Thursday, 21 May 2015

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev: To Kill or Not to Kill?


My dad was a psychiatrist who loved working with the profoundly mentally ill. In the ‘80s, he ran a community mental health center on a shoestring budget, back when Reagan emptied the sanitariums and promised to fund community-based care for former residents…then didn’t. Dad loved chatting with street people. He volunteered on a medical van for the homeless. He helped talk a shooter off a rooftop in downtown Providence. He testified in insanity cases. He had a column about mental health issues in the Providence Journal.
Dad died in 2004. Last year, in a cardboard box in my mom’s old apartment, I found an essay he wrote. The essay, “To Kill or Not to Kill,” was about why physicians should not participate in executions. I don’t think it was ever published, and I hadn’t known this was a cause he felt strongly about.
As I read it, I thought about recent botched executions in Oklahoma (where an inmate writhed and twitched on a gurney, lifting his head and taking 43 minutes to die) and Arizona (where an inmate took two hours, gasping 660 times in nearly two hours) and wished I could talk to Dad about those cases. I wondered what he’d say about the one that was stopped after the executioners tried for two hours to find a usable vein by reportedly sticking the Ohio prisoner at least 18 times, causing him to scream in agony. (The execution was eventually stopped by the governor, and a US District Judge later ruled that attempting to kill prisoner again would constitute cruel and unusual punishment.)
And now, of course, I wish I could talk to my Dad about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. 
The American Medical Association’s professional guidelines are clear: Doctors should not participate in executions. But participation isn’t formally banned, and a doctor was present during that Oklahoma incident. Some doctors argue they should have the choice: if an execution is inevitable, doctors should get the option of easing suffering along the way.
My dad clearly didn’t agree, answering his own rhetorical question, “Should we exchange our white coats for black hoods?” with a resounding no. “To me, it seems fairly straightforward and simple,” he wrote in the undated piece. “A physician who participates in an execution is doing something unethical, immoral, and wrong. A physician’s task is to alleviate suffering; to bring comfort; to heal, if not to cure.”
But he wasn’t opposed to doctors assisting in euthanasia cases if the patient is competent enough to make the decision to die a painless, dignified death: “This is not an execution. This is not killing. It is consistent with the physician’s obligation to relieve suffering.” (When I was in college, he euthanized our elderly, dying cat, O’Malley, himself.)
Dad used to provide psychiatric care at a group home for troubled youth; what would he have thought of Dzhokhar? A lost boy, acting under a psychotic older brother’s sway? Or a savvy and calculating yet fanatical killer? I’ll never know. When the jury in the federal case returned a death penalty verdict last Friday, I desperately wished I could pick up the phone and ask him.
There’s no question about Tsarnaev’s guilt. But knowing my dad, I don’t think he would have supported the widely held notion that the death penalty will provide closure for victims’ families. Dad had polio as a child and a heart attack at 39; he never expected to reach 60. (He made it to 64.) He knew that life is uncertain. Those who think executing the murderer will make them feel better may be wrong, and may find their lives on hold for a very long time while they wait for “closure.” Those who asked for a life sentence will still acutely feel the pain of loss of loved ones. (One family that asked for life without parole instead of death told the court, “We understand all too well the heinousness and brutality of the crimes committed. We were there. We lived it. The defendant murdered our 8-year-old son, maimed our 7-year-old daughter, and stole part of our soul.”) The idea that grief has a clear, bright resolution is a fallacy; we all choose to live life in all its uncertainty and sorrows every day.
Unless he’s murdered in prison, Tsarnaev will be alive for a long time despite this sentence. The Federal government has put executions on hold while it evaluates current practices. The manufacturers of two commonly used death penalty drugs have stopped making them or have refused to allow them to be used in executions. (The manufacturers’ European markets–companies and politicians alike–have vociferously protested against American capital punishment.) According to The Washington Post, states began purchasing untried drugs—which perhaps caused the recent spate of botched executions—from compounding pharmacies unregulated by the FDA, starting in 2011 when the well-tested drugs ran out. They’ve also passed secrecy laws to prevent disclosure of where these new drugs came from.
This wouldn’t have surprised my dad at all. He was the kind of cynic who was really a frustrated idealist. Humans are often vengeful. We often want to kill. We justify our actions and cover over our more ignoble motives. But he wanted us to do better.
His essay dismisses the frequent death-penalty justification, “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” Even in the Torah, Dad pointed out, that doesn’t always apply. Cain slays his own brother Abel and is cursed and banished to wander the world, but he isn’t executed. Our forefather Abraham is on the verge of sacrificing his beloved son, “but an angel intervenes, crying out against human sacrifice.”
Dad concludes, “The Bible offers many remedies and institutes that are no longer acceptable today. No one today calls for the death penalty for the adulterous woman (the man’s punishment was generally less severe), nor for the stoning of the rebellious son at the city gates. No one calls for the re-establishment of slavery under the laws codified in the Bible. In fact, the rabbis of the Talmud codified the dictum ‘an eye for an eye’ to mean ‘the value of an eye for an eye.’” (Tablet’s own Adam Kirsch points out that we no longer stone brides to death for not being a virgin on their wedding night, either!) (And bonus! Those of us who play music and use the oven on the Sabbath are allowed to live, too!)
Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg tweeted two quotations from the Talmud after the Tzarnaev verdict came in, “‘A High Court that executes once in 7 yrs is murderous. R. Eleazar ben Azariah said: once in 70 yrs.’ Mishnah Makkot 1:10.” And, “R. Tarfon & R. Akiva said, ‘If we were members of a High Court, nobody would ever be put to death.’ Mishnah Makkot 1:10.”

10 Memorable ‘Letterman’ Appearances


As you’ve likely heard, tonight is David Letterman’s last night as host of CBS’s Late Show with David Letterman, a job he’s held since 1993. Prior to that, the 68-year-old entertainer hosted Late Night With David Letterman from 1982 to 1993 on NBC. In fact, two years ago, Letterman passed Johnny Carson as the longest-operating late night talk show host—at 31 years.
Despite persistent assumptions to the contrary, Letterman is actually not a Member of the Tribe. However, he has had scads of Jews as guests throughout the year on both of his nighttime talk shows. Here are 10 memorable appearances (in chronological order):
This 1983 episode of Late Night features Dr. Ruth, who talks about discovering Valentine’s Day and answers viewers’ questions.
In a 1985 appearance, Bette Midler chats with Letterman and acts in a skit. But the real star may be her dress.
Here’s Sammy Davis Jr. in 1987, a few years before his death, in a Letterman special in Las Vegas. He sings “For Once in My Life,” and also talks about how much he once owed after a gambling binge (it’s quite a bit). The man was authentic Rat Pack, that’s for sure.
And check out Mandy Patinkin performing six different songs between 1989 and 1994. There’s a recurring bit about needing to use Letterman’s studio as last-minute rehearsal space, but admittedly the banter here with Dave is to a minimum. However, Mandy Patinkin. End of sentence. Alas, there’s nothing from his Mamaloshen album, but from Harold Arlen to Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein, plenty of Jewish songwriters are represented. (Unfortunately, some clips are better quality than others.)
Here’s Patinkin blessing the audience with a rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in 1989:
Here is the first appearance of the Beastie Boys on the Late Show from 1992. A lot of the action is in the buildup as Letterman forebodes that they bring trouble.
In 1996, Natalie Portman, then just 15 years old, went on the Late Show to promote Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You. Witness the birth of her vegan activism from when she was a wee vegetarian at Thanksgiving-time. The interview is also punctuated by Letterman weirdly sort of hitting on her.
In this infamous 2006 appearance, Sacha Baron Cohen appears in character as Borat. The famous character acts starstruck by Letterman’s (Jewish) bandleader Paul Shaffer and makes Letterman extremely uncomfortable with some rather off-color comments. If Letterman was in on the joke, he certainly doesn’t act like it.
Sarah Silverman‘s debut on a major network as a stand-up comedienne was on Letterman in 2007. Her routine includes a bit about her sister, actress Laura Silverman, and Jewish hyphenate-names.
Here, have Leonard Nimoy in 2009 delivering the Top Ten List, “Lines Never Before Said in a Star Trek Film,” though Letterman calls it Star Wars by mistake… Oops.
From only a few weeks ago, as part of Letterman’s retirement celebrations, Jerry Seinfeld showed up to repeat his stand-up set from his first-ever appearance on Late Night. In typical Jerry fashion, he acts like he has the run of the place.
Stephen Colbert is scheduled to debut as Letterman’s replacement on September 8. Maybe he’ll bring his Yom Kippur hotline—the Atone Phone—with him.

Reality TV: Nazi-Occupation Style


Sometimes, life provides a person with sheer clarity, such as the understanding that reality TV has, in fact, become the nadir of entertainment; it’s the very subway floor of human creation. But now, mankind has reached a new low: a Czech reality show, which will premiere on May 23, will feature a family trying to live under Nazi occupation for two months. The Telegraph reports:
Called “Holiday in the Protectorate,” in reference to the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, the puppet state set up in the Czech lands following the Nazi dismemberment of Czechoslovakia in 1939, the show places the family of three generations on a farm decked out in furniture from 76 years ago.
There they will have to deal with food shortages, Gestapo informers and intimidation by German soldiers, all played by actors, while period clothing and the use of rare original currency add to the wartime atmosphere.
So what’s in it for the real-life family if they can survive? A valuable prize.
According to Expats.cz, one viewer replied, “What’s next? Big Brother Auschwitz?”
The show’s director, Zora Cejnkova, anticipated criticism. “We believe that it is correct to attempt to do this, providing that certain ethical rules and historical reality are observed,” she said. “I tried to show that period with utter seriousness and with respect for its tragic character.”

Fighting Facebook’s Armchair Rabbis


I am lucky. I am unequivocably a Jew. To prove it, I have a paper with the names and signatures of three men–Rabbis with long, white beards and thick Yiddish accents–who watched me as I sank, naked and swollen, under a sheet that separated my old life from my new one about as much as it separated my body from their view. As an African-American (and now an Afro-Amero-Israeli, gesundheit) no one believes that I was born Jewish, but it doesn’t faze me much; because I wasn’t.
But I worry for my children. I wonder if people will believe my daughter, who was born less than 72 hours after my conversion, when she says she is Jewish by birth. And I wonder if her brown skin make those she encounters expect some stamp of approval greater than her birth certificate–something which she does not have and cannot give.
Before the advent of the Internet, these issues were almost completely (if you will excuse the pun) black and white. When someone new moved into an area, they were expected to give bona fides from whence they came so that their story could be checked out prior to acceptance into the local Jewish community. Potential converts were shadowed–from their first introduction to the conversion beis din until successful post-conversion integration into the community–as a way to monitor sincerity, and also to provide the newest addition (and any descendants) with solid references.
It was a variant of the popular game “Jewish geography,” where if someone said they had converted under a certain beis din, they would be questioned subtly–and sometimes not so subtly–about people and places they should be familiar with. For instance, I’m from Detroit, so when I traveled I would get asked about Jerusalem Pizza, One Stop Kosher, and whether I knew how to sing Rabbi Cohen’s version of Chad Gadya. These are details that are very difficult to fake because they are so niche. Years later, if the convert subsequently moved to a different area and needed to reassure a future spouse or neighbor, she could always suggest they contact a former neighbor from the place the conversion was completed to serve as an advocate (e.g. “Oh yes, I remember when Sara Ruth first came to Monsburg Heights! Definitely completely kosher conversion!”)
But even though a tight-knit Jewish community can provide this type of acknowledgement and assurance, my Jewish identity–by proxy of another’s–has frequently come into question with the advent of the Internet.
Before the world was so digitally connected, people only interacted with those they saw frequently, and who were aware of their stories. We were bound by space and time. Therefore, it didn’t really matter if someone halfway around the world didn’t know if another person was Jewish. But thanks to the Internet, and particularly to that website created by Mark Zuckerberg, I have now begun interacting more frequently with the kind of armchair rabbis who feel they can determine someone’s lineage–and religious identity–from a picture on a Facebook post.
One day, while I was researching Operation Moses–the first of several rescue operations aimed at evacuating Ethiopian Jews caught in a deadly famine in 1984, and bringing them to Israel–I saw a particularly troublesome Facebook post from one of these armchair rabbis. He had posted a picture of a modern Ethiopian religious leader in Israel, and immediately cast doubts upon whether or not the man was Jewish. I commented that, based on my understanding of Don Seeman’s 1991 Tradition magazine article, “Ethnographers, Rabbis and Jewish Epistemology: The Case of the Ethiopian Jews,” the Israeli Rabbinate had already reached a halakhic consensus on this matter: the “Beta Israel,” or Ethiopian Jews, no longer needed to undergo a conversion unless specific claims were brought against an individual which would lead to doubts about his Jewish lineage.
The person I was having the virtual discussion with proceeded to give a list of reasons why he believed Ethiopians were not biologically related to the Jewish people, including DNA studies. However, to my knowledge, DNA isn’t requested when registering for marriage at the Rabbinate in Israel, who were charged with determining how to integrate Beta Israel into the Jewish family. What is required by the Rabbinate when trying to prove the degree of halakhic Jewish identity, is verification of the individual’s background, and witnesses. 
The Ethiopian Jews not only had a wealth of historical proofs of lineage and tradition, which convinced Rabbi Ovadia Yosef of their authenticity–and which led to his ruling in February 1973 that they should be accorded full halakhic status–but, until the Rabbinate’s policy change in 1985, they were also required to complete a streamlined conversion process prior to being accepted as Israeli citizens. While there are Ethiopians here in Israel through the country’s historic right of return whose Jewishness has not been officially recognized, there is no way that you would be able to single out these individuals from the broader group that has been accepted as fully Jewish.
This is the problem that Jews of color face on a continual basis. Because of what we look like, many fellow Jews, like those armchair rabbis, feel they have the right to inspect, poke, and prod. But I will continue to explain that my children aren’t converts, and I will defend the honor of a people who are rarely even invited to participate in the conversations about them. This is my duty, both to educate and to fight, for as long as my skin is brown

Kosher Fusion Gone Wrong


On May 5, Manhattan’s Congregation Shearith Israel, the oldest congregation in the U.S., which was by founded Jews of Spanish and Portuguese descent in 1654, hosted a special “Halakhic Dinner.” Here’s the invitation to the event, which cost $100 to attend:
Did you know that giraffes are kosher? How about locusts? They are! Rabbi Soloveichik will entertain and enlighten with a special lecture over dinner. We’ll learn about some far out there kosher foods, and we’ll eat a few of them too. Goat, venison, bison and squab are just a few of the expected featured ingredients. Come hungry and adventurous.
The event sold out and over 200 people attended. Here is the menu, as reported by VosIzNeias.com:
— Crispy shallot-topped veal intestines stuffed with veal heart
— Chicken gizzards
— Mixed greens salad topped with an esrog dressing
— Duck liver and kidneys
— Truffle oil-drizzled, poached brains with garbanzo beans, white pickled garlic, and lemon
— Moroccan cigars stuffed with duck foie gras
— Goat tagine with dates, dried plums, cracked Syrian olives and fava beans
— Braised squab with poached fennel mousseline, roasted shallots, braised artichoke hearts and fresh truffles
— Bison sliders with glazed onions
— Israeli cracked olive paste
— Slow-cooked ox tail with green peas and sherry wine mousseline
And for for dessert, a choice of:
— Dulce de leche cake in a chocolate caramel box
— Mexican chipotle chocolate covered locusts.
If you’re adventurous, which many people apparently were, I think it’s fair to say that the meal actually sounds pretty good, if not delicious.
One attendee, Dani Klein, who runs the website YeahThatsKosher.com, noted that congregation’s rabbi, taught the guests “about the Torah origins of each food, its relevance and how it is kosher.”
“It got people interested and excited,” said Klein.
The food also got people sick, including Klein’s wife, who reportedly came down with a case of food poisoning. So did about 20 others who reached out to Klein “complaining of gastrointestinal distress after the dinner.”

The Art of Fixing the Failures of Plastic Surgery


I’ve tried to stay away from plastic surgery reality shows over the years. I’m not squeamish about the bloody stuff, or the inevitable moment when the surgeon either shoves in or pulls out a quivering, organ-like bag of silicon from a gaping hole of mangled human flesh (actually, I kind of like that part). But I’m not a fan of the homogenized brand of beauty these shows tend to peddle, or the way the a female patient, unencumbered by price tags (all expenses being taken care of by the production company, naturally) winds up signing up for way more than she came in for. Hate that bump on your nose? It’ll look so much better if you also get a chin implant, and then some big plump cheeks to even that out… And you could really use an eyebrow lift, and how do you feel about your breasts and stomach?
There’s something profoundly disturbing to me about upselling someone on their own body, as well as the taut Stepford Wife faces and swelling Barbie bust-lines that such shows like Extreme Makeover, or the one-season abomination The Swan, which still haunts my nightmares, tend to produce. It’s the same reason I’ve never much cared for fashion makeover shows like What Not To Wear–you go in a normal human being with your own taste and sense of style, however questionable, and you come out with the same layered highlights and the same jewel-toned wrap dress they put on everybody else. It’s creepy.
That’s why Botched, now in its second season on E!, which stars L.A.-based surgeons and partners Dr. Paul Nassif and Dr. Terry Dubrow (a self-described “nice Jewish doctor”), has come as such a pleasant surprise to me. Neither doctor is a stranger to our screens–they are both married, or divorced from, Real Housewives past and present; and DuBrow has lent his services to a variety of other plastic surgery shows over the years, including the terrifying Bridalplasty). This makes it all more interesting that they have chosen to focus their new(ish) show on quite literally peeling back the mask by taking on patients whose previous procedures have left them suffering or deformed, and fixing them. Sure, there’s an inescapable element of the Victorian freak show to all this–a woman who had industrial-grade caulking material injected into her face; a man whose lips are so puffed up with filler that he looks like a hemorrhoid cushion is affixed to his face–but neither doctor treats his patients with anything other than seriousness and compassion (and in the case of Dr. Dubrow, a kind of jocular vulgarity that seems to put them at ease).
And there are success stories: a reshaped chin for a woman whose multiple corrective surgeries after a horrific childhood burn left her swollen and deformed; a therapeutic tummy tuck for a young mother whose botched liposuction cost her a bellybutton and an abdominal muscle; any number of reverse rhinoplasties in which pinched, bridgeless noses are built back up into something more functional and, dare I say it–ethnic. They are often, genuinely moving. The world is full of people who feel terrible about the way they look, and Botched, despite its flaws, is making the clear statement that you’ll feel better the more you look like yourself. It’s a fascinating concept–a show about plastic surgery that is really about the limits of plastic surgery–particularly when looked at in its historical context.
Modern plastic surgery, in which a patient voluntarily undergoes a procedure to modify an otherwise functional organ for purely aesthetic reasons, began in 19th-century Germany. Dr. Jacques Joseph, a Jewish surgeon who began performing cosmetic rhinoplasties (often free of charge) on many of his fellow Berlin Jews. He believed that “correcting” this most typically Jewish of features was a charitable act that would allow them to blend in more easily among their non-Jewish peers, thus leading more fulfilling and successful lives.

We’re All Racists Now The new culture of progressive right-think may be even worse for Jews—and liberalism—than Obama’s Iran deal


What’s the greatest threat to our communal safety? If we take our cue from the Obama Administration, the answer just might be that perennial menace bedeviling so many poor souls anywhere from Houthi country to Homs, the inability to find a restroom that properly acknowledges more fluid gender representations that transcend the more stringent ones long enforced by the patriarchy. You know, life and death stuff.
To address this towering concern, the White House dedicated a gender-neutral bathroom last week, with much fanfare. The measure, Obama’s Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett wrote—taking a break from her duties shepherding the Iran deal—was designed “to ensure that everyone who enters this building feels safe and fully respected.”
The word “safety” mirrors the latest bon ton on college campuses, that of “safe spaces” designed to shield young and delicate minds from intolerable cruelties like conversations about real-world unpleasantness or movies starring Bradley Cooper. To the quivering practitioners of identity politics, such safe spaces are shrines in which to reverentially contemplate the virtues of victimhood; that the leader of the free world chooses to ape this language is strange, but not accidental. Apart from inaugurating the planet’s most equitable commode, the administration has recently pursued other measures—including intervening on behalf of transgender prisoners suing for the right to receive hormone treatments—to signal his strong and unequivocal support of the LGBT community.
And what of it? After all, even a legislator who, like Obama, had not so long ago insisted that he was bound by his faith to view marriage as a union of one man and one woman may change his mind and pursue what is inarguably a key liberal priority. And he may do so even at a moment in which public support for gay marriage is at an all-time high, having risen more rapidly than arguably any other social shift in American history to win the approval of nearly two-thirds of Americans.
Still, there’s something curious about the president’s zeal for assiduously pursuing an issue that, by any sober reflection, is doing well enough on its own and requires little by way of executive intervention. Is Obama having a lame-duck liberal renaissance? If that were the case, you’d expect to see similar presidential thrusts on other key goals that require his legislative heft, from environmental protection to taking on the banks. And yet, Obama is doing nothing of the kind. Why?
Because that would be hard. And gender-neutral bathrooms are easy, not to mention effective at positioning the president as the commander in chief of the culture wars. And culture wars are highly effective at this juncture, now that the president’s foreign policy has served to spark up or aggravate a whole slew of very real wars—in Ukraine, in Libya, in Yemen, in Syria, and elsewhere—America has no intention of fighting seriously.
I suspect that with the Iran deal looming, and with even staunch Democrats like Chuck Schumer having serious reservations, Obama, like the deftest of high-school mean girls, has realized that the best way to push through what is, at the very least, a deeply flawed policy is to bundle it together with other highly visible and utterly unrelated measures no liberal could ever afford to reject. Squeamish about an agreement predicated on taking the ayatollah at his word? Tell that to your gay brothers and sisters. What self-respecting liberal would stand up to this protector of transgender people? What nuanced intellectual would dare upset the White House’s safe spaces for something as remote as the prospect of an Iranian nuclear bomb?
Evidently, not too many, which may help explain why—in sheer defiance of observable reality, common sense, and basic decency—most of the president’s base did not bother asking whether making far-reaching concessions on nuclear armament to crazed mullahs chanting “death to America” while allowing Syria to turn into a breeding ground for jihadists that puts pre-9/11 Afghanistan to shame may not be the most prudent moment in American foreign policy.
Examples abide, although cataloguing them is little more than a wearying exercise in stating the obvious. What is worth noting, however, is how many of the liberal critiques of those opposing the Iran deal are focused not on the pros and cons of the deal itself but, in keeping with the president’s robust rallying of his faithful, on arguing that Obama’s detractors are guided by little less than an incurable case of fundamental racism. You can see traces of this argument in Salon; you can glean it more openly in the work of CNN’s Sally Kohn. Or you could go straight to the source and see this logic in play in the New York Times.
In an editorial last week, the paper of record lamented the coming of “a new phase in anti-Obama attacks,” an onslaught of questioning so pernicious that it could only be understood as an attempt “to undermine not just Mr. Obama’s policies, but his very legitimacy as president.” You know, because he’s black.
To prove this bizarre point, the Times offered its readers the following thought-experiment: Imagine what would have happened if Democratic lawmakers in 1986 had taken a page out of Tom Cotton’s playbook and written to Mikhail Gorbachev, informing him that President Reagan “did not have the authority to negotiate a nuclear arms deal at the Reykjavik summit meeting that winter.” Whoever wrote this sentence didn’t bother to even use Google: Reagan, unlike Obama, did not depart for Iceland before negotiating closely with his political rivals at home, making concessions and calling the House Speaker Tip O’Neill from Reykjavik to thank him for his party’s “show of unity.”
But don’t confuse the Times with any of that. Like many other of Obama’s vocal supporters, their equation is simple: Exercise your own right to free thought and evidence-based argument, and you’ll be called nasty names and booted from liberalism’s ever-shrinking tent.
What’s so striking about this course of action is just how illiberal it is. Traditional liberalism—as opposed to the Obama-ites version of “progressivism”—champions the unfettered exchange of ideas. If honest thinking and writing are a democratic value in themselves, they can also lead to surprising coalitions, fruitful collaborations, and real progress. Spend enough time talking freely and earnestly, and you may not only bring together Tip and the Gipper but also bring Gorbachev to acknowledge that his regime’s violations of human rights were worthy of public airing. Do your best to remain in the shadows, and don’t expect anyone to applaud.
And while anyone committed to the liberal values of free association and critical inquiry should refuse any demand to purchase political principles in bulk, American Jews should be particularly wary. In its zeal to see its policies to fruition, the administration is not only sacrificing Israel’s vital interests in order to appease Iran but is eroding the fertile ground of internecine quibbling that has helped so many Jews grow emotionally, spiritually, and politically. Like every minority, we linger on the promise of robust dissent, free of litmus tests and sine qua nons. The Jewish talent for dissent has not only made so many Jews liberals by nature as well as political affiliation, it is also a primary source of Jewish innovation in politics, charity, art, and other forms of social self-expression. Blind obsequiousness rarely shows the Jewish community and its spokespeople at their finest. It seems particularly dangerous now.

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