In My Own Words: Miscellaneous things

By Rabbi Rachel Esserman

Two trials

After learning former President Donald Trump was found guilty of felony charges of falsifying business records, unlike many of my friends, I didn’t rejoice in the verdict. Instead, I found it profoundly sad that a former president of our country was found guilty of a felony (in this case, 34 felonies). That doesn’t mean I don’t believe the jury did its job: they were tasked to be objective and consider the evidence, and it looks like they were. What does bother me are the claims that not only was the trial not fair, but that it was politically motivated. Just because you don’t like the outcome of a trial doesn’t mean the verdict is not correct. 

Before anyone says that I’m favoring the political party to which I belong, I will feel the same if Hunter Biden is convicted of gun charges. Just because he is the son of a president doesn’t mean he should get special treatment. If he violated federal gun laws, then he deserves to go to jail. I will give him and his father, President Joe Biden, credit for not threatening the judge and prosecutors, or claiming the trial is unfair and the charges are politically motivated.
In case people need a reminder how Judaism views justice, I quote: “You shall not commit a pervasion of justice; you shall not favor the poor and you shall not honor the great; with righteousness shall you judge your fellow.” (Leviticus 19:15 from The Stone Edition of the Tanach) The rule of law applies to everyone equally.

Dogs, elections and resurrections

A month or so ago, there was an enormous fuss when excerpts from South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem’s memoir appeared in the press. She wrote about killing a puppy she’d been unable to train. The Internet exploded with people condemning her. I know people who were unable to tame their pets: they took them to animal shelters, rather than shooting them. (Shooting her dog does seem an overreaction to what she said the pet did.) I also know of people who consider their dogs part of the family and who were horrified by her actions. 

Noem was (and may still be) under consideration as a running mate for Trump, but this may sink her. The wisest words I heard about this were posted by a friend on Facebook: “You can deny that Joe Biden was elected President, no problem, or that January 6th was an insurrection, but shooting your dog – now that’s beyond the pale!” His sarcastic comment shows just how skewed and ridiculous the political climate in the U.S. has become.

Artists, writers and Zionists

I’ve written before about the current state of Jews/Zionists in the arts, but I feel the need to comment on a few recent examples. A Vancouver comics festival had banned a Jewish artist because she had once served in the Israeli army. Fortunately, that decision was rescinded and she will be allowed to attend. The ban received a decent amount of press coverage and the resulting upset and condemnation caused the change. After all, it’s difficult to preach about being open to all voices when you ban specific ones of which you don’t approve. 

More problematic are things that don’t receive a great deal of publicity. For example, I was looking on a bookstore website to check out a potential book to review. I noticed a one-star review on the page, which I decided to read. The memoir deals with the author’s religious life, but the review focuses on two facts: the author had visited Israel and the author’s sister married an Israeli. The reviewer’s complaint? The book did not address Palestinian issues. Seriously? Does every book written by someone Jewish have to speak to that? Are Jewish writers required to condemn Israel in order to get good reviews? There is something seriously wrong when an author is dismissed for something that has nothing to do with the actual value of his/her work.