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July 5, 2015 / 18 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Bill Clinton’

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.

‘The Highest Office’

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

     The recent presidential election has caused terrible angst for some voters and incredible joy for others. However, American history has shown that no matter who is elected to the oval office, the fundamental principles of the country are sound, and life carries on. 

     Power in the United States regularly bounces from Republican to Democrat like a lively ping-pong game. Many new presidents are, in fact, elected as a protest vote against the previous regime. In a country that is governed by checks and balances, the volley of parties does not do permanent harm. 

    The United States staggered under the shock of Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal and consequently elected Jimmy Carter. It was humiliated by Carter’s inept handling of the hostages in Iran and elected Ronald Reagan. It was scandalized by the shenanigans of Bill Clinton’s high-risk, inappropriate romances and elected George W. Bush. Yet, through it all, the nation remained strong.

    The people of America reeled under the attack of 9/11 and its aftermath. Perhaps everything that followed was not handled to perfection. It is very easy to be a Monday- morning quarterback. However, despite the mistakes of the president or officials in charge, our country has pulled through a terrible trauma. We are intact.   

   There seems to be a pattern to life, which belies the idea that we, alone, decide our destiny. Perhaps the answer is that we are not the sole arbitrator of what happens, despite our greatest efforts. Of course, we are mandated to do our best to put things in place.  However, it seems that man can never really hold the “highest office.”

    So hang in there. There are lessons to be learned. There are experiences to be had.  There is a lot to process.  Gam zu l’tovah, everything is for the best! 

Ateret Avot Adult Living Facility, Brooklyn

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

Question: Which 20th century leader did you admire most?

 

 

 

Bill Clinton. He was a president who had mass public appeal because he was a genuine people person. He always tried to work hard and serve the public.


 — Sandy Cohen


 

 


Golda Meir, the first — and so far the only — female prime minister of Israel. I admire her because she led the country during some very turbulent times. She always held her composure and didn’t back down from pressure.


 — Edith Goldstein


 

 

 

Menachem Begin. He was very active in the establishment of Israel and served the state politically throughout his life.


 — Lilian Bergstein  


 


 

 


To be honest with you, nobody. I’ve been around long enough to realize that politicians only know how to talk and not to deliver. They make promises, but once they
get into office they follow their own agenda.


 — Leon Skolnic

The Media Myth Of Camelot

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

With Caroline Kennedy’s New York Times op-ed article endorsing the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama because, in her words, she wants a president like her father; a president who, among other things, “holds himself, and those around him, to the highest ethical standards,” it seemed only appropriate to give an encore airing, with some revisions, to the following Media Monitor column that originally ran in 2003:

“Jack Kennedy was the mythological front man for a particularly juicy slice of our history. He talked a slick line and wore a world-class haircut. He was Bill Clinton minus pervasive media scrutiny and a few rolls of flab. Jack got whacked at the optimum moment to assure his sainthood. Lies continue to swirl around his eternal flame….”
– James Ellroy, American Tabloid

Assassination does wonders for a public figure’s place in history. John F. Kennedy was a president of questionable character and meager accomplishment, but his untimely and violent death, followed by decades of unceasing image control by the Kennedy family and their media apologists, has helped sustain one of the great myths of American history – a myth that there once existed in Washington a magical kingdom called Camelot, ruled by a dashing prince whose wisdom and bravery were matched only by his unshakeable devotion to his beautiful princess.

So powerful is the Camelot legend that the many seamy discoveries of recent years have managed only to tarnish, but hardly to destroy, the reputation of a man who almost certainly would have been impeached or forced to resign the presidency had even a fraction of what we now know been made public while he was still alive and in office.

Even the very term that has come to symbolize the Kennedy era – Camelot – is an invention after the fact. The notion of the Kennedy White House as Camelot has always been, as even Kennedy press secretary and longtime loyalist Pierre Salinger admitted, a “fraud” – the word was never once used to describe the Kennedy administration while Kennedy was alive.

The Camelot-Kennedy connection was nothing more than a widow’s successful attempt to glamorize her husband’s legacy. Not long after Kennedy’s murder, Jacqueline Kennedy, quoting the lyrics of the title song from a popular Broadway show, implored the writer Theodore White: “Don’t let it be forgot/That once there was a spot/For one brief shining moment/That was known as Camelot.”

White dutifully recorded her words in an article for Life magazine, and instantly and forevermore the Kennedy years became Camelot in retrospect. It is necessary to keep all this in mind when reflecting on any aspect of the Kennedy administration. Nothing was as it seemed, and the truth about those years began to seep out only after Kennedy had been dead for a decade.

In fact, the mythmaking about JFK was under way well before he was elected president – being born to a politically ambitious, fabulously wealthy and well-connected father has its benefits.

“Kennedy,” the liberal journalist Lawrence Wright observed, “had spent thirteen years in the House and Senate without passing a single important piece of legislation. And yet before his election to the presidency, people were comparing him with Franklin Roosevelt, with the young Churchill, with various movie stars, with Lindbergh.”

Kennedy’s best-selling books, Why England Slept and Profiles in Courage, which helped sell the notion that he was some sort of intellectual? Both were largely ghostwritten.

The World War II incident that bestowed on Kennedy an aura of heroism?

“It was true Kennedy had saved the life of one of his men on PT-109, on a mission in which Kennedy was supposed to torpedo a Japanese destroyer,” writes Wright. “Instead, the lumbering destroyer managed to slice the PT boat in half, killing two crewmen. Apparently, Kennedy had failed to notice the ship until it was bearing down on top of him. ‘Our reaction to the 109 thing had always been that we were kind of ashamed of our performance,’ admitted one of the crew, Barney Ross. ‘I had always thought it was a disaster.’”

Wright continues: “Was this heroism? Or just luck – that Kennedy was still alive and not brought before a court-martial? The Navy rejected his application for a Silver Star, and it wasn’t until a friend of the Kennedy family, James Forrestal, became secretary of the Navy, that Kennedy received a life-saving award.”

Among close acquaintances Kennedy was candid about his heroics. In his 1991 book A Question of Character, historian Thomas Reeves quotes the son of a Kennedy intimate as saying, “He told her it was a question of whether they were going to give him a medal or throw him out.” And in 1946, according to Reeves, Kennedy told a friend, “My story about the collision is getting better all the time. Now I’ve got a Jew and a nigger in the story and with me being a Catholic, that’s great.”

Clintonian Déjà Vu

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

The Hillary Clinton presidential campaign is getting louder and uglier by the minute as racial and gender politics threaten to fracture the Democratic base, and even those media outlets that in the past had defended or at the very least tolerated the Clintons give every indication of having finally lost patience with the shopworn act.

But did anyone expect anything other than a three-ring circus, particularly with a publicity-seeking missile like Bill Clinton launching himself at any available microphone or television camera?

Really, was there ever a president quite like Bill Clinton? The Oval Office has seen more than its share of questionable characters, but rarely had one embodied so many of the traits we normally abhor in a low-level political hack, let alone a president of the United States.

There is no need to recite here the dreary and extensive litany of Clinton’s flip-flops on both domestic and foreign policy. Suffice it to say that the man is a political chameleon who, as the editors of National Review once put it so memorably, “has been ruled ineligible for Mt. Rushmore because there isn’t room for so many more faces.”

Nor is it necessary to revisit the sordid details of all the controversies and scandals that came to attach themselves to a man for whom the word “shameless” always seemed the mildest of sobriquets.

The wonder of it all is not that Clinton twice managed to get elected president – he failed, after all, to garner a majority of the vote in both 1992 and 1996, and his victories owed much to the ineptness of his Republican opposition and the unbridled ego of Ross Perot.

No, the remarkable thing about the Clinton years is the narcotic effect they seemed to have on Americans, large numbers of whom were content to sleepwalk their way through the accumulating detritus of White House sleaze.

Jews in particular were enamored of Bill Clinton, and his approval ratings in Jewish strongholds from Great Neck to Beverly Hills were positively Rooseveltian. It was said in the 1940’s that for American Jews there was di velt (this world), yene velt (the next world) and Roosevelt; in that sense Clinton was FDR revisited, a man who could do no wrong in Jewish eyes, facts – and Israel – be damned.

The fact is, Clinton left office with Israel’s situation considerably more precarious than it had been at the end of the first President Bush’s lone term. And while Israeli leaders bore a considerable portion of the blame, it was Clinton who pulled, prodded and pressured Israel – and directly intervened in the Israeli political process – whenever he felt it necessary to sustain the mirage of Oslo.

And Hillary of course always was the perfect sideshow to Bill’s Main Event, someone who simply by opening her mouth in public during the Clintons’ White House years made the pundits cringe, her poll numbers plunge, and general chaos ensue.

It was Hillary, as author Sally Bedell Smith reminds us in For Love of Politics, her recently published account of the Clinton presidency, who almost single-handedly ran national health care into the ground. It was also Hillary whose behind-the-scenes machinations resulted in Travelgate and Filegate, among many other such Clintonian hijinks.

And, as Smith convincingly relates, it was Hillary’s insistence that her husband ignore the advice of his attorneys that necessitated the court depositions which eventually led to Bill’s impeachment.

By the time Hillary gave an excruciatingly embarrassing 1999 interview to Talk magazine (since defunct), once-sympathetic observers like the liberal columnist Richard Cohen were beginning to see the unflattering truth behind the first lady’s carefully cultivated veneer.

Describing Hillary as a “bit of a ditz,” Cohen asked, “What can we make of a woman who talks the language of afternoon television – an amalgam of psychobabble and fortune-cookie wisdom, with a dollop of religion here and there?” The Talk article, Cohen conceded, “raises real questions about her sagacity, her knowledge of how she sounds to others and – not least – her political wisdom.”

Later in 1999, the Suha Arafat imbroglio (Hillary had embraced Mrs. Yasir Arafat moments after the latter accused Israel of poisoning Palestinian women and children – and then offered up a series of excuses and explanations for her behavior) threw into sharp relief all the weaknesses exhibited by Hillary throughout her career as a public figure.

Those weaknesses were overlooked or forgotten as Hillary rather deftly settled into her role as U.S. senator from New York. But apparently they were always under the surface and have now reemerged: the transparent posturing, the dissembling and denial whenever her actions or statements blow up in her face, and the political spinning – always the political spinning.

Bush Fatigue, Clinton Nostalgia

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

Bill Clinton’s apologists continue to insist he was the most pro-Israel U.S. president – ever. Much of this is political theater, of course, as the Clinton Support Network cranks into high gear in its attempt to put Sen. Hillary Clinton into the office her husband occupied from 1993 to 2001.

But even those who view Bill Clinton in a less flattering light can’t deny that he was (and remains) the most popular president among American Jews since Franklin Delano Roosevelt – who, as fate would have it, was referred to by his acolytes as “the best friend the Jewish community ever had in the White House.”

And just as the Jews who worshiped F.D.R. never dreamed his name would come to live in infamy for his passive acquiescence in the destruction of European Jewry, so those who today sing Bill Clinton’s praises seem incapable of acknowledging that their man did more to legitimize the late Palestinian terror boss Yasir Arafat than any other president; gave new meaning to the term “moral equivalence” when he spoke in the same breath of the suffering of the children of Palestinian terrorists and the suffering of the children of those terrorists’ Israeli victims; interfered in domestic Israeli politics on behalf of the Labor party in not one but two Israeli elections, dispatching his political strategists to help Shimon Peres in 1996 and Ehud Barak in 1999; and came disconcertingly close to browbeating a sitting Israeli prime minister into making the most far-ranging and disastrous concessions imaginable to an Arafat who had long since served notice that he had no interest in peaceful coexistence.

Poor George Bush the First. Remember him? All he ever wanted back in the early 90’s was a freeze on settlements and a limited withdrawal of Israeli forces from Judea and Samaria in exchange for an enforceable peace agreement. For that, he was demonized as a striped-pants Arabist, a Saudi lackey, and quite possibly anti-Israel and anti-Semitic to boot.

Imagine how the former president must have felt as the very people who just a few years before had pilloried him for his Middle East policy fell all over themselves lionizing Clinton, who made demands of Israel that no other president, including Bush, ever even contemplated.

Clinton’s statement about Palestinian and Israeli children has been largely forgotten. The Monitor made mention of it in a previous column, and it’s worth repeating here because, in the words of author Yossef Bodansky in The High Cost of Peace: How Washington’s Middle East Policy Left America Vulnerable to Terrorism, “Clinton’s true sense of the dynamics of the Middle East was revealed when he publicly equated Palestinian terrorists and Israeli victims of terrorism.”

Here’s what Clinton said, addressing a group of Palestinian VIPs during a trip to Gaza in late 1998:

I’ve had two profoundly emotional experiences in the last less than 24 hours. I was with Chairman Arafat, and four little children came to see me whose fathers are in Israeli prisons. Last night, I met some little children whose fathers had been killed in conflict with Palestinians, at the dinner that Prime Minister Netanyahu held for me. Those children brought tears to my eyes. We have to find a way for both sets of children to get their lives back and to go forward…. If I had met them in reverse order I would not have known which ones were Israeli and which Palestinian. If they had all been lined up in a row and I had seen their tears, I could not tell whose father was dead and whose father was in prison, or what the story of their lives were, making up the grief that they bore.

Beautiful. Really makes one pine for the Clinton era, doesn’t it? Anyway, Clinton being Clinton, it seems the story he told about meeting those Israeli children was, ahem, contrived.

According to a story in the Dec. 25, 1998 issue of the Forward headlined “Clinton Lied About Meeting Children,” the Israeli Embassy minister for public affairs could not confirm that a meeting between Clinton and any Israeli children had taken place.

“Other Israeli government sources who would speak only on condition of anonymity,” added the Forward’s Washington correspondent, “said Mr. Clinton never met with the Israeli children. The White House and State Department did not return calls about whether such a meeting took place. There was no such event on the public schedule of the trip.”

Yes, the country is suffering a severe case of Bush fatigue. But nostalgia is never what it’s cracked up to be.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/media-monitor/bush-fatigue-clinton-nostalgia/2007/05/30/

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