By: Fern Sidman
A conversation with Rabbi Nachum Shifren.
So, what’s a nice Orthodox rabbi doing in California politics? According to TEA Party candidate, Rabbi Nachum Shifren (R), “I’ve thrown my hat in the political ring and am running for the California State Senate in the 26th district because like many others, I’m outraged by the far reaching tentacles of big government and it’s destructive effect on our individual rights and liberties.”
This Southern California native is not only an Orthodox rabbi, but is also a disciplined athlete and a big wave surfer. His 2001 autobiography, “Surfing Rabbi: A Kabbalistic Quest for Soul,” describes his circuitous journey from rebellious teenage surfer to a life committed to Torah and mitzvos.
Having been employed in the California educational system for the last 22 years, RabbI Shifren is well acquainted with the monolithic bureaucracy that has come to define state politics and has “strangled the life” out of its students and citizens.
“There is a significant lack of leadership on both the state and national levels in this country and our young people are suffering the most. We have neglected to establish any standards of accountability and responsibility; there are no benchmarks for success and we have abysmally failed in motivating students to succeed,” Rabbi Shifren declared. “During my years of teaching and counseling in the prison system as well, I have worked with diverse and challenging student populations of our great state. I have taught them the values of persistence, diligence and hard work and have encouraged them to strive for educational excellence, rather than being pushed through the system without meriting it,” he said.
Regarding his plans for the revivification of California’s now fledgling economy, Rabbi Shifren intones, “California is the most heavily taxed state in the country and thus we are the paradigm for the Nanny State, where the Big Brother government purportedly has all the answers. This state is replete with elected officials who are advocates of big government and unbridled spending. I propose that we lower taxes; do away with the capital gains taxes and other taxes that drive away business from the state. If ever there was a recipe for destroying a state, then it’s the present model being played out in Sacramento. In order to stem the panicked flight of industry, small businesses and high tech companies from our shores to places beyond, we must have an economic Marshall Plan in place. Only when there is an atmosphere of business-friendly relations, lower taxes and burdens, giving companies incentives for bringing their wealth to us, will we be able to survive.”
Problems arising from illegal immigration has plagued the Golden State for decades and Rabbi Shifren is a stalwart advocate for preserving the English language and value system. “Each of us has a culture, a language, a different background that will never be erased or compromised. Yet, for all of us to work together for the good of our country, there must be a cohesive element that we all buy into for the sake of the whole. Here they are: our constitution, our Bill of Rights and our English language. These are what makes us Americans and the loosening of these bonds will eradicate the very glue that our American forefathers fought and died for,” he said.
Turning to foreign affairs, Rabbi Shifren offered his views on the Obama administration’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process by saying, “For Obama to say that settlements are an obstacle to peace in the Middle East is beyond absurd. Just remember, there were no settlements in 1948, or 1956 or in 1967 and there was no peace. The current administration is playing with fire in its attempts to pressure Israel to make even more territorial concessions to her sworn enemies, because a weakened and indefensible Israel is tantamount to an America that will be more vulnerable to terrorist attacks and enemy onslaught. What the president doesn’t understand is the mentality of the Arab nations. If you appear strong you will be respected, but if you appear weak you will be despised and now America appears weak, in large part due to Obama’s obsequious stance as it pertains to US relations with Islamic countries.”