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December 25, 2014 / 3 Tevet, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein’

Several Christians and a Rabbi Deplores Persecution of Christians

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

The American Freedom Alliance, a Los Angeles based think-tank and activist network, held a forum and rally last Sunday at the Luxe Bel Air Hotel in LA, and Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson of BOND, an organization helping “men and their families regain control of their lives and overcome life’s challenges,” released statements about the event on Wednesday to bring attention to the growing persecution of Christian communities in many parts of the world today.

The forum centered on Christian communities throughout the world who are suffering “greater persecution today than at any time since the days of the early Roman Empire.”

The U.K.’s Baroness Caroline Cox of the Humanitarian Activist Relief Trust (HART) and Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein of the Simon Wiesenthal Center also presented their findings of persecutions around the world.

The forum featured presentations by Paul Marshall and Lela Gilbert (authors of Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians, 2013), and Raymond Ibrahim, (author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians, 2013).

The Price We Pay For Contempt

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

A monastery in Israel is desecrated, almost certainly by nationalist extremists.

The desecration was condemned by the prime minister and others in the government. Chief Rabbi Metzger called it a “heinous deed.” The Internal Security minister did not hesitate to use the word “terror” and announced the formation of a special police unit to combat it. Many people traveled to the monastery to personally apologize, including Rabbi Dov Lipman of Beit Shemesh, who took brush in hand to help scrub the offensive words from the walls.

Short of undoing the damage by way of a time machine, you could not ask for a stronger response. But in a harsh statement that was picked up around the world, Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa lashed out at haredim – and others – for creating the climate that stimulates attacks on Christians in Israel.

Fr. Pizzaballa is the custodian of all Christian holy sites in Israel on behalf of the Vatican. I know him, and he is an honorable man. He is fair-minded and ordinarily not given to harsh words against Israel. I called him myself after learning of the attack to express, on behalf of the Simon Wiesenthal Canter, our shame as Jews that this would happen in a Jewish state. (He was abroad, but the message was relayed to him, and he received it with thanks.)

While I don’t believe there is really any link between haredi education and this attack, I cannot dismiss his feelings – nor his observations about attitudes toward Christians.

He has complained before about spitting incidents directed at him and his colleagues in the Old City. We called at the time to apologize, and to see if there was any way we could intervene. A colleague sat with him in his office for an hour-long amicable conversation. We had hoped that the problem would subside, especially after a strong statement from the Badatz. Apparently it hasn’t.

So what we have is a message, beamed to the world, that “real” Jews – the ones who look the part and believe in the traditions of the Bible, etc. – despise Christians and treat them like dirt. This despite decades of support from large numbers of Christians as the most reliable advocates for the Jewish state. How’s that for gratitude!

Should we speculate on how many pro-Palestinian websites will make fine capital of this, or restrict ourselves to worrying about the hundreds of right-wing anti-Semitic sites in Europe and the U.S. that will do so?

What could have been accurately written off as the work of extremist kids, not condoned by a majority within their own community, is now on record as an assessment that believing Jews despise believing Christians.

Do we need this? And is Fr. Pizzaballa wrong about a climate of intolerance? I’m not sure he is. Don’t we indeed evidence too much contempt for others? We often treat our own with contempt, for dressing a bit different, or espousing a view we see as wrong.

I can’t even guess which contempt comes first – do we first show contempt for the person who uses/does not use the eruv, and then extend it with a kal v’chomer to non-Jews, and then even further with another kal v’chomer to non-Jews who hold theological beliefs we oppose with heart and soul?

Or do we begin with the outsiders, and then move closer to the outliers, as the bitterness of contempt inexorably spreads through more of our emotional apparatus?

It almost doesn’t matter. The point is that contempt, springing from (in our circles) a glorification of bitul, backfires. It endangers us as a community, because when we are contemptuous of others, others learn to reciprocate.

Every negative attitude we harbor becomes a focus of public attention. In a world of insatiable curiosity and easy communication, not even our thoughts remain private very long.

More important, it seeps into our middos in ways we do not (or should not) like. And it is no consolation that we are not “worse” than other communities. That is not the way they judge us; it is not the way we judge ourselves; it is not the way God judges us.

Can we not convey firm and confident difference without showing contempt? When a child sees a Christian cleric on a Yerushalayim street, bedecked in his strange-looking garb, does his parent help his understanding and development by saying something disparaging about the person and/or his beliefs? Wouldn’t the child (and our community) learn far more if the parent spoke about people who look for Hashem in different ways, and how fortunate we are that we have a Torah to show us how to do it, and how one day all people on earth will learn to serve Hashem the way He wants them to?

Hasbara In The Rubble

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Berachah – blessing – says the Gemara, is found only in things that remain unwatched and out of sight. Hasbara – the way Israel explains itself to the world – might be in better shape taking a cue from that Gemara.

Every few years marketing pundits come up with a new strategy for hasbara, claiming the old one was all wrong and the new one will work better. Perhaps the most infamous sea change in hasbara took place a few years ago, when marketers decided Israel should brand itself as a “fun” place and undo all the old stodgy stereotypes. We know how well that worked.

It is unfair to blame Israel. Its job is to fight on the military front, and we daveneach day for the success of its soldiers. The second front, that of public opinion, should be fought by Jews around the world. There is only so much a small country with limited resources can do. (Friends in the Foreign Ministry like to remind me that the yearly hasbara budget for the ministry is less than the advertising budget of Israel’s leading yogurt producer.)

Yet the most effective tools sometimes are the ones that remain hidden from sight, never having been promoted as hasbara instruments. A few weeks ago I witnessed one of these in action.

Around this time each year, dozens of cities host “Honor Israel” nights in which Christian friends of Israel gather to show their support for the Jewish state and the Jewish people. As a staffer at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, I was invited to Grand Rapids, Michigan to update such a gathering about BDS – the boycott, divestment and sanctions strategy that Palestinians have been counting on to turn public opinion away from Israel. When I arrived, I learned that someone who happened to be nearby had been added to the program.

Major Liron Shapira is a career IDF officer. A kibbutznik, he served in a combat force and then decided he was ready for new challenges. He switched to the IDF search-and-rescue (SAR) unit. When the earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, Liron deployed with the IDF team that was one of the most vaunted success stories of the international relief effort.

Liron was not in the U.S. on a hasbara assignment for the IDF. He was the partnering with a U.S. military unit he held in high esteem. In several ways he struck a different figure from the type of Israeli spokespeople Americans often encounter. He was soft-spoken, tentative rather than certain, and strikingly humble. No airs or pretensions at all. All of this made his effort devastatingly effective.

His audio-visual presentation told the story of the entire operation as seen by the SAR people, as opposed to the medical personnel who took over once survivors were located and transported. Preserving footage of some of the most difficult extractions from the rubble demonstrated the competence of the Israeli team, but small vignettes he included offered the greatest insight into the Israeli soul.

He showed pictures of backslapping between members of different SAR teams, but also pointed out the differences between them. On one occasion, cutting through concrete was hampered by embedded iron rods. His platoon did not have the instrument it needed to reach a trapped survivor, but he knew of several others that did. He only went to groups he knew possessed at least two of the tools. Nonetheless, each of them turned down his request to borrow the tool.

Liron detected a casualness about human life even among these lifesavers – with one exception. The U.S. team shared the same regard for human life, he said. Liron’s voice expressed genuine anguish and childlike innocence in relating this and similar stories. How could people not respond to the opportunity to save a life?

Even in dealing with death, the different groups displayed their prejudices. He showed pictures of large buildings reduced to piles of rubble, with bodies openly lying in the debris days after the quake. No one stopped to cover them until the Israelis chanced upon them. (A Midrash praises King David for returning to the battlefield the day after victory for the single purpose of burying the enemy dead.)

In Elul, We All Need To Be Kids Of Courage

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

The one hundred and thirty children and young adults share two things. They are all Jewish, and they all contend daily with serious and debilitating illness. Many of them have done so all of their lives. You would think spending time with them would provide the ultimate mussar ride for Elul, an in-your-face confrontation with your own mortality, and the need to be grateful to God for life itself and the parts of it we take for granted.

You might think so, but you would be wrong. It’s not the ultimate ride at all. It may be the teeter-totter compared to the Montezuma’s Revenge of lessons you can garner from these kids.

In the three years he was supposed to be sitting in classrooms at Cardozo Law School, my son Ari – together with some valiant and dedicated partners – built up Kids of Courage, gradually offering larger and more exciting programs for young people who face challenges you don’t want to know about. They include the Jewish genetic diseases, as well as the alphabet soup of development gone awry – CP, MD, CR, etc. And of course, various cancers. Some conditions are so rare they have no names and no medical literature.

Armies are never better than their supply lines. When Kids of Courage moves, two lines move out with them, offering complex medical as well as logistical support. The sight of over a hundred kids, many in wheelchairs hooked up to elaborate apparatus, but all smothered with attention and love by their volunteer counselors (everyone – with the sole exception of a part-time secretary – in Kids of Courage is a volunteer) overwhelms the adults who meet up with them.

An entire continental jet couldn’t contain them all on the recent flight from Newark to Los Angeles that launched their expedition to the West Coast. Illusionist David Blaine turned up for the ride, and entertained en route. Nothing thereafter could curb their enthusiasm, or limit the Kiddush Hashem they made. Katie Couric sent a video crew, and CBS will be doing a segment on them. The Major League Baseball Network will be running clips about them for two weeks, taken from their appearance at an Angels game.

Returning from that game, the kids were taken, unannounced, to the block of Mann’s (Grauman’s) Chinese Theater where twelve Lamborghinis pulled in behind the buses, and their owners spent three hours hurtling them down Hollywood Boulevard. Tourists, expecting to be entertained by the over-the-top atmosphere of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, were instead enthralled by the sight of three hundred young people, led by identifiably frum counselors, singing and gyrating with a joy that has nothing to do with what is usually celebrated in LaLaLand. They stopped to watch and to photograph, as did the tourist buses. So did a media pool, resulting in clips of the event appearing on television stations across the country.

The Lamborghini owners were so impressed that when their tour of duty ended, they followed the buses to a Beverly Hills home for a barbecue, where Lakers legend AC Green presented “Oscars” to the kids, making each one feel like a superstar. (Green was a good choice as a supermensch – he’s clung to deeply religious values, maintaining them even when taunted by teammates.)

This was one day out of nine. Kids of Courage went to Disneyland, Knotts, Universal, a water park, Venice Beach, and spent a beautiful Shabbos with Shloime Daskal.

Wherever they went, they radiated enthusiasm, forcing it inexorably on those who witnessed it.

Those witnesses could easily have missed the real point. They didn’t see the transition. They couldn’t see that some of the kids were apprehensive on Day One, withdrawn, timid, quiet, and justifiably locked into their own problems and concerns as surely as their malfunctioning bodies held them captive. They couldn’t see that a day or two or three later, the same kids came alive with spirit and confidence. Disneyland didn’t do that. Carefully thought-through chesed, offered lovingly by counselors and staff after much deliberation and planning that was born of much experience, did that. This afforded them an opportunity to be as fully human as anyone else out there, sometimes for the first time in their lives.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/in-elul-we-all-need-to-be-kids-of-courage/2010/09/01/

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