Is mainstream acceptance good for the Jews?

Yeshiva University panel featuring Adelson, Boteach and Stephens takes on Jewish and Israeli challenges.

Sheldon Adelson 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Sheldon Adelson 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
NEW YORK – The mainstream acceptance for which Jews have been striving for centuries is turning out to be our undoing, according to billionaire philanthropist Sheldon Adelson, an outspoken supporter of Israel.
Adelson participated in a panel at Yeshiva University on Tuesday night, headed by Shmuley Boteach, “America’s rabbi.” The panel included Yeshiva University president Dr. Richard M. Joel and Pulitzer Prize-winning Wall Street Journal foreign affairs writer Bret Stephens, a former Jerusalem Post editor.
The event, organized within a week in response to the recent Pew research study on Jewish life in America, attracted a full auditorium and focused on two issues: the existential threat of Iran to Israel, which Boteach called “the body of the Jewish people,” and the diminishing number of secular and otherwise non-Orthodox Jews in America, whom Boteach described as “the soul of the Jewish people.”
Adelson was articulate and firm in his beliefs that negotiating with Iran is a sign of weakness that would lead nowhere.
“We need a show of strength to show that we mean business,” Adelson said.
Boteach, who from the beginning clarified that he would not be an impartial moderator, prodded the panelists on their various opinions, at times outright disagreeing with Joel and Adelson; Joel, meanwhile, jokingly threatened to shut off the rabbi’s microphone. Adelson, Joel and Boteach butted heads somewhat over what can and should be done to increase Jewish engagement in communities across the US.
The most passionate speaker was undoubtedly Stephens, who delivered several monologues about the evils of the Iranian government, the characteristic Jewish guilt that inhibits Jewish pride in their collective excellence, and what a Palestinian state might – and should – look like.
“I’ve always said, I support a two-state solution as long as the state on the other side of the border is Canada,” Stephens quipped. “Funny accents, odd sporting habits, but generally peaceable people. It’s horrible to just write off the Palestinian people as being totally incapable of a liberal, democratic, tolerant, pluralistic government.”
Adelson disagreed.
“I think it’s as unwise to trade land for peace as it is to trust our enemies,” he said. “I think allowing a Palestinian state would be playing Russian roulette. One day the bullet’s going to come out and it’s going to kill you.”