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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Kushner, Lieberman, Trump, Putin -- and the Chabad cult

The previous post identified Jared Kushner as the FBI investigation's "person of interest." Chris Hayes tweeted the same. Unfortunately, Kushner is well-protected. You need to be aware of two factors:

1. An obscure ethics rule may prevent Robert Mueller from investigating Jared Kushner, who was a client of Mueller's former law firm, WilmerHare. The Justice Department could waive that rule -- but don't expect Jeff Sessions to do the decent thing.

2. The FBI will soon be under Joe Lieberman, who will surely protect Kushner. Both Lieberman and Kushner are very close to Chabad, a cult within Judaism which one may liken to "The Family," the Christian cult studied in Jeff Sharlet's book. The Moonies may provide an even more instructive basis for comparison. 

I realize that the previous paragraph will open me up to charges of anti-Semitism. Before you lob such accusations, I suggest that you read up on the accusations against Chabad levied by many Jewish writers. You should also read the investigative reports that have appeared in mainstream sources. After you've done the research, you'll see right through the lies told by Chabad's apologists, who claim that this is a benign group devoted to helping Jews "connect more strongly with their faith."

That hardly covers it.

Chabad is a racist cult, every bit as inexcusable as the cognate fundamentalist cults which have arisen from the Christian, Islamic and Hindu traditions. The group's strong connections to both Putin and Team Trump demand scrutiny.

Although the Chabad movement traces back more than two centuries, the cult's leader in the modern era was Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902-1994), a.k.a. "The Rebbe"). He may be considered the Joseph Smith or L. Ron Hubbard of Chabad. (Those who revere Schneerson will decry any comparison to Hubbard -- just as those who revere Hubbard will decry any comparison to Schneerson.) Many followers of the Rebbe considered him the Messiah. Some still do -- and they express this belief in ways that most people, including most secular Jews, would consider absurd.

(You'd think that Jews would have a more cautious attitude toward Messianic claimants, considering the kind of history made by such notable weirdos as David Reubeni, Sabbatai Zevi and Jacob Frank. And, you know, that other fellow.)

Because I'm pressed for time -- and because this post will probably be buried by this afternoon's Trump-related bombshell news stories -- I can't write the piece I had originally envisioned. Instead, I'll offer a series of links, most of which go to Jewish sources. None of the cited writers can be fairly described as right-wing or anti-Semitic; I have avoided works by conspiracy theorists and other fringe-dwellers.

Our first stop is a Politico article titled "The Happy-Go-Lucky Jewish Group That Connects Trump and Putin".
Starting in 1999, Putin enlisted two of his closest confidants, the oligarchs Lev Leviev and Roman Abramovich, who would go on to become Chabad’s biggest patrons worldwide, to create the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia under the leadership of Chabad rabbi Berel Lazar, who would come to be known as “Putin’s rabbi.”

A few years later, Trump would seek out Russian projects and capital by joining forces with a partnership called Bayrock-Sapir, led by Soviet emigres Tevfik Arif, Felix Sater and Tamir Sapir—who maintain close ties to Chabad. The company’s ventures would lead to multiple lawsuits alleging fraud and a criminal investigation of a condo project in Manhattan.

Meanwhile, the links between Trump and Chabad kept piling up...
This article is supremely important, although I disagree with the characterization of Chabad as "happy-go-lucky." The following links provide a corrective.
is a Jewish website warning against the dangers of Chabad. Note this subpage in particular. Also this one. And this one.
The revulsion that non-Orthodox Jews in the Upper Midwest have for the [Chabad] Hasidim of Postville is visceral and undeniable. Over and over, while talking to non-Orthodox Jews in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area - arguably the Jewish community outside of Postville that has the most at stake in this story - I have heard one constant refrain. "How could this have happened?" they ask rhetorically. "I'll tell you...," and then their voices drop a register: "These [Chabad] Hasidim do not think their workers are human beings."
This discussion thread details one family's experience.

So does this well-written blog.

This site by Jews for Jews argues that Chabad is actually an anti-Jewish organization.

This Washington Post story, cited in these pages before, deserves to be re-read in light of Felix Sater's Chabad connection. Sater, in turn, links up with the ultra-powerful Russian mob boss Semyon Mogilevich.

In 2007, Chabad leaders in Israel were arrested for massive financial crimes.  (Also here.)

This piece in The Forward warns about Chabad's growing links to far-right Christian extremists. For example, in 2015 Chabad leaders showed up at a World Congress of Families in Salt Lake City.
Funded by right-wing extremists who make Mike Huckabee look like Rabbi Arthur Waskow, the WCF is an international network of far-right Christians who seek to enshrine their ultra-conservative views in secular law.

Indeed, some of them — Christian Reconstructionists, Dominionists and others — seek to do away with the secular law altogether, one day replacing the United States as we know it with an explicitly Christian nation.
Alexey Komov and Yelena Mizulina, two WCF leaders, are the primary authors of Russia’s anti-gay law, which makes the sharing of this column a criminal offense in that country.
The co-director of Chabad Lubavitch of Utah, Rabbi Avremi Zippel, will be providing the invocation for the event that Tuesday morning.
This is not the first time that Chabad has played the role of Jewish Uncle Tom for these specific Christian extremists. In Russia, leading Chabad rabbis are close associates of Vladimir Putin and were present at the signing of the so-called “anti-propaganda law” that has led to widespread increases in violence, as well as to the criminal prosecution of human rights organizations.
Chabad Rabbi Manis Friedman has offered some rather drole commentary on how to conduct war in a "moral" fashion. (Also here.)
I don’t believe in western morality, i.e. don’t kill civilians or children, don’t destroy holy sites, don’t fight during holiday seasons, don’t bomb cemeteries, don’t shoot until they shoot first because it is immoral.

The only way to fight a moral war is the Jewish way: Destroy their holy sites. Kill men, women and children (and cattle).
This site reprints a 1996 Jewish Week expose of Chabad Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh.
“If you have two people drowning, a Jew and a non-Jew, the Torah says you save the Jewish life first,” Rabbi Ginsburgh told The Jewish Week. ”If every single cell in a Jewish body entails divinity, is a part of God, then every strand of DNA is a part of God. Therefore, something is special about Jewish DNA.”

Later, Rabbi Ginsburgh asked rhetorically, “If a Jew needs a liver, can you take the liver of an innocent non-Jew passing by to save him? The Torah would probably permit that.

“Jewish life has infinite value,” explained. “There is something infinitely more holy and unique about Jewish life than non-Jewish life.”
Alison Weir offers an extremely important expose of the racism espoused by "Rebbe" Schneerson.
Some of Schneerson’s rarely reported teachings:

“The difference between a Jewish and a non-Jewish person stems from the common expression: “Let us differentiate.” Thus, we do not have a case of profound change in which a person is merely on a superior level. Rather, we have a case of “let us differentiate” between totally different species.”

“This is what needs to be said about the body: the body of a Jewish person is of a totally different quality from the body of [members] of all nations of the world … The difference in the inner quality between Jews and non-Jews is “so great that the bodies should be considered as completely different species.”

“An even greater difference exists in regard to the soul. Two contrary types of soul exist, a non-Jewish soul comes from three satanic spheres, while the Jewish soul stems from holiness.”
“The important things are the Jews, because they do not exist for any [other] aim; they themselves are [the divine] aim.”

“The entire creation [of a non-Jew] exists only for the sake of the Jews.”
I realize that these words sound like a fabrication concocted by a rabid neo-Nazi intent on slandering Jews. But no-one has ever disputed the accuracy of this quote, and no-one can honestly claim that "context" excuses these sentiments. (It should go without saying that most Jews would find those sentiments as repulsive as I do.)

The Chabad cult is founded on a mystrical book called the Tanya, written by the founder of the movement, Shneur Zalman of Liadi, who died in 1812. Although much of this work seems benign -- and perhaps profound, to those of a mystical turn of mind -- it contains a few very troubling sections. Example:
The souls of the nations of the world (all non-Jews), however, emanate from the other, unclean 'kelipot' which contain no good whatever" (page 5).
(In non-Jewish mystical works, "kelipot" is usually transliterated "qlippoth." Literally, the word means "husks;" figuratively, it means "demon.")

From a piece by Daniel Estrin in The Forward:
The marble-patterned, hardcover book embossed with gold Hebrew letters looks like any other religious commentary you’d find in an Orthodox Judaica bookstore — but reads like a rabbinic instruction manual outlining acceptable scenarios for killing non-Jewish babies, children and adults.

“The prohibition ‘Thou Shalt Not Murder’” applies only “to a Jew who kills a Jew,” write Rabbis Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur of the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar. Non-Jews are “uncompassionate by nature” and attacks on them “curb their evil inclination,” while babies and children of Israel’s enemies may be killed since “it is clear that they will grow to harm us.”

“The King’s Torah (Torat Hamelech), Part One: Laws of Life and Death between Israel and the Nations,” a 230-page compendium of Halacha, or Jewish religious law, published by the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva in Yitzhar, garnered a front-page exposé in the Israeli tabloid Ma’ariv, which called it the stuff of “Jewish terror.”
The rabbis promoting this "King's Torah" (which arguably belongs on the bookshelf next to the Tanya) belong to Chabad.

Finally, we have a slew of pieces devoted to exposing sexual abuse within Chabad. This Newsweek piece provides an excellent start. It describes an extreme insularity quite familiar to students of non-Jewish cults, and quite unlike the norm in mainstream Judaism:
Set on a leafy stretch of Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, Oholei Torah is one of the most important institutions in the Chabad movement’s global yeshiva network and one of the largest of the dozens of Chabad schools in Brooklyn, with nearly 2,000 students at any given time. But stop any middle-school-age kid in the school’s hallways, and he—there are no female students—will likely know nothing of world history, won’t be able to do long division and will speak only rudimentary English—even though he’s growing up in the biggest city in the United States.

Oholei Torah conducts its seven-plus daily hours of religious lessons mostly in Yiddish. According to more than a dozen former students across three decades, it provides almost no lessons in science, math, English grammar or history. (The school did not respond to queries about its curriculum.) Many of these students go home to an apartment with no television, no Internet, no newspapers and no books except religious texts. Many will not gain the basic knowledge of how to navigate the world until they are married off around age 18, like how to write a check, how to order General Tso’s chicken or even what sex is. When you’re a child in this environment, you don’t question the fact that you can’t identify your own state on a map. And when you are molested, you don’t ask questions about that either.
Many of the scandals which have rocked Catholicism have a strong echo within the Chabad movement. Another Jewish site discusses the sexual abuse within Chabad.
Since Waks first spoke publicly in 2011 about the abuse he suffered, he has helped to expose the centres, and the schools, synagogues and activities attached to them, as communities within which child sex abuse was covered-up, denied or ignored.

The rabbinic law of mesirah – the prohibition of a Jew informing on a fellow Jew to secular authorities – was used by leaders to keep victims silent, the commission heard.
See also  here and here. I was particularly struck by this section (which quotes a now-defunct article in The Jewish Week):
A prominent Orthodox rabbi and psychologist has been intimidated into quitting as head of a just-formed task force dealing with rabbinic sex abuse of minors, organized by Assemblyman Dov Hikind this week. Dr. Benzion Twerski told The Jewish Week Wednesday that he was quitting the task force because "I was prosecuted in the street for daring to join such a venture." "To protect myself, my family, and reputation, I decided to withdraw from this project," he wrote in an e-mail as the paper was going to press with a story announcing Hikind's formation of the task force. "From this point, I am avoiding participation in any forms of public service. Public life is not for me."

Hikind, a Brooklyn Democrat who represents Borough Park and Flatbush, deplored Twerski's abrupt departure from his new panel. "He was basically forced to resign," said Hikind. "He was literally put against the wall, and he felt he had no choice. We'll get somebody else who's very respected. But that's not the point. The point is they got to him, they threatened him."
Also see this piece in The Jerusalem Post.
In 2011, when he exposed his story in the Australian press, Manny Wax dropped a figurative bomb in the heart of Yeshivah Centre in Melbourne, where he and his family lived, where he was educated and where he was sexually abused over a period of three years.
His parents, who were still living in the Chabad community, were shunned, ostracized and made to feel that they had transgressed one of the sacrosanct rules of their community: keeping it all inhouse.

Indeed, the title of Waks’s book is a pull-quote from a sermon delivered by leader of Yeshivah Centre, Rabbi Zvi Telsner, shortly after the scandal broke out. During a Shabbat sermon, Telsner addressed Waks’s father, Zephania, thundering: “Who gave you permission to speak to anybody?” It was clearly a rhetorical question, because everyone in the close-knit Chabad fold knows that you don’t snitch on a member of the community to an outsider. To do so, as Waks explains, would render you a moser – a rabbinic term for a Jew who informs on another Jew to secular authorities.
Let me repeat: Most of the pieces cited above come from Jewish writers. Moreover, over the years I have been absolutely consistent in expressing disdain for all forms of religious fundamentalism, including the various strains of reactionary Catholic mania. (Example.) I have distinguished Judaism as a whole from Chabadism; in fact, I tend to be swayed by the opinion of those Jews who see Chabad as a separate religion.

I am also quite willing to concede that there are, no doubt, many wonderful people within the Chabad movement. That said, I've also met some Scientologists -- including one who was quite prominent -- who seemed very nice; their virtues did not blind me to the dangers of Hubbard's lunatic sect.

In short: Only a fool or a zealot would scry anti-Semitism in this post. If you attempt to do so, you will succeed only in amusing me. Strained rationalization is my favorite form of humor.

Fascinatingly, actual anti-Semites have embraced Trumpism and seem to have no problem with the prominent role played by the unelected Jared Kushner, whom historians may one day describe as the acting president, given Trump's basic incompetence. How did this unfathomable situation arise? Don't know. I've been trying to figure out that problem for quite a while now.

Added note: In an earlier piece, I wrote about an anti-Hillary slander which appeared late in the election cycle -- a classic example of "fake news" as originally defined. The Gateway Pundit and many (MANY) other sites published stories claiming "Racist Hillary Trashes African Americans – Calls Them Losers." The allegation was based on an alleged email supposedly found on Hillary's server and published by Wikileaks.

I did some research into the matter, and found that there was a racist email -- but it had nothing to do with either Hillary Clinton or her server. The message was sent by an as-yet unidentified party to various individuals connected to Politico and Media Matters. Of course, the recipients bore no responsibility for the contents of that message, just as I am not responsible for every random piece of crap that some wacko might want to shoot into my own mailbox.

The email contains a long rant which slanders most of the world's peoples and then goes on to praise the marvelous accomplishments of Jews. "One group of people has long outperformed all other Earthlings by such a bizarrely wide margin that it singlehandedly smashes this all-folks-are-equal myth into millions of smithereens." (Until now, I was unaware that smithereens could be counted.)

In my original post, I hinted at my suspicion that the author sprang from a Chabad background. I still suspect so, although I've been unable to trace the author of this diatribe. If you can identify the writer of this text, please share!
Can someone inquire of Louise if any of her sources know Ivanka's and Chelsea's recipes for gefilte fish?
The main trade union organisation in Norway voted earlier this week in favour of a total boycott of Israel. Their decision has been denounced by the ADL. The state of Norway keeps the world's largest sovereign wealth fund, and its divestment would be a red line. Retaliation may follow, perhaps soon.
Ameilie, I hope you're not trying to lump this post in with the more questionable stuff that Mensch has produced recently. I'm not presenting a grand conspiracy theory and I have no secret sources. There are links to all of the articles that have informed my thinking; the reader is encouraged to visit those links and come to his or her own conclusions.
Is Chabad like Opus Dei? Opus Dei had roots in our Supreme Court and in the FBI. The cults are all alike to me. Even Rev Moon got our congress critters to let him use their chambers to "crown" him and throw out the cross. Money and power override adherence to any one of the cults. Thus, Bush and Trump give lip service to Christianity while kissing and holding hands with Saudi royalty, and the Bushes were great friends with the mass-marrying flower-selling Moonie cult leader. Opus Dei was (is?) very powerful and if Chabad is, it's evil, too, but with or without extra power, Hassidic Judaism, fundamentalist Christianity, Islam and Mormon/Latter Day are a blight on earth and a pressing danger to women and to nonbinary humans everywhere.
No, Mr. Cannon. On the contrary, I'm impressed with the post's care to match its boldness. But: You never misspell Louise's name and always misspell mine. Didn't you see the French movie "Amelie"?
@prowlerzee: Cultural anthropologists (and advisers to non-Arabs) know that in Arab culture, kissing and hand-holding are essential because one is not trusted if one cannot smell one.
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