by Jerry Gordon (November 2010)
Rabbi Nachum Shifren, known as the ‘surfing Rabbi’, is a candidate for a California Senate Seat in District 26 in West Los Angeles. He is an Orthodox Rabbi and a product of the Chabad Movement that captured his attention at UC Santa Barbara and which led to his spiritual conversion. He ran away from his San Fernando Valley home at age 12 to Malibu where he became enamored of watching the strength and grace of surfers. He became a surfer, Los Angeles County lifeguard, and ultimately an accomplished triathelete.
He is the only declared California State Senate candidate who has come out against Sharia. He has spoken at Tea Party and Republican conventions. He considers some members of the Tea Party movement and other Republicans as “the salt of the earth.” He is concerned about the direction in which the country is headed under the Obama Administration. Among his supporters is Sharron Angle Nevada GOP US Senate candidate.
In the midst of the final weeks of his California Senate campaign, Shifren traveled to the UK to show solidarity with the anti-Islamic English Defense League. The U.K. Guardian portrayed him as part of an international web involving the US Tea Party Movement and the anti-Sharia cause. That in turn made the British Jewish establishment uneasy about Rabbi Schifrin’s appearances and speeches in Britain. He said as much in this quote from The Guardian Observer ‘investigation’:
Shifren, a Californian senate candidate, said Britain’s Jewish community should rally behind the EDL: “The Jewish community is paralyzed with fear, exactly what most radical Muslim agitators want. The people of England are in the forefront of this war – and it is a war. One of the purposes of this visit is to put the kibosh on the notion in the Jewish community that they cannot co-operate with the EDL, which is rubbish.”
Shifren noted this about his reception at the EDL Rally for Israel:
When I was introduced at the demo, I got a minute long standing ovation, with shouts of: “Rabbi, Rabbi, Rabbi”
Never in my life have I been appreciated so much. The love was overflowing, they were so grateful for me thinking of them and supporting them. Of course, I was grateful. Today was a shot heard round the world!
At the London EDL Rally, Shifrin said;
I’m looking at this crowd of people here in the UK, and I can see Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and yes, even Jews too. We wanted to say to all those liberals who preach multiculturalism why don’t you go to Saudi Arabia and start there…
I will not stand by and watch the destruction of both of our countries from within…
History will be recorded that on this day, read by our children for eternity, one group lit the spark to liberate us from the oppressors of our two governments and the leftist, fifth column, quisling press, and that it was the EDL which started the liberation of England from evil…
Today is the first day of the rest of your lives. We shall prevail, we will not let them take over our countries. We will never surrender to the sword of Islam…]
NER contributor Christina McIntosh commented:
Only a little while ago, I asked, in a discussion of the English Defence League – ‘Where is their Friar Tuck?’ (alluding, of course, to the rebel priest who accompanies Robin Hood and his Merry Men in Sherwood Forest, as they fight the evil Sheriff and wait for the return of Good King Richard – going, of course, by the popular legend, not by dusty history).
I stated that I was waiting for the moment when a Priest, Pastor, and/ or Rabbi would step forward to be seen with the EDL.
And lo and behold, here he is …not Friar Tuck, or Father Tuck, but…Rabbi Tuck. Oh for the moment when we see this Chabad graduate, with his kippah and his patriarchal beard, waving the Star of David at the head of the EDL’s Jewish division, with the Cross of St George flying merrily alongside…the BBC will have hysterics.
And true to form, The U.K. Guardian commentator, Jonathan Freedland, a British left wing Jew called coreligionist Rabbi Shifren a ‘racist’ for his anti-Sharia stand during a BBC interview. That didn’t faze Shifren or his EDL hosts who launched the “Jewish Division” of the UK anti-Jihad group with a rally at the Israeli Embassy in London. This despite the affront to his exercise of free speech barred by Muslims from speaking at Speakers Corner in Hyde Park. According to The Jewish Chronicle representatives of the Israeli Embassy tried to distance themselves from the EDL rally:
We wish to disassociate ourselves from next Sunday’s event, and from any attempts to link Israel to the EDL.
However note this comment by EDL Jewish Division organizer, Brazilian-born Roberta Moore:
We are going to the embassy to show support for Israel, to fight jihad in our streets. It just cannot go on. We do not have enough Jews standing up to protest.
Rabbi Shifren contacted us and we invited him to come and speak.
She claimed the Jewish division has around 100 members, most of whom are Jewish.
We are causing ripples everywhere because we are achieving things the Jewish community has not. CST and the Board of Deputies speak out but their voices are not heard. People want to see action on their streets.
Our members are not hooligans. We are educated people with jobs. If we defend ourselves is that hooliganism? The Jewish community sits in their houses and does nothing. They will enjoy the benefits of our action.
Shifren noted this about his reception at the EDL Rally for Israel:
“When I was introduced at the demo, I got a minute long standing ovation, with shouts of: “Rabbi, Rabbi, Rabbi”
“Never in my life have I been appreciated so much. The love was overflowing, they were so grateful for me thinking of them and supporting them. Of course, I was grateful. Today was a shot heard round the world!”
So is Rabbi Shifren an ‘extremist’? I think the answer can be found in the famed quote from the late Conservative and Libertarian Sen. Barry Goldwater in his 1964 GOP Convention Presidential nomination acceptance speech:
“I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”
Gordon: Rabbi Shifren thank you for consenting to this interview.
Shifren: You are welcome.
Gordon: Are you a Los Angeles native?
Shifren: Yes, I’m an LA native and I was raised in the San Fernando Valley in middle of Los Angeles.
Gordon: Are you a product of the Los Angeles public schools or Jewish Day schools?
Shifren: No, I never went to a Jewish Day school. I always went to public schools.
Gordon: We understand that you were a lifeguard for Los Angeles County and an accomplished surfer. What prompted your interest in water sports and what personal satisfaction do you draw from it?
Shifren: Well I’ve been surfing for 48 years. I still surf on a regular basis when I can and when there is surf, not all the time of course. I started when I ran away from the home at the age of 12 and went to Malibu Beach. I just fell in love with surfing because it was the coolest thing that you could ever want to do. I just worshipped all the surfers there and thought they were just great water men and athletes and it was just such an exciting sport. I latched on to it and I haven’t been the same since.
Gordon: What college did you graduate from and what was your degree in?
Shifren: I graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara with a degree in German Literature and Language and a degree in Spanish Literature and Language.
Gordon: Do you have any advanced education besides training for the rabbinate?
Shifren: I went to graduate school for one year and I went to a school in Germany to learn German.
Gordon: When did you serve with the IDF and in what capacity?
Shifren: This was from 1987 to 1990. I was a physical fitness trainer which was of course a natural thing for me to do being that I had several years of experience in competitive sports like swimming and surfing. I was attached to an artillery unit but I was known as the trainer. I used to take the soldiers out and get them into good shape.
Gordon: When did your interest in both Orthodoxy and the rabbinate occur?
Shifren: It was around 1985, 86, I started going to Chabad, at the University of California Santa Barbara Campus where I was attending. They are very insidious the Chabad people. They suck you in with that wonderful food, their charm and blandishments. The next thing you know you are putting on a kippot and you are singing the blues. It’s really amazing. I started in 1986 then in 1987 I really got into it. You know I spoke Hebrew at that point because I had the Army service behind me so it was a little bit easier for me to learn Torah and study. I went to Israel and I spent three years in a Chabad and three years in another place in Jerusalem. I spent about six years actively learning for the rabbinate
Gordon: And when did you decide to enter the rabbinate.
Shifren: Well, I was tested on different skills, different learning, aspects of Jewish law and that was in 1991.
Gordon: And did you obtain your smicha (ordination) in Israel?
Gordon: You have spent over two decades in the LA school system. How did that come about and what subjects and schools did you teach in?
Shifren: l started teaching in 1985 as a practice teacher. I was completing my education at UC Santa Barbara. I went to Israel in 1987. I got my first job in the Los Angeles Unified School District in1991.
Gordon: What subject did you teach?
Gordon: As part of your educational career, did you teach inside the Los Angeles County Correctional System?
Shifren: I did. I took a year off. I had some entrepreneurial projects that I wanted to be involved in. One of my friends alerted me about a position as a rehab teacher in Los Angeles County Jail and I thought, “you know, I’m going to try this as it seemed very intriguing.” I did and needless to say I learned quite a bit about human beings, and especially about our correctional system with all of its dysfunction. That was an eye opener for me and I did that for about a year.
Gordon: Did you encounter any so called jailhouse jihadis at that time?
Shifren: I had one black Muslim. There are no Muslims that are in jail that are not black to my knowledge. He told me that he would kill me because his prophet Elijah Muhammed said that they need to kill Jews so I said O.K., I get that. So I had a guard in the cell with me, when I was teaching, which worked out well.
Gordon: Do you have a family?
Shifren: I do, I have four children.
Gordon: What ages are they?
Shifren: From 12 to 18.
Gordon: Are they all raised in the Orthodox tradition?
Shifren: Yes, they are.
Gordon: How do they feel about your running for the State Senate in California?
Shifren: Well they think it’s pretty interesting. They are in school with their friends, doing homework and pretty involved in their own personal lives. I think they are intrigued, because it reminds them that I am doing something a little unique. So, they are definitely keyed in.
Gordon: Were you always a political conservative and if not, when did that epiphany occur?
Shifren: You know the quote from Churchill when you are a teenager and you are not a liberal you don’t have any heart, and if you’re an older person and still that way, then you don’t have any brains. I worked for Sen. George McGovern if you can believe that. Little by little I learned the truth and started to become more involved. The whole Palestinian issue basically set the tone for me. I started learning at a young age about what’s going on in Israel. I was perplexed that we hear these stories about Palestinians and everybody just accepts them as true. So after searching and talking to different people I started changing my views to be more conservative.
Gordon: You’ve also kept up your athleticism as a triathelete. How many competitions have you been in and where?
Shifren: Well, my first marathon was “Freedom of the Sea of Galilee” marathon in 1973 I believe. I was involved there during the Yom Kippur War when I went to Israel to work and help out. I found out about this first marathon of its kind and I did it. It was my first one. I’ve done some Triathlons. I did two more marathons here in the United States and I ran around Central Park once which I guess for some people might be an interesting thing to do. So that’s it.
Gordon: How did you come about your stand against Jihadism and opposition to Islamic Sharia law?
Shifren: Living in Israel our family moved to the Shomron area which is called Samaria in English. We lived in a very small village surrounded by Arab villages. You get to see things that people from the outside really have no clue, about what’s going on between Jews and Arabs or Muslims. After you see some of your best friends being killed for no reason, other than they are Jews, then you realize that it is what happened to Jews in Nazi Germany. The only reason the Jews were killed was because they were Jews. We had grown up with the thought that never again would Jews be killed with impunity. There I was seeing it happen time and time again. It became very disturbing to me. I just decided at some point to be more involved and needless to say I am.
Gordon: Why do you believe that Sharia is a clear and present danger to our Judeo Christian values?
Shifren: The Muslim religion is not really a religion. It is a political system. There is no live and let live with Muslims. You don’t have kumbaya under Islam. Not like I beat my drums, you beat your drums and we’ll both beat each others’ drums and we’ll just go on the beach and listen to the sound of the waves coming in. That’s not how it works. I’m against Sharia law because I understand that that will be the element that will destroy the United States and convert this country into an Islamic Caliphate. That is what these people are seeking to achieve.
Gordon: Why do some American Jews consider you as an extremist given your anti-Sharia views?
Shifren: Well I guess it’s because I like surviving. I don’t want to die and so therefore I must be extreme. That is the only reason I could think of.
Gordon: What motivated you to run for a State Senate seat in California?
Shifren: After 22 years of watching absolutely complete dysfunction in the school system, watching 50% of the kids dropping out, seeing that untold numbers of gangs both Hispanic and black, having students killed, knifed, shot, you can either just go home and have a martini and forget about it or get really angry and want to change things. That is why I’m running to try and do something about changing it.
Gordon: What has been the reaction of fellow LA area Jews to your candidacy?
Shifren: I think that there are a lot of supportive. I think that there are a lot of people that wish I wasn’t alive. Just because I bring attention to myself as a Jew which is no problem for me. I am who I am. By the way, I have untold numbers of supportive non-Jews who are with me. They are on my staff, they are my supporters, and they make financial contributions to the campaign. This support comes from all over the United States. My candidacy has resonated with many Americans. The reality is I’m behind the proverbial eight ball here in LA where there is heavy union political influence. Then there is political correctness here which is very difficult to combat. That is why I need major help in my campaign from outside the area and I’m receiving it which is good.
Gordon: You have a fan in Nevada GOP U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Engle who is in a close race against Senate Majority leader Harry Reid. How did that happen?
Shifren: I went to a National Republican Assembly meeting. It was a national convention of Republican State Assemblies. The convention was held in Reno and at that time Sharron Angle was a Nevada State Assembly member. I had the opportunity to speak before the convention. That was a remarkable experience. I found the people in these Republican assemblies to be the salt of the earth in the United States. They are the heart of the American people. I was well received in Reno and made a lot of fans. One of them was Sharron Angle. When we had a recent fundraiser for my campaign, I asked Sharron if she wouldn’t mind calling in to a campaign rally. She agreed and I was much honored to have her endorsement.
Gordon: What conservative groups do you consider as natural allies in your anti-Sharia campaign and why do they support you?
Shifren: Well, I believe that the future of America is going to rest in the direction of the Tea Party movement. I truly believe it. They are young people, people that work, people that produce, people that are really afraid about the direction that our country is going. I have a natural connection with them because they are on the same page as I am. I realize that what is going on in the schools is symbolic of what’s happening in the nation. The crisis that we have in our politics, the mayhem in our society in general and the constant race baiting. Members of the Tea Party movement are supporting me. They like and listen to me. I always get great applause whenever I speak. I feel really honored that I can make a difference in America and that there are Americans that think that there is merit to what I’m doing. It feels really good.
Gordon: Should you succeed in getting elected to a Senate seat in California, would you consider sponsoring anti-Sharia legislation?
Shifren: Well absolutely, it’s part of my platform. I’m known as the anti-Sharia law candidate. I’m the only declared candidate in California that is on record as saying he’s going to do whatever he can to prevent the any form of Sharia law in our state. That includes information about Islam that we have in our textbooks for our students, the special accommodations in our schools and in public places funded by tax dollars.
Gordon: You embarked on a trip to the United Kingdom in the midst of your election campaign to show solidarity with the English Defense League. Why did you choose to do that at this critical time?
Shifren: I think that the way England goes will be the way that America does. I think that England is being besieged and this is a time of war. The British are losing the war and it’s now time for really patriotic people to stand up and be counted. When they asked me to come and hosted me in their country, I was absolutely honored and humbled to think that they would listen to me. They organized press conferences and meetings for me. I was the main speaker at a rally held at the Israeli Embassy in London. I felt an obligation to speak out and what I said in England appeared in the American Press. I hoped to arouse as many people as I could in both England and in the United States about this insidious darkness that’s creeping into our countries and threatens to completely extinguish life as we know it
Gordon: Are there any fellow warriors in the anti-Jihad alliance among the American rabbinate that you can cite?
Shifren: Unfortunately, the rabbis and the Jewish leadership have just dropped the ball on this issue. I feel it is a tragic mistake. I feel that they need to be organized. The Muslims are not waiting for the rabbis. They are 24/7 on guard activating, infiltrating, and spreading their propaganda on our campuses, in our government, even in our economic system trying to make finance Sharia compliant. There is however one, his name is Rabbi Jon Hausman who is in Massachusetts, a dear friend. He is the only person I know who has taken an active interest in this. However, the lack of recognition and leadership in the Jewish community on this issue sends a very unfortunate message to Jewish youth who are desperately looking in this insane age for direction and not finding it.
Gordon: Rabbi Nachum Shifren. We wish you the best of luck and especially success in your California State Senate election campaign.
Shifren: Thanks. G-d Bless you and I really appreciate the opportunity to speak.
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