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September 21, 2014 / 26 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Bill Clinton’

Paid for by Charles Bronfman, ‘Jewish Stars’ Attack Pro-Settlement Report

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Forty U.S. Jewish leaders sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressing concerns about the findings of an Israeli judicial committee that said Judea and Samaria settlements are legal.

The letter, initiated and organized by the Israel Policy Forum (IPF), was delivered Sunday to the Prime Minister’s Office.

“As strong advocates for Israel’s security and well-being as a Jewish and democratic state, we are deeply concerned about the recent findings of the government commission led by Supreme Court Jurist (Ret.) Edmund Levy,” the letter read. “We fear that if approved, this report will place the two-state solution, and the prestige of Israel as a democratic member of the international community, in peril.”

IPF, which used to be the darling of former president Bill Clinton, who used an IPF gala in 2001 to unveil his Clinton Parameters for Arab-Israel peacemaking, has greatly diminished in influence and presence in recent years. But a June report by JTA suggested the organization is being pulled out of mothballs to become the prestigious pro-2-State Jewish powerhouse which J-Street just isn’t.

The group that has restarted IFP is made up of Jewish stars in search of a steady employment: Aaron David Miller, a former negotiator in the first Bush and Clinton administrations, Eric Yoffie, who just ended his term as president of the Union for Reform Judaism, and Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), who is retiring from office. With funding from philanthropist Charles Bronfman, the resurrection appears all but certain.

Charles Bronfman is Co-Chairman of Birthright Israel International, a successful program providing an educational travel experience to Israel for young Jewish adults aged 18 to 26.

The IPF rhetoric is the same old tired stuff, extremely 1999:

“A two-state solution – an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip existing peacefully alongside Israel – is an imperative.”

As if the past ten years or so, with thousands of Palestinian rockets and mortar shells dropping on Israeli civilian populations, are not even a speck of schmootz on their rosy glasses, as if the evacuation of thousands of Jews has not led to untold suffering for both Jews and Arabs, as if every Israeli attempt to urge on a concession has not been met with torrents of violence, the 2-staters push on:

“It is the only way to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and ensure Israel’s security and future as a Jewish and democratic state.  It is also in the interests of the United States, Israel, the Palestinians and the international community.”

But would to do if the Arabs once again react to Israeli peace gestures with fire? Not to worry, IFP has a solution:

“Israel’s security is a core American interest,” they declare (now, that’s a relief). and: “Terrorism, violence and incitement are central impediments to peace in the region and should be collectively and explicitly renounced. Similarly, rockets targeting innocent civilians along Israel’s northern and southern borders should be condemned by the United States.”

There you go – if Jews start getting killed all over the place, God forbid, this will not go by without the strongest condemnation from the U.S. government!

Signatories on the IFP letter to Netanyahu include the aforementioned Charles Bronfman, who is joined by fellow-philanthropist Lester Crown; Marvin Lender, the former national chairman of United Jewish Appeal; Deborah Lipstadt, Dorot professor of modern Jewish history and Holocaust studies at Emory University; Bernard Nussbaum, former White House counsel; Richard Pearlstone, former chairman of The Jewish Agency ; and Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

This group of Jewish leaders between jobs has discovered the platform that would pay their rent for the foreseeable future, and will utilize their skills in one direction: getting Israel back to a position of weakness, torn by internal conflict over the future of the settlements, and once again exposed to Arab violence.

The IFP gang is receiving its first important task, to throw its full, prestigious weight against the findings of an exceptionally distinguished jurist, retired Supreme Court justice Edmond Levy. The Levy committee 89-page report released last week has established what has been known for decades, that “Israel does not meet the criteria of ‘military occupation’ as defined under international law” in Judea and Samaria, and therefore settlements and outposts there are legal.

IFP deals with Levy with the kind of flippant approach Bill Clinton would have appreciated:

“Securing Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state requires diplomatic and political leadership, not legal maneuverings,” they wrote Netanyshu.

See, this is not about justice, it’s about getting things done. What things? Well, justice for the Palestinians, of course.

And, as always in the U.S. Jewish left’s dealings with Israel, there’s the unveiled threat:

“…our great fear is that the Levy Report will not strengthen Israel’s position in this conflict, but rather add fuel to those who seek to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist.”

See? In the end it’s not about solutions, or about priorities, or about—God forbid—the rule of law. In the end it comes to if you don’t do as we say you’ll die.

Finally, somewhere on the list of 40, you’ll rather incongruously find Conservative Rabbi Daniel Gordis, President of the Shalem Center, who’s been making such a profound case all over You Tube for Israel’s need to exist, debating Peter Beinart who sees the settlements as the mother of all evils – what happened to Gordis? Is he over his conflict? Did he go over to the dark side?

Anyway, at this point it is clear that Israel would do much better with fewer friends…

UJA content was used in this article.

Anti-Islamist Protesters Pelt Hillary’s Motorcade with Tomatoes, Shoes

Monday, July 16th, 2012

As U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s armored car motorcade was riding through the Egyptian port city of Alexandria where she had given a speech on democratic rights, a tomato hit an accompanying Egyptian official in the face, and shoes and a water bottle were thrown at Hillary’s car, Reuters reports.

According to a senior U.S. official, said Clinton herself was not hit, since her vehicle had already turned a corner by the time of the incident. But she may have been able to hear the taunts of “Monica, Monica” which the protesters were chanting, a reference to the extra-marital affair conducted by her husband, former President Bill Clinton. Others had chanted the Arabic equivalent of ” Clinton go home,” according to an Egyptian security official.

According to Al Ahram, several liberal and Christian politicians and public figures condemned Clinton’s visit to Egypt, accusing the United States of favoring Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups. There were several large demonstrations by liberal parties and movements, including the Free Egyptians party and the Front for Peaceful Change, against Clinton’s visit outside the U.S. embassy in Cairo, the presidential palace and the Four Seasons hotel in which Clinton was staying. The demonstrators were joined by supporters of Mubarak-era vice president Omar Suleiman.

A large group of Christian politicians – including Coptic MP Emad Gad, rights activist Michael Mounir, former MP Georgette Qeleini and business tycoon Naguib Sawiris, refused to meet with Clinton during her brief visit to Egypt.

In a joint statement on Sunday, they expressed their displeasure with Clinton’s decision to meet with members of Egypt’s Coptic-Christian community following earlier meetings with Muslim Brotherhood members and Salafists. They asserted that Clinton’s move served to “promote sectarian divisions.”

Clinton met with women and Christians, two groups with reasons to fear repression under a Muslim Brotherhood government.

“I will be honest and say some have legitimate fears about their future,” Clinton told reporters. “I said to them … no Egyptian, no person anywhere, should be persecuted for their faith, or their lack of faith, for their choices about working and not working. Democracy is not just about reflecting the will of the majority. It is also about protecting the rights of the minority.”

Clinton said the U.S. had learned that “the hard way,” pointing out that the U.S. constitution originally did not protect the rights of women or slaves.

Al Ahram reported that on Saturday the Front for Peaceful Change, a pro-revolution youth group, issued a statement calling on the Egyptian public to participate in the protests to register its rejection of perceived U.S. interference in Egypt’s affairs and its deal-making with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Al Ahram cites accusations of a secret agreement which was hammered out between the U.S. and the Brotherhood, which the paper says is a common refrain among the opponents of Clinton’s visit.

Emad Gad, a Coptic-Christian member of Egypt’s recently dissolved lower house of parliament, saw Clinton’s visit to Cairo in the context of an alleged U.S.-Brotherhood deal that enabled candidate Mohamed Morsi to assume Egypt’s presidency.

“In exchange for Morsi’s being named president, the Brotherhood is expected to protect Israel’s security by pressuring Hamas – the Brotherhood’s branch in Palestine – not to launch military attacks against Israel, and even accept a peace agreement with Tel Aviv,” Gad told Al-Ahram.

Gad, whom Al Ahram introduces as a prominent political analyst, told the paper that the U.S. was also supporting the Brotherhood in return for maintaining Mubarak-era agreements not to restore ties with Iran.

On Saturday night, according to Reuters, protesters outside Clinton’s Cairo hotel chanted anti-Islamist slogans, accusing the United States of engineering the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power.

In her speech at the recently re-opened U.S. consulate in Alexandria, Clinton rejected suggestions that the United States, which had been an avid supporter of the deposed Mubarak, was backing one faction over another in Egypt.

“I want to be clear that the United States is not in the business, in Egypt, of choosing winners and losers, even if we could, which of course we cannot,” Clinton said.

“We are prepared to work with you as you chart your course, as you establish your democracy,” she added. “We want to stand for principles, for values, not for people or for parties.”

Lieberman Scaled Political Heights, But Wants Shabbat To Be His Legacy

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

WASHINGTON – Call Joe Lieberman the unlikely evangelist. The Independent senator from Connecticut – and the best-known Orthodox Jew in American politics – is probably more cognizant than most of his Jewish congressional colleagues about rabbinical interdictions against encouraging non-Jews to mimic Jewish ritual.

Yet here he is, about to release a book advising Christians and others not to drive to church, to welcome their Sabbath in the evening, to cut off the wired world and to enjoy your significant other.

Meeting with Lieberman in his Senate offices last week, before the Aug. 16 release date of his new book, The Gift of Rest: Rediscovering the Beauty of the Sabbath, he laughed at the term evangelical. But he also embraced it.

“In a way it is” evangelical, he said.

Not that he wanted to convert anyone, Lieberman emphasized. 

“This gift, I wanted not only to share with Jews who are not experiencing it, who haven’t accepted it, but also in some measure to appeal to Christians to come back to their observance of their Sabbath on Sundays,” he said.

Lieberman does so in a surprisingly engaging read – surprisingly because books by politicians fronted by photos where they pose in studied, open-collared casualness are usually a recipe for a surfeit of encomiums packed with feel-goodness but bereft of intellectual nourishment.

Instead, melding an unlikely array of tales ranging from 16th-century Safed to tension-soaked Republican and Democratic back rooms, Lieberman makes the case for a structured day of rest that offers freedom within iron walls. 

The book also provides a glimpse into how religion shaped this most adamant of congressional centrists, whose stubborn hewing to his beliefs brought him within shouting distance of the vice presidency before propelling him toward the end of his political career (Lieberman will not seek reelection in 2012).

One potent example of Lieberman’s championing of freedom through restrictions is how the dictates of the holy day liberate him from his BlackBerry.

“Six days a week, I’m never without this little piece of plastic, chips and wires that miraculously connect me to the rest of the world and that I hope makes me more efficient, but clearly consumes a lot of my time and attention,” he writes. “If there were no Sabbath law to keep me from sending and receiving email all day as I normally do, do you think I would be able to resist the temptation on the Sabbath? Not a chance. Laws have this way of setting us free.”

As it turns out, this has been a book Lieberman has been considering for a while. He says the seeds of it reach as far back as his first run for state senator in 1970, when his Sabbath observance first created logistical problems for his campaign staff.

It emerged full force when Al Gore named him as his running mate in 2000. In Lacrosse, Wis., on a Saturday after the announcement, he found people coming out of their homes to greet him and wish him well as he walked to the local synagogue.

Conversations with Christians and their curiosity about his observance crystallized the idea for the book, he said.

“This is something I thought about doing for a long time,” Lieberman said, “because the Sabbath has meant so much for me. It’s really been a foundation for my life.”

The book is published by Simon & Schuster’s Howard imprint in conjunction with OU Press. Lieberman co-wrote it with David Klinghoffer, a politically conservative (and Orthodox Jewish) columnist and author, in consultation with Rabbi Menachem Genack, who runs the Orthodox Union’s kashrut division and with whom Lieberman takes a weekly telephone class.

Renewed Question Of Obama’s Gut Feelings Toward Jews, Israel

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011


WASHINGTON – Does President Obama need a “Shalom Chaver” moment a la Bill Clinton?


Renewed questioning of what the president feels in his gut toward Israel and the Jewish people was prompted by the Obama administration’s late and qualified response to last week’s naming of a square for Dalal Mughrabi, a terrorist who helped mastermind a 1978 bus attack that killed 37 Israeli civilians and an American photographer.


The hurt feelings were sharpened by the massacre over the previous weekend of an Israeli couple and three of their children in their home in the Itamar settlement in the West Bank.


Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, noted the Mughrabi square naming at a Manhattan memorial service for the murdered Fogel family members from Itamar.


“If governments, even our own, do not stand out and shriek and condemn and take action when they see this kind of action by the Palestinian Authority and their representatives” – and the incitement continues despite repeated promises – then “we must make sure that our voices are heard,” Hoenlein said. “We have to demand accountability and that there will be consequences.”


Morton Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America, asked what the president feels “in his soul” – a reference to disputed reports that in a meeting with Jewish leaders last month, Obama asked them to “search their souls” regarding their desire for peace.


“In light of what President Obama said to us at the White House and in light of this present episode, the ZOA asks a simple question: What does President Obama’s shocking, unbelievable and frightening refusal to condemn the honoring and glorifying of a major Jew-killer by [President Mahmoud] Abbas’s PA, a day after an anti-Israel massacre, tell us about Obama’s true feelings about Jews and Israel?” Klein asked. “Mr. Obama, we respectfully ask you, sir, to ‘search your soul’ to evaluate your feelings and actions and policies toward the Jewish state of Israel.”


President Clinton set the high mark for connecting with Israelis and Jews in his 1995 eulogy at Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral when he encapsulated worldwide Jewish grief in a simple Hebrew phrase: “Shalom chaver” – “Farewell friend.”


President George W. Bush also made clear his affection for the Jewish state, both supporters and detractors agree.


Speaking on the record, most Jewish community leaders dismiss talk about Obama’s “kishkes factor” – what he feels in his gut – as overly focused on the ephemera of emotions and beside the point: The lines of communication with the White House are open, they say, and the president and his staff are responsive to their overtures.


“I would say we have a good line of communication with them,” said Alan Solow, the Presidents Conference chairman and a fundraiser for Obama in 2008. “Our access is both appropriate and excellent. There’s not a problem of communication issue between the Jewish leadership and the White House.”


Solow would not address the kishkes factor, saying it was inappropriate for him to comment.


Speaking on background, however, a number of Jewish community figures – among them those who generally sympathize with the administration’s outlook on Israel – say Obama just doesn’t get it.


“His J-Dar is off,” said one dovish figure who recalled Obama’s first meeting with Jewish leaders in the summer of 2009, when he told them that previous administrations’ policy of not being public about policy disputes with Israel was unproductive.


“It may have been true, but it was not the right thing to say” to Jewish leaders, the official said. “What it implies is that you’re trying to drive a wedge between them and the government of Israel – but you should know that rarely, rarely works because the organized Jewish community supports Israeli governments. He doesn’t get the emotional issue, and maybe even the structural issue.”


Obama’s missed opportunity was not visiting Israel after his June 2009 address to the Muslim world in Cairo, a number of officials have said.


A conservative who has tried to make the case for this White House among like-minded friends and colleagues says Obama’s aloof personality is a problem.


“With Clinton, when he talked to you, it was like you were the most important person in the world,” the official said. “With Obama, it’s like he’s the most important person in the world.”


White House officials tend to audibly sigh when the question arises. They especially chafe at the notion, raised by a number of Israeli and pro-Israeli officials, that there is no immediate “hotline” official in the White House – someone like Elliott Abrams, the Bush administration’s top Middle East staffer, who could be reached at a moment’s notice.


That person in this White House has been Dan Shapiro, who has Abrams’s job, and he has been responsive, according to friends of the White House.


One sympathetic pro-Israel official said that expecting microscopic attention to square namings by West Bank Palestinians was demanding too much of Shapiro.


“He’s just been dealing with that small problem of Libya,” the official commented dryly.


Obama announced recently that Shapiro would be his nominee to be the next U.S. ambassador to Israel.


White House officials say they have tried to be responsive and have engaged with Jewish leaders, and they say it’s a no-win situation: When they do not respond to a given event, like the Mughrabi square naming, they get into trouble, but when they do respond, the response is picked apart for inadequacies.


That damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t-prickliness characterized Jewish reaction to Obama’s speech to the Muslim world in 2009, when he went out of his way to condemn Holocaust denial among Arabs – and was slammed by some Jewish groups for seeming to draw moral equivalence with Palestinian suffering and for neglecting to mention the Jewish people’s biblical roots case for Israel.


The more recent episode, over the Mughrabi square, showed how an administration could stumble. The first response, days after the naming, came from relatively low-level officials and in response to a JTA inquiry, and said the administration was seeking “clarification” on an event that had been widely reported. The Palestinian Authority did not officially sponsor the event, nor did its officials attend it, but officials of Abbas’s Fatah Party were in attendance and Abbas did not reprimand them.


A day later, the State Department’s top official, Mark Toner, explicitly condemned the naming and said the United States “urged” Abbas to address it.


Ori Nir, the spokesman for Americans for Peace Now, suggested such reactions were overwrought.


“Obama does not seem to have internalized yet, or does not seem cognizant yet of the fact that most American Jewish voters are progressive – they support his general agenda,” Nir said. “They typically don’t vote first and foremost on Israel and will probably overwhelmingly vote for him again.”


(JTA)

Whatever Happened To Our First Black President?

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

            If Toni Morrison, the Nobel-prize winning African-American novelist, could refer to Bill Clinton, a white man, as America’s first black president, then surely we can take a reverse tack: Is it possible that Barack Obama is not the first real black president after all?
 
It’s a contentious statement, so let me explain.
 
            Whiteness and blackness are ultimately immaterial concepts that refer to naught but skin pigmentation but were elevated to earth-shattering proportions by racists and those who wished to suppress blacks for their own advantage. But the principal positive consequence of the barbaric oppression of blacks due to the color of their skin is that in modern America “blackness” has come to represent, more than anything else, a people’s capacity to endure suffering and humiliation yet agitate for their freedom and human rights.
 
            That agitation reached its apogee in the person of Martin Luther King, Jr., who restored America to its founding principles. Prior to Dr. King, America was a great but deeply contradictory nation whose brave soldiers liberated Jews from Hitler while back home cowardly lynchings continued, and whose troops bravely fought the Communist menace in Vietnam while black children were denied the right to drink from water fountains on hot summer days in Selma, Alabama.
 
Dr. King ended all that. His reward was a bullet to the neck. But ever since then his memory and the black marchers who followed him and desegregated America has become synonymous with the willingness of a people to bear immense burdens to promote justice and freedom.
 
It was because of that extraordinary legacy that many of us looked forward to the elevation of the first black man, or woman, as president of the United States and leader of the free world. Surely that person would usher in a new era, utilizing American influence to promote freedom and the rights of man worldwide. And whoever it would be would have a tough act follow after the actions taken by President Bush to promote democracy and human rights in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East.
 
Indeed, America has an almost shameful record when it comes to stopping genocide, as Samantha Power chronicled so adeptly in her 2002 Pulitzer-prize winning book A Problem from Hell. The United States responded very inadequately to the genocide of the Armenians in World War I and the Cambodians in 1975-1978. President Roosevelt famously refused repeated entreaties to bomb the railroad tracks to Auschwitz during the Holocaust.
 
Morrison may have felt Clinton was the first black president but Clinton did not so much as even meet with his senior advisers to discuss Rwanda during the three months of the genocide there in 1994 when 800,000 died through the low-tech slaughter of being mangled by machete. Clinton likewise did little to stop the killings in Bosnia and Srebrenica, waking up only, and finally, to intervene in Kosovo.
 
   Fast forward to President Obama, whose actions with regard to dictators and wholesale human slaughter taking place on his watch – the Libyan massacres in particular – have been utterly baffling. I have already written of my grave disappointment in Obama’s warmly greeting dictators like Hugo Chavez or rolling out the red carpet, literally, for President Hu of China while Obama’s fellow Nobel Peace recipient, Lu Xiaobo, rots in jail and his wife is held hostage though she has never even been accused of a crime. There is the further issue of Obama’s gross disrespect of the Dalai Lama – sending him out of the back entrance of the White House last year past huge piles of garbage in order not to offend the bullies in China.
 
   But Obama’s abrogation of leadership and failure to champion human rights in Libya defies all comprehension and shows just how much the president has strayed from the legacy of Dr. King. First there was Obama’s utter silence for days as Khaddafi opened fire on his own people with jets, helicopter gunships, large caliber weapons and RPG’s. Then, almost a week into the killing, Obama issued his famous denunciation of Khaddafi’s mass murder as “outrageous and unacceptable,” words perhaps more relevant to the threat of a baseball strike than mass human slaughter.
 
   The president further threatened Khaddafi with the possibility of economic sanctions, a subject, one would think, not exactly on the mind of a brutal dictator fighting for his very life. Finally, on February 26, Obama, in a telephone call to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said Khaddafi had “lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what is right for his country by leaving now.”
 
   Come again? Was our president suggesting that a dictator who had slaughtered and tortured his political opponents for four decades, funded international terrorism, and blew up discotheques and airliners somehow had legitimacy in the first place? And what is the meaning of the statement being made in private to the German chancellor? Is Obama too timid to call a press conference and announce in bold, unequivocal terms that Khaddafi is a tyrant who, if he survives, will be tried for crimes against humanity?
 

   And so we continue to wait for America’s first black president – someone who will step into Martin Luther King’s shoes and use the most powerful office on earth to make freedom ring, not just from Stone Mountain, Georgia and Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, but from Tripoli to Riyadh and Damascus to Beirut.

 

 

 

   Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, founder of This World: The Values Network, is the best-selling author of 25 books and has recently published “Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life.” Follow him on Twitter@RabbiShmuley.

Everyone Has a Story

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

          When I was invited a few months ago to lecture at a European retreat in Davos, Switzerland, that was hosted in the same luxury venue where the world economic leaders (including former president Bill Clinton) had met for their own economic summit a few years ago, I knew there was no way I’d refuse. The resort weekend was organized by Rabbi Sholom Liberow, director of the European Jewish Study Network (EJSN) and his wonderful wife, Leah.

 

 Aside from their sterling care and exceptional attention to details–both material and spiritual–the setting on the postcard picturesque Swiss Alps couldn’t have been more awesome.

 

But truly, for me, there was an additional incentive to attend.

 

My father was born in Switzerland where, for many years, my grandfather served as chief rabbi in the city of Basil. Switzerland became a haven of refuge for my father’s family during the perilous Holocaust years and one of the very few islands of normalcy in a sea raging with anti-Semitic hatred, persecution and death for European Jewry.

 

For me, in a tiny way, being a part of this program was almost a way of somehow paying back a debt of gratitude to my father’s homeland.

 

A retreat weekend is always interesting, full of meaningful programs, and saturated with learning and spiritual growth. But for me, the most inspirational part of these weekends is meeting so many different people, from all over the world-in this case, from places as diverse as London, California, Tel Aviv, Italy, Amsterdam, Ranana, and Brussels.

 

Somehow the anonymity of a diverse group of strangers, old and young coming together from far and near, opens the channels of communication, awakens sleeping hearts and forges new bonds. Personal life stories begin flowing freely just as the choice wines at each meal.

 

Somehow, it’s easier to open up to and share with someone who lives in another country, who in all likelihood you won’t be meeting up with again sometime soon. And so, in hushed private conversations in corners of sumptuous rooms, or in open gregarious table talk over a Shabbat luncheon, you learn incredible stories about people’s lives.

 

What never fails to impress me from these conversations is how extraordinarily special our people is. If you seek, you will discover that everyone has a story.

 

             A story of heroism and bravery. A story of courage and faith. A story of inconceivable kindness. Or a story of return. But always a story with a rich and vibrant history.

 

Whether the story occurred to a parent, a bubby orzaidy, or a great-grandparent, our people’s history is rich and replete with meaning.

 

History and present life choices intersect seamlessly as a beloved parent, bubby, orzaidy becomes instrumental in forging us into who we have become.

 

Here’s a little story of how I was reminded of my own grandfather right on the Swiss Alps, in his homeland–in Davos, Switzerland.

 

One of my lectures over the weekend was on “relationships.” I was more than a little taken aback when I noticed that one of the participants was a very elderly, married gentleman who could probably have lectured me on relationships! (There was another concurrent, more relevant workshop but he chose instead to attend mine).

 

The puzzle was solved, however, when he approached me gratefully after my talk.

 

“I knew your grandfather very well,” he said, delighted. “Your grandfather was my rabbi and my teacher.” He paused. “I still remember him well. It gives me great pleasure to hear his granddaughter lecturing.”

 

I have often met people who knew or learned from my grandparents. But to meet someone there, in Switzerland, who knew them from so long ago, at a period in their lives when they were just beginning to build their family and when my own father was just a young boy, seemed particularly special. I wanted to ask him so much about my father’s family, but in his typically reserved Swiss manner, he wasn’t very forthcoming.

 

He shared only one bit of wisdom before the weekend was over. “Do not be so modest,” he admonished me during one of the meals. “Remember who you come from. Walk upright, with great pride.”

 

I think of his words. And I think it is a message that must reverberate within each of us. We each hold the treasured keys to a rich history. We each have a bubby orzaidy-or a bubby andzaidy’s bubby orzaidy-in whom we can, and must, take pride.

 

Search deeply and you will uncover your own personal saga of courage and heroism. Cherish the stories and lessons from your past. Take pride in your personal stories and allow them to forge you into the person you wish to become.

 

And, at all times, remember from where you have come.

Everyone Has a Story

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

          When I was invited a few months ago to lecture at a European retreat in Davos, Switzerland, that was hosted in the same luxury venue where the world economic leaders (including former president Bill Clinton) had met for their own economic summit a few years ago, I knew there was no way I’d refuse. The resort weekend was organized by Rabbi Sholom Liberow, director of the European Jewish Study Network (EJSN) and his wonderful wife, Leah.

 

 Aside from their sterling care and exceptional attention to details–both material and spiritual–the setting on the postcard picturesque Swiss Alps couldn’t have been more awesome.

 

But truly, for me, there was an additional incentive to attend.

 

My father was born in Switzerland where, for many years, my grandfather served as chief rabbi in the city of Basil. Switzerland became a haven of refuge for my father’s family during the perilous Holocaust years and one of the very few islands of normalcy in a sea raging with anti-Semitic hatred, persecution and death for European Jewry.

 

For me, in a tiny way, being a part of this program was almost a way of somehow paying back a debt of gratitude to my father’s homeland.

 

A retreat weekend is always interesting, full of meaningful programs, and saturated with learning and spiritual growth. But for me, the most inspirational part of these weekends is meeting so many different people, from all over the world-in this case, from places as diverse as London, California, Tel Aviv, Italy, Amsterdam, Ranana, and Brussels.

 

Somehow the anonymity of a diverse group of strangers, old and young coming together from far and near, opens the channels of communication, awakens sleeping hearts and forges new bonds. Personal life stories begin flowing freely just as the choice wines at each meal.

 

Somehow, it’s easier to open up to and share with someone who lives in another country, who in all likelihood you won’t be meeting up with again sometime soon. And so, in hushed private conversations in corners of sumptuous rooms, or in open gregarious table talk over a Shabbat luncheon, you learn incredible stories about people’s lives.

 

What never fails to impress me from these conversations is how extraordinarily special our people is. If you seek, you will discover that everyone has a story.

 

             A story of heroism and bravery. A story of courage and faith. A story of inconceivable kindness. Or a story of return. But always a story with a rich and vibrant history.

 

Whether the story occurred to a parent, a bubby orzaidy, or a great-grandparent, our people’s history is rich and replete with meaning.

 

History and present life choices intersect seamlessly as a beloved parent, bubby, orzaidy becomes instrumental in forging us into who we have become.

 

Here’s a little story of how I was reminded of my own grandfather right on the Swiss Alps, in his homeland–in Davos, Switzerland.

 

One of my lectures over the weekend was on “relationships.” I was more than a little taken aback when I noticed that one of the participants was a very elderly, married gentleman who could probably have lectured me on relationships! (There was another concurrent, more relevant workshop but he chose instead to attend mine).

 

The puzzle was solved, however, when he approached me gratefully after my talk.

 

“I knew your grandfather very well,” he said, delighted. “Your grandfather was my rabbi and my teacher.” He paused. “I still remember him well. It gives me great pleasure to hear his granddaughter lecturing.”

 

I have often met people who knew or learned from my grandparents. But to meet someone there, in Switzerland, who knew them from so long ago, at a period in their lives when they were just beginning to build their family and when my own father was just a young boy, seemed particularly special. I wanted to ask him so much about my father’s family, but in his typically reserved Swiss manner, he wasn’t very forthcoming.

 

He shared only one bit of wisdom before the weekend was over. “Do not be so modest,” he admonished me during one of the meals. “Remember who you come from. Walk upright, with great pride.”

 

I think of his words. And I think it is a message that must reverberate within each of us. We each hold the treasured keys to a rich history. We each have a bubby orzaidy-or a bubby andzaidy’s bubby orzaidy-in whom we can, and must, take pride.

 

Search deeply and you will uncover your own personal saga of courage and heroism. Cherish the stories and lessons from your past. Take pride in your personal stories and allow them to forge you into the person you wish to become.

 

And, at all times, remember from where you have come.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/jewess-press/everyone-has-a-story-2/2010/02/10/

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