In an essay published in the Jewish magazine Tikkun last January, Bertell Ollman, one of the world’s best-known Marxist theorists, recounted how, on his way into the operating room, he realized that if he did not survive his surgery, he would die a Jew. The prospect was so unsettling that, once healed, he wrote his letter of resignation from the Jewish people. The reasons were Zionism, Israel, and the support its policies enjoy from other Jews.
Amid the growing chaos of internal Palestinian violence, the manifest error of every Middle East Peace Process should be altogether obvious. Quite predictably, Fatah and Hamas now validate years of informed Jewish opposition to both the original Oslo Agreements and to the equally twisted cartography of a so-called "Road Map."
I was at an employee leadership conference the other day, speaking from the podium and telling Environmental Protection Agency colleagues about my views on leadership. Eventually, my formal remarks were done and we opened the floor to questions. That’s when it really became interesting.
Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt were in Los Angeles last month, speaking to an overflow crowd of more than 300 people at the Armand Hammer Museum – part of a speaking tour with appearances at World Affairs Councils in San Francisco, Dallas and Washington, D.C., the City Club in Cleveland, forums at the University of Chicago, MIT and Columbia University, the Cambridge Forum in Harvard Square, and media slots on NPR, the Colbert Report, and WTTW-TV in Chicago.
It came to pass that the shamash in a little shtetl passed away, leaving an elderly widow. The community volunteered to support her, but she refused to take a “handout.” So an agreement was reached whereby she would receive a good wage for doing her deceased husband’s work of awakening the townspeople for Selichot before Rosh Hashanah. She was given the wooden gavel used for the task and set off at three in the morning to awaken the men of the community.
When in the spring of 2006 two professors from distinguished institutions, the University of Chicago and the Harvard School of Government, published a paper in the London Review of Books called “The Israel Lobby,” it raised alarm bells about the spread and impact of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in America.
Dan Rather has been out of the anchor chair at The CBS Evening News for more than two years. There is wide agreement that the story that led to his departure, a report on George W. Bush’s Air National Guard service, was based on fraudulent, or at least unverifiable, documents. CBS commissioned an extensive investigation into the matter, Rather left the network, and the affair seemed over.
Part of the standard liturgy of Jewish prayer is the pronouncement that “we were exiled for our sins.” The victories of the Babylonians and the Romans were not ascribed to the imperialist aggression of those predatory powers. Nor did our tradition assign blame for those defeats to the weakness of the Jewish forces, or even to the stupidity of both the strategic and tactical decisions made by Jewish leaders.
Let me state what is painfully obvious. Despite our most hopeful illusions, people are not really good, nor do they really practice peace. While power corrupts, absolute powerlessness corrupts absolutely, and there is no safe place, neither high nor low, for the most vulnerable of our citizens.
In Claude Lanzmann's monumental documentary, SHOAH, one of the surviving leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising remarks: "If you could lick my heart, it would poison you." Sadly, the time may still come - if Prime Minister Olmert is permitted to continue following Washington's cartography - that surviving Israelis will someday express similar sentiments.
“And you shall rejoice in your festival” says the pasuk at the end of Parshas Re’ei (16:14), and this is actually a mitzvah. I suspect this is not intended to be one of the more difficult mitzvot for us to fulfill, yet for many hard-working Jews the Yomim Tovim are far greater sources of stress than joy.
In my former life as a school psychologist, I spent a great deal of time doing intelligence testing. Occasionally, I had the agonizing task of breaking the dreadful news to parents that a child was severely developmentally disabled. Whether or not I packaged the term in soft euphemisms like “cognitively depressed” or “mentally deficient,” most parents eventually caught on that I was just searching for other words to mollify that unbearable label.