“There are those who advise us [as a result of increasing antisemitism] that Orthodox Jews should hide their Orthodoxy, they should not be so visible and [they should] just blend into society and that will minimize the increasingly violent attacks against visibly Orthodox Jews. I ask, is that the progressive definition of freedom? Is that what great Americans fought, lived, and died for? So that its citizens should have to hide from who they are?!”
Those were the passionate words of Rav Dovid Hofstedter, Nasi of Dirshu, in a private meeting last week in New York City, together with Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Rav Hofstedter came to New York City to participate in an event with Mike Pompeo to raise the alarm on behalf of the Torah observant community about the increasing antisemitism that they are experiencing. During that meeting Rav Hofstedter emphasized that in some ways, the current antisemitism is different than the garden variety bigots from the lower echelons of society, in that it is coming from the higher echelons from academia and institutions of higher learning.
During their time together Rav Hofstedter and Secretary Pompeo discussed both the attacks on faith communities and especially on education, as well as the mainstreaming of antisemitism in universities and among some in the intelligentsia.
“There are those who say that Ultra-Orthodox Jews should hide their Orthodoxy, they should not be so visible and [they should] just blend into society and that will minimize the increasingly violent attacks against visibly Orthodox Jews. I ask you, is that the progressive definition of freedom? Is that what great Americans fought, lived, and died for? So that its citizens should have to hide from who they are?!
“Should Jews hide their Judaism in an attic and store it away?”
Rav Hofstedter then cited a chilling study that shows that the majority of Jews on university campuses are afraid to openly show or profess to being Jewish because of fear of reprisal.
Pompeo agreed with Rav Hofstedter that when it comes to standing up for one’s faith there was no room for compromise, and he told him that he attributed this to the secularization of American society and the progressive, post-modern ideals being espoused. “Don’t ever underestimate their efforts to speed American decline,” he said.
Secretary Mike Pompeo: “There Are Some Things That Are Not Subject to Compromise!”
The event also featured a speech to a large New York City audience of influential leaders given by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. It is clear that one who recently authored a book entitled, “Never Give an Inch,” about his experiences as chief diplomat in the Trump White House, is one of America’s rising conservative political figures.
In his public remarks delivered at the event, Mr. Pompeo related that before the event he had the privilege of having a lengthy meeting with Rabbi Hofstedter wherein Rabbi Hofstedter shared his concerns on the rising level of antisemitism especially coming from the left, and the unprecedented assault on Jewish education led by the New York Times, which is seeking to criminalize some of the teachings of the Torah.
Pompeo remarked that as a diplomat he was constantly looking for compromise and ways to find common ground, even with adversaries, but he emphasized, “There are some things that are not subject to compromise. Our relationship with G-d, our morality and the security of the Jewish community both here in America and in Israel. Those things must be preserved at all costs, and we cannot ‘give an inch’ when it comes to those deeply held values.
“Similarly, when it comes to the deep and close relationship that the United States has with Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, there is absolutely no room for compromise. When it comes to preserving the values of our country here at home, how we will educate the next generation of Americans that this is a great country, is not a subject to compromise.”
A guest speaker at the event, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, gave a riveting speech about netzach Yisrael, the eternal nature of the Jewish nation.
“Jewish history is not only about survival, but also about triumph! We have undergone so much: Inquisitions, pogroms, the Holocaust and so much suffering and destruction. Throughout our history, however, we have not only survived but rebuilt. My parents and my in-laws both experienced the horrors of the concentration camps where they lost everything, where their lives were shattered. They came to these shores penniless but nevertheless had the strength to rebuild. They rebuilt their lives, their families, their communities and institutions of Torah learning.
“This was the foundation and the inspiration behind the establishment and building of Dirshu, a Torah organization that promotes Torah learning because Torah learning is the foundation of our lives and our moral compass.
“Despite all the pain, the horrors, the death, and destruction, we have survived and thank G-d we are flourishing.”
Rav Hofstedter than got to the climax of his speech invoking what is incumbent on us as the Orthodox community to do to address this issue.
“It is important and critical that we have leaders who have a clear understanding of the issues facing our community and that have a firm moral compass, but it is also incumbent upon us!
“Particularly for us, the Orthodox Jewish community, who by virtue of our visibility are the primary recipients of the latest outbreak of violent acts of antisemitism. We must stand proud and stand tall and [we must] wear our Judaism on our sleeve and stand proud of what we are, who we are, and what we stand for.
He continued by addressing the wokeness that is now going after religious Jewish education and is trying to make our educational values another victim of cancel culture.
“They insist that we cannot educate our children according to our beliefs. This kind of conduct echoes that of the darkest communist regimes.”
Rav Hofstedter concluded that we need leaders in this country who will not replicate the errors of the past.
Bi-Partisan Advocacy on Behalf of the Torah Community
In truth, Dirshu and Rav Dovid Hofstedter’s efforts to network with politicians who share our values is not a new development. Over the past few years Rav Hofstedter has expended great effort in forging a bi-partisan caucus from both the Republican and Democratic side of the aisle to decry antisemitism and religious bigotry against Orthodox Jews from the right and the left.
The inaugural event of the caucus two years ago had the participation of congressional stalwarts such as Congresswoman Kat Cammack of Florida (R), Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania (R), Congressman Henry Cuellar of Texas (D), Congressman Don Bacon of Nebraska (R), Congressman Brian Steil of Wisconsin (R), and Congressman Dan Mueser of Pennsylvania (R).
In conclusion, perhaps Rabbi Dovid Hofstedter put it most succinctly when he told Secretary Pompeo that it is all about values. “Every nation is based on its values. Those values build nations and reflect its aspirations. The values of the great nation of the United States – many of them values that are rooted in the Torah – are under assault and attack. This has been going on for years. Basic values upon which this great nation was built such as deep respect for religion, for human dignity, honesty, charity, compassion, and empathy, have been under attack for years. These attacks undermine the very foundations upon which America was built,” exclaimed Rav Hofstedter emphatically. “A country that does not combat hate and antisemitism is not America! A nation that does not fight for religious freedom and to allow those institutions that promote religion and religious teachings to flourish, is not America! A nation that does not stand by its friends with devotion through thick and thin is not the United States of America!”
By Chaim Gold