In Private Meeting with Secretary Mike Pompeo Dirshu Takes Battle Against Antisemitism Against the Visibly Orthodox Community
“We Must Stand Proud Of What We Are, Who We Are, And What We Stand For”
By Chaim Gold
“There are those who advise us [as a result of increasing antisemitism] that Orthodox Jews should hide their Orthodoxy, they should not be so visible and [they should] just blend into society and that will minimize the increasingly violent attacks against visibly Orthodox Jews. I ask, is that the progressive definition of freedom? Is that what great Americans fought, lived, and died for? So that its citizens should have to hide from who they are?! “Should Jews hide their Judaism in an attic and store it away?”
Those were the passionate words of Rav Dovid Hofstedter, Nasi of Dirshu, in a private meeting last week in New York City, together with Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Rav Hofstedter came to New York City to participate in an event with Mike Pompeo to raise the alarm on behalf of the Torah observant community about the increasing antisemitism that they are experiencing. During that meeting Rav Hofstedter emphasized that in some ways, the current antisemitism is different than the garden variety bigots from the lower echelons of society, in that it is coming from the higher echelons from academia and institutions of higher learning.
During their time together Rav Hofstedter and Secretary Pompeo discussed both the attacks on faith communities and especially on education, as well as the mainstreaming of antisemitism in universities and among some in the intelligentsia.
Rav Hofstedter then cited a chilling study that shows that the majority of Jews on university campuses are afraid to openly show or profess to being Jewish because of fear of reprisal.
Rav Hofstedter also recalled a meeting that he had several years ago, with the mayor of the town of Sarcé, France. The mayor was commenting over the fact that so many Jews are leaving France to live in Israel. “If they are leaving because they want to live in Israel, I have no problem with that. If, however, they feel forced to leave to Israel due to increasing antisemitism, that would be a great tragedy.” “I feel that this sort of thing can happen in America too,” said Rav Hofstedter.
Pompeo agreed with Rav Hofstedter that when it comes to standing up for one’s faith there was no room for compromise, and he told him that he attributed this to the secularization of American society and the progressive, post-modern ideals being espoused. “Don’t ever underestimate their efforts to speed American decline,” he said.
An Extension of a Torah Mission
Although at first glance, askanus with prominent political leaders and members of congress seems a bit inconsistent with Dirshu’s primary mission of promoting and facilitating limud haTorah and yedias haTorah at the highest levels, in truth this is just an extension of that mission. It is becoming increasingly clear that, as America descends into moral decay, without trying to stem the tide by cultivating Torah values with lawmakers who can make a difference, our very ability to live as frum Jews, to keep Torah and mitzvos and to learn uninhibited by government decrees and fiat, is in jeopardy. The increasingly shrill attacks on Orthodox Jewish education, by the New York Times and others, are proof of that.
Dirshu feels compelled to mobilize influence on behalf of the Torah community to combat the forces of moral decay and antisemitism that threaten the long-term viability of the Torah community in the United States and beyond.
Reaching out in a bipartisan way to those with influence is a manifestation of hishtadlus that will empower many more Shas Yidden and Shulchan Aruch Yidden to thrive in this country uninhibited by religious persecution and hate and appreciated for the moral values that they represent.
Secretary Mike Pompeo: “There Are Some Things That Are Not Subject to Compromise!”
The event also featured a speech to a large New York City audience of influential leaders given by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. It is clear that one who recently authored a book entitled, “Never Give an Inch,” about his experiences as chief diplomat in the Trump White House, is one of America’s rising conservative political figures.
In his public remarks delivered at the event, Mr. Pompeo related that before the event he had the privilege of having a lengthy meeting with Rabbi Hofstedter wherein Rabbi Hofstedter shared his concerns on the rising level of antisemitism especially coming from the left, and the unprecedented assault on Jewish education led by the New York Times, which is seeking to criminalize some of the teachings of the Torah.
Pompeo remarked that as a diplomat he was constantly looking for compromise and ways to find common ground, even with adversaries, but he emphasized, “There are some things that are not subject to compromise. Our relationship with G-d, our morality and the security of the Jewish community both here in America and in Israel. Those things must be preserved at all costs, and we cannot ‘give an inch’ when it comes to those deeply held values.
“Similarly, when it comes to the deep and close relationship that the United States has with Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, there is absolutely no room for compromise. When it comes to preserving the values of our country here at home, how we will educate the next generation of Americans that this is a great country, is not a subject to compromise.”
From Hitler’s Genocide to Creating a World-Renown Torah Organization
A guest speaker at the event, Rav Dovid Hofstedter, was introduced by the chairman. He was introduced as a person who symbolizes what the perseverance of the Jewish people is all about. As the son of Holocaust survivors – and somebody who drew on the unfathomable darkness [that] his parents sustained, in order to create Dirshu and bring the light of Torah to Jews worldwide. Hitler’s genocidal ways were not just meant to kill millions of Jews – they were meant to rid Jews of their faith. Through his work in creating an important Torah organization, educating hundreds of thousands of Jews worldwide about the Jewish texts – he has built and led an organization that serves as the single greatest revenge imaginable to Hitler.
Rav Dovid opened his speech by introducing a concept in Judaism known as “hakaras hatov.” He explained that in a loose translation, hakaras hatov can mean being grateful, loyal, devoted, but it is more than that. It is expressing constant thanks and gratitude.
“The Jewish people are loyal friends and allies. It is a great honor and privilege to be with Mike Pompeo who is so devoted to this country and at the same time has been so devoted to our community.
“Mr. Secretary, for all that you have done for America, for your service to this country, for standing up for the rights of our community, standing up against antisemitism, and BDS, for being instrumental in forging the Abraham Accords, we owe you deep hakaras hatov!”
From Travail to Triumph!
Rav Dovid then went on to give a riveting speech about netzach Yisrael, the eternal nature of the Jewish nation.
“Jewish history is not only about survival, but also about triumph! We have undergone so much: Inquisitions, pogroms, the Holocaust and so much suffering and destruction. Throughout our history, however, we have not only survived but rebuilt. My parents and my in-laws both experienced the horrors of the concentration camps where they lost everything, where their lives were shattered. They came to these shores penniless but nevertheless had the strength to rebuild. They rebuilt their lives, their families, their communities and institutions of Torah learning.
“This was the foundation and the inspiration behind the establishment and building of Dirshu, a Torah organization that promotes Torah learning because Torah learning is the foundation of our lives and our moral compass.
“Despite all the pain, the horrors, the death, and destruction, we have survived and thank G-d we are flourishing.”
“Should Jews Hide Their Judaism In An Attic And Store It Away?”
Rav Hofstedter then got to the main thrust of his speech, raising the alarm about the dark clouds on the horizon and urging action.
“Yet, dark clouds are on the horizon. There is an increase in antisemitic attacks and in the levels of antisemitism in greater numbers since the era of Nazi Germany. It is not only the statistics and numbers that cause great concern but rather the nature of it as well.
“In that era, the horrific crimes were not only the product of hoodlums, gangsters, and thugs, but rather the product of one of the most advanced civilizations in the world. The impetus came from the institutions of higher learning, from many of the most respected universities and thinkers in the country. The hypocrisy, the intellectual dishonesty that they exhibit while ostensibly combating racism are also antisemitic.”
Rav Hofstedter than got to the climax of his speech invoking what is incumbent on us as the Orthodox community to do to address this issue.
“It is important and critical that we have leaders who have a clear understanding of the issues facing our community and that have a firm moral compass, but it is also incumbent upon us!
“Particularly for us, the Orthodox Jewish community, who by virtue of our visibility are the primary recipients of the latest outbreak of violent acts of antisemitism. We must stand proud and stand tall and [we must] wear our Judaism on our sleeve and stand proud of what we are, who we are, and what we stand for.
He continued by addressing the wokeness that is now going after religious Jewish education and is trying to make our educational values another victim of cancel culture.
“They insist that we cannot educate our children according to our beliefs. This kind of conduct echoes that of the darkest communist regimes.”
Rav Hofstedter concluded that we need leaders in this country who will not replicate the errors of the past.
Bi-Partisan Advocacy on Behalf of the Torah Community
In truth, Dirshu and Rav Dovid Hofstedter’s efforts to network with politicians who share our values is not a new development. Over the past few years Rav Hofstedter has expended great effort in forging a bi-partisan caucus from both the Republican and Democratic side of the aisle to decry antisemitism and religious bigotry against Orthodox Jews from the right and the left.
The inaugural event of the caucus two years ago had the participation of congressional stalwarts such as Congresswoman Kat Cammack of Florida (R), Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania (R), Congressman Henry Cuellar of Texas (D), Congressman Don Bacon of Nebraska (R), Congressman Brian Steil of Wisconsin (R), and Congressman Dan Mueser of Pennsylvania (R).
At that event, Republican representative Don Bacon who serves as co-chair of the caucus alongside Democratic representative Henry Cuellar of Texas, said, “I have learned such a profound lesson from Rabbi Hofstedter’s background. Both he and his wife are children of Holocaust survivors who suffered so much. What has he done with that? He has taken inspiration from his parents and that generation and resolved to restore Jewish scholarship. He has taken an event of unspeakable evil and decided not to just sit complacently but to do something so that some good would be able to emerge. We always have a choice to make. Should we just wallow in hate and self-pity, or should we transcend ourselves and try to bring something positive and good and replace darkness with light? That is what Rabbi Hofstedter has done. He has taken revenge on the Nazis by proving that they could not extinguish the light of Torah. We pledge to help in that mission here in Congress!”
At that same event Congressman Henry Cuellar focused on morality. “We must distinguish between what is moral and what is not moral,” he said. “It is important to come together in a bipartisan way to fight antisemitism. Sometimes it is obvious but sometimes it is more subtle. It is vital that this caucus take on these issues.”
In conclusion, perhaps Rabbi Dovid Hofstedter put it most succinctly when he told Secretary Pompeo that it is all about values. “Every nation is based on its values. Those values build nations and reflect its aspirations. The values of the great nation of the United States – many of them values that are rooted in the Torah – are under assault and attack. This has been going on for years. Basic values upon which this great nation was built such as deep respect for religion, for human dignity, honesty, charity, compassion, and empathy, have been under attack for years. These attacks undermine the very foundations upon which America was built,” exclaimed Rav Hofstedter emphatically. “A country that does not combat hate and antisemitism is not America! A nation that does not fight for religious freedom and to allow those institutions that promote religion and religious teachings to flourish, is not America! A nation that does not stand by its friends with devotion through thick and thin is not the United States of America!”