Jews must speak out against Islamophobia: Standing with our Muslim brothers and sisters is critical

Published: Salon (September 14, 2016)

When news first broke earlier this week that a mosque in Orlando had been set on fire, presumably because it had been attended by Omar Mateen, the man who in June shot 49 people to death at the nightclub Pulse, I immediately thought of Alaa Basatneh. Three weeks earlier I’d interviewed the Syrian-American journalist and activist and had been struck by her optimism.

“I do have faith that, down the road, just like the Jews faced a lot of negativity in the past in the U.S. — and the Irish, the Italians, the Japanese, you know the entire list— things are going to be the same for Muslims,” she had told me. “It’s going to take a lot of time and effort from the Muslim-American community.” read more

“It’s Always Sunny” gang goes to hell: The long-running “Seinfeld” heir skewers rape culture, homophobia and religious hypocrisy in two-part finale

Published: Salon (March 8, 2016)

If we live in the golden age of television, the FXX comedy “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” is one of the underappreciated gems. Often billed as “Seinfeld on crack,” the show has a distinct comic sensibility of its own, cynically reveling in the monstrosities of its five main characters, who have been described in-series as “the most horrible people alive.” Although it’s one of the longest running live-action comedies in history (its first season aired in 2005), “It’s Always Sunny” hasn’t received much critical recognition or won any awards (which the show itself has pointedly referenced). It also hasn’t lost any of its edge, mining dark comedy out of a twisted mythology that it has had more than a decade to develop. read more

Why Bernie Sanders’ Judaism is so important

Published: Salon (February 11, 2016)

With his New Hampshire primary victory now in the books, Bernie Sanders has done more than simply guarantee that Hillary Clinton won’t have a free ride to the Democratic nomination. Indeed, even if Clinton ultimately bests Sanders in the upcoming primaries, the Vermont senator has still achieved something of lasting significance:

He is the first Jewish American to win a presidential primary.

This isn’t to say that he is the first American of Jewish descent to win a presidential primary. That distinction belongs to Barry Goldwater, an arch-conservative Arizona senator who upset the GOP establishment by winning the Republican presidential nomination in 1964. Although his father was ethnically Jewish, however, Goldwater himself had been raised as an Episcopalian by a devoutly religious mother. Despite never denying or apologizing for his Jewish background, Goldwater didn’t identify with it either during his politically active days, prompting one journalist to quip, “Somehow I always knew that our first Jewish president would be an Episcopalian.” Regardless of whether or not one considers Goldwater to have been a Jew, though, it is clear that Jewish voters did not embrace his values or want them implemented in the White House: Goldwater pulled in only 10 percent of the Jewish vote against President Lyndon Johnson that year, a historic shellacking within that demographic that no major party candidate has matched in more than 50 years since. read more

Why do Jews eat Chinese food on Christmas?

Published: The Good Men Project (December 24, 2015)

Much to my horror, I discovered earlier today that my favorite local Chinese restaurant isn’t open on Christmas Eve.

This may not seem like a big deal – heck, you could even say that I’m a bit of a scrooge for faulting the establishment – but it’s important to remember that, as an American Jew, being denied Chinese food on this holiday is a bit like a Christian hearing their family church has decided to close. Indeed, one could be forgiven for thinking that the Tribe of Abraham has been enjoying Chinese food on this day for as long as human memory can record. read more

How America’s fears are letting the terrorists win

Published: The Daily Dot (December 22, 2015)

Forget about the terrorists. At his rate it seems like we’re determined through our own fear to allow the terrorists to win.

Allow me to explain.

Let’s start with the rash of school closings that have occurred over terrorist threats. The first (and without question most patently absurd) was the “clock boy” incident from earlier this year, when a 14-year-old Muslim boy in Texas was suspended and held by police for building an elaborate clock that one teacher believed was a bomb. Then, in the aftermath of the ISIS attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, the city of Los Angeles shut down all of its schools after receiving an email that administrators believed constituted a credible terrorist threat. read more

Democratic candidates blast Trump’s Muslim ban at debate

Published: MSNBC (December 20, 2015)

Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley were unified on one topic during the last Democratic presidential debate of the year Saturday night: The toxicity of Donald Trump’s proposed temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States. Each candidate seized on the opportunity to decry racial and religious bigotry — and encouraged the rest of America to follow their example.

O’Malley set the tone in his opening statement when he discussed a recent visit to a mosque in Northern Virginia and talked about “the danger that democracies find themselves susceptible to when unscrupulous leaders try to turn us upon each other.” read more

The problem with comparing Trump to Hitler

Published: MSNBC (November 30, 2015)

Pundits and candidates alike are now accusing Donald Trump of being a fascist or neo-Nazi. Some are even comparing him to Adolf Hitler. This is a serious problem – not for Trump, mind you, but for our collective intelligence as Americans. When we imply that the sinister Trump phenomenon represents something new on the American scene, we gloss over the ugliest parts of our political history, and in the process make it more likely that those mistakes will be repeated. read more

An aggressive military response is precisely what ISIS wants

Published: Salon (November 20, 2015), The Daily Dot (November 18, 2015)

As the world reels from the last Friday’s terrorist attack in Paris, millions of people have taken to Twitter to share their grief and outrage… and many echoed Donald Trump’s call to “bomb the shit” out of them.

The desire to immediately strike back at ISIS with overwhelming force is understandable. It took under 48 hours for the French military to retaliate for the attack with air strikes against targets in the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, Syria. However, it’s important to remember why groups like ISIS mount large-scale spectacle terrorist attacks against Western targets in the first place: to provoke a dramatic military reaction that brings moderate Muslims around the world into agreeing with its worldview. Retaliatory strikes against ISIS will certainly weaken the group, maybe even destroy it, but that type of response is precisely what ISIS is hoping to elicit. read more