Culture, Justice, Mishegas, Politics

Meet Birthright’s Exciting New PR Team!!!

5WPR, headed by the uber-cool Alpha Dog of the PR World, Ronn Torossian, is now representing Birthright.
Yay! Good for the Jews!
What are some of the cutting edge, creative ways 5W might represent Birthright? Let’s look back on some of their past clients and tactics and see if we can figure it out!

Well, I’m sure he’ll come up with something. He’s a PR genius! Any alum who want to share their excitement about Birthright’s latest hire, drop them a line!
Hat-tip, Shmarya.

60 thoughts on “Meet Birthright’s Exciting New PR Team!!!

  1. Favorite quote (from Jeffrey Goldberg’s piece about Aish haTorah, Obsession and right wing lunatics):
    “The most disreputable flack in New York, Ronn Torossian, who represents Aish, makes an appearance in this story, which was to be expected: Torossian last made the news when he employed sock-puppetry in defense of one of his many indefensible clients, Agriprocessors, Inc., the Luvavitch-owned kosher slaughterhouse that treats its employees nearly as badly as it treats its animals, which is saying something, because Agriprocessor slaughterers have been filmed ripping out the tracheas of living cattle.”

  2. I had begrudging respect for Birthright’s previous PR firm, Rabinowitz and Dorf. I had a beer with a senior staffer there who seriously but respectfully engaged me on the failings and accomplishments of Birthright Israel. At least, he respected my values while toeing Birthright’s line.
    As for 5WPR — why?? Why would any Jewish org hire them after they were caught immitating an opponent rabbi? They were caught on both JTA and FailedMessiah’s web sites, doing the posting from a private apartment of a senior staffer, but blaming it on an intern? Like, that doesn’t fly.
    Sign Mobius’ Twitter petition to Birthright’s attention, by tweeting this:

    petition @TaglitBRI to hire ethical publicists instead of the sleazy 5WPR RT to sign #actly

  3. im considering going on a “birthright” trip in the next year or so. are there any lunatic/fascist-free jewish organizations out there running such trips?

  4. Yisroel, define “lunatic/fascist-free”? There are plenty of trip providers with different biases (ranging much of the political spectrum when it comes to opinion on Israel, and much of the spectrum of religiosity). If you give your criteria, I’m sure we can help you pick a provider.

  5. Hmm. Well, I suppose this guy doesn’t sound like much of a mensch. But from my perspective, birthright is such a fundamentally problematic enterprise that I don’t think I’d like it any better if the PR people behind it were less obviously crazed.
    Are there others out there who find the entire notion of thoroughly American Jews claiming a “birthright” to the modern nation-state of Israel as profoundly problematic as I do?

  6. What makes a Jew thoroughly American?
    Well, I was thinking in terms of having no meaningful connection to the modern nation-state of Israel. We’re not from there, our parents and grandparents weren’t from there, and so forth. To posit a connection would, to me, require conflating the biblical land of Israel and Judah with the modern nation called Israel, which I think is both religiously and geopolitically a total mistake.

  7. I think every Jew should visit Israel. I think American Jews have a special obligation to visit and learn about a country to which that their country has such strong ties.
    People who think naming a program “birthright” is equivalent to “claiming a “birthright” to the modern nation-state of Israel” are hysterical and need to take a break and make a sandwich.

  8. The State of Israel is not the Kingdom of Israel, true, but in my experience it is Jews in Israel (not America) who most conflate and confuse the two. Zionism was and remains a political nationalist movement, not a messianic redemptive one. “Birthright” is about a Jew’s connection to the Land – our eternal inheritance – not allegiance to a particular government.
    Describing any mainstream Jewish organization – and all Taglit affiliates are mainstream – as “fascist” is revolting. Whatever their problems, Birthright and its affiliates are staffed with many fantastic individuals who have made a real, positive impact in the lives of tens of thousands of Jews, including mine. Comparatively speaking, the Birthright program is a glittering diamond of Jewish activism and philanthropy, and it is only so due to its wonderful staff.
    The fact that no one here challenged Yisroel’s disgusting, matter-of-fact assertion head on is sick.

  9. WanderingJew –
    My deal: I am a leftist (ideally a mix between anarcho-communism and socialist territorialism, but in practice a frustrated golus-[inter]nationalist thinker), yiddishist, i keep kosher but im not all that frum. im not a zionist, but i want to go to israel to check it out both as a historically significant spiritual center as well as a modern jewish society.
    Victor –
    Please understand i was not labeling the organization as “fascist”, such in NOT my belief. by using the term “fascist-free” i was drawing attension to the fact that an outspoken member of the far-right (which is by definition not mainstream) has been employed by this group and i would rather find a group that does not employ such people. just because an organization hires such a person, does not make the organization one with the employee and his opinions. however, actions have consequences. some might sign a petition in protest, others might look for another organization to bring them on a trip to israel, that is, until said repulsive element who has recently been employeed by the organization is relieved of his position. im sure that birthright has a wonderful staff who work hard to make the organzation as esteemed as it is. it is in light of their dedication and hardwork that birthright’s leadership should see to removing the black stain of a publicist from the organization’s payroll…a stain whose current presence does nothing to benefit the organization which has had “…a real, positive impact in the lives of tens of thousands of Jews, including…” yours . i think this clarifies my choice of terms.

  10. Well explained Yisroel. Birthright goes out of its way to be inclusive and pluralistic while remaining Jewish. They make mistakes as we all do.

  11. I think this clarifies my choice of terms.
    It does, thanks.
    im not a zionist
    You’re a Jew. This seems to be a recurring theme, so I’ll address it for posterity. The global Jewish community was not united about the creation of the State of Israel. The Orthodox and Hassidic movements certainly were not in favor of Israel’s creation, though they had substantial communities in the Land. I posted a link previously to a Chabad community in Hebron that was brutally pogromed by the Arabs 80 years ago last Friday.
    So what changed? Nothing. The Orthodox, Hassidic and other movements remain opposed to the creation of a Jewish state in Israel that is not messianic/redemptive in nature. This secular Jewish majority state exists, however, where live millions of Jews, surrounded by non-Jewish nations and peoples hostile to the Jewish presence.
    One need not be a Zionist to live in Israel, or to defend Jewish life there. Inversely, one need not desire the violent destruction of the state and its Jewish citizens to be an anti-Zionist.
    Being an anti-Zionist is not special, and it may be the majority position. For a Jew, being an anti-Zionist doesn’t mean you hate the State of Israel. It means that you fundamentally reject the notion that a secular Jewish majority state fulfills the legitimate national aspirations and spiritual purpose of the Jewish people.
    Does Netanyahu believe in the coming of Mashiach and our approaching redemption, one of Rambam’s 13 Principles of Faith? If he does then he, too, is an anti-Zionist. Oh Yisroel, what company you keep 😉

  12. People who think naming a program “birthright” is equivalent to “claiming a “birthright” to the modern nation-state of Israel” are hysterical and need to take a break and make a sandwich.
    Really? What do others think about this? Because my sense is that calling a program “birthright” is fairly obviously making a claim about the ability of American Jews to claim it for themselves.
    Also: thanks, Jonathan1! It’s funny how a compliment from a random internet person can be so uplifting 🙂

  13. I’m with you, miri. Names are chosen strategically, particularly for programs with this kind of funding and reach. The message seems pretty clear to me.

  14. To posit a connection would, to me, require conflating the biblical land of Israel and Judah with the modern nation called Israel, which I think is both religiously and geopolitically a total mistake.
    They’re sorta mostly in the same spot.
    Ancient Jewish history is in Israel.
    The modern Jewish nation-state is Israel.
    etc etc. There’s a lot of deep connections there.
    I alway sunderstood the name “birthright” to say that “All Jews have a birthright to access their heritage hands-on and learn about their history and their peoplehood in their homeland.”

  15. CW, I agree that’s a valid point, but Birthright is designed to translate a connection to history/heritage into politically-mobilized capital. And not a big tent approach either, but “pro-Israel” as very narrowly defined.
    I’m with miri and dlevy. BRI doesn’t want an open-ended quest for varying connections to Israel. They want little Jews to march into the kind of Israel advocacy the previous generation cares about, which is (a) out of touch with geopolitics today, (b) largely against a meaningful peace process, and (c) in lockstep with bedfellows bearing messages most young Jews find noxious.
    [For explanation of that last point, see “Israel in the Age of Eminem” study.]

  16. I thought the main thing BRI was after was making more Jewish babies.
    KFJ, I really don’t see what you’re saying played out. NIF and UPZ both ran a number of BRI trips. There are trips focused on peacemaking and reconciliation. Oranim was kicked out of BRI because they were too right-wing. There are certainly many right-wing groups who run BRI trips, but things would look different if BRI’s agenda included AIPAC recruitment.
    I read the Eminem paper, which was interesting, but wasn’t really about BRI. The only time I saw BRI mentioned was a lament that more Jewish students aren’t interested in a BRI trip.

  17. CW – Jewish heritage exists in Poland and Egypt and the US (especially the US) in ways that are often more meaningful than the makeshift state we have here in Israel.
    In Manhattan alone there are at least ten synagogues which are over 100 years old. There are several in the US which are over 200 years old. In most of Israel there is hardly one synagogue which has been operational for that long, with a functioning community.

  18. Hey Amit,
    I’m totally aware that there’s more to Judaism, Jewish history, and Jewish reality than Israel. But I think you gotta be pretty astigmatistic to not see that Israel (the land, and yes, the modern state) holds a more central and mythic place in the Jewish narrative than the rest of those locations.
    Where else have we been dying to go / to ignore / to build up / to escape from all of these centuries? It’s clearest from religious literature, but the obsession with homeland and power, homelessness and powerlessness has been a defining characteristic of the Jewish experience for a long time, longer even than those shuls in NYC.

  19. Amen to Amit. The birthright of “birthright” was no one’s heritage, but the state/land. Sending folks to Israel is about getting them connected to Israel. If “birthright” were really into getting people jonesed about Jewish life, they would have been sponsoring Jewish peer trips to NHI, among other places. Yes, the UPZ is allowed to run trips (though they cannot take students into Palestine), that doesn’t impact the fact birthright an organization whose raison detre is to convince American Jews that the state/land of Israel is their birthright.

  20. I’d agree more if BRI was championing the aliyah numbers of trip alums, or if the Birthright Next program was a gateway to enlisting in the IDF.
    Instead, Birthright Next sponsors Shabbat dinners, social gatherings, lectures and holiday observances. And BRI always trumpets how many marriages, Hillel involvements, and synagogue affiliations come from its alums.
    And how exciting is NHC Summer Institute, anyway? I love it deeply, but it doesn’t have the draw for the average college student that a camel ride in the Negev, a dance club in Tel Aviv, or a Shabbat in Jerusalem does.

  21. BRI is not welcoming of progressive Israel opinions, and those of us who’ve dealt with their staff in America and Israel know it.
    Out of 24,000 participants in a given season, only 80 were through a NIF/UPZ/progressive trip, so tauting the two token progressive trips is misleading.
    Israel Experts is an example of a pluralistic trip provider whose staff are largely progressive Israelis. But those who’ve been on their trips know that the BRI auditors constantly drop in to supervise their programming. A Netanyahu family member stopped in on a recent UPZ trip — hardly sympathetic ears to evaluate programming! On my trip, there was an air of being constantly nervous about bring shut down if speakers were teaching criticism of Israel or understanding of Palestinian claims. Coexistance was never just coexistance it seemed, it was suspiciously close to endorsing the enemy. (Which is not unique to BRI, it’s a problem the whole Jewish community has. Coexistance is capitulation, not a value worth promoting.)
    Another example: As an alumni, I received an email from Birthright NEXT during the Gaza war inviting me to sign a letter supporting IDF soldiers. Typical to pro-Israel efforts, there was no acknolwedgement of the disproportionate deaths being leveled upon the Palestinians. Entirely one-sided. No partnerships have emerged between J Street, Peace Now or other groups whose mission is encouraging American Jews to engage Israel.
    Whatever Birthright claims to be, it is certainly not a bastion of inclusive approaches to Israel. It’s more of a brainwashing and advocacy incubator than an educational effort.
    Which is a shame. Many of us see much greater potential.

  22. CW, the Eminem paper (and others, that was just a quickly Googleable one) was about what kinds of Israel messaging do and don’t succeed in reaching the 18-35 crowd. Messages about the land of Israel belonging to Jews, Palestinians being at fault for the whole conflict, and religious messengers will receive push back and disinterest. Unfortunately the kind of partners picked by BRI seem to ignore the research.
    I was just saying that BRI might not be as heavy handed as AJC, but its chosen partners are.

  23. Birthright is not about learning. It’s about feeling. No Jew needs convincing that Israel is our inheritance. From a marketing standpoint, “Birthright” was not designed to convince anyone, but to tap into the collective memory of our people.
    Birthright exists for two reasons:
    1) To strengthen the Diaspora’s connection with Israel – both the State and the Land.
    2) To strengthen Jewish identity, education, self-discovery and observance.
    To say that there are no opportunities to connect with Yiddishkeit during or after the trip is not well informed. At least one of the trip providers, Mayanot, practically fast tracks those who are interested into a Jerusalem yeshiva.
    But to claim that it’s all sweet, careless candy is not genuine either. There is an agenda, and Birthright is clear about this agenda. Tens of millions of dollars are being sourced to support this program. There are serious people writing the checks for all that fun and fancy, with deep but not unlimited resources, who want to have a positive impact and legacy to strengthen world Jewry. I am both comfortable and supportive of the Birthright agenda. The program accomplishes the dual stated objectives better than anything else the global Jewish community has ever put together.
    As I’ve written before, Birthright worked for me, on all counts. It was an exceptionally positive experience that immensely strengthened my commitment to Yiddishkeit. I didn’t grow up in New York or Florida. I was born in a country where Jews were a tiny minority, and came to a US State where Jews were a tiny minority. I was never interested in engaging the 5 socially awkward Jews who regularly attended my local Hillel and was on a fast track to marrying the first Irish girl I would have gotten pregnant.
    Birthright isn’t a magic pill. It works because there are those like me who want it to work, who want to connect with our heritage, and who did not have the education, strength, or an “arousal from above” to do it on our own. There I was, standing at the ruins of our Temple, looking to my left and to my right because I didn’t even know what words a Jew should speak to G-d. Not as a joke between friends, not as an intellectual game, not to impress your someone. It’s you standing before G-d, the source of your life, and all your nonsense, and all your crap, and all your baggage is stripped away. How many generations did it take? How many in your family worked, suffered and bled to bring you back to this place and you can’t even speak. How many years ago was it that they sobbed for our loss, taking one last look at Jerusalem and never knowing when they, or their children, or their children’s children will ever see the Temple Mount again. And there you are, with them, sobbing in pain for what we lost, in pain for all the generations who lived to this day through you, in pain that our exile was so bitter and so long that after two thousand years you do not even know what words to speak. You’re utterly helpless. You were helpless to stop the destruction, and you were helpless to survive these millenia, and you were helpless to arrive to this place, in this moment, sobbing before G-d to give you strength to be a Jew. As we say, Am Yisrael Chai.
    Oh yeah, there’s some Zionist stuff that happened also. I learned about Israeli independence, swam in every major body of water, climbed a few mountains and made some friends. As far as Jewish programming goes, I’d say Birthright got their money’s worth, and I remain grateful for their money, but what stayed with me is the strength.
    Those of you who are non-Zionists, anti-Zionists and Diasporists obviously are not comfortable with or supportive of the Birthright agenda. Too bad. You’ve got your own millionaires and billionaires – George Soros, etc. – go talk to them about making a NotOurBirthright program.

  24. Typical to pro-Israel efforts, there was no acknolwedgement of the disproportionate deaths being leveled upon the Palestinians.
    It’s a shame more Israelis didn’t die from rocket attacks over the years . . . that would have made the Palestinians’ deaths so much more proportionate.
    Who exactly invented this insane notion of “proportional force?”

  25. Who exactly invented this insane notion of “proportional force?”
    I keep linking back to Yaacov Lozowick, because he’s just that good.
    Should we take a closer look? The Pakistani army bombed its own towns, millions of its own civilians became refugees, but no worry. There were fewer civilians killed than last time. How many fewer? Why dwell on such things. Were many towns pulverized – well, probably, since the article tells that billions will be needed for reconstruction efforts, but why allow such minutiae to bother us when a glorious victory over the Very Bad Guys has just been had.
    The theory of Just War distinguishes between waging a just war (this one certainly is), and waging a war justly. Yet the more I follow the way we report to ourselves on the wars of the world, the more I become convinced this distinction is meaningless in the real world. Wars are judged bythe first criteria only. When going to war is justified, no-one cares about the way it’s waged, if carefully or barbarically. When the decision to be at war is unjustified, no-one cares how careful the warriors are; they’ll be damned. Though there’s then a second twist, which is that if it’s our country at war, we won’t report on the full impact it’s having; this would explain why to this very day it’s basically impossible to find an honest reckoning of the two battles of Faluga, say, even tho most of the media really didn’t like that war. But the “home team” effect over-rode their distatse.
    If we’re honest about it we must recongnize that Israel’s wars are unacceptable to most of the rest of the world irrespective of the way they’re waged, which is why no-matter what the reality is the reports about it are automatically the opposite from reports such as these about Pakistan (or Afghanistan, or Iraq, or have your pick). And the reason for this is profound and fundamental. It’s not – as I used to think – that Israel insists on using military force in a post-military world. The world isn’t post military. Just look at how the Economist eggs the pakistanis on: more! Keep on Going!
    Where are the exhortations for peaceful engagement and seeking dialogue with the enemy since only that can ever succeed?

  26. Victor, you’re right: Brithright is about feeling. My beef is that it’s built to manipulate that collective memory to create cookie cutter Jews that do not wildly disagree with the previous generation. Birthright is not about birthing anew the Diaspora-Israel relationship, but entrentching it and burying it alive.
    I don’t disagree that a visit to Israel can be deeply moving. It worked on me also. Except I not only saw the Jew-only areas of Israel, but also the territories and the Israeli Arab sectors. The discrepancies leave me breathless. The collective memory of what Jews have suffered throughout the ages was replicated before my eyes: fences, flags, ghettos, loss of property, starvation, all of it. And I was also unable to put into words what I felt. Not having grown up around other Jews either, I was quite sure that this people was not the one I had imagined. My people were courageous lovers of justice, not land usurpers and human rights violators. And yet they were both. My people didn’t suffer for millenia so that we could turn into victimizers. There’s something wrong in Israel that needs righting. And there’s something Jewish in me on fire that needs to fix it. All because I went there.
    I don’t disagree that BRI is addressing many conversations our generation needs to have: We can talk about the Holocaust, but Yad Vashem is not about the 12 million — it’s about the 6 million and breeding fear into a new generation. We can talk about Jewish continuity, but “have Jewish babies” is not continuity of Jewish thought or values — it’s empty genetic propogation. We can also talk about yearning for our roots in Eretz Yisrael, but Zionism is not about roots — it’s about ethnically segregated Darwinism. We can talk about the conflict, but the Mega Event isn’t thoughtfulness in any way — it’s impressing by glamour, not depth. I want our generation to talk about these things in a meaningful way. Believe it or not, I want to talk about these things in a way that encourages going to Israel, connecting to it, and letting it enrich Diaspora life.
    Brithright isn’t about those things. It’s about a fast track to getting young Jews to “like” Israel and “like” Jews and agree with what the funders think is right and wrong. We can’t “love” and “support” and “defend” Israel without bothering to specify what parts are worth saving or discarding. If they really wanted us to grapple with modern Israel and reach a new dynamic understanding, the itinerary would be wildly different. The kinds of alumni program would be wildly different.
    The previous generation failed to instill its values in its children. We’re intermarrying, we’re disbelieving of Israel’s purity, and we’re largely not religious. But now that we’re here, they cannot change us. It’s too late to turn back the clock, which is all BRI is. It’s an attempt to start over, to pave over our unique perspective as free of the last generation’s baggage. I have no desire to carry it for them.
    THIS is what some of us object to about BRI. This is why I personally fume at how it conducts its work, limits its partners, kicks participants off trips and defends its reputation as if it’s the best thing since canned gefilte fish.
    Lastly, I support that quote by Lozowick, because it makes a good point: You can’t expect the world to sympathize with Israel trying to fight a unjust war justly. I certainly don’t.
    And Jonathan, proportional force is in international law, which the Israeli High Court has defended as legally binding on Israel. But don’t bother petitioning it to reconsider; the IDF has already tried.

  27. CW, Birthright Israel was a way to keep tourists (and dollars) in the country at the hight of the suicide bombings in Israeli cities. That was its raison d’etre. It is now gone. Whatever justification is used to have has vanished into thin air.

  28. Jonathan, if Palestinians reacted with “proportional force” to Israeli attacks on them, Tel Aviv would be rubble. I wonder if you would be such a proponent of crazy gung-ho warfare if you were on the other side.

  29. Hey KFJ!
    I think you’re mistaking ignorance for ideology. Most young Jews today have a shit-poor understanding of anything in Jewish heritage beyond “they tried to kill us, they sometimes suceeded, let’s eat brisket”.
    Note that I’m not talking about the iconoclasts, the radicals, the people with a sense of history who know stuff about Jewish heritage and know what they want to remake in their own image and according to their own sense of justice/esthetics.
    I’m talking about your run-of-the-mill, suburban, deracinated, bar-mitzva-graduated, generic turn-of-the-century American Jew. The ones given a Jewish education that consists of Holocaust survivors’ guilt and wave-the-flag shallow Zionism.
    It’s not a compelling Jewish narrative, and it can’t perpetuate itself indefinitely. So it doesn’t. The few elements of Jewish life that the previous generation preserved while they followed the siren call of assimilation and fiscal success — Zionism, Synagogue membership, and In-marriage — don’t arise from a vacuum, and can’t be passed on vacuously to a new generation.
    Most of today’s Jewish young people were never given the kind of education and formative experiences that often yield the side effects of connection to Israel, connection to a Jewish community, and seeking Jewish life partners. You know, stuff like….
    knowledge of Jewish artists * Jewish literature * historic Jewish folkways * languages of Jewish expression * Jewish philosophers * the Jewish experience across continents and centuries * Jewish jurisprudence * Jewish religious texts * Jewish religious values and how they developed * Jewish wars and warriors * Jewish scandals and crimes * cross-pollination of Jewish and non-Jewish societies * experiences of real community * experiences of living values that diverge from mainstream society….
    There are 3000 years of Jewish history, spread across every continent on Earth in endless variations of meaning. Among the personalities, the spiritualities, the creativities, and the philosophies I am without a doubt that there’s plenty that every Jew can connect with deep in their kishkes, as long as they know it exists (!) and are shown the connections between it and their lives today. But nobody bothers to do that.
    So in the end people just don’t care, because they don’t know anything about Jewish heritage. Not because they’re a new changeling breed of Hebrew replaced by fairies in their cribs, but because they’re exactly the kind of Jew the previous generation worked so hard to bring about.

  30. You can’t expect the world to sympathize with Israel trying to fight a unjust war justly. I certainly don’t.
    Yaacov responded to KFJ’s comment on unjust war
    they’re exactly the kind of Jew the previous generation worked so hard to bring about
    You nailed it.
    Look at this website. Look at the last ten posts. At least half are devoted to fixing the mess from the previous generation – bringing Jews together for Yom Kippur, teaching Jews how to put on a mezuzah, explaining the meaning of tzitzis, reading tehillim, searching for a besheret, making challah from scratch.
    Where is all this coming from? Despite the lies, despite the fairy tales, despite the shallow Zionism, on the most progressive, egal Jewish blog, Jews are learning about Yiddishkeit. Is that an accident?
    KFJ writes bitterly, it seems to me, that the previous generation did not instill its values in its children, but it did. The bitterness is that they were not Jewish values. And now, in their twilight, the guilt of the last generation drives their giving to undo the damage they created, clumsily, yes, but with all the honesty and experience they can muster. One has to wonder, why? A generation which spent the better part of its existence rejecting “Jewish continuity” now tries to preach it. Why?
    There is no clock to turn back. There is nothing to undo. No intermarriage, no lies, no fairy tales can change who you are. That is the power of truth – to strip away the layers and expose your soul, which without pause cleaves to its source. A Jew is always connected to source.

  31. I wonder if you would be such a proponent of crazy gung-ho warfare if you were on the other side
    Ironically, I didn’t write that I’m a proponent of crazy gung-ho warfare, Amit. In any case, if you believe in the concept of “proportionality” then of course you wouldn’t have a problem if
    Palestinians reacted with “proportional force” to Israeli attacks on them, Tel Aviv would be rubble
    Let’s put it another way, how many children did the Israeli military kill in Cast Lead? 300? That means that, had Hamas killed 300 Jewish children during that time, the 300 Palestinian children died justly.
    How many Israeli civilians were killed by Hamas rockets in the years before Cast Lead? 100? That means that Israel should have targeted 100 arbitrary Gazans, and simply killed them.
    There is something obscene in this type of thinking.
    proportional force is in international law, which the Israeli High Court has defended as legally binding on Israel.
    International law (whatever exactly that nebulous concept is) should be changed then, KFJ.

  32. “Absolutely not”? As in diametrically opposed? Really?
    Please explain to me the message you are pushing.
    For the sake of clarify, and with all respect to you, I did not post a link to that video in support of the message you were pushing.

  33. Heheh it’s fairly diametrically opposed, I’d say. The Lubavitcher Rebbe was making an argument from essentialism — Jews are X, because Jewish souls are X, and one can never change that eternal X.
    I was saying something more contingent: that as Jews we have an amazing, (sacred?,) diverse, ancient and constantly-renewing heritage, and that unfortunately many Jews are ignorant of it and so don’t relate to it when they encounter elements of it. I think it is possible for a Jew to lose all touch with their heritage, even though halachically they always remain a party to the Brit/covenant. That’s why I’m so forceful when I write about this issue. I don’t believe in essentialism. Jews are what we make of ourselves — hopefully, i.m.o., educated and connected Jews.

  34. CW, with respect, I still don’t see this “diametric opposition”. If anything, you seem to be agreeing with the Lubavitcher Rebbe. I don’t know what your experience has been with Chabad, but I think it’s safe to say the Rebbe was not one to rest his hat on what you termed “essentialism”.
    To say that “essentialism” excludes Jewish education (or the reverse) would imply, at least to me, that, since every Jew is connected to G-d, why bother with Jewish education? Eventually they’ll find a way back to their source. Do you think this is what the Rebbe meant?
    I can understand where you pick up, forcefully, on the issue of Jewish education and Jewish connection, and I agree with you on the vital importance of these to the Jewish people. I just don’t see how “essentialism” contradicts this; to me – if we choose to deal with them as separate ideas, which I’m not sure they are – they only strengthen each other.

  35. “It’s clearest from religious literature, but the obsession with homeland and power, homelessness and powerlessness has been a defining characteristic of the Jewish experience for a long time, longer even than those shuls in NYC.”
    If you bother to look back into the beginnings of the Zionist movement, it largely was apocalyptic Christians, the robber barons and their minions, and common bigots who were pushing for the idea of Jews colonizing Palestine. On the other hand, the vast majority of Jews wanted nothing to do with any such conquest at that time, and it wasn’t until the rise of the Nazis that the Zionist movement gained prominence in the Jewish world.
    Here is is an excellent essay on the early days:

  36. “Zionism was and remains a political nationalist movement, not a messianic redemptive one.”
    Somebody inform the Yesh(a) settlers and their enablers in golus!
    Anyone who mentions George Soros seriously does not deserve to be seriously engaged.

  37. Thanks for the condescension, kyle.
    ‘If you’d bothered to look into’ the knowledge base of the person you’re addressing, maybe you wouldn’t come across like a jerk. It doesn’t help your arguments.
    Anyway, while the article you referenced has a long of strong points to make about the attitudes of Christians in the United States towards Zionism, it doesn’t have much to do with what I was talking about.
    (1) Zionism was primarily a European phenomenon. Even when American Jews were staunch and supportive Zionists, it was almost entirely in the position of financiers, not in the position of pioneers/colonists or leaders in Palestine. American Jews were either not into Zionism, as were most Jews who were not facing contemporaneous persecution, or they believed strongly in Zionism — for other Jews. America is mostly parenthetical to Zionist history.
    (2) I wasn’t talking about Zionism at all. I was talking about halachic literature, about Yiddish fiction, about Jewish music in Europe and the Middle East, about Judaic liturgy. I was talking about wedding customs, about the poetry of Jewish poets, about mystics, sages, wanderers, and philanthropists. All the little pieces of a culture – in this case, a culture obsessed with home, power(lessness), and with exile.

  38. Just to be clear above — American Christians were just as parenthetical to Zionist history as American Jews were.

  39. I apologise for coming off as condescending, as that was not my intent. Rather, I was simply suggesting that your analysis of religious literature in a vacuum free of documented history is giving you a distorted perspective. As for your claim that Zionism was popular in Europe, how do you reconcile that with the fact that the Jewish establishment of Germany chased the First Zionist Congress off to Austria?

  40. Anyone who mentions George Soros seriously does not deserve to be seriously engaged.
    Is this a joke? Or merely an attempt to silence discussion?

  41. Kyleb, I think it would be a mistake to take the actions of the German Jewish establishment of the late 19th century to be representative or anything other than the German Jewish establishment of the late 19th century. Europe is much bigger than Germany.

  42. Thanks Kyle. I agree with dlevy. There’s an inverse relationship historically between the popularity of Zionism and the social/financial well-being of the Jewish community. Zionism, like Bundism, Communism, etc was much more popular in Eastern Europe.
    But I think I might not have made my point as clearly as I should have — Zionism is just one facet in the ongoing story of Jewish home(lessness). Just because Zionism wasn’t as popular in Germany as in the Pale, for instance, doesn’t mean that the overall question of power & exile wasn’t a big part of Jewish existence there. Every time a Reformer in Germany said “Berlin is my Jerusalem” that was a conscious response to the homeland question, just like Orthodox Jews in Iraq praying for the “ingathering of the Exiles to Zion” three times a day was. Or when Jewish communists saw global Revolution as a solution to the Jewish Question, because then there would be no distinction based on ethnicity or religion. Or all the Jewish travellers in the Middle Ages who made pilgrimages to Canaan, or conducted international business in Hebrew because Jews from other countries could claim the same ancient Israelite heritage. Etc Etc.

  43. Of course it wasn’t just the Reformers in Germany, but the whole spectrum of Jewish communities there. Also, I simply presented that example as an indisputable historical fact, in contrast to nebulous claims suggesting the contrary. In regard to Eastern Europe, that is where the movement first gained popular support, but even there the vast majority of Jews who immigrated chose the Americas over the Levant. As constant prayers for Zion and pilgrimages in the Middle Ages, I’ve yet to see any which, at least when taken in their contexts, can been reasonably interpreted as supporting of the modern State of Israel.

  44. Kyleb, what’s your point again?
    Visit Bnei Brak, about as anti-Zionist as you can get, and ask them if they think the country should be turned over to the Arabs. Whatever the historical disagreements in the Jewish Diaspora, support across all Jewish communities for a strong State of Israel that can defend basic Jewish rights and Jewish lives is stronger than ever.

  45. I am disagreeing with chillul’s claim that Jewish religious literature over millenniums exemplifies an “obsession with homeland and power, homelessness and powerlessness”. Again, that seems to me like a rather superficial characterization of the body of work, and one in stark contradiction to the documented history. If you know of any notable evidence to the contrary, I am interested in seeing it.

  46. Mobius is in Haaretz today for his petition against 5WPR, as is Andy Bachman:
    “You can’t hire an unethical person to represent a program that is supposed to inspire people to connect with the Jewish tradition – and all the great things Judaism has to offer,” Bachman, the chief rabbi at Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn, told the Forward. “A person with questionable integrity sullies the brand – it’s that simple for me.”
    The man who started the online petition against Torossian, Sieradski, had been involved in discovering the fraudulent posts on the Web site of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, where he worked at the time.
    “I physically caught 5WPR engaged in these tactics,” Sieradski said. “I know from firsthand experience that this is the shady business that they deal in.”

    Taglit-BRI has not responded to press requests of course.

  47. Speaking of Bnei Barak, I was holding anti-demolition signs outside the Jerusalem mayor’s sukkah in 2004 when I was approached by hareidim who told me that not only should the Arabs be pushed out of Israel, but me and all the secular Israelis also. Only the military could stay and only along the borders, they said. A-mazing.

  48. Kyle:
    Who said “support the state”? Are you actually arguing against what I’m saying, or against something else?
    The land and the culture should be *reckoned with* by any Jew who aims to be educated. Both for historical relevance and contemporary relevance.
    “Supporting the state” is something completely different.

  49. I am taking issue with your “obsession with homeland and power, homelessness and powerlessness” claim, as I mentioned above. Again, if you can provide notable historical examples which you believe support your claim when considered in the context they are found, I am interested in seeing them.

  50. I’m not sure what’s so controversial about cwho’s point with power/land(lessness/etc; it seems like an obviously central part of Jewish thought from way back.
    Also on the this question, though, I’ve been wondering about the rabbinic sources that people use to *justify* Zionism, since the most often invoked textual roots are usually biblical. I know some rabbinic sources, but I don’t have a really systematic knowledge of them; I’d be interested to hear what others have studied on this. But in any case, the issues of power and land (however conceived) seem an undeniably constitutive part of Judaism.

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