The Zionist Organization of America issued a press release last week noting some curious omissions from the Obama administration’s communications. Candidate Obama omitted any Israeli city from an enumeration of cities victimized by terrorism in his much touted Berlin speech as a candidate in 2008. (Amman did make it so it cannot be that candidate Obama had placed an embargo on mention of the Middle East.) Perhaps he shrewdly estimated that his European audience would likely be more sympathetic to the perpetrators than the victims of terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians.
And recently, the administration’s talking points on the upcoming tenth anniversary of 9/11 did not recall any Israeli city when praising the resilience of “individuals, families and communities… whether in New York or Nairobi, Bali or Belfast, Mumbai or Manila, or Lahore or London.” I guess they could not think of another city whose name begins with the same first letter as Sderot or Jerusalem.
Something other than stylistic considerations, however, must explain President Obama’s failure to mention Israel in remarks praising all those nations that contributed to relief efforts in the wake of the January 10, 2010 Haitian earthquake. Though Israel was the first nation on … Read More >>
In September 1998, a two-room school opened up in Tzoran, a residential community of 1,500 young families, nestled among the agricultural settlements east of Netanya, for 25 six and seven-year-olds. When they arrived at school that first day, the young children were confronted by a chanting mob of 60 adults, some of whom had tied attack dogs to the school gates. Despite the heat, the principal had no choice but to close the windows, as curses and stones rained down on the school.
The same scene was repeated every morning for the first months of the schools existence, and the school was defaced and repeatedly vandalized over the course of the year. The purpose of the demonstrators was to terrorize little children by forcing them to run a daily gauntlet of verbal abuse and physical menace.
The confrontation in Tzoran was not widely reported in the Israeli press, certainly not compared to the efforts by a group of religious extremists to prevent the opening of a national religious girls in Beit Shemesh last week, on a plot long designated for the school and lying adjacent to both haredi and national religious neighborhoods.
But Tzoran has a lot to do … Read More >>
“Everybody wants social justice, but no one wants to help Mom with the dishes,” writes University of Haifa economics professor Steven Plaut of Israel’s current social protests. I suppose he is saying that left-wing politics do not a better person make. Indeed they often serve as a salve for a guilty conscience: Witness President Obama’s 2008 fundraising triumphs among rapacious Wall Street executives. The great thing about bumper stickers like, “Save the whales” or “Justice for Palestine” is that they proclaim one’s moral grandeur, without demanding anything of the owner of the car.
Many years ago, my Dad, a”h, taught me this lesson. During my senior year in high school, I organized a large fundraising campaign for starving Biafrans (the proceeds of which I promptly gave away to a con woman from the South Side of Chicago.) One Sunday during that campaign, I mentioned to my father that I had been late for a class at our synagogue that morning. He was pouring batter into the waffle iron at the time, and without even looking up, he said, “You are so busy saving the world, but you can’t show someone the common courtesy of getting to his class on … Read More >>
Riots that started in London’s Hackney neighborhood last week spread quickly across London and to other large British cities, as rioters saw policemen standing back as they looted and burned.
Meanwhile, in major American cities – Chicago, Philadelphia, Milwaukee — a new phenomenon is surfacing – “flash mobs” of black teenagers, utilizing social media to organize (like the London rioters) – who suddenly appear to terrorize whites or loot stores. The Chicago police had to close the city’s most crowded beach, on a holiday weekend, because they could not ensure the safety of bathers.
Max Hastings describes how British welfare policies have created a “layer of young people with no skills, education, values, or aspirations. They have no ‘life’, as we know it; they simply exist.” In particular, they lack the most basic moral sentiment of empathy – for example, for the hardworking immigrant storeowners whose stores they scorched. “We want to show the rich people that we can do whatever we want,” two young female rioters told a London reporter.
Theodore Darlrymple, who knows the British underclass well from his work as a prison psychiatrist, describes young people who have never tasted a morsel of food or worn … Read More >>
The New York Times descent into pure advocacy journalism continues apace. Increasingly, the news stories in the once respected Grey Lady serve only to set up the talking points for the paper’s editorial page.
Reporter Scott Shane’s July 24 news story, “Killings in Norway Spotlight Anti-Muslim Thought in U.S.,” provides a case in point. The only spotlight is one of Shane’s own imagining. He describes Robert Spencer, who was cited 64 times in Anders Behring Breivik’s 1500-page manifesto, as having been put on the “defensive” by Breivik’s murderous rampage. Yet he does not quote one statement from Spencer or anyone else sounding the slightest bit defensive. Nor does he argue that Breivik’s actions somehow demonstrate that the warnings are overblown or based on incorrect facts — i.e., that those quoted have anything about which to be defensive.
Shane cites unnamed “critics” who supposedly used the Norwegian tragedy to demonstrate the manner in which “the intense spotlight on the threat of attacks from Islamic militants has unfairly vilified Muslim Americans, while dangerously playing down the threats of attacks from other domestic radicals.” Yet he offers not one shred of evidence about the comparative threat. As for the impact of the … Read More >>
A few months back, a group of national religious rebbetzins set off one of those two-day media storms for which Israel is famous when they issued a public call for Jewish girls not to socialize with Arabs. Charges of racism immediately poured down on their head. (The issue has come to the fore once more with allegations that at least one store in a national chain forced Arab workers to sign an agreement not to fraternize with female Jewish employees.)
That earlier storm was not without heavy doses of hypocrisy. Some of the Arab spokesmen who denounced rebbetzins’ letter as proof of the endemic racism of Israeli society would kill their own daughters if they were dating a Jew.
The rebbetzins were not addressing themselves to women working in hi-tech and suggesting that they should refuse to work on projects together with an Arab graduate of the Technion or avoid normal collegial relations with Arab co-workers. They were talking about teenage Jewish girls, often very young teenagers, becoming “involved” with Arab men. How many Jewish Israelis, if they are being honest with themselves, would really feel indifferent to their own daughter’s involvement in such a relationship? If she were 12?
By now, we have all seen enough videos of Jewish women rescued by Yad L’Achim from Arab villages — some even from the Gaza Strip — to know that the story can turn out very badly. Some of us have even visited hostels for the women thus rescued and their children and heard their stories. I spent the afternoon of the 17th of Tammuz watching videos of Jewish girls describing their relationships with Arab men at the offices of the Learn and Live organization, a fitting way to spend the fast.
When they were dating, their Arab boyfriends could not shower them with enough gifts, could not stop telling them how much they loved them. Once married, they find themselves imprisoned, cut off from their families, watched constantly by their husbands and his family members, who threaten them – quite credibly – that they will kill them if they try to escape. Often they are treated as little more than chattel.
They are viewed as slatterns by the women of the village, and their children are never allowed to forget their Jewish origins. Often those children become the most vehement Jew haters, as a means of overcoming the stigma of their origins. When fighting breaks out between Israel and the Palestinians, the women may be beaten by their husbands, even attacked with an axe, as scapegoats for the Jewish people.
WE ARE NOT TALKING about a small phenomenon. The Ministry of Interior estimates that there are between 10,000-20,000 children of Jewish mothers and Arab fathers in Israel. And that number does not include those living in the Gaza Strip or the Palestinian Authority, and may not include those whose mothers converted to Islam when they married. (When the women convert, their chances of keeping their children, even if they manage to escape, are reduced because all divorce proceedings are governed by Islamic law.) A recent Jerusalem Post article on the situation in Jerusalem’s Pisgat Zev neighborhood spoke of sixty Jewish girls who have disappeared into Arab villages over the last ten years, most never to be heard from again.
And the problem is growing. Continue reading → Can We Talk Honestly?
As we contemplate our role in rebuilding the Beis HaMikdash, in this period of mourning for its loss, we each have to come to grips with sinas chinam (literally, free hatred), which Chazal identify as the cause of that destruction. Most frequently, the term is defined as “causeless hatred,” which has always left me somewhat puzzled because very few people will ever admit to hating someone for no reason at all. No doubt the host who hated Bar Kamtza could have offered a long list of reasons justifying his hatred.
Rene Levy, a religious professor emeritus of neuropharmacology at the University of Washington, offers another possible explanation in Baseless Hatred: What It Is and What You Can Do About It (Gefen Publishing House). In his description, sinas chinam is that part of the strong negative feelings we might have about another Jew that is excessive.
We hold our anger too long; we do not take the steps recommended by the Torah to deal with our hatred, for instance, by airing our grievance with the one who has angered us; we spread hatred among Jews through our gossip about the object of our hatred; or we fail to balance our … Read More >>
Rabbi Chaim Vital asks a fascinating question: Why does the Torah not specifically command us to avoid negative middos like anger or to develop those associated with the talmidim of Avraham Avinu (Avos 5:19) – a good eye, humble spirit, and restrained soul? He answers that these middos precede the Torah itself, for without them one cannot truly be an acceptor of the Torah.
The above-cited Mishnah in Avos states that the distinction between those who enjoy the fruits of this world and inherit the world to come depends on whether they are the students of Avraham Avinu or Bilaam. And that depends on the possession of the three middos enumerated in the Mishnah. In other words, even one who is meticulous in the observance of every mitzvah in the Torah, will inherit Gehinnom and descend into a pit of destruction if he is lacking the three qualities mentioned, for he has not truly accepted the Torah.
Rabbeinu Yonah in his commentary to Avos describes the three positive middos mentioned in the Mishnah as the essence of all good middos. Their presence makes possible the interrelatedness of all beings in the world in the way that Hashem intended; and … Read More >>
An important new poll of Palestinian opinion was released last week to minimum fanfare. The poll confirmed what no one wants to hear: the Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza is far from being ready to accept Israel’s existence or to conclude a peace treaty based on two states for two peoples.
Nearly two-thirds (66%) of the Palestinians polled said that a two-state solution should at most be an interim stage on the path to a unitary Palestinian state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. The poll showed an almost total absence of ability to empathize in any way with Israelis. Ninety-two percent of the Palestinians, for instance, said that Jerusalem should be the capital of a Palestinian state only. When asked whether they agreed with the famous hadith attributed to Mohammed and cited in the Hamas Charter, that at the end of time, even inanimate trees and rocks will call out, “There is a Jew hiding behind me. Come and kill him,” 73% answered in the affirmative. In other findings, 72% denied any Jewish historical connection to Jerusalem; 62% supported the kidnapping and holding hostage of Gilad Shalit and other Jewish soldiers; and 53% … Read More >>
Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party massive victory in the recent Canadian elections and the virtual disappearance of the Liberal Party, which has dominated Canadian politics for seventy years, was accompanied by sea change in Canadian Jewish voting patterns. That change already began between 2006 and 2008. In the handful of ridings in the country in which Jews are a substantial minority, the shift from the Liberal Party to the Conservative in those years was six to twelve times that of the national average.
The most recent election witnessed the first Jew ever elected to Parliament as a Conservative MP. Liberal MP Ken Dryden, a Canadian icon as goalie of the Stanley Cup winning Montreal Canadians (and a strong supporter of Israel) went down to defeat in a riding with a significant Jewish minority. Even Irwin Cotler, a former attorney general and one of Israel’s most articulate defenders in the international arena, barely squeezed back into office. He was first elected in 1999 with 91% of the vote. An internationally renowned human rights attorney, Cotler found himself accused of being soft on Israel because he attended the first Durban Conference, where he had gone to combat – unsuccessfully — the hijacking … Read More >>
About twenty years ago, I publicly debated a rabbi associated with the circles around Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook at the Orthodox Union’s Israel Center, on the topic “Vengeance – Divine or Human?” As the debate went on, I found myself increasingly shocked by his willingness to rely on quotations pulled from the aggadata sections of the Torah to reach legal conclusions, which, if implemented, would have immense implications for Jews around the world, and his confidence that we live in an era in which Jews can say and do whatever they want in the Land of Israel without fear of how those words and actions will be received by the gentile world.
I have not read Torat Hamelech, and cannot comment on its contents. But Rabbi Shalom Yosef Elyashiv, the most prominent living halachic decisor, has condemned the work on for reasons similar to those that shocked me in that long ago debate – it places Jews around the world in danger. And Rabbi Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg, the son-in-law of the late halachic giant Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, withdrew his letter of approbation from the book because of “certain conclusions that are not halachically correct” and others that defy … Read More >>
Recently, I rejoined a morning shiur that I had attended for many years. The primary attraction was that the shiur had just started Mesillas Yesharim [Path of the Just] for the mussar [ethics] segment. Though I have learned Mesillas Yesharim (or at least the opening chapters) many times, the chance to learn it with this particular maggid shiur was irresistible, for he is a walking Mesillas Yesharim.
I have not been disappointed. His inferences from a close reading of every word (after all, the Vilna Gaon famously said that there is not an extra word in the first eleven chapters), his palpable excitement in sharing the insights of the Ramchal, and the model that he provides of what a Torah Jew can aspire to be leave me feeling genuinely uplifted at the beginning of each day.
The shiur got me thinking. I am nearly sixty years old. I was privileged to spend many years in yeshivah and kollel, and through my biographies and other work I have spent much time with great Torah scholars, both living and no longer living. And yet this twenty minutes of mussar every morning with a rebbi who has perfected his middos to an … Read More >>
One of the first pieces of advice given to investigative journalists is: Follow the money trail. That dossier has now been prepared for J Street, which bills itself as a pro-Israel, pro-peace organization.
For years J Street denied any connection to billionaire financier George Soros, whose contempt for Israel has never been disguised, only to eventually admit that Soros and family were its principal early backers. Soros, it turns out, is but the best known of J Street’s interesting friends. Another is Genevieve Lynch, a director of NIAC (National Iranian-American Council), whose D.C. lobbying efforts dovetail neatly with those of the Iranian government. She has given over $10,000 per year to J Street and sits on its finance committee. Another repeated contributor is Turkish-American businessman Mehmet Celeb, the producer of the Turkish film Valley of the Wolves, described by the Wall Street Journal as a cross between American Psycho in uniform and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
A 2010 J Street visit to Israel was partially sponsored by Churches for Peace in the Middle East, a group supportive of the BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement. J Street maintains close ties with the Arab-American Institute, whose president … Read More >>
Two weeks ago, I was invited to participate in a panel discussion for a group of post-university students from the U.S. and Canada who are contemplating aliyah. The topic was “State and Religion in Israel,” and the panel included an activist from the Reform movement and a Modern Orthodox educator.
I returned home after two and a half hours completely drenched, wondering why I had gone and whether anything positive could possibly come from such a debate.
I doubt most readers can even imagine the chasm between traditionally Orthodox and secular North American Jews. We barely have a common language or any shared assumptions. For us, “Who is a Jew” is determined by very specific halachic criteria, and the question of “What are the obligations of a Jew?” can only be answered by recourse to the Written and Oral Torah.
For them, a Jew is anyone with Jewish blood who “feels Jewish,” and the concept of obligations is foreign. Instead they prefer such vagaries as “raising a Jewish family” or “living Jewishly,” defined by each individual Jew for him or herself. For reasons that I will not detail, I have never felt so intensely the truth of the Chazon … Read More >>
After a recent speech on chinuch banim (child-rearing) in Lawrence, someone approached me and asked, “Your children are all matzliach, all in learning?” I suppose I could have let slide the implied assumption of the question – success is exclusively determined by whether, and how long, one stays in learning. But I decided not to.
“Yes, Baruch Hashem, my children are successful,” I told him. “But I do not view my son who learns in kollel in the morning and repairs major appliances afternoons and evenings as any less successful.” My response probably took my questioner aback a moment, but I was still not done: “True, this son will probably not be as big a talmid chacham as his brothers. But I do not see him as less of an eved Hashem – not in the way he davens or his dikduk in mitzvos. And I can always count on him to say a dvar Torah at the Shabbos table.”
I was still not done enumerating the reasons I’m so proud of this particular son. Chief among them is the way he took responsibility when it became clear that the money was simply not there to put food on … Read More >>
In his June 24 2002 Rose Garden speech, President George W. Bush made clear that the purpose of Oslo was not the creation of a Palestinian state, but peace. He disabused the Palestinians of the notion that a Palestinian state is inevitable, and let them know that it must be earned. That state would have to be based on governmental financial transparency, freedom of citizens to criticize the government without fear of repercussions, the rule of law, and division of governmental power. He made clear that a Palestinian state would not be born from terrorism.
Bush was not refuting a straw man, but rather the traditional position of the EU. Western Europe has long viewed the very creation of Israel as, at best, a mistake creating myriad unnecessary headaches with the Arab world, and, at worst, a grave injustice inflicted on the hapless Palestinians. For the Europeans the formation of a Palestinian state has long been the central goal of the peace process. Israel is always called upon to take brave steps for peace, and criticized for failing to do so, whereas the Palestinians are given a complete pass when they fail to live up to their own commitments.
… Read More >>
Carl Schramm’s graduation speech to Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business was pretty much what one would expect from one of America’s leading students of entrepreneurship: a paean to American freedom of the individual and the economic freedom on which it is grounded. In the middle of Schramm’s celebration of American capitalism, there appeared a sentence that caught my attention: “The per capita rate of business formation in the U.S. is higher than in any industrialized society except Israel.”
That chance reference to Israel together with the United States set me thinking about one of the nearly open miracles of Israel’s history: The only country in the world in which popular support for Israel is consistently high also happens to be the richest and most powerful nation in history, the one indispensable ally.
American support for Israel has little to do with the wealth or influence of the Jewish community. Many of Israel’s staunchest political supporters in the United States represent states or districts with few Jewish voters. (The same pattern exists in Canada, whose prime minister, Stephen Harper, is by far the most forceful advocate for Israel among current world leaders. The traditional base of Harper’s Conservative Party … Read More >>
Given all the attention focused on Israeli settlements beyond the 1949 armistice lines (known colloquially and erroneously as the 1967 borders), one would never know how irrelevant they are to Israeli withdrawal from land captured in 1967. From his first day in office, President Obama seized on the settlements as the crucial issue in Palestinian-Israel peace process, as a means of signaling to the larger Muslim world that they have a friend in the White House. In so doing, he only succeeded in hardening Palestinian positions and convincing them that there was no need to negotiate with Israel because the United States will pressure Israel into withdrawal to the “1967 borders” with minor adjustments.
For many American Jews too, the settlements have taken on a role far out of proportion to any actual impact on peace. The settlements allow American Jews to indulge their Jewish guilt over the failure to achieve peace and to engage in a particularly Jewish form of hubris – the feeling that everything depends on us and that if were only better, more magnanimous, peace would be at hand.
No Israeli government will ever be able to evacuate a quarter of a million Jews from … Read More >>
So far Arab Spring has done little to increase Israelis’ optimism. According to the latest Pew survey, a solid majority of Egyptians support abrogation of the peace treaty with Israel; the Egyptian-Israeli gas pipeline has already been sabotaged twice; and Egyptian efforts to interdict weapons smuggling into Gaza have been abandoned altogether.
Does the possibility of the Assad dynasty falling in Syria offer some compensation? Opinion is divided. Writing in National Review, CIA veteran Michael Scheuer notes that since 1973, the Syrians have maintained quiet along the border with Israel. After killing 20,000 or more civilians in the Moslem Brotherhood stronghold of Hama in 1982, Hafez al-Assad embarked on determined effort to placate the Islamists, building thousands of mosques and opening Sharia schools. As a consequence, argues Scheuer, in the event Bashar Assad’s regime falls, Islamists are likely to play a major role in whatever follows.
Yet for the very same reason, the ever astute Barry Rubin, argues that Islamists have played no role in the current street demonstrations: the Assads, father and son, have pursued a nearly ideal Islamist foreign policy. Syria is, after Iran, the largest international supporter of terrorists, including Hizbullah; it has allowed anti-American fighters … Read More >>
In recent weeks, we have been contemplating the pressure and intimidation experienced by Jewish students on university campuses in North America from anti-Israel propaganda. In Part I, we discussed the diverse nature of the intimidation – anti-apartheid weeks, departments of Middle East studies funded by Arab petrodollars – and the potential impact on the Jewish identity of students put in the cross-hairs of political correctness by virtue of their identification with Israel. In Part II, we discussed how poorly served Jewish students have been by precisely those Jewish “defense” organizations from which support might have been expected, and the ways in which the cowed behavior of students in the face of attacks on Israel increasingly mirrors that of mainstream Jewish organizations.
Compounding the tragedy is the fact that the case for Israel is today clearer and easier to make than ever before. Arab Spring, for instance, has exploded one of the central myths advanced by the so-called “realists,” like Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer — i.e., that the Arab-Israeli conflict lies at the center of all the deformities of the Middle East. The turmoil currently roiling the entire Middle East has focused attention on the freedom deficit in Arab … Read More >>
Over the last five years, Gallup has interviewed hundreds of thousands of Americans about their lives. On the basis of those interviews, Gallup constructed a “well-being index.” Religious people typically ranked higher than secular, and religious Jews highest of all. Gallup even composed a composite of the happiest man in America – an Oriental living in Hawaii of above average height, over 62, married and with children, earning over $120,000 per year, and, oh yes, an Orthodox Jew. Alvin Wong, an Orthodox convert living in Hawaii, fit the portrait.
Part of the explanation of the higher levels of general “well-being” experienced by Torah Jews lies in the scientific research we cited before Pesach contrasting the long-range impact on physical health and mental acuity of “fun” activities versus that of a general feeling of purpose and fulfillment.
The pursuit of happiness in the form of hedonistic pleasures is like the pursuit of kavod (honor): the more one pursues it, the faster it recedes before one. As society increasingly turns towards the pursuit of hedonic pleasures, so have rates of depression risen. The reasons are not hard to discern. At most, moments of fun consist of a sudden jolt from … Read More >>
I’d don’t know what made Richard Goldstone issue his mealy-mouthed retraction of the central finding of the eponymously named Goldstone Report, just as I don’t know what led the respected jurist, with a Zionist background, to put a Jewish imprimatur on an investigation of Israel’s actions in Operation Cast Lead by the United Nations Human Rights Council. Goldstone admits in his Washington Post retraction that the UNHRC is undeniably biased against Israel, and that the commission’s original mandate assumed, prior to investigation, that Israel had committed war crimes. Each of Goldstone’s fellow panelists had long records of anti-Israel statements and at least one of them had publicly condemned Israeli “war crimes” prior to the investigation.
But one thing I know for sure: The answer to the first question is not, as Goldstone claims, that he suddenly discovered new evidence proving that Israel did not “deliberately [engage in] disproportionate attacks designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize [Gaza's] civilian population.” Goldstone cites Israel’s 400 investigations of alleged operational misconduct in Gaza as important new information. But if he once believed Israel capable of deliberately targeting Palestinian civilians in Gaza, why should he put any faith in Israel’s investigations of its soldiers’ … Read More >>
At the beginning of Stumbling on Happiness, Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert speculates on the essential difference between human beings and animals. He conclusion: Only humans plan for the future. No animal ever delayed gratification in anticipation of some future benefit.
Gilbert’s insight was preceded by our Sages. At the beginning of parashas Tazria, the Midrash quotes a verse from Tehillim: Achor ve’kedem tzartani. . . (Tehillim139:5). Reish Lakish interprets achor to refer to the last day – yom acharon – ve’kedem to refer to the first day. Even the animals have a first day, but only human beings have a yom acharon, a future to which they are striving.
Everything that an animal will ever be is included in its initial genetic material, whereas a human being has the potential to change his nature according to his capacity to reflect on the purpose of his life.
ALL HUMAN BEINGS have this capacity to set future goals and strive towards them. But the Jewish people have a unique future orientation, despite possessing the richest past of any people. Our Sages divide human history into three parts. The first period is referred to as the two thousand years of tohu ve’vohu … Read More >>
The failure of the mainstream Jewish organizations with respect to Jewish students on campus is twofold. First is the failure to aggressively defend students from physical and verbal intimidation, especially when they identify with Israel. Second is the failure to provide them with the information they need to defend Israel and to fend off a type of Stockholm Syndrome.
Charles Jacobs and Avi Goldwasser draw an interesting parallel to an incident that took place at the University of California-San Diego in 2009. A noose – presumably a symbol of lynching – was found on campus and students occupied the chancellor’s office in response. Everyone from the governor on down condemned the incident, and the university quickly established a task force on minority hiring and a commission to address declining black admissions. (The noose, it turned out, had been placed by a minority student.)
Yet, write Jacobs and Goldwasser, when Jewish students and Jewish buildings are attacked and defaced, “Jewish leaders sit on their hands. No one calls for sensitivity training for Muslim and leftist students about the history of blood libels. . . .”
Students who fight back aggressively usually do so independently or with the assistance of little … Read More >>
A friend of mine received a call the other night for a telephone survey of senior citizens. The interviewer wanted to know about his physical and emotional health – “Do you have any trouble picking up objects off the floor?”; “Do you suffer from depression?”; “Do you find yourself frequently bored?” The last question asked him to categorize himself according to religious observance.
Instead of answering, my friend asked the interviewer to guess. Until that point there had been nothing in the interview relating directly to religion. The survey focused exclusively on questions about the interviewee’s general state of heath. And my friend had not peppered his answers with “Baruch Hashem”. Nevertheless, the interviewer guessed correctly that he was religiously observant.
My friend asked the interviewer how he had known. “Well, you seem like a pretty optimistic fellow,” the interviewer said. “And I find religious people are generally more optimistic.” The interviewer’s response turns out to be based on solid empirical evidence. A recent Gallup-Healthways survey of 372,000 people found that American Jews ranked highest of any religious group on the well-being index, based on such factors as health, happiness, and access to basic needs. And among American Jews, … Read More >>