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Who killed Libya’s U.S. influence?

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Rabbi Shmuley Boteach took to The Jerusalem Post and The Jewish Standard last week to rail at “the many Westerners who collaborated to keep” Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in power.

He rightfully takes to task those people and companies that helped finance and bolster Gaddafi’s thuggish regime (among them the oil company BP, which reportedly signed a $900 million oil exploration deal with the despot several years ago).

Boteach, though, also falls back on a tired meme that he’s been pushing for years: That Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9) is a Gaddafi sympathizer who consistently kowtows to the despot.

Boteach sums up his gripe: “My own home town of Englewood, which was the site of a major battle in September 2009 when Gaddafi, who owns the home next door to mine, tried to pitch a tent and move in for a few weeks. Our community came together and pushed him out. But the house, an official residence of Libya’s ambassador to the UN, remains. It is sovereign Libyan territory and the ambassador, whose boss reportedly stole tens of billions of dollars from the Libyan people, lives there tax-free.”

Rothman, the accusation goes, was overly sympathetic to Gaddafi throughout the Englewood episode, allegedly arguing that there’s no reason Gaddafi shouldn’t be allowed to camp in Jersey.

The congressman “took the unbelievable step of issuing a three-page press release attacking me and defending the Libyans’ right to remain in Englewood based on agreements between them and the State Department that were brokered by Rothman himself when he was Englewood’s mayor,” Boteach gripes.

The assertion that Rothman hearts Gaddafi, however, is completely shattered by a recent TPM piece.

Former Rep. Robert Livingston, whose lobbying firm once did PR for Gaddafi, recalls that during the Englewood campsite escapade, Rothman phoned him in state of utter distress.

“Steve Rothman went ballistic, and he called me and we had a lot of dialogue,” Livingston told TPM, which goes on to report, “at that point, Livingston said he pulled the plug on the contract.”

This revelation is uber behind-the-scenes, portraying a taste of the Beltway wheeling and dealing that takes place. It also doesn’t appear to have been pushed by Rothman’s camp (though it’s unclear). Most important, if true, the report destroys Boteach’s argument.

Adam Kredo
Adam Kredo is a staff writer for Washington Jewish Week, where this article first appeared.
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The trauma of privilege

I have been in the center of the swirl of awareness about the unintended consequences of affluence and privilege on our children.

I meet these youngsters and their families when crisis penetrates their denial system and they arrive at Beit T’Shuvah, the recovery community I founded in Los Angeles 30 years ago. I have listened to their baffled, bewildered parents, who “gave them everything” only to have it thrown in their faces. I coined the family dynamic: “I hate you; send money.” At Beit T’Shuvah, we have been essentially “re-parenting” these children of all ages, allowing them to experience “all the disadvantages of success,” in the words of Larry Ellison.

A recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds a direct correlation between parents who overvalue their children and children who are narcissistic. Researchers found that while parental warmth was associated with high self-esteem in kids, that parental over-evaluation was not. Or, as Madeline Levine put it: “Praise is not warmth pumped in; self-esteem is not self-efficacy.” I have heard from many recovering addicts that when they feel undeserving, praise exacerbates their self-loathing and sense of fraudulence.



What we have to pay for

Toilet paper . . .

This scroll endowed by . . .

With 2+ decades spent working in the Jewish world, I’ve seen a lot of things come and go. Ideas that were considered the epitome of best practice come into vogue, run their course, and become passé.

Agencies and innovative think tanks slip away due to failure to create, implement, and execute strategic sustainability plans. Iconic thought leaders tire and fail to notice that the landscape is changing and passing them by. Then what? Now what?



The lion and the compass

Maimonides and Nahmanides had their differences.

Maimonides (d. 1204) tolerated no idea that failed the test of reason. An ancient and robust tradition of superstition among the Jews did not deter him. Maimonides either ignored or rationalized scores of Talmudic halachot based on astrology, demonology, and magic.

Maimonides denounced astrology passionately, despite its popularity, calling the belief “stupidity” and its practitioners “fools.” His argument bears emphasis: Maimonides opposed astrology primarily on scientific rather than religious grounds. The Torah prohibits divination from the sky, he ruled, not because it displays a lack of faith in God, but simply because it is false.


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