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Abraham H. Foxman is the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith (ADL) and is known throughout the world as a leader in the fight against anti-Semitism, hatred, prejudice, bigotry and discrimination. Denouncing those who take Talmud passages out of context, the ADL writes:
"To make these passages serve their purposes, these polemicists frequently mistranslate them or cite them out of context (wholesale fabrication of passages is not unknown). They usually dismiss attempts to correct their misreadings as "hairsplitting" or dishonest attempts to portray Judaism in a favorable light." — ADL position paper (12)

Mrs. George (Libby) Pataki, wife of the governor of New York, eloquently characterizes the ADL in this way:
"As a premier civil rights and human relations agency, ADL combats anti-Semitism and racism against all peoples, regardless of background." (1)

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Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein is the director of Project Next Step of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles and a professor of Jewish Law and Ethics at Loyola Law School. Rabbi Adlerstein calls the Talmud, "the world's oldest continuously-practiced legal code." (6)


Some people may worry that by inquiring about and commenting upon the Jewish religion, they may give offense to a widely persecuted group. At Come and Hear™, there are no grounds for those concerns. We follow ADL practices.

The Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith (ADL) sets the standards when it comes to protecting religious sensitivities. In May 2002, the ADL honored the First Lady of New York, Mrs. George (Libby) Pataki for her unwavering support of Israel. The ADL published Mrs. Pataki's acceptance speech on its website. In that speech, Mrs. Pataki, eloquently characterizes the ADL:

Originally founded in 1913 to "stop the defamation of the Jewish people," ADL has emerged as one of the world's largest institutions in the fight against all forms of bigotry.
As a premier civil rights and human relations agency, ADL combats anti-Semitism and racism against all peoples, regardless of background.

— Mrs. Libby Pataki (1) (emphasis added)

Mrs. Pataki Speaks on Islam

One may be assured that anything published and endorsed by the ADL would fall within their own guidelines and would be free of hatred, prejudice, and other unacceptable attitudes. Mrs. Pataki's speech continues with remarks on international terrorism and those who practice the religion of Islam.

The fight is not just about Israel. It is about all people that hate terror and love peace. It is about freedom and the right to live one's life without fear. Under the Taliban in Afghanistan, women were forbidden to hold jobs, drive cars, own land, be educated, and for that matter, show their face. They were forbidden from doing things by the Koran, which ironically they are not even allowed to read. If their husband dies they have no way to feed their children. Sometimes, the women beg for enough money to buy stale bread, which they mix with water and feed to their children. In other families the women were forced into prostitution and then charged and executed for the same offense. If any of you have seen Saira Shaw's "Beneath the Veil," you know what I am talking about.

— Libby Pataki(1)

Notice that Mrs. Pataki does not cite any passages of the Koran to back up her claims. Instead, she relies on information from a broadcast TV show, the CNN news feature, Beneath the Veil.

By publishing Mrs. Pataki' speech without disclaimers or caveats, the ADL demonstrates that it considers her remarks fall within ADL guidelines, and that it considers perfectly acceptable the following activities:

  1. Examining a religion of which one is not a believer
  2. Drawing one's own conclusions about that religion without benefit of clerical advice
  3. Commenting on others' religions publicly
  4. Having the courage to publish comments even when they may not be completely flattering to that religion

The ADL thereby confirms an important policy. To speak freely — and not always favorably — of others and their religions is a bedrock American value enshrined in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. It is indeed refreshing to find that the ADL has wholeheartedly signed onto the principle of Freedom of Speech.

ADL Falls Victim to Talmud Bashing

When one is on any battle front in the line of fire, it is easy to sustain injuries. Thus, perhaps, the ADL has fallen into agreement with "anti-Semitic" criticism of the Talmud. Speaking of Talmud critics, the ADL states:

In distorting the normative meanings of rabbinic texts, anti-Talmud writers frequently remove passages from their textual and historical contexts. Even when they present their citations accurately, they judge the passages based on contemporary moral standards, ignoring the fact that the majority of these passages were composed close to two thousand years ago by people living in cultures radically different from our own. They are thus able to ignore Judaism's long history of social progress and paint it instead as a primitive and parochial religion.

— Anti-Defamation League (2) (emphasis added)

The ADL obviously takes to heart these negative characterizations that the Talmud is a "primitive and parochial religion." The ADL states that the Talmud was written by people, taking a secular approach. To normative Judaism, the Talmud is the Word of God, a record of the Oral Law given by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai.

… the Talmud is one of the wonders of the world … It still dominates the minds of a whole people, who venerate its contents as divine truth …

— Rabbi Michael L. Rodkinson (3)

The Bavli [Babylonian Talmud] has formed the definitive statement of Judaism from the time of its closure to the present day. The excellence of its composition, the mastery and authority of those who everywhere studied it and advocated its law, the sharpness of its exegesis and discussion, the harmonious and proportional presentation of all details, these virtues of taste and intellect may well have secured for the document is paramount position … The Bavli served from its closure as an encyclopedia of knowledge and as a summa of the theology and law of Judaism.

— Rabbi Dr. Jacob Neusner (4)

Moreover, the ADL has fallen behind the times. The Orthodox wing of Judaism is in ascendance in America and throughout the world. The ADL seems to be unaware that,

  • In 1991, the US Congress declared the Talmudic Noahide Laws to be the basis "upon which our great Nation was founded" (see America's New Government Church).
  • In 1999, the Supreme Court agreed to consider an amicus curiae brief based wholly on Talmudic law (see Sentence and Execution)
  • In November 2002, the American Orthodox Jewish community held a kosher dinner in the Supreme Court building to celebrate the establishment of the National Institute for Judaic Law. (5) The dinner was attended by 200 people, including three Supreme Court Justices. The purpose of the Institute is to introduce Talmudic laws into the US legal system and law schools.

Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein is the director of Project Next Step of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles and a professor of Jewish Law and Ethics at Loyola Law School. In praise of the 1999 amicus curiae submitted to the Supreme Court, Rabbi Adlerstein writes:

[The Jewish Talmud] … likely is the world's oldest continuously-practiced legal code.
… the Jewish Talmud [has been] the backbone of Jewish law for the last two millennia.
… many of the pressing moral, ethical, and legal issues that are front-burner today were already painstakingly and lovingly considered by savants of the past. Jewish law in particular surprises and delights moderns, because it not only suggests solutions, but teaches how complex moral issues can be attacked and dissected. Within its ancient legal code are deep and detailed considerations of issues like privacy, allocating medical resources, the causes of violence, and many more. So much of the future stands to be illuminated by the minds of those who specialized in pondering deeply and subtly.

— Rabbi Adlerstein (6)

Contrary to the statements of the ADL that the Talmud is not applicable to our own society, Rabbi Adlerstein asserts that the Talmud has already considered the questions with which we are struggling. Whereas the ADL asserts that the Talmud was "composed close to two thousand years ago by people living in cultures radically different from our own," Rabbi Adlerstein asserts that the Talmud, rather than being defunct, has been continuously practiced. In addition, according to the US Congress, the Supreme Court, and other prominent Talmudic and US law specialists, the Talmud is au courrant. Since Talmud and Talmud-derived law is now being promoted as an exemplar for the US justice system and non-Jewish society, the Talmud has become a public policy issue.

Given this corrected view of the position of the Talmud in Judaism and American society, we are certain that the ADL would agree: The Talmud is well within the arena of public debate in America.

Thank you for your consideration of the above,
Carol A. Valentine,  Ear at come-and-hear dot com
July 14, 2003 ( This article is on line at )

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Full specifics for each of the printed sources are provided in the Bibliography. Outside URLs were valid at the time this article was written. However, be mindful that URLs do change.

  1. "Libby Pataki Honored by ADL for Her 'Strong and Unwavering' Support of the State of Israel" Anti-Defamation League, New York cached at
  2. "The Talmud in Anti-Semitic Polemics," Anti-Defamation League, cached at
  3. The History Of The Talmud, "Introduction," Vol. I, page 1 available at
  4. Rabbi Dr. Jacob Neusner, quoted by Norman F. Cantor, The Sacred Chain (A History of the Jews), page 112. According to Rabbi Dr. Neusner's bio, he has published more than 850 books. Bio available at cached at
  5. "Jewish Law Comes to D.C.," The Jewish Week, January 8, 2003, cached as
  6. "Jewish Law and the Supreme Court: Happy Millennium From an Ancient Legal Tradition," by Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, Project Next Step cached at
  7. "Foreword" by Rabbi Dr. Jacob Neusner, Everyman's Talmud, page x
  8. The Essential Talmud, page 269
  9. The site introductions, "What We're About," "We're ADL Compatible," and "Linguistics of Come-and-Hear™" can be found at htp://, htp://, and htp://, respectively

© Copyright Carol A. Valentine, 2003. See copyright statement at

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