The Secrets of Jewish Genius

Political News Opinion and Analysis

The New York Times 

Dec. 27, 2019

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By Bret Stephens

Opinion Columnist

(First:  The New York Times Apology over having published Brett Stephens politically incorrect but unvarnished truth praising the amazing history of intellectual achievement by the Jewish people.  

Below is the  New York Times explanation of the part they left out, evidently for fear of alienating the Jew-haters and the scared shtetl Jew apologists of the world who prefer to hide in the woodwork for fear of increasing the century’s-old Jew-hatred, based on envy, that permeates their every environment.)

Jerome S. Kaufman    Jan. 13, 2020

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New York Times Editors:

An earlier version of this Bret Stephens column quoted statistics from a 2005 paper that advanced a genetic hypothesis for the basis of intelligence among Ashkenazi Jews.

After publication Mr. Stephens and his editors learned that one of the paper’s authors, who died in 2016, promoted racist views. Mr. Stephens was not endorsing the study or its authors’ views, but it was a mistake to cite it uncritically.

The effect was to leave an impression with many readers that Mr. Stephens was arguing that Jews are genetically superior. That was not his intent. He went on instead to argue that culture and history are crucial factors in Jewish achievements and that, as he put it, “At its best, the West can honor the principle of racial, religious and ethnic pluralism not as a grudging accommodation to strangers but as an affirmation of its own diverse identity. In that sense, what makes Jews special is that they aren’t. They are representational.” We have removed reference to the study from the column. 

(The New York Times thus used the usual cop-out to eliminate anything they did not want to hear or read. They called it “racist views” because it did not conform to bizarre globalist concepts which have never met the requirements of hard evidence and is, in itself, counter to our own best interests.) jsk

(Back to the courageous, politically incorrect Brett Stephens article)

Brett Stephens:

An eminent Lithuanian rabbi is annoyed that his yeshiva students devote their lunch breaks to playing soccer instead of discussing Torah. The students, intent on convincing their rav (rabbi) of the game’s beauty, invite him to watch a professional match. At halftime, they ask what he thinks.

“I have solved your problem,” the rabbi says. “How?” 

“Give one ball to each side, and they will have nothing to fight over.”

I have this (apocryphal) anecdote from Norman Lebrecht’s new book, “Genius & Anxiety,” an erudite and delightful study of the intellectual achievements and nerve-wracked lives of Jewish thinkers, artists, and entrepreneurs between 1847 and 1947.  Sarah Bernhardt and Franz Kafka; Albert Einstein and Rosalind Franklin; Benjamin Disraeli and (sigh) Karl Marx, etc, etc, etc

How is it that a people who never amounted even to one-third of 1 percent of the world’s population contributed so seminally to so many of its most pathbreaking ideas and innovations?

The common answer is that Jews are, or tend to be smart. But the “Jews are smart” explanation obscures more than it illuminates. Aside from perennial nature-or-nurture questions, there is the more difficult question of why that intelligence was so often matched by such bracing originality and high-minded purpose. 

One can apply a prodigious intellect in the service of prosaic things — formulating a war plan, for instance, or constructing a ship. One can also apply brilliance in the service of a mistake or a crime, like managing a planned economy or robbing a bank.

But as the story of the Lithuanian rabbi suggests, Jewish genius operates differently. It is prone to question the premise and rethink the concept; to ask why (or why not?) as often as how; to see the absurd in the mundane and the sublime in the absurd. Where Jews’ advantage more often lies is in thinking different.

Where do these habits of mind come from?

There is a religious tradition that, unlike some others, asks the believer not only to observe and obey but also to discuss and disagree. There is the never-quite-comfortable status of Jews in places where they are the minority — intimately familiar with the customs of the country while maintaining a critical distance from them. 

There is a moral belief, “incarnate in the Jewish people” according to Einstein, that “the life of the individual only has value [insofar] as it aids in making the life of every living thing nobler and more beautiful.”

And there is the understanding, born of repeated exile, that everything that seems solid and valuable is ultimately perishable, while everything that is intangible — knowledge most of all — is potentially everlasting.

“We had been well off, but that (having been) was all we got out,” the late financier Felix Rohatyn recalled of his narrow escape, with a few hidden gold coins, from the Nazis as a child in World War II. “Ever since, I’ve had the feeling that the only permanent wealth is what you carry around in your head.” If the greatest Jewish minds seem to have no walls, it may be because, for Jews, the walls have so often come tumbling down.

These explanations for Jewish brilliance aren’t necessarily definitive. Nor are they exclusive to the Jews.

At its best, the American university can still be a place of relentless intellectual challenge rather than ideological conformity and social groupthink

At its best, the United States can still be the country that respects, and sometimes rewards, all manner of heresies that outrage polite society and contradict established belief. 

At its best, the West can honor the principle of racial, religious and ethnic pluralism not as a grudging accommodation to strangers but as an affirmation of its own diverse identity. In that sense, what makes Jews special is that they aren’t. They are representational.

The West, however, is not at its best. It’s no surprise that Jew hatred has made a comeback, albeit under new guises. Anti-Zionism has taken the place of anti-Semitism as a political program directed against Jews. 

Globalists have taken the place of rootless cosmopolitans as the shadowy agents of economic iniquity. Jews have been murdered by white nationalists and black “Hebrews.” Hate crimes against Orthodox Jews have become an almost daily fact of life in New York City.

Jews of the late 19th century would have been familiar with the hatreds. Jews of the early 21st century should recognize where they could lead. What’s not secret about Jewish genius is that it’s a terribly fragile flower.

Bret L. Stephens has been an Opinion columnist with The Times since April 2017. He won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary at The Wall Street Journal in 2013 and was previously editor in chief of The Jerusalem Post.

Composed by Jerome S. Kaufman

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Hostilities With Iran Began in ’79

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Political News Opinion and Analysis

By establishing a credible deterrent, the killing of Soleimani should restrain Tehran’s aggression.

By Eric S. Edelman and Franklin C. Miller

Wall Street Journal, Jan. 9, 2020

The American media and political class worry that the U.S. is on the verge of war with Iran. It isn’t. The war has been under way for 40 years. 

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Largely using surrogates or proxy forces, Iran has killed hundreds of Americans by shooting down civilian planes, bombing U.S. embassies and military barracks, and supplying munitions for attacks on American soldiers in Iraq and elsewhere. 

With the exception of a brief naval engagement in April 1988, the U.S. responded to Iranian aggression by attacking surrogates rather than dealing with the source of the problem.

Now, with the killing of Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, Washington has sent Tehran an unambiguous message that it can no longer attack Americans with impunity. For the first time since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the U.S. has taken important initial steps to establish a credible deterrent.

Deterrence is effective when an enemy is convinced that the cost of an action will outweigh the gains.

Until now the Iranian leadership has suffered no losses to its own valued assets as a result of killing Americans. Soleimani’s habit of taunting U.S. officials during his travels around the region was testimony to his belief that he could act against the U.S. without consequences. The ayatollahs had evidently concluded they had a free hand to harass American troops.

Soleimani’s death is the first time the regime has lost something it valued in its conflict with the U.S. The Trump administration was right to make clear that America will impose significant costs on the regime until its state-sponsored hostage-taking, murder and other forms of terrorism cease. 

There’s no need to threaten a ground war, or to respond rashly to Iran’s Tuesday attacks on U.S. military facilities in Iraq, which did minimal damage. The U.S. has the military capacity to inflict severe damage on Iran without an invasion.

Some say that attacks like the Soleimani strike will encourage Iran to hit soft targets in the American homeland. But that risk already exists. And if Tehran still believed Washington would respond to a deadly terrorist attack on American soil only with strikes against peripheral targets, then the risk of such an attack would probably increase.

The sole previous direct American response against Iranian state assets—the 1988 naval rout, in which the U.S. sank two Iranian ships and destroyed a Persian Gulf oil platform being used to harass Western shipping—caused Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to agree to a cessation of hostilities. 

Deterrence works, but only if the threats are credible.

Soleimani was a state actor, carrying out a national policy of terrorism to murder Americans. U.S. recognition that it has been and remains engaged in a war with Iran and its proxies is long overdue.

The Trump administration’s goal should be to make sure the regime and its surrogates understand that nothing good can come from attacking Americans, American facilities or our allies.

Mr. Edelman was undersecretary of defense for policy, 2005-09, and is counselor at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. 

Mr. Miller served as special assistant to the president and senior director for defense policy and arms control on the National Security Council staff, 2001-05, and is a principal of the Scowcroft Group.

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Jews in Poland?

As guest speaker at our synagogue last Shabbat, we had the rabbi of Krakow as representative of the chief rabbi of Poland. He is involved primarily in re-invigorating the Jewish presence there.  Below is a picture of one of the final homes of near 3 million Holocaust Polish Jews.

By Jerome S. Kaufman

Here is a redacted version of his inaugural speech Sep 26, 2013 upon assuming the position:

“My first reaction when hearing about the position was a typical Jewish North American one – “Why would anyone want to go back to that graveyard?”

I had been unaware of the strides taken both by the Jewish community of survivors and by the Polish government over the past several decades. I learned of the remarkable resurgence of Judaism in Poland in general and Krakow in particular. 

In Krakow the The Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland has maintained synagogues, services and Jewish connection to the past, while at the same time the new Jewish community center has re-invigorated Polish Jewish life, paving the way for a stronger Jewish future. Old and new are gathering daily and are re-introducing themselves to Judaism.

To be sure, the numbers are paltry compared to Polish Jewry’s glorious past – but considering the history of Poland’s Jews, any resurgence at all seems to me miraculous. 

As guest speaker at our synagogue last Shabbat, we had the rabbi of Krakow. He was the representative of the chief rabbi of Poland involved primarily in re-invigorating the Jewish presence there.

This change is taking place despite the fact that while the Nazis (with enthusiastic Polish support) eliminated 90 percent of the Polish Jewish population of 3 million Jews that had been there for 800 years. The remaining Jews were then subjected to Communism that lasted for 40 years beyond the Holocaust and strove to erase whatever Jewish consciousness remained.

Some Jews survived by assimilating, hiding their Jewish identities and never speaking of their Jewish roots.

In the past 20 years, thousands of Poles have been confronted with new information about their roots. Rabbi Michael Schudrich, who has been serving the Jewish community in Poland since 1992 and has been its chief rabbi since 2004, described just a few of the stories of revelation in a TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) address. Jews came forward who had been given away to non-Jews and others came forward who had, for various reasons, not been aware of their Jewish identity.

A speech by then-president Aleksander Kwasniewski at Yad Vashem underscored the official position Poland has taken in recognizing its difficult past and attempting to build avenues for reconciliation and Jewish-Polish rapprochement: 

“Efforts are currently being made in Poland to preserve the material heritage of the vibrant world of Polish Jews for future generations, and to commemorate their history for the benefit of all visitors to our country. 

A Museum of the History of Polish Jews testifying to over 800 years of Jewish presence in Poland is being built with the support of public and private funding on the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto. We can rest assured that it will be a unique, world-class institution, a remarkable site of remembrance and meditation, like the memorial opened a year ago on the site of the former Nazi death camp at Belzec.”

Dialogue, better understanding and closer ties between Poles and Jews are bearing the desired fruit. Thanks to the multitude of projects involving Polish-Jewish history (such as the Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow or the activities of the Shalom Foundation), we in Poland are now happy to witness a growing interest in Jewish culture, especially among the younger generation.

The rabbi then presented the re-assurances of previous and current Polish presidents and other Polish representatives that great efforts were being made to eradicate anti-semitism and encourage new Jewish institutions. Some have even gone to Israel, visited Auschwitz-Birkenau and develop a meaningful relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu. 

Commentary: Jerome S. Kaufman

How grand! How very impressive and noble —even a museum built over the site of the infamous hell hole of the Warsaw Ghetto where Jews were penned up like pigs waiting their turn to be slaughtered.

Maybe the Rabbi is not aware of what the Polish government has done in real time outside the glorious rhetoric and apparent achievements of both the Jewish community and the Polish government? What has followed since the rabbi’s initial optimism of just 6 years ago and the work he and his fellow rabbis have done trying to increase the Jewish presence and observance.

On February 2, 2018 Poland’s Senate approved a bill that makes it illegal to accuse the nation of complicity in crimes committed by Nazi Germany, including the Holocaust.

The bill was signed by Polish President Andrzej Duda, who had previously expressed his support. Violations were to be punished by a fine or a jail sentence of up to three years.

Five months later due to much opposition, the right-wing prime minister changed the law from a criminal offense to a civil offense.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the bill “baseless,” saying: “One cannot change history and the Holocaust cannot be denied.”

At least three million Polish Jews and 1.9 million non-Jewish citizens were killed during the Holocaust, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Apologists said, “The government is trying to present itself as a defender of Polish dignity,”  “It’s part of the government’s agenda to appeal to people, to present itself as a defender of the Polish nation.”

jsk Terrific! So where does that leave Polish Jews who are living examples refuting the veracity of the new declaration and insulting “Polish dignity? It leaves them once more as a despised minority and a source of Polish embarrassment. 

Also, maybe the rabbi did not see the Nov. 22, 2019 statistics?

In Poland, anti-Semitic attitudes were present in 48% of the population, up from 37% in 2015, when the last survey was conducted. 

IN EUROPE The Mindless Scourge of Anti-Semitism (Jew-Hatred) Continues Unabated 

Wall Street Journal (Nov. 22, 2019)

24.6% of  Europeans holds strongly anti-Semitic views, according to a poll by  a Jewish anti-hate organization. 

Among European Muslims in Western Europe, the incidence of such views was, on average, higher than the general population, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s study. 

jsk: Then why encourage further Jewish existence in Europe at all?  Should we not be extending our every effort to encourage Jews to prefer Israel? Should it be that hard?

Most authorities would say that Jews prefer to live in Poland and Germany rather than Israel because of economics. They are also aware of the daily terrorist incidences against Jews in Israel itself and the now frequent missile attacks that are becoming more and more accurate.

If we want to have any chance of changing this situation, it is up to Israel.  They must clean up their act. They must use the muscle that Hashem has given to them and punish their enemies severely so as to eliminate the terror and the missiles. 

Israel must also clear up all its domestic political problems. They must make housing affordable with more units and open the territories to Jewish development. They must make it possible to make a decent wage. 

When all this is addressed and corrected, European Jews will flock to Israel rather than remain in countries where mindless hatred increases exponentially despite the Jews’ usual effort to be compliant patriotic citizens. 

So, What else is new? How’s the family?

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