Toward a Meaningful Life with Simon Jacobson
Radio Show Transcript - August 15, 1999
Mike Feder: Hello and good evening.
Iím Mike Feder and Iím here live in the studio with Rabbi
Simon Jacobson. We are going to talk tonight about the shootings
that happened out in Los Angeles, specifically and more in
general, the idea and the concept of hate crimes.
Hard stuff to talk about.
Rabbi Simon Jacobson: But though we had
said last week we were going to talk about miracles, I think
itís appropriate that we talk about this. I mean, what else
is talk radio about if we donít address these issues, particularly,
in a way, that there was a miracle here at least that thank
G-d no one was killed at the center. It is quite tragic that
the mailman nearby was killed. Yet we must acknowledge the miracle
that none of the children were killed.
Feder: The man shot the gun off 70 times
and no one in that center was killed, except of course, for
the man he murdered outside.
Weíre going to talk about this subject tonight
and, as always, we ask you to call us with questions and comments.
The number here is 212-244-0150. Weíre going to start talking
about this with the Rabbi and then we do want to hear from you.
Itís hard to know where to start with such a terrible
thing like this, and Iím presuming that everyone listening knows
what happened, so weíll just take that for granted. Is it necessary
to define a hate crime, or what race or religious hatred is?
Do we take it for granted that everyone knows what it is?
Jacobson: I donít think so because I donít
know if we even understand the anatomy of hate altogether. But
I will say that my first reaction, which is a healthy reaction
probably shared by all of us, is real outrage, particularly
as a Jew, especially when the person made a statement like he
did (which is even difficult to repeat) which was a call to
kill all Jews.
Feder: A "wake-up call" he called
Jacobson: And just reminiscent of thousands
of years of similar statements that were acted upon. So this
isnít a theoretical thing for the Jewish people, and I think
that itís most important to express that outrage and, as Jews,
thereís nothing at all to be ashamed of to say that weíre Jewish.
The Jewish response to this is not to hide our Judaism or in
some way to go undercover. The problem is with those who hate,
and Jews in many ways are, the worldís moral conscience because
hate crimes, though I do not take away from hate crimes against
other races, but Jews have been at the brunt of itó almost
on the pedestal (in a negative sense)ówhich represents a very
sad chapter and a very low aspect of humanity in how Jews have
been treated throughout history.
The outrage is very profound, but as I mentioned,
Jewish outrage is not expressed through retaliation, through
fear, but through positive action, and ultimately recognizing
that there is a calling that we have to live up to.
But I think, especially in America, a loud call
has to ring out that we -- all people, not just Jews -- will
not tolerate such atrocities. A crime like this is not just
against any individual group; it is a crime against all people,
against all of civilization. Thatís how I can begin to address
When you hurt or kill one person in the name of
hate, essentially youíre killing all people because itís just
a matter of perspective and subjectivity. You know, itís the
attitude. Itís not the question of, "Oh, I only hate this
segment." No. If you hate, you hate. Hate is a poison that
seeps through the entire human being.
A person who is unable to hate doesnít hate anyone.
If a person is able to hate, he can ultimately hate everyone,
and therefore, itís a crime against humanity. In America, though
we have freedom of rights, there isnít the freedom to abuse
those rights, where we have to cry out. Talk about a wake-up
call. Itís a wake-up call against those who will not tolerate
a racial crime. I think federal legislation is required to really
make this a very serious crime. Because this is a call
to hurt someone just in the name of someoneís color or race
Feder: Or the fact that the one person
who did die out there was a Filipino who was shot because he
was not white.
Jacobson: And though, thank G-d, the hate
criminal is part of a minority, but even with one such crime,
you do see what kind of headlines it makes. It touches a chord
and weíve learned from the silence of the Holocaust how silence
can be in partnership with the crime itself.
Feder: So letís talk about the idea of
hate crimes. I think everyone understands instinctively what
a hate crime is. There are some states that have laws on the
books against hate crimes and prosecute people and there are
some states that donít. Now, you mentioned before something
about a federal law. Isnít there already something about that,
about violating a personís civil rights? Thatís what happened
in Crown Heights, thatís how they prosecuted that guy.
Jacobson: Right. It was not just in the
name of individual murder but civil rights, which is the basis
of this country. Because if you undermine that you undermine
the freedom of religion, the Bill of Rights, and all the rights
of an individual to practice religion. And I donít know the
details on the legal level of legislation, but legislation essentially
canít prevent crimes, per se. But still, itís a statement.
Feder: No, they punish crimes.
Jacobson: And itís also a statement of
a standard of what weíre willing to tolerate and what weíre
not willing to tolerate. And I believe that legal laws, even
though they are mostly symptomatic, do make a statement of the
standard of a society.
So thatís on one end of things. But ultimately
the real issue here that we have to address (I donít know how
to make an agenda, but there are short-term solutions, there
are long-term solutions, thereís preventive medicine, thereís
dealing with the symptoms, the problemsÖ) but obviously a fellow
like this has to be treated and prosecuted in the strongest
way possible: not just for him, but to send a message to anyone
out there who carries similar feelings.
But really, ultimately, this is a catalyst and
a call to us all to look at what, in a society, spawns and gives
birth to people like this.
Feder: Letís look at it in its most specific
way. The man belonged to a group called Aryan Nation, which
is one of a various number of Nazi or Fascist related groups
in the United States. They live in compounds, they go to meetings.
Actually, there are a lot of these groups in prisons, and then
they relate it to the outside.
Now you were talking about preventative things
before. Would you prevent the existence of such groups? Thatís
not the case now, theyíre allowed to exist. They have arms training.
They march (remember the march in Skokie, Illinois?). Theyíre
allowed to do virtually what they want, although theyíre obviously
not allowed to kill people. Would you actually prevent them
from existing? Theyíre prevented from existing in Germany. Itís
a federal law there against even their existence.
Jacobson: Thatís a very challenging question
and I have mixed feelings, to be honest, because on one hand,
we ought to be very wary of infringing on peopleís rights of
expression, because then it can carry over to areas of inhibiting
areas of free expression of press, for example, if they were
going to criticize the government or anyone else.
Feder: And then whoís to say which group
should or shouldnít be in existence? Who sets the law?
Jacobson: But I think that the real issue
or problem has emerged because thereís a distortion, in my opinion,
in the whole view of the Constitutional Bill of Rights.
Feder: Well thatís a pretty serious statement.
Jacobson: It is, and I will back it up.
And there are many commentaries on many radio shows commenting
about what happened, and Iíd like to address it obviously from
a Torah perspectiveóbecause thatís what Iíve been trained inóand
Iíll leave it up to other commentators to express the anger
and the outrage. And I hope to express it in a way that we can
go away with something constructive and productive, without
minimizing the outrage.
You know, we talk about the separation between
church and state in the Constitution. Thereís also the discussion
of freedom of rights.
Feder: What do you mean exactly by freedom
Jacobson: Well, freedom of rights of expression,
where anyone can express themselves freely, even if it offends
someone else, obviously if itís not criminal. But thereís always
been the dilemma, beginning with the founding fathers, with
what happens when thereís a conflict between the two: when someoneís
freedom of expression, like in this situation, can lead to the
education of hate that inevitably has to explode at some point.
So what do you doÖ
Feder: This is combined with the right
to bear arms, speaking of the Constitution.
Jacobson: Right. So what do you do? You
just allow them freedom of expression to the point where they
commit a crime? I mean, itís quite logical. If a parent has
children, and they allow them to say anything, and to express
themselves without limits, where do they draw the line, only
when theyíre ready to go shoot someone?
Clearly, if you allow such education, if you allow
such expression, itís going to cultivate people, and particularly
people who may have violent tendencies anyway, to act on them.
So this is not an easy question to answer. Itís
similar to the difficulties that we have in many communities,
that for the good of the community they donít want certain freedom
of expression. And you see that the federal government allows
individual communities to determine certain standards, whether
itís pornography, or other factors that affect that community.
So the communal good is affected by someone acting on individual
And this is a conflict that has never been fully
Feder: Well, can it ever be fully resolved?
Jacobson: Only if one really has that kind
of selflessness and dedication to a higher good and is not interested
in selfish, narcissistic interests. If there was a person like
that, then I think we could come to a point to realize this
But allow me to continue my thought. When the
founding fathers put in the separation of church and state,
religion and state, they were saying that basically the federal
government shall not designate any formal religion, or shall
not educate or try to impose on children, or adults for that
matter, any one type of denomination.
Itís very clear why they did that. Because they
were coming from an environment back in Europe of religious
persecution, and the dangers of that are evident in history.
So thatís built in. Yet, on our currency they elected to write
the words "In G-d We Trust." The Congress begins with
a prayer every day. And they also state in the Bill of Rights,
in the Declaration of Independence "all men are created
equal." I think Iíve emphasized before that what is striking
here is the word "created." Created is created. They
could have said "all men are born equal," "all
men are equal," "all men are endowed with equal
"Created" implies a Supreme Creator,
and they did not see any contradiction with the separation of
church and state when they were making these statements. They
were wise enough to understand that when they put in "In
G-d We Trust," they were talking about G-d. G-d is religious.
But I believe that their intention was a very
simple one. Without a G-d, there are no true rights, because
perhaps we are created unequal. Perhaps the world is a jungle,
and itís survival of the fittest, and our laws are simply made
for some type of civility.
But maybe inherently weíre not equalÖ
Feder: Thatís what these racists believe.
Jacobson: Precisely. When they said, "All
men are created equal," they were wise. If they had said
any other statement, anybody could say, no I disagree. But when
you say "created," youíre saying by the Creator, by
the mere virtue that you were born, created, you are equal,
and no one can take that away from you. No government can take
that away from you.
And the strange and the interesting irony here
is that because the United States is built on the principle
that all men are created equal, someone can rise and say, "Iím
an Aryan and I donít believe everyone is equal." Thatís
the irony. They have that right based on the equality that we
respect them with.
So theyíre abusing that right.
So when the Constitution and the founding fathers
guarantee these rights, itís importantóand this is where I think
thereís been a major distortionóitís become freedom from
religion instead of freedom of religion.
The founding fathers never meant to eradicate
religion. They meant that no one should dictate religion. No
one should impose on others their particular religious beliefs.
But the concept of a non-denominational G-d is absolutely
necessary to establish a moral system. Otherwise morality is
ultimately arbitrary and subjective if you donít have some type
of absolute higher calling.
Feder: Just like moral relativism?
Jacobson: Exactly. Because take the Ten
Commandments, for instance, in the Bible. They begin with "I
am your G-d." Then it continues with seemingly simple commandments:
Thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt
not commit murder, honor thy parentsóstatements that donít seem
to require a G-d. So the question is asked about the Ten Commandments:
why are these moral laws equated with belief in G-d? Why are
they included in one set of Ten Commandments, along with "I
am G-d." Morality is morality even without G-d. And the
answer is, if there is no G-d, morality is ultimately arbitrary
and relative, and anarchy is right around the corner. Because
ultimately where do you draw the line? Is it by consensus? If
the majority of a country suddenly decides that Aryan Nation
is the right thing (and the majority of a country did decide
that 50 years ago), does that make it right, because majority
In other words, you must answer to Someone who
gave us life. Now, whether that somethingóweíll call it G-dóis
Jewish, Christian, Islam, Buddhist, or some other thing, thatís
where the founding fathers say donít intervene. Thatís for
people to decide. But the concept of having a higher calling,
that we donít just do what we like, and we donít just do it
out of fear of being caught but thereís really a moral compass
within your spirit, is essentially the basis of any type of
Feder: So youíre talking about this in
terms of something that transcends whatever conflicts or inherent
problems there are in the Bill of Rights or in the Constitution.
Thereís a higher Bill of Rights in other words, thereís a higher
thing than just the Constitution.
Jacobson: And thatís why we have on our
currencyómoney, the symbol of idolatry, the symbol of mundane
life, the symbol of selfishnessó"In G-d We Trust."
I believe this is the only country that does this, and yet this
is the country where separation of church and state is sacred.
Feder: And yet this man is not only a member
of the Aryan Nation, but heís got books in his van, heís got
well-known Right Wing nut fringe literature that are
actually Christian oriented that say the same old tired story
that theyíve been saying for the last 2,000 years, that the
Jews killed Christ, that they are a debased race, etc. He reads
this stuff, heís connected in some terribly awful way with the
worst fringe section of this religion, and he is saying
that in the name of G-d he did this. So what G-d are we talking
Jacobson: Good question. But letís go to
the callers. I want to respond to that because itís an important
question which includes the concept of anti-Semitism and those
who, in the name of G-d, are anti-Semites.
Feder: But people have been killing in
the name of G-d forever. So we have Mike on the line calling
from New York.
Caller: Iíve been listening to this show,
and I feel like I have to interject because the country was
formed by white supremacists. I mean, thereís an irony in what
youíre talking about. Listing the good things that were put
forth by these people is one thing, but they existed in the
context of total white supremacy.
Feder: Well, thatís a really good point,
I must say. Would you like to comment on that?
Jacobson: I would. Itís an excellent comment,
but the fact is that the laws that they put into motion created
a country, unprecedented in history, that allowed for religious
freedom. And Iím not discussing their personal lives here and
their personal choices. But the fact is that in the laws of
the ConstitutionÖ slavery was abolishedÖ the laws of the Constitution
are among the most humane, most tolerant, most acceptingónotwithstanding
their personal lives and behavior.
So that may be a tribute to lawmakers who put
into motion something that transcended their own weaknesses.
Is there anything in the laws that would indicate
white supremacism? That would be my question.
Feder: Well, in fact amendments had to
be added later toÖ
Jacobson: But the ability to amend the
constitution was also allowed and put into motion by the original
writers. Iím talking about the picture as it stands now. If
someone was to suggest that any line in the Bill of Rights indicates
and allows for some type of racism or some tinge of it, that
should be addressed, but Iím not aware of anything of that nature.
Caller: Originally, black people were considered
less than a person.
Feder: I guess the point weíre saying is
that that thereís law and then thereís de facto law, the actual
law as it is applied today. In fact, the law of the country,
as it worked every day, allowed racism and religious
intolerance, sexual intolerance, and this is something thatís
in the history of our country.
But what the Rabbi was saying, I think, is that
itís not written in; the opposite is written in as the ideal
to aspire to.
Jacobson: And slavery was an aberration,
I agree, that was inconsistent, and ultimately it was amended
and is no longer part of our laws.
Feder: Thank you very much for the call.
Now, letís take a slight break here to identify who we are and
then weíll move on. You are listening to Rabbi Simon Jacobson,
and this is Toward a Meaningful Life with Simon Jacobson.
My name is Mike Feder and weíre here every Sunday night from
6-7pm talking about issues that we hope are inspiring to you,
and youíre listening to WEVD, 1050AM in New York City.
We really want to thank everyone who has emailed
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Iíd like to also tell you that we have a new website
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and future programs. Itís www.meaningfullife.com.
Now we do have a couple of calls, but hold on
Jacobson: I really believe that a topic
like this really generates a lot of response, and anything that
we canít cover on the show should be covered on the website
where you can find transcripts of the show, so please write
to us there if you donít get through on the phone.
I do want to comment about the issue of the Christian
element, briefly. If belief in G-d doesnít bring a person to
personal refinement, ultimately one has to question what kind
of G-d that is. So Iím not here to vindicate, argue or debate
the different religions, but Iíll speak on a personal level
from a Jewish perspective as well as from any religious perspective.
If you have a G-d and you can go ahead and hurt
or hate another person, more importantly, take it a step further,
that in the name of G-d you can hurt another person,
then I wonder what kind of G-d that is.
Feder: You know, thereís never been a religion
that Iíve ever seen, including the Jewish religion, no matter
what religion (except for the Buddhists as far as I know), that
havenít at one time or another used G-d as a reason to take
land and kill people.
Jacobson: Well, I have to disagree about
Judaism, because the fact is, look at individual Jews and look
at the community of Jews. They have never done that in history.
Feder: In the Old Testament there seems
to be quite a lot of that.
Jacobson: No, they did not go and take
land that was not theirs. If you quote the Bible, the land was
given to Abraham and the Jews returned to their land.
Feder: What about all those wars? What
were they all about? Thereís a lot of killing going on there.
Jacobson: Well, killing is going on if
youíre in your own home and you want to defend yourself.
Feder: Okay, I just thought Iíd bring that
Jacobson: Fine, for the record I wanted
to state that because I completely disagree, but I will say
that again, you have to look at the individual. If someone can
kill, or try to kill another, to hate another person, in real
life, I would question what kind of G-d that is.
Feder: Or whether they are in touch with
Jacobson: Right. Itís a G-d that is defined
by human subjectivity. In other words, if G-d says to you, Do
not kill anyone that I love, and I love them by the mere fact
that I created them, then because you have your racist feelings,
to pigeonhole G-d into your feelings is beyond sacrilegious.
Feder: Okay, we have Jennifer. Youíre on
Caller: I disagree with the concept of
a hate crime. Not because these crimes are not horrific and
abominable and should be punished to the fullest extent of the
law, but I canít say that when you call something a hate crime,
that allows the crimes that are not so defined to not be called
a hate crime. All crimes are hate crimes.
Jacobson: I think thatís a very good point
and would concur with Jennifer that any crime against another
human being is a form of hate, whether itís due to jealousy,
rage, pettiness, or self-hate. Sometimes you have low self-esteem
and you go act out on others. But yet I think the cliché,
when we use the word hate crime, is something that is stated
as a statement, an anti-Semitic statement or an anti-black statement.
I think thatís really what weíre referring to. But the point
is very well taken that any type of crime against humanity is
ultimately a manifestation of hate.
Feder: All right. Thank you very much.
We have Bert. Youíre on the air.
Caller: Yes, good evening gentlemen. In
the discussion of hate and Jews as targets, I would like to
ask if this thing could be expanded to the sources of anti-Jewish
feeling that comes not from gentiles, not from Nazis and neo-Nazis,
but from the Jewish left. For example, the Crown Heights pogrom.
I listened to WBAI back in 1991, and heard the so-called progressive,
left-wing Jews joining in the attack against "those right-wing
extremist Jews," those "right-wing Jewish fundamentalists
who live in Crown Heights and who are pushing out the black
Feder: Okay, I see what you mean.
Caller: Now, when you, Mike Feder, courageously
spoke on WBAI asking people to call in and identify anti-Semitic
actions on WBAI, the head of the station publiclyÖ
Feder: Let me interrupt you for a second.
I donít really want to get into my personal history, because
the idea is to concentrate this show on general issues that
are universal to everyone.
Caller: Can we therefore generally, say
that the Jewish left is one of the sources for anti-Jewish hate
as well as Nazis?
Feder: Very legitimate question. Thank
Jacobson: The only thing I would say is
that I think we have to put things in perspective. When a white
supremacist or a white self-proclaimed Aryan goes and shoots
young children, I think in that type of discussion you donít
want to bring in other crimes, even though you can equate them
and they do have similarities. Because it tends to, in a sense,
desensitize us to the magnitude of this particular crime.
Because when the Nazis did what they did 50 years
ago, and to start saying that there are left-wing Jews who make
similar statements, I do agree that I am outraged when someone
makes a statement like that on WBAI, but I think you should
distinguish between the two, and not because one is worse than
the other. I think that because it is a general attitude among
people who sometimes stand from a distance and who are not involved
to bring their own personal political inclinations into it and
thatís my only comment.
Feder: Okay, letís go to another call.
Howard, youíre on the air.
Caller: As a Jewish person, I would want
to know why the Jews are always targets, and itís my feeling
that they kiss every shvartze tuchus, every anti-AmericanÖ
Feder: Okay, we really appreciate your
very wide ranging views on things! Do you have a comment about
Jacobson: Well, the issue of anti-Semitism
in general is a very fundamental one, and it goes back all the
way to Biblical times, beginning from the classical battle between
the two brothers, Esau and Jacob. From a Jewish perspective,
anti-Semitism is not something for Jews, out of fear or panic,
to run away from. As a Jew I would say thehatred of Jews is
a testimony to a secular world that has difficulty with G-d.
Jewish thought equates anti-Semitism with anti-G-dliness.
Because, ultimately, what is it that bothers people about the
Jews? Their religion, because Judaism is essentially religion.
Itís not dress because you see the Nazis didnít care how you
dressed, they didnít really care whether you were observant
or not, or whether you were half-Jew. They saw it as some type
of genetic thing.
So from a Jewish perspective, essentially, a world
that is still able to hate another human being, it manifests
itself in the scapegoat called the Jew. So from a Jewish perspective
the response to that is a response to the following concept:
as long as people do not embrace G-d in this world, in a real
way, in daily life (I donít mean only on Sundays or compartmentalized
so that it doesnít affect your personal life), then even the
G-d they do embrace is compromised. They once asked Bertrand
Russell how he could behave in an unethical way since he was
a professor of ethics at one of the universities, and he answered,
"Iím also a professor of mathematics and Iím not a triangle."
That is an unG-dly statement. It means that you
can teach one thing and be another. From a Jewish perspective,
G-dliness means that you behave in a refined way. Human majesty.
Human dignity. You love people even if you disagree with them
entirely, completely, about all their opinions. But the mere
fact that they are here on earth means that G-d put them here,
so you love that element.
The person may be a criminal so they have to be
locked up. Weíre not naïve and so into brotherhood that
we just accept everything. Law has to be enforced and all of
that. But with that element of how to deal with anti-Semitism,
I was very gratified to hear, right before I was coming to the
show, about some of the responses of Jewish groups in Chicago
and California, of the acts of goodness and kindness. One group
of children in Chicago and in other cities decided, since itís
summertime, to send toys to the children in this Jewish Community
Center in LA as a voice of support: weíre one. Weíre one people.
Itís not just a crime that happened on the West Coast. Itís
a crime that happened in the world. Itís a voice of support.
We hear others doing things that cultivate Jewish
pride. I hear that in some cities Jewish communities initiated
a mezuzah campaign. Mezuzahs are what Jewish people traditionally
put on their doorposts as a sign of protection and trust in
G-d. And itís very encouraging and very life affirming to hear
You will never see as a quintessential Jewish
response, an eye for an eye in any literal sense. You will never
see Jews mobilize and say "Letís go get those whites."
Thereís no Jewish advocate for that.
Feder: Well, I want to talk to you about
that a little later. But we do have Joan on the line whoís been
holding on forever. Youíre on the air.
Caller: Hello. Iíd like to make two points.
I learned the Ten Commandments in elementary school, and one
is, "Love thy neighbor as thyself." I was in elementary
school and I heard key in that commandment, "as thyself."
I know the person who did this horrible crime has to be punished,
but if in fact we started with the very young and had an atmosphere
of love, if they loved themselves, these people who commit these
horrendous crimesÖ I think basically they hate themselves. Thatís
point number one.
And point number two. The gentleman who spoke
about the black people and the way they were treated, women
were treated terribly too, but in order for women to have gotten
the vote, and slaves to be freed, there had to have been good
people on top who had the vote who allowed women and slaves
to become ex-slaves, so there are good people, and they have
to be awakened and they have to teach their children that love
is of the essence.
Feder: Thank you for your comments.
Jacobson: I think Joan summed up our show
in a very powerful way and I couldnít concur more and say that
yes, exactly, you matter, that birth is G-dís way of saying
you matter, and that you are meaningful, and we have an erosion
in our community, when a person ultimately has a lack of self-esteem,
when they hate themselves or they donít value their own life,
other peopleís lives are very easy for them to harm and hurt.
And on a positive note, ultimately on a preventive
medicine level, itís critical to engender, instill, imbue in
our children at a very young age the sanctity of life, that
itís a gift from above, where you treat your life as something
thatís given to you as a gift and treat it as the greatest gift
If someone gave you a gift worth millions of dollars,
how would you treat it? You would make sure itís protected.
You would keep it at night in a place where no one would harm
it. You would treat it with a certain sanctity.
Life is that gift, and itís a gift from Above.
Your life and the life of everyone around you. No matter how
much you disagree with another person, there are ways to communicate
that do not have to be aggressive and violent.
So ultimately thatís the message that has to be
taught to children from a very young age.
Feder: But speaking of aggression and violence,
and picking up on something you said before, I really have to
take issue with what you said before. I think you said that
you donít see the Jews organizing in an aggressive manner. Do
you remember the Jewish Defense League?
Jacobson: Mike, I could always rest assured
that you will find a little crack in what I have to say!
Feder: Iím not doing thatóthis isnít a
debating team here!
Jacobson: No, I appreciate it by the way.
I said that as a tribute to you.
Feder: But let me just add one little thing.
I remember reading, historically, a creature called the golem.
You know what the golem is more than I do, I mean, after
all, the golem was a creature created sometime in the
15th or 16th century which was an avenger,
an actual creature sent out by the Jewish community to protect
itself, and it would actually fight, it was aggressive, it was
a creature who couldnít be stopped to harm its enemies. And
let me just add that one of the basic tenets of the people who
live in Israel is "never again," they are not going
to let themselves be pushed around and they will often assume
very aggressive stances against people they presume to be their
enemies. So you want to go to Tom? Tom, youíre on the air.
Caller: Yes, I agree with the previous
caller who said that this country was founded by racists and
I disagree with something you said that there are no laws or
statutes that actually support racism.
Feder: In the Constitution.
Caller: There were written laws that stated
the degree of rights that a particular person would have depending
on his race.
Feder: This is in states, you mean.
Caller: And federal laws also.
Feder: These I never heard of.
Caller: Well, I can name a few. First,
if you go to the state of Louisiana, there are still laws on
Feder: Well, we all know about the laws
in those states.
Caller: The federal laws were made by precedents,
for example, the Supreme Court ruling, Plessy vs. Ferguson,
[where Plessy argued that the law of separate but equal railroad
cars for black and whites violated a clause of the 14th Amendment
to the U.S. Constitution that guaranteed citizens equal protection
of the laws. The Supreme Court ruled that the amendment did
not seek to guarantee the social equality of all races.] That
ruling established the law by precedent and the precedent was
actually set before that ruling and it continues up until today.
But whether itís written or not, the fact remains
that those conditions did exist and they still exist today.
Feder: Can you channel that into what the
discussion is about?
Caller: No, Iím just saying that those
conditions exist today and people who ignore them or talk like
it doesnít exist, they are either in denial or they really donít
Feder: And the conditions that you say
Feder: Oh, okay.
Caller: It may not be overtly as they did
before but there were federal laws, in fact, if you go to the
Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC youíll see flyers, bulletins,
put out by the federal government rewarding people for bringing
in the scalps of Indians.
Jacobson: This is going a little off on
a tangent. I made a statement about the general bill of rights,
"all men are created equal," that statement in the
Constitution. The fact that there are contradictions, we hope
will be eradicated and finally amended to the extent where the
entire Constitution and the laws of this entire country are
consistent with that statement, "all men are created equal."
So I agree, of course there are pockets of racism and that was
really not my statement. I was really addressing that line.
That line is unequivocal. All men, it doesnít say part of the
men. And slavery and other elements of racism were abolished,
and the quality of life for women and other groups, are slowly
The bottom line is that it should continue toward
that end. But thatís another discussion.
We were addressing people who abuse it and abuse
it for their own personal interests or their own low self-esteem.
But let me address your comment about aggression
in Jewish history. You mentioned the JDL, never again, the Golan.
Feder: And Israel.
Jacobson: To put things in context, one
of the things I get really upset about is when (not at you,
Mike) is when you hear of aggression against Jews, and then
someone gets up and says, "But the Jews have also been
aggressive, look at what theyíve done to the Palestinians,"
and so on. First of all, even if there is some merit to that
argument, when youíre dealing with one topic, you donít try
to obfuscate it by suddenly bringing up aggression. Iím not
suggesting that you did that Mike, but itís a separate discussion
how Jews behave.
Individual Jews, like individuals anywhere, can
be accountable and donít necessarily live up to the consistent
view or philosophy of Judaism. The JDL (the Jewish Defense League,
Meir Kahane), actually, for many Jews was considered to be something
that was inappropriate, it wasnít considered to be a Jewish
approach. So it wasnít like all the Jews and all groups accepted
Feder: Did you think that?
Jacobson: I think it played a role. I thought
it was good to have someone who made a statement like that.
But would I become an active member personally? It wasnít my
style, but no, I think in context, itís like having a community
patrol. So it may not be something that Iíd consider to be Jewish
philosophically, but when you have crime going on, itís good
to patrol your streets, and have individual patrols. Thatís
really, by the way, how the Jewish Defense League got started.
It grew out of a group called the Maccabees in the sixties,
after the '60s riots. But if you were to ask me if thatís the
general Jewish response, usually not. Except in the cases as
with the golem, with the Maharal of Prague, (Reb Yehuda
Leowe of Prague), there was a terrible pogrom which was threatening
the lives of the Jews there, which was not uncommon in those
days in the Middle Ages, but for some reason he felt that enough
was enough, and tradition goes that he created the golem
to protect the people. But youíll find that only once in
I wish we had more golems throughout history.
In the 40ís, it would have been nice to have a golem dealing
with the Nazis.
Feder: Well, letís define this. The golem
was a creature created out of the dust of the earth, out
of the clay and dust and dirt of the earth, who was indestructible
and attacked the enemies of the Jews.
Jacobson: Protected them.
Feder: In a very offensive way sometimes.
Jacobson: No, but the golem did
not go and aggressively pursue, it was always in defensive mode.
Feder: Thatís true. He found out the whereabouts
of criminals, he found out evidence, and things like that.
Jacobson: But shrouded in mystery as well;
itís not really clear exactly what happened.
Feder: Donít you think we should have one
Jacobson: Well, you need a Maharal of Prague
to build one. Now Iím sure if you and I, Mike, try to build
a golem, it wouldnít protect anyone.
Feder: Look, if someone comes up to you
on the street, youíve got your yarmulke, youíve got your beard,
you look very Jewish. Someone comes up to you on the street
and says, "You so-and-so Jew," and says heís going
to knock you down just as a wake-up call to America. What are
you going to do out there on Seventh Avenue? Are you going to
talk to him about love? About G-d?
Jacobson: Thatís not at all what Iím suggesting.
No, when I speak about preventive medicine, Iím discussing it
on an educational, national level. Let me speak to the listeners
out there who arenít Jewish. Letís say, if you think that your
child can grow up hating only Jews and no one else, itís a big
mistake. Hate breeds hate. They will end up hating in general.
Itís just a matter of time before it will express itself one
way or another. So a general educational approach, and on a
revolutionary level, we need to have a revolution in education,
because thereís an erosion.
I donít want to equate the shootings in Los Angeles
with other shootings that occurred these past few weeks, but
ultimately life is being compromised, and childrenís lives,
on a consistent basis. Children, who were always supposed to
be protectedóchildhood was supposed to be an oasisóthat no one
touches children. Suddenly there are no longer any lines drawn.
If I meet someone in the street the way you described,
Iíll defend myself with everything I have. Now, of course, if
he had a weapon or if he was threatening, I would have to determine
whether it is worth fighting. If youíre able to protect yourself,
you do. If you can get out of there, you run for your life.
But my attitude would be that of course Iíd protect
myself, and no, I would not start preaching to him about G-d.
Because youíre dealing here already with a person who is a criminal.
You know, when we speak about G-d, weíre talking
about preventive measures. This guy on the street was not born
that way. He was born a child. He picked up attitudes. He may
have picked up anti-Semitism from his education, from his parents,
and he needed a cause, so he got involved in some hate group.
It become like a passion that fed him and it became an ongoing
I mean, itís so difficult to address this, there
are so many aspects. But it ultimately comes down to the level
of early education. The earlier stage really determines the
rest of our lives, and I donít want to sound naïve, that
thatís our solution here. No, the solution is to prosecute this
guy with everything you have. Federal government, state government,
and send a strong message to anyone of this nature. They should
have investigations of hate groups, there should be constant
monitoring, just as they monitor criminal groups. I donít think
thatís an intrusion of rights because you donít invade unless
you see something happening, but you have to monitor them, like
you would monitor a spy group. Because with groups like that,
ultimately something will give, and there could be a tragedy
beyond the proportion in which it happened now.
But thatís called symptomatic medicine, thatís
dealing with the symptoms. The bigger picture is that we need
to cultivate an overall respect and value for goodness and kindness.
An aggressive revolutionary statement that human beings have
to live up to a G-d. I donít think this fellow, this gunman,
will respond to that message.
Feder: One last comment or question. What
do you think we should do at this time, you think he
deserves to go walking around in society anymore? No. Do you
think he deserves to live?
Jacobson: I think the death penalty is
definitely an option in the countryís laws and if I were the
prosecutors, I would encourage them to prosecute as far as they
Feder: He murdered a man.
Jacobson: Torah definitely condones the
death penalty in circumstances, obviously not just to use it
loosely, but if thereís no reasonable doubt, and he was stable,
and all of that. But I would believe that even if he had not
murdered the postal worker, the mere fact that he turned on
children because they were Jewish, that for me is a very powerful,
powerful, crime, because thereís absolutely no justification
for it. Would that warrant the death penalty? I donít know the
laws of this country, whether abuse of someoneís civil rights
warrants the death penalty, but itís definitely attempted murder.
He could have murdered them.
But clearly, laws have to be as strong as possible
to deal with preventing these crimes and sending a message deterring
others to make similar statements, so to speak.
Feder: Letís go to one last call before
we move on. Baruch, youíre on the air.
Jacobson: Good evening. I just want to
say, with regard to the golem which you mentioned before,
I recently heard a lecture from a distinguished authority, Professor
Lyman from Brooklyn College and other places, about this whole
thing and he brought a very strong case that this whole golem
thing is really like a bubbemaaseh. He traced it,
and one of the things he mentioned is that the Maharal supposedly
made this in the 1600ís, and there was no record in writing
of this golem for a few hundred years. It was only much
later that somebodyÖ.
Feder: Baruch, let me ask you a question.
Thatís an interesting academic point you made, but what is your
real feeling about what weíre talking about tonight?
Caller: I wanted to make this point that
a lot of peopleÖ
Feder: No, but I want to know. How do you
feel about what weíre talking about?
Caller: Listen, I donít have any strong
things to argue on what was said, Iíll just make a general comment.
I donít know if itís correct, I donít know if I could accept,
like it was said in the beginning of the program, that somebody
who hates, hates everybody. And also the theory which is popular
now which was expressed earlier, which is like a psychological
type of theory, that someone who hates, hates themselves. I
donít know if that would apply in all cases.
Now maybe somebody hates, letís say, a certain
group because maybe this person was living in a neighborhood
and the other group robbed his store or he feels they brought
down his neighborhood, so it doesnít mean that he hates himself.
Maybe he was a victim of a crime from members of that group.
Iím not say that if he goes overboard in generalizing that itís
the whole group, rather than the bad people from that group
that he should hate, but to say that he hates himself is the
answer for all hate, I canít accept that.
Feder: Okay, thank you.
Jacobson: Good. Iím glad you elicited that.
I think Baruch is 100% right. To make a general statement like
that is incorrect. Much hate is just directed toward individual
groups or it can be circumstantial, but there are elements
of hate that are very much connected to a personís own erosion
From a Jewish point of view, the ability to hate
someone else is not recognizing that G-d created us all and
weíre all one large organism. So youíre really hating a part
of yourself because itís all part of one life. So even if itís
not directed at yourself but itís the idea of living a very
self-contained lifestyle where you donít recognize the rights
of other people. But his points are very well taken.
Regarding the golem, it may be that there
are questions about the story, but the fact is that there are
well-established authorities that do accept it, so you can chalk
it up to being shrouded in some type of controversy or mystery,
but there are authorities who clearly state it.
But the point that we were talking about was the
general attitude toward dealing with aggression.
Feder: Well, here we are again approaching
the end of the show. Further comments and questions are very
much wanted. And you can call 1-800-363-2646. You can email
us at firstname.lastname@example.org,
and go to our website at www.meaningfullife.com
to download transcripts of this radio program.
I do want to mention that almost all of these
issues are covered in the book, Toward a Meaningful Life,
by Simon Jacobson, which is available almost everywhere,
and I would recommend on this particular subject, chapter 28
on Good and Evil. Thatís one place you might look in the book
for some insights and guidance about this.
We are again near the end of the program and we
want to let you know that these programs are brought to you
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Meanings. And remember, we donít have commercial sponsors,
you are our sponsors. We count on you the listener to make this
Tonight weíve been talking about what happened
at the Los Angeles Day Care Center, where a man identified with
the Aryan Nation, who thank G-d has been arrested, who turned
himself in to the cops, tried to kill a lot of people. He only
wounded five people, and then he went down the block somewhere
and shot a Filipino postman to death.
Weíve been talking about hate crimes tonight,
and now we are near the end of the program and once again we
try to look toward the more positive or inspirational thing.
Now let me ask you this question. Youíre sitting in the cell
with this man. I wonít mention his name because I donít think
he deserves to have one. But youíre sitting in the cell with
him, right now. What do you say to him? Would you give him a
blessing? Would you pray for him? How would you help him and
how would you address him?
Jacobson: Well, I assume if that was the
case, heíd probably be spewing hate toward me and I donít think
there would be room for any type of discussion or communication.
Feder: But when I say him I mean everybody
Jacobson: No, I understand, Iím just making
this statement for a reason. Thereís a point to be made, because
once there is that type of wall of racism and sterotyping and
hatred placed between us, thereís no room for communication.
Itís not like you can say, You know, letís discuss this. He
already has preconceived notions. He lifted a gun, weapons,
on children to make a statement, so Iím not so naïve as
to think that weíre just going to sit down with him and rehabilitate
him and educate him.
I would probably ask to be taken out of that cell,
because I donít think I could really accomplish much. I think
first things first. He should be prosecuted and once heís in
prison and well away from being able to harm someone, I believe
every human being has in them a side that is spiritual, a side
that is G-dly, and therefore there is always hope.
Feder: Heís not lost entirely.
Jacobson: I would not say that. You could
rarely say that. I mean, there are people who are so poisoned
in their lives and spirits that they really are beyondÖ but
he has to be first of all out of commission, in the sense that
he has to be out of harmís way. I would not invite him to any
In a prison, if he joins rehabilitative programs,
and there is some type of sincerity, then itís a question of
education. Iím not talking about releasing him, or parole, or
anything like that. But he has to show an initiative. I wouldnít
spend much time trying to get through to him. Because people
like that are often very poisoned.
I would say this overview to us all: You have
to separate the event that actually happened here overall message
to us all. This event deserves all the outrage and anger, prosecution
if necessary. We simply cannot tolerate a person turning a gun
in the name of killing Jews. But there is also a larger lesson,
as the Baal Shem Tov teaches that everything has to be a lesson
to us, that we have to learn from everything.
I think it comes down to, from a Jewish perspective,
that adding in acts of goodness and kindness has always been
the Jewish response to hatred. Never an "in kind"
type of response. Obviously we protect ourselves, we defend
ourselves, we do everything thatís necessary, but acts of goodness
and kindness to show moral support for each other as Jews, both
here and abroad, to know that every time thereís a community
that faces certain challenges we have to come togetheróand the
Jewish approach is study, prayer, and ultimately being a living
example of what it means to be a G-dly human being, what it
means to love, and it may not immediately rub off on others,
but some people will be affected by that. And ultimately it
will affect all people.
I do want to say one final thing, that Iíd like
to announce that we will be doing a weekend camping experience
on August 28 and anyone interested should call 1-800-3MEANING
for more information.
Feder: Okay. Next week the show will be
on miracles. Thank you.