Last week I reported on and made some comments about the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The article that appeared here was also displayed on the popular Israel-based news site Arutz Sheva.
Aside from a note from a reader correcting the location of the synagogue her family belonged to — it was Ocean Avenue, not Nostrand Avenue — most of the comments from readers were not positive. It appears that Arutz Sheva has a good number of Christian readers around the country, and the comments from many of them were blistering.
Most of those comments condemned the things I wrote about her because of her firm stance on abortion rights. One person from the Midwest asked me in an email how I can praise someone who did not act as 30 million babies were aborted during her tenure on the court.
That is disturbing, but even with the eventual arrival on the court of Amy Coney Barrett (ACB), it is unlikely that Roe v. Wade — the case that legalized abortion in the country — will be reversed. While it’s difficult to fathom a heavily conservative court not altering abortion legalization in some fashion, justices like Barrett and the other conservatives on the bench rely heavily on precedent. That means the fact that the law there will count as a reason to keep it.
If Roe is ever addressed, the most the court can do is reverse Roe in such a way that the law is sent back to state courts for judges in those states to determine the will of the people in the various states.
Another letter challenged my suggestion that Justice Ginsburg’s memory should be a blessing for her family. I really did not see how saying something like that was an endorsement of her many legal decisions over her long professional life. I sensed a letter writer like this would have wanted me to tear into her mercilessly. But her positions were really not that different, unfortunately, than those of a significant majority of American Jews. Of course, most of them do not make life-and-death legal decisions, but that is the sad state of American Jewry in general.
Another note informed that when Jonathan Pollard appealed his life sentence dispensed to him by the United States for spying for Israel, it was Ruth Bader Ginsburg who could have cut his sentence significantly and allowed him to be free after serving 15 years. Pollard made a deal with prosecutors who said that if he pleaded guilty to espionage he would not be sentenced to life in prison. Pollard pled guilty, but the government directly reneged on their agreement and sentenced him to life anyway.
The Pollard defense in those days was somewhat inadequate, but the appeal was made to a three-judge panel that consisted of Judge Ginsburg, Judge Laurence Silberman, and Judge Stephen Williams. The appeal was based on the fact that the U.S. did not keep their part of the deal. The one non-Jewish judge on the panel, Williams, agreed with the Pollard legal posture. The two Jewish judges, Ginsburg and Silberman, upheld the sentence on a legal technicality that the appeal was filed past the required filing deadline.
Many American Jews thought that the Pollard sentence was not harsh enough. I remember another proud secular Jew, Mayor Ed Koch, saying more than a few times that in his estimation, Pollard should have been hanged.
Judge Barrett will be a great credit to the court and the rule of law here in the United States. Roe v. Wade is not being reversed by the court, and people with preexisting conditions will always be protected even after the Affordable Care Act is struck down by the court.
Our senator, Chuck Schumer, insists that Judge Barrett on the High Court will be a danger to the future of this country. That’s just another Democratic lie. Nothing new here.
Pray And Protest
It looks like we have discovered another global issue affecting just about everyone everywhere. Israel is on a lockdown that includes an array of fascinating restrictions and parallel allowances.
The objective, obviously, as was the case here earlier this year, is to reduce the number of daily reported COVID-19 infections so as to minimize the demand of those requiring hospitalization, with a constant eye on the healthcare system and ensuring that our healthcare mechanism in the country remains manageable.
And that is a noble and important cause. With Yom Kippur behind us and Sukkos here, will our personal, mostly outdoor observances, help to ameliorate the spread or will that achieve the opposite and dig Israel into an even deeper healthcare crisis?
The back-and-forth governmental debate last week was a wild display of how people can disagree about everything. At first, the new policy was in addition to limiting outdoor minyanim over Yom Kippur and probably Sukkos as well to groups of 20 praying outdoors. The policy also called for banning the stalls set up to sell lulavim and esrogim over these few days leading up to the chag.
While these two rules would have been somewhat simple to implement under these circumstances, they were counterbalanced by the leftists in the Knesset who insisted that the right to protest on the streets of Israel be upheld and that people should be able to gather to express their feelings and objections about government policies without any restrictions on the number of people who can participate in the protests.
Interestingly, it was that rule, which the Israeli government is still debating, that allowed the Sukkos vendors to help the community fulfill one of the major preparations of Sukkos — lulav and esrog sales — in a traditional but also sensible and logical way.
Israel is in the midst of an awful health crisis. It is essential that we do what needs to be done just a little longer until such time that a vaccine and a series of therapeutics are introduced as workable and effective.
Unfortunately, in the midst of this holiday season, the numbers here in some of our New York communities are spiking to the point that New York State government and health officials are considering drastic actions that will roll us back to life as we knew it in March and April.
That tug-of-war debate about how, where, and how many can daven and how many can participate in protests is very much the same here in this country as it is in Israel.
Here, the verdict on whether our yeshivas that worked all summer to come into compliance as per the CDC can stay open is hanging in the balance. The good news, however, is that in all communities we seem to be at a turning point. While on the surface it looks like we are being singled out with tinges of accusations and even persecution, we are coming around to the belief that this is not the case.
We are all — Jews and non-Jews — in this together. New York City statistics last week stated that before Far Rockaway or Boro Park, one of the areas of the city that had the highest numbers of positive virus tests was Breezy Point in Queens. There are no yeshivas or shuls there. It is just one area of the five boroughs where people evidently were not being careful enough. I think we all get it now.
That still leaves us with the government attitude on mass protests both here in the U.S. and in Israel. Common sense says that if people get together in large groups, whether it’s for davening or for Black Lives Matter or a protest against Bibi Netanyahu, the infection will spread. How can anyone define the difference between these categories so that the virus is convinced and cooperates?
This is what the governments in both New York and Israel are dealing with today. All we can do is our part, but our community, unlike others, has a double task. We want to keep our institutions open and functioning properly, and we need to avoid a chillul Hashem.
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