WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO RICK “LEVI” COGHILL?
How and Why Did Messianic Music’s Main Artist/Producer Vanish?
“Repair injustice. Plead the case of those without a champion!” – Isaiah 1:17
“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.” – Proverbs 3:27
“The Body of Messiah is the only army on earth that still executes its own wounded.” – Bob Mumford, 1970’s “Institute For Youth Conflicts”
“There is no kindness that will create a sense of obligation in those who are, by nature, ungrateful.” – Aesop
“The workman is worthy of his wages.” – Luke 10:7
By Rabbi Bruce L Cohen, New York City
Composer, Lyricist, Arranger, Performer, Conductor, Director, Producer
The window of time is closing on the Messianic Movement’s chance to right a terrible wrong.
The central figure – even, hero – of its entire musical world’s founding recording and performing era has been moved off the radar into obscurity and neglect. Far from receiving the honor and affection he is due – he seems not even to be getting his royalty payments that are due to him by contract. This is not just a crime of ingratitude – it is also an outright crime of theft.
This man, who was living obscurely in Cincinnati at my last contact with him in 2006, should receive a lifetime achievement award from the American and Canadian Messianic Jewish Associations. From the early 1970’s to the mid-1990’s, he was the beating heart, the epicenter of the entire synagogual Messianic Jewish musical world. And when I say, “the epicenter,” I mean – almost literally everything recorded musically in Messianic Judaism was personally “produced” by him.
Lamb. Nagila. Kol Simcha. Cohen & Rose. Mirjam. Nancy Santiago– and on.
Every partaker of Messianic Jewish music from that time and for a period afterwards, including trickle-down into the present day, owes a huge percentage of every moment they enjoy quality-produced recorded Messianic Jewish Music directly to him. He was the musical “Ord Wingate” of the Messianic Jewish musical world: a non-Jew by birth who came in and among Israel with profound gifts, and used them for the sake of Israel’s faith and people.
His name is Rick Coghill.
He has been something between passively forgotten and actively erased.
In the 1990’s, Rick Coghill committed the cardinal sin in a movement whose leaders told people facing hard times, “This Movement is about joy!” Rick Coghill fell upon hard times.
In response, the sphere he had served for the best two decades of his musical life turned its back on him. The people who fed – and still feed – on the products of his labors and expertise just looked the other way. There was no place for people in deep pain or despair in a movement trademarking itself as a location of unbroken joyfulness and victory-to-victory living.
So – in short order – he was disappeared.
And dark as that reality is, there is a darker side to his disappearance, as well.
In his absence, his former partner is living off of, and trading upon accomplishments of Coghill’s as if they were and are artifacts of his own genius/calling. This 20-year disgrace needs to be set aright.
SEPARATING GENIUS FROM GENERIC
Since Coghill’s disappearance, his former partner in Lamb has been acting before all the world as if he, and not Coghill, was the entity responsible for Lamb’s musical footprint. He has certainly both presented himself and been presented by his Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA) context in this way: always referred to “a pioneer” and “the founding father of the Messianic musical genre:” the truth is – and I was there as a professionally trained performer to see it personally – Coghill’s former partner had a significant part in the genre’s birth – but without Rick Coghill, his music would have remained only one of a large group of fairly normal post-Joni Mitchell balladeers with no breakout hallmarks to draw attention to them beyond the other multitudinous folk rock balladeering of that spiritual era.
Rick Coghill’s producing and performing genius were what made Lamb’s sound stand out – and be unforgettable.
Good examples of this are songs like “Jonah” – or – “Comfort Ye.”
The song, Jonah, without Coghill’s ingenious use of the Guitar TalkBox made famous by Peter Frampton, would be just a mediocre folk ballad. Listen to it. It is a quite ordinary song. Coghill’s brilliant opening in which the guitar became the voice of God calling out to Jonah, and literally shook the ground live audiences stood upon – along with other such production artifacts in the song – are what “made” the song; made it something people were excited to hear, and awaited with anticipation, hoping it would be performed – even calling for it as an encore if they didn’t perform it in a concert. Without Coghill’s musical footprint – Jonah is just a another ballad.
Comfort Ye is a good song Coghill made into a great song – with two live production techniques that turned a piano ballad into a memorable event. Coghill used the magnetic E-Bow™ during the instrumental bridge to create an unforgettable oboe-like solo, and at the song’s end, used a metal slide with perfect reverb setting to give a haunting personality to the song closure that made the listener wish the song would never end. Without the trade-marking of the song by Coghill’s E-Bow™ and Reverbed Slide – Comfort Ye is just another piano ballad.
Listen to songs like I Will Talk To My Brothers – and try to block out all the ear candy from the “wah-wah” guitar opening onward – and you will hear a rather plain A-B song you could not sing more than two times through without losing interest.
Listen to Dance & Sing. The song’s melody and structure – without Coghill’s brilliant back-and-forth between guitar ornaments and disguising his guitar as a “walking bass” during the second part of the verse, and the high-speed upstroke arpeggios during the “lai-lai” segment, and the brilliant rock-lead into mandolin strokes “ride” – is again, just another folk song: and one with a nearly non-existent poetic structure, as well. What made the song “an event” was entirely located in Coghill. Zero in on the lyrics, vocal melody, and vocalizing – I defy anyone to find anything remotely clever or remarkable in them: yet, audiences used to cry out for this song at concerts if it was not performed: why? The audiences (I was among them) wanted to see and hear Coghill do his unforgettable, thrilling stuff. Messianic Judaism’s Eric Clapton in action.
And in all these songs, all the other member of Lamb did with a guitar was token strumming or picking at very simplistic levels while he sang: and the singing was competent, but far from remarkable. When the duo of Israel’s Hope appeared some years later than Lamb, and both members played guitar at far above token strumming, as well as harmonizing and singing as well as Seals & Crofts – this was a gut-punch to the image of Lamb’s lead singer from which he really never seems to have recovered. He came up to me in 1988 at the Jerusalem conference in which both groups had played, and asked, “Who won?” I asked what he meant – and he replied, “You know – the ‘battle of the bands?'” I evaded the question because the heartbreak was already all over his face: Wilbur and Chopinsky’s artistry in Israel’s Hope had blasted Lamb’s primacy into oblivion: and did it in Jerusalem, with the leadership of the entire Messianic Jewish world watching. Lamb after Jerusalem 1988 was never the same.
This above sort of situation exists throughout the entire Lamb song catalogue.
When the partners separated, we all learned what was actually coming from whom.
Not one second of comparably inspired or inspiring music has issued from the other Member of Lamb since Coghill’s departure. Mere coincidence? In the words of Scripture, “Let the reader understand.”
Some might say this analysis is harsh, or unkind to Lamb’s remaining member. I readily admit the behavior of the other guy in Lamb outrages me. Imagine giving the best twenty years of your life to an effort, only to be not only abandoned by your comrades – and not only forgotten – but erased.
Scripture commands us to plead the cause of the one being “oppressed in the gate” (by leadership or policy). I do so, here.
HAS ANYONE “REPLACED” RICK COGHILL?
Rick Coghill has been treated in public parlance by the other member of Lamb and his close-associates as a kind of “junior partner” fortunate to be allowed to hitch his star to The Other, and to bask in the radiance of the Other’s calling. And “Lamb” reemerged with Coghill’s former partner paired with a different musician.
Lamb was not like the television show “Bewitched,” in which the original actor playing Darren was replaced, and nobody noticed. Lamb being presented with Coghill replaced is more like Simon & Garfunkel with someone else “replacing” Art Garfunkel.
No one could “replace” Art Garfunkel.
Art Garfunkel was not some mere junior partner in Simon & Garfunkel. He was a once-in-a-generation talent, the personality of whose gift imprinted indelibly and deeply on an entire generation. Art Garfunkel is no more replaceable than Jimmy Page would be “replaceable” in Led Zeppelin.
Rick was an indispensable co-creator and co-owner of Lamb’s share of fame; and in reality from my perspective, its preëminent creator and owner. No matter who Paul Simon sings with for the rest of his life, that singer will never replace Art Garfunkel. When Simon & Garfunkel performed a few years ago in a reunion concert at the Grammy Awards, Art Garfunkel showed he was no mere ornament next to Simon. Frankly, Garfunkel blew away every other vocalist who performed that night: he was beyond radiant in voice and presence. His rendition of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” transfixed a few billion viewers and blew the minds of every music professional in the room. He was no junior anything.
No matter who performs as “Lamb” with Lamb’s other member, that person will never “replace” Rick Coghill. There is no artist who can replace the combined depth of both his talent and his historic gravitas. Rick Coghill made even blah songs sound good – songs with weak rhyme schemes, corny or unpoetic lyrics, forced lyrical timing, and other traits. Rick told me directly, he lost track of the re-writes and restructuring of songs he did, for which it is my understanding the other Lamb partner, who considered himself the “senior” partner, forbade credit be openly given to Rick, because the “songwriting” side of the duo’s portfolio had to be seen as entirely the other’s: no part of songwriting could be seen as Rick’s – otherwise, the duo would not appear a 50/50 situation of equals, with songwriting “all” the other’s, and production being all Rick’s.
The above-cited inaccuracy has been at Rick Coghill’s expense.
It needs correcting.
MY 2006 PHONE CALL WITH RICK
In 2006, I released my own “greatest hits” collection album, all the tracks were ones in which Coghill had served as senior producer. Rick was due what we used to call his “mechanical” royalty: the producer’s share due at sate of manufacture. I had no idea where he or his family were.
It took some effort to reach him, because he was hermited in his hometown of Cincinnati, not a presence on the internet or by published phone number: but the man was owed his royalties by contract, so I could not honorably make the physical compact discs until I had paid him. And it was not really that hard to find him: it just took commitment.
I finally reached him.
When I did, what he said to me by phone was heartbreaking.
Firstly – he was flabbergasted I had expended time and effort to track him down specifically so I could pay him his royalties. He said, “That’s a first.” He said (I report here what was said) literally none of the other artists who had been manufacturing and selling the albums he had produced had been paying him his royalties for a very long time. It was not like he didn’t need the income. What people do with this assertion I report is their own affair. If it is inaccurate in regard to you, so be it; but for any of my fellow-artists for whom it might be true, I hope they will take action to right this wrong, and pay the workman the salary that is his due.
Secondly, he told me that since he had been jettisoned by the Messianic Movement, he was so emotionally ruined that he left all his guitars in storage in Philadelphia, and had not touched a guitar in a decade. This is a Grammy-level instrumentalist and producer, so traumatized he could not find spirit to spend any energy or time with the great love of his life – the guitar. As a musician, this makes me weep inside. What product could have been ours that is lost forever in those years?
Rick’s post-Lamb treatment by the Messianic sphere took his creative soul out of him.
He was living in a kind of limbo – his great talent in suspended animation from grief.
Cast aside like a used-up fuel canister – the man who had produced nearly everyone’s albums was now producing nothing – from grief at how he had been treated and de-valued. “Abundance of oppression can deprive a wise man of reason,” wrote King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 7:7. Not everyone can endlessly just bounce back from repeated and massive deprivations. They kill some people’s souls – and at times, their very lives follow.
In the years since 2006, I lost touch. With the advent of the online digital music marketplace, I sought him out again to make sure he gets a cut of whatever digital sales of my music have happened or continue, since they were not specified in our original contract when the online marketplace did not exist. I am looking for ways to bless him, still. He deserves it. It is his due. As I began looking for him a second time, my remembrance of all he did came flooding back with a keen sense of the injustice of it all, still hanging in the air. Time to clear the air.
Rick has been gone from the Messianic Jewish musical sphere for nearly twenty years now, and I never hear anyone mention his name.
And when I say, “Rick was at the center” as above, I meant it.
In addition to being the musical heart of the pioneer duo, Lamb (lead guitarist, main arranger, studio album producer, sound engineer [ who made all those neat-sounding effects ] ) – he was the liaison between the music industry’s top professional tier and the nascent Messianic Jewish Movement’s artists.
I had Grammy-winning artists crafting and performing on my own albums with Kol Simcha and Cohen & Rose, as did other artists: I mean, my sax player was from Whitney Houston’s band! My Board man mixed for MC Hammer and Blondie! All because Rick Coghill made the connections, using his leverage as a Grammy-winner himself, having had a secular “Top Ten” hit titled “Green Tambourine” from his days with “The Lemon-Pipers.” I remember as I was walking into the studio for one of my sessions at Philadelphia’s famed, “Studio 4,” hip-hop top-tier star Queen Latifa was walking out of the same studio I was entering to use. Rick even got us in on the ground floor with the forefront of digital music, the Synclavier™ – a massively complex, quarter-of-a-million dollar synthesizer at the time, that used digital samples of real instruments in a way no other technology was able. There was only one Synclavier™ in Philadelphia – and Rick got us all into Grammy™-winner Larry Gold’s “Victory Studio” to use it.
Coghill made that level of quality happen for all of us.
Scripture tells us it is wrong to “repay good with evil.”
Coghill (left) and me (right) duetting on my 1979 song, “Abba, Father” which I wrote specifically to give Rick an electric guitar lead in the break.
It is hard to remember one man in all of modern Messianic Judaism who did more – or more impactful – good than Rick Coghill. Every Messianic musician from 1973 onward is – whether they know it or not – his child, grandchild, or step-child. Everyone who listens to Messianic Jewish recorded music is being touched by him.
It is high time to recognize this seminal artist, before he passes from our midst.
We are commanded, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.” (Proverbs 3:27) I hope for action from within the Messianic music world more than mere words affirming, “Amen.”
You may have noticed – I have not once mentioned the other Lamb member’s name in this entire article. If that unnamed person is reading ––– he will remained unnamed to the end ––– that, my former colleague, is a small taste of how it feels to be erased. In all of Lamb’s history – your name was not mentioned here once. I hope you will consider how that makes you feel, to be rendered invisible and irrelevant and unrecognized – and perhaps for the first time, empathize with what it must be like to be Rick Coghill.
THE GOALS OF THIS ARTICLE
I have a few practical goals for this essay.
Firstly, if you are a musician reading this who continues to sell product Rick “Levi” Coghill produced – you owe it to God, to Rick, and to yourself to track him down, and pay him what you owe him – every cent. If you email me, I will ask Rick for permission to give you contact information for him.
Beyond this – it is my hope the Messianic Movement’s associations will at some point do an honorific tribute to this man while he still lives. There is little point saying “thank you” to a man after he is gone. Bring him to a conference: stand him on a stage. Give him a plaque to hang on his wall – and for Heaven’s sake, say “Thank heaven for you” to his face in front of as many people as you can cram into an auditorium at the biggest night of the Conference. Nothing less is due. Nothing less would be appropriate.
This seems to me, a moral debt out of balance.
It is a debt the Messianic Movement needs to pay.
MY OWN OPEN, PUBLIC “THANK YOU”
Finally, to Rick directly from me, personally – from this musician, you have my sincere public acknowledgement and my thanks for the profound and lasting impact your sacrificial career had on me; and my promise I will always seek to make sure you receive what income and credit from your work you are due. “The workman is” – in this case, truly – “worthy of his hire.” That is true in terms of both income – and the openly affirmed value of your credits in the products you created. Whenever I do the “Messianic chucka-chucka” two-beat percussive guitar sound, I still do the Coghill-signature two-finger pick hold that allows me to use the other 3 fingers for ballast, to make the high speed strums easier, right on up to mandolin-style hummingbird-strumming. I learned that technique by watching you in action, and asking you why and how you did it; and you, rather than shoo’ing me away, you took the time to mentor me in your craft. 🙂 Thank you.
You changed all our lives. We are all the better for having known you.
What you did will reverberate in faith-based music forever.
In the end, may you hear “Well done, good and faithful servant,” from the One voice that most matters.
May it all be for shalom.
Rabbi Bruce L. Cohen
Kol Simcha: Composer, Arranger, Producer, Pianist, Ass’t Conductor
Cohen & Rose: Composer, Arranger, Producer, Pianist, Guitarist, Background Vocalist
Helen Shapiro, Barry & Batya Segal, Yehudi: Songwriter
MJAA Int’l & Regional Conferences: Main stage Worship Group (Kol Simcha and Cohen & Rose) Musician’s Chairman/Stage Director, Performer, Main stage Worship Leader (with wife Debi as vocalist)
Beth El of Manhattan, Musical Director, Primary Pianist and Guitarist
Beth Yeshua of Philadelphia, Primary Worship Pianist
SOTRU ESSAY #6 – “PSST … THIS IS ‘CONFIDENTIAL’”
How Leaders Use Slander – And Why It Must Stop – and How To Stop It
SECTION 1: THE PROBLEM NAMED
There is no such thing as a Biblically-justifiable confidential slander.
Anyone who speaks harm to the reputation of another is responsible for the content; and, the harmed party has the right to know everything said about him or her, and have the right to respond. ( Deuteronomy 19:15, Proverbs 18:17) This is the commandment set of Scripture, and global standard of Judeo-Christian ethics, and the standard of all non-tyrannical civilizations. As such, it is commanded further by Scripture to be obeyed (Romans 12:17b, 2Corinthians 8:21). The Bill Of Rights in the United States Constitution tells us, “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property (including reputation or standing) without due process of law.” This is the standard Scripture commands us to enfranchise within reach of our arms.
Yet – the “this is confidential” pattern of slander is rampant throughout the Messianic Jewish world’s top echelon operations and power-retention tactics.
1. An enfranchised leader tells someone, “This is confidential.”
2. That leader then says things harming the reputation and standing of another leader or citizen, insisting the target never be told what was said.
3. Proof of the slander is only offered from the harm-doer and others within his or her circle, with the admonition that the listener not tell anyone what was said or by whom.
4. The listener is exhorted to cooperate with the harm-doer by reducing or destroying the good name or standing of the target.
In this way in my lifetime alone, countless modern Messianics have had their careers and social standings eroded or destroyed – and many having had no idea how it happened. They simply awaken one day to find their world is smaller than it was yesterday, less people like, love, or admire them than previously – and there is no trail of how it happened. They never know the names or agendas of their assassins.
It has driven some of the targets to near-madness and near-suicide.
It has made the slanderers rich, and kept them in power.
This must stop.
SECTION 2: TWO SPECIFIC FIRST-HAND EXAMPLES
Let me humanize this reality with two first-hand stories.
These are not anecdotes I have heard: they are episodes I have lived.
I have personally rescued at least two still-practicing members of the clergy who would no longer have their careers – and one of whom would likely have his very life (because he was on the declared brink of suicide) – from the ravages of “this is confidential” slanders directed at them by top echelon leaders with an agenda.
One of these leaders (I am not speaking of myself in third person, this is someone other than me) was simply amassing too much influence in the MJAA, and his theological and praxis views were beginning to gain traction in MJAA conference events in a way that was not only not affirmative of the highest echelon’s focus, but also in an arena in which the top echelon had minimal competence. It was decided – in nearly these very words, “(So-and-So) needs not to be the focus at these services. He can’t be in charge. We need to replace him with others and not let him be seen as this important.” This was said, not because he was incompetent or heretical or any other such charge brought into the open and proven through due process: this was said and done because the man was, in the words of another credentialed theologian, “shining a little too brightly.” He was shoved to the margins of the very events of which he had been chief influencer in bringing about, and a man from the inner circle who could not find his way around these events with both hands and a flashlight was put in charge. What ensued during services led by the inner cabal’s choice was a disgrace of incompetence; all being done in the presence of the leader who was never told directly by anyone why he was being shoved aside. I know why because I was closer to the inner circles than he was in this season, and I was present when this deliberate and unjustified harm was being done. I had to rush to where this leader lived in the middle of the night once, because his wife phoned me to say she feared he was about to kill himself that night, out of despair at the way his career and reputation were mysteriously being destroyed by unseen and unknown forces being allowed to ruin all he had built and become. I was able to rescue him by speaking to one of the top members of the innermost ruling cabal, and point out the unjustified nature of the attacks on my colleague, and the way to fix the growing situation of open discontent building in regard to his ruin and deflection. The top echelon guy apparently heeded my advice, because the attacks soon suddenly stopped, and the leader was allowed to continue his successful theological and praxis influencing – albeit, with the inner cabal dogging his every step, looking for ways to insert themselves so as to appear to be part of the inspired and inspiring source of the innovations being created.
The “this is confidential” in-the-shadows slander campaign to diminish the charismatic and influential actual leader nearly drove him mad, as he watched his career tanking with no source of harm having the integrity or courage to attack in the open with anything of substance. There was no substance on the slanderers’ side: there was only fear of loss of power and status. The more this innovator had, the less gloried a focus the others had – and the others saw themselves as the only rightful repositories of inspiration or focus or high-standing.
Another leader in another part of the USA was being ruined from the shadows for monetary and political reasons. He led a new congregation in which the largest financial donor was what we New Yorkers call “a snowbird.” He lived during the warm seasons in Manhattan, and in the the cold seasons in Southeast Florida. I was the man’s rabbi when he was in Manhattan, because he attended my synagogue, Congregation Beth El of Manhattan (see www.bethelnyc.org). One day, I got an email from one of the most influential leaders in all of Messianic Judaism, asking me to direct my snowbird congregant not to attend the new synagogue being formed by a close friend of the congregant’s. I was told by this influential leader that the new synagogue was formed out of order, and the leader did not even have “real” credentials for a pastoral role of any kind. The only “proof” of the statements he offered was his own word and the word of the local rabbi whose congregation would keep the high donor if that donor was deflected from joining his friend’s newly-formed congregation.
If I had done what was being asked of me, it would have financially killed the new congregation in its infancy, depriving it of its largest source of financial support; and, it would have killed the leader’s career from that point forward, because he would be tagged as a fomenter of out-of-order creation of a congregation, and as defiant to sound process.
What I did next was kindergarten level spirituality. (Proverbs 18:17)
I contacted the besmirched leader and told him what was said to me about him – and I asked for his side of the story.
He instantly denied both charges, and eagerly offered documentary and witness proofs. He sent me copies of his ordination certificates, with the phone numbers and emails of the seminary and officials having issued them; and he outlined his process of forming his new congregation, all of which was perfectly in accord with Biblical order and his association’s constitution.
The reason for the slanders was simple.
The slandering leader was the top tier leader of a congregational association; and a local congregation that was a member of his association in that area of Florida would lose a wealthy member and donor (my snowbird) if that member migrated to the new Florida congregation. The local Florida leader had apparently asked the top tier national association leader for help; and the help the top tier leader chose to give was to slander the new group’s leader to me, hoping I would use my influence as the snowbird’s Northern rabbi to deflect him from joining the new group, and influence him to stay in the older congregation – which financially and politically benefited his association organization.
When the documents and witnesses to this matter were all collected, the top tier leader was proven to have slandered the new group’s leader without basis: he was forced to retract, and issue a printed apology. This literally saved the congregation and career of the newer leader – I have a letter from him, gratefully saying so for the record.
That top tier leader still hates me to the present day, insisting “the whole problem (his being called to account and embarrassed) would never have happened if Bruce had just kept the things I told him confidential, which is what he should have done.” The slanderer blames me for his troubles resulting from his having slandered an innocent man in a way that would have ruined the poor fellow without him ever knowing how or why; or, if the snowbird had told him that I was the source of the influence that ruined him, I would have have been left “holding the bag” with my only justification for ruining him being, “So-and-So asked me to, so I did, without ever checking the slander for accuracy, or letting the harmed party know what was said about him, and allowing him to respond (as Scripture commands per Prov. 18:17, etc.).
The above two real-life cases I experienced first-hand are only a few snowflakes on the tip of a huge iceberg. This pattern is a massive presence in how the modern Messianic Jewish world is governed at present. I know too many first hand stories to tell them all here.
The only people allowed to shine are those who consider themselves “the chosen” leadership.
The only people who are kept safe are people in a “crew” – in the manner the Mafia protects its own.
This pattern must change.
SECTION 3: HOW TO FIX THE PROBLEM
The changes needed are simple – their implementation will take time and great effort, because that process will require underlings “speak truth to power” – always a risky endeavor.
Firstly – it must be clear – there is NO SUCH THING AS a “confidential” slander. It does not matter who the speaker of the harm to another’s reputation or standing is. The Biblically-REQUIRED conduct of the listener is:
1. Stop the speaker as soon as his or her intent becomes clear, and direct them to speak only to the parties involved in the matter, and in line with due process as per Matt. 18:15-17 in regard to confinement of the matter to the smallest possible number of involved parties.
2. Inform the speaker that anything already heard which has harmed the reputation of anyone will result in the listener going to the other party to hear their side of the story. (Proverbs 18:17)
3. Insist the Biblical demands for such harm to a person’s reputation be fulfilled.
(A) No one will suffer any harm unless any and all charges are supported by two or more qualified, unbiased witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15, 1Tim. 5:21) and all evidence is verified (2Corinthians 13:1).
(B) the matter will be confined to the smallest possible circle of involved parties necessary for handling toward resolution (Matthew 18:15-17)
(C) No “tale-bearing” (spreading one side of a conflict) of any kind will be permitted, no matter who wants to do it. (Leviticus 19:16)
(D) No passive allowance of known harm-speaking is permitted. The believer realm has an “honor code” commanded by God, in which we all share responsibility for harm done by harm-speaking. (Leviticus 5:1) As it is said here in New York City, expressive of our shared responsibility for the security of our town from terrorism, “If you see something or hear something – say something!” Beyond this, famed ethicist Nissim Taleb wrote, “If you see fraud, and do not say fraud, you are a fraud.” Leviticus 5:1 declares the one who knows of a slander and does not bring to the relevant authorities what he or she knows, is as guilty of the harms done by the false words as the speaker of those words.
CLOSING: JUST SAY “NO”
The primary fix is needed at the most crucial point, and requires courage: when a highly enfranchised leader approaches a less enfranchised person and seeks to speak harm about another, saying “This is confidential” – the hearer needs to do what Nancy Reagan advised about drugs: “Just say no.”
- There is no such thing as a Biblically-justifiable confidential slander: not for anyone’s use.
- Refuse to assist or enact harm to anyone outside Biblical due process.
- Direct the speaker to go only to the directly involved parties.
- Notify any harmed parties of what is being spoken about them, and by whom.
- Notify any relevant governing or accountability authorities if speaker or target are members of an association with any ethics accountability standards.
So – let’s fulfill Yeshua the Messiah’s directive, and show ourselves to be members of His crew, and God’s family. (Matthew 12:50, John 14:15)
And by so doing – let’s save a lot of lives, and quality-of-life, now and in the times to come.
Rabbi Bruce L. Cohen
25 May 2017
A YOM HaSHOAH 2017 ESSAY: DOING vs. TALKING
© Rabbi Bruce L. Cohen: (Posted under Blog & State Of The ReUnion™ Menus)
“What does God require of you, oh human being? To do/make (לעשות) justice (משפט) …” Micah 6:8
“All action leads to benefit; but mere talk leads only to continued need.” – Proverbs 14:23
“It is not hearers of The Word who will be justified before God, but doers of The Word.” – Romans 2:13
“Prove yourselves doers of The Word, not mere hearers who delude themselves.” – James 1:22
WORDS OF GOOD INTENTION vs. DEEDS OF EFFECTIVE REMEDY
“Never again!” Is chanted throughout the Western world every Yom HaShoah.
Speeches are made, solemnities are observed in ceremonies and are posted on Facebook.
Collective hand-wringing in public shows the world the group or individual has rightful compassion for the slaughtered and abused.
Much of this activity is actually the kind of altruism motivated at its bedrock by the need for self-esteem: people prove to themselves and the world within their reach that they are “good” people who deplore atrocities.
Yet – in what I call the “Biblesphere” – the Scripture-embracing population – there is no more neglected value than what God puts first in His own list of what He requires of people to be human(e):
Not admiration of justice, or hope for justice, or any other purely internal mental or emotional vector regarding justice.
Rather, God’s own list of “bedrock humanity” is לעשות משפט – to do, or make justice.
JUSTICE AS A BOTHER
My own experience in the Biblesphere is that doing of justice is nearly non-existent.
And seekers of justice are hated. Literally hated.
They are seen as black holes, sucking all light, energy, and time into themselves, depleting the universe around them.
This exists in the face of clear teaching in Scripture on this point:
“‘Because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her legal protection, lest by continually coming she will wear me out.’ And the Master said, ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge said.’” (Luke 18:3-4)
“You’re bothering me! Go away!”
For a legal authority to treat an unpowered, needy justice-seeker (like a widow) as a “bother” is unrighteous.
Yet – my experience across four decades in the Western faith-realm is that justice-seekers are treated exactly this way.
There are very specific reasons for this situation: and I seek to address and remedy those causes here, in hope of furthering justice on so sacred an occasion as “Yom HaShoah” – Holocaust Memorial Day.
UNQUALIFIED JUDGES FIND JUSTICE-WORK WEARISOME
Much of the absence of justice in the Biblesphere is due to heresy – meaning, inaccurate doctrine.
The doctrines seem in large part to be artifacts of avoidance behavior: no kid who has not studied for a test wants to take it. Does the student say so? Rarely. Excuses like “The dog ate my homework” or “the storage media got damaged” abound. Taking the test without knowing the material would definitely be stressful, and most likely, embarrassing.
In this manner, in the Biblesphere, many unqualified leaders offer bad doctrine as excuses to avoid the heavy-lifting of the judicial work Scripture demands of community spiritual leaders.
The reading of documents originally penned in foreign languages and foreign, ancient cultures, in order to form sound policy from them is hard work requiring specific skill-sets. People who lack the training, skills, and gifts needed for the task naturally make mistakes, the same way someone without gifts for numerical calculation and math training would be prone to make mistakes in accounting.
“Most people are unequipped to form ethical precepts,” wrote Professor Carol Delaney of Stanford in her analysis of fundamentalism entitled, Abraham on Trial: she concluded with the statement, “policy-making is very hard work.”
People in pastoral or elder positions for reasons other than demonstrated and confirmed gifts in analyzing foreign, ancient literatures often read a verse here and an idea there, and via simple mental association processes, form a policy idea such as, “Let the Lord bring you justice: don’t do anything yourself or seek remedy: trust God to make things right for you.”
This is an anti-Biblical idea.
Things are said in support of such ideas like, “The Bible says, ‘Vengeance is mine,’ says the Lord, ‘I will repay.’” – and the justice-seeker is told his or her very desire for justice is proof of unspirituality. Victims of harm in arenas of influence like religious congregations or associations having defining legal documents like Corporate By-Laws expressly referring to judicial mechanisms meant to insure the safety of Members from abuse by power-holders or other Members – are told that using those mechanisms shows lack of faith. Other unrelated verses are recruited into service: they should “joyfully accept the spoiling of their reputations” and “suffer in silence” as the Lamb of God “suffered injustice without opening His mouth.”
The problem with ideas like the above is that, while they are supported with a patchwork of Bible quotes assembled by free-association in untrained minds, the quotes are not on-point: inexpert readers and thinkers simply mistakenly believe they have relevance; and, there are other passages of Scripture that are directly on-point, but those are ignored.
A CASE IN POINT, RELEVANT TO THE HOLOCAUST
Here is an analysis of the above erroneous position on “letting the Lord bring you justice.”
Vengeance (נקם – na-káym) is not the same thing as justice (משפט).
God does, indeed, reserve vengeance for Himself: and vengeance would be defined as acts of retribution outside human arenas of due process. A believer whose son is beaten and robbed is not to seek out the criminals and beat and rob them, himself; he is to work within the legal authority structure. He is to seek “justice” – not “vengeance.”
Justice is dispassionately and appropriately administered analysis of the deeds, and restorative and punitive acts or requirements visited upon the perpetrators of proven wrongful acts.
So – “vengeance” is something God reserves unto Himself.
Justice, God definitively put into human hands.
Foundational among the “Noachide Laws” (Genesis 9:4-6, Acts 15 & 21, TB Sanhedrin 56a,b 57 & Rambam Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot M’lakhim 8:14) seen as the basic moral precepts binding upon all humankind is, “establish courts of justice.” Every era and arena requires judicial processes and arenas, or life decays into a nightmare for the less-empowered.
Judges within any given arena or era are commanded in Scripture, “to make diligent inquiry into any matter of false oath” and administer justice once the facts are ascertained.
For a judge to say to a victim, “Let the Lord bring you justice – and stop bothering us” – is a sin against the office of a judge or empowered corporate officer, as spoken by Yeshua the Messiah, Himself in Luke 18:3-4 as quoted above. An “unrighteous judge” treats a supplicant so.
After the Holocaust, much of Christian Europe demanded that Jews – like Nazi hunter, Simon Wiesenthal, and justice-seekers like the State of Israel’s intelligence unit sent to Argentina to bring Nazi mass-murderer Adolf Eichmann to Israel to face trial – forgive and forget. As soon as a decade after the final camp was liberated, Europe was sick of the whole affair, and Jews who insisted the criminals be hunted down, prosecuted, and punished were just not letting the world move on from a painful and embarrassing interlude in civilization’s development.
The victims were a bother.
The victims were made to feel they were the problem.
Imagine: a Jew who had been vivisected by a Nazi camp surgeon, and had organs removed from his still-living body without anesthetic by Nazi physicians who “wanted to see what would happen when this organ was removed” – is told, his pain, harm suffered, and aftermath of such treatment was of no interest to anyone in the judicial world. If he was not a “bad” person, but a “good” person, he would simply forgive, forget, and move on.A man who watched his wife caged in a barrel of freezing water to see how long it would take her to freeze to death; and the saw his daughter suffer the same fate, so the Nazi scientists like Dr. Joseph Mengele could see what the difference in time taken to freeze to death was between a mature mother and her young daughter – is told, his very rage at the deeds and desire the criminals be punished is the problem: nobody cares about the Holocaust anymore – it was more than ten years ago! When are you Jews just going to move on?
These desires appear grounded in centuries of quasi-Christian thinking in Europe. I say “quasi-Christian” because the desire to forget was justified among Europe’s Bible-flavored thought-systems by the idea that total forgiveness is the obligation of everyone who is wronged – which is not an accurate rendition of the Bible’s teaching on forgiveness.
More on that later.
THE PATTERN AMONG BIBLE-BELIEVING ASSOCIATIONS AND CONGREGATIONS
These Biblically-driven judicial structures and processes are often ignored for the following reasons:
Foremost among reasons is simply bad teaching.
The Biblical message is boiled down from its actual complexity to inaccurate simplicity.
- “God is love” is quoted by people living in sin Scripture teaches is hell-insuring (1Corinthians 6:9, Revelation 21:8) to affirm God would never do something as unloving as send them to hell.
- “Judge not, lest you be judged,” is quoted by people whom Scripture demands we judge diligently (Deuteronomy 19:18, Proverbs 18:17, 1Corinthians 5:2), as a requirement we not judge their actions or motives.
- “Forgive them as God has, in Messiah, forgiven you,” is misapplied – omitting the fact that without confession and repentance from sin, the sacrifice of Messiah does not do anyone any good. (Proverbs 28:13, Isaiah 59:20, Acts 2:38).
- “If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.” (Luke 17:3-4)
1. The victim is sent the message, “Your complaining is the problem; not the crime committed against you. Everything would be peaceful if you would just shut up and go away.”
2. The fact you are seeking remedy is proof you are “unspiritual:” you should just forgive and forget, because Messiah Himself said on the cross, “Father forgive them, they do not understand what they are doing,” and “You should forgive, just as God has, in Messiah, forgiven you.” The inexpert reader misses that Messiah was praying specifically in regard to the Roman soldiers who were crucifying Him: they were simply soldiers following orders and the laws of their land, and literally did not know there was anything wrong with what they were doing: they were simply executing a duly-convicted capital criminal.
Yet – much of the Believing world relates to the message of the Bible as if the absence of conflict is God’s view of the highest good. There is no value higher at present in the Biblesphere, in this writer’s opinion, than “peace” – with peace defined in the Biblesphere mind as the absence of conflict, stress, tension, or controversy.
Therefore, Believers look first and foremost to avoid creating tension.
It is a major virus of heresy in the spiritual genetic code of many generation.
If British and American Christians had swallowed this heresy, the world would be empty of Jews, and the entire planet would be blond-haired, blue-eyed German-speakers.
There are times believers need to suit up.
There are times when conflict is the only moral course to choose.
Why then, do Biblesphere dwellers ostensibly driven by moral consciousness, choose to act so anti-morally in regard to the Biblical mandates for justice-making?
There are specific reasons for this.
UNDER-EQUIPPED AND OVERLOADED
One major reason is overloaded leadership.
Qualified leaders are few and far between, and they are largely understaffed and overburdened. “Burnout” among pastoral leaders is a constant topic in most professional clergy journals, and the published statistics are dismaying. Ten-thousands of spiritual leaders leave their profession every year in states of depletion and depression.
Underqualified leaders either burn out more quickly, or take up evasion strategies to survive. In my own vocational sphere of Two Testament Judaism, I have seen many leaders divert from leading congregations into para-congregational efforts like humanitarian aid. This frees them from having to handle the terrible complexities of people – and the reality of the age old adage, “The longer I work with people, the more I love my dog.” The Federalist Papers (Essay #50) observed, “The governing of other human beings is a sore and thankless task.” Many spiritual leaders segue as unnoticeably as possible into spiritual work other than actual community leadership.
The worst consequence of the above is that the value of “doing justice” is cast aside.
It is simply too hard.
A cornerstone of healthy Biblesphere life is found in Deuteronomy 19 – echoed many places in the New Testament:
“One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sins: by the mouth of two witnesses, or by the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established. If a false witness rises up against any man to testify against him that which is false, then both the men between whom the controversy exists shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who serve during those days; and the judges shall make diligent inquiry (דרשו היטב): and, determine if the witness is a false witness who has testified falsely against his brother. Then shall you do to the false swearer as he had thought to have done to his neighbor: this way you will expel evil from among you. And the people who remain shall hear, and fear, and shall in the future commit no more such evil among you.” (Deuteronomy 19:15-20)
These precepts are repeated by Messiah and by Paul in the words of the New Testament. Intra-Body justice is the New Testament parallel of Old Testament policy: two or three witnesses are required (2Corinthians 13:1, 1Timothy 5:19), absolute non-bias needs to be assured (Leviticus 19:15, 1Timothy 5:21), and so forth.
God does not ask us to admire justice- He requires of us “la’asoht mishpaht” – that we “do” or “make” justice.
I know from direct conversation that the people in the top tiers of the Two-Testament Jewish associations are often people absent the skill or the will to fulfill their required duties as officers designated by their Alliance, Union, or Congregational documents as “the judges of their era” required to “make diligent inquiry” and “render to the harm-doer” in accord with Biblical precept.
I was having a conversation with a top officer of the International Messianic Jewish Alliance (IMJA) in regard to a case before that association, and after some minutes, it became clear to me the man with whom I was speaking knew very little about Biblical judicial process. To avoid misjudging his level of expertise, I said the following to him: “I am sitting at my desk in my office, and directly across from me in my plain sight is a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf – and the entire top shelf, and a good portion of the shelf below it, are populated with books on correct judicial procedure – and I have read all of them in whole or in good part. May I ask you, how many such books are in your own library?” His sheepish, embarrassed answer was, “None.” That reply relieved me of the follow up question as to how many of them he had studied.
He said, “So – you’re saying I’m not up to my job.”
I told him, I would not have put it in exactly those words – but yes. He did not have the knowledge or the skills to judge anyone in due process – it was not an arena of study or experience to which he had devoted any effort of any substance at all.
THE COMMUNITY MUST CHOOSE TO RISE TO A BETTER STANDARD
In his magnum opus, Jewish Law, the Chief Justice of Israel, Menachem Elon explains in regard to judicial appointments, “If unqualified judges are allowed by the community to be raised into office, then the entire community bears responsibility for all the harms done by the decisions rendered by such unqualified judges.”
The wider Two-Testament community has a power I call “the rights of the sheep.”
I am, in fact, working on a book by that title, detailing these powers to the inhabitants of the Biblesphere.
The sheep can demand healthy process.
The cornerstone ideas are so very simple: qualification and non-bias.
The American Constitution provides that citizens can legally seek remedy for harms done to them by their government; and the legal apparatus of the nation and the states provide mechanisms for seeking remedy for harms done to them by their fellow citizens. These processes are derived mostly from the Biblical patterns and precepts for justice.
Both Testaments refer to physical harm, financial harm, and reputational harm – and how to address them to “make justice.”
Judges need to be qualified.
If no qualified judges exist in the local congregation or among the officers of an association, then outside sources for them need to be tapped and employed. No congregation or association is without reasonably accessible resources for qualified judges or mediators: the reasons they are not employed are primarily: (a) self-interest: empowered violators do not want to be found guilty of their violations, so they insure their matters are handled only by associates upon whose good will they can rely to protect them from consequence – which, of course, directly violates the non-bias commandments in Scripture; and (b) expense: the group simply does not consider getting justice for some rank-and-file member worth the expense and time required to access qualified, unbiased judges and allow them to do their jobs.
The Members of the Alliances, Unions, and Congregations have the power to change their circumstances.
Firstly – they can insist there be specific, written processes for handling sins, crimes, or harms – whether done by the smallest toddler in the pre-school, or the highest officer in the realm. Those written provisions can include penalties for refusal to comply with those mandatory processes: and no power-holder should be exempt from removal due to such refusal.
Secondly – they can vote with their feet.
If a congregation or association or leader in such will not submit to the Romans 12:17 command to “respect what is considered honorable among all humankind” in regard to civilized justice and remedy-seeking, then they should admit to themselves they are in a cult – and leave.
“What do you call ‘a leader’ with no one following him?” the old joke goes. “Just a guy out for a walk.”
A leader who fancies himself God’s gift to the faith-realm will be hard-put to posture himself as such if his flock walks away en masse for the stated reason that he considers himself “above the law.”
This is, of course, a different case than a leader standing alone for a precept of righteousness, despite lack of support. Moses and Aaron being threatened with stoning, Yeshua being left by all his supporters, Paul being abandoned at his first defense, Sir Thomas More being stripped of all office and reputation and executed on false testimony – all these are instances of righteous leaders being abandoned by their flocks because of their stand for righteousness. Leaders sometimes lose followers because they are standing for the right. However – a leader insisting he be excepted from all due process or accountability processes of any kind not populated by people whose livelihoods and reputations he directly controls – is a matter of tyranny which underlings can help remedy by removing the power-base giving the “leader” standing as a “leader.”
The old adage, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” holds true, even among “the faithful.”
It is significant to notice that the Framers of the American Constitution, all men of extremely high moral commitments, considered themselves “the dangerous ones” from whom the populace needed protection. Villains seldom consider themselves villains. The Mafiosi who steal and murder excuse their crimes as having the main motivation of “putting bread on our tables for our families.” This is a lie. They could put bread on their tables and not steal; but they cannot put Jaguars in their driveways and multi-carat rings on their wives’ fingers: those are the reasons they break the law; not for provision, but for luxury and pride above what their natural gifts would gain them lawfully.
A Congregational leader said to me many years ago, when I was researching the formation of my own synagogue’s by-laws, that he would never empower his congregation to form tribunals to examine accusations against himself; and his reason was, “I’ve heard of times when boards like that found against the leader and not the congregant!” I kid you not. His reason for keeping his world clear of accountability structures was, some of them have found leaders guilty, and not the underlings! This idea is deluded, evil – or some combination of the two.
For the record, between 1993 and 1995, I wrote, with the help of a Manhattan religious law-expert corporate attorney of high experience and reputation, the section of the by-laws of my Manhattan synagogue which specifically outline accountability processes for the leaders and rank-and-file, and the provisions by which the less-empowered can remove higher officers or leaders from their posts. I did so for reasons which should be painfully obvious: no one is above the law, and no one is incapable of impropriety. Therefore, no one is exempt from the need for a context of service containing rules for accountability for the use of power.
NEVER AGAIN, AGAIN
All victims or witnesses of atrocities, if in possession of any empathy at all, cry out in the aftermath, “Never again.”
Then – it happens again.
Talk is cheap. “From all action, there comes benefit; but mere talk leads only to continued need.”
Fine – fourteen days after Passover every year, let’s all post “Never Again” and “Remember” e-cards on our Facebook pages. Let us also see to it that in our communities and nations, we “do” justice, not merely admire it.
So as genuinely to honor Yom HaShoah, and all it represents, may I respectfully ask that you consider this question: ask yourself, “Of what seriously harmful injustices am I aware – in my congregation, my association, my workplace, my family? And – what actions have I done so as to impel the ‘making’ of justice for those harmed?” Prayerfully seek God about what action is incumbent upon you – in your particular situation as a citizen, as a member, as an officer of whatever level.
And – if you know “the Emperor has no clothes” – for Heaven’s sake – tell him.
Famed twenty-first century mathematician and philosopher Nissim Nicholas Taleb wrote, “If you see fraud, and do not say ‘fraud,’ then you are a fraud. The late American President John Kennedy’s speechwriter, Ted Sorensen, said his objection to normalizing trade with human-rights repressive regimes was, “You are what you permit.”
We are what we permit.
Y’hi ratzon – May it be God’s will – Never again.
Rabbi Bruce Cohen
New York City • 26 April 2017
The Reason For the “State of The ReUnion™” Essay Series
(Above: Nathan publicly indicting the King for murder and adultery.)
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
“And how shall they hear if no one tells them?” – Romans 10:14
“If so-called ‘believers’ fail to give you an honorable hearing after two attempts, then let them be treated by you thereafter as people outside faith.” – Matthew 18:17
“Alexander the Coppersmith did me much harm. Be on guard against him, yourselves. When I first defended myself against him, no one else rose to my defense; even so, the Lord was on my side of the matter.” – 2Timothy 4:14-16
OPENLY SPEAK TRUTH TO CORRUPTED POWER (1Samuel 24 and 26)
This series is not after only two attempts at sound process: it is after two decades of such attempts.
One of the great ironies of rape cases is that the rape victim almost always looks worse to the jury than the rapist. Slander is, by the way, the reputational and vocational equivalent of rape – and according to the Talmud and New Testament, murder (TB Arachin 15b32, Romans 1:32).
This is because the victim is the one who was violated; the victim’s emotional well-being was the thing harmed or destroyed. The rapist feels fine about himself, and is composed, well-groomed, and calm in the presence of his loud, complaining, disarrayed victim.
Scripture acknowledges the dilemma that the less-empowered victim is an irritating inconvenience (Luke 18:5), crying out for attention and time – therefore, volunteer tribunals automatically resent victims for adding time-demand to their schedules already crowded with their actual livelihoods, families, and recreations. This is why there is a legal profession. Without it, justice would be reduced to a part-time affair, dependent on people whose hearts and minds are not only elsewhere, but instantly inclined to look for ways to dispose of the inconvenient Plaintiffs (those making the complaint).
THE SCRIPTURAL MODEL FOR THIS SITUATION
I do not propose to allow myself to be buried until I am dead. – Noah Webster
What do you do when those in charge are the perpetrators of wrongful harm?
Before psalmist and shepherd David of Israel rose to the throne, he was socially and vocationally raped and his murder attempted by King Saul while Saul was in power.
Saul was the king: betraying him was treason. Accusing the King of crimes could easily be “spun” into a crime against the State and King.
Saul had more followers, many of whom used to love and admire King David, and follow him into battle; but who were willing to hunt down and kill their former captain at the present power-holder’s whim.
What does Scripture tell us was King David’s means of handling this kind of mess?
1Samuel 24 and 26 tell us of two separate times King David used the “mass media” of his era to speak the truth openly in front of Saul and all his former comrades-in-arms; and held up visible proofs what he said was true.
Without newspapers and the internet, King David used two opportunities where the army and Saul were encamped in an open area surrounded by elevated plateaus Saul’s archers could not reach with their arrows.
From that safe perch, visible and audible to Saul and the entire army, King David pleaded his case: he announced the wrong King Saul was doing, described his own innocence, pointed out the ambitious scoundrels who were trying to use the situation to rise in the present king’s favor – and publicly held up the proof of Saul’s guilt and his own innocence, for all to see. The fact it made the present person in charge look ridiculous, evil, and cowardly was merely a by-product of the truth.
The core-purpose of the SOTRU Essay Series is to do exactly these Scriptural things in regard to the present highly-corrupted state of the Messianic Jewish associations in North America and some beyond.
Since all honorable attempts across twenty years toward due process by me have been thwarted by overtly unethical, anti-Biblical, anti-Constitutional, and anti-normative conspiratorial obstructions of justice ––– treat the perpetrators in line with Yeshua’s directive once “so-called believers” (1Cor. 5:11) clearly show they are void of any likely participation with honorable resolution: “Let them from that point forward be to you like those who do not believe.” (Matthew 18:17)
HISTORY’S MODEL FOR THIS SITUATION
Historian Santayana wrote, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” What lesson does history have for the Messianic Movement’s present state of high governmental corruption?
When French Jewish army Captain Alfred Dreyfus was railroaded into an unjust exile on Devil’s Island by corrupt French government officials who had, themselves, committed treason – Dreyfus would have died on Devil’s Island if not for French novelist, Emil Zola.
Zola wrote the most famed newspaper article in history, J’Accuse – in which Zola took King David’s approach, and publicly named the crimes, the criminals, and the falsehoods that sent Dreyfus into undeserved exile, while allowing genuine criminals to remain free and in power.
Zola simply refused to be silent, or silenced.
He literally wrote and spoke himself to death, saving Dreyfus.
Zola poured out truth – facts – and sound thinking into the public via the printed word, and by so doing, rescued an innocent man from prison, disgrace, and disenfranchisement. And, in false and ridiculous attempts by the government to harass and ruin him with fake and biased “judicial” proceedings that were obvious perversions of justice, Zola continually publicly stated the abuses for what they were, and exactly how they violated all accepted civilized norms, and the law.
THE EXPECTED RESPONSE FROM THE POWERS-THAT-BE
Here is what history and experience teach us will be the response from the corrupted centers in the Messianic association world. It will not be pretty – and it will not be honorable. It will be intended to distract, hijack the conversation and turn it towards things other than themselves, and further harm “The Whistleblower” they have been trying to exile-to-death since March 1999.
- Invalidating Name-Calling: their accuser will be called, “a division-maker,” “a bad person,” “trouble-maker,” “a small-time loser who is just angry or jealous at being a failure,” “not well,” and any other epithets outside due process or proof that ascribe the pathology to the whistleblower citing crimes by those in power. In the Dreyfus case, they called Zola “a traitor,” “a man without love for The Republic,” “one who troubles and divides France,” and “dishonoring great men who serve our country.” Zola was describing specific criminal deeds by specific people – which harmed a specific person and betrayed specific laws. The name-calling was a meritless diversion-tactic – but the ordinary citizens of France bought it for a long time, and smeared Zola in concert with the criminals trying to invalidate him so he would lose ability to make his case.
- Silence: John Adams said, “There is no pain in the world quite like being ignored.” They will do their best to convince everyone around them they are wonderful people by not responding to the charges. This will be advertised as them having “self-control” – and in classic rape/slander case form, will be an attempt to weaponize the fact they feel fine and are comfortable, and make their victim’s discomfort appear to be unspiritual discomposure or lack of self-control. This tactic is often accompanied by painting the Plaintiff as an irritant everyone wishes would just shut up and go away – because of the inconvenience handing his/her case poses.
- Denials of Documented Facts or Testimony: The accusations will be called “baseless” and “lies” – even when documentary evidence is staring the reader in the face. This already happened with David Chernoff’s re-write of Joe Finkelstein’s long sin-history. See previous SOTRU Essay #3 on “Hijacked Associations.”
- They will lie and forge documents: the MJAA, in particular, are documented as having done so in previous cases where the ruling core’s interests were threatened.
- They will allege “God is ‘with’ them’” – so anything that would hamper, decrease, or demote them is de-facto breaking of God’s will. Like any rapist, they will point to their own better condition than their victim, alleging it is “proof” God likes them far more than their lesser-supplied accusers.
- Distraction: They will go rummaging for personal information about their accusers to use as topics turning attention away from themselves and their already-accused conduct. This is a technique called, “moving the show.” Joel Chernoff already did this when he fomented the October 1999 “kangaroo court” attack on the accuser of his brother David – an illegal and out of order abuse of Joel’s office as General Secretary and the entire Executive level, which even the corrupt IMJA could not avoid having to shoot down as invalid, so grossly obvious was it as a deflection-tactic and improper it in every aspect.
Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; light the most efficient policeman.” – Justice Louis Brandeis
King David is my Scriptural role-model.
Emil Zola is my inspiration in the recent historical world.
I am a kind of “Alfred Dreyfus” of the modern Messianic Movement.
I have been exiled from my corps, from my milieu, from the fruits of my highly recognized and honored body of work; all to cover for the crimes of high officers, so they can go about their lives and comforts, while I and mine are left to suffer on Devil’s Island. I have endured this criminal mistreatment and sought remedy in honorable due process – and only encountered more and more criminal conduct in reply.
I am going to do my best to do the following honorable things with the SOTRU Essay Series.
- Keep it business. My goal is to put the truth of the current state of the Movement, and my own situation “out there” for people to know; and possibly, in hope-against-hope, deliver myself Zola-style from my own unjust exile and deprivation of my social and vocational spheres of my entire adult life.
- Resist the Temptation to “Go Personal” – despite the fact that I know a huge amount of personal and embarrassing information about the people involved in these matters; and could indulge my outrage at their conduct by simply flinging embarrassing personal information and stories out there to hurt them; I am going to do my very best to put out ONLY information and history that (A) bears on criminality or unjust harm-doing, (B) illustrates precepts bearing on the matters, (C) instructs how possibly to bring repair, healing, or necessary justice/restitution.
- Persist until things change. F.R. Mendel of the International Messianic Jewish Alliance (IMJA) said in Virginia Beach in 1999, “We’ve all been hearing these things about the Chernoff’s conduct for years – but they always somehow outlast their accusers. Nothing gets done, because the Chernoffs stay around, and their accusers eventually leave.”
MJAA Executive Charlie Kluge of Florida said to me when I first filed charges against David Chernoff nearly twenty years ago, “These things are ‘out’ now – and they can’t be put back. They’re going to have to be handled. But Bruce, how are you going to feel if you’re ‘the korban’ (sacrifice) so these things can get dealt with?”
My reply was along the lines of telling Kluge that putting a cute Hebrew label on throwing me under the bus, just to please the Chernoffs and their circle, will not make me feel any better about MJAA Executives showing cowardice in the presence of such corruption. I do not need to be “the sacrifice” any more than Dreyfus was a necessary sacrifice to protect the career of criminals like Esterhazy, or to guard “the honor of France.”
Dreyfus was the victim of a social and vocational gang-rape and robbery.
Everyone knew who the criminals were.
They just needed the courage, clarity, and resolve to face them down.
They didn’t have it.
No one had the courage to face them down except Emil Zola.
And – no Zola has risen to my aid – not in twenty years.
Not even from people who owe me their lives in their present forms.
And – frankly – I am a professional writer as well as the primary harmed party – so, there is probably no one who can state the case as accurately and clearly as can I.
One of my colleagues keeps telling me as the years go by, “Just let the Lord be your justifier, Bruce.” Whenever I have heeded this advice – years simply go by. Nothing changes. This is because justice is not reserved by God for His own actions: only vengeance. Justice is put firmly into the hands of responsible human beings: like my colleague, who has official duty to enact justice in this sphere, but does not do so because he frankly lacks the expertise and energy to do so.
There is no substitute for courage.
And there is no alternative quality to take the place of expertise.
There is no equally acceptable option rather than truth or justice.
Forgiveness is not – Biblically – letting unrepentant and dangerous criminals get away with ongoing criminality, just because it makes your own life easier than confronting them.
The Messianic Jewish Movement will not heal gradually.
It will not heal automatically.
The most politically-empowered President in modern history did not resign office because he had a pang of conscience, any more than King David repented of murder, adultery, and his year-long cover-up crimes without being confronted: these empowered leaders repented or resigned because their crimes were made public by the free press of their eras: in ancient Israel, by the unhampered power of Prophets to police the King and Priesthood – and in America, by two obscure journalists whose relentless investigative journalism made it clear America’s chief executive was a crook.
Messianic Judaism will heal as every realm with a government heals:
when the citizens rise up and demand it function in a healthy and harmless manner.
Montesquieu wrote in The Spirit of The Law: “Governments should exist in such a form that no man need fear another man (having imbalanced power to do improper harm).”
The Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA) has a Constitution and By-Laws that create such a “safe” government; but The Constitution and By-Laws are being ignored, even as Nixon ignored America’s.
“One may smile and smile, and yet be a villain.” – Hamlet
The Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC) has a Constitution and By-Laws that create such a “safe” government; but The Constitution and By-Laws are being ignored, even as the MJAA inner-core is ignoring theirs, and for the same reasons (covering up for corrupt leaders like Jamie Cowen (now James S. Cohen in Israel) (portrait at left), Russ Resnick, Elliot Klayman, Rich Nichol and their entire Cowen-connected Judiciary apparatus) .
The International Messianic Jewish Alliance (IMJA) has a Constitution and By-Laws that create such a “safe” government; but they are being ignored. National Alliances run amok are not held accountable, even as before World War II, German aggression into Czekoslovakia, France, and Poland was ignored by the Allied powers who simply did not want to go through the effort and costs necessary to stop Hitler’s violations in their era.
In my next essay, I will explain specific steps the Movement’s citizens can take toward health. Let all remember this simple precept spoken by Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Until next time,
Rabbi Bruce L. Cohen
New York City • 4 March 2017
FASCISM MASQUERADING AS DEMOCRACY
Democracy On Paper Is A Mafia Structure In Reality
“The whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint.” – Isaiah 1:5
“When a leader heeds lies, all his underlings propagate those lies.” – Proverbs 29:12
“‘Enough, you “leaders” of Israel!’ says The Lord God. ‘Remove violence and plundering, enact justice and righteousness, and stop dispossessing My People!’ says the Lord God. ‘You should have honorable/honest standards!'” – Ezekiel 45:9-10
by Rabbi Bruce L. Cohen
Former MJAA Development Chairman, IAMCS Yeshiva Instructor, Envoy to Israel, South Africa, Russia, Conference Musician’s Chairman, Conference Evening Program Director, MainStage Conference Musical Worship Leader – and more.
The lovely and inspiring chart you see here below is a lie.
I created this chart in my capacity as the Development Chairman of the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA) between 1988-1993. I used it very effectively as a fund-raising and affiliation-motivating tool all over the world.
I did not know it was a lie when I created it.
Having created it and spread it around, ethical responsibility falls to me to correct formally and on the record the misrepresentation, within reach of all those affected by my sale of a faulty product. (Leviticus 5:1, Ezekiel 33:3)
I and my wife found out this chart was a lie the hard way.
We found out the way idealistic young Germans serving their country in WWII found out at some point into or after the war that the National Socialist Party and German government were riddled with unchecked sickness and corruption, and the goals of national restoration had been hijacked by a small, insane, criminal cluster of mere thugs with one cultic leader at the heart of it all, using the nation for their own aggrandizement, enrichment – and in some cases, indulgence of a penchant to enjoy infliction of pain on others without empathy.
When I and my wife tried to use our supposed “Member” rights outlined on paper in the Alliance Constitutions, in order to seek remedy for the corruption having surfaced within reach of our arms and the harms visited on us and others by it – we were hit with a withering illegal, unethical “Whistleblower” counterattack by the current highest power-holders and their circle of influence, all too willing to join in a massive cover-up persisting to the present day.
HOW THE CHART NEEDS CORRECTION
This misrepresentation of the MJAA and the IMJA persists to the present day.
The network of accountability relationships this chart suggests does not, in reality, exist anywhere but on paper.
In the real world, if a national alliance deviates from its Constitution – a disaffiliation-level offense – nothing is done by the IMJA in response remotely resembling the “duly-diligent investigation” (Deuteronomy 19:18) of credible reports of such deviations required by the Constitution’s direct provisions and its reliance upon Biblical law as the final arbiter of sound practice.
If harm is done by officers abusing their offices or access – no qualified, sound, unbiased process is brought to bear on it.
Said one IMJA President to a member who inquired about a case sent to the IMJA: “Oh, we don’t do things that way any more; we do them ‘by relationship.'” The IMJA is required by law, as a non-profit corporation, to “do things that way” (as required by their legal incorporating documents); and the Torah directly forbids justice “by relationship” (Deuteromony 1:17), because inevitably, those with less relationship get less justice.
Without changing the legal documents, the controlling officers have changed Standard Operating Procedure.
They have simply not announced they have done so to the Members and Donors.
The above chart both outlines and suggests a level of a formal and entrenched network, and the kind of accountability assumed naturally to exist within such developed formal spiritual associations: commitments to order, ethics, Member safety from power-holder abuses, and due process for harms suffered. One pastor of a huge northwestern church actually gasped into his lapel microphone when he saw this chart, and said to the thousands of people in the room, “I had no idea the Messianic Jewish movement was this … developed!” It made a huge impression that turned into supporters and financial gifts. The impression this pastor had was, sadly, a false impression.
Said Paul Liberman, a recently retired General Secretary of the IMJA, to me directly, “We (the IMJA) cannot handle cases like the one filed against the Chernoffs. We don’t have the money, time, or qualified personnel. So, we are going to ‘pass’ on handling those charges.” Passing meant, de facto, to let soundly charged alleged criminals go free without trial – and to leave their hapless victims stuck with unremedied harm to their livelihoods, and quality-of-life.
There is no disclaimer anywhere on the IMJA website making plain that The IMJA is not at present able to adhere to its Constitution, and nor able to enforce compliance by its Member Alliances to the IMJA Constitution, or their own Constitutions. The entire IMJA presentation to the world is – at present – a fraud.
The IMJA’s officers are also, as individuals, almost to-a-person, completely unqualified by education or experience, or situationally, by non-bias, to handle such complaints directly – since they are not certified experts in due process, are often close-associates, beholden to, or otherwise biasingly connected to the very people accused of wrongdoing; and they have, to a person, directly stated they are unwilling to expend the time, energy, and funds necessary to employ suitably qualified, unbiased experts to give sound due process of complaints that go to the very heart of the IMJA’s and its affiliated national Alliances on-paper missions.
The above MJAA/IMJA chart is like a catalogue picture of a refrigerator that doesn’t keep things cold. It looks like a refrigerator, and its called a refrigerator in the catalogue; and everyone knows what a refrigerator does; but when it arrives, you find it is – in fact – an oven. The seller just did not bother to tell you it heats things up instead of cooling them down. That is called, “fraud.”
HOW DO THE IMJA AND AMERICAN MJAA FUNCTION NOW?
On paper, the MJAA and IMJA seem sound: they are defined as national and international representative and affiliation organizations, having democratically-elected officers serving the on-paper mission of the organizations, and all sub-missions soundly deriving from those documents.
They operate in the real world as a fascist structure.
The Alliances have been hijacked.
They have not “grown” beyond their original purposes in an organic, orderly way.
The leaders still pretend to the public they function as described on paper.
The Alliances are far more of a petty mafia in actual function, than a democracy.
The on-paper structure has been reduced to mere lip-service to the form.
Elections are held in the MJAA, but everyone knows the outcome before the election is even held. There is a “slate” the powers-that-be “recommend” – and meetings are held in Chernoff-dominated congregations in Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Atlanta, and perhaps more locations held by the power-core, in which “the slate” is sold to the congregants as “God’s will” to maintain “the vision.” They are told that electing other people will be against God’s will –– and will disable progress of “the vision.”
Despite the MJAA’s on-paper nature as a national organization, the Conference electing the Slate is always held near Philadelphia, thus directly enabling the Chernoff’s congregation to predominate the Business Meeting by having its members most easily able to attend, even by day-trip to the site near Harrisburg. The majority of people in the MJAA Business Meeting for elections are members of David Chernoff’s “Beth Yeshua” congregation in Philadelphia. Amendments to allow Members unable to attend the meeting to vote by mail or electronic means have been shot down. Any effort to balance the Business Meeting population has been not only torpedoed, but name-called as “division” and “rebellion.” Members from all over the West, Northwest, South, Southeast and Midwest are far less able to attend than are Philadelphians: thus, the Philadelphia predominance in the governing echelon is preserved.
Philadelphia’s closest ally congregations in Cincinnati and Atlanta, hold formal member meetings before the conferences, in which they sell “The Slate” to their members, and slander any other candidates to voters. Long-time Cincinnati, Ohio’s “Beth Messiah” member, Elissa Tabb Wendt said to an opponent of The Slate in the late 1990’s, “Your conduct in the meeting was so positive! Your spirit was so great! I expected you to be so horrible! We heard such terrible things about you at the meeting back in Beth Messiah before the Conference! What a relief!”
David Chernoff perjured himself to the IAMCS later in 1999 by stating on paper that there is never any marshaling of influence by the Chernoff circle to dominate the MJAA elections: he alleged everything happens organically.
Philadelphia lawyer, Dennis Abrams, a member of Chernoff’s congregation, stated to me directly why he never attended the MJAA Elections: “They’re a joke. It’s like musical chairs: always the same people – and everyone knows the outcome is already decided. Why would I waste a beautiful summer afternoon like this one I could be spending with my family, to sit through that farce?”
FASCISM IS A SERIOUS WORD – PLEASE PROVE IT
The MJAA is, on paper, a nationally-representative association.
At the time David Chernoff was charged in March 1999 with multiple ethical crimes, the Executive Committee consisted of the absolutely fascist imbalance detailed below:
- David Chernoff (Central accused)
- David Chernoff’s brother, Joel. (Co-accused)
- David Chernoff’s sister, Hope.
- David Chernoff’s assistant rabbi, Joe Finkelstein. (Co-accused)
- David Chernoff’s past assistant rabbi, Jeff Foreman.
- David Chernoff’s personal and corporate lawyer, Jeff Lowenthal.
- David Chernoff’s self-described “best friend,” Bob Solomon. (Co-accused)
- David Chernoff’s best-friend’s wife, Dottie Solomon. (Co-accused)
- David Chernoff’s best-friend’s son, Kevin Solomon
- David Chernoff’s other self-described, “best friend” Bob Cohen
- David Chernoff’s next-door neighbor and family adopted son, Robert Winer.
- David Chernoff’s submitted congregant, Hank Rich.
- David Chernoff’s father’s successor in Cincinnati, Mike Wolf
- And various place-holding Executives who were not in the actual governing loop, and who said directly, “Oh, we’re not included in the important decisions: the Chernoffs and their friends do all that stuff.” (Direct quote from one of them.)
- Every one of the above persons considers David Chernoff their “pastor” – meaning, their chief advisory and hierarchic superior.
The above accounts for the vast majority of the MJAA Executive level’s population.
And the above does not even account for other sub-levels of biasing connection to Chernoff: for instance – the son of David Chernoff’s best friend had his best friend also on the Executive Committee; and Marty Chernoff’s successor to his Cincinnati congregation’s leadership had two or three younger or newer Midwestern people sitting on the Board who were under his line of influence – and thus, Chernoff’s fascist control through these sub-lines extended even farther.
In official due process for his abuse of his office, David Chernoff directly denied being conscious of any such influence by himself among others more or less than any other Executive. That position was, according to Scriptural standards, plain and overt perjury.
The above, my reader, is a fascist structure.
The word fascism comes from the Latin word fascia, meaning a “cluster” or “bundle.”
It refers to a small group of people in control, functioning above or outside normative rules and accountability.
The political science term for it is, oligarchy.
The Chernoff-centered oligarchy has resulted in moral catastrophe for the Alliance and its members.
HOW FASCISM PERVERTS JUSTICE, AND HARMS CITIZENS
Predictably, this fascist-structure Executive Committee, when assigning a sub-committee to handle an aspect of the charges against David Chernoff which, if it went against Chernoff, would have destroyed his standing and veneer – who did they assign to that committee? Both Testaments require people “totally without bias, doing all things without preference” and Jewish law requires no judge or juror “either love or hate any party in the case.” The MJAA assigned a tribunal composed of Bob Solomon, Bob Cohen, and Judah Hungerman. Solomon and Cohen are both non-jurists (failing the expertise standard of Scripture in Proverbs 24:6) who were David Chernoff’s self-described “best friends.” Hungerman was a self-admitted former professional evidence forger, who had never repented and made right his crimes of making innocent people seem guilty, and guilty people go free as innocent – and who attempted to serve forged evidence in the very proceeding in which he was participating as a judge (which “evidence” was proven to be forged on the spot: and nothing was done by the MJAA or IMJA about such a directly criminal act by a judge during an official proceeding).
The result of the tribunal populated with David Chernoff’s two best friends – who had both affirmed this status at the start of the proceedings – was, predictably, a result that insulated David Chernoff in September 2000 from the case that had been filed against him way back in March 1999, and had been hitting obstruction-after-obstruction. MJAA Exec Murray Silberling’s explanation for the long delay was indicative of the fascist nature of the situation:
“No one has ever held David Chernoff accountable for anything before. No one (no Executive, including people having been MJAA Executives for up to 20 or more years) knows what to do.”
Of course, like a scene out of Kafka, the people David Chernoff had been harming to advantage himself and his close-associates were left, not only without remedy, but dishonestly blockaded from any sound opportunity to finish presenting their long-filed and accepted-for-handling case against David Chernoff to the people having the Biblical and corporate responsibility to hear it, or provide a setting for it to be soundly handled.
The above scene sounds more like Stalinist Russia than a modern scene on American soil, but this took place in Atlanta, Georgia, in the year 2000. When the party against David Chernoff pointed out that having David Chernoff’s two best friends as judges in a proceeding in which Chernoff’s standing and career were in the balance was directly contrary to the commands of Scripture and all civilized norms, that party was name-called by the judges as “having a bad spirit” and “an authority problem.” So it goes in fascist regimes.
Is all this known?
By nearly everybody.
Why does no one tell the Emperor he has no clothes?
No one wants to incur the wrath of the one with power to ruin their lives.
LIVING UNDER FASCISM IN A RELIGIOUS ASSOCATION
“There is no way around David Chernoff in the MJAA,” said Jonathan Bernis, former MJAA Executive and now President of Jewish Voice Television.
How is this reality lived in the MJAA?
Bernis went on, “This is David Chernoff we are talking about: he sees the world in black and white, you are either for him, or against him; and if he thinks you are against him, he comes after you this way (with backroom, unaccountable character assassination and influence manipulation). If David thinks (anyone) is against him, my advice is, just leave the MJAA.”
Is Bernis the only one?
“If the Chernoffs knew I spend time with (these people who don’t support them), they’ll kill me. I’d be done around here (in MJAA, said at an MJAA Northeast Regional Conference).” – Rabbi Jeffrey Bernstein
“The charges against David Chernoff will never get dealt with: they’ll just go around the world telling everyone you (Chernoff’s accuser) are a bad person, and nothing will happen.” – Ronita Kersey, former Executive Assistant to Joel Chernoff in Messianic Records
“No one will process those charges. Know why? If they agree not to, they’ll get to have breakfast with Joel Chernoff. All our counselors told us the MJAA is a sick and dangerous family system, and we should never interact with it again. And we went back. What is wrong with us, that we went back? We were out, and we went back in, and I let my kids love those people. It was the worst decision of my life, and I regret it every day. Some day, Yohanna Chernoff (Marty’s still-influential widow, still alive at the time) will die, and the whole Movement will get a lot healthier in one day.” – Helene Rosenberg, M. Div, (whose husband was almost driven to suicide by a Chernoff attack having poisoned his reputation and career.)
THE EXCUSE FOR FASCIST OPERATIONAL REALITY
The rank and file are told that only certain people genuinely have “the vision.”
And only people “with the vision” can properly govern the MJAA.
What is “the vision?”
“The vision” is correct understanding of the correct spiritual personality of ‘The Great End-Time Jewish Revival’ (Hosea 3:4-5, Deuteronomy 30:1-6, Ezekiel 36:18ff); and, for the Chernoff’s, it includes acceptance of Marty Chernoff’s place as the chief visionary and architect of the modern Movement, and his son David’s place as Marty’s rightful heir, and the Chernoff cadre’s right to be the point leadership and governors of the entire Movement.
American pamphleteer Thomas Paine wrote in his famed, Common Sense, “Nature teaches us the truth that ‘divine right of kings’ (inherited right to rule) is folly by giving great kings idiots for sons.”
It was as true of Henry II as it was of Henry V.
And it is true of Marty Chernoff.
THE “EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES” REALITY THE MJAA LIVES WITH EVERY DAY
David Chernoff has no qualifications for the high positions his father bequeathed to him.
His father “ordained” him: he has no formal, soundly-certified training of any kind as a spiritual leader.
He has no certified training as an expert analyst of Scripture: no training analyzing literatures in ancient or foreign languages.
He has no certified training for any of the major tasks he performs in his role.
He also demonstrates a consistently dishonest and dishonorable nature that violates the most basic of believing standards: truthfulness. When his own conduct or those of his close allies has been under scrutiny, he has simply made up self-contradictory stories on the fly. Despite having the written Confession of Joe Finkelstein, signed in attestation by his own brother, Joel (See Finkelstein’s Confession here) – David Chernoff blamed all the troubles that issued from Finkelstein’s several-year swath of serious sinning … on Finkelstein’s victims, saying “I know Joe Finkelstein is a good man,” (despite the confessed multi-year sin streak) but saying of his accusers (whose accusations were all confessed by Finkelstein to be true, and against whom there were no such accusations), “that thing between you and Joe was ‘a division’ (an unethical power-grab or baseless malicious harm-spree).”
David Chernoff denied over and over again Finkelstein’s Confession was true, despite Joe (according to Joel) having gone to David in his office and re-enforced that the Confession is true. And the Confession included affirmation of Finkelstein’s victims as blameless and of the highest ethical standing possible (1Tim 3 “overseer” level qualification standards) which Joel Chernoff’s signature also affirmed as true.
In August 1998, David Chernoff was asked this direct question: “Ok, if you deny the Confession is true, or accurate – what do, David, say happened?” Chernoff’s response to the victim of Finkelstein’s confessed and witnessed crimes was, “You want to know the truth? You did it all to yourself.”
In David Chernoff’s inner-world, “the truth” is – a person Joe Finkelstein stole from, lied to, swore falsely to, slandered, and rained monetary and other harms upon – all those wrongs and harms confessed by Finkelstein as truly done – to David Chernoff, it was the victim was who caused the problems: Finkelstein’s victim had somehow, “done it all to himself.” (See Finkelstein’s Confession here.) David Chernoff’s stated views in these regards seem far beyond mere untruthfulness, and into the realm of deep evil, pathology, or both.
Moreover, David Chernoff’s printed “Response To The IAMCS” to the charges against him was from start to finish, filled with easily demonstrable falsehoods, often each contradicting the other. which were clearly pointed out to the IAMCS soon after its release. The IAMCS Judiciary, under evidence-forger Hungerman, never engaged with Chernoff’s massive perjuries in print.
MARTY PASSED HIS MANTLE TO DAVID
The sole reason David Chernoff has standing to do what he does is because the man David sees as “Moses” (his father, Marty) told him, in effect, he is “Joshua.” Marty handed David the mantle. Those in Marty’s circle accepted Marty’s fiat.
It was like giving plutonium to a person with no proven or certified gifts for, or expertise in physics or chemistry. Massive harms were sure to follow – and have.
David had in his youth basic good looks and a zeal for couture sufficient to make him likely as a good runway or still-photo model; but there are no luminary spiritual, intellectual, or innovative qualities to him. He is known for “giving the same five sermons over and over again,” and there is no theological, social, or theoretical insight by him to which anyone can point. He is, in contrast, known for direct errors in Biblical matters: for example, the number of sermons is past counting in which he has directly stated, “The Battle of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38) could happen any day now,” – when the Scriptures directly teach that for that particular prophesied battle to occur, Israel must have been in so long a period of peace with her surrounding Arab neighbors, that Israel has no profound border defenses, and no one can even understand why an attack against Israel would be mounted by the nations named Gog and Magog. Chernoff, using the standard sales tool (2Cor. 2:17) of creating a sense of danger to make his product seem more necessary, is both teaching error and committing fraud. The idea he might be too low of acumen to discern he is teaching error and committing fraud is small comfort in regard to those misled or harmed by his errors. In sum, a congregant in my Manhattan synagogue who saw David Chernoff’s short-lived TV show responded to my inquiry if she had seen the show with, “Oh, yeah – that cute, boring guy.”
David Chernoff is strictly low voltage.
Complicating this low voltage problem is a clear lack of ethics.
Chernoff had named his above mentioned TV show, Messianic Judaism Today – which was already the title of the UMJC’s regular newsletter. I was in the room when David Chernoff was informed by his TV show staff that the UMJC was already using the title, and taking it for the TV show would be a copyright violation, as well as ethically just plain wrong, and Chernoff’s response was, “So what?” He told all in the room, if the UMJC wanted to do something about it, they knew where to find him. So much for ethics. There are worse stories. There is no room to tell them here.
And, since March 1999, when Chernoff kept his rabbinic office and standing by illegal and unethical non-response, flight – and then use of influence to evade sound processes – David Chernoff has been holding a stolen office and stature; as has his co-criminal, Joel Finkelstein, who passively watches Chernoff harm me for his own benefit, and neither says or does anything as Leviticus 5:1 require him to do. Every day he has acted as a leader, ever dollar he has earned as a rabbi or spiritual teacher or speaker, has been stolen, since it is all “fruit of the poisonous tree” coming from his illegal and anti-ethical activities outside Constitutional order and accepted due process.
CURE LOW-VOLTAGE BY STANDING NEAR DIMMER BULBS
“Sworn in by a fool, and vouched for by a scoundrel – I’m a lawyer at last.” – John Grisham’s The Rainmaker
What is Chernoff’s solution to his low-voltage problem?
The same solution all fascist regimes use: find people of high ambition and low acumen or a personal pathology that renders them susceptible to bribery or manipulation, and make those people your closest authorities, highest in rank under The Leader; finally, make the Leader the direct and only source of benefit or loss. Every under-leader must be directly dependent on “The” Leader for career and social standing. This pattern reached a kind of absurd crisis when Chernoff fomented the election of his then main long-term subordinate, Bob Cohen, as MJAA President. Bob Cohen – who was forced to resign from his rabbinate in disgrace due to long-term adultery while a sitting Executive and ordained rabbi – was considered at the time a well-meaning person of universally-known-as-unremarkable acumen and abilities. Rabbis from the Northwest, whom I personally newly recruited into MJAA affiliation, attended the MJAA Business meeting in which Bob Cohen was elected President, and asked me directly, “Bob Cohen? There are so many other, much more qualified people than Bob Cohen! Why on earth would anyone vote for Bob Cohen as President?” I told them the truth: Bob Cohen was the candidate on “the slate” of choices the present Exec Committee recommends to the voters – because Bob Cohen was a reliable place-holder for David Chernoff, who is always in some seat on the Executive Committee, and who really runs things from behind the curtain. Despite the entirety of the MJAA and IAMCS being often embarrassed by Bob Cohen’s – let’s call then antics – for years, he was elected MJAA President anyway, simply because everyone had been made to know that was what David Chernoff wanted.
“There is no way around David Chernoff in the MJAA.”
And everyone knows it.
If your interests cross those of Chernoff, or someone he values more than you – “You should just leave the MJAA.”
David’s father Marty Chernoff taught the following thing to me directly during my training period under him: it is a precept I rejected as unsound from the moment I heard it, because it was anti-Biblical. “The most important quality in any under-leader you appoint, Bruce, is fierce loyalty. They must be fiercely loyal to you, personally, as the leader.” I knew Marty had suffered betrayals by former close friends that engrained that view into him through trauma; so, took it with a pound of salt, and moved on.
Yet, let us be clear: the Scriptures teach the first qualities for leadership appointees are, (i) to be without gross flaw, (ii) to be a person of truth, (iii) one who hates wrongful gain, (iv) with courage and compassion, and (v) not given to addictions.
Personal loyalty is not even directly mentioned in Scripture.
It is hinted in one verse (1Chronicles 12:38), but framed within a political context larger than the one fallible human being.
WHAT ABOUT THE UNION OF MESSIANIC JEWISH CONGREGATIONS (UMJC)
“The vision” in the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC) is different than the MJAA.
Since the UMJC evolved its sales-pitch as being the anti-MJAA, its goals are different.
The UMJC founding leaders have advanced degrees.
They see the MJAA revivalists as a bunch of under-qualified, dancing children leading a Movement that should be led by intelligent adults.
So – the UMJC has focused on education and institution-building.
The MJAA’s core idealists considered such focus as “the death of every revival in history.” As soon as man lays his hands on things God’s Spirit is doing, the Spirit is grieved away, and it becomes a “dead” thing spiritually. Liturgy is “dead liturgy.” Seminaries are “dead seminaries because of ‘intellectual pride.’” This, of course, in precept clears the way for low-acumen, uncertified leaders.
The chief rabbi of the MJAA’s rabbi organization at the time of Chernoff’s trial impending, was reported as not even able do his own aliyah at a pulpit. He exited his post eventually, confessing to me directly what he had said to David Chernoff, which Chernoff had staved off for a while to keep one of his friends in the post of power: Solomon admitted to me in his office, “I don’t know how to do all this judicial stuff – and I don’t have the time for it, either.” He was just a Southern good ol’ boy who loved to laugh, and had a good sized southern Pentacostal-style assembly in which everyone knew his non-Jewish wife was the real brains of the outfit. The IAMCS Rabbi’s ordination certificates had almost no Hebrew text on them because virtually none of the “rabbis” spoke Hebrew. A Manhattan Senior Vice President of a huge international corporation who was my congregant visited the MJAA Rabbi’s gathering at the MJAA Conference, and came back dismayed, telling me “It was like sitting around with a bunch of guys from the local auto repair shop.”
Such is the stuff of which fascist regimes are made.
As a matter of pure sales technique, to get people to book into your organization rather than the other, you have to show not only that you are in some manner, “good” – but that the alternative is, if not “bad,” at least not “as good.”
The MJAA and UMJC arguments for “betterness” (sic) vary, depending on which organization is yours.
If you are MJAA, the vision is “revival.”
This should mean, according to Chernoff hero, Charles Finney, God’s Spirit descending on entire geographic locations in a way that causes mass-awakening to “sin, righteousness, and (eternal consequences via) judgment.” (John 16:8)
Since the Spirit of God appears to have been chased away – since the one “revival” thing only the Spirit of God can do has ground to a virtual halt (the coming of masses to repentance and faith) – and the cause appears to be relentless and unrepented sinning in the highest echelons of the largest associations – “revival” has been morphed into an effort to stage loud, colorful, dancey parties with lots of loud music and shouting, and as many numbers as can be packed into any given room – and photo-ops with famous people. These – at least – look like revival – even if less than 1/4 of the people in the room are actually affiliated with Messianic Judaism in any way at all. Most of the high number photo ops were when Christian Headliners or Israeli Politicians were brought in to speak: non-Messianics came flooding in from the countryside to hear the famed speaker and made the room appear jammed with Messianics– as they did when Pat Robertson of CNN spoke at an MJAA Conference – and then the crowds of falsely-reported nature disappeared again. But the photos were forever.
The MJAA has been hijacked by a small Chernoff-centered cadre with an agenda not reflective of the mission of the Alliances on paper. Non-revivalists are not welcome into the leadership – they can attend to lend fat to the numbers of attendees at events – but keeping them from influence is an ongoing, relentless effort during election seasons.
Since they are non-profit corporations formed under law for specific purposes for which they solicit and spend charitable funds ––– this means they function illegally –– and have done so for some time since they were first hijacked between 1979 to the late 1980’s.
Alleging on paper to be a “big roof” inclusion-organization under which all Messianic Jews in America can affiliate, the MJAA is instead, an exclusivist organization, with only one stripe (Pentecostal) of Two Testament believer actually welcome into the Alliance in equally enfranchised manner. Non-Pentecostals are deliberately kept at the margins and out of the government loop. This is in direct defiance of the MJAA on-paper, legal purpose: and has never been legally altered.
There is no genuine “due process” available to handle all these inequities, much less harms done by empowered leaders, in the Messianic Movement’s largest organizations.”
The network you see represented above is not, in any sense, in existence as it is implied to be – or as it is directly told and sold to candidates for membership in the sphere represented above.
There Is, in fact, more of a “mafia” structure running the show.
There is a boss. He really runs things, and does pretty much whatever he wants.
In the MJAA, it is David Chernoff.
In the UMJC, there are sub-fiefs, ruled by Dan Juster Rich Nichol, Stuart Dauerman, and others.
In these spheres, there are “made” guys and mere citizens.
The “made” guys can do pretty much anything to anyone, and almost never be touched.
The mere citizens do not have the network of accountability implied above in art, nor sold directly in words. If any citizen’s interests cross those of a “made” guy – they are socially and vocationally either beaten into submission, or “whacked” – killed off socially and vocationally.
This is done under the excuse that the victim has “not supported the ‘unity’ of the MJAA” – but that rubric has been warped into an excuse to ruin anyone who calls any action of policy by any of the powers-that-be into question. Dissent – on any substantive level – is treated as capital treason; and social/vocational death is the penalty.
The Executive Committees are mere figureheads: they are showpieces playing to the crowds, and not the real power when genuine decision-making is done.
Everyone around for any measure of time knows this. Jonathan Bernis, President of Jewish Voice Television and long-time MJAA Executive put it this way,
“There is no way around David Chernoff in the MJAA: he sees the world in black and white: you are either for him or against him; and if he thinks you are against him, he comes after you.”
Bernis knew for a long time the Chernoff crew had been forging Executive signatures onto corporate documents, and publishing things with Bernis’s name on them counted as “unanimous” with them without his permission, or even consultation; but, like all MJAA underlings to the Chernoffs – did nothing. Bernis, like everyone else, knew the price for crossing the Chernoffs. As was said by the narrator in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, “We just did what we wanted and took what we wanted. If anybody complained, they got beaten up so badly, they never said a word again.”
You read above earlier what Jeff Bernstein said about what he knew his fate would be, if the Chernoffs would hear of him having any positive interaction with those under the Chernoff ban.
My and my wife’s attempts to bring to trial Joe Finkelstein, David Chernoff, Joel Chernoff, Jamie Cowen, and those acting in collusion with them was not a “division” (grab for power outside due process). “Division-making” is the “go-to” accusation flung at anyone who dissents with the Chernoff powers-that-be, much the same way in which President Bill Clinton’s inner circle counter-accused those investigating Clinton for perjury as “unpatriotic” and “degrading the Office of The Presidency.” It seems, in fact, to be the only way to look at dissent that Marty Chernoff engrained into his son, David. Accusing people of “division-making” when they dissent instantly changes the topic from an action or policy of a leader, into an instant referendum on the spiritual nature of the questioner.
Joe Finkelstein tried for over an hour to lie his way out of all the sins in which he was caught red-handed, to which he eventually confessed to every single charge as being true. He did this in the presence of David Chernoff’s brother, Joel. (See attached Confession PDF) Finkelstein was never pastorally handled for his multiple extremities of dishonesty during due process. It was ignored and he was promoted into higher offices for which he was Biblically directly disqualified. So it goes for politically useful underlings in fascist regimes. The Executive crimes at the heart of this matter committed in various distribution and combinations by Finkelstein, David Chernoff, Dottie Solomon, Jamie Cowen, Russ Resnick, Rich Nichol, Elliot Klayman, and others were:
- forgery of signatures on corporation documents,
- publication of false documents to influence elections and corporate business,
- Sadism (deliberate infliction of harm for personal pleasure)
- Mass Perjury (lying while in official judicial proceedings)
- Concealment of Officers Driving & Manipulating Illegal Process
- High Promotion of Disqualified Persons for personal political advantages
- Slander on a Mass Scale
- False Witness on a Mass Scale (through much of the entire Executive Level)
- Manufacture of False “Evidence” In Process (proved false on the spot)
- Perversion of Justice mechanisms of Alliance to insulate self and cronies from accountability for abuses of office.
- False witness about the law itself by lawyers (Cowen & Klayman) .
- And more …
The above unrepented and covered-up offenses rose and still rise far above the standard Scripture installs for holding leaders accountable. “Let those elders continuing in sin be disciplined in such a way as teaches the other elders among you to revere God.” (1Tim. 5:20)
There was no punishment or accountable processing of sins in this manner.
There was protection of cronies, and assassination of accusers who were not in the innermost circle.
Again – that is not the MJAA on paper – that is the fascist system that exists in reality.
The on-paper structure gets mere lip-service, for appearance’s sake; and the operations are ridded with criminal mishandling to make sure those in power stay in power. Fraud to the Members. One rabbi said he witnessed valid ballots for a non-slate candidate being thrown in the trash during counting, and walked out of the counting room, knowing the Presidency had been stolen from the real winner (not hearsay, witness said so to me directly). And more.
HOW FASCISM FINDS ITS SUPPORTERS
A virtual nobody in national and international Messianic Jewish affairs in the late 1990’s, a local leader named Mike Stepakoff in Southwest Florida, suddenly leapt into prominence during the initial phase of the Chernoff corruption case, by launching on the MJAA Rabbi’s Listserve (auto-distributing email network) repetitive, unconditional proclamations of Chernoff’s innocence, and God being “with” Chernoff and “not with” Chernoff’s accusers ––– despite being a rabbi and attorney, Stepakoff never having made one phone call, email, or text to Chernoff’s accusers to get their side of the story (which is both lawyerly and Biblical kindergarten: see Proverbs 18:17). It was the most shameful ambition-driven, toadying public flattery-for-ambitious-benefit I have ever witnessed, as well as open opportunism: using the judicial situation of a Plaintiff against a power holder as a stepping stone to personal benefit and aggrandizement – and it was done on the Rabbi’s Listserve, in the presence of all the MJAA’s ordained clergy. What was the message the clergy got in the MJAA/Chernoff reaction to Stepakoff’s outpouring without due-diligence response? Stepakoff was rewarded with instant prominence for stating quickly, without research, evidence, testimony, or any other results of due diligence that David Chernoff was totally righteous and his accuser were totally satanic. That is how fascist regimes function. Praise the regime, and get patronage. That was the lesson the MJAA’s rabbis got from that season of the Stepakoff-Chernoff interaction: the exact opposite of Scripture’s 1Timothy 5 mandate.
If you are “a made guy,” no one can touch you, no matter what you do.
Steal. Lie. Swear false oaths. Commit acts of sadism.
As long as you are “made” – you are safe.
And no “made” guy will “rat” on his or her bosses or other “goodfellas.”
If you are hurt by a “made” guy – there is no help for you.
If you blow the whistle on a “made guy” you get beaten to a bloody pulp.
You are alone.
Add Stepakoffs to Finkelsteins, Solomons, Wolfs, Cowens, Resnicks and Klaymans – and you wake up one day to find the Alliances built by previous generations with their blood, sweat, and tears have been morphed into petty fascist regimes, and the actual non-profit corporations as described in their Corporate Documents, Constitutions, and By-Laws have been put into non-operational comas, so their masquerading replacements can rule in their stead.
If the MJAA functioned the way they are required to by law – the Chernoffs and their “revival” vision might not define and control it.
Marty Chernoff said to all his generation, “The MJAA is a chosen tool of God for End Time Jewish Revival.”
Privately, Marty Chernoff told his close staff (I was there in an Elders & Deacons Meeting), “If the MJAA doesn’t go the way we want it to, we’ll just leave it and form our own organization.”
To the Chernoffs, they either rule it – or leave it.
But they tell everyone else, “be loyal to the MJAA.” I was exhorted by Jeff Lowenthal, one of Chernoff’s underlings, not to quit my job as the MJAA Fundraiser when I discovered serious hypocrisy and non-support of the MJAA among its Board, by Lowenthal saying to me, “Bruce, you have to think of the MJAA as Messianic Judaism. There is no other game in town. Where are you going to go?” This was said to me when I found out Lowenthal and his fellow affluent MJAA co-Executives were giving virtually nothing to the MJAA financially: and when I confronted them about it, they all said the same thing: “The MJAA is so badly run financially, giving to it would be a waste of my money.” Yet, they had hired me to go out and find people who did not know what they knew, and convince them the MJAA was a great place to donate their funds. I trust I need not point out the moral dissonance in this for you. (See Luke 11:46 for Messiah’s view of such conduct.)
As a further demonstration of David Chernoff’s unfitness to serve as a spiritual leader – when my wife (then, fiançée) and I were “ratted out” to David by one of his elders who was confronted by me about the hypocrisy of the above situation, and my statement I was considering resigning because of it – David Chernoff’s called me to a meeting in his home office, and his direct words to me were, “It is not your place to question the ethics of those above you: your job is to go out and raise money for the MJAA.” My wife and I walked out of his home, and instantly – while still on his lawn – said to each other, “We’ve got to get out of here.” That day was the end of David Chernoff’s access to my wife and me as any kind of leader.
So – the Chernoffs must either run it – or they run from it.
If they are questioned, they commit social and vocational murder in response.
Is this only my view?
Rabbi David Levine of Budapest Hungary and Jacksonville, Florida said of the Chernoff Family, “I can sum up the Chernoffs in one sentence: ‘All that I see, I own.’”
Joel Chernoff put the cultic frame as clearly as anyone ever has: “Do you want all your troubles to go away? Then, no matter what David (Chernoff) does, just keep affirming him.”
That, my reader, is called, being “above the law.”
David Frost sealed Richard Nixon’s downfall by getting Nixon to say one sentence on camera when he was asked about his cover up of his criminal activities: “It’s not a crime, when its ‘The President’ who does it.”
No matter what David Chernoff does, just keep affirming him?
Lie. Slander. Perjure. Foment illegal activities by ministers and non-profit officers?
Keep affirming? As the main spiritual leader of our generation?
Only next to Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker and Ariyeh Deri.
UMJC CORRUPTION TO MATCH THE MJAA’S
I was a life-time MJAA-context member and minister and musician – but when MJAA corruption surfaced, I was approached by the UMJC leaders Rich Nichol and Paul Saal, and courted for movement to the UMJC. Rich Nichol stated to me directly, “I might be wrong, Bruce but – with our structure and our people, this could never happen in the UMJC.” It turned out, he was dead wrong – about the UMJC and even himself. It is a great irony that the UMJC – desiring so deeply to see itself as the “anti-MJAA” – actually showed itself to be of the entirely same species. As follows.
- A UMJC vice-president, Jamie Cowen – now trading as “James S. Cohen” in Israel – secretly colluded with Joel Chernoff to torpedo the case against David Chernoff. Cowen lied in official vetting to get into the case, pretending to be a disinterested lawyer there only to observe and report if MJAA due process was sound – Cowen watched all the Stalinesque judicial misconduct (described above) by the MJAA committee in Atlanta, and falsely reported to the UMJC and IMJA that the MJAA had given the Complainant against David Chernoff “full due process.” (See Cowen Email here.) When confronted, Cowen admitted his report was a lie, but excused it by saying, “If we (the UMJC) don’t validate the MJAA process, there is going to be a war – and I am not going to let that happen.” Cowen’s admitted, predetermined plan was to let the MJAA destroy Finkelstein’s and Chernoff’s victims “for the sake of the peace (between the MJAA & UMJC).” In other words, he was lying for what deemed a good reason. The fact he was killing innocent people’s careers and quality of life by so doing was of no concern to him whatsoever. He was giving the Chernoffs what they wanted, to prevent “a war” between the MJAA and UMJC. If that meant innocent people got harmed – so be it.
- Russ Resnick, UMJC General Secretary, officially witnessed Cowen’s string of false answers in August 2000 denying any interest, any bias, any contact with the Chernoffs, to get admitted to the process, and yet – when sent a copy of Cowen’s 25 September 2000 fax that admitted Cowen had a many biasing interests, had a predetermined plan, had been colluding with Joel Chernoff, and had lied both in Cleveland when questioned, and after Atlanta in September when reporting ––– Resnick refused to come forward per Lev. 5:1 and state what he knew and had seen and heard; and even under compulsion, while verifying Cowen’s false answers were all exactly the ones Cowen’s accused had pointed out were the exact opposite of his official answers, excused Jamie Cowen’s long array of direct falsehoods with a vague statement that Jamie had explained his answers in a way that satisfied Resnick: but Resnick would not say what Cowen’s excuses were. [See Resnick’s Interrogatory here. Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 ] Thus, Resnick permitted Cowen to get away with perjury and malicious harm.
- Elliot Klayman, the UMJC Judiciary Chairman with an LL.D. from Harvard Law School, no less – oversaw and assisted an attempt to extort from the Complainant against Jamie Cowen a completely barbaric trial process, in which the non-UMJC Complainant against Jamie Cowen would have to sign away all rights to all access to any of the records of the proceeding against Cowen before it began – or no such trial of Jamie Cowen would take place. However, the UMJC officials and Cowen would all have as much assess as they pleased. [See Klayman Doc Here.] The really horrific thing about Klayman’s and the UMJC Judiciary’s conduct was that Cowen (a) asked for this out-of-order favor specifically because Cowen was afraid if there was a record of what he said and did, it would leave him open to being criminally prosecuted, tried in civil court, or disciplined by the Bar Association as a lawyer for misconduct; and (b) Cowen made this request to the UMJC Judiciary by “employing a common and often used and well-known legal tool called, ‘interlocutory appeal’ which allows a ruling in a trial to be challenged before the end of the trial ––– and this was the very thing Cowen had told Bruce Cohen “did not exist in any form in correct due process” ––– and on the basis of that legal statement, told Bruce Cohen if he did not withdraw his already filed Appeal with the IMJA, the UMJC would block Cohen’s Manhattan synagogue from Membership in the UMJC. This was the very false point of law about which Cowen had lied in voir dire, and Cowen was now using what he said didn’t exist to get his friends in the UMJC Judiciary to do him a favor to insulate him from accountability for his long train of lies and misconduct, including directly lying about the law to manipulate an intra-Body trial. Chairman and expert Elliot Klayman is most responsible here, having permitted and ratified barbaric violations of legal norms on his watch, under his direct responsibility.
- When Jamie Cowen contacted Rich Nichol, UMJC Executive and director of the New England Messianic Jewish Council, and complained about being the subject of an ethics complaint, Rich Nichol told Cowen in an email he sent to Bruce Cohen by mistake (God’s sense of humor and justice combined), that it did not matter to Nichol what Cowen was accused of. Nichol assured Cowen he had Nichol’s unconditional backing, and Nichol was totally uninterested in facts of guilt or innocence. (See Nichol Email here.) When Nichol was called and confronted about this email, his unbelievably casual and flippant response was, “Well – what can I say? These are my guys, and I’m with them.” (the exact same language as the actual Mafia! Who are are “with” are the boss and members of your “crew” who you will never “rat out” and never, ever hold accountable for harm they do to anybody but another “made guy” in The Mob.) Nichol tried to excuse his outright lying to cover for his crony by quoting Joel Chernoff, to whom he had also, it turned out, spoken: “Rich, we are a small and troubled Movement; we don’t need something like this (a scandal with the Chernoffs at the center).”
- The entire UMJC Judiciary participated in and permitted the Cowen Cover Up. The pre-trial attempt to extort from the Accuser of Cowen a binding legal waiver of any access to evidence or records was rejected by the Accuser as being against all norms of sound process, creating “a secret trial,” creating an anti-Biblical conviction of “unequal weights and measures” rather than “one law for the high and the low, the mighty and the poor, the (UMJC) citizen and the (non-UMJC) sojourner” as Scripture commands. It further created an endless “he said, she said” condition, with the Cowen and his UMJC friends able to go out of the trial and say anything they wanted, and the non-UMJC Accuser having no access to any proof one way or another. Because the non-UMJC Accuser refused to be extorted into this unethical trap ––– the UMJC name-called him “having a bad spirit, and being uncooperative with judges” – and threw out the case against Cowen.
- Resnick and Cowen’s conduct in this matter was so overtly “misleading” and “problematic” (Bar Counsel Ltr. 23 July 2007, E.Herman, Esq.), that the Washington DC Bar Association’s Assistant Bar Counsels comes as close to calling a fellow-laywer a liar as she can, and does call Resnick one later) ––– and the Jewish Assistant Bar Counsel attorney said after reviewing the files and meeting with Cowen’s accuser, “A trial of Cowen would probably be a waste of our time, because Cowen and all his friends will lie, and we’ll never get to the bottom of this. Just look at what his pal, Russ Resnick has done so far!“ That is the UMJC’s “testimony” as “people ‘of the truth'” (whom Yeshua called His crew) that Cowen and Resnick made on the Jewish attorneys in the Washington DC Bar Counsel’s Office: evasive, problematic, and liars. Basic believing standards per Yeshua the Messiah are, “Let your ‘yes’ mean only ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ mean only no: anything other than that comes from evil.”
The IMJA has shown no interest in these horrific violations of the IMJA Constitution by the UMJC’s leadership cadre.
HOW TWO-TESTAMENT JUDAISM CAN GO FORWARD
We must differentiate between unworthy people and worthy ideas.
As an example, the American democracy is not a vain enterprise, merely because Benedict Arnold and Joseph McCarthy were once power holders in its cause. The American Revolution and Constitution are no less worthy because the roster of their supporters has, from time to time, included perverse and evil people.
The same can be said of the Biblical nation of ancient Israel – and the reborn modern Jewish State as well.
Two-Testament Judaism is no vain enterprise, merely because it is at present controlled by people low of either acumen or conscience.
A deceased former congregant of mine, Kevin Kersey, a long-time active Jewish Two-Testament man of faith, upon seeing these clouds gathering back during the late 1990’s, once said, “The Messianic Jewish Movement doesn’t need more revisions. It needs another revolution.” His wife, Ronita Price Kersey, was the first person I remember using the word “hijacked” in regard to the Alliance. It was an apt observation.
What do you do when your aircraft is hijacked by people intent to changing its course from its on-paper destination?
“Let’s roll,” was the famed reply on Nine-Eleven.
By God – you take the vessel back.
THE FUTURE WITHOUT GOD’S SPIRIT
Since Scripture makes it plain, “the Spirit gives life,” and “when the Holy Spirit arrives, it is He who convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment” ––– as well as saying clearly, “God is of too pure vision to look approvingly upon evildoing” ––– if widespread sinning is standard operating procedure in the highest echelons of the IMJA, MJAA, and UMJC, we cannot look forward to God’s Spirit being involved in their conferences, operations, or ministries. With what does that leave us?
A marketing competition between clubs looking for members.
Who gives the best benefits to members?
Who looks most like they are “blessed” (have more than others)?
Who is God “with” based on who has the most people and stuff?
Who gets the best photo-ops with Israeli politicians and Christian headliners?
It becomes all about appearance.
It all gets reduced to sales techniques. (2Corinthiahs 2:17)
And “daily God was adding to the assembly those who were being saved,” becomes mere ink on the pages of Acts chapter two. “When the Spirit of God comes, He will convince the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment.” (John 16:8) Human beings are not capable of causing dead spirits to come to life: only “the One True God and The Messiah He has sent” can do that. (John 17:3) If He does not lift His “mighty hand and outstretched arm” – slaves remain slaves in Egypt, and slaves remain slaves to sin’s results.
The great End-Time Revival will not happen without the Spirit of God.
And God will not participate with long-term, unrepented wickedness in high places.
SUCCESS AT MURDER DOES NOT PROVE GOD IS “WITH” YOU
Just because a leader with more power than the person accusing him can succeed in murdering his accuser, does not mean God is “with” the murderer.
In the present IMJA sphere – if you “succeed” in killing off someone, the sphere interprets that as, “Well, God must be with the killer – because if he was with the victim, He would have prevented the victim from being killed. He would have blessed him.”
Anyone remember the warning God gave Abel that Cain was coming for him?
Anyone remember how John the Baptist escaped beheading by a spoiled brat to please a dancing prostitute?
Anyone remember how all those 1st-century Christians weren’t eaten by lions in the Colosseum, because God was more “with” them than their Roman abusers?
It is time for the Messianic Movement to grow up.
The Lord said, “Vengeance is mine.” Vengeance, in Hebrew, is na-kaym.
The visitation of avenging harm is only a free prerogative of God.
Justice in Hebrew is mispaht.
It is entirely different from vengeance.
The Lord has put justice into human hands to enact.
“What does the Lord require of you? Micah cried out. “To do justice.”
Not to admire justice.
Not to sit back and excuse oneself from obligatory action by saying spiritual-sounding, anti-Scriptural things like, “Just let the Lord bring you justice.” The Lord, in Scripture, has not made Himself the source of justice: he has made human concern for it, and action in regard to injustice, the source of righting the wrongs humans do to other humans.
The Lord chides through the prophets, “Go plead the case of the fatherless and the widow.” Go, rescue the oppressed from the hands of the oppressor mightier than he.”
We cannot “exchange evil for good, and darkness for light.”
“There shall be one law for you, and the sojourner with you; in justice, you shall not honor the presence of the mighty, nor deride the presence of the poor; you shall not know faces in justice, and you shall not tilt justice toward either the mighty or the poor; but with absolute impartiality, you shall deal appropriate justice.”
Until the IMJA, MJAA, and UMJC live up to this most basic of precepts for the safety of citizens in their spheres, they will not be dwelling places The Most High will be leading His people by His spirit to choose for their spiritual homes.
RECOGNIZING WHERE WE ARE
Our generation is presently wandering in a moral Sinai, while mere footsteps from our own version of The Promised Land.
God let the entire original Sinai generation – except for two people – pass away in the journey, without reaching the destination. It remained for their children to go in.
That may be the 1968 to early-2000’s generation’s destiny.
I dearly hope not.
May Heaven do as best pleases Heaven.
May God send every presently unrepentant sinning leader “the repentance that leads to eternal life.”
May God send the MJAA and IMJA rank-and-file the courage and resolve and energy to rise up to make things right again. The vessel has been hijacked on our watch. We are the ones responsible to take the vessel back.
May God save and help every honest servant of the Two-Testament Jewish re-awakening in our era, and beyond.
RabbI Bruce L. Cohen, 28 February 2017
Founding Rabbi, Congregation Beth El of Manhattan
Former MJAA Development Chairman
Former MJAA Minister-at-Large
Former IAMCS Yeshiva Instructor (teacher of rabbis)
Former MJAA Conference Musician’s Chairman
Former MJAA International & Regional Conference Speaker
Former MJAA International Envoy to Israel, South Africa, Russia, & Barbados
And too many other MJAA/IAMCS/Beth Yeshua service portfolios to mention.
Rabbi Bruce L. Cohen was the guest on NYU’s “Multifaithful” Podcast in an episode entitled, “De-Mystifying the Messianic: A Conversation with Rabbi Bruce Cohen”
The podcast is available clicking the above active link, or by cutting and pasting this URL into your browser: https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/aae251/episodes/2016-11-02T06_28_55-07_00 ––– You can also get it directly from iTunes.
Please note – some crucial info was edited out of the podcast’s final version. I offer a summary of it here in a comment I posted to the site once it was published. For shalom – Rabbi B
You will also note the interviewer makes reference at the close to “two stories” that were effective summaries of our most important values: however, those two stories were also edited out. The most important info in them was in TB Berachot 28a telling of the deathbed experience of Rabban Yochanon ben Zakkai, the founder of what we would now consider “mainstream” (Yeshua-disavowing) Judaism – whose version of “Judaism” left him wracked with fear of going into a tormenting eternity. Please read the Talmud passage for yourself. I told my interviewer, that was my own father’s dead-bed experience, which was utterly transformed into shalom after we had prayed together for him to make his peace with God and acknowledge Yeshua’s atoning sacrifice for him. I am very sorry to see this did not make it into the broadcast. – R”B
Marketing Is Not Ministry
The Rise of The Quote-Card Industry
2 Corinthians 2:17 “For we are not like many, peddling the word of God.”
Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote in 1921 “Die Philosophie soll die Gedanken, die sonst gleichsam trübe und verschwommen sind, klar machen und scharf abgrenzen.” (Philosophy should make clear and delimit sharply the thoughts that are otherwise opaque and blurred.” (TLP, 4.112)
This essay is an effort in that spirit to bring clarity to set of increasingly blurred lines regarding the role of social media in the spiritual life of God-followers and truth-seekers.
WEAPONS OF MASS INSTRUCTION
We now live in an unprecedented time. A private citizen can easily and quickly become a mass influence, because anyone with internet access and a computer can reach every other person on the entire planet with that access and some variety of that item. The New Testament precept in James 3:1, “Let not many among you become masters (spiritual leaders)” and the model of knowing one’s teachers personally and well (2Timothy 3:14) are now in mass abrogation through the internet’s presence in everyone’s personal space. The candidacy for the role of an influencer is open to anyone with the hardware and software tools, and the right “how-to” manuals. Having these tools, it can be rendered irrelevant that they might, as Alexander Pope said of his era’s critics, “lack only talent, taste, and sense (judgment).”
Web presence can also be fully automated, an author piling up postings to be published at given times by web-presence engines, creating the illusion the writer is faithfully putting out material relevant to the issues of the day – when a post on any given day may have been entered for web-publication months before the day it goes active.
The mini-video, sound-bite, and quote-card are the tools of the day.
As presence proliferates, and pressure to be up-to-speed mounts, time available for people to read in any kind of depth decreases, and people are naturally driven to be attracted to the most user-friendly, least time-demanding items. These are placebos for being genuinely informed or fed – and like all placebos, they leave the taker without the actual needed nourishment or repair-influence.
What is the result?
We face a webisphere filling up with “spiritual” presences acting like secular marketing efforts, and filling the web with competing aphorisms and market-share increasing media.
PAUL SEES “MANY” IN A SPECIFIC ERROR NEEDING CORRECTION
Paul proudly ( in the positive sense) asserted, “We are not like many, peddling the Word of God.”
“Peddling” is ancient language for sales.
Paul first clarified that his means and methods for ministry were not those of the people whose profession is sales.
Why did Paul feel this particular clarification was necessary?
They key is the word “many.” Paul saw an unacceptably large number in his era who were using what Paul considered sales practices to “market” their version of what they conceived spirituality to be; and create a “customer base” that ended up believing and living in a manner Paul considered an inaccurate version of Biblical life.
THE GOAL OF SALES IS THE SALE
Does anyone remember Arnold Schwarzenegger’s quote from Pumping Iron, saying “getting up a good pump” (working out so hard your muscles fill with an inordinate amount of your body’s blood supply) felt identical to romantic ecstasy? Well – most often, getting up a good pump makes you feel like you have a bad case of flu or vertigo, including vomiting.
Arnold’s sentence was simply not true.
When Arnold was confronted about his words, his response was, “Well – obviously, that was ‘sales language.’” There is a more compact word for Arnold’s description of how pumping iron makes you feel: it was a lie. It was a very successful lie – Arnold Strong (his 1970’s marketing name, since the overtly German moniker “Schwarzenegger” did not play well in a Western world only two decades past World War II) and his Pumping Iron marketing movie made young Arnold a star, and dramatically increased the bottom line of the body-building industry. His “sales language” worked – but it was manifestly dishonest. In Scripture, the goal for godly character is to be without “guile” (Ps. 32, John 1), and speak truth (Deut. 5:20*, Matt. 5:37) in an utterly unequivocal manner.
THE “BLESSED EQUALS SUCCESS” TEST
The test of sound God-following is not whether it is “successful” at making the sale.
The Isaiah 55:11 maxim, “The word of God will not return void, without accomplishing that for which I sent it.” does not mean we always “close the sale” for God.
As the old saying goes, the same sun that melts wax hardens clay. No one seeing clay harden in the sun would say the sunlight “isn’t working.” The hardening of the clay as a response to sunlight makes clear what the clay is: it says nothing about the sunlight that melts wax being different, or better, or more successful. A soft heart melts in the light – a hard heart gets harder. (John 3:20-21) There are times God specifically allows wrong to succeed for the specific purpose of allowing evil people to define themselves utterly and without unclarity as evil. (Psalm 92:7)
Some of the most “successful” God-following in history resulted in loss and death. See the example of Yochanon the Immerser (John The Baptist), whose preaching of the truth to Herod never “closed the sale” – and many other such examples. Even the “faith-chapter” of the New Testament – Hebrews 11 – goes out of its way to point out that worldly success is not the litmus test for accurate spirituality. Yeshua’s closest disciple, John, failed greatly during his lifetime, unable to successfully escape being tortured beyond imagination, and exiled to a desolate rock in the middle of the Aegean Sea. His impact – like that of Mozart in music – came mostly from his written works, and long after his death. Letters of Paul like his note to the Galatians are now seen as major theology influences, but in their original time were written to only a few dozen people in sparsely populated region.
Not to say there is anything endemically wrong with earning a living through religious work. The Scriptures say clearly that “the worker is worthy of his wages” (Luke 10:7, 1Timothy 5:18) and “just as in the Temple system, God has ordained that those who proclaim the news of Messiah (including all aspects of raising up believers and believing communities) should get their living from the work of it.” 1Corinthians 9:14) This Blog is not a diatribe against earning a living from religious work: I do so, myself.
This essay is an attempt to point out that marketing does not de facto equal ministry.
One can successfully market – and not successfully minister.
I know one quite sincere minister whose LinkedIn account publishes a verse of Scripture to the internet every day. This habit – either automated or him doing this posting daily – has created the “boy who cried wolf” situation: when I see his name, I simply ignore it. If someone is speaking all the time … it becomes the same as that person never speaking at all; with one additional complication: “In an abundance of words, sin is never lacking, but the tongue of the righteous is like choice silver.” (Proverbs 10:19-20)
QUANTITY VERSUS QUALITY
The core issue here is superabundance versus wise choice-making. Directly contrary to the old adage about photography, “If you want to take a great picture, take a million pictures” – the idea of speaking well is to speak little – and when one does, speaking should be well-chosen words. “Let your words be few” advised King Solomon, and “Be slow to speak” was the advice of the Messiah’s half-brother, Ya’acov (James).
We need to face the fact that spiritual leadership is taught by Scripture in the context of close and ongoing personal relationship. “The things you have been taught and learned, you should practice, knowing from whom you have learned them.” (2Timothy 3:14)
Yeshua modeled spiritual leadership to us by working closely with a small group and letting them get to know Him exceedingly well across time.
They learned from His instruction and His personal example.
They knew – truly knew – from whom they had learned what they had learned.
Quote card proliferation reduces pastoral ministry to the advertising craft.
It reduces truth-speaking to sales.
Truth needs as many words as truth needs.
Choice-making in regard to words is a spiritual discipline: “Like apples of gold in settings of silver, is the right word in the right circumstances” and “A wise person holds back his words, but a fool vents all his spirit.” is the advice of the wisest Israeli king in history.
Balancing the Bible virtue of verbal restraint, is the willingness to teach as much as is necessary, and in a manner not controlled by sales concerns or populist appeal.
Moses re-taught the entire Jewish nation at great length in Deuteronomy – the “second (telling of The) law” – before we crossed into the Promised Land, because a lengthy review in depth was necessary.
As Rav Saul (Paul) was departing from the city of Troas, he taught at such length that a teenager named Eutychus dozed off and fell out of the window on which he was sitting to listen. We note, he recovered after receiving prayer.
Simon Peter said he considered it no burden at all to be a consistent reminder to those he taught of those things most important they had learned. (2Peter 1:13)
Proliferating words in an unnecessary manner as a mere advertising “presence/footprint creation technique” runs the risk of drifting out of the pastoral profession and into the advertising industry.
Sales standards are not pastoral standards.
Sales goals are not pastoral goals.
We seek to “speak the truth in love,” not win the demographic or make the sale.
We seek new-births, not new members.
We seek turnings to God, not purchases of our materials.
We seek to foster mature spirituality, not customer loyalty.
These things are easy to confuse.
I end with my starting quote from Wittgenstein’s Tractatus: “Philosophy should make clear and delimit sharply the thoughts that are otherwise opaque and blurred.”
Hopefully, these ideas help clarify an increasingly blurry field of spiritual habits proliferating in the sphere of social media.
May it all be for shalom.
Rabbi Bruce L. Cohen
2 November 2016
In preparation for the start of this year’s Jewish High Holiday Season, my 2012 Blog clarifying Rosh HaShanah’s Biblical identity and sound practices for it can be found at the link below: enjoy!
“Yom Teruah” – The Real Identity Of “Rosh HaShanah”
In Manhattan Before, During, and After “Nine-Eleven”
Reflections On Our Generation’s Call To War
by Rabbi Bruce L. Cohen
Congregation Beth El of Manhattan
Congregation Beth El of Manhattan is the only Messianic Jewish synagogue having been in Manhattan before, during, and after the “911” attacks of 2001. I have been its rabbi all that time, both living and working in Manhattan, and it seems now fifteen years past the moment, there might be some value in my offering some record of my experience for the heart and soul of our Movement to process as we move further into the third Millennium of the Messiah’s message.
FROM PEACETIME BACK INTO WARTIME
In 2001, our Messianic synagogue in New York City was enjoying its early eighth year of ministry in the capital of the Jewish world outside Israel. September 11th was like any other Tuesday. I was going to work early, to prepare for our weekly Tuesday evening Scripture study and prayer meeting we affectionately call, “T.n.T.” – an acronym for “Torah (Teaching) and T’filah (Prayer). Outside my bedroom window was an exceptionally beautiful blue sky. I was in my family’s home in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, getting ready to go to my synagogue’s office in The Empire State Building – a thirty minute commute of shuttle bus, subway, and walk to the southwest of our apartment – when our home phone rang. A member of our congregation’s Va’ad (Board of Elders & Deacons), said to my wife, Debi – “The rabbi’s not going to his office today. Turn on ‘New York One.’” New York One is the signature local television news channel for New York City.
I sat down on end of the bed with Debi and turned on the bedroom television as our congregant gave her more details: a jet had crashed into one tower of The World Trade Center. No one was sure yet if it was an accident or a deliberate act. My wife and I sat down to watch, when out of a corner of the television screen, another jet appeared – and we sat in stupefied silence as the second jet impacted the remaining tower in a mini-nova of flame, glass, metal, and ruined humanity.
My wife turned to me and asked, “What do you think is happening?”
My response was, “We are under attack.”
The atmosphere – literal and figurative – in Manhattan for the following day and days was unimaginable. Our apartment was north along the East River on Manhattan’s eastern coastline – and despite the fact the wind on 11 September was mercifully blowing to the South, carrying the bulk of the choking dust cloud into the harbor, we could for many days afterwards smell the burnt human flesh in any breezes drifting north, and in the fine sediment settling on windows, plants, and balcony furniture – making cleaning one’s home an implicit act of kever adam – burial of a person – because of the ashes of the victims mingled with the dust.
The responses of all sectors of humanity varied as greatly as humankind does, itself. Some people rushing in to help; others rushing in for brief “photo-ops” of themselves helping, and then flying back to from wherever they came, to publish the photos of themselves as boost-material for their ministry newsletters; skilled counselors offering their services gratis to the abyss of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder brewing with every passing minute; people of faith seeking to bring their faith messages to the affected; and some incomprehensibly planning to “take advantage of this great opportunity for the Gospel.” I actually received such a phone call, inviting me to recruit my synagogue members to aid in such an exploitive reaction to the “opportunity.” Hearing the words physically nauseated me. I declined.
All kinds of words spoken about the event: soberingly, the only two voices speaking often about the evil of the victims rather than the perpetrators were the Islamic groups sympathetic to the mass-murderers, and certain American evangelicals. I heard a lot of “New York is Babylon” speeches I had not heard since the heyday of Hal Lindsay’s The Late, Great Planet Earth back in the 1970’s. It was not American Christendom’s finest moment. One midwestern American interviewed on-camera actually said, “Good on ’em. Maybe now they (New Yorkers) won’t be so uppity, but be ‘just plain folks’ like the rest of us.” The image of the hijab-clad Arab woman in Ramallah dancing in the street with joy at the news of the Towers’ destruction mingles in my memory with the “good on ’em” intra-American response. Not the American Bread-Basket’s finest day, either.
I got phone calls from congregants ranging from faith-filled defiance to petrified fear. People afraid to go to their offices in Midtown: people determined to go to their offices, even in likely target-buildings like my own office in the Empire State Building. Kids like my two very young sons having nightmares, and asking the most heart-wrenching questions sitting on our balcony; and asking of any low-flying plane they saw, “Abba, is that plane going to hurt us?” I watched The Empire State Building turned into a fortress with entrance procedures like The White House, and for a season, visiting my office became for my congregants like trying to see The President of The United States. Barricades, metal detectors, bomb dogs, double photo ID checks, armed guards visibly on vigil everywhere – all to meet with your rabbi about your child’s Bat Mitzvah, participate in music rehearsal, get marriage counseling – or just chat.
A KADDISH TOO LARGE FOR ANY ONE SERVICE
Our Shabbat service on September 15, 2001 was surreal.
I handed over as much of the service as I could to the veterans in our congregation, among whom at the time were a general in the Air Force Reserves, an ex-Navy “Seal,” a former Army sniper, and a few other ex-servicemen. Since I had never been in uniform nor faced hostile fire, and since it seemed clear our Armed Forces and Intelligence Services were going to be facing a long season of danger-filled action in response to all this – it simply did not feel proper to me that I lead the post-911 service, when our congregation held men and women who had actually served. It felt so odd to feel so far out of the loop, and raised my appreciation for our veterans to a higher level than it already was – and I was already one of those Dad’s who made sure his sons heard me say “thank you” to any genuine veteran we met. I am honored now to see my eldest son serving in the Israel Defense Forces – he now wears a uniform and serves his country. This is the world we inhabit. There are people out there who want to erase us and our civilization: we need to take their open declaration of war seriously.
When we did Kaddish – I wept on the bima for the first time in the history of our synagogue – and my two sons, then aged 7 and 9 – saw me cry for the first time in their lives. After the service, my eldest asked me why I had cried. I told him part of the truth – so many people dying this way is so very, very sad.” I held back the second part of the answer from his too-young mind: I knew this was just the beginning – and many, many good men and women would be going go into harm’s way to keep us safe: and many would not return or return whole.
My synagogue looked to me as their rabbi for some sense of the future.
One lady called me in a panic, unable to stop crying and unable to work in her regular Manhattan office – hiding in a branch office in the northern suburbs. The questions came flying with staccato regularity: would we be staying in the city openly targeted for destruction? Would Beth El of Manhattan (New York) become Beth El of Manhattan (Kansas)?
It has always been my way, when any strong wind is blowing, to plant my feet and hunker down into stability until I know where the wind comes from, and where it is trying to push me. I have taught this discipline to my congregants.
After much prayer and consideration – it seemed clear: our calling had not changed.
Without a change of marching orders – you stand your post. (Isaiah 30:16, Philippians 3:15-16)
The House of Israel still lived massively in Manhattan, and needed and still needs to be reached. It seemed to me, my intrepid and courageous wife, and all in my shul, that we were to stand our ground, and be ourselves in this season as in any other. Our driving maxim – the engraved quote from George Washington on the south side of Manhattan’s Washington Square Arch echoing Isaiah 62:10 – “Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest may repair,” seemed even more relevant in an age with religious madness and idiocy taking center stage.
My eldest son went to high school across the street from Ground Zero. While it was delightful to see our son admitted to Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan – “the Harvard of American public high schools” – the massive crater next door to his school was a sobering presence during his entire secondary education. My youngest son at this writing now goes to college right next door to the “9-11” site. We, as a family of Israelis since 1992, are perhaps more used to the idea of people wanting us dead than the average American might have been in 2001 – but it was nor is a light thing to send our son off to school in the direction of a site we knew was, and is the target of determined efforts of mass-murder. The newly-built skyscraper replacing the Twin Towers has been nicknamed the “Bomb-Me-First Tower” by cynics/realists who believe the Islamic Fundamentalist War against the iconic sites in our civilization will never be a one-event matter. It shortly became clear, we were living the reality every Israeli father, mother, and child lives every day – and has been living for a long time. After a while, having a target on you becomes part of a new normal, in New York, in Washington DC, in the State of Israel – and across the last few years, again for Jews anywhere Jews are clearly seen and known to be Jews. It is becoming increasingly clear in these years after “9-11” that all non-Islamic Westerners are now de facto Israelis. The fury Israel tasted first is now shared by all who will not submit to the radical jihadis agenda for hegemony. We are facing new Nazis. We are at war to preserve civilization from tyranny, no less than we were in 1942.
WHAT HAPPENED AFTERWARDS
In the years since “911” our synagogue has survived – and has been reported upon in all the New York Television Media, The New York Times, The New York Post, The Jerusalem Post, The Jerusalem Report; and Israel’s largest Hebrew-language newspaper, Yediot Achronot did a two-full page article with photos because in 2002 our synagogue was directly the target of two Muslim terrorist threats: and until 2009, our congregation was the only synagogue in all five boroughs of New York City to receive such directly targeted threats. The owners of the building in which we met in 2002 were told, “Get rid of the Jews, or else.” Unfathomably, they said, “O.k.” and demanded that we leave. Happily, that closure led us to better and better sites: and our location has been for the last decade a miracle site on Park Avenue in the center of Manhattan’s cathedral district in the Upper East Side.
The aftermath of “911” is with us still. In Manhattan before, during, and after The Twin Towers fell, we all feel their absence whenever the southern Manhattan skyline is in view. In movies and tv shows made in New York before September 2001, we see them still. I took my son during his grade school years down for a tour of the The Towers when he had to do a report on them for his middle school history class. We went to the top floor, mere months before “9/11.” The memory is etched forever, and the report is still in our school years memory box. It still taxes my heart to imagine some poor father and son in the top floor observation deck for a school report on the day the two jets flew in – those who were by mere serendipity in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Why do we stay?
Why do Israelis stay in Israel?
This is where we are called.
There is a famous story about a messenger for a King who needed to take dispatches through a dangerous war zone. His wife pleaded with him not to go on the mission, saying, “There is little chance you will survive.” The messenger’s response is said to have been, “It is necessary that I go: it is not necessary that I live.” I am as loathe to lose my life as any sane soul – but I will not be moved off my place-of-calling by mere threats of harm. As Kevin Costner’s character said in Open Range, “There are things that tear at a man’s soul worse than dying.”
It is necessary (Isaiah 6:8, Romans 10:14) that Beth El of Manhattan be in Manhattan for the House of Israel still living and working in Manhattan.
The truths about the One God and His One Messiah do not lose their John 17:3 value or necessity because evil or insane people want literally to obliterate the city where the population still needs to be served by the message.
The Creator, as described in the prophetically affirmed (Deuteronomy 18:21-22) revelation of the Two Testaments of Scripture, is the One and Only God – and Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth is the One Messiah. These two truths are essentials in the path that leads to eternal life. (Psalm 2, John 17:3) Neither the God of the Scriptures, nor we as a faith community, have as our agenda that the whole world become Jewish or be conquered by a Jewish military force; or that we Jews to cease being Jews and convert to a different religion called, Christianity: it is His clearly-stated desire that men and women everywhere accept the government of truth over their individual hearts. (Luke 15:10) That is the core-agenda. Cultural issues are merely collateral. Truth is the heart. Love is the means. The sword is always and ever for defense only, never to advance an agenda.
And so – we stay.
As Beth El of Manhattan is just past its twenty-third anniversary of August 27, 2016, all of us who are part of it are mindful that there are no guarantees following truth will be either easy or safe – only right. And so around here, we say to one another, not only “Shalom!” (Peace!), but often we say, “Kadima!” (Forward!) It is a command given on the field of battle by Israeli unit commanders to their troops. It does not mean “There is safety or benefit before us.” It means, “The direction we must go is before us – so, let’s go there and do what needs to be done.” Someone with a penchant for quoting Scripture might put it this way: “Strength and courage, for the sake of our People, and the cities of our God. And may The Lord do as seems good to Him.” (1Chronicles 19:13)
Kadima – and may it all be for shalom. Shanah tovah.
Rabbi Bruce L. Cohen
8 September 2016
“When Yeshua saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were faint and scattered abroad, like aimless sheep having no shepherd.– Matthew 9:36
“Who are you? A Jew. Where are you from? Egypt. Where are you going? Jerusalem.” – Haggadah: Identity Ritual
We are entering the month of Elul – an acronym in Hebrew for the phrase from Song of Solomon, “I am my Beloved’s, and (s)he is mine.” (Ani L’Dodi v’Dodi li.) It is seen by traditional Judaism as an invitation to prepare for the High Holidays in the next month with loving attention to God, Truth, and Justice. There are few truths more influential upon individual or communal human life than truths regarding identity.
WWI German Military Merit Cross 1st Class
Among the more moving stories from the historical season before World War II were the accounts of the sheer bewilderment of the assimilated German Jewish veterans of the First World War, who were totally acculturated as Germans, having ceased to think of themselves as Jews to any substantial degree – whom Nazi soldiers were throwing out of their homes and herding violently into concentration camps while the elderly veterans were holding up their medals and crying out, “We are Germans! We served our Kaiser with honor! Look, here are my military decorations!” ––– only to have the Nazi soldiers dash the medals from their hands with insults all containing the word, “Jude!” (Yoo-deh!) – Jew – and force march them together with their fellow-Jews of more outwardly recognizable Jewish affect toward their shared doom.
We are told in the Scriptures, “Like a belt clings to the waist of a man, that is how I created the whole House of Israel, to cling to Me.” (Jeremiah 13:11)
We Jews are created to be a certain thing in the world.
God’s “peculiar people/nation.”
There is no escaping it –– but it is possible to miss it, or misuse it.
It never misses us – our identity in the universe both physical and spiritual is on us like a halo of light in a darkened field: “a city on a hill cannot be hidden.” We are God’s city wherever we go: fragments of the destiny embodied by Jerusalem, herself – we declare we are always headed there: hundreds of generations all saying the same thing: we are going to Jerusalem. Hopefully, “next year in Jerusalem.”
God set the holidays in our calendars, ordering Moses to “Say to Israel, these are the mo-e-deem of the Lord, which you are to declare to them as mo-e-dai.”
A mo-ed is a season. It can also mean holiday, implying like the seasons, their cyclical recurrence.
God says, these mo-e-deem (plural of mo-ed) are His.
They are given by Him to us in the form of time-contexted commandments.
Createdness and Context are important for sanity.
Any male or female in the mid-five-foot tall range of height, who might have the ambition to play basketball in the NBA, must face the fact that in general, people born with the natural advantage of height around seven feet are much more likely to be successful in that sphere of endeavor. Createdness creates context to a significant degree.
Greek Caption Translated: “Holy City of Jerusalem”
Who are you? I am a Jew.
Where are you headed? Jerusalem.
It is far easier to navigate through the world if you know both who you are and where you are already going. If you are on a ship in the middle of the Atlantic headed eastward, you may want to go jogging through New York’s Central Park – but it isn’t going to happen. You are leaving Central Park behind you further with every passing moment. It would be a personal favor to you for anyone on that ship who knows reality to tell you about it: to inform you where you are – where you are headed – what you are leaving behind – and why.
“And I will take them, one from a city and two from a family, and bring them back to Zion,” God tells us through the prophets. God is doing the bringing, the taking, the counting, the drawing – God.
Far better, and far easier to embrace the truth.
Ze’ev Jabotinsky was described by the late Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, a student of his, as one who saw both the present and future clearly. It was Jabotinsky who declaimed to German and European Jewry during the less virulent antisemitic period in German during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, “Get out, get out! The ground is burning underneath your feet, and you act as if you do not even smell the smoke!” Unclarity now leads to bewilderment later – and both can be costly conditions.
During this High Holiday Season, our 23rd as a synagogue in Manhattan’s Upper East Side in which there are many, many of our Jewish people far removed from their own identities, and certainly far removed from the God and Faith and Scriptures of Israel: it seems a good place to start our Holiday observance with a recognition of what we are during this season of history in which the two-track spiritual and physical “Return to Zion” (Deuteronomy 30:1-6, Ezekiel 36, Hosea 3:4-5) is already well underway, to take stock of reality and re-set our compasses.
We are Jews.
We are Jews born, or Jews-by-Choice.
We are Jews who have been given in our generation a stewardship of a particular truth at present not seen well, in the same way the Andromeda cloud in the sky was not known to be a galaxy until long after the human eye had noticed it – but long deemed a mere nebula (cloud) within our own galaxy, purely because the sheer size of the universe was as yet unknown to us. That truth of which we are stewards is that the New Testament is a necessary part of a whole, healthy Judaism. The Suffering Messiah has already been among us. This truth is belongs at home inside the gates of Judaism ––– and in due time, that will be made clear.
Year by year, as it did in Babylon, Syria, Yemen, Russia, Germany, America, Brazil – everywhere – assimilation claws at us and inexorably seeks to pull away pieces of our identity, our context in history, a piece at a time. Opposing this pattern, we observe and remember as we have been commanded.
We observe Yom Teruah (now called, Rosh HaShanah), sounding the alarm in regard to the annual atonement. We gather on Yom Kippur to pray and re-boot our moral compass with the most serious of focus on eternity, even denying ourselves food and drink. On Sukkot we embrace both the freedom we were given when our slavery was ended, and the truth of the temporary nature of all human experience and existence. On Simchat Torah, we declare the annual cycle of revelation ended, and literally rewind, so as to begin again the cycle of inviting divinely-framed truth to influence our hearts.
And it is stirring to note ––– many Jewish people who never give God, faith, or moral truth a thought all during the year come out of the woodwork to touch base with their deep-core programming, the voice that speaks in them like salmon being pulled upstream ––– and we remember the truth of our createdness: we are Jews.
Better to remember now, and act in accord with the truth of our created nature, than to live in something between negligent and willful ignorance of it ––– and risk the bewilderment of the German World War One veteran, holding up his medals as his Jewish identity is defining his destiny, and saying, “But I am not Jewish – only my grandfather was Jewish.”
If the blood of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, and Rachel or Leah flows in your veins – it is entirely accurate to say, “I am a Jew.” Not a Half-Jew, Quarter-Jew, Eighth Jew – or any other fraction.
“These are the seasons of the Lord to proclaim to Israel.” the Torah tells us.
And why? Among the foremost reasons is this: “‘So long as the sun and the moon are in the sky and the stars in their courses, so long will Israel be a nation before Me,’ declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 31:35-37)
The High Holidays are again upon us. Time to be that nation, once again.
Am Yisrael chai. Od Avinu chai. Od Yeshua chai.
The nation Israel lives on. Our (Heavenly) Father lives on. Yeshua (the Messiah) lives on.
May it be an easy fast and uplifting season for all!
Rabbi Bruce L. Cohen
1 September 2016
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