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Posts Tagged ‘Heritage’

Two Kinds of Jews: Ashamed and Proud

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

I write this in memory of my father, Lyle B. Federman, who was killed on April 21, 1998, the victim of police misconduct.

My father grew up with little to no Jewish tradition. No Shabbat. No Passover. No Menorah. No Kosher. He spent much of his life searching for an identity. He eventually discovered and embraced his Jewish heritage at an Oglala tribal meeting on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

My father had no interest in Judaism. He strived for a belief system that was all-inclusive. Connected with nature. With a social justice mission. Those values were reinforced by his exposure to the countercultural and environmental movements of the late 60’s.

He found those values in the Native American way of life. His began his journey by providing aid for food and clothing on the poverty stricken Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. He also volunteered at the sobriety meetings to fight the rampant alcohol and drug abuse. Soon he started practicing Native American rituals like the sweat lodge (or ceremonial sauna) and learning the traditions and history.

Eventually he was called to a tribal meeting where he would be formally inducted into the Oglala Lakota tribe. At the meeting, the tribal elders asked my father what he had observed on the reservation.

“I observe two kind of Indians,” my father explained. “One with short hair, head down, drunk and ashamed of who he is; and one with long hair, head up, sober and proud of his people.” The elders nodded in approval.

They asked my father about his ancestry. My father explained that he was Jewish. The tribal leader paused, squinted in thought, and said: “There are two kinds of Jews. One with his head down, ashamed of who he is; and the other with his head up and proud of who he is.” He continued, “be that Jew who is proud of who he is.” That was the most transcendental moment in my father’s life.

But what does it mean to be proud of your heritage? Is that ethnocentric? Even supremacist? The Torah was given on a small mountain to teach one to be humble toward others. To recognize and value other peoples way of life. If that is so, then why wasn’t the Torah given on flatland? Wouldn’t that be an even greater metaphor of humility? It was given on a small mountain to teach that one should still have pride but that pride should be measured and humbled.

My father then traveled to Berkley California where he came in contact with Chabad-Lubavitch, a Jewish outreach organization. He started learning Jewish philosophy, observing the Holidays and eventually married an Orthodox woman – my mother, a direct descendant of the Ba’al Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidic Judaism.

The Dodgers Never Left Brooklyn

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

I’m not talking about Duke Snider, Carl Furillo, Joe Campanella, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, Junior Gilliam, Don Newcombe, Don Drysdale, Johnny Padres, Sandy Amaros, the young Sandy Koufax, and the rest of the old-time Brookline Dodgers.

(For your information, I remembered all those names without having to look them up on Google. In fact, when the old Dodger ballpark, Ebbets Field, was being torn down to make room for apartment buildings, my Dad snuck us into the stadium, where we dug up some earth from center field, where Duke Snider once roamed – as if it were blessed soil from the Holy Land – and took it home to put in our planter as a lasting memorial. Woe that I don’t remember Mishnayos as well as I remember starting Dodger line-ups!)

No, I’m not talking about those famed Brooklyn Bums, who stuffed their bats and gloves into duffle bags and deserted New York for the even smoggier shores of LA. I am talking about the other dodgers of Brooklyn, all those who still linger in Boro Park and Flatbush and Williamsburg and Crown Heights and Ocean Parkway and don’t come on aliyah.

I’m speaking about the Aliyah Dodgers, the Diaspora Giants, the Ultra-Orthodox Williamsburg White Sox, the Assimilated Cardinals, and the OU Washington Nationals.

Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook would tell his students: “We don’t pick and chose what mitzvot to do. We don’t say, ‘This mitzvah is easy and pleasing to me, I will do it, but this mitzvah is hard and not so pleasing, so I won’t. We aren’t half-believers like the Spies in the Wilderness, about whom the Torah testifies, ‘In this matter, you didn’t believe in the Lord your God’ (Devarim, 1:32). In the matter of making aliyah to Israel they didn’t believe. In contrast, we find the true approach to Torah of, ‘Everything that the Lord said, we will do and listen’ (Shemot, 24:7). We will do it whether it pleases us or not. We believe in all of the Torah with complete emunah” (See, Torat Eretz Yisrael, Ch.1).

Once again, I am not speaking about people who, for whatever valid reason, are unable to come on aliyah. Let’s say, in a rough approximation, that 20% of the Jews in America fall into this category. Whether it’s because they have sick parents to care for, or no way of making a living in Israel, or any other legitimate excuse, let’s agree for the moment that they can’t come – but what about their children? What’s preventing them? Are they any less Jewish than my children? Why should my children have to serve in the Israeli Army (which is a great mitzvah that we are happy to do) and fight to defend the Jewish Homeland, while the Diaspora Dodgers go to ball games and spend the same three years getting stoned in college? And what about the 80% who could come – but don’t?

Let’s remember that the root cause of the destruction that befell our Nation on Tisha B’Av was the unwilling of the Spies in the Wilderness to journey on to the Land of Israel, which occurred on the very same date (Megilla 29A. See The Book of our Heritage, Ch.16, on the month of Av).

My beloved brothers and sisters in the Diaspora- when you are in shul this coming Shabbos, during the Torah reading of Matot, before the typical lavish Diaspora Kiddush and free open bar (which could make even the most ardent Zionist forget about Jerusalem with its line-up of Chivas Regals, Jack Daniels, and Johnny Walker Blacks), try to concentrate on the message of the parsha:

“Now a very great multitude of cattle had the children of Brooklyn, and the children of the Five Towns and Boca, a very great multitude… and they said to Moshe, ‘If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given unto thy servants for a possession – bring us not over the Jordan.’ And Moshe said, ‘Shall your brethren go to war, and shall you sit here? And wherefore will you turn away the heart of the Children of Israel from going over into the Land which the Lord has given them? Thus did your fathers when I sent them from Kadesh Barnea to see the Land. For when they went up unto the valley of Eshkol and saw the Land, they turned away the heart of the Children of Israel, that they should not go into the Land which the Lord had given them. And the anger of the Lord kindled on that day (Tisha B’Av), and He swore saying, ‘Surely none of these men that came up out of the land of Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the Land I swore unto Avraham, unto Yitzhak, and unto Yaacov, because they have not wholly followed Me, save Calev ben Yefuneh and Yehoshua ben Nun, because they have wholly followed the Lord’” (Bamidbar, 32:1-12).

When Rules Don’t Count, Anything Goes

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

UNESCO proved once again that UN rules mean nothing if they get in the way of furthering an anti-Israel agenda.

It will be recalled that last October, an overwhelming majority of UNESCO members voted to recognized “Palestine” as the organization’s 195th member despite the fact that the Palestinian Authority did not, by any measure, meet the established standards for statehood. Last week, UNESCO again broke its own rules and indulged the Palestinians by accepting a Palestinian bid to list the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on UNESCO’s World Heritage List and to have it located in “Palestine.” The PA is nominally in control of day-to-day governance in Bethlehem but Israel remains in overall authority as to who and what goes in and out.

This prompted a statement by Hanan Ashwari, who leads the PLO Department of Culture and Information, applauding the development as “a welcome recognition by the international community of our historical and cultural rights in this land.”

Further, not only were the rules for statehood again ignored by the “Palestine” reference, but the church was also placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger, which UNESCO’s technical and administrative staff advised was wholly inappropriate, since it in no way met the operative standard of “imminent danger.” And while UNESCO fictively attributed the “danger” to damage from water leaks, Palestinian officials spun the listing that the site itself is endangered by Israel.

Thus, Ms. Ashwari said in a statement that the UNESCO decision

emphasizes that Israel must be bound by international law and treaties, particularly pertaining to its illegal and detrimental measures as a belligerent occupant and as a major threat to the safety and the responsible preservation of that important segment of human civilization in Palestine.

Palestinian officials briefing reporters also claimed the UNESCO action represented a vote in favor of self-determination and cultural rights for the Palestinian people.

Predictably, the PA is now saying that following its UNESCO success respecting the Church of the Nativity it will seek to have additional religious West Bank sites recognized by UNESCO as endangered World Heritage sites. And given past experience, they will be successful. Regrettably, these obvious farces have gained legitimacy in the anything-goes universe of anti-Israel activism.

Tombs of Patriarchs, Rachel, Rejected for Heritage Funding

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

The absence of the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and the Tomb of Rachel in Bethlehem from a list of sites to receive funding as part of Israel’s National Heritage program has raised the ire of MKs in support of Jewish rights in Judea and Samaria.

MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) and MK Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) expressed disapproval that the two sites – the burial places of the Jewish foreparents Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah in Hebron, and Rachel in Bethlehem – were absent from a renovation funding list presented at a ministerial committee meeting on Tuesday.

Eldad defended the importance of the sites, and warned that withholding funding from the sites is equivalent to removing them from the National Heritage Program.

In February 2010, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced a NIS 500 million investment plan aimed at rejuvenating sites of importance to the Jewish People and the State of Israel.  Israel was criticized by the US and the UN body UNESCO for including the two sites on the list.

The Prime Minister’s Office responded to concerns by saying the renovations necessary at the sites were not critical at this time, and that not receiving funding was no indication that the sites had been removed from the National Heritage list.

“Hebron wasn’t funded this time around, but we’ve been assured at the highest levels that in the near future, we will be”, said David Wilder, Spokesman of the Jewish Community of Hebron in an interview with The Jewish Press.  “It wasn’t taken off the list.”

Tel Shiloh, the site which housed the Mishkan (Tabernacle) prior to its installation in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, will likely be picked for immediate renovation by the committee.  It is located north of Jerusalem in the community of Shilo in Samaria.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/tombs-of-patriarchs-rachel-rejected-for-heritage-funding/2012/02/14/

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