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Posts Tagged ‘imagine’

Go Jump in the Jordan River

Monday, August 13th, 2012

When you read about the Jordan River in the Bible you easily imagine a massive body of water that crossing it takes a bridge or a miracle (Joshua 3). But when you look at today’s Jordan River, even way up north near its source, you have to conclude that this river had to a have shrunk tremendously, or folks back in biblical times were terrified of water.

The current gets pretty strong in places, though, so you do need to know how to swim.

Perfect solution for the heat on a mid-August day.

A Jew on Broadway

Monday, May 7th, 2012

http://notajew-jew.com/?p=240

I am converting to Judaism.  Which means I did not grow up as a Jew.  Which means I have never felt singled out as a Jew, or persecuted for being a Jew – except the one time I was Jew-bashed and almost killed.  But that was an anomaly.  In fact it was a mistake.  And it certainly didn’t give me the feeling of what it’s like to live openly as a Jew.

Right now is one of the best times in history, and America is one of the best places in the world, to live openly as a Jew.  And one of the best places in America to don a Kippah (yarmulke) and walk around without fear is in New York City.

So, I wasn’t being a hero when I wore my Kippah to meetings in the Upper West Side and in the Theater District, or even around my hotel in Harlem.  And I’ve found the same to be true across the country; rather than singling me out, my Kippah tends to bring out the best in people, and even acts as a friendly conversation starter.

Except when I found myself in a darkened Broadway theater, watching Jesus get hoisted on a cross by Judas Iscariot, surrounded by people with tears and/or rage in their eyes.  At that moment, being the only person in the room with a Kippah on his head…made me stand out.

I’m talking about the Broadway musical Godspell, which I went to on a friend’s recommendation.  Look, I’m not much of a theater guy, folks, so what do I know?  I assumed it was about Jesus, but hey: I figured it would be a bunch of lighthearted singing and dancing – jazz-hands at the worst – not some brutal attack on Jews.

And it was fine for a while.  Until the intermission.  Walking around in the lobby, then returning to my seat in an empty row in the half-empty theater, I saw people looking at me…differently.  Not a lot of friendly conversations were started that night.  Not one.  Maybe they knew what was coming in Act 2, just like Jesus did.  Heck, we all knew that it wouldn’t turn out well for him.  What I didn’t know was how the play would radically warp the character and actions of Judas.

Look, I’m not much more of an expert on the New Testament than I am on Broadway musicals but, from my recollection of the Gospels, a spotlighted Judas didn’t personally hoist Jesus onto a cross, pause to hear him scream, then hoist him some more.  Pretty sure it was the Romans hoisting Jesus onto a Roman cross.

But it was the reaction of the crowd, and in particular one cast member, that made me feel like the spotlight was on me.  The crowd was angry.  Not “angry-at-the-rich-people-in-Titanic” angry.  Angry.  And the rage on stage was not “crocodile-tears-from-stage-actors.”  It was real.  The clenched fists were real.  The tears were real.  The rage was real. The room was buzzing with rage.

I could have left the theater.  In fact, I almost did.  When the light-hearted singing and dancing of Act 1 turned into Jesus slamming Rabbis and Jewish laws, I began looking for the exit.

But I forced myself to stay.  Because I had never experienced this as a Jew.  I knew what was coming in Act 2.  I didn’t know it would be that bad or distorted, but I knew that things would not turn out well for the male lead, which would probably not sit well with the audience.

So I stayed.  I took it.  I experienced it.  As a Jew.

It was just a Broadway play.  It was just make-believe.  I can only imagine what it must have been like for Jews in another country, in another time.

But I can imagine it a tiny bit more clearly today.

International Harpsichordist Ordered to Remove Mezuzah from her Doorpost

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

Barbara Cadranel, a renowned harpsichordist who delights audiences around the world with her unique interpretation of Baroque as well as contemporary music, says she’s feeling “violated.”

According to the Hartford Courant, after settling down in Stratford, Ct. in 2010, Cadranel was given a mezuzah as a gift in 2011, and affixed it to the front doorpost of her third-floor condominium unit on California Street. The 60-year-old Cadranel learned to do that back in Hebrew school.

MariAn Gail Brown of the CtPost.com asked her readers to imagine how Cadranel had felt when she returned home to her condo “to find her just-installed mezuzah on the ground. She reattached it to the doorpost. Then it happened again. She believed it was just a coincidence. This time, when she reinstalled it, she made sure it was firmly in place. Again, she found it on the ground.”

“Now, I’m thinking that this wasn’t an accident,” Cadranel told Brown. “Maybe someone knocked it off.”

Could just be the case…

The Hartford Courant reports that a “Happy Easter” wreath with a bunny on it hangs on the door across the hall from Cadranel’s unit. It’s not as if the condo association is discouraging religious expressions on the part of the residents.

Until, apparently, it comes to Jewish religious expression.

Kurt Alhberg, the attorney for the California Condo Association, says his client permits residents to display religious objects on the outside of their doors, but not on “the frame around the door.”

So many coincidences in one news story…

Brown spoke with Paul Knapp, president of Sidetex Corporation in North Haven, which sells and installs doors, doorframes, and windows. He told her a door comes with a doorframe, what’s the point in treating them as two distinct components? “You can’t put in a door without a frame,” he told her. “I can’t see any difference in putting something on a door frame or post like a mezuzah.” Knapp says.

Unless you want to make sure your residents won’t display a Jewey symbol on their front door.

The Hartford Courant quoted a neighbor, Gilly DaSilva, who said he thought the prohibition had something to do with the fire code.

Of course, mezuzah fires are a well established thing. In fact, we should probably equip our mezuzot with tiny fire alarms, just to be safe.

But this is not just fun and scantily concealed anti-Semitism. Cadranel is being fined $50 a day by her condo association for hanging the mezuzah on her doorpost.

ADL’s Connecticut Regional Director Gary Jones, to whose organization the harpsichordist has turned for support, told Fox News disputes between condominium association and owners over mezuzot are “pretty rare.” He pointed out that “a mezuza is not a decorative choice for Jews, or a choice of any kind. Requiring its removal is tantamount to requiring a Jewish person to move.”

Channel 3 TV in New Haven reported that Cadranel’s attorney is filing a complaint with Connecticut’s Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, noting that a neighbor’s door bears a crucifix.

Which, we’re led to understand, contains not just a Jewish scroll, but the depiction of an entire first century Jewish person.

5th Annual New York Peace Film Festival Offers No Attacks on Israel

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Is this a man bites dog bit of news, or what? When the press release from the organizers of the NY Peace Film Festival popped in my email, I naturally braced myself for the usual torrent of anti-Semitic graffiti masked as criticism of Zionism we have learned to expect from any event with the words Peace and Festival in the title.

To my very pleasant surprise, someone at the 5th annual festival has decided—imagine!—to dedicate the entire program to films discussing peace efforts around the world. Sure, I was a little perturbed they didn’t have anything good to say about Israel in that department, but I’ll take a silence over what normally would have been there.

So I invite the reader to check out this absolutely Zionism-safe presentation (except it’s in a church and takes place on Shabbat – what, you want everything?). Remember how we always say, why don’t they ever discuss other areas of the world? Well, this time they totally do:

NYPFF features two documentary shorts that address the recent civil wars in Sudan and in Sierra Leone. Saturday, March 10 at 2:30, Another Journey: Tales from Southern Sudan’s Homeless Generation lets four victims of the Sudanese civil war tell their story as they trekked 3,000 miles to find safety from warring parties. In each of the refugee camps they learned to build community with those around them, realizing that the human family is wider than the confines of their village. Two of the victims along with the filmmaker will be on hand to answer questions following the screening.

Then, at 3:30, Fambul Tok (Family Talk) highlights a grassroots initiative to reconcile neighbors. The brutal, decade long civil war in Sierra Leone left communities shattered, and only a few of those responsible for horrendous crimes liable for punishment. Capitalizing on Sierra Leone ’s tradition of gathering together as a village and talking out problems, Fambul Tok allows neighbors to confront one another and talk through their wrongs with remarkable results. One of the filmmakers will be on hand following the screening for a Q&A.

You can visit the festival website for clips from all the participating films, and I guess you can take it off your Nanny Guard list – no Jew bashing talk here…

Supreme Court Decision Causes Collapse of High Rabbinic Court

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

A recent Israeli Supreme Court decision to suspend the appointment of new rabbinic judges until women are appointed to the selection committee responsible for said appointments, is causing the collapse and virtual shutdown of the High Rabbinic Court, according to Israel Hayom.

A few months ago, two judges retired from the high court, which is the rabbinic equivalent of the secular Supreme Court. Since then, absent replacements, the high court has been functioning with a single judiciary forum comprised of two judges and one of Israel’s two chief rabbis. This week, one of the two judges required an urgent operation and the court was, for all intents and purposes, shut down.

The Rabbinate’s Attorney General Shimon Ya’akovi then permitted an unprecedented forum to sit in judgment at the High Court for now, comprised of both chief rabbis and the remaining judge.

“It’s madness,” complained a source inside the rabbinic courts system, “imagine if the Supreme Court was left with only one judge and a temporary appointment. We have here tens of heart-wrenching cases of agunot and children of divorces, and no one seems to care.”

As They Grow

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

Dear Readers,

Over the long stretch of Yom Tov, I spent a lot of time in the park (in three different states) while enjoying the antics – some of them hair-raising – of my grandchildren as they swung, slid, jumped and hid. As you can imagine, the park was full of heimishe men, women and children, happy for the opportunity, after three days of being indoors at shul and at the dining room table, to work off excess calories (the adults) and excess energy (the kids).

It was very gratifying to see three, and sometimes even four, generations of a family enjoying each other’s company and creating bonds and memories that will transcend time and distance.

As pleasant as these family outings no doubt were to everyone involved, the joyful atmosphere was at times marred by some of the reactions and interactions that I witnessed by parents who, I felt, could be better at incorporating the principle of  “putting oneself in the other person’s shoes” when it came to their young children.  One little girl, about two-years-old, had spilled some fruit punch on her pretty, and no doubt pricey Shabbat outfit, and her mother loudly scolded her. Another parent yelled at her toddler for stepping into a small puddle and getting his new shoes muddied. Another was annoyed that his child had misplaced his glasses, again.  The children’s bright faces were darkened by their parent’s criticism; their joy deflated by the anger and belittling that rained on them.

Getting dirty, messing things up or losing or breaking toys and other possessions go hand and hand with being a normal, healthy child. It’s part of the process of growing up, or becoming self-reliant and independent. There are many parents who would give everything they have – and more – to have their child able to feed him or herself  (and yes, spill and dribble on their yom tov outfits) and to run and jump and tear their pants, and lose their baseball mitts, etc.

Without question, it is very aggravating when kids ruin, lose or break items that need to be replaced. After all, dollars are not like leaves – they do not grow on trees, and it is stressful to see one’s hard-earned money go out the window due to what is perceived as a child’s carelessness or indifference. But what is crucial for the parent to understand is that their child is not a “little adult.” There is nothing adult about them. Adults are aware of how “the world works”- what is right, wrong or socially acceptable. Kids, on the other hand, learn life’s lessons the hard way – by doing things that get their mommies and daddies really, really mad. The wise parent will show his/her child the correct path with gentle words and actions seeped in softness and patience.

Below is a poem I wrote years ago based on a situation that I can say without hesitation, every parent has experienced, at least once in their child-rearing career – when a wall becomes a child’s canvas.

 

A Second Look

 

My little boy messed up the wall,

But what he did didn’t make me mad at all,

Instead of anger I felt rather proud

That this miniature person,

Who laughs aloud,

Is growing up.

 

He had noticed a crayon on the shelf,

Toddled over and grabbed it by himself,

And while I was chatting on the kitchen phone,

He wandered happily on his own

A Small Voice

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

This article was originally published in The Jewish Press on May 20, 1960. 


 


 


Yesterday, another Conservative Temple was dedicated.

 

Yesterday, ten more Jews married outside their faith.

 

Yesterday, a hundred thousand Jewish families sat down to enjoy a non-kosher meal.

 

Still yesterday, a million Jews lounged about the house discussing their Saturday auto ride to visit the relatives, while in New York and Cincinnati a score of young men prepared for their coming ordination as rabbis in the Reform movement.

 

Again yesterday, the largest gathering in the history of the Rabbinical Assembly-the national association of Conservative rabbis-convened at Grossinger’s Hotel, while a few miles away, another Conservative body, The National Federation of Men’s Clubs, opened the greatest convention in its existence.

 

Yesterday, Reform rabbis continued to marry and divorce, and convert individuals in violation of Jewish Law.

 

And yesterday, three million Jewish children played in the streets, victims of their elders ignorance and apathy, divorced from the beauties and truths of traditional Judaism, wanderers down a path that could end only in religious destruction.

 

The age we live in is not an age of faith. It is an age of reason, of doctrinal skepticism, of pragmatism, of agnosticism. It is an age of science that questions all. It is an age of Marxism that preaches materialism, not spirit. It is an age where religion is pushed to the side; doubted by the intellect, attacked by the Marxist, played by the masses.

 

It is an age that threatens the values that we hold dear. Torah and its pillar-faith-face a life and death struggle with this new age and its flashing rapiers, doubt and materialism.

 

Day by day the struggle continues. In every hamlet, in the soul of every Jew, the battle rages. Day by day traditional Judaism is faced with greater and greater problems, with an ever-widening gulf between it and the mass of our brother Jews, with ever growing heartbreak. Tragic? Yes. Heartbreaking? Undoubtedly. But far more tragic and far more heartbreaking all too often is the reaction of Orthodox Jewry to the crisis that threatens it.

 

One would imagine that having surveyed the awesome tasks that need be done, Orthodox leadership and organizations would put shoulders to the wheel and begin the holy task building a mighty community of Torah Jewry. One would imagine that our money, time, energy and talents would be carefully hoarded, each ounce to be saved for the building of yeshivas, synagogues, mikvahs, youth groups, and the countless myriads of institutions so vital to the survival of authentic Judaism. One would expect a concerted, dedicated, coordinated pooling of resources for the great battle against the desecrators of Torah. One would imagine that in our poverty, the great enemy would be waste; that in our lack of numbers the watchword would be unity. And yet, we seem to have so much.

 

             We have so many resources. Resources to pay for inexcusable duplication of institutions. Resources to put up fifteen yeshivas in a neighborhood wherein two good ones would suffice. Resources to erect three synagogues per block instead of the one large one that would be ample. Resources to have three major political parties to defend the faith in Israel, and twenty-three rabbinical organizations to defend it here.

 

We have so much energy. Energy to heap abuse on those other Orthodox Jews who might deviate ever so slightly from our particular standards. Energy to painstakingly search out the minutest failings in the other Orthodox Jew. Energy to condemn every Orthodox institution which does not conform every day in every way to our own strictures.

 

The curse of Disunity is an ancient one with us. Its shadow lies across the remains of many of our wrecked hopes. Is there indeed that much of a difference among the Orthodox rabbinical, lay or Zionist organizations? Is our background and practice so different so as to call for ten different bodies claiming to represent the “true” Orthodoxy? Surely not. The same laws of Shabbos, kashrus and taharas hamishpacha are accepted and practiced by all. The duplication and waste, the cross accusations and inter group hatreds, the curse of disunity are all inexcusable. It is something all too often fostered by petty politicians who when screaming denunciation do so merely to contemplate the sounds of their own voices, to admire the noises made by the rappings of their knuckles on the door of opportunity.

 

             The house of Judaism burns, and we debate who shall have the honor of putting out the fire. The Children of Israel wander in a barren desert, and we are too busy fighting our own petty, provincial quarrels. So long as this continues, we will have no moral right to blame Conservatism and Reform. The true enemy continues to be- ourselves.  


 


Has much really changed? We await your thoughts at magazine@jewishpress.com

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/a-small-voice-2/2011/07/27/

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