You Can't Judge a Parent by the Child
Judging the parenting of others is a dangerous business. I'm sure that I'm not the only one who has had the experience of observing a child in the neighborhood whose behavior did not find favor in my eyes, and jumping to some unfavorable conclusion about the parenting in the home. Even if that criticism never escaped my lips and remained nothing more than a fleeting thought, it always came back to haunt me – sometimes within a few days and sometimes not for years – when I discovered that my own children were not necessarily immune to the same behavior. And, of course, I knew that could not be the result of any deficiency in my parenting.
Judgments of others based on the behavior of their children are not only risky, but almost always wrong. Let's take two hypothetical fathers. One, a baalebos, has sons who all excel in learning and are considered top bochurim in their respective yeshivos. The other father, a respected rav has not been so fortunate. None of his boys seem destined for the top ranks of learning. At first glance, most of us would conclude that the baalebos has been successful with this children and the rav not.
But one who knows nothing more than the outcomes with the children cannot possibly make that judgment. The first father has every right to be feel blessed. And he must have demonstrated in word and deed the importance he attaches to Torah learning. But it is far from clear how much beyond that he contributed to his sons' successes. Maybe all the boys were very gifted. From the moment they started learning Elu Metzios, they heard nothing but positive feedback from their rebbeim. Not surprisingly, they enjoyed learning and continued to receive positive reinforcement, which in turn fueled their desire to learn more.
That's one possibility. But only one. Natural abilities, as we have written many times, are a very imperfect predictor of success. The great Mirrer Mashgiach, Rav Yerucham Levovitz, once remarked of a certain gifted bochur in surprise, "We always thought that kishronos (natural gifts) are meaningless. Now, we see sometimes kishronos can help in learning." Gifted children have their own challenges. One of which is that they often rely too much on their native abilities at an early age, and never develop the hasmoda that will inevitably be required at some point to reach the higher levels of learning. In short, we have no way of knowing whether the first father was the greatest parent in the world, or he simply did not make any big mistakes and ruin the gift he had been given.
And the same is even more true of the second father. Maybe his sons were not nearly as bright as he. Or perhaps they all suffered from some learning disability, and as a consequence got off to a difficult start in school. And perhaps those difficulties were compounded by constantly hearing how shocking it was for sons of a distinguished talmid chacham to be so mediocre.
Now, most fathers want their sons to follow in their footsteps. At the brissos of his sons, the second father no doubt imagined them growing to be distinguished talmidei chachamim, like him. It would have been quiet natural for his sons to grow up feeling that they had disappointed their father, even if he was careful not to convey his disappointment. Had they sensed any disappointment on his part, one or more of them might have become bitter against a world in which they were denied success and against their father for making them feel bad about themselves. And that could have led them away from the Torah world.
Rather than view the second father as a failure because his sons are not waxing talmidei chachamim, then, perhaps we should view him as the greatest success in the world because they are well-adjusted frum Jews at all. One of the most common parenting mistakes is living vicariously through our children. How many fathers have done their sons grave harm by pushing them into the prestigious yeshiva that they attended, even if it was totally unsuited to their son. Seeking vicarious glory through our children is the very opposite of the Shlomo Hamelech's advice "hanoch l'naar al pi darko," which means educate the child according to his needs and not according to yours. Who better fulfills that injunction than the father who refuses to view his sons as means for the fulfillment of his own ambitions?
Bottom line: the only one who can possibly judge the quality of anyone's parenting is the Ribbono shel Olam, for only He knows the potential with which any child is born, and the strengths and challenges he or she will face. And only in relation to that potential can our success or failure be assessed.
Follow the Money: "Pro-Israel" J Street's Interesting Friends
One of the first pieces of advice given to investigative journalists is: Follow the money trail. That dossier has now been prepared for J Street, which bills itself as a pro-Israel, pro-peace organization.
For years J Street denied any connection to billionaire financier George Soros, whose contempt for Israel has never been disguised, only to eventually admit that Soros and family were its principal early backers. Soros, it turns out is but the best known of J Street's interesting friends. Another is Genevieve Lynch, a director of NIAC (National Iranian-American Council), whose D.C. lobbying efforts dovetail neatly with those of the Iranian government. She has given over $10,000 per year to J Street and sits on its finance committee. Another repeated contributor is Turkish-American businessman Mehmet Celeb, the producer of the Turkish film Valley of the Wolves, described by the Wall Street Journal, as a cross between American Psycho in uniform and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
A 2010 J Street visit to Israel was partially sponsored by Churches for Peace in the Middle East, a group supportive of the BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement. J Street maintains close ties with the Arab-American Institute, whose president James Zogby already explained on Jordanian TV in 1990 how an Arab Lobby could conquer America by allying with the Left, particularly Jewish progressives.
State Department Arabists have been the most active opponents of Israel within the American government since before the creation of the state. U.S. ambassadors to Arab countries tend to spend the rest of their lives as paid lobbyists for their former hosts. A large number of them show up on the list of contributors to J Street and as members of its advisory board. Among the contributors: Ray Close, former CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia and subsequently an advisor to Saudi intelligence; Lewis Elbinger, former State Department officer in Saudi Arabia; Nicole Shampaine, director of the State Department Office for Egypt and the Levant. And among the J Street advisory board members: Ted Hattouf, former ambassador to Syria and the United Arab Emirates: Robert Pelletreau, former ambassador to Egypt, Tunisia, and Bahrain; and Philip Wilcox, former counsel general in Jerusalem (which is independent of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv).
Could it be that what J Street calls its "pro-Israel" agenda is seen by its supporters as the opposite? It has lobbied against Iranian sanctions, and J Street Director Jeremy Ben-Ami wrote an op-ed with the director of NIAC Trita Parsi entitled "How Diplomacy Can Work with Iran." J Street squired Richard Goldstone around Capitol Hill to promote the report from which he has now retracted the most damning condemnations of Israel. It has lobbied against a congressional resolution condemning the incitement in Palestinian media and textbooks. And in the same vein, it sponsored a U.S. tour of the director of UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) in Gaza, an organization that exists solely to perpetuate the Palestinian refugee problem and whose schools are full of anti-Israel incitement. For good measure, the last J Street conference even featured a session on boycotting Israel-produced goods.
J Street's strange partners are certainly getting their money's worth.
Too Old to Fight
President Obama offers demography – i.e., there will soon be more Palestinians than Jews between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River – as a crucial reason why Israel must make peace now. Irrelevant, says Barry Rubin of the GLORIA Center, because Israel does not govern the vast majority of those Palestinians.
The ever quirky and brilliant Spengler, writing in the Asia Times, argues that demographic trends are actually in the opposite direction and favor waiting. Palestinian birth rates are in rapid decline, and, as a consequence, the overall population distribution will move significantly towards the older age brackets over the next generation. And older people, with wives and families, are less combative and careless with their lives, especially if economic conditions are improving, as they most certainly are for West Bank Palestinians.
Something similar happened among Northern Irish Catholics in the decades immediately preceding the 1998 peace accords. As George Mitchell -- the successful mediator in Northern Ireland and a failure as President Obama's special envoy to Palestinian-Israel negotiations -- learned, comparisons of the Middle East to Northern Ireland are risky. For one thing, no prominent Catholic clerics supported IRA terror tactics, while Palestinian suicide bombers have the most prominent clerical imprimatur.
But Spengler has at least provided a ray of hope about the long-range prospects for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.