The Demise of American Jewry: The Case of the California Imam (Part 1)

12 Av 5777

4 August 2017


The News on the Israel Street

Palestinian terror in the last 24 hours . . .

It’s the same old story . . . that never gets reported anywhere. Another day in Israel’s Judea and Samaria and another 25 terror attacks.

In Shavei Shomrom, a young boy on a bus was wounded when a “rock” crashed through a window. Similar attacks took place near Beit Horon, southwest of Tulkarm, on Route 443, and near Kiryat Arba to name a few locations.

Yesterday, at a conference held to discuss the ongoing terrorism in Judea and Samaria, speakers blasted the government and the IDF General Command for trying to suppress the truth about the intense terror that goes on everyday. As was noted, unless a person is wounded or killed by terrorists, no reports are filed.

Three cheers for the proposed Taylor Force Law . . .

By a vote of 17-4, the U.S. Senate Foreign Affairs Committee has passed the Taylor Force Law out of committee where it will now go to the full Senate. To become law, it must then be passed by the House of Representatives and signed by the President.

Named for the young American Army officer who was stabbed to death in Tel Aviv in March of 2016, the Law will stop payments to the PLO (aka Palestinian Authority) unless:

1. the Secretary of State confirms that the PLO has taken “credible measures aimed at ending the violence against U.S. and Israeli citizens”


2. the PLO has “stopped payments for acts of terrorism committed against U.S. and Israeli citizens

Wouldn’t you think that the vote on such a bill would be unanimous?

Well, of course not since Democratic Senators were involved. Who were the four senators that voted against the proposed law?  Cory Booker (NJ), Chris Murphy (CT), Tom Udall (NM) and Jeff Merkley (OR).

Murphy delivered the keynote address at the J Street Conference this year. Udall and Merkley are both on the list of senators endorsed by J Street.

As for Booker, he received more “pro-Israel” donations in the last election cycle than any other Democratic Senator.

To no avail.

Three cheers for Cape Verde . . .

In a rather remarkable statement yesterday, Cape Verde President George Fonseca announced that his country would never vote against Israel again in the United Nations.

In refusing to vote against Israel, Cape Verde joins Israel’s best friends in the U.N.: Palau and Nauru.



The Devastating Demise of American Jewry:

The Case of the California Imam (Part 1)

Note: Currently in Israel, your humble servant lives in Davis California for six months each year.

Much has been written about the demise of American Reform and Conservative Jewry. We all know how assimilation through intermarriage is taking place on a massive scale and making many congregations predominantly non-Jewish.

Though no one wants to talk about it for fear of being branded “not liberal”, we all know how the hallmarks of “progressivism”: inclusiveness, coexistence, diversity, and interfaith-edness are wiping American Jewry off the map. 

We have been seeing all of this starkly play out during the last three weeks in Davis, California.

For some years now, Imam Ammar Shahin has led the local mosque–Islamic Center of Davis (ICD). During his tenure, he has scrupulously recorded most of his “sermons” and put them online. The sermons are a mixture of Arabic and English, and are well attended by Muslims in the community and Muslim students at the university.  Nobody in the community except for Muslims (and a few of us) bothered to actually listen to what he had to say.

To the community, Shahin and the ICD have been interfaith partners to be embraced. As part of the local Celebration of Abraham, the ICD and the Muslim community led by a man named Hamza El-Nakhal annually engages in a lovefest with Christians and the local Jewish Congregation in town, Congregation Bet Haverim led by Rabbi Greg Wolfe. Earlier this year, when a young woman vandalized the Mosque by puncturing bicycle tires and breaking glass, all the members of the Celebration of Abraham as well as local city government leaders rushed in to embrace their “fellow” Muslims and express their outrage at a community event in Central Park in Davis.

No one paid any attention to the Muslim speakers that day which included a number of egregiously anti-Israel anti-Semites such as Imam Shahin. 

And so, imagine the community’s amazement on July 22, when suddenly, courtesy of MEMRI (The Middle East Media Research Institute), we saw Shahin in his mosque exhorting his fellow Muslims to ask Allah to destroy the Jews. When MEMRI placed this video online, it went viral and became the subject of discussion everywhere, not only in Davis but around the world including here in Israel.

At first, Shahin claimed that he had been taken out of context; he said that he had been referring to the 3 metal detectors that Israel had placed outside 3 Muslim-access gates, and that MEMRI had edited the video in such a way to make him look bad. Then the ICD issued a remarkable statement declaring that there are good Jews and bad Jews, and that Shahin wasn’t asking Allah for help in destroying all Jews–he just wanted Allah’s help in destroying Israeli Jews:  “Imam Shahin and the ICD reject any attempt to blame all Jews for Israel’s policies just like we reject the attempts to blame all Muslims for the acts of fringe groups. In reality, Jews around the world are on the front lines speaking out and protesting Israel’s repressive policies against Palestinians.”

Almost immediately, a local rabbi, Seth Castleman, was dispatched (or dispatched himself) to find out what the “real story” was. Castleman, who works as a substitute rabbi at Congregation Bet Haverim in Davis, has described himself as “a practicing Jew” and a student of Theravadan dharma–which he teaches to community members as well as “youth and adults incarcerated in America’s prisons” (his description).

As a Jew and a Buddhist of sorts, Castleman is the paradigmatic example of inclusivity, coexistence, diversity, and interfaith-edness. He is married to the Reverend Elizabeth Griswold, pastor of the United Church of Christ in Sacramento.

Castleman quickly went to meet with the Imam and came back with the story that the Imam was “quite contrite” and eager to do something to make the situation better. Castleman’s report continued: “My take-away is that he does not advocate, appreciate, nor approve of violence against Jews, despite the hateful words in his sermon.”  

Castleman added that the Imam said:  “I had no intention of hurting anyone. I had no intention of hurting any Jew, hurting them or hurting their feelings. I wouldn’t want to, and my religion wouldn’t allow me to.”

In the meantime, another video surfaced from the week before on July 14 in which Shahin exhorted Allah to make “Palestine and Jerusalem the graveyard of the Jews.” You may remember that July 14 was the day that three Muslim terrorists operating from the Temple Mount brutally murdered two Israeli Druze policemen at the Lion’s Gate in Jerusalem.

Based on Castleman’s report the rehabilitation of Imam Shahin immediately began.

On July 26, Castleman asked local Jewish and Christian leaders to participate in a conference call “Update on Islamic Center” on July 27 and a press conference shortly thereafter. Castleman concluded his request:

The purpose of the call is to fill you in more on what has transpired, to share with you what will happen at the press conference, to encourage you to join us at the press conference, and to begin to look ahead at how we can rebuild our solidarity and redouble our efforts together for social justice, spiritual truth, and peace (emphasis mine).

Originally scheduled for July 27 in front of Davis City Hall, the press conference was moved to the Davis Community Church on Friday, July 28. It was there that Imam Shahin was to deliver his mea culpa.

And so it was that one week after Shahin’s July 21 “sermon”, the interfaith community stood behind the anti-Semitic Shahin as he took the microphone, but not before Mayor Davis told the assembled that it would not really be a press conference after all; no questions would be allowed.

It also turned out to not be a mea culpa after all.

We shall see what he said in Part 2 tomorrow.

What have we seen so far? A viciously anti-Semitic imam caught on camera exhorting Allah to bring about the destruction of Jews and turn “Palestine” and Jerusalem into a graveyard for the Jews, translated, only to have Jews rushing to lead the effort to rehabilitate him on the bases of social justice, spiritual truth, and peace. 

What seems astonishing to many is, in the context of Reform and Conservative Jewish life in the United States, not astonishing at all–it has become the norm and is symbolic of the devastating demise of American Jewry. 

And, as you will see, it only gets worse in Part 2.


This entry was posted in News and tagged allah, and interfaith-edness, and near Kiryat Arba, anti semites, anti-Israel, assimilation, Beit Horon, cape verde, Chris Murphy, coexistence, Congregation Bet Haverim, Cory Booker, Davis, destroy the jews, diversity, George Fonseca, greg wolfe, hamza el nakhal, imam shahin, inclusiveness, islamic center of davis, judea and samaria, mea culpa, Merkley, Middle East Media Research Institute, muslim, nauru, on Route 443, Palau, Palestine and Jerusalem the graveyard of the Jews, peace, progressivism, Reverend Elizabeth Griswold, sacramento, senate, seth castleman, social justice, southwest of Tulkarm, spiritual truth, taylor force, Theravadan dharma, Tom Udall, United Church of Christ. Bookmark the permalink.

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