President Bush has played an unsung role in combating worldwide anti-Semitism and in seeking to stem the surge of anger that has swept the world in the last decade.
Repeat anything often enough, regardless of accuracy, and eventually it becomes engraved in people’s minds as the truth: “Lizzie Borden took an ax” and butchered her parents; Mama Cass choked to death on a ham sandwich; Israel launched a war on Lebanon in 2006.
Once again we find ourselves celebrating the yom tov of Pesach – the same holiday we celebrated last year at this time, and next year we’ll be doing the same. Traditionally, Pesach commemorates the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt – a pivotal point in our becoming a people: we gained our freedom – physically, and very soon after, spiritually. We refer to the holiday as the time of our freedom – z’man chairusenu – and the Pesach seder, with all its obligations and practices, thoroughly stresses the message of freedom and God’s redemption of the Jewish people throughout the ages.
Group solidarity is one trait that has earned Jews both plaudits and criticism. But according to a spokesman for a national Jewish organization, it’s long past time to stop the group-think. M.J. Rosenberg, the director of the Israel Policy Forum’s Washington Policy Center wrote on the eve of the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington to register his disgust at the rituals of pandering politicians who seek to win Jewish votes. While he affirms that we should care deeply about Israel, he is down on those who seek Jewish votes by carrying on about their views on the issue.
The story of the Roosevelt administration’s response to the Holocaust has been chronicled in books and on film. Now, for the first time, it is coming to the stage. “The Accomplices,” an off-Broadway play written by former New York Times correspondent Bernard Weinraub and directed by Ian Morgan, will be performed by The New Group with preview performances starting March 20. After meeting earlier this month with the author and cast for more than two hours, I have no doubt this is one play that will not be soon forgotten.
We often hear about moderate Arab leaders. Do they exist? Let’s examine the record. PA president and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas is one of those touted as a moderate. Yet Abbas co-founded the terrorist Fatah with Yasir Arafat, served as Arafat’s deputy for 40 years and wrote a Ph.D. thesis and book denying the Holocaust. He has refused to implement Palestinian commitments under signed agreements with Israel and also the 2003 road-map peace plan to fight and arrest terrorists, confiscate their weaponry and end the incitement to hatred and murder in the PA-controlled media, mosques, schools and youth camps that feeds it.
I recently read a truly fascinating study. It wasn’t a new study, but nonetheless it affected me. A team from England’s Newcastle University monitored how much money people would put in a canteen “honesty box” when buying a drink. Over the course of 10 weeks, a poster listing hot drink prices was placed at eye-level above the honesty box. Each week, the poster featured an image of either flowers or a pair of eyes looking directly at the person taking the items.
There are great teachers whose impact is limited to their students. Greater still are those whose students initiate students of their own. The greatest teachers, however, influence not only the direct line descending from them, but an entire climate of thinking. All of us are their talmidim.
Shortly after she became chief archivist at the American Jewish Committee in 2001, Charlotte Bonelli came to believe the material she was discovering should be shared with the world. “I would pull a box a box off a shelf, open it up, and find inside, for instance, World War II-era pro-democracy comics or scripts of radio broadcasts featuring stars such as James Cagney, William Holden, and Helen Hayes urging unity on the home front,” says Bonelli.
The New York Times’s Steven Erlanger had a lengthy feature in the paper’s March 12 edition about Palestinian youth, the “lost generation of Palestine: its most radical, most accepting of violence and most despairing.” Quoting a dozen Palestinians, the article, entitled “Years of Strife and Lost Hope Scar Young Palestinian Lives” tells a story of disillusioned youngsters “stymied” by “stateless[ness]”, an economy that is “shutting down,” “Israeli checkpoints, barriers and closures” and interaction with “armed” Israelis – “soldiers and settlers.”
Professor Rivka Carmi, the new president of Israel’s Ben-Gurion University, actually views overseas Jewish donors to BGU as the real threat to academic freedom at her school. She says so in the Hebrew quarterly Academia (number 17, winter 2006-7), which is published by the Committee of University Heads, a sort of lobby group on behalf of the universities.
March 4 marked the 20th anniversary of the unprecedented life sentence meted out to Jonathan Pollard. It’s an appropriate time to take stock of the response of the American Jewish community and the government of Israel to his arrest, sentencing and continued incarceration.
In case you missed it, college campuses in the United States, Canada and Britain recently hosted an “Israeli Apartheid Week,” during which prominent scholars and artists all got together to agree about the State of Israel’s beastliness.
The Righteous of France, the nearly 3,000 individuals who risked their lives to save Jews from mass deportation during the Nazi occupation, were honored by the French nation at a ceremony on January 18. The tribute at the Pantheon in central Paris was led by French President Jacques Chirac, who unveiled a plaque commemorating these heroes of the French Resistance.
A few years ago at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, we held a Friday night dinner for Beginners, a monthly activity that usually draws about 150 people. On that particular night there were 250 people who packed our Heyman Auditorium. The reason was that Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis joined us for dinner.
Every day I receive e-mails from people communicating their personal problems.
By now just about everyone in the Jewish world has heard about the blood libel affair that has emerged from Bar Ilan University in Israel.
The Torah tells us, in Parshat Ki Teitzei, Devarim 25:17, that we should “wipe out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” And yet it immediately concludes with the statement “you should not forget.” In order not to forget, each year before Purim we have a special reading of the Torah reminding us of what Amalek did to us in the wilderness as we were fleeing Egypt. Twice a year in the weekly Torah cycle we are reminded of Amalek. On Purim we read Megillat Esther, which chronicles the evil deeds of Haman, a direct descendent of Amalek. Children in yeshivas regularly learn in Tanach about the wars of Amalek with the Israelite kings, which occurred centuries after the Hebrews’ initial encounter with the Amalekites.
The most esteemed of all the king’s men, dressed in royal robes, his head crowned in jewels, was mounted on the white stallion. Zeresh could never have imagined the rubbish destined for disposal on the disgraceful Jew hauling the royal carriage would land on her own wicked spouse, Haman.
It was the last time my sisters and I were to see the number A-9103 tattooed on my mother’s arm. On December 12, 2006, Lenka Leah Moskovicova was laid to her eternal rest in the old Jewish cemetery in my hometown of Kosice, Slovakia, next to my father, Avrum.
A good move, may it yield results: Thirty-five members of the Knesset recently signed a letter to IDF Central Command, asking that Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem (called Nablus by the Arabs) be opened again to visits by Jews, with steps taken to provide security.
Sometimes, the most daring thing a scholar or an organization can do is mention the obvious. That is a lesson that Indiana University’s Professor Alvin H. Rosenfeld and the American Jewish Committee have recently learned to their sorrow.
The drive to live, the instinctive need that all people have to continue living, is irrational, writes the Torah giant Rabbi Yisrael Salanter. A believing Jew, for whom life after death is a certainty, should not logically fear death. Is not an eternity basking in the Divine radiance preferable to living in this temporal and secular existence?
Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism have become two sides of the same coin. How shall we react? Deborah Lipstadt, who famously succeeded in her case against Holocaust denier David Irving, set the tone by stating “We can do what we do best, we can educate.”
Since my son, Ariel Avrech, z”l, died, much of my waking and sleeping life – I dream of him often – is taken up with assembling images of him. Ariel was niftar almost four years ago, but I have experienced what I’ve come to call “post-traumatic loss syndrome.” These are stages of mourning, but they are more complex and baffling than the standard ones put forth in the research I’ve read.