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August 30, 2014 / 4 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘anniversary’

Political Groups in Egypt to Protest Abuhatzeira Pilgrimage

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

Groups from across the political spectrum in Egypt announced a plan to form human shields to prevent “Zionist” visitors from visiting the tomb of Yaakov Abuhatzeira on Jan. 9-10, the anniversary of his death. Abuhatzeira, a venerated Moroccan rabbi who died in 1880 while on pilgrimage to Israel, is buried in the Egyptian village of Damtu.

The tomb is registered with the Egyptian Ministry of State for Antiquities as a Jewish heritage site. Nevertheless, the Nasserist Trend, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Freedom and Justice Party, and the Mohamed ElBaradei campaign all signed the group statement, claiming that the visit was unpopular, and unacceptable legally and politically.

Anti-Semitic Vandalism Under Investigation in Brooklyn

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

Police are lifting the fingerprints from 27 empty Corona beer bottles found in a park in Midwood, Brooklyn, in the hopes of locating a group of anti-Semitic vandals.  On Friday, a day after the anniversary of the violent pogrom known as Kristallnacht, which took place in Germany in 1938 leading up to the Holocaust and World War II, vandals attacked on Ocean Parkway between Avenues I and J, spray painting Nazi swastikas, “KKK”  and “f*** the Jews”, as well as torching three parked cars.

The New York Police Department’s Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating, with City Councilman David Greenfield’s office and the Anti-Defamation League offering $5,000 for information leading to the arrest of the criminals.

It’s My Opinion: Sensitivities

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

A minister in Gainesville, Florida, recently caused a major uproar with his plan to burn a Koran on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Reverend Terry Jones’ idea was met with wide-reaching condemnation.

 

Jones certainly does not represent the American nation, nor anyone but himself and his miniscule congregation. Despite this fact, U.S. Military offered that the deed would put American troops in jeopardy. Riots were predicted. Revenge attacks were anticipated. Muslims throughout the world were enraged. 

 

Jones reconsidered and changed his mind.  Chaos was averted.

 

Certainly, the thought of setting fire to holy books is unsettling. As a Jew, I find it especially egregious. Throughout the dark days of the inquisitions, crusades, pogroms and the Shoah, our Torah Scrolls and sacred texts were regularly set ablaze. This type of action is always an outrage.

It is quite ironic, however, that the same Muslim population that is so thin-skinned to any slights to their own feelings, are intransigent when it comes to the sensitivities of other groups. Tourists routinely have bibles confiscated in many Arab countries. One could only surmise what happens to those books. 

 

Muslim clergy on Har HaBayit (the Temple Mount) ban Jews from even carrying a Hebrew prayer book. Jews who dare to move their lips in what is perceived as actual prayer are routinely arrested for “provocation.” When New Yorkers asked that the mosque on Ground Zero be moved two blocks over, the request was labeled an act of Islamophobia. In the atmosphere of this accusation, it is quite interesting to note, that it is forbidden by Islamic law for a non-Muslim to even enter the cities of Mecca and Medina.   

 

The same Muslim sensibilities that decried the infamous Mohammad cartoons are silent while the Arab press routinely run vile anti-Jewish cartoons and caricatures in state-sanctioned newspapers.

 

This one-sided demand for compliance goes on and on.  It is patently absurd for any group to demand world empathy while ignoring the feelings and concerns of all others.  Yes, Pirkei Avot advises, “If I am not for myself, who will be?”  But it also warns, “If I am only for myself, what am I?”  Perhaps it is time for the Muslim world to take notice of this concept.

Celebrating Social Security’s 75th Anniversary

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

This month Social Security, the most successful domestic program in our nation’s history, celebrates its 75th anniversary.

On August 14, 1935, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act. With one pen stroke he laid the foundation of modern American social policy. Today, millions of retirees live in dignity thanks to their monthly Social Security benefit payment.

Over the decades, Social Security expanded to not only protect against the risk of poverty in old age, but also the economic risk of career-ending disability and the premature death of a worker.

In his statement at the signing of the Social Security Act, President Roosevelt said, “If the Senate and the House of Representatives in this long and arduous session had done nothing more than pass this Bill, the session would be regarded as historic for all time.”

I could not agree more.

A little over a quarter century ago, I came to Washington to work on Social Security. Just a few months later, I got a very important lesson on how important Social Security is to families. My own father, who was almost the same age I am today, suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage. He started to recover, and then we got the bad news that he had a fatal form of brain cancer, so we began the process to apply for Social Security disability benefits.

That was a very anxious time for my family, particularly for my mother. We were all very concerned that the health care costs for my father would bankrupt her; it was a great relief when the decision came. That’s a lesson that has always stuck with me and why I push very hard as commissioner of the Social Security Administration to try to make sure that we get benefit decisions to claimants as quickly as possible.

As we celebrate 75 years, I reflect on how Social Security was there for my family, how proud I am to work for this remarkable program, and how lucky I am to lead such a talented and compassionate workforce.

I have two wonderful children who entered the workforce in the past year. One is being called up for active military duty in October and the other will teach inner-city children. It is imperative that they and millions of other young Americans have confidence that we will continue to honor the great intergenerational contract that is Social Security.

It is in this spirit that President Obama established the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform that in December will make recommendations regarding the future of Social Security.

With the 75th anniversary of the Social Security Act upon us, the agency has been revitalized despite the huge workloads caused by higher unemployment. Compared to four years ago, productivity is up, backlogs are down, and an aging IT infrastructure is being replaced with state-of-the-art systems and the best electronic services in the Federal government.

I am excited about the next 75 years of Social Security, and you should be too.

Michael J. Astrue is commissioner of the Social Security Administration. Among his various government positions he served as general counsel of the Department of Health and Human Services and associate counsel to the president during parts of both the Reagan and Bush administrations.

Mourning The Gush Katif Expulsion

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

It is now five years since the mass expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif. The anniversary falls on Tisha B’Av, when we mourn the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem. We also mark the modern-day destruction of Jewish life.

What happened to the thriving greenhouses, farms, schools, community centers, synagogues and homes of the Gush Katif communities? They returned to the dust and sand which had been there prior to the time the Gush Katif pioneers had arrived, with the encouragement and help of the Israeli government. In place of the communities, Hamas established its stronghold. Thousands of rockets began bombarding Israeli towns. Gilad Shalit was abducted and is still held by Hamas. The Second Lebanon war was fought, with Hizbullah, supplied by Iran, growing in power. After a long period of restraint, the Israeli government finally fought back against Hamas rockets and launched Operation Cast Lead in December 2008.

Recognizing that turning world opinion against Israel is more effective than suicide bombings, Hamas switched to the strategy of the “freedom flotilla.” Ignoring the fact that Israel supplies Gaza with tons of food, gasoline, medical supplies, electricity and water on a daily basis, Hamas created the myth of a starving Gaza population, denied all humanitarian needs by a cruel Israel. So the flotilla was launched, with one of the boats carrying thugs armed with knives, clubs, and guns, ready to lynch Israeli sailors as they boarded the ship. Once again, the international media attacked Israel, demanding investigations and an end to the Gaza blockade.

Could all of this have come out of the “disengagement” from Gaza? Yes, because it clearly was not a disengagement. The world would not allow Israel to free itself of the responsibility of caring for the humanitarian needs of the Gazans. And the so-called disengagement clearly demonstrated that Israel was willing to bargain over what land belongs to it and what doesn’t. The Arabs had won their battle. After that, it was just a matter of patience and pretend-diplomacy, talking “peace” while taking actions that put Arab control as a fact on the ground.

And what about the 10,000 Gush Katif Jews who were displaced? Where are they now? Did the government fulfill its promises to “find a solution for every settler?” The answer is a resounding no. Just last month the official investigative committee’s report admitted the failure of the state to provide for the expellees.

The recently published Gush Katif Committee status report tells us there are nine new communities where permanent homes have begun to be built. There are six locations where the infrastructure work has started or is ready. There are five locations where no work has begun. Only 9 percent of the expelled families have completed construction on their permanent homes. Some 85 percent – more than 1,400 families – continue to live in temporary caravillas, in kibbutzim, in makeshift homes, while they wait for their sites to be prepared.

Tragically, many of those who were jobless following the expulsion – and, despite many ameliorative efforts, remain unemployed or under-employed – have been forced to use for their daily needs the insufficient compensation money they received. Even when it will be possible to move into permanent homes, many families will be unable to do so because of insufficient funds.

And what about the farmers of Gush Katif, who had sold $150,000,000 each year in agricultural produce? What about the 380 farms that were destroyed? Only 28 percent of the farmers were able to start over again. The rest were left without full compensation for their land, their greenhouses, their farm equipment, the loss of international markets, and retirement wages for older farmers.

All businesses were destroyed. Today, only 50 percent of the small business owners have re-started. Agreements signed between small business owners and the government have not been implemented. The rate of unemployment is high, almost twice the national figure. Public buildings, such as synagogues, community centers and youth centers, lack the needed budget for reconstruction. Twenty-six synagogues were destroyed; only three are under construction.

What about the families? The expulsion destroyed the fabric of daily lives. The divorce rate increased, as did illness and mortality rates.

This year, fifth-anniversary commemorations will be taking place throughout the world. The Gush Katif Committee has launched the Katif Od Chai campaign. Chai means life – Gush Katif will live on – but it also represents the number 18, for the 18 locations throughout Israel where new communities will be built. Eighteen prominent rabbis have lent their names to the campaign, and here in the U.S. commemorative programs for the anniversary have been planned on at least 18 different sites.

Return to Dachau: A Unique Gathering (Part I)

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010
Last March I received an invitation to the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp. It was signed: KZ-Gedenkstätte Dachau.”
I was taken aback. Is Dachau still a place on the face of the earth?
Sixty-five years ago I, a fourteen-year old scary skeleton, could barely comprehend the overwhelming news of freedom Americans liberation. Over the years with the birth of children, grandchildren and thank G-d, great grandchildren, the hell of Dachau has begun to recede into the distance. And now: an invitation to return.
The invitation told of a special exhibit and film commemorating a most phenomenal event: the miraculous survival of seven young Jewish mothers and their babies born in a Dachau sub-camp in the winter of 1944/45. Six of the seven babies, living in parts of the world, were expected to attend the exhibit.
In an earlier column I described the fate of my fellow Augsburg camp inmate, Miriam Rosenthal who, seven months pregnant, was shipped to Auschwitz to be gassed. The Russian occupation of Auschwitz forced her jailers to take her to Kaufering at Dachau where she was put into a wooden barrack with six other young pregnant Jewish women. Labeled the “Schwangerkommando” (pregnant commando), they had to do forced labor until their date of delivery and immediately after giving birth. They gave birth one by one without medical or nursing assistance, suffering from cold, starvation and appalling sanitary conditions — to seven healthy babies!
When  Dachau was taken by the Americans on April 29, 1945, the seven young Jewish women — Eva Fleischmann, Sara Grun, Ilboya Kovacs, Elisabeth Legmann, Dora Lowi, Miriam Rosenthal and Magda Schwartz –were liberated with their live infants born in the death camp. All seven infants – George, Jossi, Leslie, Marika, Agnes, Judit and Suzi – grew to adulthood in various parts of the world – seven saved, while one and a half million Jewish children were murdered in the Nazi hell.
Of the seven mothers only Eva Fleischmann and Miriam Rosenthal are alive today. However, neither Miriam Rosenthal from Canada nor Eva Fleischmann from Slovakia could undertake the arduous journey to attend the exhibit.
For me this phenomenal exhibit was the impetus to return to Dachau. I wanted to be present at the reunion of the Dachau babies, now sixty-five year old grandmothers and grandfathers. I wanted to experience first-hand the commemoration of seven divine miracles.
When I met Miriam’s baby, Dr. Leslie Rosenthal and his wife, grandparents of nine, Miriam’s brother, Mordechai Schwartz, came painfully to mind. I agonized over the irony that while Miriam and Leslie survived the Nazi hell in Germany, Mordechai lost his life to British Jew-hatred in the Jewish National Home. A committed Zionist, Mordechai went to Eretz Yisrael in 1934 and as a committed Jew was executed in 1939. During the bloody Arab riots against Jews, he killed one Arab as the latter hurled violent threats at him and all Jews in Eretz Israel. Despite numerous justified defense pleas the British Mandatory authorities carried out Mordechai Schwarz’s death sentence.
At the reunion of the surviving seven, Leslie Rosenthal remarked: “The babies, that’s what I call them:  my camp brothers and sisters…. We could be the last living link to the Holocaust, so that’s quite a responsibility.”

(To Be Continued)

It’s My Opinion: Celebrating Yom HaAtzmaut

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

            Reading through one of our local Jewish newspapers, I was delighted to see a full-page advertisement publicizing a celebration for Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel Independence Day.  The 62nd anniversary of the resurgence of the Jewish State is certainly worthy of a party.  In fact, after 2,000 years of bloodstained exile, it is an incredible, modern-day wonder.

 

A local supper club in Aventura, Florida was organizing the event.  Live music would be provided.  Two Israeli singers were scheduled to perform.  The evening seemed to be planned as a gala affair.

 

My eyes scrolled down the page and then stopped.  I was horrified to see the rest of the agenda for the evening.  A “Hot Bikini Contest” was proudly touted as part of the festive program. And to think the hot debate in many communities is whether or not to say Hallel on this special day.

 

One does not have to be a haredi rabbi to understand that a competition like the one planned to celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut was unsuitable.  A bikini contest is a totally inappropriate way to observe the commemoration of such a miraculous time in Jewish history.  In fact it was bizarre. 

 

This lack of insight to the fundamental order of life is quite disturbing.  What is wrong with people who are so out of sync with the basic concept of appropriate boundaries? Unfortunately, this behavior is endemic to a segment of secular culture.  It is a tragic problem.

 

Certainly, those who organized the Independence Day program meant no harm.  They simply wanted to create a happy and upbeat party atmosphere.    Nonetheless, we are once again reminded of the truth of the adage, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” 

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/community/its-my-opinion-celebrating-yom-haatzmaut/2010/04/21/

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