Purim Katan – The Threat of The Mob

Everywhere in the world today, minorities are under threat. Some of you, no–many of you, would note, “They always are.” Yet, the truth is that such threats are relative and today, I am concerned.

Americans believe that power is derived from the will of the people. We decry despotism. Yet our sense of fairness often drives us to allow the mob to rule even when we know that its rule is unfair. That contradiction results in another, namely a contradiction between the belief that the rights of every person are sacred and the belief that the will of the majority, even to trample upon the rights of the minority, must be followed.

Today we are witnessing upheaval in the Middle East. Mob rule threatens to overturn despotism. Ethically, we must support the mob because power should derive from the will of the people. Yet also ethically, we must oppose the mob’s efforts should they gain power, to create a tyranny of their own. Our conflicted minds think, “Down with the dictator! Beware the victors!

I wish that I could say that this conflict was limited to foreign lands. It is not. This week, both on the left and the right of the political spectrum, mobs gather to press their voice, to press their power, in states across our Union. They speak and act in righteous indignation at affronts, at unfairness, or in religious fury. I will not for a moment declare all of these groups wrong to do so and, in this place, will not even criticize a one. What I offer here is one man’s sense that times are changing. The majority is feeling empowered to act as a mob. Minorities, both ethnic minorities and those who hold minority views, are under increasing threat.

Thus, when I hear the words of those advocating for the United States to support condemnation of Israel precisely because the majority of nations do and when I can note that this reasoning seems to be starting to resonate, I find myself, as I do today, becoming increasingly concerned. I am concerned not only for Israel. Israel has friends. Israel has strength. Israel may take care of itself. I am concerned that the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s will be reborn and that Israel’s purpose as a safe haven for the persecuted Jew will be made manifest again. I am concerned that the rights of minorities in America and throughout the world will be under threat because the masses so wish. I am concerned that the rule of law will be increasingly unable to be sustained against the will of the masses.

There is little or no difference between the resolution proposed in the UN Security Council today in condemnation of Israel and many others that have been proposed before. The real difference is in the sense that standing up for the persecuted minority, or even standing apart with a minority, increasingly appears to be seen as unreasonable and even as unrighteous.

Should the United States today vote to support the majority for that sole reason, it will be a shameful day in our nation’s history and a frightening omen for the future.

Today is Purim Katan, “Little Purim”. Today is the 14th of the First Month of Adar. Today, though we are not required to read the Megillah, the Book of Esther, as we will be required next month on Purim, we are reminded of the persecution of minorities everywhere in the world. We are reminded that the tide may swiftly change against us and others. We cannot forget.

If we are vigilant, we may live the blessing from the Book of Esther, “And the Jews had light and Gladness and Joy and Honor.” Kein yehi ratson!

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12 Responses to Purim Katan – The Threat of The Mob

  1. Michael Lonie says:

    “This week, both on the left and the right of the political spectrum, mobs gather to press their voice, to press their power, in states across our Union…I am concerned that the rights of minorities in America and throughout the world will be under threat because the masses so wish.”

    Nice way to set an example of moral courage, Rabbi, by a generalized accusation against both sides without naming any parties (or giving links that would clarify them) who are making such threats. What mob on the right, the Tea Partiers? Right now the greedy special interests in Wisconsin, the public employee unions, are making threats of violence and having their members fraudulently call in sick in order to stymie the governor who is trying to halt an ongoing fiscal disaster there, something he and the legislature were elected to do by the majority of voters. The threats, the violence, come all from one side, from the left. With the Tea Partiers the only violence at their demos comes from leftist goons trying to break them up.

    So who on “the right” is threatening the rights of minorities? Antisemitism is much more a factor on the left these days than on the right. Do you really buy the partisan lie that Republicans want to bring back Jim Crow? If you are going to denounce threats to minorities in America do so, but do not hide behind some fib about “both sides are at fault.” Find me righties really calling for persecution of minorities (not just the New York Times or The Nation mendaciously telling us they are) and I’ll denounce them (don’t give me Pat Buchanan as a righty either; last time he ran for president on the Reform Party ticket he had Leonora Fulani, last heard of being a Marxist, as his running mate).

    “I am concerned that the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s will be reborn and that Israel’s purpose as a safe haven for the persecuted Jew will be made manifest again.”

    If you concluded that recently you come late to the realization. I have been saying for years that I now have a feeling what the 1930s must have felt like to those who had the eyes to see what was going on around them. I do not think we in the USA will have to seek a refuge in Israel, not if we can prevent the left from taking over here at any rate. But for years I have been watching a tide of threats rise, both to Jews and to Americans. Antisemitism and anti-Americanism are two sides of the same coin today. No one, Jewish or American, should be in any doubt about it, our fates are intertwined. We shall stand or fall together.

  2. Not being in Iowa, you haven’t seen the fact that the fundamentalist right voted out three justices of the Iowa Supreme Court because they didn’t like how the justices ruled on the rule of law. Nor did you witness a call for a referendum on same sex marriage based solely on the understanding that only one faith has a reasonable claim to understanding God’s will. Worse, there were racial minorities declaring their support of the mob against the civil rights of gays and lesbians solely because they did not approve of their lifestyle. Now whether or not you approve of that lifestyle, the fact is that the mob mentality is operating on both sides of the political spectrum. Here I encounter people who would tell me that it only operates on the RIGHT and I point out that it also operates on the LEFT. The fact is that both sides ARE engaging in it. Both sides are acting as if the number of bodies they can bring to a demonstration has some indication of their righteousness under the law or their moral quality. The reality is that it does not. And worse, whenever minorities have been persecuted by mobs on the right or the left, Jews have suffered. So my warning is not “fear the left” alone, but fear the right as well. You are right that Antisemitism and Anti-Americanism are connected on the LEFT. On the right it is Antisemitism and religious American Exceptionalism that sees Jews, Homosexuals, Socialists and much of the rest of the same hated groups from the 1920s and 1930s as the enemy. We haven’t seen that group on the right for a LONG time, but from what I can see from where I am, they are waking up. I stand by what I said, Left AND Right.

    Oh, by the way, last week I spoke out against a bill put forth in committee in the Iowa House that would have allowed discrimination for virtually any reason and of virtually any one based upon “sincerely held religious belief.” HSB 50 would have allowed among other things, restaurants to deny service to whomever they felt like denying service. I called the bill “Jim Corn.” I’ll grant you the bill went no where, but the fact that it even got a hearing is a scary thing and it was backed by the religious right along with the Catholic Church in Iowa!

  3. Michael, I have two words for who on the right supports that kind of discrimination, and he gets a soapbox on many of the major networks: Patrick Buchanan. Every time he talks about America being a Christian nation, you know what he means.

  4. Michael Lonie says:

    No Meryl, I don’t know what he means. Does he mean that most of the people in the US are believing Christians? If so, he is demonstrably correct. Does he mean that the US is a Christian theocracy? If so he is demonstarbly wrong. You tell me what he means, and why, given the minor influence he has, we should regard him as the exemplar of Christian Right attitudes rather than Sarah Palin, supporter of Israel and of the Jews.

    Pirchfork Pat was drummed out of the conservative movement by William F. Buckley Jr. for being antisemitic. I doubt he has all that much influence except among a few Paleoconservatives such as his idiot friend and former co-publisher of “The American Conservative” Taki. Taki is a virulent antisemite and a consummate ass. The print magazine is moribund. The Wikipedia article for the magazine gives its circulation as 8000, hardly an influential voice.

    During the 1980 election I got all excited about the threat from the Christian Right. I saw horrific prospects, I saw the US ending up like Heinlein’s picture of it in “Revolt in 2100.” I took seriously what the mewsmedia said about them. I voted for Anderson that year for fear of the Christian Right. Then after Reagan was elected I found out that they were not so scary aftr all. Not only that but they were corrct about some things, like killing babies. I realized that my fear of the Christian Right had been based on misinformation, bigotry, snobbery, and ignorance. Not voting for Reagan in 1980 is the only vote in a presidential election I regret. My vote, based on snobbery and ignorance about the Christian Right, might have helped give us four more years of Jimmy Carter.

    The only people in the world we can rely on to support Jews and Israel in the face of our enemies are the American Christian Right. They are the only ones who have the moral courage, based on their faith, to take the side of justice in the face of a world either eagar for renemed genocide of the Jews or indifferent to it. And then you spit on them.

  5. Michael Lonie says:

    Well you’re right Rabbi Kaufman, I’m not in Iowa and I’m not inclined to the localitis that believes that the doom of our liberty is beginning in Des Moines.

    Sorry, but I don’t consider opposition to “gay marriage” to be persecution of minorities by the mob. “Gay marriage” is another strategy to rip asunder the social bonds of our culture and society. That goal is what the Left has sought for decades, going back to Marx’s and Engel’s denunciation of bourgeois marriage as legalized prostitution and promise to destroy it in a socialist society. They have managed to come a long way, and having “gay marriage” in the law would be another nail in the coffin of our culture. The terrible condition of so many black people in the US stems from the destruction of marriage and the family among the underclass. This condition is not racial, Theordore Dalrymple has chronicled similar degredation among the British white working class, in his book “Life At the Bottom” for example. Nor was it a legacy of slavery, as Thomas Sowell has shown. Whites in the US are now approaching the illegitimacy rate the blacks had when Danial Patrick Moynihan wrote his famous report on the black family in 1965. That is the real problem, not the inability of “gays” to imitate the basic institution of our society, that was never anything else than a relationship between men and women, never between men and men.

    By the way, what does the Taanach say about men who lie with men?

    If the people of Iowa voted three Supreme Court Justices out of office when they were up for election, or recalled them in accordance with the law of Iowa on recalls, then I am not too upset. If they are conforming to the law in doing this, that is not mob rule. If some of them lynch homosexuals then I will call for the arrest, trial, and exemplary punishment of the lynchers. Probably I’ll be harder on them than you will be.

    What we are seeing now in Madison, is lawbreaking by the leftist mob, threats of violence and assassination against their opponents, and other violations of law in pursuit of their goals. It sounds to me like in Iowa we had the exact opposite, conformity to the law by the rightist “mob,” but since you didn’t like the result you’re calling it mob rule because the people who passed those bills or diselected those justices had the majority of voters on their side.

    “On the right it is Antisemitism and religious American Exceptionalism that sees Jews, Homosexuals, Socialists and much of the rest of the same hated groups from the 1920s and 1930s as the enemy. We haven’t seen that group on the right for a LONG time, but from what I can see from where I am, they are waking up. I stand by what I said, Left AND Right.”

    I’m from Missouri. Show me significant antisemitism on the right. You have not made the case at all, calling democratic and legal activities mob rule because you didn’t like the results. Antisemitism is insignificant on the right. American Exceptionalism included the freedom of religion that Jews prize in America. Who threatens that if not the alliance of the leftists with the radical Muslims like CAIR, the Muslim Brotherhood’s front in the USA? In any case Jews took to American Exceptionalism like ducks to water. Just look at Irving Berlin. It was American Exceptionalism that made the USA the Second Promised Land for Jews. And now you are spitting on the people who want to maintain that Exceptionalism?

  6. If you believe that gay marriage is a “another strategy to rip asunder the social bonds of our culture and society” and not simply representative of a desire by homosexuals to be treated equally then you have drunken the cool aid. All you need to do is actually speak to real live homosexuals interested in gay marriage to know that it is ridiculous to accuse them of attempting to destroy society. In fact, they are attempting to create solid family units instead of simply cohabitating and they seek legal rights and protections for their families granted by marital status. We obviously disagree on this one and this is not the forum for a discussion of gay rights.

    As for American exceptionalism, I don’t know why you think I’m arguing against it. One of my main criticisms of the left is precisely that it pretends that America is no different and should not be. America is different. The primary reason that America is exceptional is that only in America are the rights of hated minorities protected against the tyranny of the majority. That more than any other quality makes America exceptional.

  7. Michael Lonie says:

    “As for American exceptionalism, I don’t know why you think I’m arguing against it.”

    I concluded that you echoed the leftists’ dislike of American Exceptionalism because you paired it with anitsemitism as one of the worrying characteristics of mob rule that threatens minorities. As in this passage from your post:

    “On the right it is Antisemitism and religious American Exceptionalism that sees Jews, Homosexuals, Socialists and much of the rest of the same hated groups from the 1920s and 1930s as the enemy.”

    That certainly sounds like it worries you. Where do you find any significant believers in American Exceptionalism who believe Jews to be enemies? Or even homosexuals? Do you imagine that Fred Phelps is the poster boy for believers in American Exceptionalism, a major leader of American Evangelical Protestantism? You are living in the past, imagining yourself in a time when there was overt expression of antisemitism in American social circles. Today, you are likely to find such overt prejudice only among blacks (eg Rev. Jeremiah Wright) or in faculty lounges (eg Mearsheimer and Walt).

    I would like to point out that what you called “mob rule” was actually people exercising their democratic right to vote in a normally scheduled election in accordance with the laws of their state. You didn’t like the result? Too bad. I didn’t like the result of the 2008 election but that did not lead me to conclude it was mob rule.

    No, I don’t believe any significant numbers of homosexuals want to “form families” by “gay marriage.” Certainly not those living the “gay lifestyle” which is a fantasy of unrestricted hedonism. Nor do I believe that it is a healthy situation when Heather has two mommies or Johnny has 57 daddies. A healthy family pattern is a husband and a wife and their natural or adopted children. That pattern has taken a lot of damage over the last sixty years, it’s true. “Gay marriage” is one more effort at nailing its coffin shut. As such it is one more effort at destroying American society, the survival of which depends on the survival of the most fundamental institution of society, the family.

    Reread what I wrote about the overall illegitimacy rate of whites in the US. Based on what happened to black families over the last 46 years that is the real emergency. You are occupying yourself, at most, with blowing out a small match, while around you the house is burning. You religious leaders ought to be doing something about that, not amusing yourself with touting the latest fad from the noxious liberal zeitgeist.

    It is you who have drunk the Kool-Aid. What do you think will replace our society when its mores and foundational institutions have been destroyed? The liberals imagine a society of unrestrained hedonism. But such a society has no spiritual values. It cannot survive without them. More likely a competing spiritual force will move in and spread quickly among the victims of anomie. Welcome to the new world of expanding Islam. It’s already happening in Europe, where the destruction has gone further than in the US because of the lack of Christian faith among Euros. Now you are helping to bring it here.

    Finally I will repeat my statemen: the only people we can rely on to support us in today’s world are America’s Christian Right. Only they have the moral courage to stand against the upsurge of calls for renewed genocide of the Jews and the indifference of the rest of the world to that call. And they get that courage from their faith. Then you seek to alienate them and spit on them.

  8. The religious American Exceptionalism is that which argues that God is on our side because America is a Christian nation and therefore America must promote Christian values. I am not making this stuff up, Michael. I have heard it used by pastors in arguing for Christian values to trump secular civil rights. That kind of thinking would turn America into a Christian theocracy. What makes America exceptional is that the majority cannot simply dictate its beliefs upon the minority and that minority rights are protected by our legal system. That is true American Exceptionalism. No other nation can claim that. None. But it is jeopardized by those believing that what makes America exceptional is its Christian religious nature and who wish to act upon that. There is no greater threat to freedom than a majority believing that it is supported by divine authority that has real authority to act against minorities. We fear exactly that happening in the Muslim world. We should fear it happening here as well. Minority rights must be preserved. That is what makes America exceptional.

    As for homosexuals, Michael, I actually deal with many on a regular basis. They are some of the nicest people I know. I personally know more than a few heterosexuals who have “hedonist” lifestyles, have multiple exes, or sleep around. Gays do not have a monopoly on that. The perception, certainly in Iowa, of a wild gay lifestyle is simply inaccurate. Of course, it may be that gays who live in Iowa do so precisely to get away from that lifestyle. Regardless, I have interacted with hundreds of gay people and can guarantee that there motive is not to destroy society or marriage. You may feel that their actions will have that effect, but please do not think that is their goal. They simply want to be treated like anyone else and have the same rights.

    Anyway, Michael, you clearly have no idea who I am or what I do, not that you would have any way to know otherwise, and simply assume that I must be opposed to Christian Zionist support of Israel. FYI, I am friends with David Brog and am one of the strongest advocates for CUFI nationally in the progressive rabbinate if not at the top of the list. I think we’re on the same page on that issue. I support them precisely because I believe that they do not support Israel conditionally. They do not support Israel based upon quid pro quo as they are often accused. They do not seek that we abdicate other positions in trade for their support of Israel. CUFI supports Israel because it believes it right for Christians to do so based upon Genesis 12. I would hardly spit on them. I praise them and they know that. What I also know is that I do not agree with them on many other issues. It is that simple.

  9. Michael Lonie says:

    Rabbi Kaufman,
    I’ve heard panic-stricken hysteria about the threat of a Christian theocracy in America for decades. As I said above, I even entertained that fantasy myself. No doubt there are a few crackpots out there who spew such stuff. There are blacks advocating race war too. Do they represent the views of all black people?

    If a theocracy movement becomes significant then I will oppose it. But in the meantime you are tarring the “Christian Right” in general with such a fable, and alienating them from Jews. If Christian conservatives see Jews constantly denouncing them for being a danger to our religious or other freedom, when they are not, how long before they say “Buzz off?”

    I too have at least one homosexual friend. I don’t know if I have any others because I don’t stick my nose into the private sex lives of my friends. As for “gay marriage,” it does not matter what the people advocating it want or what their goal is, what matters is what the actual effect on the most basic institution of our society will be. And that effect will be bad. Leftists want our society and culture broken so they can, as they imagine, pick up the pieces and create their new society on the ruins. You can see them doing it all over the world for the last century. I am not talking of a conspiracy here, but of an intellectual persuasion. Homosexuals are being used by the left for this purpose. They are not the first group to be so used and they are not the only one, nor will they be the last.

    The social problems in the US are intimately connected with the weakness of the families in contemporary society. The weaker families get, the worse such problems will become. Poverty, illegitimacy, crime, all are related to, if not outright caused by, this decline in the institution of the family.

    Reread the figures on illegitimacy rates. While you are wasting your time on “gay marriage” the family, the core and basic unit of society and culture, the institution without which we cannot maintain a viable society and culture, is dying. It is dying from the blows of trendy fads that liberals have advocated for the last several decades. “Gay marriage” is just another in the long line of nails in the coffin. And here you are, boasting how wonderful you are to be helping pound in that latest nail. You panic over the wrong things and ignore the massive problem in front of your nose.

    You never did tell me what the Taanach says about men who lie with men. And you a Rabbi.

  10. I’m not going to tell you that I disagree about American family problems. I blame those mostly on a devaluation of marriage as an institution. That means that we should be encouraging those who want to be married to pursue it. Also, I believe that it is a Constitutional issue and that equal protection necessitates that all people have an equal opportunity to share their property, achieve tax breaks, etc… Personally, I believe that the government, NO GOVERNMENT, should be involved in defining marriage. The Fed and States should have civil unions, not marriages.

    As for what the Bible says. I am a Reform rabbi. I do not believe the Tanakh is revelation, but that it is the word of human beings who lived over 2,500 years ago, long before much of the information on human biology would have been conceivable. I believe that God created homosexuals as they are. So should I punish someone because of how God made them? Reform Jews believe that the text has a voice not a veto. We may decisions based upon our overall understanding and in light of tradition. What bothers me is that people who break all sorts of laws from the Tanakh (and I do not know whether or not you are one so don’t take this personally) argue that the text says XYZ. The text says that a parent may kill a child who is disrespectful. Are we going to enforce that? Are we going to allow polygamy? How about child marriage? Are we going to kill people who wear shatnez?

    Orthodox Judaism disagrees with Reform Judaism about the nature of revelation and this is one place among many where the implication of that is significant. We disagree on this issue.

    As for the Christian Right, Michael, you have no idea who you are talking with. I do more work with the Christian Right than probably all but a handful of rabbis in this country from any Jewish movement. David Brog went out of his way to introduce me to Pastor Hagee. They know I am a friend. But that does not mean that I agree with everything that they believe or that they do, nor do they expect me to shut up when I disagree. I fight battles on the left too and far more than I have time to write about here. I am in the political center because I disagree with both wings.

    Anyway, thank you for taking the time to engage in this dialogue. I appreciate your feedback. I think it is time to move on from this discussion though. Too much going on in the world.

  11. Linda says:

    Terrific debate. I have to side with Michael. Rabbi Kaufman’s arguments were weak and he avoided giving answers and instances. Even the question about what the Tanakh says about homosexuality he skidded around. I don’t have a problem with homosexuals, personally. I believe they have a right to live and love just as heterosexuals do. In fact, I believe that in males, they don’t have a choice. They are born gay in most cases. However, two men cannot make a child (and neither can two women) so, if they want to get married why can’t their place of worship have a special ceremony in place of a traditional marriage? What exactly do they want from a marriage anyway? Is it the tax advantages? There are none anymore. Is it the medical benefits for spouses? What’s that? So what’s the advantages of marriage other than having kids? I feel very strongly that a family is a mother and a father and children. This can include grandparents, uncles, aunts, etc. I still believe in the extended family as well. That is the foundation of the successful person. I also believe that given that there’s no abuse or other catastrophic things going on in the family, mom and dad stay together no matter what — even if they don’t like each other. Till the children are grown, the family stays intact. I’m old fashioned but I think divorce is one of the things that has led to the destruction of our culture. I think we need to turn the clock back, stop tweeting, start talking, get the liberals out of office and get our hands dirty and get back to work.

  12. Shalom Linda,

    I’ll give you a specific instance or two. Two men CAN have children in MULTIPLE DIFFERENT WAYS!!! First, a man and a woman could have a child or children with the woman dying when the children are very young. The mother could also have other issues that make her unfit or unable to raise the children or be present virtually at all. The man, perhaps bi-sexual or a repressed homosexual, then unites with a homosexual man. The homosexual couple then raises the child or children together. In the case of the mother dying, what happens if something should happen to the father? The children and the new male partner may have a close familial relationship even if it is not a blood relationship and both they and the father may want the new male partner to be their legal guardian.

    Additionally, you have legal issues dealing with healthcare and who has the power of attorney? The gay partner of decades or the cousin who lives 1,000 miles away, hates gay people, and holds vastly different beliefs than the person who is ill? Would you have someone of another religious faith make your end of life decisions based upon their religious views that are radically different from yours? What if you wanted a traditional funeral and that person believed that all people should be cremated? There are real legal issues that gay couples face if they cannot have a legal union.

    These are just some of the issues. I can give you yet another. Just the other day, I heard from two men who are conceiving children through a surrogate mother and wish to be married so that both men are listed as parents on the adoption papers. In this day and age, two men can have children. We live in a different world.

    As for responding to what the text says, the ancient Israelites did not understand homosexuality and thought it an abomination. In my mind, the words of Leviticus regarding that are not God’s words, but those of people ignorant to the science at hand. They perceived homosexuals as deviants to God’s creation rather than as fulfilling the way in which God created them. In the modern world, we know better. God did not give us faculties of reason to check them at the door of our synagogues or to abandon them because the ancients believed differently. Our tradition and thoughts evolve as time goes on. In my mind, just as God expects us to do. We will not agree on the issue at hand. Not even all Reform Jews agree on this issue. Certainly, Reform and Orthodox Jews generally do not. Meanwhile, it has indeed been a good debate.

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