Anti-Semitism: Are We Blameless?
Attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions are up all over the country. Whenever an anti-Semitic incident occurs, politicians and clergy of various races and religions gather in front of TV cameras and microphones to denounce the act and to try to figure out what motivated it.
But if we Jews really wish to know why such attacks occur and why the gentile world has such a negative opinion of us, all we need to do is open any newspaper or watch the news. One may argue that “Esav soneh l’Yaakov” means that no matter what Jews do, non-Jews will hate us. Perhaps, but does that give us the right to provide anti-Semites with ammunition for their hatred?
Unfortunately, recent reports have given Jew-haters plenty of such ammunition. We have two allegedly frum buddies of Mayor de Blasio who have been associated with various bribery schemes. We have the head of a huge kosher meat company in the Midwest who was convicted on numerous counts. (The wild celebrations in Crown Heights and Boro Park when his sentence was commuted also caused a chillul Hashem as it looked like Jews honor felons. A small, quiet, and private celebration would have been much more appropriate.) We also have a long-time politician from the Lower East Side who is currently in court.
Unfortunately, when these gentlemen appear in the news, they are often dressed in a manner that instantly identifies them as observant Jews. When a non-Jew sees the men in these photos, his first reaction is not to see them as individuals but rather as a microcosm of all Jews. “All” Jews think they are above the law and “all” Jews are greedy crooks and thieves.
It must also be noted that anti-Semitism can be driven by smaller and more insignificant actions and infractions. Try driving down 13th Ave. in Boro Park or Ave. J in Midwood or Central Ave. in the Five Towns or Main St. in Kew Gardens Hills on Erev Shabbos. A snail moves faster than the traffic on these blocks. Some cars are parked in bus stops and no-standing and no-parking zones and others are double- and triple-parked. Parking meters are altogether ignored.
Drivers commit all these infractions even with little children in the car, thus setting a horrible example for them. They see their parents’ behavior and grow up thinking that motor vehicle laws to not apply to Jews.
Many frum Jews feel it is their G-d-given right to ignore the law because, after all, it is Erev Shabbos and apparently it is only Erev Shabbos for them – not for all the other people trying hard to prepare for Shabbos.
And let us not forget the principle of “dina d’malchusa dina.” Simply put, that means Jews are commanded to obey the laws of the land, including motor vehicle regulations.
So, my dear fellow Jews, where should we look for help to combat anti-Semitism? I would suggest that we look inward. We must look at ourselves and our communities. We must think about what we, as observant Jews, can do to promote Kiddush Hashen and avoid Chillul Hashem. I look forward to the day when the only cause for anti-Semitism is “Esav soneh l’Yaakov.”
Kew Gardens Hills, NY
A Solution To Prevent Alzheimer’s
Yaakov Kornreich’s recent article on the crisis in Alzheimer’s research clearly lays out the dilemma faced by our nation. Medical science has been able to tackle virtually every major disease – except Alzheimer’s.
Leading pharmaceutical companies and the U.S. government have poured billions of dollars into finding a cure for Alzheimer’s for the last two decades – to no avail. Depressing, to say the least…
There is often more than one way to solve a problem, so let’s think out of the proverbial box. I am a retired 91-year-old engineer and scientist and have learned to solve problems by seeking root causes and dealing with cause and effect.
The brain is like a muscle. Exercise is vital to its health. Instead of focusing on drugs, therefore, let’s perhaps pursue mentally-challenging exercises.
I have some relevant and salient experience in this regard. When I retired at age 65, I decided to make the game of poker my second career. About 20 years ago, I created a seniors poker group at a local senior center. Starting with just six of us, the group rapidly grew to over 200 members.
Over the years, I have been in contact with many members of our group. Not a single one (to the best of my knowledge) has developed Altzheimer’s even though some of them are well into their 80s and 90s. I personally recently participated in a UCLA study evaluating memory – and scored 100!
I discussed my thesis with one of our poker group members, Graciella M., who was a neurologist before retiring, and she said she was not surprised. Playing poker, she said, requires one to constantly analyze situations and think seriously, and quickly, while making one decision after the other A typical hand of hold’em takes just about two minutes from start to finish, so you have to be actively involved mentally to make the ongoing and never-ending decisions. It’s great mental exercise!
Such extensive mental activity, I believe, is bound to lead to a healthier mind. Other mentally challenging games may also work, but I believe poker works best. So why not fund research into the connection between mentally-challenging activities and staving off Altzheimer’s? What do we have to lose? We’ve tried everything else.
Two Clarifications, If I May
I thank The Jewish Press for publishing my article last month on my uncle, Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, z”l, the late chief rabbi of Haifa.
I must make two clarifications, however. The Shabbat walks I took with him were not from Rechavia to Jerusalem; Rechavia is as much a part of Jerusalem as any other neighborhood. The walks were from Jerusalem’s Rechavia neighborhood to Jerusalem’s Geulah neighborhood.
Also, I did not edit the biography of Rabbi Cohen itself; rather, I edited and supplemented the translation of the biography into English.
Any reader who found the irony on which the article focused to be of interest should feel free to contact me about lecture invitations or to find out where I may be lecturing next.
Rabbi Aaron I. Reichel, Esq.