Cancel Culture Comes To Orthodoxy: A Response

Dear Editor:

I was bewildered by Rabbi Schonfeld’s critique of the Modern Orthodox world: “Cancel Culture Comes to Orthodoxy” (August 6 edition).  I am squarely in the cohort that Rabbi Schonfeld maligns: in my mid-to-late 20s and married with two young children.  A graduate of Yeshiva University, I grew up in the New York area, and I identify as Modern Orthodox.  Yet I have not witnessed nor heard of the “cancel culture” he decries.

In my community, young men and women have indeed been attending minyanim.  I reached out to self-identifying Modern Orthodox individuals living in Washington Heights, Queens, Teaneck, Fair Lawn, Silver Spring, Beit Shemesh, Baka/Talpiot, and other locations to understand what the current reality is in these large, young, Modern Orthodox enclaves, and the same trends were reported to me.  Young people are certainly davening with minyanim, though not in shuls.  Lawn minyanim seem to have become the popular choice for young people, for reasons of convenience and speed (this is especially attractive for individuals with young children at home).  Therefore, the “presence” of young people has likely been diluted, surely within shul buildings – and at lawn minyanim, as well – as these minyanim are made not based on age or cohort, but formed by family, street, and proximity – where people of various ages reside.

I was also surprised to hear how many young people are not attending minyanim at all; not because “if going to shul is not fun, then why bother,” as assumed by Rabbi Schonfeld, but because they are following the directives of their rabbis.  More than a few young people related to me how they had consulted with their rabbis and they were told that they should not attend any minyanim at this time, whether because they themselves are especially vulnerable to coronavirus, their spouses are particularly susceptible, or because other close family members are in a high-risk category.

In addition, many young people don’t feel comfortable attending minyanim due to fears of contagion and lack of social distancing.  I was under the impression that young people largely “don’t care about the rules”; evidently, I was mistaken.  My contacts expressed to me how badly they miss shul.  However, they follow the regulations, haven’t been in groups in months, and do not feel that going to shul is safe.

So, far from cancel culture (the practice of withdrawing support for public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered offensive) coming to Orthodoxy, it appears that a careful coronavirus (and convenience) culture has emerged.  And this trend is a far cry from the notion that for young Modern Orthodox people “there is no point in davening if there is no kiddush and no socializing.”  (Let’s also remember that davening and attending minyan are not synonymous).

The depiction of the young Modern Orthodox community (and the products of its educational institutions) as uncommitted, religiously apathetic and devoutly fickle is hurtful – not only because it is untrue, but because it flippantly ignores the beauty and value that the Modern Orthodox community contributes to the Jewish world.

For those who grapple with the universe beyond the strictures of the traditional Torah realm and culture, Modern Orthodoxy offers a multifaceted intellectual and spiritual engagement that nourishes analysis and synthesis of two cultural and intellectual poles.  This outlook is why I identify with Modern Orthodoxy (sometimes called Torah U’Mada), and these nuanced values keep many thoughtful people in the Orthodox world.  As Rabbi Norman Lamm writes in his seminal work Torah Umaddah, “Torah Umaddah is thus an effort…to bring all of humanity’s cultural creativity and cognitive achievements within the perimeters of Torah” (10).

Moreover, rather than the loud, “black and white” commitment to “Torah-only” that the yeshivah world applauds, Modern Orthodoxy nurtures a quieter, mature commitment to Judaism, one that cultivates Torah commitment and erudition in addition to engagement with secular brilliance.  In place of glitzy, emotional zeal for Torah, its success metric is the humble development of creative intellectual contributions that fuse and infuse Torah to science, culture, and the outside world.  Thus, accusing the Modern Orthodox educational system of failing to imbue its students with an “enthusiasm” for Torah misses the very different values with which a Modern Orthodox education inculcates its graduates – the ability to grapple with, critically analyze, and appreciate the scholarship of Torah and the modern world’s relevance to it.

Rabbi Schonfeld’s observations, both about the motives of young people’s apparent disappearance from minyanim, and the supposed failures of the Modern Orthodox educational system, expose a lack of cognizance of the deeper values of this community.  I hope that he has the opportunity to interact more seriously with this sector and learn to appreciate its true priorities, ideals, and contributions.

 Shira Leff Kreitman

Dear Editor:

 Warren Hecht and the left-wing media recently referred to Marjorie Taylor Greene as an anti-Semite.

Here are her anti-Semitic “crimes”:

  1. She said that Israel is the best ally America has.
  2. She criticized George Soros as being responsible for supporting terrorism.
  3. She said that the Democratic witch hunt against Michael Flynn was partly because he supported Israel.

She is right on all counts.  At this time, I will address the third allegation.

Recently the charges against Michael Flynn were dropped by Attorney General Barr.  I believe that this case has great implications for our country and in particular the Jewish people.  The corrupt actions of the FBI, the DOJ, the Democratic Party, and the media are so egregious that they threaten the very fabric of this nation.  Here is the story that you may not have heard.

Michael Flynn was instrumental in shaping US counterterrorism strategy and dismantling insurgent networks in Afghanistan and Iraq.  He served as the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, serving from July 2012 until his forced retirement from the military by Obama in 2014.  After the assassination of Osama bin Laden, Obama declared that al-Qaeda was neutralized.  Flynn disagreed and argued that Islamic terrorism was still a threat that should be taken seriously.  This went against the “Obama Doctrine” that wanted to establish better relations with Iran and other supporters of terrorism and end our alliance with Israel.  Obama retaliated against Flynn by ending his military career.

Then in November 2016, Trump won a stunning victory over Hillary Clinton and became the 45th President of the United States.  Obama took this opportunity to stab Israel in the back.  He refused to veto an anti-Israel resolution (Resolution 2334) in the UN Security Council.  Flynn was a senior advisor to Trump in his campaign and was picked to be the United States National Security Advisor after the inauguration in January 2017.  Flynn had conversations with the Russian ambassador in an attempt to persuade Russia to veto this heinous resolution.  Although Flynn failed to prevent this travesty, he may have prevented a second resolution that would have been even worse.

Obama was determined to punish Flynn for this “crime.”  First, the FBI commenced a phony investigation into Flynn’s connection with Russia.  The records reveal that no crime was found, so the FBI decided to manufacture a crime.  The FBI under Comey decided to lay a perjury trap.  The FBI went against protocol and approached Flynn without informing President Trump.  They told Flynn that they wanted to ask him a few questions.  When he asked them if he needed a lawyer, they lied and told him that this was not a serious matter and it was not necessary.  They then proceeded to ask him questions about his conversations with the Russian Ambassador.  The FBI already had the leaked transcript, so the purpose of the conversation was solely to catch Flynn in a lie and prosecute him.  The FBI then informed Flynn that they tricked him and that he really did need a lawyer.  They proceeded to blackmail him into signing a phony confession that he lied to the FBI.  If he refused to sign, they threatened to go after his son.

When the details of this case were thoroughly reviewed by Attorney General Barr, he dropped the charges.  The Democratic Party and the media were in an uproar.  Nadler, Schiff, Obama, Biden, Schumer, Brenan, Comey all chimed in unison that “dropping the charges against Flynn was against the rule of law.”  These same politicians who want to lock up an innocent man argue that the most violent criminals and terrorists should be let free.

Unfortunately, Judge Sullivan refused to accept the decision and appointed a left-wing prosecutor.  This went to the Court of Appeals, and the Obama judges ruled that the judge can do whatever he wants.  This decision goes against all legal precedent.  In fact, the Court of Appeals is so biased against Trump that they cannot apply the law correctly.  A corrupt and partisan court system is bad for our country and bad for the Jewish people.  As Jews, we have a history of being persecuted and punished for crimes we did not commit.  As Jews, we must raise our voices in support of Flynn and others who are falsely accused.  Please stay safe.

 Martin Berkowitz

Dear Editor:

 I was finally enjoying a Warren Hecht piece until I got to the middle. As a Mets fan myself, I was appreciating (and enjoying) the tribute to Tom Seaver that Mr. Hecht was giving.  But he just couldn’t help himself.  He killed the entire piece by interjecting Trump and Putin.  It was so uncalled for.  I was infuriated that he had to sink to that level when it was an otherwise decent piece.  So here we go again.

Robert Muller, Mr. “Special Counsel,” found no collusion between Russia and the President.  In fact, all the Democratic hatchet men on the Special Counsel’s team, especially point-man Andrew Weisman, were probably extremely dejected, having to come to that conclusion.  Hillary Clinton sold 20 percent of the United States’ Uranium stockpile to the largest energy company in Russia, Rosatom, so if anyone was colluding with Russia in 2016, between the infamous Clinton Campaign/DNC funded dossier and selling our Uranium, it was Hillary and the Democratic Party.

Now that the record has been set straight, I’d like to comment on a letter that I was dismayed that you published in last week’s issue.  The gentleman makes some pretty ignorant comments in attacking Moshe Hill.  He writes: “Throughout Hill’s rambles, one theme is constant: The Black Lives Matter movement is violent, hateful, and a cover-up for the Democratic Party to use fear to push its agenda.  This is untrue and frankly racist on many levels.”  And he doubles down later in the letter, again calling the BLM movement “nonviolent.”  Yes, the BLM is violent.  It’s a fact that cannot be denied.  Just look at all the rioting, looting, and now murder that are taking place throughout our cities.  And the Democratic mayors and governors are complicit in this violence by allowing it to continue.

However, his criticism of Mr. Hill’s comments as racist is uncalled for and hateful.  You printed a letter that one reader was dismayed that Mr. Zwiren wrote “scumbag” in his piece.  In my list of words not to use, that one likely does not make the list.  It seems pretty benign.  However, this reader felt it was offensive and beneath the dignity of Mr. Zwiren to name-call.  Well, I take offense to the use of the word racist.  Unlike the Left, who take their cues from Saul Alinsky and name-call – racist, sexist, homophobe, xenophobe, etc. – those words have true meanings.  You have to be a truly depraved person to hate someone simply because of the color of his or her skin.  In last week’s edition, I called out Mr. Hecht for the piece he wrote on Alice Johnson.  I chose my words carefully.  I wanted my letter to get published, but more so, I would not dare call out someone or his words as racist, unless proven otherwise.

I hope and pray that this coming year brings hope, happiness, and health to all of klal Yisrael.  A Shanah Tovah.

 Daniel Grossman
Woodmere, New York

Dear Editor:

 Last week, a letter writer pointed out that one of your columnists had used an extremely vulgar term about someone in the opposite political camp, and said that such language does not belong in a family-oriented Orthodox Jewish paper.  I agree.  But this was the last straw for me.  I was happy when the Link began publishing, so I could get the news of the local Jewish community, and not just the Five Towns.  What I expect is news of Jewish institutions, divrei Torah, advice for frum Jews, news about Israel, human-interest stories about frum Jews, and Jewish-relevant information about government and politics that the mainstream media did not see fit to publish.

The Link has all those, but it is also filled with partisan political polemics that we all are saturated with in the general media.  Many Letters to the Editor rebut a political column point by point, repeating the talking points of Fox News or The New York Times.  What is Jewish about this?  And why should an Orthodox paper be the platform for it?  Why should the “Rabbinical Advisor” be the partisan campaigner-in-chief?  It is a shame that America is so bitterly divided.  Your paper should not be buying into this.

 Allan Arnold
Rego Park

Dear Editor:

 It is the height of hypocrisy for Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris to claim that there are “two systems of justice” for White and Black Americans.  This is a form of race baiting reminiscent of Alabama Governor George Wallace.  The facts don’t justify her beliefs.  If it was true, how do you explain her election as California State Attorney General?  Voters elected African Americans Curits Hill (Indiana), Letitia James (New York), Kwane Raoul (Illinois), Aaron Ford (Nevada), Keith Ellison (Minnesota), and Daniel Cameron (Kentucky).

Democrats have served as mayors for most cities over a million for almost 50 years.  They appoint local judges and police chiefs.  Every glass ceiling for governor, senator, Congress member, as well as State, County and City attorneys general, police chiefs, and judges was broken decades  ago.  The election of President Barack Obama in 2008 was the last barrier to be broken.  It has been common for decades to find African American, Latino, Asian, and other non-White citizens holding senior positions in our judicial system.  It is an insult to several hundred thousand minority law enforcement officials, judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys who work every day providing color-blind justice for all.  Ms. Kamala Harris, by her divisive rhetoric, is clearly unqualified to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency.

Larry Penner
Great Neck, New York

Dear Editor:

 I would like to see a column by Warren Hecht explaining how he can’t bring himself to understand Rabbi Schonfeld’s very well written, common-sense column from last week.

 Choni Herschel Kantor
Kew Gardens