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December 19, 2014 / 27 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘politicians’

Living Respectfully among Non-Jews: an Open Letter to Jewish Parents

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

What would you do if you learned that a small group of people threatened to make Jewish life in our communities less inviting and secure? Would you be concerned enough to learn about them, warn your children about them, and try to blunt the damage these people are doing? And what if “these people” turned out to be ourselves?

The dismissive, uncivil, and disrespectful attitudes and behavior too many of us show to our neighbors threaten our collective future.

Our job at the Simon Wiesenthal Center is to stay on top of trends around the world. Our work takes us around the globe, advocating for Jewish and for human-rights causes. We meet with world leaders, government officials on all levels, and elite cadres of civil society. We have seen the hydra of anti-Semitism regenerate with renewed strength, too often met in the mainstream with apathy, even acceptance.

Campaigns against shechitah need not always be anti-Semitic, but they have been inspired by Norwegian politicians who simultaneously defended whale-hunting while calling kosher slaughter “a blood orgy.” Some people may decide hey are not interested in the medical advantages of milah, but when a national ombudsman for children’s rights in Oslo tells you to your face that it cannot be justified as a religious ceremony because it is a form of “barbaric abuse,” it is time to worry.

Across Europe, the lid has come off the demons repressed for a few decades after the Holocaust.

Yes, you might say, but we live in North America, far from those forms of overt and dangerous threats. But that is our point. We live, b’chasdei Hashem, in a bubble – one that we threaten to burst ourselves.

Not that anti-Semitism doesn’t exist in the Goldene Medinah, but its harshest manifestations are mostly relegated to the margins, and it has not derailed the decades of remarkable Orthodox growth since World War II.

We have, baruch Hashem, built thriving, bustling communities, full of schools, shuls and social service providers. We in the U.S. and Canada have learned to be more confidently assertive. Through the pioneering efforts of Agudah and the OU, we are a presence in state capitol buildings, in the White House and in Ottawa. Kippot appear on the heads of public officials and in sitcoms, and Yiddishisms don’t need to be explained to our fellow citizens.

We have built up huge amounts of good will with many neighbors and politicians and don’t think twice about leveraging that hard-earned good will to accommodate our needs. We ask for – and expect – that testing schedules will revolve around our holidays, that garbage pickups will bend for Pesach, that parking tickets will not be issued when halacha won’t allow us to move our vehicles.

More important, we have come to rely on the largesse of the government and our neighbors for all kinds of support we now take for granted: reimbursement for mandated school services, textbooks, welfare and housing stipends, grants for senior centers and special-needs children. To ensure that the perks keep coming, we build upon our network with politicians, appear at the right public forums, and bundle contributions – just like every other organized interest group.

Observant Jews are no longer seen or treated as a small, quaint, community clinging to its ancient ways on America’s margins. We are mainstream, swimming alongside others in a fishbowl. Our neighbors, the media, and politicians pay attention – not because they hate us but because we are part of society’s fabric. No one should be surprised, then, that our faults and foibles – true or exaggerated – are splashed across headlines and cable news.

Most good people (and the bad ones are in the minority) do not expect perfection. They do expect menschlichkeit and respect – respect for laws and for the rule of law itself. They expect us to show pride in the appearance of our houses and streets, and other good-neighborly behavior. They expect to be valued and treated as respected human beings, just as we expect that of them.

Too often, though, we don’t think in these terms and we do not deliver. The resulting chillulei Hashem, both miniscule and large, weaken our Torah values, erode our shem tov, and potentially threaten our future.

We entirely understand the derision and contempt displayed to non-Jews by some Holocaust survivors. They experienced firsthand unfathomable atrocities, often committed by non-Jewish neighbors they had trusted. But we, the children and grandchildren of those survivors, know full well the difference between their experience and ours – yes, even the difference between one group of people and another. We also know of many survivors whose personal experiences were also horrific and yet they always displayed impeccable graciousness to all human beings.

Some of us, however, continue to speak – and think – disparagingly of every non-Jew. Besides being wrong in a Torah context, this attitude, in our opinion, is suicidal. It will bring catastrophe upon us, as the realities of the new economy will mean more and more groups competing for a shrinking pot of available public funds and resources. We are going to need to generate greater good will from our neighbors. The near-daily allegations of financial irregularities and cheating on government programs don’t help, making the forging of long-term coalitions that much more difficult.

Please don’t get us wrong. We are not saying that what we have described is the majority attitude in our community. Far from it. It is a minority one, but it threatens to engulf us all.

So why are we writing this? Because the attitudes children develop about their neighbors is considerably more reflective of what they learn from family than what they hear in school.

We both had elders in our extended families who survived the violent and genocidal hate of Tsarist Russia and Nazi Germany. Yet we were inculcated to show derech eretz to all people, not only “unzere.”

That is why we are taking this plea to Jewish parents. As parents, you try to give your children every advantage. If, God forbid, Mashiach does not arrive soon, and your children spend years of their lives in what Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, called the “medinah shel chesed,” you want them to live in a hospitable environment. But that will not be the case unless you educate them better than they have been educated until now in how to live respectfully among non-Jews.

Teach your children how different Americans are relative to, say, people in Saudi Arabia, Greece, or Spain. Speak to them about our great mission of Kiddush Hashem, and the severity of Chillul Hashem. Speak to them also about the practical consequences of being part of a minority whose future will be rockier without strong alliances with our neighbors.

An aphorism of a previous generation was, “If Jews won’t make Kiddush, non-Jews will make Havdalah.” It meant that if Jews, who have a special mission to live by Hashem’s instructions and be an ohr lagoyim (a light to the nations), don’t live up to His expectations, He will use non-Jews to remind us – sometimes in unpleasant ways.

Today those words have additional meaning. If we won’t act toward our neighbors with Kiddush Hashem, we will be spurned and shunned by them. This will impact negatively on so much that has been so important in the building of our Orthodox communities.

Bottom line: Let parents lead the way in raising our children to always show humanity and decency. It’s time – for those of us who have not already done so – to mensch up.

July 4 Entebbe Memories

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

Growing up, I lived on a main street that was closed each July 4th. We had to remember to pull the car to a side street or give up going anywhere for many hours. For the most part, we pulled out the chairs and sat right on the curb as police marched by, girl scouts, politicians, fire trucks, boy scouts, baton-twirling teams, the high-school band and more.

Some threw us candy – we threw candy back and cheered them on. This was almost always the memory I have – that and the neighbors across the street preparing for their annual barbecue and sometimes going to see fireworks over the river.

One year stands out in my mind. I was 15 years old; it was 1976. We had gone to celebrate America’s 200th birthday by watching the tall ships sail down the Hudson River. We had brought a radio with us to listen to the broadcasters describe each ship…but more, days before Palestinian and German terrorists had hijacked a French plane and landed it in Entebbe, Uganda.

I was sick thinking of how they had separated the Jewish and Israeli passengers; releasing the Christian ones. That a German terrorist was involved in this separation brought home again the knowledge that the Holocaust will never really leave us.

I will forever remember that the French crew was offered the chance to leave with the Christians… and chose to stay. The deadline was approaching. The terrorists were threatening to kill the passengers. At any moment, I expected to hear that explosions and gunfire had been heard coming from the compound.

And as we sat watching the ships…the radio broke the news – explosions and gunfire. I thought I was hearing the end of what would be remembered as a terrible tragedy…and then there was confusion. It seemed a rescue attempt had been launched by Israel. Israel? But the hostages were in Africa, in Uganda?

It was, the radio quickly pointed out, a daring operation. The Israeli air force had flown 1,500 miles under the radar, undetected. They’d landed in Entebbe, and the hostages were free. The ships sailed quietly along the Hudson but those of us listening to that radio were distracted, desperate to hear what was happening. It was the first time in days I felt like smiling, like cheering – and as I looked at the ships, I thought – this is freedom…here on the river, and there in Africa.

My ears listened to the reports – some casualties but most of the hostages, almost all of them were free and being taken back to Israel…and my eyes followed the ships gracefully glided down the Hudson. My heart sang with such joy. I remember crying – but they were tears of relief. I had expected 100 dead, not 100 freed.

Yoni Netanyahu – commander of the operation and older brother of the current prime minister, gave his life bringing the passengers home. He epitomized the Israeli army officer. Follow me, he told his men. He led them in and was the first and only Israeli army soldier to fall. He died on the plane flying home, despite desperate efforts to save his life. There is a sense of peace knowing that in his last moments, he must have known that he had succeeded. He had risked all for the freedom of others, for his people – those who no one else but Israel could have saved.

July 4 has, for the last 37 years, been entwined with that memory. The tall ships and the radio. The crackling announcements of what was happening in Entebbe and the strange feeling of being in two places – both symbolizing the very same concept – a commitment to be free and to ensure the safety and freedom of all.

Freedom comes, too often, with a price. It can, at times, be a huge and painful one. But we are free today – in the United States and in Israel, because there are brave men and women who will risk all to fight against tyranny. Those who will march against evil, stand against the tide.

May God bless the United States of America with continued strength and freedom. May it always be a land where evil is wrong; where equality and justice are honored; where life is something to be valued.

May God bless the soldiers of America and the soldiers of Israel who fight so that we can all live our lives in freedom and know that if there are those who rise up against us, who attempt to take from us that which we value, that which we love, that which we are – our soldiers will protect us, fight for us, even fall for us.

And may God bless the memory of Yonatan Netanyahu, who died 37 years ago and is remembered, to this day, for the lives he saved, for the many he brought home.




What’s With all the Peace Talk?

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

The politicians are threatening us with more of their faux “peace.” Some of the recent headlines:

PM: Israel will become bi-national without peace

Olmert hails Arab peace proposal as ‘historic opportunity’

Labor: We would join coalition for peace treaty

The Borovsky family is still sitting shiva, in the first week of mourning for Evyatar Borovsky  who was stabbed and shot to death by an Arab terrorist just the other day, and our politicians refuse to understand that it’s all these “peace gestures” and agreements which encourage and enable Arab terrorism.

Yesterday I took some American friends who had never been in my neck of the woods, aka the “west bank” [sic] to visit my daughter in Ofra.  Ofra is about a twenty minute drive north of Jerusalem’s “city line.”  They had lots of questions and comments.

First of all when we passed the Jerusalem lightrail, I made sure to explain the route which goes through Arab neighborhoods.  They were pretty surprised when they saw all of the empty land along the way.

“What about Jews destroying Arab homes to build theirs?”

“It’s not true; just look at how empty the land is here.  There is definitely room for all to leave in true peace.”

When you’re going to Ofra, Shiloh, Eli, or even Sha’ar Binyamin, which is much closer to Jerusalem there is only one tricky junction.  I explained that we must take the “middle road” of the roundabout/traffic circle, even though it may be easy to miss.  If you go to the right, it’s ok, you’ll go to Adam and just exit and turn right, but if you go to the left, you’ll go to Ramallah.

“What’s the problem in going to Ramallah?”

“You may be murdered.”

“Why?”

“Arabs are encouraged to be angry and justify the murder of Jews, so it’s not safe.  On most of the roads here, both Jews and Arabs travel, but there are some only for Arabs.  That’s Israeli apartheid.”

They noticed the difference in housing.

“What large gorgeous homes there are here.  Who lives in  them?”

“Arabs”

“What?  We always hear that the Arabs are poor and suffering.”

“The Arabs don’t need permits and building engineer inspections. They build what they want.”

As we passed Givat Asaf they asked:

“And what are those poor tiny structures?”

“Those are cardboard homes, aka caravans.  Jews live there.”

“Why should anyone want to live like that?”

And so it went, the questions and my almost incomprehensible answers during the short ride to Ofra.  They discovered that real life here is nothing like the news reports and the politicians’ speeches. One of them had been in Israel for a period of months over thirty years ago, and she does remember the days, pre-peace when Jews could visit, shop, etc., freely and safely in Arab towns, cities and neighborhoods.

This “peace” the politicians and media are touting only causes more death and destruction for Jews.

Visit Shiloh Musings.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/shiloh-musings/whats-with-all-the-peace-talk/2013/05/02/

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