Grace Meng: A True Friend of Israel and Jews
Congresswoman Grace Meng is widely recognized as a leading pro-Israel voice in the Democratic Party and in the House of Representatives as a whole. As a religious Christian, she speaks openly and warmly about her connection to the Holy Land, and has visited there many times. She took tremendous political flak for breaking with President Obama and opposing the Iran nuclear deal. She received ovations as a featured speaker at AIPAC’s 2018 Policy Conference. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Meng last year helped secure $500,000,000 in funding for systems to defend Israel from missile attacks. She has worked to defend Jewish cemeteries in Europe, and has opposed Hezbollah, American visa restrictions on Israelis, BDS, and more. A proud alumna of Yeshiva University’s Cardozo School of Law, YU asked her to lend her good name to its general fundraising efforts – and, of course, she agreed!
One could go on, but the record is abundantly clear: Congresswoman Meng’s advocacy for the Jewish people – with particular focus on the concerns of Orthodox Jewry – and the Jewish state is consistent, deep, and sincere.
Given this record of accomplishment, Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld’s recent attacks against Congresswoman Meng (“AOC: All One Candidate,” January 15, 2020) are outrageous. He begins by praising her as “a true supporter of our community and Israel” for voting against the Iran deal despite pressure from President Obama. But he simply can’t abide that she voted to impeach President Trump. After all, how could she support impeaching “Israel’s greatest friend”? He similarly can’t accept that she expressed concern as to whether the Trump administration considered the ripple effects of killing Iran’s top general, or that she voted to direct Trump not to further attack Iran unless necessary and appropriate to defend against an imminent attack. Surely a supporter of Israel could not vote in this way!
To solve this manufactured conundrum, Rabbi Schonfeld decides that Meng must privately “agonize” over these votes, which, in his view, only a far-left Democrat would support. It must be, he declares, that she cast those votes due to pressure from the Democratic far left, or due to her fear of being defeated in the forthcoming primary by a far-left Democratic candidate. In Rabbi Schonfeld’s telling, moderate Meng knows she can get away with voting – in Rabbi Schonfeld’s view – like a far-left Democrat, since she knows Jews will support her even if she does so. And, because of her support for what Rabbi Schonfeld presents as far-left ideas that she supposedly actually disagrees with, Rabbi Schonfeld implies that the Congresswoman reveals herself to be a fake, dishonest, wolf in sheep’s clothing. As a result, Rabbi Schonfeld muses publicly, friends of Israel should discuss whether to support the “enemy” – i.e., far-left Democratic candidates – in order to teach Meng and her moderate ilk the lesson that they must not take Jewish support for granted.
Rabbi Schonfeld’s argument is scurrilous, through and through. He repeatedly and personally insults a member of the United States House of Representatives, publicly implying that she is a two-faced liar. He implies without any basis that she has no principles, fearfully follows other Democrats whom he deems are its true “party leaders,” and therefore votes against her better judgment. He presumes to read her mind, and knows with “no doubt” what she thinks “when she comes home at night.” All of this calumny he directs against a “true supporter of our community and Israel,” and against a leader whose character and humble demeanor match her name, Grace. For shame!
And what were Meng’s alleged sins, which, for Rabbi Schonfeld, justified his excoriation of her? Her votes against President Trump. Well, just as a reality check, all but two Democratic Representatives (plus an independent former Republican) voted to impeach Trump; the grounds for impeachment have nothing to do with Israel. Moreover, past presidents as well as current military leaders – all of whom understand who Soleimani was and what he did – considered killing him to be reckless. And the House War Powers resolution seeking to restrain Trump’s further escalation of war against Iran was supported by nearly all Democrats – plus a few Republicans who were livid about Trump’s decision to assassinate Soleimani, to boot.
In all these cases, in other words, Congresswoman Meng acted as what she is – a moderate Democrat.
More broadly, there is presently a divide in the Democratic Party between moderates and those on the far left. The ongoing divisive efforts by pro-Trump ideologues, including Rabbi Schonfeld, to characterize every Democrat as part of or beholden to the far left is not only factually incorrect, it’s counterproductive, playing directly into the hands of the far-left voices they so revile. Instead, they should actively and loudly support moderate Democrats such as Grace Meng and so many others.
Attacking a moderate Democrat who boldly supports Israel and other causes dear to the Jewish people sends an awful message to others like her in Congress: No matter what you do, Trump supporters will revile you and publicly muse about seeking your defeat at the polls. They’ll even do that in Meng’s District 6, which has elected only Democrats to Congress, by large margins, for more than 30 years. Since a Republican candidate has no realistic chance of winning this seat, the only serious political question is which Democrat will win the Democratic primary.
That’s why Rabbi Schonfeld owes our Congresswoman more than a simple apology for his crude vilifications. On behalf of Jewish people everywhere and all lovers of Zion, he should join me and the rest of grateful Queens Jewry in rallying voters of every stripe to support, campaign, and vote for Grace Meng in this spring’s Democratic primary. She needs us – and we need her!
Rabbi Barry Kornblau
Young Israel of Hollis Hills-Windsor Park
Queens, New York
RABBI SCHONFELD RESPONDS:
I was giving thought to responding to Rabbi Kornblau’s article, but once I read his half-truths and open lies, I cannot. For example, he writes that I implied that Congresswoman Meng is “a two-faced liar.” What an outright lie itself! I did disagree with her votes on Trump-related issues, and I do feel it’s fair to criticize even a good friend like Meng, but never did I question her integrity. Congresswoman Meng should feel embarrassed to receive support from such a source.
In fact, some of his arguments serve to underscore exactly the point I was making. I could pick apart his article, but as stated, it simply does not merit my consideration.
In my article and in my personal emails to the Congresswoman before and following the article, I state my admiration for her, despite my misgivings. I have personally contributed to her reelection campaign and intend to fully support her during the campaign. But if we are not allowed to be critical of a political friend, then who needs democracy?
Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld
Puerto Rico: Waste, Fraud, and Abuse of Taxpayers’ Dollars
There was not a word from New York Senator Schumer or Governor Cuomo about the warehouse in Puerto Rico filled with pallets of food, water, diapers, baby formula, cots, and awnings meant to aid the victims of Hurricane Maria two years ago. How many millions of dollars’ worth of other aid is still sitting unused in warehouses or was misspent? It is ironic that Schumer and Cuomo cry about how long it takes FEMA to respond when a crisis occurs, but are totally silent when it comes to waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayers’ dollars. Now Schumer has the nerve to ask for even more assistance. How about some accountability for billions previously spent before sending billions more?