Rutgers President Orders Flags at Half-Staff
Today, I ordered that the Rutgers University flag be lowered to half-staff to recognize the tragic passing of two persons affiliated with the University who were murdered by terrorists last week.
Anita Datar, a 1995 Rutgers College graduate, was killed by terrorists in the attack at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, Mali, that took 21 lives on Friday. She was in the African nation on a mission funded by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to expand and improve public health.
Ezra Schwartz, an 18-year-old resident of Sharon, Massachusetts, who had accepted admission to Rutgers Business School and was taking a gap year in Israel, died in an indiscriminate attack that took the lives of three people when a gunman opened fire on a line of traffic in the West Bank on Thursday.
Anita Datar had an enormously accomplished career and Ezra Schwartz had enormous potential. Their tragic deaths are a reminder to us all of the fragility of life and the urgent need for better understanding among us all.
President, Rutgers University
Has the World Gone Too PC?
Do you think the world has gone too PC? Do you think in our desire to appear accepting and understanding of differing points of view, we’ve gone overboard and are too careful if we think we might say something that offends someone? Has political correctness moved us into a gray area? Do we take the diplomatic way out when maybe we shouldn’t? Are our own elected officials or those running for office justified in not using words some say are “not PC,” such as “Islamic terrorists,” because they think they would otherwise be tarring an entire religion unfairly?
Is it okay for you to hold a position that is different from everyone else’s in the room—say you think Syrian refugees should not be allowed into the United States, or vice versa—and are we now conditioned to expect that we’ll be shouted down because our position is not PC? On the other hand, is it okay for you to be part of a mob that causes the chancellor of a university to resign because your view is he’s upholding policies you don’t think are your version of PC?
The world noticed and has mourned the senseless acts of murder in Paris last Friday night, when 129 innocent people’s lives were lost and hundreds wounded. My question is if it’s okay to call those acts terrorism, why is it not okay—or PC—to call what has been happening in Israel these past few months terrorism, too? What do you call stabbings, car rammings and wanton shooting of innocent Israelis—and now an American, 18-year-old Ezra Schwartz from Boston, with family ties to this area, who was gunned down in Gush Etzion?
Is there a difference between when it’s Hamas or Al-Nusra doing the killing in or near Israel, or ISIS in Paris, over the Sinai, or in Beirut? Is there a difference between ISIS, which wants to reinstate a 7th-century caliphate governed by Sharia law, or Hamas and Hezbollah who want to push the Jewish state into the sea? Are they all militant Islamic terrorists, or not? Is it okay to use the name of their religion in a description of who they are? Or is it just not PC?
We live in a difficult world. I wonder if we have become too afraid to say what we think. I’m not suggesting anyone knows the answer. What I am suggesting is that our society has become obsessed with being politically correct. Many times, being PC is the right thing; I just wonder if it is all the time.
Jason M. Shames
Chief Executive Officer, Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey
Don’t Blame the Victim!
Last week in the Jewish Link’s Letters to the Editor (November 19, 2015), Jeffrey M. Goldstein wrote one of the most disgusting, agenda-pushing, blame-the-victim pieces that I have ever read. His idea that the reformation of kallah classes will aid in identifying “predators” or other monsters in our midst by depending on a wife’s overview of her marital intimate life is both simplistic and ill-placed. If you would like to change kallah classes to encourage women to have greater sexual awareness, great. If you want to include information that will teach women about their bodies so they are better able to identify early warning health signs that are critical to their well-being, kol hakavod. I even agree that women and men should understand that marriage is a relationship that must be built on trust and honesty, and that kallah AND chosson classes may be a good place to learn such lessons. However, to effectively lay the blame for a perpetrator’s actions at the feet of the wife for not knowing what was going on is both ill-conceived and offensive. Unfortunately, we don’t always know everything that is going on around us or even under our roof. We are not mind readers.
You say that kallah classes are a good place for a woman to learn “what a normal intimate relationship should be.” But how do you know what someone else’s intimate relationship is like? Maybe theirs was normative, whatever that is. All relationships are unique and at their very core, personal to that couple. More importantly, what you’re doing is blaming the victim, which this wife is. You’re saying that a better informed wife would’ve known that something was wrong and from what we all know, sometimes liars lie really well.
Our job as a community is to educate our children and our adults about abuse so they never have to endure that trauma. Our job as a community is also to support those victims who have been abused, either directly or indirectly, by so-called perpetrators. Our job is not to judge or cast blame—leave that to the judicial system, but merely to protect and love.
Thanksgiving and Giving Thanks
Recently, I heard someone say: “Thanksgiving? It’s not my religion.” It isn’t? Since when is “giving thanks” not part of every religion? Don’t we say Tov lehodot l’Hashem (It is good to give thanks to God)? How much thanks do we owe Him for giving us the United States of America, a land of freedom that has given shelter to the “huddled masses yearning to be free,” where our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents escaped anti-Semitism and persecution in Germany, Poland, Russia and other foreign countries?
If not for the USA, chances are many of us would never have been born. I remember my grandparents, who escaped from Belarus in the beginning of the 20th century, running away from a pogrom that wiped out most of their town just a few days after they left. They always told us: “Thank God for America!” Consider the alternatives. The relatives who stayed behind did not survive the Holocaust that ravaged Europe and left six million Jews dead.
And look at us now! Where else but in America and Israel can you find Judaism blooming! Torah flourishing! And so…..TOV LEHODOT L’HASHEM! Thank You, dear God, for giving the world our great country, that welcomed us, the “tired and poor, yearning to breathe free,” to the “sea-washed, sunset gates” of the “goldene medinah,” the United States of America. Happy Thanksgiving—every day of the year!
(P.S. And thank you, Emma Lazarus)
Ruth Bader Ginsburg Is Biased Against Pollard
Recently you published an article reviewing a book which hails Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a civil rights legend, and consecrates her as a defender of constitutional liberties. Indeed, many legal scholars and Supreme Court followers admire Ginsburg with a bizarre reverence bordering on deified worship. A more calibrated and tempered perspective of Ginsburg’s record, though, can be gained by considering Ginsburg’s actual performance on the bench. In particular, the case of Jonathan Pollard reflects a stain of unvarnished bias which tarnishes Ginsburg’s record as an objective jurist, much less an acclaimed preserver of constitutional rights.
Pollard was paroled last Friday under the glare of considerable media scrutiny. Pollard’s current “freedom,” essentially, subjects him to nothing more than another term of confinement albeit on less-restrictive terms—complete with ankle-bracelet surveillance and a variety of other demeaning intrusions. While Pollard’s case continues to touch on a raw nerve among American Jews of perceived dual U.S.-Israeli loyalty, his 30-year imprisonment tragically represents an unprecedented, grossly disproportionate and unjust punishment which has been opposed by a broad spectrum of current and former congressional representatives, top White House advisers and other high-level U.S. government officials.
Lawrence Korb, the assistant secretary of defense to Caspar Weinberger at the time of the Pollard affair, has published a series of articles revealing the travesty of justice suffered by Pollard as a result of government incompetence (the bungling damage assessment of the CIA that wrongly attributed the crimes of Aldrich Ames, Robert Hanssen and the other notoriously traitorous spies of that era to Pollard), public misinformation (even Caspar Weinberger himself admitted years later that, in retrospect, the Pollard matter was comparatively minor) and outright falsehoods disseminated by Pollard’s detractors (Pollard, under compulsion from the Israelis, received a very insubstantial amount of money, about $45,000, and never attempted to pass any information whatsoever to the Russians or Chinese). The fact is that no one alive today knows more about the so-called “intelligence” information, or lack thereof, transferred by Pollard to the Israelis than Korb and former CIA Director James Woolsey—another outspoken supporter of Pollard.
Returning to the public’s enshrinement of Ruth Bader Ginsburg among the pantheon of American civil rights leaders, in 1992 (then sitting on a lower federal appeals court), Ginsburg joined fellow Jewish judge Laurence Silberman in upholding Pollard’s criminal sentence in an opinion which is notable for its dissent—authored by a non-Jewish Judge Stephen Williams. Saliently, Judge Williams takes the government to task for blatantly violating the terms of Pollard’s plea agreement—Pollard never went to trial, but rather, agreed to plead guilty to a single count of espionage in order to spare his severely ill wife from imprisonment. Judge Williams also excoriated the prosecution and the trial judge for poisonously referring to Pollard as having committed “treason,” when in fact, the sole count included in Pollard’s guilty plea involved espionage—that is, passing aid to a friendly nation.
Judge Williams concluded his dissenting opinion with a famous quote from Shakespeare’s Macbeth that highlighted, in poetic terms, the severe miscarriage of justice perpetrated against Pollard. Ruth Bader Ginsburg callously ignored such injustice when she dismissed Pollard’s case on technical grounds and disregarded the government’s flagrant violation of fundamental constitutional law. Ginsburg’s judicial conduct during the Pollard case indicates that she should not be venerated among the civil rights legends or esteemed as a defender of constitutional liberties.
Jason I. Diener