Ultra orthodox Jews block a road and clash with police during a protest against the drafting of Ultra orthodox jews to the Israeli army, on road number 4, outside the city of Bnei Brak, April 1, 2024. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90

Donald Trump on his Truth Social media page is selling Bibles. At least he announced he was doing so just prior to the Easter observance last week.

President Joe Biden stepped into a real religious mess when he offended Christians around the country by observing “Transgender Visibility Day” while most of the country was observing Good Friday and Easter.

The Biden spokesperson said that March 31 is always Transgender Day and it just so happened to coincide with Easter this year. That Transgender Day could have been moved to defer to Easter is an obvious given, but it would have no doubt annoyed the extreme left wing of the Democratic Party that Joe Biden desperately needs to vote for him in November.

In his proclamation, Biden said that all people are created perfectly and in the image of G-d. Judge Jeanine Pirro said on Fox News that if the president truly believed that all people are created perfectly, why do most of the transgenders feel the need for corrective surgery?

There are numerous criteria one can utilize to determine the nature of a leader’s—in this case the President’s—commitment to religious values.

Whether the leader is a Christian and attends church regularly, or whether they are Jewish and attend synagogue can be the primary means of judging their belief system. It is difficult if not impossible to see into their hearts and minds.

However, the optics we see in the media might be even more deceptive than we realize, and a highly misleading means of drawing conclusions along those lines.

Here are some recent examples of how we may better draw those conclusions.

For Muslims, Ramadan has come and gone rather quickly. At the outset, we heard talk about the need for Israel and the Hamas terrorists to come to a quick ceasefire agreement and a deal to release the hostages because of the need for the terrorists to properly observe Ramadan by ushering in a period of peace.

That idea was quickly dismissed by experts in Israel who illustrated that historically Muslims, which includes Arabs and Persians, have always increased their terror attacks rather than reduce them during Ramadan. The Yom Kippur War started on what was the first day of Ramadan in 1973. So much for Ramadan and peace.

In all likelihood, most Muslims observe the entire month of Ramadan seriously. But the terror-oriented leadership of places like Tehran, Istanbul, and the Gaza Strip use this holy period on their calendar to inflict pain on others, both Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Then there was the matter of the late Senator Joseph Lieberman, who passed away last week at the age of 82. The Senator was widely known for his commitment to halachically religious observance and that reality was highlighted when he ran as Al Gore’s vice-presidential candidate in the 2000 election.

Lieberman was known for his uncompromising commitment to keeping Shabbos and kashrut properly. He would walk as much as five miles on a Shabbos to the Capitol in Washington, D.C. if his presence there was absolutely necessary. The late Senator John McCain of Arizona would observe how Lieberman used to climb numerous staircases in hotels rather than use the elevator on a Shabbos.

The odd thing about Lieberman’s candidacy was how ambivalent the American Jewish public felt at the prospect of having the nation’s first Jewish vice president and perhaps, even one day, the nation’s first Jewish president.

Jewish leaders were outspoken, split, and even fearful at the prospect of having a high-ranking Jewish official making life and death decisions that if something went wrong, the negative consequences would be blamed on all the Jews in the country and even around the world.

Contrast that to the plethora of blunders made by the first black president, Barack Obama, and the lack of any concern that his extensive errors, particularly in the foreign policy arena, would be assigned to the general African-American community. I don’t think that was even a slight concern about that.

Then there was the 2016 presidential candidacy and expectation that Hillary Clinton would become the first female U.S. President. Her mistakes as Secretary of State during the Obama administration were legion and widespread. The pollsters indicated she would receive a majority of the female vote regardless of her record, based solely on the fact that she was a woman.

That theory goes out the window when it comes to a Jewish political leader. Why do American Jews feel that if a Jewish president miscalculates something while in office, the entire Jewish community will be held accountable?

We cannot have a discussion about the combination of leadership and religious observance without bringing up what is going on today in Israel. Even the other nations of the world (except for terror-controlled entities like Iran and the Palestinian Authority) acknowledge that Israel should be a Jewish state. At the same time, Israel does not want to be a theocracy despite the fact that it was founded as a homeland for the Jewish people, while priding itself on being a democracy.

The great conundrum since the founding of the state is how to reconcile these two disparate concepts: Judaism versus Democracy. And the battle goes on to this very day when the High Court recently ordered a halt to funds for ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students eligible for IDF-enlistment. The question becomes how to define the role of yeshiva students vis-à-vis the state, and their need to do some type of military service alongside their non-religious brothers of the same age.

From the perspective of the non-religious left in Israel, they view the religious exemption for yeshiva students as a serious imbalance in the law and the system. These tensions have only grown during the current war in Gaza in which more than 500 Israeli soldiers have fallen in battle.

The other day, Likud MK David Amsalem pointed out that each year there are about 40,000 non-yeshiva students that find ways of avoiding military service. At the same time, Arab-Israeli citizens are automatically exempt from service. This raises the question of whether military exemptions are so unusual, or if the only troublesome nature of exemptions is when they are made for religious Jews.

Sometimes it seems that all these religious debates and arguments in Israel have less to do with G-d and more to do with the place of religion in the state. In Israel, politics and Judaism are inseparable—they cannot be divorced from each other. That’s why there are “religious” political parties and why it makes sense they try to exert influence on how their society is run. Conversely, it also makes sense that non-religious Jews would try to put a stop to that. It is this tension that is now coming to the forefront in Israeli society.

If you examine world history, you will see that many of the largest wars were started as a result of religious disputes. Sometimes I feel that that all the antagonism that is directed toward Israel is motivated by the fact that Israel is neither a Christian nor a Muslim state.

That Joe Biden neglected Easter in favor of Transgender Visibility Day borders on the comic and the absurd. I can’t begin to speculate what prompted Donald Trump’s decision to sell Bibles.

I did hear a news commentator say the other day that a major difference between Mr. Trump and many liberal Jews in the U.S. is that Donald Trump’s grandchildren (the Kushners) are Jewish. That’s an indisputable religious observation. n

 

Read more of Larry Gordon’s articles at 5TJT.com. Follow 5 Towns Jewish Times on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates and live videos. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome at 5TJT.com and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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