July 14, 2024
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Historic Bipartisan ‘Caucus for the Advancement Of Torah Values’ Launched in Washington

Rav Dovid Hofstedter, Nasi Dirshu, addresses leading members of Congress.

“Today, the inauguration of the ‘Torah Caucus of the United States Congress’ shows the vitality of American democracy. The fact that, less than a century after the Jewish people were almost obliterated, here in Washington, lawmakers are coming together to advance Torah and its ideals is nothing short of remarkable. This development is great for the Jewish people, but it is also great for America.”

Those were the powerful, poignant words of Rav Dovid Hofstedter, Nasi of Dirshu, at a historic and momentous event in Washington earlier this month in which the Torah Caucus was launched. The Torah Caucus, short for its full name, “Caucus for the Advancement of Torah Values,” is an amazing development that promises to be a great force in ensuring the preservation of Torah values for the Jewish community and beyond. It is a bipartisan new caucus that has pledged to advocate on behalf of Torah values in the corridors of American power and beyond.

The bipartisan group of lawmakers at the inaugural event, included congressional stalwarts such as Congresswoman Kat Cammack of Florida (R), Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania (R), Congressman Henry Cuellar of Texas (D), Congressman Don Bacon of Nebraska (R), Congressman Brian Steil of Wisconsin (R) and Congressman Dan Mueser of Pennsylvania (R).

The chairman of the event highlighted the event’s unique character. “We are here to inaugurate the Congressional Caucus for the Advancement of Torah Values—a Congressional Member organization for the 117th Congress. We live in a world filled with darkness. Not only because of the coronavirus, but also because of the moral decay and erosion of values we continue witnessing around us, values that all decent people cherish and hold dear. This is a concerning trend that needs to be properly challenged. And it’s through this very darkness that Rabbi Dovid Hofstedter, the leader of Dirshu, the largest Torah organization in the world, has chosen to play an instrumental role in helping establish a caucus dedicated to ensuring these very same values are preserved.”

 

The Urgent Need for a Bipartisan Caucus

The vital importance for a bipartisan caucus of this sort, and the need to mobilize a force in Congress that is dedicated to preserving Torah values, has perhaps taken on even more urgency in light of the increasingly poisonous political climate that emboldens antisemites on both the far right and the far left.

Additionally, it is no secret that there are forces in the United States that are dedicated to assaulting religion and eroding the freedom of religion that has been such a hallmark of American life since the establishment of the United States of America. We need only to look at the recent past when shuls and yeshivos were closed, often in an arbitrary way. We saw how easily long-standing religious freedoms were compromised by power-hungry politicians and executives who had little appreciation for the life-giving ideals provided by religious institutions.

 

Congressman Dan Bacon: A Pledge of Friendship

In his remarks as co-chair of the Torah Caucus, Congressman Don Bacon, a true friend of the Jewish community and an obvious ohev Yisroel, said, “I deeply admire Rabbi Hofstedter and what he has done for scholarship through the Dirshu organization. The purpose of this caucus is to pledge our friendship to our Jewish brothers and sisters. This is not only about friendship to Israel but to pledge that through this caucus we resolve to fight antisemitism from wherever it comes, both the right and the left.

“I want to highlight something else that deeply inspired me,” continued Rep. Bacon. “I have learned such a profound lesson from Rabbi Hofstedter’s background. Both he and his wife are children of Holocaust survivors who suffered so much. What has he done with that? He has taken inspiration from his parents and that generation and resolved to restore Jewish scholarship. He has taken an event of unspeakable evil and decided not to just sit complacently, but to do something so that some good would be able to emerge…”

 

Congressman Henry Cuellar: “We Must Distinguish Between What Is Moral and What Is Not Moral”

In his very warm remarks, Congressman Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from Texas, focused on morality. “We must distinguish between what is moral and what is not moral,” he said. “It is important to come together in a bipartisan way to fight antisemitism. Sometimes it is obvious but sometimes it is more subtle. It is vital that this caucus take on these issues.”

In hindsight, Congressman Cuellar’s remarks were deeply meaningful because just days later in his state of Texas, not far from his district, a terrible hostage-taking incident transpired where a radical Muslim targeted Jews and expressed his hatred for the Jewish people in the process. Thank God, it ended with all the hostages being saved, but that deeply troubling incident just highlighted the importance of a congressional force that will highlight matters of antisemitism and the scourge of radical Islamism.

Rav Hofstedter: “Every Nation Is Based on Its Values”

Perhaps, however, the remarks of Rav Hofstedter at that inaugural meeting were most significant because they highlighted the role that the caucus must play beyond antisemitism, and that is trying to protect the moral values upon which the country was built and that are today under assault.

He began by praising the unique democracy that is the United States to the representatives and many of their congressional aides who attended the event. “Nevertheless,” Rav Hofstedter cautioned, “when we look at the United States today, we see a nation with a tortured soul. Is its heritage a source of pride or shame? Today America struggles to protect the ideals upon which it was founded and the dreams of its youth. It seems unsure of whether to continue leading the world or to withdraw into itself.

“Why is it undergoing such a struggle?”

Rabbi Hofstedter explained that it is all about values. “Every nation is based on its values. Those values build nations and reflect its aspirations. The values of the great nation of the United States—many of them values that are rooted in the Torah—are under assault and attack. This has been going on for years. Basic values upon which this great nation was built, such as deep respect for religion, for human dignity, honesty, charity, compassion and empathy, have been under attack for years.

“These attacks undermine the very foundations upon which America was built,” exclaimed Rav Hofstedter. “A country that does not combat hate and antisemitism is not America. A nation that does not fight for religious freedom and to allow those institutions that promote religion and religious teachings to flourish, is not America. A nation that does not stand by its friends with devotion through thick and thin is not the United States of America!”

 

“We Need Torah Values to Resist Venomous and Acrimonious Speech”

Rav Hofstedter went on to address the disunity and hateful rhetoric that sadly permeates much of our discourse. “We need Torah values to resist venomous and acrimonious speech, particularly in the public realm. Yes, we are living in tough times, but the strength of a country is measured by how it responds to difficult challenges.”

Rav Hofstedter concluded by saying, “Let us embrace the mandate and mission of the caucus of Torah values and promote freedom of religion and all of the deep-rooted values that have made this country so great.”

 

An Extension of Dirshu’s Mission

Although at first glance, askanus in Washington seems a bit inconsistent with Dirshu’s primary mission of promoting and facilitating limud haTorah and yedias haTorah at the highest levels, in truth this is just an extension of that mission. It is becoming increasingly clear that as America descends into moral decay, without trying to stem the tide by cultivating Torah values with lawmakers who can make a difference, our very ability to live as frum Jews keeping Torah and mitzvot and learning uninhibited by government decrees and fiat is in jeopardy.

Dirshu’s establishment and promotion of the Caucus for the Advancement of Torah Values will better enable the American Torah community to combat the forces of moral decay and antisemitism that threaten the long-term viability of the Torah community in the United States and beyond.

Reaching out in a bipartisan way to those with influence is a manifestation of hishtadlus that will empower many more Shas Yidden and Shulchan Aruch Yidden to thrive in this country uninhibited by religious persecution and hate and appreciated for the moral values that they represent.

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