Why the U.S. went to war

After reading Rabbi Boteach’s October 7 op ed (“No genocide denier should be in Congress, including Dr. Oz”), I was surprised at his serious omission about America’s “fight to liberate Europe,” somewhat tying it to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. FDR went to war on December 8th 1941, with the approval of the U.S. Congress, against only Japan. It was only after Germany declared war on the United States days later that the United States mobilized against the Nazis in Europe, in essence not to save Jews, French. etc., but to save America from Hitler. 

In the process he did save Jews, France, England, etc., but that was after 1.5 million Jewish children were killed. Let us be perfectly clear, the United States went into World War to save the United States.

Joel M. Glazer

The threat is from Democrats

Rabbi Engelmayer’s absurd attempt to scare voters into voting Democrat must signify that he expects a wipeout at the polls (“The real issue in the midterms Is that it CAN happen here—and it is,” October 14). Today’s Democrats have given us the highest inflation in a generation and are leading our country on the path to become Zimbabwe, Venezuela and Argentina with their drunken trillion dollar spending bills, yet Engelmayer bizarrely claims that it is Republicans who are the greater threat to the US economy. 

Next, Engelmayer claims that the Supreme Court is going to threaten elections if it follows the Constitution and gives power back to state legislatures to run elections. Article 1 of the Constitution states: “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof.”  Seems pretty clear to anyone, other than a diehard partisan Democrat, that the Legislatures are given this power, not governors or other state officials. 

Engelmayer then tries to panic readers that Republicans will Christianize America. I am sorry to inform Rabbi Engelmayer, but most of this country’s Founders were quite religious Christians who did not threaten other religions. The U.S., as measured by church attendance, is far less religious than at its founding. To intimate that Republicans, who opinion polls show support Israel far more than Democrats, are going to lead the U.S. to another Holocaust is both libelous and insane. The far greater threat, if we are being honest, is from current Democrat U.S. representatives demonizing Jews and Israel and from the Democrat Brown Shirts namely, Antifa and BLM, whose riots killed dozens and destroyed small businesses across the country.  

Finally, to invoke Rabbi Moshe Feinstein to vote Democrat is wrong in so many ways. Rabbi Feinstein, who ardently opposed abortion, would be horrified to see Democrats pushing bills that permit abortion into the ninth month of pregnancy. If scare tactics are the only campaign strategy Democrats like Engelmayer have, I am confident Republicans will win in November and, hopefully, put an end to the trillion dollar spending sprees that lead to inflation and truly threaten our way of life. 

Bradley Landon

Rabbi Shammai Engelmayer responds

Bradley Landon’s letter criticizing my October 7 column is a prime example of the kind of gross distortion so common in politics today, especially on the extreme right and, yes, the extreme left.

It is true, as Mr. Landon suggests, that I expect “a wipeout at the polls” on November 8, but in my opinion, even a one-vote majority for Republicans in Congress would constitute such a “wipeout” because it would still embolden the radical right. There is no “Republican Party” today. As Eric Trump boasted on October 14, the GOP is “no longer the Republican Party, it’s the Trump Party.” For the Republican Party’s responsible leadership to break the stranglehold of the radicals within it requires a total repudiation of the GOP at the polls in the very year when it was expected to win big. Anyone who cares about both the future of this nation, and the future of the GOP, should want to see that happen.

Mr. Landon begins by referring to the “drunken trillion dollar spending bills” for which he says the Democrats are responsible. In so doing, he deflects from the facts — the facts — that my column reported, such as that Republicans historically are most responsible for the soaring national debt, and for slower economic growth. I backed that up with facts and figures that Mr. Landon chooses to ignore.

Next, Mr. Landon cites Article 1 of the Constitution to mockingly obscure my claim that the Supreme Court is poised to threaten the integrity of our elections by giving state legislatures “virtually absolute power in all matters electoral, including possibly even the power to overturn election results they do not like.” In doing so, he ignores the very words he quotes, and how those words have been interpreted time and again by the Supreme Court.

In a 1995 case, for example, U.S. Term Limits v Thornton, the Court said quite bluntly that the Elections Clause Mr. Landon cites was not “a source of power to dictate electoral outcomes, to favor or disfavor a class of candidates, or to evade important constitutional restraints,” such as one-person, one-vote violations and racial gerrymandering.

In a 2013 case, Arizona v Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, the Court ruled 7-to-2 that a state could not require voters in federal elections to provide such actual proof of citizenship as passports or birth certificates. The Court said it was sufficient for voters to simply swear or affirm under oath that they were citizens of the United States.

What should seem “pretty clear to anyone,” to use Mr. Landon’s phrase, is that if the Court adopts the Independent State Legislature Theory now before it, it will be tossing out a mountain of precedents that protect the right to vote.

Mr. Landon then asserts that I am trying to “panic readers that Republicans will Christianize America. I am sorry to inform Rabbi Engelmayer, but most of this country’s Founders were quite religious Christians who did not threaten other religions.”

I am sorry to inform Mr. Landon that, while this is true of this country’s Founders, it is not true of way too many Republicans today. In 1785, for example, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who authored the First Amendment, successfully blocked an effort by Patrick Henry to establish a form of Christianity as Virginia’s official religion. Today, way too many Republicans would back Patrick Henry.

In 2005, the late Associate Justice Antonin Scalia said that religious minorities or nonbelievers are not protected by the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. “Our national tradition has resolved that conflict in favor of the majority,” and the Establishment Clause “permits this disregard….”

This opened a door that would turn our Founders in their graves if we ever walked through it, and yet we may do so during the life of the current Court. In the 2020 case Espinoza v Montana, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, began opening the door a bit wider when he cavalierly asserted that the “Establishment Clause does not prohibit States from favoring religion.” A state, in other words, can decide to make a version of Christianity its official religion at least according to Thomas and Gorsuch.

When 61 percent of Republicans say, as they did in a recent poll, that they favor “declaring the United States to be a Christian nation,” and when Congress is riddled with very vocal Christianizers in both houses, turning this country into a Christian nation, with limited rights for non-Christians, is surely a question at least some members of the current Court are just itching to decide.

Mr. Landon’s reference to the riots and demonstrations following the murder of George Floyd is specious. That he does not also include mention of what happened at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, suggests that he views that horrific event as nothing more than a peaceful political protest.

“Finally,” Mr. Landon writes, “to invoke Rabbi Moshe Feinstein to vote Democrat is wrong in so many ways. Rabbi Feinstein, who ardently opposed abortion, would be horrified to see Democrats pushing bills that permit abortion into the 9th month of pregnancy.”

Actually, the late Rabbi Feinstein would be equally horrified to see Republicans or Democrats pushing bills that forbid abortion at any stage of pregnancy.

As his son-in-law, the late Rabbi Moshe Tendler, once explained, “My father-in-law…felt very strongly that allowing government to legislate in any area of morals and ethics gives them a toehold in religion….[H]e held fast to the idea that we should keep the government away from religion even in those instances where its legislation might seem to be supportive of the Torah point of view. For Rabbi Feinstein, the complete separation of church and state, was absolutely necessary for the survival of any minority group.”

As for what I wrote about Rabbi Feinstein and elections, I never asserted that he said anything about voting for Democrats.

I did write, however, that Rabbi Feinstein ruled that voting was required of Jews, and I gave one of his two reasons—that voting “fell under the category known as ‘nosei b’ol ha-tzibbur,’ carrying the burdens of the community.” The other principle is that of hakarat hatov, which means expressing gratitude for good that is done to us.

As Rabbi Feinstein wrote in a 1984 letter: “The most fundamental responsibility incumbent on each individual is to register and to vote….By this, we can express our appreciation and contribute to the continued security of our community.”

In other words, he ruled, voting is how we express our gratitude for the rights we have been given here, but we must use our vote to help ease the community’s burdens, not adding to them by voting in ways that could lead to undesired consequences.

I pray that Mr. Landon’s vote this year furthers our rights to equality and freedom, not diminishing them. I also pray that all Americans vote that way.

—Shammai Engelmayer