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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Michael Barclay

Randi Weingarten Wields Her Misunderstanding of Judaism Like a Weapon

I have no doubt that this article will cause me personal challenges, but truth needs to be said. The simple reality is that Randi Weingarten, President of The American Federation of Teachers is acting like a self-hating Jew who needs to stop using her religion to attack Jewish values and conservatives. It is disgraceful and a smear on all of our people.

She recently accused Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) of being an anti-Semite because he tried to force George Soros-backed prosecutors to do their job, follow the law, and prosecute criminals. She then went on to harass him about doing this on the Jewish holiday of Tisha b’Av, where we mourn the destruction of the first and second Temple. She went on to mistakenly claim that Rubio should be extra ashamed because the holiday of Tisha b’Av is about “hatred of Jews” (it’s not). Her arguments for accusing Sen. Rubio of this are based on her own personal hatred and ignorance of Judaism and Jewish practices.

I do not personally know Ms. Weingarten nor Mr. Soros and am always recalcitrant to accuse anyone of ignorance or hate (but would welcome the opportunity to sit down with either and have a discussion about Judaism). But Ms. Weingarten’s words bespeak an ignorance of Jewish history and theology that is astounding. It would also seem that her lack of Jewish awareness and history are reflected in her personal life and practices.

Judaism is committed to abiding by the “law of the land”, called dina d’malchuta dina, a concept whose origins go all the way back to the biblical book of Jeremiah. We are commanded to abide by and protect the laws of the nation in which we live. This is a religious law, and it is directly antithetical to the concept of prosecutors foregoing their responsibility to prosecute criminals. Sen. Rubio, by trying to get prosecutors to do their jobs, was embodying this ancient Jewish principle.

Weingarten attempts to further discredit the senator with her claims that this holy day of Tisha b’Av and the destruction of the Temple is about “hatred of Jews.” But again, she demonstrates her ignorance of Jewish theology. The Talmud (Yoma 9b) is explicitly clear that the Temple was destroyed because of “baseless hatred” between Jews. It teaches that even though the Jews at the time of the Temple were engaged in Torah study, good deeds, and acts of kindness, their baseless hatred of each other (paralleled by Ms. Weingarten’s attacks on Rubio) caused the Temple to be destroyed. The Talmud even states that this baseless hatred is the equivalent of idol worship, forbidden sexual relationships, and bloodshed combined.

But her ignorance is paralleled in her own life. Having recently married a far-left female “Rabbi”, who leads the largest LGBT synagogue in New York, she seems to feel that she is now a “Jewish authority” and has the implicit permission to represent the Jewish people. While I believe her personal choices are and should be her own, her commitment to her relationship in no way represents traditional Jewish practices of thousands of years. She not only has no right to put herself out as a Jewish leader based on her ignorance; she certainly does not have any “Jewish” right to accuse Sen. Rubio of the heinous crime of anti-Semitism for his efforts to create a legal system actually based in law.

The irony of her words is palpable on many levels. While she condemns Rubio for actually acting in harmony with Jewish law, she praises the truly anti-Semitic Ilhan Omar, who has repeatedly demonstrated her hatred of Jews and Israel. Omar, whom Weingarten compliments, has even been condemned by other Democrats for her vitriol against Jews. Weingarten additionally supports vocal anti-Semite and Hamas ally Rashida Tlaib, ignored the complaints of two parents’ groups, and refused to condemn the blatant anti-Semitism of two teachers’ unions in California.

And yet she has now become the self-appointed defender of George Soros’ Judaism and has the audacity to attack a senator who embraces Jewish values in his personal and professional life.

There are many stories about George Soros being a self-hating Jew and even accusing him of collaborating with the Nazis in order to survive the Holocaust. Whether these accusations against him are true or false, there is no doubt that he lived through the most horrific time in human history. For even surviving the hell of the Holocaust, he deserves respect. But this does not make him an exemplary Jewish role model in any way.

Jews, like Christians, are commanded to tithe support to their religious communities. While Soros has donated billions of dollars to charity (apparently over $32 billion, equating to 64% of his original fortune), there seems little evidence of his donating to Jewish causes. While he has supported the University of Cape Town, Open Society Foundations, and the Central European University, it is difficult to find any support of synagogues, Jewish hospitals or schools, Holocaust museums, or anything that is Jewish rather than political. (He did give an undisclosed amount to J Street, a leftist Jewish lobby.)

He has said that he is not a Zionist, not a practicing Jew, and is clearly not demonstrative of any love towards Jewish causes that are religious and apolitical. Other Jewish billionaires like Sheldon Adelson, Stanley Black, Vera Guerin, Jona Goldrich, Nate Shapell, and Max Webb (the last three, like Soros, were Holocaust survivors) gave billions to hospitals, synagogues, Jewish schools, and Holocaust museums. But Mr. Soros seems to have stayed away from Jewish charities in favor of furthering his political agenda.

And yet Ms. Weingarten has the audacity to use Soros as a Jewish “role model” and condemn Sen. Rubio. She conflates survival of the Holocaust with a commitment to Judaism, attacks a senator for promoting values that are truly Jewish, and posits blatantly wrong comments about Jewish history.

One has to wonder why Ms. Weingarten would possibly act in a way that is so clearly antithetical to Judaism. Perhaps she is so blinded by her political passions that she is unable to even distinguish between truth and fiction, between Jewish values and anti-Semitism, or between right and wrong.

Or maybe she is just hoping that Soros will make a large donation to her wife’s temple?

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