Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Convicted Terrorists Are Ok to Lecture at Colleges!
Barry Nussbaum: Hello and welcome to ATP Report. We are very honored to have as our special guest today, a very famous Rabbi, Shmuley Boteach, who is known as America's Rabbi.
He has a new book out, Holocaust Holiday, which I'm very pleased to announce, tells the story of the Holocaust from a first person's perspective. The Rabbi actually took his family there. You've written three dozen books, which is extraordinary. Welcome, Rabbi. Let's start off. Tell us about your new book.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Well, Holocaust Holiday details, a trip with my kids, my wife, my children to dozens of sites of mass extermination. Auschwitz, Birkenau, Sachsenhausen, Mauthausen places that just bring to mind unspeakable horror.
The idea was that my kids should be exposed to these places, even our eight-year-old daughter in order that they should understand, never again. It must be never again and that the six million cannot be forgotten. Some of the stories are just very poignant like our eight-year-old daughter, whose birthday is July 3rd before the Fourth of July saying to us, “Mommy, please, whatever you do I don't want to spend my birthday at Auschwitz.”
Wow. Your eight-year-old daughter said something like that. So instead, she spent her birthday at the Lodge Ghetto, not much better, where 275,000 Jews died instead of 1.1 million as in Auschwitz. That book is out in a month and we'll see. It was a harrowing journey and, but I hope it's an inspiration.
Barry Nussbaum: Unbelievable and I would encourage all of our listeners and viewers around the world, please go get this book. It documents the history of not only the Rabbi's family but my family as well, especially in regard to Auschwitz. Thank you for doing that. So BDS is on fire across America, on college campuses primarily, and it seems to be beaten back frequently.
But it's one step forward, two steps backward, three steps sideways. There's a story out now about Leila Khaled. She was one of the prominent leaders of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. She was one of the hijackers in 1969 of TWA Flight 840. She would have blown the plane up. She rolled a grenade down the hall of the plane and but for the Israeli commandos who happened to be on the plane, she would have brought the plane down and killed herself.
She was convicted of half a dozen charges. Astoundingly, she was let out of jail in a prisoner exchange. Now she's a hero as a freedom fighter, Rabbi. And right now, they're debating her coming to American universities because she has an alternative reality to tell and under academic freedom, that should be, okay?
What do you make of it when somebody that's a convicted murderer like her, literally, is just someone to debate on a college campus instead of being in prison where she belongs? What is it today that makes it okay for someone that wanted to kill hundreds to be on a college campus?
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Well, think about the irony of us discussing this on the table with Derek Chauvin who was found guilty of second-degree murder in George Floyd and third-degree murder and manslaughter. Can you imagine if in a few years-times if he were to be released? If he was suddenly lecturing on university campuses? The uproar?
Barry Nussbaum: It's the same thing.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Well, she's so much worse because that was premeditated murder. She was a terrorist whose entire purpose was to murder people. It's unthinkable that Derek Chauvin would be welcomed as some kind of hero. And it's unthinkable Leila Khaled would be welcomed either.
The difference, of course, is that Jewish life is so often trivialized that if you murder Jews, you kind of get away with it. And I think that responsibility falls upon our community, that we allow this to happen, that the Jewish students at campuses around the United States are not protesting. This outrage is itself outrageous and has to be reversed.
Barry Nussbaum: Absolutely. It's disgusting beyond words. And in my same opinion about disgust, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who was elected for a few year-terms and he's still there, never left, probably stolen billions from the Palestinian Authority, lives like a king are, in my mind, a murderer.
He's been paying 'Pay for Slay' Palestinians to slaughter Jews for decades. He seems to think that's a great idea. He gets invited to J Street's convention a couple of days ago and makes his speech about how Israel is a military dictatorship and needs pressure from the United States to change its policies.
He's welcomed with open arms. How is it possible, Rabbi, that J Street, who supports BDS, has a terrorist as a keynote speaker and the Jews, some of them support him and non-Jews support him and them, J Street as if it's just a political dialog?
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Well, you know, one of my favorite TV debates that I've ever done was against the head of J Street on CNN. It was a morning show and they're an interesting organization. They've outdone themselves this year at their convention because not only did they have Mahmoud Abbas, as you said, he runs a kleptocracy.
It's not just about how he approaches himself, but his sons, Yasser Toric. They're worth hundreds of millions of dollars. They control the cigarette trade. They control all construction. He's actually not good at stealing because Yasser Arafat was a billionaire and he's only worth hundreds of millions.
That's a shame that he's not like that around it. Arafat died one of the richest men in the world, but Abbas needs to we want to see him be more effective in pilfering the international aid that goes to poor Palestinians. That makes him a rich man. But J Street has outdone themselves this year because, you know, every speech you read about was like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders calling for the end of aid to Israel.
And I think they've done a very effective job of having a convention that has condemned Israel thoroughly and completely. It just goes to show you actually just how out of touch J Street is because we would never believe that a day would come when the UAE or Morocco or Bahrain would be more pro-Israel than J Street, but that day has come and, you know, enough said about it.
I'm sure that Arab countries look at these conventions and they kind of wonder what is up with the Jews that they have all these conventions that are condemning their own. But I find that it would be laughable if wasn't so tragic.
Barry Nussbaum: Well, let's talk about how bad it really got, Rabbi. They gave their peace prize to Jimmy Carter, maybe the worst president in American history in regard to the Jewish state, who thinks the Jewish state is as bad or worse than South Africa at the peak of their apartheid movement.
I mean, that's an abomination that I can't even describe and relatively compare to anything else. And yet Carter was there, and he gets the prize for being such a great peacemaker. He hates Israel and is no friend of the Jews. Does this organization truly want to see Israel destroyed or not a Jewish state anymore? Or what's your take?
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: I think you need trajectory. You need to look at their relevance to the American people as opposed to just their irrelevance to the Jewish community. Jimmy Carter wasn't the worst president in American history vis a vis Israel.
He was simply one of the worst presidents in American history period. He was utterly repudiated by the American people. He lost in the landslide to Ronald Reagan. He is routinely ranked by American historian's top two or three worst presidents.
I should really say the bottom of the list. You know he's there with Warren Harding and with ah, I've got to think of some of the others, Millard Fillmore and all these forgettable presidents and his legacy is Ayatollah Khomeini coming to power and not being able to foresee the rise of Islamic terrorism.
His legacy is the American Misery Index. So, you know, I kind of feel sorry for Carter because I think he was always a well-intentioned man. He wanted what was best and yet what could he do? He failed as a leader and president and I think it's really nice of J Street to try to rehabilitate him. When no one else seems to really want him.
Barry Nussbaum: Well on that subject, Rabbi, you raised a point in an earlier discussion you and I had that American Jews don't seem to be comfortable with really defending their brethren, both here in the United States and overseas, their extended families in Israel. Why in the world is it?
I used to do network shows every week on a major national network, and I used to get asked the question all the time. It became so embarrassing for me because I couldn't explain why Jews wouldn't stick up for Jewish issues and they were more progressive than they were Jewish as if that's a competing religion.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Well, look at the Mormons versus the Jews in terms of even just philanthropy. So, something like 90 percent of all Mormon philanthropy goes to Mormon causes and 10 percent will go to other causes. That's also a function effectively, of the tithe, et cetera.
The Jews are the exact opposite, 90 percent of all Jewish philanthropy goes to non-Jewish causes. Now, I love the fact that we're generous and we care about all of God's children. I love that Jewish philanthropists and Jewish charity goes to African American causes and Latin American causes and Catholic and Christian.
But you kind of have to wonder why we are not more of a priority to ourselves, and that has to do with the deterioration of Jewish identity in our time. Where does Jewish identity come from? It comes from the Jewish religion, Jewish observance. It comes from Israel. It comes from Jewish pride. It comes from Jewish history.
Given the forgetfulness about things like the Holocaust, 68 percent of Americans never heard of Auschwitz, according to the New York Times. Given the high levels of assimilation, given how many Jews are just not connected to Israel, we do see a deterioration of support. Now, there are good things that are happening.
Birthright Israel is connecting hundreds of thousands of young Jews. But the best thing that's happening is that Israel is really forging its own way right now. Israel used to be seen as kind of the poor Jewish cousin to American Jewry. That's not the case anymore. Israel today is a technological superpower.
Thank God it's an agricultural superpower. It's becoming a diplomatic superpower, and it's a coronavirus superpower, thank God. It's done better than most countries in the world. American Jews better wake up to the fact that they're thinking, well, Israel really needs us, and if we kind of frowned on Netanyahu's policies or his government, we're not going to support Israel. It's the exact opposite that is kind of true.
Israeli Jews are looking at American Jews and they're saying, you know, we're going to be around in 50 years, God willing. We're not sure how strong your own communities and the United States are going to be in 50 years, that you're disappearing through rapid rates of assimilation and the deterioration of core institutions of American Jewry.
That's something that we really have to focus on, whether it's rebuilding synagogues, temples, you know, of every denomination, but just instilling a strong Jewish identity, but especially getting American Jews to feel connected to Israel because Israel's the ancient Jewish homeland and if you don't have a home, then you're very humanity is compromised.
Israel gives every American Jews great pride. And that was Herzl's original vision. It wasn't only that there would be a place for Jews to leave from European anti-Semitism, it would be that Jewish know-how would prove itself in building a state that would be a wonder and a miracle to the world. Which is what Israel has become.
Barry Nussbaum: Are you one of the Rabbis for Jewish leaders of major reputation that believes, this is my theory, that for many American Jews, their religion has become progressivism under the slogan of Tikkun Olam to heal the world instead of Jewish values and as the basis of those Jewish values, Zion, and the return to Jerusalem?
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Well, it's the reason why we call our organization The World Values Network. We believe that universal Jewish values are the mainstay of Western civilization. It's not even Judeo-Christian values, although we, of course, value the incredible friendship we have with our Christian brothers and sisters in general, the evangelical brothers and sisters in particular.
But it's not even Judeo-Christian values. Jewish values proceeded even that universal Jewish values, values in the Torah. So many of my Christian brothers and sisters are now looking to discover the Jewishness of Jesus and understanding the life that he lived as a Jew in order to deepen their own affinity with Christianity.
I wrote the book, Kosher Jesus, for that reason. But whether progressivism is any religion or not is kind of beside the point because it's not about whether Jews have abandoned Judaism in favor of supplanting of something else. It's really about whether we can reconnect them with tradition.
That's one of the reasons, as a Chabad rabbi, that I so value the legacy of the Lubavitcher. Who believed that getting the Jewish community throughout the world to do just one mitzvah, you know, or to light Shabbos candles? We Jews, when it comes to our tradition, are good at certain things.
We're good at circumcision because 95 percent of Jewish boys, were good at Passover, which is celebrated by 90 percent of Jews. We're terrible and other things. And then we go to Rashida Yom Kippur services like probably 70 percent of us vowing to never go again except for those three days a year. But we're terrible at other things. You know, we're only now discovering what Hanukkah is.
It's almost and we see it as like a Jewish Christmas, which is not. It's really a great festival of Jewish liberation and how the Maccabees fought to be free, and which is now captured by the state of Israel as it fights to be free. And the menorah is a universal symbol of Jewish freedom and sorry, of religious freedom, religious liberty.
But we're just rediscovering so much of our tradition. But Israel, Israel is a critical part of it because the rebirth of the Jewish people in their ancient homeland is that this great prophecy that the Jews would return. And it's almost like our Christian brothers and sisters really get it. They look at scripture, they look at the Bible and they believe these prophecies and they say, "Wow, it's happened."
And the Jews are more like, “Oh, I don't know.” You know, we're almost afraid to ascribe the divinity to our scripture the way our Christian brothers and sisters do so readily and do so easily. I mean, we have to kind of learn something from them in doing just that.
In taking seriously the words of the prophets about a return to Zion and taking seriously the words of the Bible that through Israel and through the Jewish people, the whole world will be blessed.
Barry Nussbaum: Well said. How can people find out about what you're doing?
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Oh, well, we need everybody's support and help. So, the World Values Network. Go to Worldvalues.US, go to Schmuley.com. One of the things that we're really good at. So many organizations in general and Jewish organizations in particular, focus on what I call bricks and mortar philanthropy.
So, their money goes, and they put up beautiful building schools and they're all necessary. Our money doesn't go to that. Our money goes to national media campaigns to promote Jewish values and protect the state of Israel and stop genocide.
Those are our three priorities. Promote universal Jewish values, make America a stronger nation, families, everything. Number 2, defend Israel and stop the demonization of Israel and go on the attack against Israel's enemies in the media and finally stop genocide. Remember the six million but stop all genocides and all human rights abuses in the name of never again.
And we raise millions and millions of dollars from people all over the world in large donations, small donations. And like I said, we are one of the largest full-page advertisers in the history of the New York Times for advocacy ads. And we're very excited about it.
Barry Nussbaum: Good for you. I encourage all of our viewers to go check him out. He's a wise man. You'll learn something. And for those of you that haven't subscribed yet to our text message alert system, take out your cell phone, text the message TRUTH in the message box, and send it to 88202.
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