In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review May 9, 2005 / 30 Nissan, 5765

Theocracy or Hypocrisy?

By Jonathan Tobin

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Pols shouldn't drag the rest of us into their partisan filibuster

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | To listen to some of the commentary coming out of Washington these days, you'd think Armageddon is just around the corner.

No, not the Armageddon that might presage the End of Days. Instead, the great battle being discussed is the anticipated showdown in the U.S. Senate between the majority Republicans and the minority Democrats over the rules under which they will vote to confirm federal judges.

Bipartisan hypocrisy reigns in Washington, as Republicans who once used procedural grounds to stall Democratic nominations to the court under the Clinton administration now piously say that the only thing they want is a fair up-or-down vote on potential judges.

They're all in favor of a fair vote all right, because at the moment, that's the tactic that favors their nominees.

At the same time, Democrats who only a few years ago (when they were in control of both Houses of Congress and the White House, as the Republicans are now) blasted the filibuster as an undemocratic tool of racist reactionaries now embrace it wholeheartedly.

If the tables turn and the Democrats get back in control of Congress, you can bet the ranch that they'll be denouncing GOP filibusters as quickly as most of Newt Gingrich's band of Republican revolutionaries dropped support for term limits once they tasted the power of incumbency.

But the truly disconcerting part of this story is the way religion has been used in it by both sides.

Most obvious, has been the rhetoric religious conservatives have employed in their opposition to what they perceive as a liberal judiciary. To speak, as some on the right have, of their opponents as being "against people of faith" was both extreme and unfair.

All of this lends credence to those on the left, who are stoking fears that the real agenda of the Christian right is theocracy, and that the ultimate stakes in the endless bickering between the two parties isn't policy but the fate of democracy itself.

Though religious minorities such as the Jews have legitimate fears about preserving their rights, the drumbeat of incitement alleging that mainstream religious conservatives want to destroy all our constitutional freedoms is partisan hype, not reality.

The truth is, for all of their election victories, the so-called "morality voters" who are thought to have re-elected Bush and the Republican Congress are losing the culture wars.

Turn anywhere, and you can readily see that it is liberal secularism that's winning. Look at the content of television and movies, at the court decisions on issues like gay marriage, and what you see is a religious right that's steadily losing ground, not gaining it.

As much as liberal and secular Jews fear that their status as equal citizens would be jeopardized by the triumph of religious conservatives, religious conservatives view the world very differently.

They see their values being marginalized. And even though they can still claim a majority on such issues as gay marriage, they know the culture is changing to the point where even the expression of opposition to this measure is starting to be viewed as bigotry that doesn't deserve the protection of the law.

The point about the rise of the religious right is that it has been a purely reactive movement engendered by liberal victories in the courtrooms rather than at the ballot boxes. And so, while many of us are still thankful that the courts have, for example, outlawed mandatory sectarian prayers in public schools, we should not be surprised when those who disagree on this or other issues seek redress through free speech and the election of like-minded candidates to office. They are no more theocrats than all liberals are socialists.

The problem is that neither the left nor the right encounter each other much anymore, except on TV talk-show screaming matches. So right-wingers are free to wrongly think all liberals are Hollywood idol-worshippers and left-wingers find it easy to believe their cherished myths that all conservatives are Medieval-minded fascists.

That's why it is so discouraging to see some in the Jewish community allowing themselves to be co-opted into this debate as partisan foils.

There is a good deal of hypocrisy here, too, as those on the Jewish left — which is busy trying — so far unsuccessfully — to mobilize mainstream Jewish groups to fight against the Republicans — claim a religious mandate for their policy stands on a host of issues while accusing the religious right of attempting to legislate morality via dictatorship.

What separates religious liberals — who claim the Torah mandates one level of taxation as kosher and that lower rates of spending are, by implication, immoral — from those who claim God wants them to confirm conservative judges?

Nothing, except their belief in the righteousness of their own motives. Both view themselves as embattled defenders of decency against barbarian hordes. Self-styled Jewish progressives often speak of themselves as inheriting the mantle of the prophets, but if they would only listen to their foes, they'd find them saying the same thing. What both really have in common is the idea that their opponents are inherently illegitimate.

And this is exactly the ideological dead-end we should avoid. Neither party — as the Republicans are learning — benefit from identifying themselves as primarily a force for religious sectarians. Nor, as the Democrats have learned, do they benefit from being perceived as the party against religious expression in the public square.

Faith and values have a legitimate place in our debates. But delegitimizing those who disagree with us does not.

Yes, this is a serious fight with implications for the future of the judiciary. But, though it spoils the fun for the rabid partisans to say so, the republic will survive with or without a filibuster.

We have enough problems sorting out self-righteous Republicans and Democrats. If our political life must be conducted as an endless Armageddon, let us at least try not to gratuitously drag our churches or synagogues into it.

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JWR contributor Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent. Let him know what you think by clicking here.

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