In all likelihood, the vast majority of Jews throughout this world will not be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day this Shabbat. The amount of our people who will make a point to hoist a “McGuiness” at any of the three Shabbat meals later this week will undoubtedly hardly constitute a minyan. Nevertheless, it might behoove us to know that the monopoly for smiling does not belong to Irish eyes.

I have no idea how many Jews in this country know who served as the first Chief Rabbi of the nascent State of Israel. Whatever that number might be, I’m certain that far fewer Jews are aware that Rabbi Yitzchak Herzog (born in Lomza, Poland in 1888) served as the Rabbi of Belfast and ultimately rose to the position of Chief Rabbi of Ireland, before moving to Israel in 1936 to succeed Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook as Chief Rabbi of Israel. Rabbi Herzog’s fluency in Irish was such that he was dubbed the “Sinn Fein Rabbi” (literally “We ourselves,” it was adopted as the name for the political wing of the Irish Republican Army.) Rabbi Herzog’s Irish-born son later served as Israel’s sixth President; his grandson and namesake, aka Bougie, rose in political power only to lose to Benjamin Netanyahu in the last national election.

A great affinity toward Israel on the part of the Irish government, there isn’t. One would think that, politically speaking, Irish leaders would look at Israel for inspiration; one would think that Irish leaders would see the daily struggle of Israel against terrorism ever since its founding 70 years ago as something they could relate to. Unfortunately, Irish leaders have instead chosen the “poor Palestinians” as their soulmates. This perhaps explains why formal relations between the two, Ireland and Israel, were not established until 1975 and why it wasn’t until the very end of 1993 that Ireland permitted Israel to open its embassy in Dublin. You know things could be much better when a few years back, unnamed sources from the Israeli Foreign Ministry claimed that “Ireland (is the) most hostile country toward us in Europe.” Politics, however, is politics and business is business. In 2010, Israeli imports from Ireland approached $520 million and exports to Ireland stood at $81 million. Israeli exports to Ireland include machinery and electronics, rubber and plastics, chemicals, textiles, optical/medical equipment, gems, and fruit and vegetables. Irish exports to Israel include machinery and electronics, chemicals, textiles, and foodstuffs.

However representative a government ought to be of its people, it’s heartening to know that not all Irish have adopted such a cool attitude toward Israel. In fact, there is a group of Irish people committed to understanding and supporting Israel’s security needs. That group proudly calls itself “Irish 4 Israel.” Among other objectives, its raison de etre is to counteract much of the hatred and lies spread in the name of “truth” within certain segments of Irish society and to ensure that Israel’s conflict with Palestinian terrorists along with their sponsors and enablers receives fair and impartial coverage from the Irish media.

As Erin Go Bragh rings loud and clear this Saturday in Irish neighborhoods throughout this country, as well as elsewhere in the world, it might very well be a propitious time for us to invoke Am Yisroel Chai. Whether the wish is “Ireland forever” or the “Jewish People Lives,” the sentiment is pretty much the same. May the Road of Peace rise up to greet us both.


Be still my heart! Is it true that at the request of Her Majesty’s Government, the Duke of Cambridge – aka Prince William – will be embarking on what appears to be state visit to Israel?

There is a Yiddish expression: “Az meh lebbt, derlebbt men.” Loosely translated, it means, if you live long enough, you will live long enough to see everything. The upcoming trip will be the first time there has been a state visit by the British since the Royal Army departed Haifa Port in May 1948, thereby ending 21 years of British rule. Up until now, whenever Israeli officials have visited 10 Downing Street and extended an invitation to reciprocate with a state visit to Israel, without fail, the British have answered: “When the time is right.”

Mah Nishtanah? Why is this year different from all other years? A political analyst, I’m not. Nevertheless, I cannot help but feel that there are at least three reasons for “dispatching the duke.” Regardless of how one views the American decision to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, most will agree that it has produced positive repercussions throughout the world. Seeing that such a move did not result in any Arab rising, realizing that the mantra Itbah al Yahud (murder the Jew) did not pierce the air over the Gaza Strip, governments of various countries have been rethinking their concern that such a move would be catastrophic throughout the Arab world, making their countries perfect targets for “humiliated Arab militants.” Put differently, other countries may be taking the approach of “if it’s good enough for Uncle Sam, it’s good enough for me.” This is not to suggest that Britain has any plans to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv. It does appear however, that Jerusalem has achieved a higher level of “political kashrut” in the eyes of world leaders.

Perhaps it’s time for the British to stop the charade they have been playing. The unofficial boycott of Israel that has been in place for these past 70 years was due in no small part because of the indignation on the part of the British toward Zionist extremists (Lehi and the Irgun) who (finally) dared to retaliate against the British for sending Jews to the gallows for crimes committed against the (British) government. It’s not just that time heals all wounds; it’s that over the years, the British have made state visits to Kenya as well as other countries where anti-colonialist combatants have carried out even more heinous executions against the British. Such a double standard on the part of the British is intolerable as well as indefensible.

Thirty years ago, Princess Alice of Battenburg (great-grandmother of the Duke) who proudly wore the designation of righteous Gentile bestowed upon her by Yad VaShem for providing a home and shelter for the Cohen family, as the Nazis were hunting down Jews, was reinterred in Jerusalem. In accordance with the request set forth in her will, her remains were taken from Saint Georges Chapel at Windsor Castle and placed in the Convent of Saint Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives. Since that time, there has been any number of clandestine visits by the Royal family. When Prince Charles was in Jerusalem for the funeral for Shimon Peres (an unofficial visit) it was prearranged that he slip away and visit the grave of his paternal grandmother. It was only after the Prince of Wales had departed back to England that the press was permitted to disclose that he had performed the “mitzvah” of “Kever Avot.” Perhaps it’s time for the British to stop this hypocrisy as well.

And so, from the bottom of my heart, I say “cheers” to the “Duke” which roughly can be translated as Todah Rabbah!


I’ve come to the conclusion that a steady diet of kielbasa (Polish sausage) causes one to go soft in the head. How else can one explain the recent suggestion of Jaroslaw Sellin, Poland’s Deputy Minister of Culture that a “Polocaust” Museum be erected to honor the victims of Nazi genocide between the years 1939-1945? With the recent passage of a law warning of a monetary fine or incarceration or both for anyone who dares to suggest that the Nazis had an accomplice in the Polish people, as it systematically murdered three million Polish Jews and others, doesn’t Pan (Polish for Mr.) Jaroslaw realize that he’s adding fuel to a fire that was recklessly started?

If Pan Jaroslaw truly wanted to ameliorate a situation that has Jewish leaders world over up in arms, then perhaps thought ought to be given to building a Jewish Heritage Museum in Warsaw or Lodz or Krakow or Kielce? With a rich history spanning over a millennium (in 1264, Boleslaw V actually invited Jews from other countries to settle in Poland), Pan Jaroslaw should have no problem in amassing material that would fill a museum faster than you can say “Jak se mas” (Yak Shemash – Polish for “what’s up.”)

Thanks to our illustrious past in Poland, we Jews can proudly point to a wealth of literature – both religious and secular – that had, and continues to have, an impact on us that is beyond measure. The definitive Talmud (The Vilner Shas) was originally printed in Vilna (Vilnius) when it was part of Poland. Rabbi Moshe Isserless, the (Ashkenazic) redactor of the Shulchan Aruch or Code of Jewish Law lived in Cracow, Poland. The Magen Avraham, a renowned commentator of the Shulchan Aruch hailed from the Polish town of Gombin. On the secular front, great novelists such as Peretz of Bontshe the Silent fame and Sholem Asch, who has left an indelible mark on yours truly with his trilogy (assailable in English translation,) Three Cities can lay claim to Polish ancestry as well.

Close to 30 years ago, I was sitting across the table from a native Pole in a coffee house in Warsaw, as an ensemble was tunic up. “Kapelye, tak?”  “An ensemble, correct”, I asked in Polish. My knowledge of the Polish language is admittedly fairly limited. But one thing I do know. In Jewish music you can find many elements of Polish folk music. The instruments, the key, the tempo all sound eerily familiar. Yet, this should come as no surprise, given how our people living in Poland were influenced by the greater culture.

You don’t have to be fluent in Yiddish to have used words such as “schmatte” (rag) or “farblondget” (lost, geographically), but both words find their roots in Polish. Even though the Yiddish language contains any number of slavisms such as “kishke” and “polke”, there are a goodly number of Yiddish words that are uniquely Polish in origin.

Last, but not least, the recipes of the many ethnic foods we eat, find their origins in the Slavic countries of Europe. A food maven, I am not. I would be hard pressed to tell you exactly which country spawned gefilte fish as we know it, or stuffed cabbage or kreplach or latkes. I would be quite surprised, however, if Poland couldn’t make a claim as the birth place for some of the dishes we claim to be uniquely Jewish.

Pan Jaroslaw. Play it safe. Play it smart. The Holocaust is a “lose-lose” proposition for Poland. Why emphasize the negative when it comes to Jews in Poland? Why not emphasize the positive? Given the centuries that preceded the Nazi invasion of Poland in September 1939, there is no shortage of areas in which Poland richly contributed to and enriched Jewish life. Let Poland bring a smile to Jews worldwide who typically grimace the mention of its very name.


It sickens me that the mass onslaught at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida last week will in all likelihood not be the last time an out of control individual snuffs out the lives of innocents who in all likelihood never even knew their assailant, much less meant him any harm. It sickens me to realize the time, effort and energy the people of this country expend on useless and meaningless recrimination in the aftermath of a mass killing.

As one who has been a “first responder” when hearts have been broken and lives have been shattered, I would like to suggest that when needless tragedy strikes, there are meaningful and constructive steps we can take.

Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan (1839-1933) better known as the Chofetz Chaim has been known for his time and energy devoted against “Loshen Hara” or gossip and more specifically slander. He understood only too well the deleterious effects character assassination had on people. I have every reason to believe that the Chofetz Chaim would be left speechless at the hyper rapid speed achievable nowadays when it comes to character assassination, thanks to the internet. Called cyberbullying, victimized students have in some cases responded through suicide and even homicide when their characters have been sullied through “Loshon Hara.” A recent cause celebre has been for concerned citizens to take up the cudgel against pornography on the internet and its effect on teenagers. That’s perfectly fine. Yet, I’m not aware of any student taking an assault weapon, entering his school and randomly snuffing out the lives of other students after having been exposed to pornography on the internet. Perhaps equal, if not greater effort should be mustered by concerned citizens against “Loshen Hara” or cyberbullying than is being mustered against pornography.

A good many American presidents had dreams for this country. For Franklin Roosevelt, it was a “New Deal;” for Lyndon Johnson, it was a “Great Society.” I find it unbelievable that American presidents have not been appalled by mass killings at schools, places of worship and community centers; I find it utterly disgraceful that not one President of these United States of either political party has spoken out about how horrendous and unacceptable victims of cyberbullying in our society have reacted to as well as responded to the evil of character assassination. Similarly, I find it utterly disgraceful that that not one President of the United States of either political party has spoken out against those responsible for the evil of character assassination through cyberbullying. Isn’t it time for zero tolerance to be dispensed against cyberbullying? If pollution of the atmosphere was deemed as an evil dooming our lives, shouldn’t pollution of the character also be deemed as an evil dooming our lives?

I was not quite 15 years old, when the Reverend Martin Luther King was assassinated. What I remember most, is Senator (Bobby) Kennedy announcing the assassination to an unsuspecting crowd in Indianapolis: “For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.”
Because mass killings have been taking place for the last quarter of a century, the numbers of family members whose lives have been turned upside down, probably number the hundreds, if not thousands. Let the bereaved reach out to the bereaved. Let them echo the words of Bobby Kennedy “I had member of my family killed.” Let them substantiate the teachings of our rabbinic sages who reminded us that “words that come from the heart find their way into the heart of others.”

Now is not the time for pointing fingers. Now is the time to turn with open arms to the family members of those whose lives were tragically and senselessly snuffed out.


I never met Polish President Andrzej Duda, but I have a great deal of respect for him.  “We have a right to our historical truth,” he said, after signing a law that would punish those who accuse Polish society of complicity in the Holocaust. I admire his candor. President Duda never mentioned anything about “the truth” when it came to the Holocaust; President Duda spoke about our historical truth.

I do not consider myself an expert when it comes to Poland, its people and its history, but there is one thing I do know. No different than the Jews, the Polish people see themselves as victims of Nazi inhumanity. There is a great deal of truth to the Polish self-image of victim-hood, in that the Nazis did regard Poles as sub-humans, albeit on a higher level than Jews. As far as a good many Poles are concerned, Polish complicity with the Nazis was academic. How can one be complicit when one is treated as an inferior many Polish people will argue? Therefore, there are any number of Poles who maintain that complicity with the Nazis is not up for discussion, in that it never happened.

Neither is the message of deicide, spewed for centuries by any number of Polish parish priests over the centuries, indicting all Jews for the death of their savior. That too is not up for discussion. If any generalization can be made, and generalizations typically are made when it involves war, it was Ukrainian peasants working in Auschwitz, Dachau, and any other Nazi death factory who were complicit in the Holocaust. Ukrainian peasants had far more blood on their hands than the Polish populace. Having been systematically starved to death by the millions a decade earlier, courtesy of Uncle Joe Stalin with his nationalization program, a good many Ukrainians were inured to suffering and death. Religion aside, it was any number of Ukrainians, and not Poles, who participated in the gross human injustice of shoving Jews into the gas chambers. As such, Polish President Duda was not wrong in speaking for the Polish people when he maintained that “We have a right to our historical truth.”

“Having a right to our historical truths” enables Polish President Duda to remind the world that close to 7,000 Poles have been awarded the distinction of righteous Gentiles at Yad VaShem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial. No nation other than Poland can make that claim. Among those Polish righteous gentiles, there were those who ended up paying the supreme price for aiding, abetting, and harboring Jews. One such individual was Sister Marta, a Catholic nun who was executed by the Nazis for the “crime” of rescuing Jewish families from the Slonim Ghetto and hiding them in her monastery.
Last but not least, “having a right to our historic truths” reminds us that there is more than a modicum of ethnocentricity when it comes to wars. It is this ethnocentricity that defines how we refer to a war. To wit: The War of Independence that a fledgling Jewish nation was caught up in immediately upon proclaiming statehood in May 1948, is referred to by the Arabs in countries surrounding Israel as “Al Naqba” or “the catastrophe.” Put differently, what is arguably remembered as the proudest day in the twentieth century for Jews world-wide is recalled as the most calamitous day in the twentieth century for Arabs worldwide.  However much it may pain us, however justified we may be, it is simply not within our purview to tell the Polish people, or any other people involved in World War II, how to define the years 1939-1945. If the Polish government remembers World War II completely differently than the way we Jews remember World War II – if the Polish government subsequently passes a law to punish those who accuse it of complicity in the Holocaust – as a sovereign nation, they have that right, regardless of how wrong we Jews consider them to be.


The other week, Karen and Mike, known to some of us as Vice President and Mrs. Pence were in Israel. During their relatively brief stay, they visited Yad VaShem, Israel’s memorial to the six million whose lives were snuffed out by the Nazis and their henchmen. It was there in front of the eternal flame, that Mr. Pence inflamed more than a few of our people. While paying his respects to the six million, he remarked: “…three years after walking beneath the shadow of death (they) rose up from the ashes to resurrect themselves to reclaim a Jewish future.” Faster than you could say “shalom aleichem” Mr. Pence was being excoriated for introducing Christian terminology into his metaphor.

Is it such a sin to take Mr. Pence’s remarks at face value? Personally speaking, I’m amazed that the very same Jews who in all probability never heard of Rashi, much less have ever looked into even one of Rashi’s commentaries are so quick to offer commentary on the remarks of an American leader. I shudder to think how these same individuals would have reacted, had Mr. Pence remarked: “As a non-Israeli and a non-Jew, I cannot help but feel the holy spirit of the six million throughout this edifice that memorializes them.” Any number of Jewish and/or Israeli publications would have accused him of sullying the souls of the six million by invoking the trinity!

There is a disease rampant among our people. Unlike other diseases, it does not distinguish between Ashkenazic and Sefardic Jews. That disease is ignorance. As a people, we are woefully ignorant of our tradition. Jews, who have no trouble providing the name of the mother of Jesus, are completely stumped when it comes to providing the name of the mother of Moses. Mention “resurrection” and immediately Jews associate it with an event that purportedly occurred three days after the crucifixion. Yet, the very same individuals do not realize that resurrection is a concept that it is profoundly Jewish. There is a discussion in the Talmud, not whether we Jews believe in resurrection – that ought to be a foregone conclusion- but whether the source for resurrection is biblical or rabbinic. Surprise! Surprise! Resurrection of the dead is found in our prayers minimally three times a day virtually every day of the year. Why then the uproar?

Last but not least, a big “al chet” (for the sin that I have committed- part of the Yom Kippur confessional) is in order on the part of all the accusers. For argument’s sake, suppose for a moment, that Mr. Pence did in fact have Jesus in mind. If so, then I caution his accusers to think carefully before they use phrases such as: “wash one’s hands of the matter”, “blind leading the blind”, and “go the extra mile” in their daily parlance. All three expressions come from the Book of Matthew! Why then is it kosher for the same Jews who take Mr. Pence to task for using a term that is inferred being connected with Jesus, to use phrases that are unmistakably Christian in origin in their everyday speech?

Within a short time period of his Yad VaShem visit, Mr. Pence addressed the Knesset. In addition to his adulatory remarks for the Jewish State, Mr. Pence invoked the following five words: “Shehechiyanu, V’kiyimanu, V’higiyanu lazaman hazeh” (who has kept us alive, sustained us and brought us to this moment in time). Instead of a slap in the face for a questionable reference at best, perhaps Mr. Pence deserves a slap on the back for his successful and some would dare say beautiful gesture of quoting a Hebrew prayer in its original.


When the real Rosie the Riveter died last week, her passing made front page news. Wearing a polka dot bandana to protect her hair from being caught in the industrial lathe that she was operating, clad on coveralls, Rosie is photographed flexing her arm muscle. Above Rosie is the caption that reads: “We can do it”. To say that I was riveted by the three quarters of a century old poster of Rosie the Riveter would be an understatement. Truth be told, Rosie the Riveter brought to my mind a number of Jewish women throughout time, who did what few, if any others, were prepared to do or were capable of doing.

Twenty miles south of Haifa lies the city of Zichron Ya’akov. Named for the father of Baron Edmond James de Rothschild who was patron of the settlement founded in 1882, Zichron Ya’akov is where one finds the home and museum of Sarah Aaronson. One cannot help but be riveted by Sarah’s story. Abhorred and revolted by the genocide that was underway where the Turks systematically slaughtered one and a half million Armenians, Sarah, together with her two brothers Aaron and Alexander and Avshalom Feinberg, established the Nili (Netzach Yisroel Lo Ishaker- the eternal one of Israel will not lie) spy ring. They were prepared to do whatever was necessary to force the Turks out of pre-state Israel.  The three volunteered to spy on Ottoman (Turkish) positions and report them to the British. In September 1917, the Ottomans caught one of Sarah’s carrier pigeons and cracked the Nili code. In October, the Ottomans surrounded Zikhron Ya’akov and arrested Sarah and several others. After four days of torture, Sarah learned that her captors planned on transporting her elsewhere. Sarah therefore requested to be taken to her home to change her clothes. Locking herself in the bathroom, Sarah retrieved a hidden pistol and shot herself. Sarah died after several days. Three and a half months ago, the one hundredth yahrzeit of a riveting woman was observed.

Close to four decades ago, Chaya Hacker was standing in line at Hacker’s, a kosher butcher shop in Jerusalem. As she waited to be served, Chaya noticed Mr. Hacker hand a young girl a huge plastic bag filled with chicken skin and chicken fat. “How many dogs and cats are there in that young girl’s family, the one you gave that plastic bag filled with fat and skin?” asked Chaya as she was being waited on. The butcher explained that there were seven children in that family. The father was on dialysis and the family subsisted on a most meager income. Because the family had already run up a bill of astronomical proportion, the best the butcher could do was supply them with skin and fat. They made soup with it for Friday night and it served as the basis for their cholent at Shabbat lunch. “From now on, give the family chopped meat and a whole chicken every Friday and put it on my bill,” said Chaya. Mr. Hacker did more than that. He told Chaya about other families in the same dire straits. Before long, Chaya was running up a weekly bill of over $1,000 dollars as she helped 136 families in need. Who could not be riveted reading about a woman single-handedly battling poverty and apathy?

I can’t speak for others, but throughout my school years, I recall the “accusation” that those in the Concentration Camps went to their deaths like lambs to the slaughter. In addition to my “counter accusation” of how dare anyone look down on the millions who were murdered, I much prefer to look up to those whose lives were snuffed out by the Nazis and their henchmen. Regina Safirsztein was born in Bedzin, Poland. After the Nazis invaded, Regina was sent to Auschwitz. Once there, she was put to work in the munitions factory. The room where Regina and a select group of women worked was the only place where inmates had access to gunpowder. Clandestinely, Regina was recruited to join the resistance movement. Each day for over a year, at tremendous personal risk to her life, Regina would set aside a small amount of gunpowder that would be smuggled out to a group of men planning a revolt. And then it happened. On October 7th 1944, Crematorium IV of Auschwitz was blown up. It took weeks until the Nazis traced the gunpowder back to Regina and others who worked alongside her at the munitions factory. All who worked there were interrogated and tortured. Ultimately, Regina and three others were betrayed. As Regina stood at the gallows with the noose around her neck, her last words were: “Be strong!” Regina was 29 years old at the time.
The next time we cry for the six million, let it be with pride as we find ourselves riveted, recalling Regina and the others who showed undeniable defiance along with unbelievable bravery.

Rosie the Riveter appealed to our patriotism. Sarah Aaronson, Chaya Hacker, Regina Safirsztein and a good many other woman who remain unrecognized by far too many, appeal to our Jewish hearts and souls.


Although some six and a half centuries have separated the Latin phrase “Mea Culpa” and the nascent #MeToo movement, the two share more in common than one might realize. With Pope Francis pontificating contrition for the irreparable damage priests have inflicted on minors, and innumerable females revealing the unconscionable shameful acts that they claim have been perpetrated against them by disgusting and reprehensible males, perhaps it’s time to look at meaningful remorse and genuine contrition.

At the risk of being struck by a bolt of lightning, I have come to the conclusion that our sages were dead wrong as far as what they had to say about atonement and Yom Kippur. How dare they differentiate between sins against HaShem and sins against another human! Either way, HaShem was wronged!

Immediately prior to the litany of “Baruch Atah’s” that introduce the Shacharit morning service, there is a 5 ½ line prayer beginning with the words: “My G-d! The soul You have given me is pure.” As one who takes this prayer so very seriously, I maintain that prior to any apology to victims, the “despicables” – those who have violated minors in the case of clergy and those who have violated women in the case of any number of males – ought to be asking “mechilah and selichah (forgiveness and purgation) from HaShem for having sullied the pure neshomeh (soul) that HaShem entrusted to them. Clergy who cause irreparable damage on minors and males who behave in unacceptable ways with females are an affront to their creator!

A pox on Freud with his farshtinkeneh “pleasure principle.” How very pathetic is the idea that pain and pleasure are the sum total of our existence! All too often throughout the ages, pain and pleasure have played themselves out in pathetic individuals who lamely resort to the excuse, “I can’t help myself.” A beheimah (animal) can’t help itself. Humans are expected to help themselves. Violators of minors and women have sunk to levels lower than any beheimah, in that a beheimeh acts out of instinct. Violators of minors and women act out machinations. Rather than being guided by any pleasure principle, a human being, or rather a humane being, ought to be guided by the “right and wrong” principle. There are certain things that are plain wrong, shameful and detestable. And no, when it comes to male-female relationships, men do not have a monopoly on that which is wrong, shameful and detestable. Such behavior pervades females as well.

Last, but not least, despite all the marvelous inventions that continue to flood the market, no one has yet to come up with a device that measures sincerity. Religion has taught us to show remorse and contrition; society has conditioned us to apologize to those whom we have wronged. Yet, apologies are often vacuous and meaningless, especially when the apology comes from the Pope and not the priest who committed the dastardly act. Apologies are often hollow and worthless, especially when they come from the violator’s lawyer, or from a family spokesman, instead of from the violator. Sad to say, there have been more than a few occasions when apologies have benefited the perpetrator more than the victim, for it is perpetrator who has gained expiation while the victim continues to live with the scars.

Only when the violator shows contrition and remorse before G-d for sullying the pure soul given to him… Only when the violator dedicates time and resources to either help  victims or to work with other violators to get them to understand how low they have fallen… Only then will any strides be made toward hopefully seeing much less need for  Mea Culpa and #MeToo.


Back in the day, Jews living outside Israel – especially Jews in these United States – discovered a new vitamin. It was assigned the name Vitamin I. Although Vitamin I was not available in any Drug Store, or through any pharmaceutical firm, it was believed that Vitamin I (“I” stands for Israel) was just “what the doctor ordered” for any difficult Jewish teenager. A month or two in Israel – preferably working on a kibbutz – would surely straighten out your “rebel without a cause.” Unless one was under the influence of another substance, one should have realized that Vitamin I was little different than taking a few swigs of “Dr. Good.”

There is another Vitamin that was also being marketed, although not exclusively by Jews. It was assigned the name Vitamin A (not to be confused with the pre-existing Vitamin A, which is believed to have beneficial effects for the retina.) Much like Vitamin I, it was believed that Vitamin A (“A” stands for Auschwitz) was just what the doctor ordered. Not only was Vitamin A seen as being beneficial to Jewish High School students, in that it added a unique dimension to their Holocaust studies, Vitamin A was also seen as being beneficial to counteract antisemitism. Take a group of avowed anti-Semites on a tour of Auschwitz and “here comes contrition.” Unless one was under the influence of another substance, one should have realized that when dealing with anti-Semites, Vitamin A was little different than taking a few swigs of “Dr. Good.”

There is a teaching handed down to us by our rabbinic sages: “Tsarot rabbim chatzi nechamah” or “learning that there are others out there suffering with the same issue is half the battle.” We call it self-help groups. As a rookie rabbi, I recall speaking to a local chapter of Compassionate Friends, a group of parents attempting to deal with the loss of a child. At the very worst, such parents see themselves as victims of divine cruelty. Anti-Semites on the other hand, see themselves as being victimized by Jews. All the problems that plague anti-Semites are caused by Jews. Victims of that variety are not in the least bit interested in self groups; victims of that variety find it reprehensible for someone to tell them that Jews were also victims. Don’t even try to educate anti-Semites about the Holocaust. The Holocaust was a hoax! Auschwitz was part of that hoax. Bringing anti-Semites to Auschwitz, introducing them to vitamin A, is an exercise in futility.

Anti–Semites, true and tried anti-Semites, revel in self-pity and hatred of Jews. Anti-Semites, true and tried anti-Semites, are happiest when they are miserable. Their existence is predicated upon getting themselves worked up over the world-wide Jewish conspiracy of planning to take over the world. Even if bringing anti-Semites to Auschwitz isn’t an exercise in futility and actually does have a modicum of efficacy, anyone planning such an outing would be subjecting anti-Semites to cruel and unusual punishment. Introducing anti-Semites to vitamin A would be depriving them of their happiness.

Sawsan Chebli, a Berlin state legislator (Ms. Chebli is of Palestinian heritage), recently proposed that any perpetrator of antisemitism (being caught painting swastikas on synagogues and other Jewish owned buildings) be required to visit Auschwitz or other Nazi concentration camp memorial. Apparently Ms Chebli is also a firm advocate of vitamin A. I applaud her for her sincerity, but I am amazed at her naiveté. If someone is truly dedicated to fighting antisemitism, if someone really believes that an anti-Semite has an open mind and is willing to listen and learn, then why on earth would you want to take an anti-Semite to see where Jews died? For heaven’s sake, take an anti-Semite to see where Jews live! Take anti-Semites to see Israeli doctors treating Palestinian children. Take anti-Semites to visit descendants of survivors of Hitler to learn what they have on their minds. Take anti-Semites to a synagogue to hear the subject matter of a rabbi’s sermon. Chances are excellent that they will never hear any hatred being spewed at anti-Semites, much less non-Jews. Let Auschwitz serve as a memorial for those who wish to learn and remember. Let those who truly believe in combating antisemitism, expose the anti-Semite not to the way Jews died, but to the way Jews live.


American author and cultural commentator, David Brooks recently wrote an article on drivers and how their attitudes behind the steering wheel reflect to a large degree the society in which they live. As one who (legally) has been driving for close to half a century, I read his column with more than a modicum of interest. Rather than offer my own insights on driving (I do not necessarily agree with Mr. Brooks), it occurred to me that when it comes to Jews, it is not our driving that is of interest, but rather how we American Jews have been driven as a people.

Anti-Semitism has and continues to have a most powerful effect on us. Up until recently, anti-Semitism (sadly to say) was known to have brought out the best in us. Very much aware of quotas in colleges and certain professions, we as a people were driven to achieve the highest grades and performance levels imaginable – not to prove that we were as good as, but to prove that we were better than, those who saw few, if any, redeeming factors in us as a people. Today, when we are very much accepted into pretty much all aspects of American society, even looked up to and admired, anti-Semitism continues to hold its sway. On New Year’s Eve, Jaqueline Kent Cooke, daughter of Jack Kent Cooke former owner of the Washington Redskins, made a terrible mistake when she scolded Matthew Haberkorn, who together with his elderly mother, wife, and two daughters, was not putting their coats on fast enough for her in an upscale Manhattan restaurant. “Hurry up, Jew,” the irritated Ms. Cooke exclaimed. When an incredulous Mrs. Haberkorn asked for a repeat what she just said, Ms. Cooke once again said, “Hurry up, Jew! I got places to be!” (After a brief altercation outside the restaurant, Ms. Cooke turned herself in at a Police Station, where she was arrested for disorderly conduct and assault.)

Among the more interesting Yiddish (actually, it’s Hebrew) terms known to a good many American Jews is “naches,” which has been defined as pride and joy. Up until recently, American Jews, particularly those of eastern European descent, were raised knowing that their chief responsibility in life was to give their parents naches. And that’s why when Mrs. Goldstein came across Mrs. Rabinowitz walking with her two toddlers in the park and asked the ages of the little ones, Mrs. Rabinowitz responded with full confidence, “The lawyer is three and the doctor is five.” Once upon a time in America, Jews were raised with the expectation that they would be “naches givers.” Today, if “naches” is any measuring rod, family dynamics appear to have changed. Rather than give our parents “naches,” there are those of us today who are driven to give themselves naches. There are Jews throughout this country whose goal is to provide themselves with pride and joy. Sometimes it is the role they attain in the community, such as the leadership in Jewish Federation; sometimes it is the accomplishments and acquisitions with which they surround themselves. To be sure, they are looked up to by a good many. Not that this is in any way a contest, but how does being looked upon by others in the community compare to being the way one is looked upon by parents?

The first week in June of 1967 was a turning point for Jews. The stunning victory of the Six Day War imbedded Israel in our conscience. Never before had Israel defined the Jewishness of so many. Jews worldwide suddenly were viscerally driven by pride in Israel, as well as defense of Israel. Such defense of, and pride in, the Jewish homeland was not to last interminably. Within a few generations, Israel now occupies a vastly different place in the hearts of Jews throughout the world. With the vast majority of today’s world Jewry has been born in this world with Jerusalem and the Kotel (Western Wall) as givens; and with a new generation of Palestinians being brainwashed by a defiant and hateful leadership, Jews are no longer driven by a Jewish State that can do no harm. Instead, today’s Jews are driven by an Israel that they not only take for granted, but at times view as a source of consternation and embarrassment.

Far be it for me to predict the future. I feel, however, that is safe to predict that Jews throughout the world will be driven by events, factors, and attitudes that we are not yet aware of. I can only hope that as we are driven, let it be along the highways and byways of our traditions and practices, as well as roads of peace.