicalized segments of the country’s Muslim community.
But perhaps most chilling about the case is the lack of wider outrage.
Britain’s anti-discrimination warriors will gladly take the knee for BLM, or wear an armband at the World Cup for the alternative lifestyle lobby, but when it comes to anti-Jewish hatred on London’s streets — nary a peep.
“It’s not Iran here”
For a reminder of just what was wrong with the outgoing Israeli government, look no further than former Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s response to proposed legislation that would anchor the right to gender-separate public events in Israeli law.
The joint move by Yahadut HaTorah and Bezalel Smotrich’s National Religious Party comes on the heels of rulings by the High Court which led to the cancelation of a Chabad rally in Tel Aviv’s Kikar Rabin in 2018, and a Motti Steinmetz concert in Afula in 2019.
Lapid’s Iran reference — part of a predictable backlash across the left — is a reminder of the number one takeaway from the recent elections: Israel’s political fault line is no longer about peace or security, but about religion and state.
Losing the above proportion of your wealth in one day can’t be fun, especially when you started with $26 billion. The fate of Sam Bankman-Fried, former CEO of FTX, the third-largest crypto-currency exchange which collapsed last week, has highlighted the fantasy world-slash-magic money tree that is the crypto industry.
Bankman-Fried’s dizzying rise and fall (he’s only 30 today) is emblematic of the see-sawing fortunes of the wider crypto industry, which has been both heralded as a solution to the instability of fiat currencies, and derided as a technology in search of a purpose.
Whatever the truth of these two viewpoints, FTX’s fate is surely a sign that the halcyon days of free credit which fueled the long tech boom are now behind us.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 937)
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