Every December, people get religion about religion -- and for a fleeting moment, government secularists lose their invincibility cloaks.
Example: Ron Sims, the county executive of my old stomping grounds in Seattle, got rightly roasted nationwide after issuing a memo urging public employees to avoid using the phrase "Merry Christmas" (or any other faith-specific greeting). Internet discussion boards buzzed with derision. Newspaper editorialists took off their Grinch costumes and denounced such godless bureaucratic humbug. And angry citizens across the country deluged Sims' office with so many e-mails and phone calls that he was forced to abandon his party-pooping policy.
But what happens when the spiritual holidays are over?
Once the New Year begins, too many Americans pack up their Menorahs, throw away their Christmas trees, and allow politicians and ACLU extremists to continue their relentless crusade to banish God from the public square. Those who are truly outraged by such religion-bashing antics can put their money where their faith is by supporting individuals and organizations that combat rampant secularism 365 days a year.
Jewish World Review (www.jewishworldreview.com) is a webzine of political and social commentary edited and published by New York journalist Binyamin Jolkovsky. The daily online publication, which celebrated its fourth anniversary this month, was founded to communicate traditional values and morality from a Jewish perspective -- and to counter growing indifference among young Jews to their religious heritage. Among JWR's prominent Jewish contributors: terrorism scholar Daniel Pipes, Jerusalem Post columnist Jonathan Rosenblum, and journalists Nat Hentoff, Bob Greene and Paul Greenberg.
The 33-year-old Jolkovsky, who operates JWR on a shoestring budget in Brooklyn, has used his sharp pen to criticize hypocritical Jews on the left and defend conservative Christians on the right.
When Connecticut Senator and former Democratic vice-presidential candidate Joe Lieberman mischaracterized orthodox Jewish doctrine on the Don Imus show and later courted anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan, Jolkovsky bluntly exposed Lieberman's sellout of his core religious beliefs in pursuit of higher public office.
When feminists, ethnic groups and the media painted Attorney General John Ashcroft as a bigot during his nomination hearings, JWR reported on the strong support Ashcroft received from Orthodox Jews in Missouri.
And when Johnny Hart's popular cartoon strip, "B.C.," was attacked earlier this spring by liberal Jews upset with its overtly Christian message, Jolkovsky bravely stepped into the fray. "As a Sabbath-observant Jew, rabbinical school alumnus and publisher of the most-accessed Jewish website, I see absolutely nothing wrong with Hart's message ... The majority religion in this country is still Christianity and those who feel queasy about encountering public displays of it should grow some thicker skin."
Forming coalitions across denominational lines is important, Jolkovsky says, "in order to give greater voice to those who hold religious values dear." So JWR's stable of regulars also includes many non-Jewish writers (including Tony Snow, Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams and yours truly). In fact, Jolkovsky refers to his site as the "Jewish e-dress for all peoples of all faiths. There is far more that unites us than divides us."
Another of JWR's contributors, Kevin Hasson, heads The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty -- a bipartisan and ecumenical, public-interest law firm based in Washington, D.C., which protects the free expression of all religious traditions. Among The Becket Fund's most famous ongoing pro bono cases is its defense of Zachary Hood, a Christian first-grader from New Jersey whose public school teacher forbade him from reading his favorite story about Jacob and Esau aloud to his classmates. The group also represents several houses of worship -- including a Baptist church in Texas, a Jewish congregation in Pennsylvania, and Catholic churches in King County, Wash. -- which are all under attack by overzealous zoning regulators.
Long after the December media buzz about government Grinches dies down, committed champions of religious liberty and expression continue to fight the extremes of liberal secularism. For JewishWorldReview.com, The Becket Fund, and many other unsung warriors, the campaign against the Ron Simses of the world is more than a passing holiday fancy. It's a lifelong labor of love and faith.