You Are What You Eat...and Where You Worship

The well known expression "you are what you eat" implies that the food we ingest will impact our minds and bodies.  If we abuse our bodies, we risk impairing our long-term health and well-being.  If we eat healthy, we expect to increase our longevity.

But what about our souls?  Despite the kitschy title of the series of books Chicken Soup for the Soul, the essence of who we truly are obviously does not evolve from the food we eat.  The question of what determines one's character and morality is complex.  Recent events, however, lead me to contemplate whether "you are where you pray."

When accusations were made by New York's Democratic Party that gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon would not be supportive of Israel, many assumed that this was just another political ploy.  But upon further inquiry, the allegation may not have been completely unfounded.  Nixon attends Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST), a progressive shul known as the world's largest LGBT synagogue as well as for its "spiritual community of resistance and love."  CBST's head rabbi, Sharon Kleinbaum, whose life partner is the far-left American Federation of Teachers president, Randi Weingarten, has raised the ire of some congregants for her criticism of Israel and promulgating a moral equivalency among Israel and those who wish to destroy her.  An associate rabbi at CBST is the senior director at the New Israel Fund (NIF), an organization that, according to NGO Monitor, funds groups that demonize Israel and support the anti-Semitic boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS).

One board member resigned over CBST's commitment "to a progressive political agenda [rather] than to the Jewish people," including furthering Hamas propaganda and hosting groups supportive of BDS.  He stated, "I don't want to raise my kids in a synagogue that's praying for people firing rockets."  Nixon apparently feels different and is comfortable raising her son there.

The BDS-supporting NIF was also at the center of a recent controversy when the head rabbi at Temple Israel Center in White Plains, New York donated temple funds to the organization.  Believing the NIF to be an anti-Semitic organization and standing on their core principles, many congregants withdrew, refusing to remain at a synagogue at which the rabbi took positions anathema to their own morality.  I too left my synagogue many years ago when the rabbi announced on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year in the Jewish religion, that it was God's commandment that we support Obamacare.  I know others who have left their places of worship when the spiritual leader dictates political views anathema to members' values.

After all, one of the most important decisions a person makes is the selection of his place of worship.  That decision is often driven by who the spiritual leader is standing on the bully pulpit.  Religious figures wield great power simply through their words.  Reverend Jeremiah Wright comes to mind.  When individuals spend decades at a church listening to a reverend shout "G-d d--- America," one should not be surprised that rather than love their country, parishioners would wish to fundamentally transform it.  When one sits in a church with his young children listening to anti-Zionist, anti-Semitic sermons for decades, it should not be surprising that once elected to the most powerful office in the land, such a person might effectuate policy detrimental to Israel's survival.  Only God knows what is in the hearts and minds of the members of Trinity Church, Barack Obama's former spiritual home.  But its parishioners made a moral choice to listen to Reverend Wright's sermons week after week, year after year while his words ravaged their souls. Obama made a conscious choice to befriend such a man and invite him into his family.  Obama, too, reflects where he prayed.

Inflammatory language is also heard in our country's mosques.  As shocking as the Boston Marathon bombing was, it was no surprise that the perpetrators of that atrocity attended a mosque where several terrorists were radicalized and where militant speakers who both defended terrorists and advocated extremist notions dangerous to our republic frequently spoke.  Many mosques are known as institutions of radicalization, and those who choose to attend such a place are reflecting their inner souls.

Recognizing that inflammatory rhetoric has the potential to feed the souls of those who seek to commit evil acts, Brett Kavanaugh admonished Judiciary Committee Democrat senators, reminding them that words matter.  Perhaps it is no coincidence that it took a man who wears a black robe to deliver a "preachable" moment in which he passionately and wisely revealed that the Democrats' smears greatly harmed not only him and his family, but also the soul of the country:

I understand the passions of the moment, but I would say to those senators: your words have meaning.  Millions of Americans listened carefully to you.  Given comments like those, is it any surprise that people have been willing to do anything to make any physical threat against my family, to send any violent e-mail to my wife, to make any kind of allegation against me and against my friends, to blow me up and take me down?  You sowed the wind for decades to come.  I fear that the whole country will reap the whirlwind.

Some who eat healthy will still get sick; others who abuse their bodies may live long lives.  Not everyone who prays with a radical religious leader will turn to evil.  But good people who stay in bad places may eventually be led astray.  And young minds, the children of parents who choose to listen to the sermons of radical ideologues, will surely be impacted.

Kavanaugh shared in his opening remarks that his ten-year old daughter prays for his accuser's soul.  With children like her, parents like the Kavanaugh's, and religious leaders who preach such values, Americans should retain hope that we survive these divisive and unsettling times as a stronger and better people.  We should be mindful of the dignity of the Kavanaughs when we choose where to worship and feed our souls.  And we should certainly pray that those who wield power in this country do so as well.  Our country's soul depends on it.

Lauri B. Regan is the New York chapter president and board member of the Endowment for Middle East Truth and treasurer and board member of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.

The well known expression "you are what you eat" implies that the food we ingest will impact our minds and bodies.  If we abuse our bodies, we risk impairing our long-term health and well-being.  If we eat healthy, we expect to increase our longevity.

But what about our souls?  Despite the kitschy title of the series of books Chicken Soup for the Soul, the essence of who we truly are obviously does not evolve from the food we eat.  The question of what determines one's character and morality is complex.  Recent events, however, lead me to contemplate whether "you are where you pray."

When accusations were made by New York's Democratic Party that gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon would not be supportive of Israel, many assumed that this was just another political ploy.  But upon further inquiry, the allegation may not have been completely unfounded.  Nixon attends Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST), a progressive shul known as the world's largest LGBT synagogue as well as for its "spiritual community of resistance and love."  CBST's head rabbi, Sharon Kleinbaum, whose life partner is the far-left American Federation of Teachers president, Randi Weingarten, has raised the ire of some congregants for her criticism of Israel and promulgating a moral equivalency among Israel and those who wish to destroy her.  An associate rabbi at CBST is the senior director at the New Israel Fund (NIF), an organization that, according to NGO Monitor, funds groups that demonize Israel and support the anti-Semitic boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS).

One board member resigned over CBST's commitment "to a progressive political agenda [rather] than to the Jewish people," including furthering Hamas propaganda and hosting groups supportive of BDS.  He stated, "I don't want to raise my kids in a synagogue that's praying for people firing rockets."  Nixon apparently feels different and is comfortable raising her son there.

The BDS-supporting NIF was also at the center of a recent controversy when the head rabbi at Temple Israel Center in White Plains, New York donated temple funds to the organization.  Believing the NIF to be an anti-Semitic organization and standing on their core principles, many congregants withdrew, refusing to remain at a synagogue at which the rabbi took positions anathema to their own morality.  I too left my synagogue many years ago when the rabbi announced on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year in the Jewish religion, that it was God's commandment that we support Obamacare.  I know others who have left their places of worship when the spiritual leader dictates political views anathema to members' values.

After all, one of the most important decisions a person makes is the selection of his place of worship.  That decision is often driven by who the spiritual leader is standing on the bully pulpit.  Religious figures wield great power simply through their words.  Reverend Jeremiah Wright comes to mind.  When individuals spend decades at a church listening to a reverend shout "G-d d--- America," one should not be surprised that rather than love their country, parishioners would wish to fundamentally transform it.  When one sits in a church with his young children listening to anti-Zionist, anti-Semitic sermons for decades, it should not be surprising that once elected to the most powerful office in the land, such a person might effectuate policy detrimental to Israel's survival.  Only God knows what is in the hearts and minds of the members of Trinity Church, Barack Obama's former spiritual home.  But its parishioners made a moral choice to listen to Reverend Wright's sermons week after week, year after year while his words ravaged their souls. Obama made a conscious choice to befriend such a man and invite him into his family.  Obama, too, reflects where he prayed.

Inflammatory language is also heard in our country's mosques.  As shocking as the Boston Marathon bombing was, it was no surprise that the perpetrators of that atrocity attended a mosque where several terrorists were radicalized and where militant speakers who both defended terrorists and advocated extremist notions dangerous to our republic frequently spoke.  Many mosques are known as institutions of radicalization, and those who choose to attend such a place are reflecting their inner souls.

Recognizing that inflammatory rhetoric has the potential to feed the souls of those who seek to commit evil acts, Brett Kavanaugh admonished Judiciary Committee Democrat senators, reminding them that words matter.  Perhaps it is no coincidence that it took a man who wears a black robe to deliver a "preachable" moment in which he passionately and wisely revealed that the Democrats' smears greatly harmed not only him and his family, but also the soul of the country:

I understand the passions of the moment, but I would say to those senators: your words have meaning.  Millions of Americans listened carefully to you.  Given comments like those, is it any surprise that people have been willing to do anything to make any physical threat against my family, to send any violent e-mail to my wife, to make any kind of allegation against me and against my friends, to blow me up and take me down?  You sowed the wind for decades to come.  I fear that the whole country will reap the whirlwind.

Some who eat healthy will still get sick; others who abuse their bodies may live long lives.  Not everyone who prays with a radical religious leader will turn to evil.  But good people who stay in bad places may eventually be led astray.  And young minds, the children of parents who choose to listen to the sermons of radical ideologues, will surely be impacted.

Kavanaugh shared in his opening remarks that his ten-year old daughter prays for his accuser's soul.  With children like her, parents like the Kavanaugh's, and religious leaders who preach such values, Americans should retain hope that we survive these divisive and unsettling times as a stronger and better people.  We should be mindful of the dignity of the Kavanaughs when we choose where to worship and feed our souls.  And we should certainly pray that those who wield power in this country do so as well.  Our country's soul depends on it.

Lauri B. Regan is the New York chapter president and board member of the Endowment for Middle East Truth and treasurer and board member of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.