/BY MARCIA JAFFE/ //AJT CONTRIBUTOR// Michael Medved and Marcia Jafffe
No, it’s not a scalp treatment or Jewish hypochondriac. It’s the fan base following nationally syndicated radio host Michael Medved.
His columns are frequently featured in USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, and Commentary Magazine. As a best selling author, veteran film critic (for PBS and the New York Post), and proud Jew, Medved addressed over 350 people at the Beth Tefilah Synagogue on Jan. 12.
The topic, “Israel Alone? The Dayanut Institute as its Winter Semester Kick- off sponsored how The Jewish State Can Continue To Flourish In An Often Hostile World”. Medved’s daily broadcast reaches over 3.5 million listeners a week on 200 stations across the country consistently ranking the show over the past 14 years as one of the top 10 political talk shows in the U.S., heard locally on 920 WGKA from 3 to 6 p.m. weekdays.
Years ago, I was fascinated by Medved’s book “Right Turns” (on unabridged CD at the public library). Though his leanings are to the conservative side, he is a reasonable voice who has guest hosted for Rush Limbaugh (maybe not as beloved). Four of his 12 books recognize the worst achievements in Hollywood’s history.
A Double Bael Teshuva
Growing up in San Diego, Medved entered Yale at 16 as a Merit Scholar and was a classmate with the Clintons (that has bragging rights, if questionably) at Yale Law School.
He took a permanent leave of absence from law school to pursue a career in Democratic speech writing and strategizing. Back to California led to recruiting African Americans and Hispanics as Police Officers.
In 1980, he became involved with Ronald Regan and switched over. He also considers himself a bael teshuva (returning to Jewish traditions).
Before locating to Seattle with his family, he served Southern California well by being president/co founder of an Orthodox Congregation (for 15 years) and co founder of a Jewish Day School.
A Hamisha Guy
During the pre-speech book signing, I found him to be approachable and charmingly unimpressed with his own importance, as we locals huddled around his table.
He personally leads groups of tourists to Israel, and urged us to sign up for his May 2015 trip. Now that would be a really cool experience.
I asked if I was standing too close to him; and he said, “No way,” and gave an appropriate hug.
Medved did his homework and related well to Atlanta. He said, “I know it’s tacky, but our son just got engaged to a member of Rabbi New’s daughter’s congregation. She is married to our local rabbi’s son. Jewish life can make for wonderful connections.”
The audience was fascinated with his statistic that Sandy Springs has more Fortune 500 companies than all of Atlanta and referred to some of our local politicians.
And Now the Bitter Pills
The really sobering lessons came soon. Why is Israel (and the U.S.) so truly reviled, feared (and admired?) by the world?
Medved referred to surveys to illustrate: Of 22 nations surveyed, only Kenya and Nigeria viewed Israel positively because, “they too have felt the bulwark of persecution of Muslim extremism.” And Israel has been generous with aid to them.
Of 70 nations surveyed as to which nation is the most dangerous, the U.S. placed as No. 1, Pakistan No. 2, with Israel No. 3.
Medved exclaimed, “Isn’t it perplexing that Iran and North Korea are viewed as less dangerous than us? Even Canada (despite the efforts of their very friendly prime minister, Stephen Harper) and Japan have negative views of us. The Elders of Zion for the past six years has been a best seller in Japan.
“You in the South should know this; Evangelical Christians are more favorable to Israel than many American Jews. Are we are own worst enemies? Only one in four Americans have ever bothered to visit Israel. The PEW study showed how American Jews rank what’s important to Jewish identity: social justice (liberal politics) and our sense of humor are ahead of support of Israel!” How bizarrely secular is that?
Chuck Berk, Board Chairman of Israel Bonds Authority said, “I was shocked by the overwhelming negative opinion of Israel from the 70 country survey which Medved quoted and that it wasn’t just Arab and third world countries. Only 16 percent of people in the U.K. view Israel positively, 25 percent in Canada, and the worst is Japan. This reinforces why it’s so important for the U.S. to support our great ally, Israel”
A History Lesson
Medved wowed some with some old fashioned American history vis a vis the feelings towards Jews.
Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, Ben Franklin are all cited as having pro-Jewish sentiments. “Note that the 1840 Census showed the Jewish population as .04 percent or just four one hundredths of a percent.”
Ben Franklin designed a seal depicting Moses leading the Jews to the Promised Land. John Q. Adams, the sixth President, was a Hebrew scholar who was ambidextrous and took exams in both Hebrew and Greek simultaneously.
His father, the second President John Adams, wrote in a letter, “Once the weak imbecile Turks are ousted, Jews will make the desolate desert bloom.”
In 1844, NYU had a Chair of the Hebrew Department who happened to be Christian, and was coincidentally named George Bush. The book “Valley of the Vision” forecasted the 1944 Jewish rededication of Jerusalem.”
Medved further set the historical stage. “President Tyler sent the first American Consul to Jerusalem. Warder Cresson, a Quaker turned Baptist turned Mormon ultimately converted to Judaism and underwent circumcision and changed his name to Michal Boaz Ben Avraham. Note that the population of Jerusalem was 20,000 and smaller than the City of Sandy Springs,” said Medved.
This ambassador sounds as confused as some of the men on JDate.
Atlantans Chime In
Eva Galambos, ex-mayor of Sandy Spring said, “I thought his historical data that shows the affinity between America and the idea of the Jewish homeland back to Revolutionary days was interesting, although I had read a history book recently that documented much of what he said; so it was not new to me. However, the affinity between the U.S. and Israel did not validate what I thought his subject was: that Israel would survive. I thought that was the topic he advertised and it did not turn out to be that at all.”
Attendee Tom Greenfield said,” “I enjoy listing to Michael Medved’s radio program. He is extremely well informed. However, I had hoped for more political insight related to the current tenuous situation in the Middle East, rather than a lengthy lesson in historical minutiae.”
Why They Hate Us
Medved boiled it down to two factors. “Both the U.S. and Israel were founded on choice and ideas. People chose to become Americans or Israelis. Other nations were formed from bloodlines and accidents of birth.
“We infuriate the rest of the world because we feel proud our immigrant forefathers chose American identity. When did anyone ever choose French identity?
He joked and asked, “Even why?”
Look at Tom Cruz. Like him or not. He was born to a Cuban father and American mother in Canada and is now a U.S. Senator. Both Israel and the U.S. have G-d’s involvement. Listen to our songs, ‘G-d Bless America,’ ‘G-d shed His grace on thee.’ Remember five times more people go to church each week than the movies.
“Israel’s success is not based on freakish blunder. Depsite its size, Israel has the third most companies on the NASDAQ – more than Germany, Japan or Canada. Actually Israel used to be second, but China just took the spot,” boasted Medved.
Attendee Ray Schoenbaum, proprietor of Ray’s Restaurants said, “The statistics are incredible; but I heard too many numbers without what they really mean. I am frustrated by our rigid stance in day-to-day situations and the world vision of politics as a passive approach. What happened to actually fighting a necessary war to win? Not to just tie. I found Medved’s approach to history fascinating in the acceptance and realization of a Jewish homeland.”
Some Big Lies
Medved said it is a demographic myth that Israel is losing Jewish population.
“It has never been higher. Palestine hasn’t had a census in 20 years. There are 200,000 people of Palestinian origin in Chicago!
“People are making Aliyah in great numbers; and the birth rate, especially among religious Jews, is higher than Palestinians. Israel’s GDP is comparable Great Britain’s. Living is Israel is not a sacrifice. It is a happy country.
“So many positive things. Chabad is growing with now 3,600 congregations. There is a surge in kosher food. Look at your Jewish Attorney General in Georgia…Sam Olens.”
Attendee Dr. Alan Sunshine said, “Medved’s ability to express the common values and history between the United States and Israel was refreshing. He explained why Israel is such a close and trusted U.S. ally. What was missing was how Israel can improve its brand and reputation in the world today.”
According to Medved, “When people see Israel with their own eyes, they never come home with anti-Israeli sentiment. The only exception is some idiots who go to Nablus and call that seeing Israel.
“Birthright visits are important as is cooperation with our Christian allies. Some American Jews don’t see Israel as clearly as our Christian friends who see it as a fulfillment of G-d’s promise.”
About Israel, he concluded, “There is joy in just knowing that you are part of something so eternally significant as the return of the Jewish people to our promised homeland.”
Want to become a MedHead? Tune in to what his website calls, “The Greatest Podcast on G-d’s Green Earth.”
After 35 years with the Atlanta newspapers, Marcia currently serves as Retail VP for the Buckhead Business Association where she delivers news and trends (laced with a little gossip). On the side, Marcia is Captain of the Senior Cheerleaders for the WNBA at Philips Arena.