Category: Avrohom Gordimer

De Blasio's Subway Follies


It seems like a rerun -– but maybe this time, people will have learned their lesson.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) Chairman Joe Lhota aren’t getting along too well these days. Lhota, who ran on the Republican ticket for mayor four years ago and was unfortunately defeated by de Blasio, is now again challenging de Blasio on a new quality of life issue — subway garbage, which has become such a problem that it caused a major subway track fire last week, resulting in many injuries and awful transit delays. (There are numerous New York City subway track fires per year.) 

Lhota was recently tasked to clean up the MTA — after having manned the MTA’s infrastructure restoration following Hurricane Sandy — and one of the ideas he floated was to restrict eating on the subway. The subway already has a disgusting excess of garbage and rats, and it was garbage littered onto the tracks in a Harlem subway station which caused the recent track fire and massive delays.

Lhota’s suggestion certainly sounds reasonable. It will not solve all subway problems, but it may prevent some of them and can thus make subway travel safer and cleaner. Seeing that New York City has been experiencing a terrible decline in quality of life — not to mention a spike in subway crime — one would expect de Blasio to reply to Lhota, “Thanks, Joe. Wish I would have thought of that myself.”

Instead, de Blasio rejected Lhota’s idea and responded:

“From 1979 to 1999, I did not own a car and got around almost exclusively by subway — it would have been in those years inconceivable to not be able to eat on the subway, just because of life. Because we’re all incredibly busy in the city, because the time on the subway is often the only time you have to eat… I don’t think it’s fair to people to say you can’t eat on the subway… I think in a lot of ways we need to encourage people to not be sloppy when they’re on the subway, but I can’t imagine personally the idea of people not being allowed to eat on the subway in a place as busy as this.”

What? Not fair? And it is fair to engage in a practice that endangers and bothers other riders, creates messes, and invites rats?

I personally have a very busy job and a very busy life in New York City, and I take a long subway ride to and from work each day, yet I somehow never felt a need to eat my breakfast or dinner on the subway. What’s de Blasio talking about?

And now, de Blasio is being attacked by both New York State Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo and by the MTA’s Republican Chairman Joe Lhota for refusing to adequately fund the subway system. Rather than contribute some of the city’s $4 billion surplus toward subway funding, de Blasio rejected the idea, as he instead continues to generously pour the city’s money largely into the cups of special interest groups (with the help of the socialist City Council speaker, Maria Mark-Viverito).

De Blasio, the far left, liberal-progressive mayor, whose basic platform has been one of assisting the underclass to the exclusion of all others, does not even take subways anymore. He instead is driven (and flown) around, including a daily chauffeured SUV ride to a gym very far from the mayoral mansion. Contrast this with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who took the subway to work and back every day (and who opted not to live at Gracie Mansion, in order to save the city money), and Mayor Rudolf Giuliani, who regularly took his son to baseball games via the subway.  

Like many leftists, whose economic policies are not geared toward the interests of the majority and are instead focused almost entirely on those who receive public assistance, de Blasio is an elitist whose personal lifestyle is anything but like the lifestyle of those whom he purports to help. And, similar to many leftists, the mayor’s work ethic has so many gaping holes.

The dispute between Joe Lhota and Bill de Blasio is not only about subway food and funding, but is reflective of a far more profound discussion regarding personal values and self-sacrifice. In Proverbs, King Solomon tells us that laziness and self-indulgence breed inefficiency and ultimately result in destruction. Joe Lhota understands this; even Andrew Cuomo seems to get it, as much as we reject his socially liberal views. De Blasio, though, hasn’t got a clue.  

Avrohom Gordimer is a senior rabbinic fellow at the Coalition for Jewish Values, a public policy institute reflecting traditional Jewish thought.  He serves on the editorial board of Jewish Action magazine; is a staff writer for the Cross-Currents website; and is a frequent contributor to Israel National News, Yated Ne’eman, and a host of other publications.  He is a member of the Rabbinical Council of America and the New York Bar, and he works as an account executive at a large Jewish organization based in Manhattan.  The views expressed in the above article are solely those of the writer.

It seems like a rerun -– but maybe this time, people will have learned their lesson.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) Chairman Joe Lhota aren’t getting along too well these days. Lhota, who ran on the Republican ticket for mayor four years ago and was unfortunately defeated by de Blasio, is now again challenging de Blasio on a new quality of life issue — subway garbage, which has become such a problem that it caused a major subway track fire last week, resulting in many injuries and awful transit delays. (There are numerous New York City subway track fires per year.) 

Lhota was recently tasked to clean up the MTA — after having manned the MTA’s infrastructure restoration following Hurricane Sandy — and one of the ideas he floated was to restrict eating on the subway. The subway already has a disgusting excess of garbage and rats, and it was garbage littered onto the tracks in a Harlem subway station which caused the recent track fire and massive delays.

Lhota’s suggestion certainly sounds reasonable. It will not solve all subway problems, but it may prevent some of them and can thus make subway travel safer and cleaner. Seeing that New York City has been experiencing a terrible decline in quality of life — not to mention a spike in subway crime — one would expect de Blasio to reply to Lhota, “Thanks, Joe. Wish I would have thought of that myself.”

Instead, de Blasio rejected Lhota’s idea and responded:

“From 1979 to 1999, I did not own a car and got around almost exclusively by subway — it would have been in those years inconceivable to not be able to eat on the subway, just because of life. Because we’re all incredibly busy in the city, because the time on the subway is often the only time you have to eat… I don’t think it’s fair to people to say you can’t eat on the subway… I think in a lot of ways we need to encourage people to not be sloppy when they’re on the subway, but I can’t imagine personally the idea of people not being allowed to eat on the subway in a place as busy as this.”

What? Not fair? And it is fair to engage in a practice that endangers and bothers other riders, creates messes, and invites rats?

I personally have a very busy job and a very busy life in New York City, and I take a long subway ride to and from work each day, yet I somehow never felt a need to eat my breakfast or dinner on the subway. What’s de Blasio talking about?

And now, de Blasio is being attacked by both New York State Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo and by the MTA’s Republican Chairman Joe Lhota for refusing to adequately fund the subway system. Rather than contribute some of the city’s $4 billion surplus toward subway funding, de Blasio rejected the idea, as he instead continues to generously pour the city’s money largely into the cups of special interest groups (with the help of the socialist City Council speaker, Maria Mark-Viverito).

De Blasio, the far left, liberal-progressive mayor, whose basic platform has been one of assisting the underclass to the exclusion of all others, does not even take subways anymore. He instead is driven (and flown) around, including a daily chauffeured SUV ride to a gym very far from the mayoral mansion. Contrast this with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who took the subway to work and back every day (and who opted not to live at Gracie Mansion, in order to save the city money), and Mayor Rudolf Giuliani, who regularly took his son to baseball games via the subway.  

Like many leftists, whose economic policies are not geared toward the interests of the majority and are instead focused almost entirely on those who receive public assistance, de Blasio is an elitist whose personal lifestyle is anything but like the lifestyle of those whom he purports to help. And, similar to many leftists, the mayor’s work ethic has so many gaping holes.

The dispute between Joe Lhota and Bill de Blasio is not only about subway food and funding, but is reflective of a far more profound discussion regarding personal values and self-sacrifice. In Proverbs, King Solomon tells us that laziness and self-indulgence breed inefficiency and ultimately result in destruction. Joe Lhota understands this; even Andrew Cuomo seems to get it, as much as we reject his socially liberal views. De Blasio, though, hasn’t got a clue.  

Avrohom Gordimer is a senior rabbinic fellow at the Coalition for Jewish Values, a public policy institute reflecting traditional Jewish thought.  He serves on the editorial board of Jewish Action magazine; is a staff writer for the Cross-Currents website; and is a frequent contributor to Israel National News, Yated Ne’eman, and a host of other publications.  He is a member of the Rabbinical Council of America and the New York Bar, and he works as an account executive at a large Jewish organization based in Manhattan.  The views expressed in the above article are solely those of the writer.



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The Texas Transgender 'Bathroom Bill': A Last Chance for Sanity


On May 22, the Texas House of Representatives approved an amendment to a school hazard preparedness bill, which would require schoolchildren to use restrooms, locker rooms, and changing facilities that correspond to their biological gender. Once this bill, or a similar version of it, likely clears the Texas State Senate, it is expected to be signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott.

As was to be expected, this “bathroom bill” has liberals up in arms. Representative Senfronia Thompson (D) assailed the bill as bigoted:

“I happened to be a part of this society during a period of time in this state and in this country when we had ‘separate but equal’ and I remember those days. You remember? Bathrooms: white, colored. Bathrooms divided us then and it divides us now and America has long recognized that separate but equal is not equal at all.”

And one school parent, whose son declared himself a female before entering first grade (!) (please also see here), expressed great fear for her child’s safety, now that the child may no longer be able to use the girls’ room:

“The second that gavel dropped, I just burst into tears. I don’t know how I’m going explain to her that people in Austin, our legislators, people who are in charge of keeping us safe, have intentionally put her and her friends in danger now.”

The fact that millions of girls across the state of Texas are presently unsafe due to biological males using girls’ restrooms, locker rooms, and changing facilities somehow did not seem to cross this parent’s mind. And so is it with all of these cases, in which the safety of the majority is disregarded in order to serve the agenda of the few.

Rep. Chris Paddie (R), who supports the bill, explained its intent:

“I think it’s absolutely about school safety… There is absolutely no intent — and I would argue, nothing in this language discriminates against anyone. In fact it makes sure there are reasonable accommodations for all children.”    

I would argue further that it is not only an issue of school safety in the practical and simple sense, but that there are two additional and profound types of safety involved:

Transgenderism, previously known as Gender Identity Disorder, was categorized as a mental illness by the World Health Organization until December 2016, but has now been reclassified as “Gender Incongruence”. So too for homosexuality, which was classified as a mental illness until 1992 by the World Health Organization, and has since been declassified as such. In both cases, there was immense political pressure for the reclassifications; the fact that psychiatrists who were previously under no political pressure had historically always considered transgenderism and homosexuality as mental disorders speaks volumes.

According to the revised classifications, if one has a split personality, should he be deemed to have a disorder? Just like an individual with the personality of a woman and the body of a man is now considered to be a woman who just happens to be trapped in a male body, and is not considered to be “loco”, why should an individual who has two personalities not be considered to be two people who just happen to be trapped in one body? There is no end to the illogical conclusions mandated by politically correct, warped thinking. Such thinking has impacted psychiatry and other sciences in areas where political agendas abound.       

The Center for Disease Control reports an alarmingly high incidence of sexual violence within the homosexual and transgender community, especially by people’s own “partners”. This indicates a dangerous propensity on the part of many members of the “LGBT” crowd to commit sexual crimes. Read the statistics, and decide whether or not it is safe to allow transgender people the right to use restrooms, locker rooms, and changing facilities of their choosing. If anything, after studying this and other studies about intra-communal “LGBT” rape statistics, I submit that allowing these people into any mass-use locker rooms and changing facilities is a risky move, absent tight safeguards.

Hence, there is not only a safety issue relating to girls’ privacy being invaded by biological males who claim to really be females, but there are the far more acute issues at hand of (1) risk of sexual violence, and (2) sharing private facilities with people who have traditionally been regarded by psychiatric experts as mentally ill. Safety takes on a whole new meaning when honestly considering the facts on the ground and the risks posed by the “LGBT” community.

The 20th century Orthodox rabbinic sage, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (who was a primary mentor of my teachers), stated:

“A philosophy of [homo]sexualism is being preached throughout the Western world, to such an extent that a certain rabbi came to me and said, “How can we defend ourselves against it?” I told him, “Take out a Bible read the verse: ‘You shall not lie with a male as with a woman.’” (Leviticus 18:22) We are on the defensive, you understand. Why? And the same is true of abortion and so forth. 


“I can never predict what modern society will come up with. Everything is possible. The most abnormal, obnoxious, repellent ideas may be introduced in the form of legislation to Congress. And now, since it is modern to be liberal, it’s quite in vogue to be heretical, so any law can be adopted. The Supreme Court in America is the most unpredictable body. Did you see, did you read carefully, the decision about abortion? (Roe vs. Wade)

“There are no secular ethics; ethics are decreed by God, and man cannot legislate his own moral laws…


 “That is the basic reason why secular ethics has failed. Because the element of a Divine Statute is not understandable and not comprehensible to secular man. When everything is reduced to law that resonates with people’s own values, there is no morality.”​

When there is no morality, the wrath of God flares. When there is no morality, society degenerates from greatness to insignificance, or worse.

In my opinion, America has been exceptionally blessed due to its having been founded upon a sense of Biblical values. Unlike so much of Western Europe, in which atheism and immorality are the most popular social mores, America has maintained a semblance of sacred standards, of adherence to a Divine moral code. America accepted that morality comes from God, and the American people submitted to this axiom, even when it would have been easier to do whatever was most pleasurable.

Should this commitment to Divine morality be abandoned, all bets are off. Our last chance to send the correct and necessary message may very well occur in Texas. 

Avrohom Gordimer is a senior rabbinic fellow at the Coalition for Jewish Values, a public policy institute reflecting traditional Jewish thought.  He serves on the editorial board of Jewish Action magazine, is a staff writer for the Cross-Currents website, and is a frequent contributor to Israel National News and a host of other publications.  He is a member of the Rabbinical Council of America and the New York Bar, and he works as an account executive at a large Jewish organization based in Manhattan. The views expressed in the above article are solely those of the writer.

On May 22, the Texas House of Representatives approved an amendment to a school hazard preparedness bill, which would require schoolchildren to use restrooms, locker rooms, and changing facilities that correspond to their biological gender. Once this bill, or a similar version of it, likely clears the Texas State Senate, it is expected to be signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott.

As was to be expected, this “bathroom bill” has liberals up in arms. Representative Senfronia Thompson (D) assailed the bill as bigoted:

“I happened to be a part of this society during a period of time in this state and in this country when we had ‘separate but equal’ and I remember those days. You remember? Bathrooms: white, colored. Bathrooms divided us then and it divides us now and America has long recognized that separate but equal is not equal at all.”

And one school parent, whose son declared himself a female before entering first grade (!) (please also see here), expressed great fear for her child’s safety, now that the child may no longer be able to use the girls’ room:

“The second that gavel dropped, I just burst into tears. I don’t know how I’m going explain to her that people in Austin, our legislators, people who are in charge of keeping us safe, have intentionally put her and her friends in danger now.”

The fact that millions of girls across the state of Texas are presently unsafe due to biological males using girls’ restrooms, locker rooms, and changing facilities somehow did not seem to cross this parent’s mind. And so is it with all of these cases, in which the safety of the majority is disregarded in order to serve the agenda of the few.

Rep. Chris Paddie (R), who supports the bill, explained its intent:

“I think it’s absolutely about school safety… There is absolutely no intent — and I would argue, nothing in this language discriminates against anyone. In fact it makes sure there are reasonable accommodations for all children.”    

I would argue further that it is not only an issue of school safety in the practical and simple sense, but that there are two additional and profound types of safety involved:

Transgenderism, previously known as Gender Identity Disorder, was categorized as a mental illness by the World Health Organization until December 2016, but has now been reclassified as “Gender Incongruence”. So too for homosexuality, which was classified as a mental illness until 1992 by the World Health Organization, and has since been declassified as such. In both cases, there was immense political pressure for the reclassifications; the fact that psychiatrists who were previously under no political pressure had historically always considered transgenderism and homosexuality as mental disorders speaks volumes.

According to the revised classifications, if one has a split personality, should he be deemed to have a disorder? Just like an individual with the personality of a woman and the body of a man is now considered to be a woman who just happens to be trapped in a male body, and is not considered to be “loco”, why should an individual who has two personalities not be considered to be two people who just happen to be trapped in one body? There is no end to the illogical conclusions mandated by politically correct, warped thinking. Such thinking has impacted psychiatry and other sciences in areas where political agendas abound.       

The Center for Disease Control reports an alarmingly high incidence of sexual violence within the homosexual and transgender community, especially by people’s own “partners”. This indicates a dangerous propensity on the part of many members of the “LGBT” crowd to commit sexual crimes. Read the statistics, and decide whether or not it is safe to allow transgender people the right to use restrooms, locker rooms, and changing facilities of their choosing. If anything, after studying this and other studies about intra-communal “LGBT” rape statistics, I submit that allowing these people into any mass-use locker rooms and changing facilities is a risky move, absent tight safeguards.

Hence, there is not only a safety issue relating to girls’ privacy being invaded by biological males who claim to really be females, but there are the far more acute issues at hand of (1) risk of sexual violence, and (2) sharing private facilities with people who have traditionally been regarded by psychiatric experts as mentally ill. Safety takes on a whole new meaning when honestly considering the facts on the ground and the risks posed by the “LGBT” community.

The 20th century Orthodox rabbinic sage, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (who was a primary mentor of my teachers), stated:

“A philosophy of [homo]sexualism is being preached throughout the Western world, to such an extent that a certain rabbi came to me and said, “How can we defend ourselves against it?” I told him, “Take out a Bible read the verse: ‘You shall not lie with a male as with a woman.’” (Leviticus 18:22) We are on the defensive, you understand. Why? And the same is true of abortion and so forth. 


“I can never predict what modern society will come up with. Everything is possible. The most abnormal, obnoxious, repellent ideas may be introduced in the form of legislation to Congress. And now, since it is modern to be liberal, it’s quite in vogue to be heretical, so any law can be adopted. The Supreme Court in America is the most unpredictable body. Did you see, did you read carefully, the decision about abortion? (Roe vs. Wade)

“There are no secular ethics; ethics are decreed by God, and man cannot legislate his own moral laws…


 “That is the basic reason why secular ethics has failed. Because the element of a Divine Statute is not understandable and not comprehensible to secular man. When everything is reduced to law that resonates with people’s own values, there is no morality.”​

When there is no morality, the wrath of God flares. When there is no morality, society degenerates from greatness to insignificance, or worse.

In my opinion, America has been exceptionally blessed due to its having been founded upon a sense of Biblical values. Unlike so much of Western Europe, in which atheism and immorality are the most popular social mores, America has maintained a semblance of sacred standards, of adherence to a Divine moral code. America accepted that morality comes from God, and the American people submitted to this axiom, even when it would have been easier to do whatever was most pleasurable.

Should this commitment to Divine morality be abandoned, all bets are off. Our last chance to send the correct and necessary message may very well occur in Texas. 

Avrohom Gordimer is a senior rabbinic fellow at the Coalition for Jewish Values, a public policy institute reflecting traditional Jewish thought.  He serves on the editorial board of Jewish Action magazine, is a staff writer for the Cross-Currents website, and is a frequent contributor to Israel National News and a host of other publications.  He is a member of the Rabbinical Council of America and the New York Bar, and he works as an account executive at a large Jewish organization based in Manhattan. The views expressed in the above article are solely those of the writer.



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New York City's Reduced Crime Rates: Don't Be Fooled


New York City mayor Bill de Blasio recently boasted of a historic reduction in the city’s crime rates.  While statistics don’t lie, they can be pretty deceptive if not analyzed intelligently and within the proper context.   

Upon closer examination, it is eminently clear that the main reductions in crime have occurred in the rough and generally known to be unsafe neighborhoods, which are more often than not located in housing project areas of Brooklyn and the Bronx.  The notoriously high number of shootings in East New York, Brownsville, Mott Haven, Port Morris, and so forth has declined, as residents of these heavily crime-infested regions are killing each other less and are victims of violence at a reduced frequency – whereas the safer areas of the city, such as Manhattan’s Upper East Side and Financial District, Brooklyn’s Borough Park (Chassidic), and large areas of Queens and Staten Island, were always considered safe, and the crime reduction statistics thus do not really impact there.

Unlike the unfortunate situation with the high-crime neighborhoods of South Bronx and Upper Brooklyn, people walking by Trump Tower, the Empire State Building, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New York Stock Exchange never feared being grazed by flying bullets or being caught in the middle of a street gang shooting or stabbing rampage (notwithstanding the recent and unusual very high-profile violent crimes in Midtown Manhattan).  So while this crime reduction is a success, it is one of a limited scope – so limited that it is not really felt by the majority of New Yorkers and visitors to the city.

(It should also be noted that the dramatic reduction in crime started under Mayor Giuliani and was maintained and built upon by Mayor Bloomberg.  Mayor de Blasio did not initiate this trend, nor did he reverse or halt a wave of criminal activity.  The credit for such goes to his predecessors, whose policing policies de Blasio criticized and pledged to reverse.)

So how has the majority of New York City fared under the current mayor, seeing that it has not materially benefited from the lower crime rates in the city’s roughest of neighborhoods?  The answer: pretty badly.  The reason: a precipitous decrease in quality of life in nearly every single neighborhood in the city.

It is almost impossible to walk through the streets of even the best parts of Manhattan and not to smell marijuana and other non-tobacco smoked substances, see homeless people lying on the streets, and be accosted by panhandlers and vagrants.  This morning, as I took the subway to Midtown Manhattan for an appointment, I had to exit the station through a different turnstile, as a large yellow puddle (which was not lemonade!) covered the floor of the main turnstile exit.  Several feet away, along all of the subway station’s walls, lay sleeping homeless people in squalor on filthy old blankets.  It was not only heartbreaking, but also unhealthy and unacceptable.  After ascending the stairs and starting to walk down 49th Street, I had to dodge a drugged panhandler, as more homeless people lay at the edge of the sidewalk.  This all occurred within about three minutes.  And it occurs all the time for the millions of New York City’s residents.

I recall last summer, when taking my daughter downtown to a (fabulous) kosher pizzeria, that we had to make a three-block detour because the street we planned to take was covered with derelicts and drug addicts, who made it impossible to get through without being accosted or having to walk over and between them as they lay on the street and leaned against every lamppost and fire hydrant.  And on the way back, we had to avoid an onslaught of aggressive panhandlers – who likewise appeared to be drugged or intoxicated – as we made our way to Penn Station.

This is not the New York City of Mayor Giuliani or Mayor Bloomberg.  It has gotten noticeably bad.

Local New York City newspapers have documented the dramatic decrease in the quality of life.  See here and here, or Google the issue and see what’s going on.  Or, better yet, visit New York City and see for yourself.

What has the de Blasio administration done in this regard?  Believe it or not, the New York City Council, with the blessing of the mayor, has decriminalized quality of life offenses (!).  New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito ironically declared:

This is a huge win for criminal justice reform. For too long, our criminal justice system was broken and it was time we took action. The Criminal Justice Reform Act will prevent tens of thousands of people from getting a criminal record for low-level, non-violent offenses and over its lifetime it is going to change trajectories for countless New Yorkers.

Now, under this brilliant new liberal-progressive system, “public urination and most offenses in public parks will be downgraded from misdemeanors to violations,” according to news reports.  And the New York Post reported:

Councilman Ritchie Torres (D-Bronx), who voted in favor of the bills, urged “hysterical” critics to reconsider how criminal rec­ords picked up over minor offenses could hobble young minorities’ “access to financial aid and higher education.”


“These essential elements of a decent life … can be easily blighted by the lingering stigma of a criminal record,” he said.

In conjunction with all this, the Manhattan district attorney will not prosecute offenses relating to quality of life.  Same for the Brooklyn D.A.

Under the previous two mayoral administrations, declining neighborhoods underwent gentrification and were ungraded and restored to appealing places, drawing in new businesses and residents in a major way.  This was done via enhanced quality of life enforcement.  But now, an anti-gentrification, anti-white, anti-Semitic City Council candidate has undertaken to reverse this trend in parts of Harlem, as he spurts forth ugly racist and bigoted charges.  Thomas Lopez-Pierre, in an effort to unseat City Council member Mark Levine, has charged:

For almost 15 to 20 years, these Jewish landlords have been at the forefront at pushing black and Latino people out. I think it’s hypocritical for the Jewish community and Jewish leaders to look the other way while black and Latino people are being pushed out of their communities to make room for white people.

Lopez-Pierre, who has a domestic abuse record and who admitted to lying as part of a fundraising scheme, has gone ballistic with allegations about Jewish landlords gentrifying Upper Manhattan at the expense of minorities and attempting to “ethnically cleanse” these areas of blacks and Hispanics.  Despite protests about his many ugly words, Lopez-Pierre is not backing down, and no one has done anything to effectively stop him.

This is the new New York City. If this is progress, then I have a bridge to sell ya.   

Avrohom Gordimer serves on the editorial board of Jewish Action magazine, is a staff writer for the Cross-Currents website, and is a frequent contributor to Israel National News and a host of other publications.  He is a member of the Rabbinical Council of America and the New York Bar, and he is also a senior rabbinic fellow at the Coalition for Jewish Values, a public policy institute reflecting traditional Jewish thoughtBy day, he works as an account executive at a large Jewish organization based in Manhattan.  The views expressed in the above article are solely those of the writer.

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio recently boasted of a historic reduction in the city’s crime rates.  While statistics don’t lie, they can be pretty deceptive if not analyzed intelligently and within the proper context.   

Upon closer examination, it is eminently clear that the main reductions in crime have occurred in the rough and generally known to be unsafe neighborhoods, which are more often than not located in housing project areas of Brooklyn and the Bronx.  The notoriously high number of shootings in East New York, Brownsville, Mott Haven, Port Morris, and so forth has declined, as residents of these heavily crime-infested regions are killing each other less and are victims of violence at a reduced frequency – whereas the safer areas of the city, such as Manhattan’s Upper East Side and Financial District, Brooklyn’s Borough Park (Chassidic), and large areas of Queens and Staten Island, were always considered safe, and the crime reduction statistics thus do not really impact there.

Unlike the unfortunate situation with the high-crime neighborhoods of South Bronx and Upper Brooklyn, people walking by Trump Tower, the Empire State Building, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New York Stock Exchange never feared being grazed by flying bullets or being caught in the middle of a street gang shooting or stabbing rampage (notwithstanding the recent and unusual very high-profile violent crimes in Midtown Manhattan).  So while this crime reduction is a success, it is one of a limited scope – so limited that it is not really felt by the majority of New Yorkers and visitors to the city.

(It should also be noted that the dramatic reduction in crime started under Mayor Giuliani and was maintained and built upon by Mayor Bloomberg.  Mayor de Blasio did not initiate this trend, nor did he reverse or halt a wave of criminal activity.  The credit for such goes to his predecessors, whose policing policies de Blasio criticized and pledged to reverse.)

So how has the majority of New York City fared under the current mayor, seeing that it has not materially benefited from the lower crime rates in the city’s roughest of neighborhoods?  The answer: pretty badly.  The reason: a precipitous decrease in quality of life in nearly every single neighborhood in the city.

It is almost impossible to walk through the streets of even the best parts of Manhattan and not to smell marijuana and other non-tobacco smoked substances, see homeless people lying on the streets, and be accosted by panhandlers and vagrants.  This morning, as I took the subway to Midtown Manhattan for an appointment, I had to exit the station through a different turnstile, as a large yellow puddle (which was not lemonade!) covered the floor of the main turnstile exit.  Several feet away, along all of the subway station’s walls, lay sleeping homeless people in squalor on filthy old blankets.  It was not only heartbreaking, but also unhealthy and unacceptable.  After ascending the stairs and starting to walk down 49th Street, I had to dodge a drugged panhandler, as more homeless people lay at the edge of the sidewalk.  This all occurred within about three minutes.  And it occurs all the time for the millions of New York City’s residents.

I recall last summer, when taking my daughter downtown to a (fabulous) kosher pizzeria, that we had to make a three-block detour because the street we planned to take was covered with derelicts and drug addicts, who made it impossible to get through without being accosted or having to walk over and between them as they lay on the street and leaned against every lamppost and fire hydrant.  And on the way back, we had to avoid an onslaught of aggressive panhandlers – who likewise appeared to be drugged or intoxicated – as we made our way to Penn Station.

This is not the New York City of Mayor Giuliani or Mayor Bloomberg.  It has gotten noticeably bad.

Local New York City newspapers have documented the dramatic decrease in the quality of life.  See here and here, or Google the issue and see what’s going on.  Or, better yet, visit New York City and see for yourself.

What has the de Blasio administration done in this regard?  Believe it or not, the New York City Council, with the blessing of the mayor, has decriminalized quality of life offenses (!).  New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito ironically declared:

This is a huge win for criminal justice reform. For too long, our criminal justice system was broken and it was time we took action. The Criminal Justice Reform Act will prevent tens of thousands of people from getting a criminal record for low-level, non-violent offenses and over its lifetime it is going to change trajectories for countless New Yorkers.

Now, under this brilliant new liberal-progressive system, “public urination and most offenses in public parks will be downgraded from misdemeanors to violations,” according to news reports.  And the New York Post reported:

Councilman Ritchie Torres (D-Bronx), who voted in favor of the bills, urged “hysterical” critics to reconsider how criminal rec­ords picked up over minor offenses could hobble young minorities’ “access to financial aid and higher education.”


“These essential elements of a decent life … can be easily blighted by the lingering stigma of a criminal record,” he said.

In conjunction with all this, the Manhattan district attorney will not prosecute offenses relating to quality of life.  Same for the Brooklyn D.A.

Under the previous two mayoral administrations, declining neighborhoods underwent gentrification and were ungraded and restored to appealing places, drawing in new businesses and residents in a major way.  This was done via enhanced quality of life enforcement.  But now, an anti-gentrification, anti-white, anti-Semitic City Council candidate has undertaken to reverse this trend in parts of Harlem, as he spurts forth ugly racist and bigoted charges.  Thomas Lopez-Pierre, in an effort to unseat City Council member Mark Levine, has charged:

For almost 15 to 20 years, these Jewish landlords have been at the forefront at pushing black and Latino people out. I think it’s hypocritical for the Jewish community and Jewish leaders to look the other way while black and Latino people are being pushed out of their communities to make room for white people.

Lopez-Pierre, who has a domestic abuse record and who admitted to lying as part of a fundraising scheme, has gone ballistic with allegations about Jewish landlords gentrifying Upper Manhattan at the expense of minorities and attempting to “ethnically cleanse” these areas of blacks and Hispanics.  Despite protests about his many ugly words, Lopez-Pierre is not backing down, and no one has done anything to effectively stop him.

This is the new New York City. If this is progress, then I have a bridge to sell ya.   

Avrohom Gordimer serves on the editorial board of Jewish Action magazine, is a staff writer for the Cross-Currents website, and is a frequent contributor to Israel National News and a host of other publications.  He is a member of the Rabbinical Council of America and the New York Bar, and he is also a senior rabbinic fellow at the Coalition for Jewish Values, a public policy institute reflecting traditional Jewish thoughtBy day, he works as an account executive at a large Jewish organization based in Manhattan.  The views expressed in the above article are solely those of the writer.



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The Transgender Madness Has Got to Stop


For a change, the ultra-liberal New York Times sort of got it right.

Pushing back against the reflexive tendency of so many on the Left embrace “gender fluidity” and to even encourage people to claim that they are really of a gender different than that of their birth and biology, the Times published an op-ed by Lisa Selin Davis which reads in part:

“I just wanted to check,” the teacher said. “Your child wants to be called a boy, right? Or is she a boy that wants to be called a girl? Which is it again?”


I cocked my head. I am used to correcting strangers, who mistake my 7-year-old daughter for a boy 100 percent of the time.


In fact, I love correcting them, making them reconsider their perceptions of what a girl looks like. But my daughter had been attending the after-school program where this woman taught for six months.


“She’s a girl,” I said. The woman looked unconvinced. “Really. She’s a girl, and you can refer to her as a girl.”


My daughter wears track pants and T-shirts. She has shaggy short hair (the look she requested from the hairdresser was “Luke Skywalker in Episode IV”). Most, but not all, of her friends are boys. She is sporty and strong, incredibly sweet, and a girl.


And yet she is asked by the pediatrician, by her teachers, by people who have known her for many years, if she feels like, or wants to be called, or wants to be, a boy.

The knee-jerk tendency to assume (and wish?) that people are transgender has become so pervasive that anyone who shows interest in that which is not wholly typical for his or her gender is assumed to be “trans”. While such thinking is foolish and myopic, reflecting a mind tightly locked in a socially-progressive bubble, it is also downright dangerous.

How many young children show an interest in that which is beyond their gender? Well, starting at home, I recall that our older daughter was initially a real tough tomboy in her toddler years. She was a genuine athlete, loving action, racing, and sports, hating dolls, and having more physical prowess than her older brothers. (Besides, how else could she deal with two older brothers? And yes, she could really give it to them…) This same daughter, now a high school senior, has become the epitome of a lady (although she can still stand her ground like fire against her older brothers).

What if we had suggested to our daughter as a little girl that perhaps she was “really a boy”? After all, in her early youth, our daughter preferred a short haircut and insisted on wearing corduroy pants (until her Orthodox Jewish girls school’s dress code mandated skirts), and she was a tough sports-loving person; one seeking to label people as transgender would appear to have had a worthy specimen on hand.

Placing in young children’s minds the notion that they are likely of a different gender is dangerous and sends messages of confusion. And what happens later when children mature and are in a different phase, suddenly showing an interest in that which better matches their gender? Would a female-born “trans boy” who is now attracted to males and who now prefers makeup over boxing be deemed to have become a “double-trans girl”, or some other conjured-up classification invented by those who reject the gender that was divinely-assigned at birth?

By the same token, one of my sons was a real baby — almost a “sissy” — when he was a toddler. His sister could (and did) win any brawl with him. He is now a with-it, very masculine young man, whom none would dare call a “sissy”. (Here is a photo of his yeshiva classmates on their way to vote for Donald Trump — all very “regular guys”.) What kind of damage could have been wreaked had my wife and I taken our son in his toddler years to a psychologist, who may very well have suggested that we encourage him to reconsider his gender? It sounds crazy, but we now read about three year-olds who are being classified as transgender. (And let us not forget that in the ultra-liberal world of New York mayor Bill De Blasio, businesses which fail to use gender-neutral pronouns may be penalized for human rights violations. Talk about messed-up…)

Let us allow people to be as God created them and not impose on them the artificial and damaging categories that social progressives contrive in an effort to tamper with nature and truth.

Avrohom Gordimer serves on the editorial board of Jewish Action magazine, is a staff writer for the Cross-Currents website, and is a frequent contributor to Israel National News and a host of other publications. He is a member of the Rabbinical Council of America and the New York Bar, and he is also a Senior Rabbinic Fellow at Coalition for Jewish Values, (http://coalitionforjewishvalues.org/), a national organization that speaks on behalf of what are commonly known as Judeo-Christian ethics — the moral voice of the Torah. By day, he works as an account executive at a large Jewish organization based in Manhattan. The views expressed in the above article are solely those of the writer.

For a change, the ultra-liberal New York Times sort of got it right.

Pushing back against the reflexive tendency of so many on the Left embrace “gender fluidity” and to even encourage people to claim that they are really of a gender different than that of their birth and biology, the Times published an op-ed by Lisa Selin Davis which reads in part:

“I just wanted to check,” the teacher said. “Your child wants to be called a boy, right? Or is she a boy that wants to be called a girl? Which is it again?”


I cocked my head. I am used to correcting strangers, who mistake my 7-year-old daughter for a boy 100 percent of the time.


In fact, I love correcting them, making them reconsider their perceptions of what a girl looks like. But my daughter had been attending the after-school program where this woman taught for six months.


“She’s a girl,” I said. The woman looked unconvinced. “Really. She’s a girl, and you can refer to her as a girl.”


My daughter wears track pants and T-shirts. She has shaggy short hair (the look she requested from the hairdresser was “Luke Skywalker in Episode IV”). Most, but not all, of her friends are boys. She is sporty and strong, incredibly sweet, and a girl.


And yet she is asked by the pediatrician, by her teachers, by people who have known her for many years, if she feels like, or wants to be called, or wants to be, a boy.

The knee-jerk tendency to assume (and wish?) that people are transgender has become so pervasive that anyone who shows interest in that which is not wholly typical for his or her gender is assumed to be “trans”. While such thinking is foolish and myopic, reflecting a mind tightly locked in a socially-progressive bubble, it is also downright dangerous.

How many young children show an interest in that which is beyond their gender? Well, starting at home, I recall that our older daughter was initially a real tough tomboy in her toddler years. She was a genuine athlete, loving action, racing, and sports, hating dolls, and having more physical prowess than her older brothers. (Besides, how else could she deal with two older brothers? And yes, she could really give it to them…) This same daughter, now a high school senior, has become the epitome of a lady (although she can still stand her ground like fire against her older brothers).

What if we had suggested to our daughter as a little girl that perhaps she was “really a boy”? After all, in her early youth, our daughter preferred a short haircut and insisted on wearing corduroy pants (until her Orthodox Jewish girls school’s dress code mandated skirts), and she was a tough sports-loving person; one seeking to label people as transgender would appear to have had a worthy specimen on hand.

Placing in young children’s minds the notion that they are likely of a different gender is dangerous and sends messages of confusion. And what happens later when children mature and are in a different phase, suddenly showing an interest in that which better matches their gender? Would a female-born “trans boy” who is now attracted to males and who now prefers makeup over boxing be deemed to have become a “double-trans girl”, or some other conjured-up classification invented by those who reject the gender that was divinely-assigned at birth?

By the same token, one of my sons was a real baby — almost a “sissy” — when he was a toddler. His sister could (and did) win any brawl with him. He is now a with-it, very masculine young man, whom none would dare call a “sissy”. (Here is a photo of his yeshiva classmates on their way to vote for Donald Trump — all very “regular guys”.) What kind of damage could have been wreaked had my wife and I taken our son in his toddler years to a psychologist, who may very well have suggested that we encourage him to reconsider his gender? It sounds crazy, but we now read about three year-olds who are being classified as transgender. (And let us not forget that in the ultra-liberal world of New York mayor Bill De Blasio, businesses which fail to use gender-neutral pronouns may be penalized for human rights violations. Talk about messed-up…)

Let us allow people to be as God created them and not impose on them the artificial and damaging categories that social progressives contrive in an effort to tamper with nature and truth.

Avrohom Gordimer serves on the editorial board of Jewish Action magazine, is a staff writer for the Cross-Currents website, and is a frequent contributor to Israel National News and a host of other publications. He is a member of the Rabbinical Council of America and the New York Bar, and he is also a Senior Rabbinic Fellow at Coalition for Jewish Values, (http://coalitionforjewishvalues.org/), a national organization that speaks on behalf of what are commonly known as Judeo-Christian ethics — the moral voice of the Torah. By day, he works as an account executive at a large Jewish organization based in Manhattan. The views expressed in the above article are solely those of the writer.



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Jewish Values Restored


Steve Apfel’s “Jewish Values Gone Haywire” depicts Jewish people who, like members of so many other ethnic and social groups, bend over backwards to further the interests of those whose values clash with their own, and often are downright wrong. While I agree with the author’s condemnation of this tendency among some of our liberal coreligionists, I submit that we must now turn to the question of “Where do we go from here?” It is true that there is not much we can do on a pragmatic level, other than to educate that the liberalism that is rightly condemned in Apfel’s essay is not the way of authentic Judaism, but let’s take a step back and reconsider the larger picture.

I addressed this overall phenomenon from a general perspective in my essay “American Jews Are Becoming More Conservative,” but I’d like to now focus on some compellingly solid facts on the ground – facts that deal with worldwide Jewry and not only the scene in America.

Apfel’s essay showcased an incident in Cape Town – one of the most liberal hotspots on the globe – as well as an incident in Johannesburg. Yet by the same token, let us not forget that the immensely popular Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein, is a man of squarely conservative religious (and social) values and practice, who has made great strides to lead the country’s Jewish population back to tradition and away from a “religion” of liberalism that has swept up much of the world, including both its Jewish and Gentile inhabitants.

In England, a seismic change has occurred, as Jews have aligned themselves with the Conservative Party and have abandoned the Labour Party en masse. It is not surprising that the Orthodox Jewish communities in Britain are growing, whereas the more liberal Jewish communities are downsizing.        

While Apfel wrote about Obama’s Jewish supporters, readers should note major patterns of shifting toward the Republican Party among American Jewish voters. (Also see here.) Although anecdotal evidence is of course of limited significance, I find it extremely telling that every single member of my immediate and extended family, spanning three generations and multiple lines of cousins, including all blood relatives and relatives through marriage, as well as every single Jewish friend of mine, is now a Republican — and solidly so.

Readers are advised to examine the growing number of major and popular conservative-oriented Jewish media organs, such as Jewish World Review, Israel National News, Haym Solomon Center, Yated Ne’eman, Matzav, Jewish Press, The Algemeiner, Jewish News Service, Coalition for Jewish Values, and countless more. These Jewish media organs, plus numerous others in both online and print form, closely mirror a serious and traditional religious commitment on the part of most of their publishers and writers. On the other hand, the number and popularity of the liberal Jewish media organs are at best stagnant. The fact that most of these liberal organs so often resort to filling their pages with articles written by and about conservative-minded Jews says it all.                 

Those Jews with little or no connection to genuine Jewish values are destined to lose their way and, in most cases, to become totally detached from their origins and to be eventually rendered moot in the totality of things. The sad case of liberal Jewry’s assimilation and road to disappearance in this regard has been comprehensively documented.

Rather than focus on the unfortunate and errant path of those who have chosen liberalism over self-preservation, as we witness their shrinking numbers and importance, notwithstanding their sometimes loud voices, may we focus on those who espouse correct values, and let us do our best to promote and further their positive and worthy efforts.      

Avrohom Gordimer serves on the editorial board of Jewish Action magazine, is a staff writer for the Cross-Currents website, and is a frequent contributor to Israel National News and a host of other publications. He is a member of the Rabbinical Council of America and the New York Bar, and he is also a Senior Rabbinic Fellow at Coalition for Jewish Values, (http://coalitionforjewishvalues.org/), a national organization that speaks on behalf of what are commonly known as Judeo-Christian ethics — the moral voice of the Torah. By day, he works as an account executive at a large Jewish organization based in Manhattan. The views expressed in the above article are solely those of the writer.

Steve Apfel’s “Jewish Values Gone Haywire” depicts Jewish people who, like members of so many other ethnic and social groups, bend over backwards to further the interests of those whose values clash with their own, and often are downright wrong. While I agree with the author’s condemnation of this tendency among some of our liberal coreligionists, I submit that we must now turn to the question of “Where do we go from here?” It is true that there is not much we can do on a pragmatic level, other than to educate that the liberalism that is rightly condemned in Apfel’s essay is not the way of authentic Judaism, but let’s take a step back and reconsider the larger picture.

I addressed this overall phenomenon from a general perspective in my essay “American Jews Are Becoming More Conservative,” but I’d like to now focus on some compellingly solid facts on the ground – facts that deal with worldwide Jewry and not only the scene in America.

Apfel’s essay showcased an incident in Cape Town – one of the most liberal hotspots on the globe – as well as an incident in Johannesburg. Yet by the same token, let us not forget that the immensely popular Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein, is a man of squarely conservative religious (and social) values and practice, who has made great strides to lead the country’s Jewish population back to tradition and away from a “religion” of liberalism that has swept up much of the world, including both its Jewish and Gentile inhabitants.

In England, a seismic change has occurred, as Jews have aligned themselves with the Conservative Party and have abandoned the Labour Party en masse. It is not surprising that the Orthodox Jewish communities in Britain are growing, whereas the more liberal Jewish communities are downsizing.        

While Apfel wrote about Obama’s Jewish supporters, readers should note major patterns of shifting toward the Republican Party among American Jewish voters. (Also see here.) Although anecdotal evidence is of course of limited significance, I find it extremely telling that every single member of my immediate and extended family, spanning three generations and multiple lines of cousins, including all blood relatives and relatives through marriage, as well as every single Jewish friend of mine, is now a Republican — and solidly so.

Readers are advised to examine the growing number of major and popular conservative-oriented Jewish media organs, such as Jewish World Review, Israel National News, Haym Solomon Center, Yated Ne’eman, Matzav, Jewish Press, The Algemeiner, Jewish News Service, Coalition for Jewish Values, and countless more. These Jewish media organs, plus numerous others in both online and print form, closely mirror a serious and traditional religious commitment on the part of most of their publishers and writers. On the other hand, the number and popularity of the liberal Jewish media organs are at best stagnant. The fact that most of these liberal organs so often resort to filling their pages with articles written by and about conservative-minded Jews says it all.                 

Those Jews with little or no connection to genuine Jewish values are destined to lose their way and, in most cases, to become totally detached from their origins and to be eventually rendered moot in the totality of things. The sad case of liberal Jewry’s assimilation and road to disappearance in this regard has been comprehensively documented.

Rather than focus on the unfortunate and errant path of those who have chosen liberalism over self-preservation, as we witness their shrinking numbers and importance, notwithstanding their sometimes loud voices, may we focus on those who espouse correct values, and let us do our best to promote and further their positive and worthy efforts.      

Avrohom Gordimer serves on the editorial board of Jewish Action magazine, is a staff writer for the Cross-Currents website, and is a frequent contributor to Israel National News and a host of other publications. He is a member of the Rabbinical Council of America and the New York Bar, and he is also a Senior Rabbinic Fellow at Coalition for Jewish Values, (http://coalitionforjewishvalues.org/), a national organization that speaks on behalf of what are commonly known as Judeo-Christian ethics — the moral voice of the Torah. By day, he works as an account executive at a large Jewish organization based in Manhattan. The views expressed in the above article are solely those of the writer.



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Passover: A Message of Personal Responsibility


Last week, the American College of Physicians (ACP) issued recommendations to address the tragic uptick in drug abuse. Included in the recommendations:

ACP supports the implementation of treatment-focused programs as an alternative to incarceration or other criminal penalties for persons with substance use disorders found guilty of the sale or possession of illicit substances.


Stakeholders should assess the risks and benefits of removing or reducing criminal penalties for nonviolent offenses involving illicit drugs.

Lest one think that the above recommendations refer only to those individuals who are wholly involuntary addicts, having absolutely no control over their drug use and whose culpability may be compared to that of one lacking basic mental capacity, the ACP memo continues:

In 2004, the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimated that about 70% of state and federal prisoners reported regular use of an illicit drug and half of the prison population met clinical criteria for substance use disorder.

Half of the prison population is surely not in the category of wholly involuntary drug addicts. This gives us perspective of the ACP memo’s parameters for those whom it classifies as having substance abuse disorders. Hence, the ACP memo addresses not only those who have no control over their drug use, but it includes those who are “addicts” in a far looser sense of the term.

While I (and I hope all others) am all in favor of not penalizing someone for acts that are not at all his or her fault, due to total mental incapacity, such that the acts were fully involuntary, ACP is clearly not limiting itself to this category in its proposal that criminal penalties for drug offenses be reduced or eliminated. Rather, ACP is promoting the reduction or elimination of criminal penalties for those with drug issues that are not fully out of these offenders’ control.   

People with drug problems should definitely receive comprehensive treatment – no argument there. But to eliminate penalties for drug crimes that are not entirely involuntary is to absolve violators of responsibility, and that is very wrong.

Taking a step back, more than half of the world’s hard-core criminals would appear to have legitimate excuses for their actions: acute anger control problems, unusually elevated hormone levels, impoverishment (that compelled them to burglarize), exceptionally misguided childhood education (which taught hatred of certain groups and perhaps preached violence), and so forth. If these factors — which may very well be present in most criminals — would be allowed to seriously mitigate offenses, then very few offenders would be incarcerated, society would be largely endangered, and people would be absolved of responsibility for their actions.

The Sages of the Talmud and classical rabbinic commentaries view Passover not only as a celebration of the physical freedom attained by the Hebrews enslaved in Egypt over three and a half millennia ago, but also as a celebration of the freedom to abide by the divine moral law and the freedom to rein in one’s personal inclination to sin. God instructed Moses to say to Pharaoh, “Send forth My nation and it will serve Me” (Exodus 7:16); the deeper significance of the Exodus and the eternal message of Passover is that of freedom from bondage to man, so that man can instead be bound to God and can fulfill His Will.

One well-known interpretation in Jewish tradition of Pharaoh’s orders to increase the labor burden on the Hebrew slaves so that “they not turn to words of falsehood” (by demanding their freedom — Exodus 5:9) proffers that Pharaoh did not want to allow his slaves the opportunity to think for themselves. Being overwhelmed and unable to focus on one’s real purpose and aspirations is the antithesis of the message of Passover and the Redemption from Egypt. Passover teaches that authentic freedom is embodied by self-realization of one’s holy mission in life, as part of the overall divine plan. This self-realization means taking ownership of one’s actions and engaging in introspection and self-correction, be it with or without the assistance of others.

As I walk the streets of New York City and I witness a precipitous decline in the quality of life, mirroring the city’s liberal-progressive mayor’s legislative efforts to reverse decades of improved quality of life under his predecessors, Mayor Giuliani and Mayor Bloomberg, I am reminded of Passover’s lesson of taking responsibility and not abdicating it. Policies which tolerate deleterious behavior and excuse wrongdoing encourage the decline of society — it’s that simple.

In the Jewish calendar, the holidays of Passover and Shavuos/Pentecost are connected. Passover represents liberation from bondage to forces that impede one’s relationship with God, and Shavuos/Pentecost represents the occasion of receiving the Divine Law at Sinai. The period between these two holidays is dedicated to introspection and self-improvement, for one must take responsibility and rein in his or her inclination to sin as preparation to receiving the Divine Law.

God is patient and allows time for people to recalibrate and rehabilitate, but if society instead excuses criminality and encourages an abdication of self-responsibility, we are in real trouble. God help us.

Avrohom Gordimer serves on the editorial board of Jewish Action magazine, is a staff writer for the Cross-Currents website, and is a frequent contributor to Israel National News and a host of other publications. He is a member of the Rabbinical Council of America and the New York Bar, and he is also a Senior Rabbinic Fellow at Coalition for Jewish Values, (http://coalitionforjewishvalues.org/), a national organization that speaks on behalf of what are commonly known as Judeo-Christian ethics — the moral voice of the Torah. By day, he works as an account executive at a large Jewish organization based in Manhattan. The views expressed in the above article are solely those of the writer.

Last week, the American College of Physicians (ACP) issued recommendations to address the tragic uptick in drug abuse. Included in the recommendations:

ACP supports the implementation of treatment-focused programs as an alternative to incarceration or other criminal penalties for persons with substance use disorders found guilty of the sale or possession of illicit substances.


Stakeholders should assess the risks and benefits of removing or reducing criminal penalties for nonviolent offenses involving illicit drugs.

Lest one think that the above recommendations refer only to those individuals who are wholly involuntary addicts, having absolutely no control over their drug use and whose culpability may be compared to that of one lacking basic mental capacity, the ACP memo continues:

In 2004, the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimated that about 70% of state and federal prisoners reported regular use of an illicit drug and half of the prison population met clinical criteria for substance use disorder.

Half of the prison population is surely not in the category of wholly involuntary drug addicts. This gives us perspective of the ACP memo’s parameters for those whom it classifies as having substance abuse disorders. Hence, the ACP memo addresses not only those who have no control over their drug use, but it includes those who are “addicts” in a far looser sense of the term.

While I (and I hope all others) am all in favor of not penalizing someone for acts that are not at all his or her fault, due to total mental incapacity, such that the acts were fully involuntary, ACP is clearly not limiting itself to this category in its proposal that criminal penalties for drug offenses be reduced or eliminated. Rather, ACP is promoting the reduction or elimination of criminal penalties for those with drug issues that are not fully out of these offenders’ control.   

People with drug problems should definitely receive comprehensive treatment – no argument there. But to eliminate penalties for drug crimes that are not entirely involuntary is to absolve violators of responsibility, and that is very wrong.

Taking a step back, more than half of the world’s hard-core criminals would appear to have legitimate excuses for their actions: acute anger control problems, unusually elevated hormone levels, impoverishment (that compelled them to burglarize), exceptionally misguided childhood education (which taught hatred of certain groups and perhaps preached violence), and so forth. If these factors — which may very well be present in most criminals — would be allowed to seriously mitigate offenses, then very few offenders would be incarcerated, society would be largely endangered, and people would be absolved of responsibility for their actions.

The Sages of the Talmud and classical rabbinic commentaries view Passover not only as a celebration of the physical freedom attained by the Hebrews enslaved in Egypt over three and a half millennia ago, but also as a celebration of the freedom to abide by the divine moral law and the freedom to rein in one’s personal inclination to sin. God instructed Moses to say to Pharaoh, “Send forth My nation and it will serve Me” (Exodus 7:16); the deeper significance of the Exodus and the eternal message of Passover is that of freedom from bondage to man, so that man can instead be bound to God and can fulfill His Will.

One well-known interpretation in Jewish tradition of Pharaoh’s orders to increase the labor burden on the Hebrew slaves so that “they not turn to words of falsehood” (by demanding their freedom — Exodus 5:9) proffers that Pharaoh did not want to allow his slaves the opportunity to think for themselves. Being overwhelmed and unable to focus on one’s real purpose and aspirations is the antithesis of the message of Passover and the Redemption from Egypt. Passover teaches that authentic freedom is embodied by self-realization of one’s holy mission in life, as part of the overall divine plan. This self-realization means taking ownership of one’s actions and engaging in introspection and self-correction, be it with or without the assistance of others.

As I walk the streets of New York City and I witness a precipitous decline in the quality of life, mirroring the city’s liberal-progressive mayor’s legislative efforts to reverse decades of improved quality of life under his predecessors, Mayor Giuliani and Mayor Bloomberg, I am reminded of Passover’s lesson of taking responsibility and not abdicating it. Policies which tolerate deleterious behavior and excuse wrongdoing encourage the decline of society — it’s that simple.

In the Jewish calendar, the holidays of Passover and Shavuos/Pentecost are connected. Passover represents liberation from bondage to forces that impede one’s relationship with God, and Shavuos/Pentecost represents the occasion of receiving the Divine Law at Sinai. The period between these two holidays is dedicated to introspection and self-improvement, for one must take responsibility and rein in his or her inclination to sin as preparation to receiving the Divine Law.

God is patient and allows time for people to recalibrate and rehabilitate, but if society instead excuses criminality and encourages an abdication of self-responsibility, we are in real trouble. God help us.

Avrohom Gordimer serves on the editorial board of Jewish Action magazine, is a staff writer for the Cross-Currents website, and is a frequent contributor to Israel National News and a host of other publications. He is a member of the Rabbinical Council of America and the New York Bar, and he is also a Senior Rabbinic Fellow at Coalition for Jewish Values, (http://coalitionforjewishvalues.org/), a national organization that speaks on behalf of what are commonly known as Judeo-Christian ethics — the moral voice of the Torah. By day, he works as an account executive at a large Jewish organization based in Manhattan. The views expressed in the above article are solely those of the writer.



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