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April 04, 2012

Is Shmarya A Zionist?

Israeli FlagNewsweek-The Daily Beast's Zion Square blog asked a group of contributors, including me, a question: Why am I/am I not a Zionist? What do you think FailedMessiah.com's publisher/editor answered?

 

Read Shmarya's answer here.

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I wouldn't have thought that to be your position. Like it.

thats almost exactly how i feel.

zionism in the context of its founders like herzl, who was an atheist, had nothing to do with any theological justification. it was a ncessity for jewish survival and safety. its the same today.

GO ISRAEL !!!

To clarify, I did believe the conclusion to be your opinion, I am just pleasantly surprised at the analysis.

Great article Shmarya,

One great point mentioned in the article is the fact that even here in America, we cannot feel too comfortable. We must realize that just as the Jews in enlightened and progressive Germany thought it would never happen there, but it did happen, it can happen here as well.

There are antisemites all around us. They don't act on their hatred. But the anti-Israel sentiment is their outlet. Beware.

I'm not surprised at all. That's pretty much exactly what I thought you'd say.

shmarya, can i ask what your position is on the settlements?

Interesting comments from Shmarya.

The question of being pro or anti Zionist misses the point. Many people indulge in black and white thinking and can only think in absolutes. Nuance escapes them. The correct political philosophy regarding the State of Israel is best summed up by the Johnny Mercer maxim, i.e. "Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, hold on to the affirmative and don't mess with Mr.In Between." This philosophy applies to all 193 nations on the Planet right now. The State of Israel should be a platform of stability, order, benevolence and expansiveness. It has a vital part to play in the redemptive process of humankind. It is an integral piece of the jigsaw puzzle. Anyone advocating that the Jews there should just disappear from the land is playing with divine fire. They will get their comeuppance. Anyone also suggesting that an Armageddon like war will sweep the decks and allow their saviour (whether JC, the Mahdi or M.M.Schneerson) to turn up is also playing with fire.

Regarding the "First Flowering of the Redemption" idea, well the Redemption actually started in 1995 when some new truths about the universe were revealed, so technically the founding of the state in 1948 was not a first flowering.

How relevant is Zecharia 12:2 right now ?

“Thus says the LORD 'Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it'”

Please note...

The burdensome stone part of the prophecy means that the issue of Jerusalem will become a political “Hot Potato” at some point in human history. People will feel anxious, nervous and feint at the thought of dealing with issues besetting the Holy City and Holy Land in general. Please keep in mind that the correct order of the redemption (moves of the cube) and how all the prophecies “fit in” will be revealed for all to see. The Master of the Universe is in control. His timetable will trump all others. BTW, the next few days re. the Iran/West imbroglio really are crucial.

The state of Israel stands as the last bastion of hope for the world's jews. No matter what society we are integrated, the anti-semites, who are ever-present, will find every opportunity to rise to power and find another way to exterminate us. Therefore, religious or secular: a jew is a jew and therefore a state of Israel is a necessity.

One can make the argument that Jews are safest when we are scattered across the world, a large concentration of Jews in any location, including Israel can be vunerable.

Shamrya:

Nice piece. I think we are just about aligned on this. My problem is that I reject nationalism no matter whether it is religious or secular. We do need the state, for the reasons you number, but I can't say I like the most vocal supporters of it too much. I also don't like the behavior of the government, but, if I actually thought the state of Israel was at risk of being lost, I would do what I could to prevent that.

I support Israel and call myself a Zionist because Israel supports Jews.

Israel is the Jewish homeland whether we agree with it or not.

As the bumper stickers I saw there read, We have no other land.

And those who hate us, including Beinart, a self-hating Jew, go crazy that, at last, we have our own land and are still around.

Skepticalyid,as the gemorah says its a chesed from g-d that Jews are spread around the world.

Also,the argument can be made that even with a state with its own army and police Israel is helpless.Just look how helpless they were when the intifada was around.Jews couldn't go shopping or to shull even with its own police protection. Same can be said with the threat of Iran they are helpless and have to beg the west to let them attack Iran first.
A day without support of the US Israel is nothing.
BTW, Herzel had a few options how to solve antisemitism one was to convert Jews to Christianity and that was becuase he loved so much the Jewish people.What a compassionate man he was.

How about setting up a State for Paternal Jews. And another State for Jews who had Giurr with a consevative Rabbi.
And a State for those that just Feel Jewish?

There is only one country that has not compensated Holocaust victims (and their decendants) for the bank accounts and property siezed by the government when their oweners (and their owner's deeds; bank information). It is also the country with the highest amount of Jewish casualties of murder per annum (and per capita judaeia). It is the only zionist country.

Yechi zionism le'olam va'ed!

A good read why Jews should not have a state based on ideology which was NOT written by a satmar chossid:

http://www.israelversusjudaism.org/torah-judaism/index.cfm

To Deremes,

An interesting read. I just had a look. The prophesied command and control structure for the Holy Land is actually a monarchy, believe it or not.

Posted by: Maskil | April 04, 2012 at 03:34 PM


You're absolutely right. Israel's treatment of Survivors has been reprehensible.

All theese religious fantasizers like deremes think they have the truth when in fact they are up to their necks in delusions and lies so lets not kid ourselfs and wish the world is a better place it is an unbeleivably cruel place from time to time exactly like shamrya describes it let those who are against it move out of israel and to a place where they feel more confortable but dont dictate the majority what to do what nerves theese fanatics like deremes have to even come here and play god with us all

Weak,in fact very weak.

The state of Israel is the home of the Jewish nation. (even the Reform movement has recognized its mistake and switched its stance on this subject).
The Jewish people have no future in the diaspera and time will prove this with assimilation.

I'm a little disappointed.

Are there problems? Plenty! but the dream is now a reality.

Shmarya, you really are an exquisite writer.

There are antisemites all around us. They don't act on their hatred. But the anti-Israel sentiment is their outlet. Beware.

Posted by: Lubavitchers are Christians

Yes, be scared of the boogeyman, they are all around you...

Very well said Shmarya. We tried statelessness and we ended up as dust. Having our own state and army means we can prevent persecution, safeguard Jewish people and Jewish culture. The rest is commentary.

The three contradictory beliefs taught to me in yeshiva were:


1. We must support Israel because it is vulnerable,being surrounded by hostile enemies.
2. We must support Israel because it is our last bastion, our only hope of safety if there is oppression abroad.
3. Israel is our only hope against assimilation.

If Israel is always vulnerable, then it is not a safe haven. That just doesn't make sense.

Jews survived 2,000 years in diaspora without entirely assimilating. Biblical and Talmudic texts indicate that Jews were often assimilating in large numbers when still residing in ancient Israel.

Not that anyone asked, but here is my own opinion. I liked Shmarya's article tremendously. Not only is Israel, flawed as it may be, the refuge of last resort. To me and many others, it is a source of pride, warts and all. Not to minimize the problems, we should also celebrate its great achievements in the arts, sciences, military, and more recently business. I can lift my head proudly, just as an Italian-American can take comfort in Italy, or an Irish-American celebrate Ireland's long-fought freedom, etc. (And none of those countries are utopias, either). It makes me perplexed and angry that only the Jews will look the proverbial gift horse in the mouth, and rail against their own country. When Garibaldi reunified Italy, he had a run-in with the Vatican (which owned the Papal States). But nowadays you don't find Catholic Italians delegitimizing Italy. Only the ungrateful Jews, in an unholy alliance of the religious far-right and the Marxist far-left, shit where they eat.

As for the religious angle, it is the existence of Israel that got me interested in Judaism in the first place. I don't want to belong to a loser religion; if there was no Israel I would have probably converted. But the existence of Israel tells me that God eventually keeps his promises.

Having said that, I am uncomfortable with much of religious Zionism today. It has become too inflexible and extreme. I am moderate, pragmatic, religious Zionist.

Here is a link to Longfellow's poem, "The Jewish Cemetery at Newport": http://www.hwlongfellow.org/poems_poem.php?pid=52

I will quote the ending in its entirety:

"But ah! what once has been shall be no more!
The groaning earth in travail and in pain
Brings forth its races, but does not restore,
And the dead nations never rise again."

Do you want to be a member of a dead nation, waiting for Menachem Mendel to return? I don't. Powerlessness is sexy, in today's world of victim-hood chic, but I think it sucks.

YL

===

They hate Israel precisely because, for the first time in a very long time, it gives Jews power and pride.

And I am all for that.

Yes, be scared of the boogeyman, they are all around you...

Posted by: GN | April 04, 2012 at 04:37 PM

Exactly what the German Jews believed in the 1920's.

Brief, lucid, to the point. One of your best.

And Yochanan, I was entirely unaware of that Longfellow poem.

I wouldn't have thought that to be your position. Like it.

Posted by: ca | April 04, 2012 at 02:36 PM

CA, I'm given to understand the official Chabad position is that although Israel is a fait accompli so there's no point in railing against it, it would be better if it didn't exist - and Chabad is not an organization that tolerates dissent. So what gives?

Shmayra - I dont disagree with your premises, or your realpolitik, or your ability to criticize while remaining part of something. It is MY attitude as well. One set of questions, though, to someone like you, who would know.

I am a BT MO, reform by birth, with "lousy papers" and no one to vouch for me prior to my tshuva; when M.Y. turns 51% Charedi in 2025, as you know it will, what makes you think I will be able to gain access in an emergency under the law of *charedi* return when the USA experiences its 1492/1933?

For that matter - since you have almost surely been put into cherem by multiple different black clans, what makes you think YOU will gain access either?

I was a Zionist when I began reading this blog. Also religious...

thats almost exactly how i feel.

zionism in the context of its founders like herzl, who was an atheist, had nothing to do with any theological justification. it was a ncessity for jewish survival and safety. its the same today.

GO ISRAEL !!!

Posted by: ah-pee-chorus | April 04, 2012 at 02:38 PM

very well said
and of course excellent article.

people with USA citizenship feel safer abroad knowing they do have a country to back then up or go home too

same with Jews and Israel.

For the frum Israel haters wonder what they will do if situations turn against us again.

Will they say I will not go to the evil medina?

or will they be first on line screaming we are the real Jews and we are needed there to study Torah so our learning can protect those left behind? and them when saved spit on the very medina or people that saved you like yoeli did?

(I have decided to call him yolie not satmar rebbie until satmar starts showing respect and calling others rabbi so and so even if they are MO, Conservative or reform)

When the Romans decimated the Jewish population of Israel after the Bar Kochba rebellion, the only reason we survived was because of a Diaspora that already held about 50% of the world's Jewish population. It wouldn't take but a few WMDs to destroy it now.

FrumButSentient,

You have two options:

1. Go to Israel and get your passport now before it's too late.

2. Donate money to Manhigut Yehudit even if you don't know the real Moshe Feiglin. He has a chance of becoming PM and he will a) get rid of sectors (like Haredim, yes, he has a social plan that will initiate centralization of Jewish law and practice, which will effectively end Haredism), and b) grant Israeli citizenship to all Jews anywhere (in time for you to be included).

Of course there's always the third option, which you may prefer since you are Orthodox:

3) Pray.

You're absolutely right. Israel's treatment of Survivors has been reprehensible.

Posted by: SkepticalYid | April 04, 2012 at 04:10 PM

I'm talking about the central bank of Israel and the land authority. They went in to the Holocaust years knowing that the unclaimed money would become the core of the Israeli treasury, and realized that the value of the land (whose owners often took the deeds for land they purchased via Zionists in the 30s with them to the death camps) was just too tempting and keeps a closed book system even to survivors who remember seeing the deed sewn into their father's jackets before they were killed and cremated.

I also think there is a need for Israel to exist because of so many centuries of discrimination. But I am not optimistic that it can survive when the growing Haredi population refuses to get out of the wagon and help push. Israel's proportional representation system in the Knesset (patterned after the Weimar Republic) has given the religious parties enough rope to hang themselves with. From what I read in the press, the public education system is underfunded and in decline, many Israelis (perhaps half) refuse to report for military service or reserve duty and the Haredi use their ability to bring down coalition governments to get a greater share of the spoils for themselves. It is too bad that the country adopted the failed Weimar system, considering how tragic the results were for Jews after January 1933.

The Haredi have essentially written off most of the world's Jews as not being religious enough. There are more people living in metropolitan Cairo, Egypt than there are Jews in the entire world. But I don't think that they will find that fact in their holy books. Nearly 70 years after most of my father's Polish relatives perished in Galicia (mostly during the time between Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur in 1942), it is somewhat ironic that Israeli Jews are moving to Germany by the thousands and that recently Germany has experienced the world's fastest growing Jewish community. As Winston Churchill and Benjamin Franklin once said, "We can hang together or we can hang separately".

Seymor, I don't think there is a single Satmar chusid who cares one iota about your opinion of their Rebbe. Your infantile pseudo hunger strike against the Rebbe is like pissing in the wind...

Shmarya, nice pragmatic piece. One question: what is your view point on the anti Jewish hatred that was antagonized and concretized in the Arabic world resulting in the decimation of many communities due to the State of Israel?

Nearly 70 years after most of my father's Polish relatives perished in Galicia (mostly during the time between Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur in 1942),

rocky,

i'm SO sorry.

Great article Shmarya.

I am concerned that with the Chareidi population taking over by birth rate, government influence, unwillingness to contribute to society, and continually sucking the country dry by7 taking and not giving, in 20 years Jews around the world will not have a place in an Israel run by Chareidim.

I also wonder whether I would be granted Israeli citizenship as a Jew. My grandparents' ketubahs were lost in Europe during the war. I have no proof of being Jewish going back even 2 generations, while proof going back 3 generations is now required by the Chareidi gatekeeper rabbis in Israel for proving that one is a Jew. What good would having a Jewish State be for me if I needed to go there due to being persecuted, if they would not recognize me as a Jew?!

Additionally, if Israel gives up certain land (again) for the promise of peace (again) in the process of the Palestinians being granted an independent state, but then as a result of that Israel winds up with indefensible borders, what would be the purpose of having a state with borders that are not defensible?

And last, but not at all least, if the existence of Israel is itself a cause for an inordinate amount of Anti-Semitism in the non-Arab Western world (and it is), by virtue of the belief that it is a state stolen from and built upon the blood and land of the Palestinians, then does that not defeat Israel's purpose - if it is the cause of harm to Jews?

And as APC wrote above, I, too, would like to know your position on the settlements.

(Please note that I am in part playing devil's advocate here, as I would like to hear some of the intellegent answers you and others have to these questions. Thanks.)

Rocky -

My grandparents from both sides lost almost every relative they had in the Holocaust, even while they survived. And while I myself am not running to live in Germany, I think it behooves us as Jews to recognize who our friends are today, and not hold today's Germans hostage for the sins of their grandparents. Today's Germany is one of Israel's best friends when it comes to countries which are friends of Israel, and unlike most of Europe, Germany is the most friendly to Jews, and has the most laws against the expression of Anti-Semitism. That is why Israelis move to Germany. It is a healthy and wealthy Western European country with much opportunity, that is inviting and welcoming to Jews in every which way.

I do not believe that I do any honor to my great grandparents by holding their grudges for them. And I do no service to them or myself by failing to recognize who my friend are, when they have demonstrated beyond a shaddow of a doubt that they are committed to befriending and protecting me. While Germany is not in denial of it's history and responsibility for the Holocaust, and while those who were responsible were duly punished by Germany, and while today's Germans have bent over backwards to make ammends for the sins of their grandparents, it would behoove me, as a Jew, to accept that hand of friendship, and offer mine in return. Jews have a concept of teshuva in our tradition, and I believe we should recognize it and give credit for it even to those who were once our enemies. The Germans of today are not our enemies. They are our friends. Anti-Semitism is our enemy, and Germany has done more than any European country to wipe out Anti-Semitism, and to educate 2 new generations of Germans about it's dangers.

Abra: I agree 100% about the Germans of today. Unfortunately, Gunter Grass, the distinguished novelist, recently wrote a disgusting poem blaming Israel, not Iran, for threatening world peace.

To all haters: Don't blame Israel for not being a Utopia, or a Frumistan. The Muslims have always hated Jews, even during the Golden Age of Spain, because we rejected Muhammad as the Seal of the Prophets and Messenger of God.

On the settlements: Mixed feelings. We need the Golan and greater Jerusalem for our security, along with some buffer towns along the Green Line in Shomron (Israel is too narrow at the waist). I would hate to give up the holy city of Hebron, but it is unsustainable and we can't rely on miracles. And some settlements are just plain wacky. Just a thought, maybe reconciliation with the Palestinians is part of the redemptive process. But they have to at least meet us halfway, and unlike the Germans they are teaching their children to hate.

Abracadabra:

I do not hold a grudge against Germans. I got over that a long time ago. I had to get over equating Germans with Nazis. I actually sought out to meet at least one German who was not a Nazi and through AOL met two such people. I stayed at their home near Munich for a few days in 1998 and realized that I had more in common with some Germans than I do with many Americans.

The point of bringing in Germany into my earlier comments was not to criticize Germany but to point out that things have changed since the 1950's and 1960's. Young Israelis don't carry the emotional baggage of their grandparents and as the country moves towards becoming a theocratic state, many of these young people will look for opportunities abroad if they can't find them at home. As it happens, Germany now makes it very easy for young Jews to move there. Perhaps it is part of their atonement or perhaps they have finally realized what they lost during the Third Reich and are trying to rebuild a Jewish community which had once played such an important role in making Germany the intellectual capital of the world.

Litvish- And those who hate us, including Beinart, a self-hating Jew, go crazy that, at last, we have our own land and are still around.

I don't get that sense from him at all. The guy attends an Orthodox shul. I doubt he spends his amidah time wishing he and his kids would cease to exist.

They hate Israel precisely because, for the first time in a very long time, it gives Jews power and pride.

Too simplistic. My observation is that the far-left does not hate Israel specifically because it gives Jews pride (although there may be some intersections with anti-nationalism). I think it's part of a larger issue: historically, the Jewish relationship with power has been so out of whack, and this is basically the latest installment.

For thousands of years we lived via other people's good graces; at best this meant we were left alone to police ourselves or allowed to integrate and participate with outside society piecemeal; at worst we were actively persecuted with little hope for assistance. Today it seems the pendulum has perhaps swung too far in the other direction; the perception many have of Israeli society (including yordim) is that it is constructed almost exclusively around power and strength as identity: a "real" Israeli serves in the army, drives like a maniac, treats many laws as optional, and acts way more macho than is healthy. This can sometimes bleed into social friction (Haredim/Arabs/Women don't match my conception of Israeli-ness, therefore screw 'em) and foreign policy (nuke anyone who might threaten us!).

When people point this out, they are usually accused of pining for the days of Fiddler on the Roof powerlessness, which, of course, the subtext goes, is precisely what led to Auschwitz. Yochanan's post did exactly that.

But here's the thing: aside from religious anti-Zionists like Satmar who have made the concept of Jewish powerlessness into a sanctified religious value, most of the critical Jewish groups I hear seem to be more uncomfortable or alarmed with the direction Israel is going rather than explicitly suicidal. You don't hear many people saying, "You know what was awesome? Pogroms!"

This isn't binary. The choice isn't no Israel or Israel, Powerless Menachem Mendel or Israeli Rambo on Meth.

Yes, there are some Jews whose feelings about Israel pass the line from critical to abusive, unfair, and in some cases even dangerous. But my sense is that most of them are simply uneasy with the fact that our culture and heritage, which spent thousands of years emphasizing other kinds of values, values of intellect, critical thinking, and dignity, has, through modern political Zionism and the Hasbara effect, become "re-branded" as values encouraging the holiness of war, a Jewish ethnocentrism bordering on racism, and the increasing exclusion of any Jews who don't wear the right hat (theological or otherwise) from Klal Yisroel. There is no question that we are witnessing a major cultural shift in process.

I'm not saying Diaspora Judaism was perfect. Clearly it was a product of its environment, and one major facet of that was a lack of power. But modern Israeli Judaism is also influenced by its environment, and it remains to be seen whether its relationship with power is all that much healthier. (The upside is that since this time it is the Jews who are in charge, theoretically there is more control over how we interact with and decide to exercise that power.)

I don't object to being proud of Israel or identifying with Zionism. But there are legitimate issues to take with the state, and legitimate reasons people may have to not be "proud" of it. That alone doesn't make them self-hating.

"And quite frankly, I don't see how any Jew can defend being an anti-Zionist after that."

Fortunately, very few Jews do defend anti-Zionism. Mostly, minim, like Neturei Karta, haredim and the like, religious offshoots of Judaism are the ones who lead the anti-Semites in their vitriolic hatred of Israel. And just like Achashverosh, they hate the mainstream Jew even more than Haman does.

Friar Yid: You raise some excellent points. I'll be the last one to call Israel a Hebrew Utopia. As for guys like Beinart, it's not for me to say what's in their hearts. But to me at least, Jewish criticism of Israel often (but not always) amounts to an internalization of negative stereotypes. I think the image of the hyper-macho, militant Israeli is a stereotype that sometimes conforms to reality, but is often not valid. Israelis read more books, and translate more books, per capita, than almost anyone else. Despite a mediocre K-12 system, they have excellent world class universities. And paranoids sometimes have real enemies. Iran is telling the world exactly what it intends to do, and is acquiring the means to do it. They should be taken at their word.

One more thing (not that you asked): I think Litvish is correct that many "gedolim" want Jews to be ignorant and powerless so they can micromanage our lives. We see how well some of them manage their own lives.

If you're an anti-Zionist Jew, you need your goddamn head examined. It's a mental illness, an expression of self-hatred. Personally, I believe it is an expression of anger at God for having been created at all.

The enemy will mock you for using your head because it's something he's unable to do.

Shmarya,
Well done.

Unfortunately, Gunter Grass, the distinguished novelist, recently wrote a disgusting poem blaming Israel, not Iran, for threatening world peace.

Günter Grass served in a Waffen SS unit. He didn't admit this until six years ago.

Yochanan- I take your points and concur that Israel is a real country with real strengths, real problems, and real enemies, and that one of the things that modern Jews our age and a generation forward and back have to struggle with is how to square the messiness of those realities with the values and ideals of how we think Jews are "supposed" to act. I don't mean to come down overly hard on Israel here, I'm just saying that I think I can see a little bit of where different people are coming from-- partly due to my own high school dalliances with anti-Zionism, which fell away the more I read and the more I got to know my own relatives in Israel who didn't conform to the stereotypes I had heard about. I have quite a lot of hope that Israel will, in its own way, continue to develop its relationship with power and self-determination in healthy ways, which others may perhaps be able to benefit from as well.

There are many things in Israel Jews (and others) should be proud of, as well as plenty of things it could, and hopefully will, do better. One of the things I tell people is that they need to remember that Israel is still an incredibly young country, and that some of its political and cultural issues need to be seen in light of that. How functional was America in 1842, or 1862, or 1962? We can always do better, and always should be trying to do better. I would say that's in fact a very Jewish value.

This is partially why we need to be careful that in defending Israel's right to exist and determine its own destiny and (at least partially) culture, that we do not fail to hold it accountable to various standards, be they moral, legal, or even just intellectual. Israel doesn't need people to give it carte blanche OR attack it at every turn, it needs honest Hovovei Zion, people who love it enough that they want and believe it can succeed and are not afraid to speak about things it can do better on-- not in an armchair activist way, but in a supportive and productive way, in a way that breeds enthusiasm and creativity rather than resentment or frustration.

Yes, the Israeli Rambo is a stereotype, no question. However so is Menachem Mendel-- and that image is still being used today in the Israeli government and educational systems to hammer home why the Diaspora is doomed and everyone needs to make aliyah now. Issues like honesty, authenticity and complexity are all two-way streets. Diaspora Jews don't do themselves-- or Israel-- many favors when they tear themselves down in order to elevate Israel.

I personally endorse "Jewish Existentialism" over an idea of zionism.
The reality is that zionism was a charm to get our people motivated to push for life in The Holy Land. Today the fact is that Jews exist on all continents.

Friar Yid: I agree with everything you wrote in your last post, and even if I didn't, I respect your opinion. Chag sameach.

lubabs are christians wannabe human - go dunk in ur toilet loser...ye 3 times sheees!

Amazing what pops out here and their!

Shmarya - very well written I tend to agree.

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