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August 26, 2016 / 22 Av, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘matter’

Trump as a Matter of Principle

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

We’re members of a minority: Jewish Blue-State professionals who plan to vote for Donald Trump. As Blue-Staters and as Jews, we have many friends and co-religionists who consider themselves progressives. As oft-disappointed conservatives and oft-chagrined members of the Republicans’ professional class, we have many friends and colleagues who consider themselves NeverTrumps. We get their angst, but we’re tired of the self-righteous insistence that support for Trump is “unprincipled.” They get the principle exactly backwards.

According to Rasmussen—whose polls tend to favor the GOP—Trump’s support among Republicans is only 69%. Our inclusion in that number flows from our principled opposition to the damage that progressivism has already inflicted on our great nation. Under Obama, the United States—founded as the embodiment of classic eighteenth century liberal ideals—has turned away from its Judeo-Christian and Western roots, expanded government intrusiveness and control, robbed individuals of their agency as autonomous decision-makers, ignored the rule of law, and imperiled the global spread of prosperity. Hillary Clinton seeks to finish the job.

If there are conservatives arguing that Clinton is either unserious or incapable of achieving her stated goal, those trumpeting – and trumping up – Trump’s shortcomings have drowned them out—helping Clinton in effect, if not in intent. The 11% of Republicans that Rasmussen shows supporting Gary Johnson stand between Clinton’s aggressively progressive America and a philosophically idiosyncratic Trump presidency. We prefer the latter—on principle—and implore all principled conservatives (explicitly including the NeverTrumps) to do the same. Trump was not the champion we sought, but he is the one we have. The only one.

The distinction may be clearest in the cultural and social realms. Trump seems content to let homosexual couples form families, religious bakers opt out of gay weddings, states decide the question of transgender bathroom use, and women choose abortions as long as they are not subsidized—even when his personal beliefs and choices may point in other directions. He seems singularly unlikely to crusade over such issues. This stance defines a libertarian middle ground likely to satisfy neither social conservatives nor social progressives. And while the two of us do not always agree on these issues, we are clear that a nonideological libertarian neutral is far superior to the crusading progressive that Clinton has promised to be. With Clinton in the White House, the assault on religious liberties would be catastrophic.

When it comes to race—historically, the most difficult issue in America—Trump can indeed seem tone-deaf. Nevertheless, his long history in the public eye suggests colorblindness rather than malice, and a healthy disdain for politically correct fascism. Trump has had close personal relationships—and antagonisms—with people of all races, ethnicities, and religions. His preference for “content of character” (as he defines it) over color of skin, coupled with his characteristic bluntness, is almost guaranteed to offend in our hypersensitive age. Still, the idea that we should reward racial hostility and reorient society to avoid unavoidable “microagressions” against the perpetually thin-skinned is a particularly progressive failing.

Conservatives ought to value respect and decorum, but in a clash between an insufficiently sensitive candidate and an overly sensitive victim class, a principled conservative can remain safely ambivalent.

And while America might do better with a conciliatory President, it will not find one in Clinton. The Democratic convention dedicated an evening to groups who champion identity politics, heighten racial sensitivities, exude virulent anti-Semitism, encourage street riots, and condone violent attacks against police. During the convention, a sitting Democratic Member of Congress publicly called Israeli Jews “termites” and a former Member tweeted blood-libel type conspiracy theories blaming Jews for Islamic terror in Europe. Meanwhile, attendees waved the flag of the terrorist PLO/Palestinian Authority (labeled last week as anti-Semitic by even the Arabist State Department) and burned American and Israeli flags. Is that a mandate “principled” conservatives are content to tolerate, let alone assist?

On economics, both campaigns disappoint. Growth is a prerequisite for almost all beneficial advancements, and free trade is critical to growth. Granted, democratic institutions that remain oblivious to distribution will eventually induce society’s many losers to vote against growth—as we are seeing today. From that perspective, Trump’s coupling of concerns about the distributional effects of trade and immigration with pro-growth regulatory and tax reform is less disturbing than Clinton’s all-encompassing anti-growth redistribution agenda.

On judicial nominations, Trump has provided ample reason for optimism among constitutional conservatives—and it is hard to see how he could be worse than Clinton’s relentless focus on the full progressive takeover of the federal judiciary. Rather than a protective backstop on key constitutional protections, the judiciary would become a launch pad for even more assaults on our religious observances and beliefs.

Finally, in the Middle East, Trump is far more inclined than Clinton to correctly see Israelis as good guys, radical Muslims as evil, and moderate Muslims as potential allies who need our help. Clinton may spout politically popular pro-Israel platitudes, but her track record of strong-arming Israel while embracing and mainstreaming Muslim terrorists speaks far louder than her words. She would continue the shocking Obama policies in which she was complicit – including the horrendous Iran Deal.

We appeal to conservatives still waving the NeverTrump banner to reconsider while time remains. Much is at stake. Principled progressives committed to completing America’s transformation can vote for Clinton. Principled conservatives must fight her.

Bruce Abramson and Jeff Ballabon

Gray Matter

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

“Everything is under control,” assured Anita Gray, director of the local office of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), about the infamous, anti-Semitic assistant professor Joy Karega.  “Oberlin’s president is coordinating efforts with us.”  Assuming there was nothing more to be done at this point, I asked about their involvement in the immigration process from the Middle East, about hijra, invasion by migration.  “There are a few, but not many,” she replied. When I asked for specifics, she answered, “No, but you can check the ADL website.”

I did so that evening, and emailed Gray the next day about the anti-Semitic comments on the site.  I asked who replies to them or if they’re just left on the site.  She wrote, “You can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.”   OK. I recalled having learned that bit of wisdom as a child, but she used it to evade my question.

Moving on, I mentioned that HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) was lobbying Washington for more funds to bring in more immigrants, and asked of the ADL’s role and the number of migrants expected. “A very small number,” she answered.  Was that Muslims from Syria or Christians and Jews from Europe’s terrorism?  She said, “The entire refugee process takes two to three years, unlike Europe, where they show up on their shores and cause issues.” Again, this did not answer my question.

I had read that the ADL was created in 1913 to “monitor and combat global anti-Semitism and promote security and wellbeing of Jewish communities around the world,” yet now their interests have changed to “rescuing” those whose Koranic mission was to kill Jews and Christians if they didn’t submit to Allah; to aid and abet those who are beheading and raping en masse; and to work against our Constitution whose purpose it is to protect Americans against invasion.  She replied, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” If Gray were the least bit humorous, she could rival the late Henny Youngman, a Borsht Belt comedian who had been dubbed king of the one-liners.

How else could I feel when we are confronted with annihilation in every generation?  Why are HIAS, Catholic Charities, World Churches, ADL and other multi-culturalists saving the predators instead of the prey? Why are we following in the footsteps of Sweden, Germany, France and Belgium?  Why did the Jewish Federation of Cleveland contact its entire mailing list, requesting donations to help the Syrian refugees, using a flyer enhanced with a photograph of a blonde, curly-haired toddler, complete with Teddy bear? In all the photographs and YouTube films of young Syrian men who are ravaging Europe, killing Europeans and Americans, throwing pipe bombs, burning flags and tires, and raping young girls and women, not once did I see a migrant who resembled this little boy with his iconic cuddle toy.

At Gray’s suggestion, I called the Jewish Federation and asked the young woman about the number of Muslim immigrants resettled in Ohio, she said she took offense at my inquiry!  “Okay,” I said, “How about the number of Christians and Jews and then a grand total?”  She emphatically informed me of two members of her family who had married nice, successful Muslim businessmen.  I explained that I was interested in the ones who are sent here by the UN, unvetted and prepared to behead us and establish a caliphate. She suggested I contact Global Cleveland, which does not return calls.

The truth is that the Left designates “receiving communities” according to race and affluence and brings in an Islamic “seedling” community that will not assimilate.  These UN-selected “new Americans” must be accepted and sustained by the designated neighborhood with housing, clothing, extensive healthcare, schooling (complete with translators), credit cards, no-interest loans, and food stamps.

Ted Kennedy was the first to change the immigration policy, increase our population with foreigners who replaced hundreds of thousands of Americans in the labor force with those who would vote Democrat. The refugee resettlement agenda was designed during the 1980s and Obama’s Muslim Refugee Resettlement Program is the current UN’s agenda to balkanize and terrorize the West, to redistribute the population, abolish private property of Western civilizations only, overwhelm our society and laws, defeat our exceptionalism, take the jobs from the Americans and put them on welfare, dilute our country and severely damage our United States.  As an aside: We settled 4,971 Syrians since January, 2012, and accepted 20 million through a waiver abuse program.  Accepting one million refugees per year costs us $118 billion annually, and resettlement costs us $3 billion annually, 12 times the cost of helping them in their own country.

Within a couple of weeks and with no comments, Anita Gray emailed me an impressive speech made by the ADL’s new CEO and national director, Jonathan Greenblatt, during his March, 2016 visit to Jerusalem, wherein he spoke of mainstream bigotry and intolerance affecting Jews. She did not send a copy of his April, 2016 speech made at J Street, the Soros-backed, anti-Israel organization that masquerades as an authentic pro-Israel group, but whose every effort undercuts and betrays Israel. Just as J Street betrayed Israel by accusing her of disproportionate warfare when defending herself against Turkey’s Mavi Marmara flotilla raid (May 2010), advanced border lines that would seriously imperil Israel, and persists in challenging Israel’s strong democracy with accusations of apartheid, so Greenblatt spoke similarly.

He said he wants to see Israel as a Jewish nation that supports religious pluralism, a blatant denunciation when Israel is already a democratic country under whose laws all citizens of all religions are protected equally.  He wants to see Israel live in peace and security with her neighbors, never admitting that all the wars were begun by those neighbors.  He acknowledged criticizing Israel but does not criticize Hamas, a designated terrorist organization committed to jihad, and refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist.  He spoke of shortcomings of the Jewish establishment only, while also condemning Islamophobia and “marginalized Palestinians.” The Palestinians who claim marginalization are not citizens of Israel and have refused citizenship.  Above all, he wished for a P Street along with a J Street, while never specifying that the Palestinians have refused peace agreements and want only Israel.

The ADL, supported by naïve Jewish donors, also works to lobby against laws that would obstruct the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions (BDS), claiming it suppresses academic freedom and inhibits Islamic speech. BDS endangers Israel and defends Islamists from criticism.  The ADL sided with our State Department in prohibiting Geert Wilders, a true hero of democracy and Israel, from entering the US, citing criticism of Islamic doctrines “hate speech.”  Greenblatt, once a special assistant to President Obama, subtly approved of borders with Palestinians that put Israel’s security at risk, and continues to place the responsibility of a peaceful solution on Israel, rather than convey Israel’s persistent offers for direct negotiations and the Arabs’ constant rejection.  Greenblatt has failed to stress Jewish legitimacy, her historic connections to Israel and Jerusalem and her democracy. By involving and accepting the organizations of J Street, Americans for Peace Now, and Jewish Voice for Peace, he joins forces with the covert enemy of Israel and invites further pressure from Soros and Obama.

The ADL has always been a sham.  During World War II, a small group of Zionist activists from Europe and Palestine, led by Peter Bergson (an alias for Rabbi Hillel Kook), formed a Jewish army of stateless and Palestinian Jews to fight alongside the Allies against the Nazis, and eventually became the Jewish Brigade, a military unit that was part of the British Army.  The Bergson Group’s Emergency Committee, joined by writer Ben Hecht, cultural celebrities, members of Congress, African-American leaders and others, persuaded President Franklin D. Roosevelt to establish the War Refugee Board to save escaping Jews from extermination – and did save perhaps as many as 200,000 European Jews, with the help of such as Raoul Wallenberg.  The ADL, however, along with Rabbi Stephen S. Wise and other reform/progressive Jewish leaders in October, 1943, demonized Bergson, opposed lifting the US quotas, made light of the Nazi carnage and thwarted what might have been a larger rescue success.

In early 2015, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was invited to address Congress about the serious, imminent danger posed by Iran and its nuclear weapons capabilities to Israel and the world, the ADL and Reform Rabbi Richard Jacobs pressured him to cancel his speech!

It is not possible to explain the motives of the Anti-Defamation League, but surely they may be judged by their past actions, current connections and conduct. We must listen carefully to what they say. But be aware that that they support the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions activities against Israel, and are eager to resettle in America those who want Sharia law to replace our Constitution.  There is no gray area here.

Tabitha Korol

Spokesman Says US Committed to Returning Golan Heights to Syrians — No Matter Which Syrians

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

One of the minor victories of Israeli rightwing pundits has been fueled by the gruesome holocaust taking place over the past five years in Israel’s northern neighbor, Syria. Back in April 2008, then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agrees to fully withdraw from the Golan Heights in return for peace with Syria. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad confirmed Olmert’s remarks at the time that Jerusalem and Damascus were holding talks through a third-party in an attempt to resume the negotiations between the two countries.

“There are efforts exerted in this direction,” Assad told reporters. “This is nothing new, and we have discussed this in the past.” Assad added that “Syria takes every opportunity to express its willingness to establish just and comprehensive peace in accordance with the international decisions… The criterion for the acceptance of any negotiations is that they will be held seriously and that there will be a commitment to implement the UN resolutions, particularly as the Israeli side knows very well what is acceptable and unacceptable by the Syrian side.”

What was acceptable to the Syrian ruler back then was a complete return of every last inch of the Golan Heights to Syrian control, removal of every last Jew and Jewish property from the area, and a return to the 1967 borders, when Syrian snipers ruled the lives of Israeli farmers along the eastern shores of the Kinneret.

Imagine, a long string of Israeli columnists, bloggers, Facebookers and Tweeters have been saying, if Israel had indeed returned to the 1967 border just before the scum of the Middle East — Sunni rebels, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Syrian chemical warfare operators were to crowd the basalt hills overlooking Tiberias — where would we be today?

It’s a winning argument, open and shut, other than Gideon Levi and a couple other useful idiots there really is no Israeli who would ever entertain returning the Golan Heights.

But at Foggy Bottom, where life behaves according to more sublime rules than the Jewish aspiration to stay alive, no lessons have been learned regarding the wisdom of returning Syrian murderers of whatever ilk to the hills above the Kinneret.

It began during the State Dept. Monday press briefing this week. Spokesman John Kirby was asked about the official US recognition of Syria. Essentially, the reporter wanted to know, if the US is so invested in ousting President Bashar al-Assad as a prerequisite for ending the civil war in Syria, why does it still recognize him as the legitimate sovereign of that tortured land?

The reporter asked (redacted): “Legally and diplomatically you only recognize Syria, as you have in the past. In fact, you still issue press briefings in the name of the US Embassy in Syria and so on. From time to time I see that you recognize the government of the Arab Syrian Republic. You have not recognized anyone else as exercising any kind of authority or any kind of sovereignty over any territory of Syria.

Kirby: I’m not sure I understand your question.

Reporter: My question is very simple. Do you recognize any other entity in Syria to have sovereignty over that territory?

Kirby: We recognize that there is a Syrian Government in place. We also recognize that it’s led by a dictator who continues to barrel bomb and gas his people. And the government that’s in place right now, led by Bashar al-Assad, can’t be part of the long-term future of Syria, which is why we’re doing this entire political process to begin with. It’s why so many nations have come together to try to resolve the civil war and the conflict there so that people can have a government in place that they’ve actually had a voice in putting there and that is responsive and responsible for them.

David Israel

It’s All Happening at the Central Bus Station

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

One of the liveliest places in Yerushalayim is the Central Bus Station. “HaTachana HaMercazit.” First of all, you really sense the Geula/Redemption when you are there, with Jews of all sizes and shapes, from all parts of the world, coming and going, jostling and hustling, dark-skinned Jews from Yemen, Morocco, Tunisia, and Iraq, along with gelifta-fish-complexioned Jews from Russia and Poland, and the young, bright-eyed Americans studying in Israel, whose accents stick out like the torch of the Statue of Liberty as they call out, “Oh, Sally and Chuck, how colossal, how awesome, look, we can get hamburgers and fries over here!” The bustling scene in the Jerusalem bus station is literally the revelation of prophecy – the ingathering of the exiles from the four corners of the globe, taking place before your eyes.

In addition to the rush and joy of people, there are three floors of stores and booths selling everything from the latest fashions and jewelry, to cell phones, computers, chess boards, helium balloons, oriental spices, fresh roasted nuts and pastries you can smell all the way to Tel Aviv. And the food court has everything your palette might crave: mouth-watering humus, Chinese food, pizza, hamburgers, and felafel on rye.

One of the shops, “Dabree Shir,” specializes in religious books of all sorts, with baal-tshuva stories and guides high on the list. For a small country, Israel produces a tremendous amount of books, and it’s always nice to see that this bookstore is packed with all kinds of people who are seeking to come closer to God. Whenever I pass through the bus station, I try to stop by and say hello to the fellas in the bookstore.

Though you people may think I’m a hack writer, the religious-Zionist community in Israel appreciates my books, especially my novel, “Tevye in the Promised Land,” which almost every family seems to have read. Last week, when I passed by, I asked the manager what was his current bestseller. “Binyan HaEmunah,” he answered. That was encouraging, I thought. The book, written by Rabbi Moshe Bleicher, founder of the Shavei Hevron Yeshiva, is an in-depth study of true Jewish faith, filled with many of Rabbi Kook teachings. How wonderful, I mused, that the average, bus-station traveler, men, women, and young people alike, are purchasing a book like that – the very same book which I just happen to be translating into English for the yeshiva, to make a little parnassa/livelihood.

The basic premise of the book is that in our generation of Redemption, Emunah (Jewish faith and belief) must be learned, along with the learning of Gemara and Halacha. This is because, over the nearly 2000 years of exile, yeshiva study became the dry learning of Talmud and Jewish Law, with the main focus devoted to matters which applied to day-to-day life, while more exalted matters like the all-encompassing goal of the Torah, and the establishment of the Divine Ideal in the world, through the Kingship of Israel in Eretz Yisrael, were ignored.

Rabbi Kook writes that this dry approach to Torah study, which ignores, and even negates, the secrets of Torah, is the reason why entire communities of Jews have become alienating from our age-old yearning for Zion; have opted to remain in gentile countries rather than making aliyah; and why their exile in Brooklyn, Beverly Hill, and Boca, is seen as pleasing in their eyes.

In effect, Emunah, the very heart of the Torah, which teaches us what God and the Nation of Israel are all about, was left out of the yeshiva curriculum. This led the Torah giant, the Gaon of Vilna (who encouraged his students to make aliyah) to state that Emunah must be learned, specifically emphasizing the need to learn Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi’s classic study of Jewish Faith, “HaKuzari,” saying, “The principles of Emunat Yisrael and Torah are precisely formulated in it” (Siddur of the Gra, pg. 512).

In establishing the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Yerushalayim, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook made the study of Emunah one of the foundations, alongside the intensive learning of Gemara and Halacha. His son, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda, would explain every year to new students the vital importance of this learning, and how it happens that Torah-observant Jews can turn their backs on the very foundation of the entire Torah, the mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisrael, due to their failure to learn Emunah.

Tzvi Fishman

50 UN Members Did Not Support Palestinian Upgrade

Friday, November 30th, 2012

I agree that this is a little like the joke about the police commissioner who boasts that while there has been an increase in crime incidents in the city, there are millions of citizens who have not committed any crimes in the past quarter — nevertheless, a measure of sanity among the world’s nations must be acknowledged and even praised.

The UN General Assembly today voted 138 to 9, with 41 abstaining, to upgrade the PLO’s observer status to the same level held by the Vatican, that of a “non-member state.”

An email sent out last night by UN Watch notes that although the number of Yes votes may appear large, in fact it amounted to the usual automatic majority for any resolution attacking Israel — and the proposal actually won 28 fewer votes than a pro-Palestinian resolution adopted last week, and fewer than is usually received by such resolutions.

Moreover, as UN Watch also reported — in a Tweet reposted by Canadian Cabinet Minister Rona Ambrose among many others —  the PLO won 38 fewer than the 176 votes the U.N. General Assembly gave to genocidal Sudan when recently electing it to a principal U.N. body that oversees human rights.

Let’s be grateful for small favors. Think of it, there are 50 whole nations out there that are not sure they want Israel to be erased from the map, and 9 of them are actually against the idea at this time!

Although mostly symbolic, the statehood designation, as President Abbas boasted last year in a New York Times op-ed, paves the way for the “internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter,” enabling the PLO to pursue claims against Israel in the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Incidentally, just so you wouldn’t be completely overcome by euphoria, the UN Human Rights Council is planning to release a massive report in early 2013 — by a commission of inquiry modeled after the one that produced the notorious Goldstone Report — which is likely to recommend the ICC prosecution of Israeli officials for “war crimes” in connection with the settlements.

Yori Yanover

Boys And Reading: Is There Any Hope?

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

In a recent New York Times article, Robert Lipsyte, a sports author, posed the following question: “Boys and Reading: Is There Any Hope?” For years, I have been dealing with this question in my office. In fact, the U.S. Department of Education’s reading tests for the last thirty years show boys scoring worse than girls in every age group, every year.

A few months ago, a boy who I will call Mordechai came to my office with his mother. Mordechai was struggling with kriyah and English reading and his mother wanted to know if there was something deeper going on.

After a thorough evaluation, I was able to rule many things out. Mordechai did not have dyslexia, attention deficit disorder (ADHD), or sensory processing disorder (SPD). What Mordechai was exhibiting was not a difficulty with reading, but rather a reluctance to read. He simply saw no value in the enterprise and was therefore not interested in learning the skill. Even as a second grader, he had decided what his priorities were: sports and math. Sports was not only physical, but social as well and math factored into his everyday life in a way he felt reading did not.

Now, came the tricky part. How can you get someone to learn something if they have decided that they do not want to? After all, as Robert Lipsyte points out, “boys’ aversion to reading, let alone to novels, has been worsening for years.” First, we should discuss why it is that boys feel that reading has little significance in their lives:

Fiction vs. non-fiction. Many English teachers, who also happen to be female, teach reading through works of fiction. Unfortunately, studies show that boys tend to relate better to non-fiction. Thus, during the formative reading years, children are exposed to reading materials that are better suited to one gender over the other.

Role models. Boys will often see their mothers reading on Shabbos afternoon or in the evenings, but many rarely see their fathers engaged in a book. This is not because their fathers do not read. Rather, frequently, this is because their fathers will be learning in shul or with a chavrusah – experiences that boys do not have until they are beyond the elementary stages of reading.

Biology. On the whole, boys develop fine motor skills (such as hand-eye coordination) slightly later than girls. This can create difficulty with reading and writing at a young age.

Limited selection. Teachers don’t always know what is out there for boys that will engage them on to interact with a text with empathy and sincerity. Schools tend to work with books that are classics because they will encounter less resistance from parents. However, this sometimes means that books that boys might find engaging never make it into the classroom.

Filling The Reading Gap

Why do we care so much about reading? Why is it important to get our boys reading to their greatest potential? The most basic reason is that reading is the most important skill that people have in order to enhance their intelligence. Through reading, people improve their vocabularies and memories, become better writers, and even relieve stress. On a more practical level, literacy levels are correlated with financial success. In sum, we need to ensure that our boys are reading because their lives will be more fulfilling, relaxed and comfortable.

Therefore, how can we help boys learn to read? Below are some time-tested solutions:

Instruction tailored to boys’ learning style. Teachers should create lessons that have clear, structured instruction with short bursts of intense work. When teachers set specific goals and praise students for their success, the boys will be more likely to push themselves in the future. In addition, hands-on learning models that are coupled with a sense of humor are great tools for getting boys involved in reading.

Role models. Young boys need to see male role models who are reading. Remember, any text is reading – including fathers studying Gemara at the dining room table after lunch on Shabbos or reading the newspaper on a weekday morning. The idea is that boys see their fathers reading and understand that this is an activity valued by both male and female role models.

Rifka Schonfeld

Thanking Our ‘Squantos’

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

It’s the classic image – the pumpkins; the berries; the squash, the turkey. It’s the beginning of a season that brings with it a sudden, exciting feeling. It’s the crisp fall air turning to gray winter; the strings of perfect, colorful leaves decorating doors and houses, the bright hues of reds and oranges. It almost feels like the cinnamon in the pumpkin pie is somehow in the air.

It’s Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving. It’s a time of gratitude. Gratitude for the freedom we have in the United States. So many Jews celebrate this holiday, thankful that after so much oppression, Jews can live peacefully in this great country.

The theme of the season forces me to think back to the very first Thanksgiving. This was a celebration the pilgrims made when they first came to America. After so many hardships in the New World, they finally harvested food and had a chance of survival. They were thankful for Squanto, a Native American, who helped the early settlers through.

These thoughts overwhelmed me with a sense of gratitude I feel the need to express. Have you ever thought about who holds up our Jewish communities? Who keeps the world turning? Whose zechuyos keep us alive? Have you ever stopped to thank the people who keep our chinuch system going?

What about thanking our gedolim?

I once heard a teacher say, “At a certain point in my life I knew more names of actors and singers than I knew of Gedolei haTorah.” It struck me. We spend our lives chasing after a society and culture which have so little to do with us, and we never stop to notice what is right in front of us. Do we ever stop to contemplate and appreciate the people who devote their lives to disseminating Torah?

Your son’s Rebbe deserves respect; no matter what grade he gave your son on his Gemara test. The rav of your shul deserves a lot more respect than chatter during his short lecture. The Gedolei HaDor deserve much more than a careless shrug of the shoulder at the news of their illness or petirah.

Most of the time we do not focus our appreciation on the talmidei chachamim in our neighborhoods – that includes the young men sitting in kollel, the balabatim who run to shiur before or after work and the retired men who after years of working are now spending their time in a yeshiva setting. How much do we appreciate the rabbanim who lead our communities? Do we thank them for their time, for their hours of service?

What generation has had access to so much – shiurim on a variety of levels, website where one can download divrei Torah, at no charge? When in our history were there any so many schools to choose from? When did we ever have so many interesting speakers, teaching Torah on a daily basis?

There is so much knowledge available, and yet, many of us don’t even stretch out a hand to grab onto it. So many opportunities, yet we don’t care. So many lessons, yet we never take them in. We chase after a government. We chase after their way of life. How many names of gedolim do you know?

This lesson is clearly evident in the Purim story. The spiritual leader of the time, Mordechai, advised the Jews not to attend to royal party. The Jews scorned his opinion, claiming he was “an old Rabbi, stuck in ancient times and unaware of the political dues they had to pay.” Then tragedy struck, and all the Queens connections were worth nothing; what saved them was following the “old leader’s” suggestion to pray and fast.

We can chase after all the political leaders we want, but at the end of the day, what will save us is the Torah learning of our talmidei chachamim and of our young children.

It’s the season. It’s Thanksgiving – let us give thanks for what we have that actually matters: our Squanto, the people who throw away careers, throw away sleep and are there, twenty four hours a day, supporting our world with Torah.

Chazal teach, “Asay licha Rav”; I’ve heard it paraphrased numerous times to, “Asay licha Rebbetzin.” Each of us needs a guide or a mentor who can see clearly when we can’t.

Alti Bukalov

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/teens-twenties/thanking-our-squantos/2012/11/22/

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