The Tea Partiers and Us

The Passover break gave me an opportunity to catch up on some reading, and I came across an article in Commentary Magazine (by Andrew Ferguson, a senior editor at the Weekly Standard) about the NY Times’ Caricature of the Tea Party Movement. It is an interesting read, exploring the methodologies employed by a purportedly unbiased media to subtly — and not-so-subtly — discredit, and even demonize, a wave sweeping across the American political landscape.

This is a particularly compelling topic, because the media’s campaign has apparently been surprisingly effective (and come to think of it, I haven’t been immune). There is a strange disparity between how people perceive the views of the Tea Partiers, and how they perceive the movement itself. In a recent Rasmussen poll, respondents were asked whether the views of the President or the average tea party member were closer to their own. 48% went for the Tea Partiers, vs. only 44% for the President.

Especially given that 44% is within a couple points of the President’s approval rating, one might expect that roughly half of Americans have a favorable opinion of the Tea Party movement — and one would be wrong. In fact, whereas in December a WSJ/NBC poll found the Tea Party movement was held in higher esteem than either the Democratic or Republican Party, a recent Fox News poll shows just the opposite is true today.

It wasn’t until the ninth paragraph of the Commentary piece that I recognized how relevant all of this was to the Orthodox Jewish community, which, though relatively conservative politically, is not well represented at the tea parties. That’s when I encountered this sentence: “It was difficult to find a story mentioning the Tea Partiers in which the words fear or anger didn’t figure prominently.” That sounded all too familiar — after all, when is the last time you read an article about a conflict involving Orthodox Jews, especially charedim, “in which the words fear or anger didn’t figure prominently?” Typical are these words from a Conservative Rabbi: “Since the death of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, the Haredi community has become more radicalized because of their hatred and fear of modernity in general and especially egalitarianism.” Revisiting Ferguson’s list of the methods used to discredit the Tea Party Movement, I was struck by the parallels.

Accusations of Bigotry: For the Tea Parties, it’s ABC reporting that they are “driven, in part, by a refusal to accept a black president.” The Charedim are portrayed as racist (against blacks, hispanics and Sephardic Jews), anti-women, and as believing that non-Orthodox Jews are not Jews at all.

The fringe “nutcakes” are deemed representative of the group. For the Tea Partiers, it’s the fellow with a sign portraying Obama as Hitler. For the Orthodox, it’s Bernie Madoff, Niturei Karta, hooligans in Meah Shearim, and a chassid selling kidneys out of his house in Brooklyn.

Associations with violent extremists: Orthodox Jews would be lucky to “merely” be grouped with Randy Weaver, the John Birch Society, and Lyndon LaRouche supporters. Instead, Rabbis are bunched together with Muslim Jihadists. To cite but one example, “Spokesmen for the Despised: Fundamentalist Leaders of the Middle East” covers Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini, Hizbullah, Radical Shi’ites, Hamas, and “the group of Jewish rabbis who appear to have inspired the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.” Not only is the myth that Yigal Amir operated under rabbinic guidance or “inspiration” taken as fact, but his insane act licenses the inclusion of Orthodox Rabbis in what is otherwise an encyclopedia of Islamic terrorists and their supporters.

Staged Provocations, in which the media is invited to witness attempts to elicit a violent or otherwise inappropriate response, seem to be a common tactic as well. As Andrew Breitbart pointed out, having the Congressional Black Caucus wade through a “majority white” Tea Party protest — rather than using the tunnels built to convey congressmen to Capitol Hill — was a media stunt that more than likely was intended to draw a reaction that they didn’t get. During the massive protest against the Israeli Supreme Court several years ago, a woman in revealing dress was similarly sent through the crowd with the media watching, and no one reacted. When women boarded the separate-gender bus lines, specifically to deny others the service which they had requested, the media even noted that “contrary to expectations, the protest did not provoke a violent response from the haredi public” [emphasis added]. Apparently, it takes provocations at a holy site (i.e. the “Women of the Wall”) to draw a reaction — perhaps the media will remember that the next time a Tea Party group gathers in a church.

Mythology brings up the rear — when you can’t find a sufficiently incendiary fact, you make it up. Breitbart has offered a $100,000 reward for anyone, whether TV cameraman or citizen with a cellphone, able to prove the claim that the N-word was tossed at the CBC as they walked through. No one seems able to claim the cash. Similarly, we have been informed by an “unbiased” media that excrement was thrown at the Western Wall, that Rabbis refuse to believe an observant Jew might commit a crime, or even that a disabled Jew was assaulted for using an electric wheelchair on Shabbat.

Have I missed anything? Or have we found a common arsenal of media tactics? It is something to keep in mind when reading any “news” article about either group — or any other that a liberal-leaning pool of journalists might be predisposed to dislike.

The conclusion of Ferguson’s article, at least, provides the glimmer of hope. He claims that there has been “a discernible shift in tone and attitude” as the Tea Party groups have become more and more mainstream. He concludes: “sure, those right-wingers are raging lunatics, volatile, out of control, a threat to law and decency — until they start to win.”

Has anyone else read the latest Jewish demographics?

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50 Responses

  1. L. Oberstein says:

    I don’t agree with you at all. We have nothing in common with the Tea party people. They are afraid of the present and fearful of the future, They are the heirs of Bull Conner .

  2. Bob Miller says:

    The message is that bad people shamelessly exploit others’ gullibility. Today’s big lie.

    Good people need to be on guard, even proactive, against smear tactics, and also need to make sure their lives are as exemplary as possible. Our Orthodox media need to be totally free of the intentional and accidental sins pervading the general media.

  3. aron feldman says:

    L. Oberstein you are correct we Orthodox Jews have allot more in common with the likes of Henry Gates,Bill Ayers and Khaldi and the likes of Van Jones

  4. aron feldman says:

    The irony is that the views of the “Tea Party” people are far closer to a Torah perspective,than those of J St or Ben Cardin.

  5. Reb Yid says:

    Rabbi Oberstein–you are correct and prescient in pointing out the very real dangers of the Tea Party folks.

    Unfortunately, they do have a few things in common with right wing Orthodoxy: 1) strong desire to eliminate the moderates (and everyone else is looking over their shoulders) 2) disdain for the government, its elected officials, its laws, sometimes culminating in ugly invective/violence/death threats; 3) absence/failure of leadership to denounce the vitriol and violence; 4) anti-intellectualism/disdain of the modern world and of basic scientific principles.

  6. Miriam says:

    “Similarly, we have been informed by an “unbiased” media that excrement was thrown at the Western Wall”

    I think that’s a very old and long-discredited accusation. Yet spitting happens at every violent demonstration, and is not condemned.

    Let’s not go so easy on the fringe nutcakes.

  7. By nature and choice, I have not been a political activist …… except to cast my vote in elections. Last year, I was invited by a Christian friend to attend a Tea Party. Showing my ignorance, I said “don’t you have to sign up for them at church ?” ….. and those I did sign up for, I can say they were the real deal. We drank lots of tea and ate small morsels of interesting food stuff and had good fellowship. My friend said “not that kind of tea party”. Oh. OK. I went. I had no idea what to expect and was a wee bit concerned. My fears were quickly put to rest. It was a grass roots movement consisting of average citizens from all walks of life, age groups, and home towns. The “Party” began with saying “The Pledge of Allegiance to the flag and to the Republic for which it stands” that all school children learned and said in public school when I was a child. Copies of the US Constitution and Bill of Rights were distributed to anyone who was interested in receiving a set. The “leaders” spoke for a moment or two about both documents and the direction that the nation was headed. There was no bashing of any political Party or elected official. The purpose was for average citizens to express their concerns. Many were concerned about the national debt, higher taxes without representation, corruption in our nation at all levels – government and corporations, and, of course, the proposed health reform and its cost. Some individuals chose to speak of their concerns about national health and of these, were ex Pats from Canada and the UK who shared their own health care experiences – which were truly sad to hear with tragic outcomes. The “Party” never got out of control, loud, disorderly, confrontational or ugly and destructive. When the event closed, everyone left for their cars in a orderly manner while respectfully singing “God Bless America” with tears in their eyes as they headed out.

    Am I afraid of the present and fearful of the future ? I don’t think so. I still believe that God is Sovereign over all things and His mercy and grace is more than sufficient. As I left the Tea Party, I felt comfortable knowing Americans can still speak in public and be heard in a quiet dignified manner but in the end turn to God in song.

  8. Sabba Hillel says:

    Actually, the comment by L. Oberstein shows that the propaganda machine has been very successful. This is similar to the Democrats who pretend that the segregationists of the 60’s were all Republicans, when it was the Democrat Party that fought tooth and nail for segregation.

    The Tea Party movement is much closer to Orthodoxy in many ways, including their devotion to the principles of Torah (the Constitution – lehavdil) and morality. It is the Tea Party opponents who attempt to smear them with sexual “humor” as well as lies claiming the use of “racial epithets” (when videos of the particular event showed it did not happen) or “spitting” on a congressmen. It is the Tea Party members who insist on the principled discussion of actual facts as opposed to the Leftist insistence on emotional sound bytes and phony stories.

    Actually, there have been stories pointing out that there are brave people of all races taking part in the Tea Parties.

    Take a look at this story

    Almost everyone I met was welcoming to this African-American television news producer.

    And though speakers railed against the “lame-stream media,” activists and their leaders praised CNN, especially for being the only national media outlet riding along for the post-weekend stops. Some of them e-mailed me after my trip, thanking our crew for fairly giving them a voice.

    also this article

    Among the 37 black Republicans running for U.S. House and Senate seats in November is Charles Lollar of Maryland’s 5th District.

    A tea party supporter running against House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., Lollar says he’s finding support in unexpected places.

    The 38-year-old U.S. Marine Corps reservist recently walked into a bar in southern Maryland decorated with a Confederate flag. It gave his wife Rosha pause.

    “I said, ‘You know what, honey? Many, many of our Southern citizens came together under that flag for the purpose of keeping their family and their state together,'” Lollar recalled. “The flag is not what you’re to fear. It’s the stupidity behind the flag that is a problem. I don’t think we’ll find that in here. Let’s go ahead in.”

    Once inside, they were treated to a pig roast, a motorcycle rally—and presented with $5,000 in contributions for his campaign.

  9. Yaakov Menken says:

    Rabbi Oberstein: “They are afraid of the present and fearful of the future.”

    Our current president has not only frittered away a trillion dollars on a failed “stimulus,” but the deficit will be $1.5 trillion in 2010 by his own projections… and that’s before we get the bill for this health-care bill (both Verizon and AT&T expect to take $1 billion (each!) against their earnings due to the healthcare boondoggle). Meanwhile, he has insulted our allies, kissed up to our enemies, and will go down in history as the most anti-Israel president in at least a generation (Jimmy Carter, during his term, was probably better).

    So, in other words, you are saying they are sane. That’s a criticism?

    Reb Yid accurately points out a few more of the inaccurate criticisms thrown at both groups. Neither is as violent, much less more violent, than others, and neither is, in the least, anti-intellectual. The Tea Partiers are better educated, more mature (older), more likely to be employed and have a higher average income, than most Americans.

    The only way to fail to acknowledge the Charedim as being quite literally the world’s best educated demographic is to claim that yeshiva isn’t “education”. The facts, of course, say otherwise: those leaving yeshiva and seminary routinely excel in medicine, law, IT and accounting due to the intellectual training they received — and these are usually the ones who didn’t excel in yeshiva, otherwise they’d probably have stayed. It is telling that someone working in the inner sanctum of the Federations would cling to such a canard.

  10. Miriam says:

    The only way to fail to acknowledge the Charedim as being quite literally the world’s best educated demographic is to claim that yeshiva isn’t “education”.

    There are different kinds of education. I live in a partly Charedi environment, and my children attend Charedi schools. Unfortunately knowing all shas and poskim does not always translate into considerate neighbors or well-bred children.

    L’havdil elef alfei havdalos we aren’t impressed by the high level of *education* that was professed by oppressive nations of the past either.

    When education leads a group to treat itself as superior and/or separate from others, it isn’t “my kind” of education. For example a recent psak to avoid chametz sold by chiloni shopkeepers – most of whom themselves don’t consume chametz over Pesach yet get a chiloni classification.

    Where in Charedi politics or (recent) literature do you find the leadership expressing interest in improving the lot of all Jews? Maybe that’s a difference between Charedim and Tea Partiers…..

  11. A Tea Party Attendee says:

    There are Jews of all persuations in the tea party movement, from unaffiliated to Chassidic. I was able to attend one of the larger rallies where Jewish talk show hosts and elected officials spoke. It was very diverse. There were black conservatives, including black conservatives seeking public office. There were Hispanics and Asians. And there were numerous and very visible individuals and couples who came in from Boro Park and Flatbush. There was also a busload of young boys who had come from Lakewood. There were large Catholic and Christian families. There were even people of more liberal persuations. In fact, I was just told by a card carrying Liberal Democrat that the level of dependency and this Health Care bill are nothing but economically destructive.

    The common thread is a belief in the Constitution and a belief that the Constitution and the ideals of the Founding Fathers is what makes this country great. Just like we believe that Torah is essential to Am Yisrael, Tea Party Activists believe in the sanctity of the Constitution. Jews have flourished in America, and I don’t believe it is “in spite” of the Constitution and the protection of freedoms and liberty, but because of the Constitution and the protection of freedoms and liberty. There is a belief that increased government regulation, taxes, and taking over major sectors of the economy will bankrupt the county, stall innovation, etc. As far as I am concerned, minority communities will be hurt most by increased government instrusion and a push to great dependency.

    Even the voters of Massachussets have had enough and have elected a Republican. Pelosi and Reid’s approval ratings are extremely low. The President has seen the fastest plummeting of approval ratings ever and what the American people think doesn’t phase him as he stated he’d rather be a one term president and get things done, i.e. things that the American people don’t want done. This administration is going after every industry that is left. This administration is treating Israel with great disdian. This administration treats the American citizen and taxpayer as if they are completely ignorant. This administration is increasing taxes on the middle class, even though they put up a nice front. But soon the middle class will see the increase when FSA limit is cut in half. The administration is going after investment. Passive income has never been taxed and soon investments, dividends, capital gains, rents and royalties for couples earning over $250,000 will have a FICA tax for the first time in history. This in addition to the expiration of the cut to the capital gains rate.

    L. Oberstein, yes, I am fearful of the future! But I imagine that those who still believe that D equals good and R equals evil will only question their assumptions when the laws of economics come home to roost right in our own shuls and schools.

  12. Charlie Hall says:

    We should be glad we are not well represented in the Tea Partiers. Their midot, like those of most right wing talk show hosts, are anathema to the midot we are supposed to be showing to the world as Orthodox Jews.

    Any question as to whether the Tea Partiers are mainstream can be addressed by the fact that the single candidate in America they are most excited about is Ron Paul.

    President Obama has indeed been successful at resolving an issue that has been around for 98 years, that has been adequately addressed by every other first world country (including Israel): Getting all Americans access to health care. He has succeeded where Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Bill Clinton failed. Given that it is arguably a Torah mandate to do this*, we should applaud this rather than join with the Tea Partiers in decrying it! And it is rather hypocritical for opponents now to complain about costs when much of the opposition to the reform proposal was supposedly based on how the plans attempts to control costs would result in denials of care. You can’t have it both ways.

    * See the shiur by Rabbi Moshe Tendler on on Brain Death in Jewish Law, at about 20 minutes in. I have seen no rebuttal by any rabbi anywhere.

  13. Charlie Hall says:

    Sabba Hillel,

    Don’t blame contemporary Democrats for segregation. Every single southern Republican in Congress opposed the Civil Rights Act in 1964 (as did then Senate candidate George H. W. Bush), and a higher percentage of northern Republicans opposed it compared to northern Democrats. And apologists for segregation started switching parties, including Strom Thurmond shortly after the CRA was passed. (Ronald Reagan, another CRA opponent, had already switched in 1964.) Robert Byrd is the last vestige of the old time segregationist Democrat of the south and he is a frail old man today. But we now have the spectacle of a Republican governor of Virginia acting surprised that the fact that he declared this to be Confederate History Month without even mentioning the chattel slavery that oppressed over 30% of Virginians as of 1860. He could at least have mentioned that without the slave labor that kept the Tredegar Iron Works in operation, there might not have been sufficient rifles for the Conferderate Army!

  14. A Tea Party Attendee says:

    I think the time to declare victory (or failure) isn’t now, but later when the results are in.

  15. Baruch Pelta says:

    RE:A Tea Party Atendee

    I would be much obliged if you (or someone else in the know) could tell me which litvishe gedolim and hasidic rebbes have encouraged their followers to attend tea parties.

  16. Does the Torah specify the responsibilities of a Noahide government? If so, what are they?

  17. Raymond says:

    The Tea Party people are subject to the same kinds of insults that the Leftists love to throw at political conservatives in general: we are stupid, we are racist, we are dangerous, we practice incest on a regular basis, we would sell our grandmother to the highest bidder, and so on. What is usually happening when such accusations are being made, is projection. For example, conservatives are labeled racist, yet it is the Left who incessantly defines people in terms of their skin color. Conservatives are labeled stupid, when history has shown that it is the leftists who have been wrong time and time again on virtually every issue. Leftists preach tolerance, and yet I have overwhelmingly found the Leftists to be FAR more intolerant than are we conservatives, although I will acknowledge that this may have something to do with me living in Los Angeles. Perhaps if I lived the Deep South, where the conservatives reign, their intolerance would be more manifest.

    When it comes to secular vs Orthodox Jews, I think that any intolerance shown by one side toward the other, is of a completely different nature than are political differences. Political differences do not touch one’s core; they are merely varying views on public policy, on how a society should be run. But religion has to do with Ultimate Truth, involving such questions as, Does G-d Truly Exist? Does the Torah represent His Will for us? Each side is afraid that the other side may be right. So I guess my overall thought on this subject, is that comparing the intolerance against the Tea Party Movement vs the intolerance shown against religious Jews, is a kind of non-sequitur, like comparing apples and oranges.

  18. Chaim Fisher says:


    Smear tactics are effective with some people. The Republicans pulled it too, with the ‘Swiftboat Veterans’ attack on a man who actually did fight in a war for his country.

    The proper response is to lift your head up high and keep going.

    But never argue back. That’s what’s called a ‘Tar Baby’, and you’ll lose bad.

    Instead, we must always take the moral high ground.

  19. Bob Miller says:

    When we have both religious and political leanings or affiliations, we like to believe these are compatible. Sometimes, that is a delusion.

  20. Charlie Hall, if you could take a closer look at the Tea Party movement, you might be surprised to discover a ground roots view that is very different than the one espoused by the far right or the far left media perspective.

    Our Founding Fathers, in drafting the framework for our nation, saw the danger of a government that could get too big and too powerful and too corrupt. We have seen in our life time, modern history written in the blood of those who suffered at the hands of a powerful government that crushed its citizens in an unjust manner for individual goal, gain and ideology.

    It is a far dangerous thing to be willing to relinquish individual human responsibility into the hands of institutions. In regards to the Torah mandate to care for the needy, I do not believe that God had institutions in mind when He said ” ‘you’ are to love your neighbor as yourself”. It seems to me that the Divine design of the Ten Commandments puts everyone on a level playing field of individual responsibility toward God and our fellow man.

    I do not believe President Obama or our other elected officials have resolved anything except to demonstrate that their resolve to act, by their power to do so, according to their “plan of attack” to succeed may not be as sincere or innocent as you perceive it to be.

    What sacrifice have they made as individuals when their positions, by their own design, power and vote, have put them far above the average American in regards to the quality of, and access to health care coverage, in a timely and helpful manner ?
    Suppose their term of office was limited in years of service and their health care coverage only lasted for their term of service, do you suppose they might have crafted a different document ?

    If you think the Tea Party Movement is merely against the vote for universal health care, you fail to understand the bigger picture. It is not political; it is Biblical – “Have no other gods before ME”.

  21. Tzurah says:

    R’ Menken –

    I strongly disagree with the general approach of this article.

    Media outlets use all of these tactics to discredit *every* group or movement they dislike. They are all basic (if not necessarily legitimate) tactics and tools of argument and influencing public opinion. Communists, right-wing isolationists, neo-cons, hippies, new-agers, civil rights activists, born again christians, Republicans, Democrats, etc., etc. have all been subject to this sort of treatment. I don’t think you mean to say that Jews should be compared to all of these groups, or, for that matter, every single political group that ever got prominent or controversial enough to attract media exposure.

    The Tea Party people is simply the group-du-jour that’s getting a lot of press attention lately.

    R’ Menken – why don’t you just plainly say that you like what the Tea Partiers say and stand for? That would be a lot more straightfoward than making a meaningless linkage between a controversial new political movement and the Am Hanivchar.

  22. A Tea Party Attendee says:

    I know of none. I also don’t know if the question has been asked. American citizens are free to express their concerns to their elected politicians. Whenever I have the chance to address issues of governance with a live politician, I do so. I have also written to my elected officials about some of the preposterous underlying assumptions in funding recent legislation as a person who has had a front seat view through past employment. Attending political rallies is a way that people meet others who share their concerns, garner attention for a cause, and network with officials and people running for office. Are you implying that any of these activities must have Rabbinic approval by a Litvishe Gadol or Hasidic Rebbe? It happens that some of my political involvement was encouraged by a handful of Orthodox Rabbis.

  23. Yaakov Menken says:

    Miriam is not mistaken about there being “different kinds of education.” As a matter of fact, my wife teaches in two local schools, and the students in the more “Modern” one are better behaved. But when it came to placing our own children, the wise advice which I received was to look at the graduates of the schools, and enroll our children based upon the destination which we hope they will reach. Knowing romance languages and philosophy is even less likely to translate into considerate neighbors or well-bred children, and I believe Miriam made the best choice for hers, overall, by placing them in Charedi schools.

    At the same time, let’s be wary of being dragged off the topic. There is no question that there are problems in the kollel system, the expectation that every young man will succeed in yeshiva, Charedi behavior on the street, etc. While I don’t think Miriam’s examples were strong (there are halachos about chametz owned by Jews over Passover, and Jonathan Rosenblum once discussed a long list of Charedi-led organizations making a profound impression via their work to benefit Israel’s secular and religious alike), there are serious problems that our community, like any, must confront. But this hardly means that the press should get a free pass to lie and/or distort reality. That is tantamount to saying that because we know that Israeli soldiers abused their position and authority in Gaza, Israel is wrong to point out the lies and distortions in the Goldstone Report.

    Nor do I find it in any way heartening that “media outlets use all of these tactics to discredit every group or movement they dislike.” That was, of course, my thesis. But it is not true that every group has been treated this way; on the contrary. And it is certainly appropriate to demand impartial, unbiased coverage from a media claiming to be impartial and unbiased.

    I didn’t say that I like what the Tea Partiers say and stand for, because I’m not at all sure that I do. As I said at the beginning, I wasn’t immune to the media’s take on them, and have never studied their views beyond the typical news articles. I do wonder where Charlie Hall gets his information that they are most “excited” about Ron Paul — I haven’t seen anything like that.

    The linkage between the “Tea Partiers and Us” is exactly as I intended, a study of the media tactics for which readers should look when next they read an article about the Orthodox. There was a staged provocation at an Orthodox West Bank community over Shabbat, while Maariv newspaper just published an unusual story taking Galei Tzahal to task for vastly inflating the number of false yeshiva student declarations.

  24. Reb Yid says:

    Adding to Charlie Hall’s analysis: It is also hypocritical for the geschraying opponents to kvetch about the costs. The previous administration turned a budget surplus into an albatross of a deficit in a blink of an eye…the same administration that turned a blind eye to the excesses of Enron and many others…the same administration that didn’t get–and did nothing to act upon the fact–that we were in the throes of an economic recession.

    Where were these folks then?

    Make no mistake–apologetics and/or denials by a few on this board notwithstanding, there are troubling parallels between the Tea Party folks and some in right wing Orthodox circles. On Pesach, even our rabbi–no Obama supporter himself–had to give a strong musar schmooze about the many nasty e-mails he continues to get about Obama, the false story about the end of the “Obama Seder”, Obama being a Muslim, etc. Sadly, it’s not a fringe element in our community, nor in America at large.

  25. Bob Miller says:

    The logical approach for the magicians (chartumim) in Egypt would have been to try to reverse the plagues. Instead, they set out to make more of the same. It’s a breathtaking argument that blames President A for tanking the economy while praising President B, his successor, for doing this more far completely than President A ever dreamed of—and by errors of commission, not omission, to boot.

  26. L. Oberstein says:

    There is a generation gap between myself and some of you. Issues that are deeply personal to my development as a person of conscience are just things you may or may not have learned about it school.
    Specifically, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Negro struggle for equality in Montgomery ,Alabama is what I grew up around. To you, it isn’t the same thing and thus ,often, some of you just don’t understand why I feel so deeply what I do about justice. and the deep revulsion I have when Jews who should know better don’t appreciate what this is all about.
    Recently, I was flipping the channels trying not to have to see some stupid reality show or other hogwash and I turned to public television and saw an hour program “Eyes on the Prize” about a segment of the Civil Rights struggle. Though I grew up in the middle of it, I never comprehended until then how absolutely brutal Bull Conner was in Birmingham when he turned high pressure fire hoses on non violent people and filled the jails with thousands of children marching for human rights in the country of their birth. If you only heard about it but didn’t see it on film, you can’t imagine the hatred and the cruelty of the police and firemen in Birmingham, Alabama and in many other cities .

    What the Negroes wanted was a chance to have a job, the right to vote, basic human rights.
    I knew George Wallace personally and he was our governor and a good friend of some of our friends. He spoke to our USY chapter and he was not an anti Semite. In reality, he wasn’t even so much a racist as an opportunist.

    I remember the Montgomery bus boycott very well.

    Watching Bull Conner and his dogs attacking non violent marchers singing Freedom songs filled me with such anger and then it hit me. We have a black President of the United States. How far we have come since I was a child.You can’t imagine what this means if you never appreciated how disenfranchised the Negro was in Alabama when I was a boy.

    This has nothing to do with Obama as a President or his policies, it is the mere fact that most of this country has evolved this far.

  27. Correction: Previously, I stated that the Tea Party Movement was not political but Biblical. That was my perspective and I realized, by my misleading words, I cannot speak for every attendee at every Tea Party event because I don’t know every view and I only attended one event. I feel certain many are there for political reasons in the sense that they are concerned about the political direction of our nation. My perspective and that of my friend is more Biblical. Our views are not secular. We believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and in His Word. We try to be good neighbors and good citizens. We do support the needy who we do not know and have never met in the US and Haiti and other far away places on a regular basis. In my very limited view of our “Republic and our Constitution, I believe the design of the Republic and the Constitution are only viable and kept strong when held to be inspired by Divine Providence and that same Providence guides our steps and lives because that is our hearts desire. Without God in the picture, our nation is at the edge of becoming a godless self-serving entity and not even a shell of the dream our Forefathers envisioned. Rabbi Oberstein, that is my fear. Charlie Hall, forgive me, I spoke out of turn.

  28. Evan Steele says:

    Self-identity should never be based on the criteria of others. As Jews, we are criticized and persectued by everyone, in equal measure. To therefore identify with a group because we share the trait of being criticized is absurd. By this criteria, we should identify with everyone and no one. My non-religious brother used to say that he believes in patrilineal descent because that’s how Hitler defined Jews. Our allegences should be based on sechel, not the vicisitudes of the media circus.

  29. Ori says:

    L. Oberstein: This has nothing to do with Obama as a President or his policies, it is the mere fact that most of this country has evolved this far.

    Ori: True. Hopefully soon the country will evolve a bit further, and be able to ignore race completely and focus on relevant criteria, such as experience and plans.

  30. Bob Miller says:

    L Oberstein can reminisce about the movement all he wants, but his statement, “…We have nothing in common with the Tea party people. They are afraid of the present and fearful of the future, They are the heirs of Bull Conner.” is shameful, unsupportable, and unworthy of him. As best I can determine, they support the US Constitution, whereas the present Administration does not.

  31. Zach Leiner says:

    L Oberstein,

    No doubt that the experience of the African-American was tragic for themselves and for the image of the USA. However, it’s very difficult to relate like you can nowadays when we see who was invited to eulogize at Rosa Parks’ funeral; Louis Farrakhan, Y’SH. That spoke volumes about who hijacked and assumed control of their movement, not to mention their selective amnesia of Jewish participation.

    That’s why the Jewish people have to select partnerships with great caution and precision. Somehow, it worked for Rabbi Cyril Harris (Chief Rabbi of South Africa who Nelson Mandela referred to as “my rabbi”) but one is hard-pressed to find a parallel model in America.

    Your desciption of the Tea Party
    “They are afraid of the present and fearful of the future”
    If I am as well, does that make me a de facto member?

  32. Reb Yid says:

    Rabbi Oberstein:

    Thank you for your observations. One can only imagine your reaction to what recently happened to Representative John Lewis of Georgia, for him to say that he had not had heard such language since the 1960s during the Civil Rights era.

    It saddens me to no end that there are those on this board (as well as those in broader American society) who doubt the veracity of what recently happened to Lewis, as if Lewis and others were trying to provoke the protesters. It is a “blame the victim” mantra that is also used when discussing women who have been victimized on Israeli busses, and other similar victims.

    As others have mentioned, this is not about media bias…that is a smoke screen meant to distract us from the pressing issues that do indeed exist.

  33. A Tea Party Attendee says:

    Calling Tea Party Attendees, who span the gamut of every demographic and even political affiliation, was quite inflamatory. As for me, I believe that the direction this country is headed in is most hurtful to minority communities and I believe they have more to lose. To call Tea Partiers the heirs of Bull Conner is rather insulting.

  34. Reb Michael says:

    Reb Yid… are you saying that the entire Congressional Black Caucus coincidentally gathered in front of the cameras to walk through together? And that none of the dozen networks or hundreds of citizens happened to catch a recording of what Rep. Lewis so clearly “heard”?

    Puh-leeze. Falsely accusing the Tea Partiers of racism is racist itself.

  35. Reb Yid says:

    To Reb Michoel:

    The incident in question involved a total of 3 Congressmen, not the entire CBC. The original person who blogged and questioned Lewis’s veracity now admits he made a mistake–the video he shot was done an hour after the actual incident. Even Bill O’Reilly is questioning those who are denying Lewis’s account.

    Let’s not forget the larger context–it certainly wasn’t about one single incident…protesters shouted obscenities at Barney Frank on the basis of his sexual orientation…Anthony Weiner got threatened because he was Jewish…Patty Murray got a death threat after the vote…Obama gets shouted down with a “You Lie” in the House Chamber, by a Congressman, no less (with less than a resounding effort by the offender’s political party to distance themselves from the remark)…other times he gets called a Nazi…Sarah Palin chimes in with her bogus “death panel” comments.

    It’s just plain ugly. This cannot be rebutted or explained away. There is a fear and hatred of the “other” that is an undeniable subtext to the political climate. And this is where parallels between the Tea Party folks and segments of the Orthodox world should concern us most…there may well be occasions where the media are to blame–this is not one of them.

  36. Bob Miller says:

    Reb Yid has problems with another “other” !

  37. Bob Miller says:

    I should note that the Tea Party movement, open as it is to all comers, is having problems due to both agents provocateurs and antisemitic elements.

  38. L. Oberstein says:

    I just received this news update from the NY Times
    “Poll Finds Tea Party Anger Rooted in Issues of Class
    The fierce animosity that Tea Party supporters harbor toward
    Washington and President Obama in particular is rooted in
    deep pessimism about the direction of the country and the
    conviction that the policies of the Obama administration are
    disproportionately directed at helping the poor rather than
    the middle class or the rich, according to the latest New
    York Times/CBS News poll.”
    This confirms the view that much of the anger of the all white Tea Party is concern about the diminishing percentage of Americans who are white anglo saxons.The USA is rapidly becoming much more racially and ethnically diverse and this alarms people who “want their country back”. My recollection of the KuKluxKlan is that it was mostly populated by poor whites who wanted to believe they were superior to blacks. Unfortunately, for white people, the world is changing and you/we/they will never get tghe country back. If America doesn’t improve our energy production and deal with falling production, we will become subservient to a rising China. No longer will the USA be an all white, only English speaking country any more than it will once again be a nation of farmers.
    Obama is the focus of the deep hatred of the change that the Tea Party cannot stop.

  39. Bob Miller says:

    L Oberstein, the NY Times is not some impartial news organ, which you ought to have sensed by now. Nor is CBS. Both the poll questions and the analysis can be pressed into political service.

    Your analogies to the Klan are an unfair and repugnant stretch.

  40. Ori says:

    L. Oberstein: I just received this news update from the NY Times
    “Poll Finds Tea Party Anger Rooted in Issues of Class…”

    Bob Miller: L Oberstein, the NY Times is not some impartial news organ, which you ought to have sensed by now. Nor is CBS. Both the poll questions and the analysis can be pressed into political service.

    Ori: This shows one of the biggest problems with political discourse in our civilization. There’s a saying: “everybody’s entitled to their own opinions, nobody’s entitled to their own facts”. However, there are too many relevant facts and no brain can contain all of them. Neither L. Oberstein nor Bob Miller has the time to ask a statistically significant sample of tea partiers why they oppose the current administration. I believe they are both men of good will who seek the truth, but when you start with different sets of data, it is possible to arrive at contradictory conclusions.

    I don’t know how we’ll be able to run a democracy as this problem increases.

  41. Bob Miller says:

    Ori, this is not a new problem. People make judgment calls based on their information and preconceptions. I sense that the Tea Party movement today could either become a great force for civic good, or be co-opted by sinister Ron Paul and Grover Norquist types, or simply break apart into factions. It’s way too soon to make a definitive negative judgment about it. All the alleged facts presented above about racial epithets are still in dispute, with some individuals changing their stories.

    As for your point, “I don’t know how we’ll be able to run a democracy as this problem increases”, we often run our government based on wishful thinking instead of facts, and that’s not so new.

  42. Evan Steele says:

    I seem to recall many posts, during the presidential election, that suggested that Mr. Obama must be a radical leftist due to loose associations with radical leftists that were part of organizations that he belonged to. For the Tea Partiers, however, the presence of right-wing radicals gets dismissed as meaningless. Seems like a double standard to me.

  43. Rabbi Oberstein do you actually think that any news organization or media form today is unbiased in their view ?

    I can understand your fear and revulsion of seeing people attacked because of the color of their skin because your own people have been unjustly attacked and persecuted simply for your family membership and faith. It is easy to transfer that fear and revulsion to other areas of unease. I know. Having going through abuse as a child and been healed of those hurtful pictures, I can still get uncomfortable when I see a parent attack their own child in public in an unjust manner to the point where I want to take them aside and say “do you realize what you are doing to your own child ?”. I can also see where people acting in a group for the purpose of doing evil is upsetting.
    That was not my experience at a Tea Party. I almost wish you had met some Tea Party attendees to gain a better understanding of the movement. The time to do so may have already passed because it seems that “the other” view desires to infiltrate some of the Tea Parties to cause evil and discord. I am glad that you shared your views and your life experience. It has helped me understand why you spoke as you did.

    By God’s grace, may we all gain a better understanding of each other and may that understanding bring Him joy.

  44. Bob Miller says:


    There’s a world of difference between “presence of” and “totally in bed with”.

  45. Zach Leiner says:

    Mr. Steele,

    Are you saying that specific individuals who pressed guilt by association regarding the President are the same ones who handily dismiss or ignore the Tea Partiers equally sinister associations?

    Who are these specific individuals?

  46. Evan Steele says:

    Mr. Miller, once having belonged to the same organization is not “totally in bed with.”

    Mr. Leiner, can we please, please dispense with the “prove it,” or “who are these specific individuals.” A blog is not a social science journal, and people are allowed to express opinions and make assertions without specifics. Regarding the call to name names, it seems an odd sentiment from Orthodox Jews to ask others to criticize specific individuals. If we really want to play that game, I could have a field day with the comments made on this blog by asking for proof. People are welcome to disagree with a generalization, but if we’re really going to start requiring proof and naming names, we’ll all have to agree to a different standard of blogging.

    Yes, it’s possible that the people who held Obama to be guilt by association are not the same ones minimizing the radicals in the Tea Party movement, but the point of my post was to see if anyone recognized themselves in the comment and therefore provoke thought. If you don’t recognize yourself, then it doesn’t apply to you. If someone wonders if I’m being hypocritical and I determine that I’m not, I don’t lash out at the commentator and ask for proof. I just move on.

  47. L. Oberstein says:

    I respectfully find myself like Avrohom Ha Ivri, all of the orthodox Jews on one side and me and a small coterei of fellow travellers on the other. In the shul I mostly attend, there is a small group of Democrats who comiserate with one another.
    The United States is in danger of becoming a second tier state if we don’t deal with many vexing problems. Had there been any serious bi-partisnship in our national politics, we could have found a reasonable middle ground on health care, on climate control, on energy policy, on a host of issues. We need less heat and more light. It makes good sense for all the Republicans to unanimously oppose everything the Adminisration wants to accomplish if the goal is to sabotage the functioning of our elected government and thus pick up seats in the next election.That is “fiddling while Rome is burning”. Harry Reid is no Lyndon Johnson but Mitch McConnel is no Everet Dirkson. Obama has made many mistakes and may have sprung to the Presidency too fast A more experienced politician could have done better but Lyndon didn’t face this wall of opposition.
    The Republicans had a long time in the majority and they messed up a lot. Obama came in on a wave of hope, he was elected by the people. “take back my country” means that the majority doesn’t matter, if they elect the wrong person-Obama- then the country has to be taken back from the people. The rage of the vocal opposition is not the same as “the loyal opposition” in a former time. It is a revolutionary desire to overthrow the functioning of democracy to bring us back to an imgined past. If you think the blistering hatred of our elected President is normal, then we just live with an alternte reality.

  48. L. Oberstein says:

    One more thing about Lyndon Johnson. He did face a wall of opposition when he passed the Civil Rights Act. He knew that the Democratic Party would suffer in the South but his decency and conscience made him do the right thing. Only a Southern President could have felt the moral imperative of civil rights the way he did. The Republicans cynically co-opted the Solid South by changing from the party of Lincoln to whatever it is today.

  49. One Christian's perspective says:

    Last night, I began reading a book written by Timothy Keller entitled “Counterfeit Gods” and discovered a statement that seemed so profound to me that it brought all of the comments on this blog together and made sense of all of them. Beginning with Rabbi Menken’s comment about being aware of the position of favor (my words) from which a media representative writes/speaks. Then, there was Rabbi Oberstein’s profound statement that caught many hearts and eyes but has a remarkable element of truth and gave fuel to the blog. Lastly, there is Evan Steele’s comment about double standards which show the preference of one view over the other. What ties these views together as a picture of truth ?

    In speaking of counterfeit gods, Keller says “the idols of traditional societies include family, hard work, duty, and moral virtue, while those of Western cultures are individual freedom, self-discovery, personal affluence, and fulfillment. All these good things can and do take on disproportionate size and power within a society. They promise us safety, peace, and happiness if only we base our lives on them.”

    Could it be that our society is polarized between these two idols identified in todays words as “far-right” and “far-left” ? If Keller is correct when he says these idols promise us safety, peace and happiness only if we base our lives on them, then I must ask myself “when I defend one view vigorously over the ‘other’ in a disproportionate manner and by exclusion of any positive element of the ‘other view’ am I demonstrating which set of values I have made into an idol ? The critical question for me is where do I seek safety, peace and happiness ? Am I really trusting God in all things or just segments of my life while I work on perfecting the other place of safety and peace through political discourse and action ? It’s not a pretty picture but I am thankful for the wake-up call. Instead of being disproportionatedly critical of the ‘other view’, I will have to ask myself where is my focus ? Where is God in the midst of my life ?

  50. Bob Miller says:

    Evan, you said correctly that “Mr. Miller, once having belonged to the same organization is not ‘totally in bed with.’”

    However, what makes you assume that “once having belonged to the same organization” is the true extent of Obama’s involvement with leftist and Islamic radicals.

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