Letter 03   31-Mar-2002   Can an Orthodox Jew be elected to Canada's parliament?
Ezra Levant
I had personally witnessed an ultra-religious Jew refuse to allow his phone to be used on the Sabbath in order to call an ambulance for a non-Jew who happened to have collapsed in his Jerusalem neighbourhood. Israel Shahak

  31 March 2002

Ezra Levant
159, 2515-90th Ave SW
Calgary, AB T2V 0L8

Ezra Levant:

Your Withdrawing Your Candidacy Saved You From Disaster

It is just as well that you withdrew your candidacy for parliament.

If you had gone ahead, questions would have been asked that you were unprepared to answer and I do not mean merely the ones concerning kosher certification that I asked in my letter to you of 27-Mar-2002, or the ones concerning your support of Israel that I asked in my letter to you of 28-Mar-2002 but many other questions as well, some just as pressing, some even more pressing.  Perhaps in any future attempt at parliament, you would do well to think these questions through and prepare a defensible position hopefully one more sophisticated than merely your knee-jerk diagnosis of the psychiatric malady of anti-Semitism.

Among the remaining questions that rank high on the list is the question of whether you would be capable of serving your constituents impartially and without regard to their religion, which question necessarily leads us to an examination of your own religion.  I take it that you are an Orthodox Jew, from at least the evidence correct me if I am wrong that you were married on Sunday 24-Oct-1999 in the Shaarei Tefillah Synagogue, 3600 Bathurst Street, Toronto, Ontario, M6A 2C9 a synagogue which is Orthodox.

Digression To The Question Of Your High Salary

Incidentally, perhaps we gain from a certain detail of your wedding at least a partial understanding of the following issue:

[Alliance Party leader] Mr. [Stockwell] Day selected Ezra Levant as his new communications director, but he came with a price tag of $150,000.  This is about twice what political hacks of his ilk are usually paid (just a tad more than weekly editors) and was way beyond the Alliance Party's budget.  Not to worry.  Several Alliance MPs were asked to hand over any excess funds from their parliamentary budgets to the leader's office.  Explaining his $150,000 salary and where the money is coming from to pay it will be the first test of Mr. Levant's PR skills.
The Prescott Journal, Online Edition, 28-Feb-2001, 28-Feb-2001.

The detail of your wedding that might help explain what some consider your high salary during your three-month stint as Stockwell Day's communications director is that Alliance leader Stockwell Day's son, Logan Day, was best man at your wedding in 1999, just as you were best man at his wedding in 2001.

But this question of your high salary is a digression, and I return to your being an Orthodox Jew, and here my question is simply, What attitude toward non-Jews does your religion teach?  I imagine that you will have to agree that this question is of the highest relevance simply because most of your future constituents would be non-Jews, and if your religion encourages an attitude toward them that is discriminatory, they have a right to be warned of it.

Five Insights From Israel Shahak

To throw some light on the question of what attitude toward non-Jews your religion teaches, I present the following five insights from the writing of Israel Shahak.

  1. Picking up a telephone to save a life

    I had personally witnessed an ultra-religious Jew refuse to allow his phone to be used on the Sabbath in order to call an ambulance for a non-Jew who happened to have collapsed in his Jerusalem neighbourhood.  Instead of simply publishing the incident in the press, I asked for a meeting with the members of the Rabbinical Court of Jerusalem, which is composed of rabbis nominated by the State of Israel.  I asked them whether such behaviour was consistent with their interpretation of the Jewish religion.  They answered that the Jew in question had behaved correctly, indeed piously, and backed their statement by referring me to a passage in an authoritative compendium of Talmudic laws, written in this century.  I reported the incident to the main Hebrew daily, Haaretz, whose publication of the story caused a media scandal.

    The results of the scandal were, for me, rather negative.  Neither the Israeli, nor the diaspora, rabbinical authorities ever reversed their ruling that a Jew should not violate the Sabbath in order to save the life of a Gentile.  They added much sanctimonious twaddle to the effect that if the consequences of such an act puts Jews in danger, violation of the Sabbath is permitted, for their sake.
    Israel Shahak, Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years, Pluto Press, London and Boulder Colorado, 1994, p. 1.

    If Israel Shahak's account related only to the beliefs of some fringe group within Judaism, then it would have limited significance, but what Shahak indicates is that the rabbinical evaluation in question was unanimous, and even though widely publicized, was undisturbed by any minority opinion or dissent.

    Actually, if we read Israel Shahak's statement more carefully, we find that the unhelpful Orthodox Jew in question did not refuse to himself pick up his telephone to call an ambulance rather, he refused "to allow his telephone to be used," which may be interpreted as his refusing to allow anyone to use his telephone to bring assistance to the stricken non-Jew.

  2. Rabbi Kook the Elder explains the difference between Jews, non-Jews, and cattle

    Rabbi Kook, the Elder, the revered father of the messianic tendency of Jewish fundamentalism [...], said "The difference between a Jewish soul and souls of non-Jews all of them in all different levels is greater and deeper than the difference between a human soul and the souls of cattle."
    Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky, Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, Pluto Press, London and Sterling Virginia, 1999, p. ix.

  3. Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson's taxonomy of species

    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 Jewish body "looks as if it were in substance similar to bodies of non-Jews," but the meaning ... is that the bodies only seem to be similar in material substance, outward look and superficial quality.  The difference of inner quality, however, is so great that the bodies should be considered as completely different species.  [...]  A Jew was not created as a means for some [other] purpose; he himself is the purpose, since the substance of all [divine] emanations was created only to serve the Jews.  [...]  A non-Jew's entire reality is only vanity.  It is written, "And the strangers shall stand and feed your flocks" [Isaiah 61:5].  The entire creation [of a non-Jew] exists only for the sake of the Jews.
    Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson quoted in Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky, Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, Pluto Press, London and Sterling Virginia, 1999, pp. 59-60.

    But perhaps Rabbi Schneerson is peripheral to Judaism or discredited or lacking influence?  Quite the contrary!

    Ariel Sharon was the Rebbe's favorite Israeli senior politician.  Sharon in turn praised the Rebbe publicly and delivered a moving speech about him in the Knesset after the Rebbe's death.
    Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky, Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, Pluto Press, London and Sterling Virginia, 1999, p. 61.

    And American presidents pay tribute to Rabbi Schneerson every spring, as did George W. Bush in his Education and Sharing Day proclamation of 22-Mar-2001:

    Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, clearly understood the importance of fostering character.  His establishment of educational, social, and rehabilitative institutions bettered the lives of people both in this country and abroad.  As he once said, "All educational efforts are basically meaningless unless built on the solid foundation of good character."  Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the Rebbe's birth, but his legacy of teaching that a nation's true greatness is measured by whether it produces citizens of compassion and character remains timeless.
    White House web site, www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/03/20010322-2.html.

    And as George W. Bush ritually did again on 25-Mar-2002, as can be seen on the White House web site at www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/03/20020325-4.html

    Digression to the question of Rabbi Schneerson's contribution to education

    The question may be asked whether Rabbi Schneerson despite his zany taxonomy of species at least advances education?  The answer has to be that Rabbi Schneerson advances education if it can be considered an advance to gut a curriculum of everything that makes a student useful to his fellow man, and thus that makes him employable.  Those who do not define an advance to education in this way might be more predisposed to view Rabbi Schneerson's educational practice as tying students to Judaism by so crippling their education as to render them unemployable in the wider world which in some eyes might constitute more an advance in child abuse than an advance in education:

    This approach to education, based on the three-thousand-year-old Jewish yeshiva system, drastically minimizes secular studies (math, science, history, English, social studies, computers & other technical studies) in favor of total immersion in Torah, the Word of G-d.  This includes written Torah, oral Torah, halacha (religious law), Hebrew language, etc.; this philosophy of education is fundamentally opposite the one used in public and private schools and in standard home-schooling programs.

    One might say not just that Rabbi Schneerson is unfit to receive an annual Education Day tribute, but that there is no man in the United States more unfit to receive any education tribute.  George Orwell's 1984 really has arrived, and we are living it.  Orwell wasn't able to anticipate the precise details of our post-1984 lives, of course, but the broad outlines he did succeed in delineating accurately: everyone today does agree that black is white, war is peace, and that the enemies of education should be honored for their contribution to education.

    However, Rabbi Schneerson's contribution to education is another digression, and I return again to the central question of what attitude toward non-Jews your religion teaches.

  4. Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburgh comments on the ethics of liver transplants

    Rabbi Ginsburgh told the Jewish Week "If every simple cell in a Jewish body entails divinity, is a part of God, then every strand of DNA is part of God.  Therefore, something is special about Jewish DNA.  [...]  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 an infinite value," he explained.  "There is something infinitely more holy and unique about Jewish life than non-Jewish life."
    Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky, Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, Pluto Press, London and Sterling Virginia, 1999, p. 62.

    By way of demonstrating that rabbis like Schneerson and Ginsburgh are not ivory-tower theoreticians who are ignored, but rather are leaders who are followed, are the actions of disciple Dr. Baruch Goldstein, the same Goldstein who slaughtered 29 Palestinian men and boys while they knelt in prayer in the Ibrahimi Mosque at Hebron's Machpela Cave on Purim 1994 (Purim, I understand, being the Jewish celebration of vengeance against non-Jews).  Goldstein can be seen implementing the distinction between the infinite value of Jewish life and the low value of non-Jewish life in his medical practice within the Israeli army:

    Before the massacre, Goldstein's refusal as a doctor on religious grounds to treat non-Jewish patients, including soldiers serving with him in the army, was, although mentioned briefly, treated lightly in the English coverage.  Goldstein clearly derived his views from fundamentalist interpretations of sacred Hebrew texts.  The English coverage indicated that he merely followed the teachings of Rabbi Meir Kahane, a whipping boy of the American press.  In reality, Goldstein's views were more broadly based and centered in Jewish fundamentalism.  Having immigrated to Israel as an adult, Goldstein, prior to his arrival in Israel, had been influenced by the "Lubovitcher Rebbe" and his influential disciple, Rabbi Ginsburgh.  His attitude, moreover, was condoned by important, Israeli politicians and the Minister of Defense.  Articles in the Hebrew press, to which we referred in our text, discussed these points in depth; the English coverage avoided mention of much of this.
    Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky, Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, Pluto Press, London and Sterling Virginia, 1999, pp. 159-160, blue emphasis added.

    Goldstein, shortly after immigrating to Israel and as a conscript assigned to an artillery battalion in Lebanon as a doctor, refused to treat Gentiles.  According to Kizel, Goldstein, after refusing to treat a wounded Arab, declared: "I am not willing to treat any non-Jew.  I recognize as legitimate only two [religious] authorities: Maimonides and Kahane."  Kizel further reported:

    Three Druze soldiers who served in Goldstein's battalion approached their commander and asked for another doctor to be stationed in their battalion, because they were afraid that Goldstein would refuse to treat them in case they were wounded.

    Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky, Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, Pluto Press, London and Sterling Virginia, 1999, p. 96.

  5. How Rabbi Dov Lior promotes medical research

    Throwing light on some Jewish attitudes toward the Goldstein massacre this is way back in 1994, remember and expanding our understanding of the Orthodox contempt for non-Jews, is the following peek at Rabbi Dov Lior eulogizing Goldstein:

    Lior said: "Goldstein was full of love for fellow human beings.  He dedicated himself to helping others."  The terms "human beings" and "others" in the Halacha refer solely to Jews.  Lior continued: "Goldstein could not continue to bear the humiliations and shame nowadays inflicted upon us; this was why he took action for no other reason than to sanctify the holy name of God."

    [...] Lior several years ago was excoriated in the press for recommending that medical experiments be performed on the live bodies of Arab terrorists.
    Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky, Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, Pluto Press, London and Sterling Virginia, 1999, p. 103.

What are your options?

From our glimpse above at the nature of Orthodox Judaism, it might be expected that in any future candidacy for parliament, or for that matter in applying for any position of responsibility, you will be forced to choose one of three paths:

  1. You can bury your head in the sand.  You can hope that the general public never gets wind of the disregard that your religion bears toward non-Jews.  This option, however, can easily lead you to defeat, as the works of Israel Shahak are widely available, are increasingly read and discussed, and have a good chance of reaching broad public notice either before your next run at parliament, or during.

  2. You can invite your Orthodox rabbi to apostasy.  You can ask the Orthodox rabbi that officiated at your wedding, or else your current Orthodox rabbi, to publish his declaration of apostasy from what seems to be unanimous Orthodox opinion that is, you can ask him to publish his declaration that his particular brand of Orthodox Judaism (and therefore yours as well) does not subscribe to any doctrine that holds non-Jews in such low regard as we have seen above.

  3. You can announce that you are severing your ties to Orthodox Judaism.  You can recognize that affiliating yourself with Orthodox Judaism is intellectually untenable and in a secular society politically suicidal, and you can either adopt some milder form of Judaism, or revert to the agnosticism of your youth.

Can An Orthodox Jew Be Elected To Canada's Parliament?

If I were you, I would not put myself up for election again without expecting that you will be asked questions by people who have read Israel Shahak, and so your first step is going to have to be to read Israel Shahak yourself.  His two chief works are the paperbacks:

  • Israel Shahak, Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years, Pluto Press, London and Boulder Colorado, 1994.

  • Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky, Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, Pluto Press, London and Sterling Virginia, 1999.

These can be purchased online from, among others, Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

Can an Orthodox Jew be elected to Canada's parliament?  Perhaps the future promises that he will have trouble unless he first devises some means of rendering Orthodox attitudes toward non-Jews palatable to the electorate.

Lubomyr Prytulak