Question Off Target

Before the JT publishes a poll question it should do some  research to see if the question  is even relevant. Anyone who responded “yes” to the June 17 question, “Do you believe that either federal or state officials should ban the sale of assault weapons?” clearly is not versed on the facts of this issue.

To begin with, assault weapons, most accurately defined as weapons with high-capacity magazines and the capability to fire multiple bullets with one pull of the trigger, have been banned for civilian use on the federal level for many decades with very few exceptions. That federal ban carries over to the state level as well. In October 2013, the state of Maryland passed the Firearms Safety Act of 2013 that also banned the sale of semiautomatic rifles if they were cosmetically similar to the already-banned assault rifles by having a folding stock or a flash suppressor.

In addition, the sale and purchase of a magazine with a capacity of more than 10 rounds became illegal in Maryland. This law was successfully challenged in court, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit said that the ban on semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity magazines should be subject to strict scrutiny, not intermediate scrutiny, because they “are in common use by law-abiding citizens.” The court acknowledged that the state has a right to limit the use of or ban citizen possession, sale or transfer of “dangerous and unusual” weapons (such as hand grenades), but the weapons and ammunition barred by the 2013 law did not fall under that provision.

The fact is that there is no meaningful difference between a legally sold/purchased civilian AR-15 and a hunting rifle. In fact, the AR-15 is chambered for a .223 caliber round whereas many hunting rifles are chambered for .30-30 or .308 caliber rounds, which are significantly more powerful. Banning assault weapons has already been done. Can we please find a real solution?

Of Modesty, Handshakes

With regard to the comment if the JT’s June 17 editorial “Of Swiss Handshakes, Restricted Swimming,” comment that “many observant Jews will decline  a handshake from someone of the opposite sex out of modesty”:

Modesty is an arbitrary, subjective criterion, lacking dispositive validity. Halachically, according to Rambam, only  libidinal physical contact between the sexes is prohibited.

Anecdote: When an Orthodox rabbi of my acquaintance was apprised that a colleague “does not shake hands,” his spot-on response was: “What then does he shake?”

Strange Bedfellows

I simply do not understand the intensity of the current anti-Trump crusade as represented by the JT’s May 19 “Trump: No Way” letter of Ruben Moller.

Sure, Trump’s “ideas are not really ideas, just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds and outright lies” (Hillary Clinton); and he is “utterly amoral” (Ted Cruz); “a con artist” (Marco Rubio); and “a race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot” (Lindsey Graham).

But that’s just repackaged, old-style politics speaking.  Moller and others have lost sight of the big picture, mistaking not just the trees, but the leaves for the forest.

In this perilous time of immense cultural division, scabrous political polarization and heightened racial tension, what America needs above all else is a unifier. And Donald J. Trump has demonstrated an uncanny ability to accomplish just that.

After all, he has brought together under his banner, in support of his presidential candidacy: David Duke, the No. 1 anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi white supremacist in America; and Sheldon Adelson, the No. 1 pro-Israel, Jewish billionaire in America. If Trump can get these two together on the same page, linked arm-in-arm, caroling the same song, then without doubt, he is the leader this country demands right now. Other than The Donald, who else’s brand may claim, symbolically, to have conjoined SS  partisans with IDF aficionados?

The Wrong West

In his Your Say letter of June 3 (“At Odds with Party”), Ben Mirman claims to be a “lifelong Democrat,” but he writes like a Trumpkin. How else to explain a tendency to believe that “they” are all the same? Contra Mirman, the individual named to the Democratic Platform Committee is Princeton academic and progressive gadfly Cornel West. The Colonel West that Mirman has in mind must be retired Lt. Col. Allan West, the extremist former  Republican Congressman from Florida who now serves as a Fox-TV commentator and who was once encouraged to run for president by Glenn Beck.


Mark Wilf and Todd Morgan’s June 3 From This View column (“Survivors’ Welfare Is Everyone’s Responsibility”) lacked perspective. It notes that “Jewish federations distributed $2.8 million in federal grants to assist programs for Holocaust survivors. Coupled with matching funds, the disbursement results in $4.5 million for survivor services.”

Yet, reports in the media say that casino mogul Sheldon Adelson is willing to spend $100 million to elect xenophobic demagogue (and David Duke favorite) Donald Trump as president of the United States. Four million dollars is chump-change for the likes of Adelson to provide support for impoverished Holocaust survivors.

Through such priorities, what kind of message is being sent to Jewish millennials, let alone the world? A shandah and a charpah.

At Odds with Party

The appointment of Jim Zogby, Colonel West and Keith Ellison to the Democratic Party Platform Committee is very troubling.

Although purported to bring “balance” to the Democratic Party’s position on Israel and the Palestinians, both Zogby and West have in the past questioned Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish homeland and Jewish claims to the area.

Their support of Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas and Hezbollah, who have each proclaimed their goal as the eradication of Israel and making the Middle East cleansed of Jewish existence and Jewish history, is more than provocative. It smacks of a brand of anti-Semitism that  relies on hatred and a denial of history. Since we have already seen, through the desecration of Joseph’s Tomb and Rachel’s Tomb, that this is more than pure rhetoric, we must take them at their word.

As a lifelong Democrat, I find myself at odds with my party. While I continue to support its domestic policies, by and large, I view this development to be a challenge to my existence.

‘Seeds of Love’

Shirley J. Shafran (Jerri to all who know and love her) has relinquished the reins as  Congregation Kneseth Israel’s  pre-school director.

Jerri is known for her laughter and giving hugs. She is as beloved by her staff as she is by the children. Her caring, friendship and boundless love for the children is evident by their love and devotion to her.

Although the leadership reins will change hands, the seeds of love, knowledge and learning that Jerri has sown will continue to grow. She will not be forgotten.

Modesty Matters

Last week, I attended a conference at the Newseum in  Washington, D.C.  I and many of my colleagues approached the restrooms on our break only to find out that in  response to bathroom correctness, the Newseum had placed “Family” signs over the men’s and women’s restrooms and installed locks (“It Is Bigotry, Not Religious Freedom,” April 15). These restrooms that used to accommodate six at a time can now only accommodate one, which creates lines and considerable discomfort if used as  individual restrooms.

What happened in our situation was that people got tired of waiting, so one woman pointed and said to me, “There’s mostly men in that one.”  Mostly men?  In my traditional Jewish values world, modesty matters a lot. This administration has led the way on bathroom policy so that large institutions, following  its lead, are throwing another timeless religious and traditional value in the waste basket.

Presumably, these changes are being implemented to support those who are confused as to what sex they are, either for reasons of nature or nurture or some combination thereof. This seems like a small matter, but it causes concern as to the trajectory of the nation.

Writer Off Target

In a JT Your Say letter (“On Closer Inspection,” May 20), Steve Weissman criticizes the David Samuels interview of Ben Rhodes, an adviser to President Barack Obama, in which Rhodes talks about misleading the nation regarding the negotiations with Iran. The interview was discussed  in a May 13 JT editorial,  “Misleading with Contempt.”

The original New York Times interview and commentary by Samuels was several thousand words. Weissman does not  allege any misquote or cite any factual or logical mistake by Samuels (neither to my knowledge has Rhodes). Instead, Weissman cites previous opinions by Samuels with which Weissman apparently disagrees in an effort to discredit the Samuels interview. This is an ad hominen argument, a common fallacy.

Trump: No Way!

During my recent trip to Israel laying to rest my beloved wife, may she rest in peace, many Israelis, as well as articles in The Jerusalem Post and in the JT, have expressed concern about Donald Trump becoming the next president of the United States.

In essence, I told the Israelis that based on my analysis Trump has zero chance of being elected president for the following reasons:

> Thoughtful Americans will not vote for a crude and arrogant egomaniac who has no experience in domestic, foreign and military affairs.

> His outrageous rhetoric has split the Republican Party. Only 45 percent of Republicans voted for Trump during the primaries.

> He has very little support among women, African-Americans and Hispanics.

> Millions of people who acquired medical coverage as a result of Obamacare will not vote for Trump, who has  promised to get rid of it.

> He preaches “America First,”  but “ Trump First”  is his primary goal. Reportedly, he has filed for bankruptcy four times. This saved his neck, but it cost the government, financial institutions and individuals millions of dollars.

> He advocates to reduce or remove our troops from the Persian Gulf. This would continue President Barack Obama’s policy, which has created a vacuum in the region that has been filled by our — and Israel’s — enemies.