Moron Fest

I’m afraid that precious few would have assessed last week’s meeting sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council where we were invited to meet with (the newly installed) Bishop Edward J. Burns and (the newly installed) auxiliary Bishop Gregory Kelly as one giant “moron fest”. In my opinion however, the fictional cartoon character Bullwinkle the Moose could have done a far better job coming up with questions for our Catholic guests! To wit:

What role do you see the Catholic Church playing in Sanctuary Cities? (Had Bishop Burns not been so polite, he could have patiently explained that Christianity was founded on the concept of sanctuary cities, when Mary and Joseph took their infant son and fled to a sanctuary city in Egypt to find a haven, in that word was out that the authorities viz. King Herod was out to kill all male infants. However familiar it may sound, the King was informed of the birth of the “King of the Jews”. Herod’s paranoia set in and the life every male infant was at stake. Stated differently, Jesus was in jeopardy. So let’s not start asking our guest about sanctuary cities. Besides, I don’t recall the “synagogue” taking any position on sanctuary cities. Where I come from only someone with chutzpah would dare ask such a question.)

How do intend to attract youth to the Church? (Perhaps the Catholic Church could borrow ideas from NCSY –Orthodox, USY – Conservative, and NFTY – Reform. Word has it that there is a two year wait to join the youth organizations of any of the three branches of Judaism.)

What are you doing to address antisemitism? (Don’t you just love it when you invite someone over, then proceed to hit him over the head? A far better insult question would have been: How recently has it been, since the Catholic Church last fomented Antisemitism? Perhaps the Catholic Church should take a page out of our playbook, since we Jews seem to be doing such a bang up job addressing antisemitism.)

A modicum of seichel (Hebrew and Yiddish for common sense) would suggest that the following three questions be asked of the Monsignors:

What do you see as the three greatest challenges confronting the Catholic Church here in the United States, at this time? Doesn’t it more sense for us to learn what is on his mind, than for him to learn what is on our minds? If we have legitimate concerns for the Bishop to address, common sense dictates that we pay him a visit. Have we gone soft in the head, inviting Bishops Burns and Kelly as our guests, only to have him appear before the makings of a (Jewish) Senate Committee hearing? Any self-respecting Christian leader would have to be out of his mind to come before a group of Jews only to be hit over the head!

What non-Catholic groups do you place at the forefront, when it comes to establishing contact and why? Sure, we Jews have our share of concerns, and yes, we have our agenda. But when all is said and done, we are not the only fish in the sea. Catholic leaders have more than their share of “tzorres.” Not only is their membership down, but so is their leadership. As far as I’m concerned, Bishop Burns and Bishop Kelly deserve the biggest Yasher Koach in the world for making the time to meet with us.

Although no one expects you to be a prophet, or the son of a prophet (Amos 7:14), where do you see the Catholic Church ten years from now? An honest answer will convey whether the Bishop is an optimist, pessimist, or realist. An honest answer will tip us off on the Bishop’s goals and aspirations. An honest answer will be in response to an honest question. There is absolutely nothing wrong, and everything right, when we Jews show a Catholic leader that we are genuinely interested in him as well his religion.

Given that precious few have assessed the May 8 meeting as a “moron fest,” when meeting with leaders of other faiths, we Jews have unfortunately become experts in ensuring that non-Jews hear from us, before we are prepared to hear from them.
 

SWASTIKA STORIES

You would think that we Jews would be used to it by now. As long as Jews walk the face of this earth, there will be those who abhor us. Yet, we seem to possess this innate need to focus in on Anti-Semitism. It’s as though we aren’t happy unless we are upset by incidents of Jew hatred. It came as no surprise therefore that a Jewish website began the New Year by reporting the Top Ten Worst Anti-Semitic/Anti-Israel incidents of 2016.

Perhaps it’s time that those in the media begin reporting stories where the non-Jewish world goes out of its way to be there for us. That way, we can go through the day without being brainwashed by what we read, what we hear and what we watch that everybody hates us.

A few months back, Israel sustained substantial damage because of raging fires that were out of control. The Moriah congregation in the Ahuza neighborhood of Haifa fell victim to those fires, with its entire second floor and its roof going up in smoke…literally. Those in charge were fortunate to secure the services of a construction person who offered his services pro bono. As far as materials and supplies, the congregation was on its own. When the construction person went to get a quote for wood from Walid abu-Ahmed and Ziad Yunis his suppliers, the two Arab gentlemen took it upon themselves to donate enough wood to replace the ten tables that had been destroyed in the fire. “Jews and Arabs live together in Haifa and there is no discrimination. We must continue this coexistence and promote peace,” explained Walid abu-Ahmed.

Soon after I arrived in New York, my great-aunt was moved (against her will) from her Bronx apartment into her son and daughter in law’s home in Suburban N.J. In addition to having been cut off from her friends, my great-aunt was pretty much cut off from the world in that both her son and daughter-in –law worked full time. Unlike the Bronx, the Kosher Butcher, the grocery store and the pharmacy are not down the block in suburban N.J. But a newly retired Italian (Catholic) couple was down the block. And that couple always made sure to see if Mrs. Weinstein (my great- aunt) wanted to come to the super market with them. And that couple would call Mrs. Weinstein and make a special trip to take her to the kosher butcher so that he could get what she needed as far as chicken and ground meat and flanken (look that one up). Apparently, non-Jews going out of their way to help Jews is not news-worthy; non-Jews spray painting anti-Semitic graffiti is newsworthy.

Many years ago I received a 2 a.m. phone call on a Sunday morning from a nurse at a hospital where I served as the volunteer Jewish chaplain. An elderly Jewish man had just died and the services of a chaplain were requested. Truth be told, I was not a happy camper. But I got dressed and drove over to the hospital. When I entered the hospital room, here is what I saw: The patient lying on the bed, his wife totally distraught and Mary and Chris, neighbors of the elderly Jewish couple trying to provide comfort. Mary and Chris were newlyweds in their early to mid-twenties. Mary and Chris brought the wife to the hospital and sat with her until she was ready to leave. Mary and Chris then took the distraught wife back home but would not let her stay alone. Mary called me Sunday afternoon to ask me for guidance with regard to Shiva. Mary also wanted to know what foods would be both appropriate as well as kosher.

Anti-Semites are a fact of life. So too is the fact that there are everyday Christians and Moslems as well as all other non-Jews who go out of their way for Jews. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had some friends in the media who just might like printing stories about the latter? Wouldn’t it be nice if we had some friends in the media who do stories on non-Jewish contributions to local Federations, UJA and Israel? Who knows? It could very well plant a smile in our souls to replace that pain in our hearts that they are responsible for, thanks to their “swastika stories.”

FROM JONESBORO TO JAFFA

Exactly one hundred and fifty years ago this week, 157 men, women and children set sail from Jonesboro Maine on the Nellie Chaplin, a sailing vessel with three masts on a trans-oceanic voyage. Their destination was Jaffa (Tel Aviv had not yet been established). They were members of a sect known as Christian Lovers of Zion. Their mission was to develop the land of Israel along with its resources in preparation for the return of the Jewish people. For only then, would the time be right for the Second Coming.
The Christian settlers brought with them all sorts of agricultural equipment as well as materials for houses and anything that might be useful or necessary in securing a livelihood. They arrived in Jaffa after a journey of six weeks.
From the moment the group of 157 set foot on the soil of the Holy land, their experience was fraught with disaster. Local Ottoman government officials would not approve their occupancy, despite the fact that their leader was led to believe that the land purchase was legal and binding. Accordingly, the settlers had no choice but to pitch tents on the beach. Disease and death were by no means strangers to the group. Within the first month, three adults and nine children had succumbed to dysentery. Their first harvest was much smaller than they had anticipated and hoped for. Within two years, the majority of the group, including George Adams, their leader was forced to admit defeat and return to the United States.
Among the handful that stayed, were Rolla Floyd and his wife Docia (Theodocia). Although they had lost an infant child soon after arriving, Rolla was not about to admit defeat. With the collapse of the fledgling community in Jaffa, Rolla relocated to Jerusalem and bought a home a few blocks from what is now city center. Armed with a flair for entrepreneurship and born with tenacity that knew no bounds, Rolla saw himself as a natural when it came to providing services for those visiting and making pilgrimage to the land of Israel. Rolla soon became known as the “American” who makes it his business to conduct travelers over the Holy Land. With a retinue of Arab laborers, Rolla secured a number of row boats to ferry passengers along with their luggage from their trans-oceanic sailing vessel to shore. Once ashore, Rolla arranged lodging, travel and sightseeing.
Rolland had foresight. He brought a spring wagon (basically a covered wagon with planks for seats) along with him from Maine. When the Jaffa-Jerusalem Highway was completed within three years of his arrival, Rolla, already conversant in Hebrew, established the country’s first transportation system.
Rolla died in 1911, one day short of his 79th birthday. If you wish to see where he is buried, you can visit his grave at the Alliance Church International Cemetery in the German Colony on Emek Refaim Street in Jerusalem. If you wish to see where he lived upon arriving in the Holy Land, then pay a visit to 11 Aurbach Street in Jaffa, where one or two of the houses of the Christian Lovers of Zion have been reconstructed. Last but not least, there is a plaque in both Hebrew and English in honor of the 157 brave Christians at Charles Lore Park in Jaffa. Something to keep in mind for your next trip to Israel.

The H-Bomb

For some time now, the term “N bomb” has exploded with regard to black America. N bomb is a euphemism for the highly repugnant and totally unacceptable six letter racist slur beginning with the latter n, ending with the letter r and containing a double g in the middle.
It appears to me that while not entirely similar, there is also a bomb that has exploded with regard to the Jewish community. It is known as the “H bomb”. The “H” bomb is a euphemism for the highly repugnant and totally unacceptable referencing of the Holocaust. For example, saying that Hitler was a man with great ideas would be dropping the “H bomb”, resulting in an uproar on the part of American Jews and in all probability Jewish communities around the world as well. Other examples of dropping the “H bomb” would be: the Jews of Europe deserved what was in store for them or had the Holocaust been a greater success, there would be no Palestinian problem today.
Last week, the “H bomb” was dropped in London, England, when Ken Livingstone, former mayor of London, suggested that Hitler at one time had supported Zionism.  Faster than you could say Petach Tikvah, Mr. Livingstone was suspended from Britain’s Labour Party. Yasher Koach, especially since this was not the first time Mr. Livingstone made an irresponsible as well as a reprehensible remark related to the Holocaust. In February 2005, Oliver Finegold, a reporter for the Evening Standard, attempted to ask Livingstone a question on the street. Aware that Mr. Finegold was Jewish, Mr. Livingstone accused him of acting “Just like a Concentration Camp guard”.
In addition to the “H bomb”, I cannot help but feel that an “I bomb” exists as well. The “I bomb” operates entirely differently from the “H bomb”. The “I bomb” can be dropped with abandon as well as with impunity. There is little or no recourse to one who drops the “I bomb”.  One may drop the “I bomb” with all the recklessness one can muster. Ironically, a good many will come to the defense of the “I bomber”. One drops the “I Bomb” by making irresponsible as well as preposterous remarks against Israel. Can you imagine if, instead of saying Hitler was a Zionist, Mr. Livingstone accused Israel of killing 10,000 innocent Palestinians living in Gaza as one presidential aspirant recently did? There would not be a scintilla of protest. Can you imagine if, instead of likening a reporter to a Concentration Camp guard, Mr. Livingstone had accused Mr. Finegold of acting just like an Israeli settler living in “occupied territory”? Not one eyebrow would have been raised; not a single word of protest would have been spoken.
This Thursday, we show both reverence to those who perished in the Holocaust as well our deepest respect to those who somehow managed to survive the Holocaust. Perhaps the most meaningful commemoration on our parts would be to remind the world that if we truly wish to pay homage to the six million, then one besmirches and sullies their memory when one besmirches and sullies their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and other family members living in Israel. If the “H bomb” is met with indignity and furor, the “I bomb” ought to be treated in the exact same fashion.

LONG LIVE THE QUEEN

Last week, Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her 90th birthday. Even though some of the celebrations marking this milestone will not take place until June, it may be of interest to take a look at Her Majesty’s relationship with the Jews.
In keeping with a tradition begun by King George I, Queen Elizabeth had her sons circumcised by Rabbi Dr. Jacob Snowman M.D.  While Rabbi Snowman does not go around London with a royal coat of arms on his bris kit, no one would fault him if he regarded himself as the Royal Mohel. In fact, a good many might even be quite amused at the moniker.
It ought to be noted that members of the Royal family often can be seen in attendance at Jewish events; it ought to also be noted that members of the Royal family support any number of Jewish causes and charities. Equally as significant is the fact that such involvement and support for Jewish causes raises no eyebrows, because it is seen as being totally normal in British society.
It’s one thing to attend Jewish events; it’s quite another to mingle with the people. While I cannot vouch for Queen Elizabeth, there are any number of stories that have come down involving Prince Phillip. Rabbi Morris Unterman of the renowned Marble Arch Synagogue of London was once at a Jewish function standing beside Prince Phillip. In an effort to engage in small talk, Prince Phillip asked the rabbi where he lived. “Over the shop,” answered the rabbi. “Oh! Just like us,” remarked Prince Phillip. Is it possible that Prince Phillip is the one with a sense of humor, when it comes to the royal couple? Perhaps. Is it possible that Prince Phillip attends such functions by himself, while his wife stays home? Highly unlikely!
Most of us don’t follow the royal family, which is understandable. As such, scant attention was paid by us back in December 1992, when Princess Anne married naval officer Timothy Laurence (Levy). Her Majesty’s son-in- law is of Jewish descent; His paternal grandfather was a Jew. Apparently Queen Elizabeth, head of the Church of England paid scant attention to her son-in-law’s lineage.
Last July, I wrote an article about the visit paid by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip to Bergen-Belsen. Unlike other heads of state, the royal couple visited the former Nazi Concentration Camp out a sense of honor and dignity. There was absolutely no hint whatsoever that the visit was a publicity stunt on their part. Queen Elizabeth took the time to tour the camp and to meet with some veterans of the British army who helped liberate Bergen- Belsen in April 1945.
More than a few Jews have criticized Queen Elizabeth for never having visited Israel, despite repeated invitations by various Israeli Prime Ministers. Before leveling such criticism, one must bear in mind that the Queen never expresses her political views in public, much less visits countries, where the slightest nuance on her part will undoubtedly be misinterpreted, so that it can make front page headlines. Equally as important, it’s questionable that the rocky relationship between the Hagannah, Irgun and Lehi (Stern Gang) of pre state Israel towards the British who were given the mandate to control the country has ever been put to rest. Perhaps most important of all, Queen Elizabeth’s detractors would be well advised to look at the vast number of British Jews who have yet to visit Israel before calling Her Majesty on the red carpet. In the spirit of our tradition, let us wish Queen Elizabeth 120 years. She just might make it.

I AM INDEBTED TO REVEREND JEREMIAH WRIGHT

I am indebted to Reverend Jeremiah Wright for the remarks he delivered this past Saturday at a Washington rally titled Justice or Else, hosted by the Reverend Louis Farrakhan.
Speaking on behalf of Palestinian Justice, the Reverend Wright had not a word to say about how Hamas and Fatah are mistreating their very own – at times in the most inhumane way.  Instead, the Reverend Wright chose to remind the thousands in attendance that Jesus was a Palestinian. May I be so bold as to remind the Reverend Wright that Rabbi Akiva was a Palestinian and Rabbi Tarfon and Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah – in fact all five Rabbis who gathered in B’nei Brak (we will be reading about them this Friday and Saturday evening at the Pesach Seder) were Palestinians as well? Why even Hillel and Shammai were Palestinians! But why go back two millennia in time? Jews living in Jerusalem being systematically starved by Arab forces who cut off the main highway from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem at Latrun in the early months of 1948, so that food trucks could not get through – they were Palestinians. And back in 1929, the Jews of Hevron who were butchered and mutilated by Arab hordes – those Jews were Palestinians as well. Yes Reverend Wright, Jesus was a Palestinian. So what?
The Reverend Wright challenged the crowd by stating: “Find me a Jew who forgives Hitler. And they say they’re the children of G-d, and they don’t have no forgiveness in them (sic)”. Strange, but I was taught that the Holocaust defies comparison. Strange, but the amount of trade and tourism that exists between Germany and Israel defies comparison as well. Incidentally, I can’t help but feel that Israel would be only too happy to increase trade and commerce with Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank, but there’s this “boycott, divest, and sanction” business that prevents Israel from operating factories in the West Bank. I think forgiveness is a wonderful and admirable human trait. If only European governments and college youth in this country whose minds are politically poisoned by their professors would champion forgiveness as well when it comes to Israel (forgiveness for what,  I have no idea whatsoever). I applaud Reverend Wright’s stand on forgiveness. But like charity, shouldn’t forgiveness begin at home? Shouldn’t Reverend Wright be preaching forgiveness instead of incitement?
Most of all, I am indebted to Reverend Wright for reminding me that it’s Passover. Reverend Wright has done a far better job at broadcasting that Passover is in the air than the best of supermarkets with their Kosher for Passover displays. The Reverend has done so, by serving as a source of naches to countless individuals who have preceded him over the centuries -the proud purveyors of blood libels, accusing Jews of using Christian blood to bake matzahs. I am, indebted to Reverend Wright for his creativity. He has shown that pogroms need not encompass pillaging of Jewish homes, raping Jewish women and maiming or murdering Jewish men.
Instead, Reverend Wright has shown us that the pogrom of the year 2016 can be achieved through the poisoning of impressionable minds.

CONDESCEND AND CONSENT

For the record, I rarely, if ever watch CNN or Fox News on Television. As far as I’m concerned, my time would be just as well spent watching WWWF (wrestling), in that the interviews are hardly any better than what one reads in the tabloids available for sale, as you proceed to checkout at the supermarket.
Last week, CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield interviewed Jeffrey Lord, former Ronald Reagan White House administration official and current Donald Trump supporter. Ms. Banfield sought to draw a comparison between Syrians currently looking to apply for American visas and Jews from, let’s say Israel, looking to apply for American visas during the time period of 1980 through 1985, when members of the Jewish Defense League or JDL were responsible for a number of bombings in this country. Two such events occurred when the JDL allegedly carried out bombings of the Aeroflot offices in Manhattan on January 13, 1980 (credit for the attack was initially taken by Omega 7, an anti-Castro Cuban terrorist group and the JDL. Later, a man purporting to be a JDL officer denied the group had any part in the attack, but said “we applaud” the bombing.) as well as bombing of the Aeroflot offices in Washington D.C. on February 17, 1983. If Ms. Banfield had the ability to think clearly, and was capable to make apt comparisons, she would have realized that if the JDL posed any threat, it was to the Soviet Union, not to the United States.
Before making reckless as well as odious comparisons, can the inciteful (this is no spelling mistake on my part. Ms. Banfield has yet to show me that she is in any way insightful) Ms. Banfield point to any synagogue here in the United States or in any other country for that matter where rabbis shout “death to America” from the pulpit? Better yet, why compare Syrians with Jews, when Ms. Banfield, provided it isn’t beyond her mental capability, could have put together an excellent story questioning the wisdom of letting Syrian Muslims into this country, when the United States, the great beacon of freedom should be focusing its efforts on Syrian Christians and Yazidi who are being targeted and in some cases tortured and killed by Syrian Muslims. Instead of making asinine comparisons between Syrians and Jews, would it be asking too much of Ms. Banfield, as well as the majority of our politicians who appear to suffer from the same stunted mental development, to focus in on Syrian minorities who are truly in harm’s way?
Last, but not least, one would do well to wonder, why Ms. Banfield did not reach out to a newsworthy Muslim. That way, the entire interview could have been immediately shifted away from the United States and visas to Israel and work permits. The Muslim guest could have pointed out how Israel treats Arabs in such an intolerable, inhumane fashion. And should Ms. Banfield have suffered from a momentary lapse of moral acuity during the interview, and asked if such treatment also applies to Christian Arabs living in post 1967 territories, someone such as your truly could have pointed out that that the Muslim Arabs already took care of the Christian problem, so that it no longer exists.
In all fairness, I suppose Ms. Banfield was doing the best she could, under the circumstances. What really irks me and hopefully you as well, is why in the world, did Jeffrey Lord condescend and consent to the interview in the first place?

BEING TREATED LIKE CHOPPED LIVER

As Jews, our ability to poke fun at ourselves should have and must have limits. Such limits were ignored with I SHIVA, a video spoof on Shiva houses which has been E mailed to and viewed on computer screens in countless Jewish homes…and sad to say laughed at.
The gist of the video dealing with Shiva Houses is food, food, food. And because of this it’s in the poorest of taste. Shiva houses have nothing to do with food, nor should they, except for the obligatory meal prepared for the mourners upon returning from the cemetery as well as supplying any and all meals for the mourners for the duration of the Shiva that they are observing. Nowhere in any Jewish guide book on death and dying, is there any mention made as far as serving the visitors. What other American ethnic groups have done with liquor following the funeral, Jews have done with food.
Shiva houses ought to be about mourners digesting heartwarming stories about the recently deceased told to them by relatives, friends and neighbors. If it’s an anecdote that the mourners have heard before, what’s so terrible about rehashing a wonderful story? If it’s the first time that the mourners are hearing the story, then so much the better!
Ever wonder why it’s called a paying a Shiva visit, and not going for a Shiva nosh? Doesn’t this suggest that the Shiva experience is what you bring with you as far as conversation and consolation, as opposed to what you take off the platter at a Shiva house and stuff yourself with? To paraphrase the 35th President of this country: Ask not what the Shiva house can provide you; ask what you can provide the Shiva house.
Instead of L&B (Lox and bagels) Shiva houses should be about V&D (visiting and davening). Blessed is the individual who is able to distinguish between the two. The former ought to take place during down time, when the individual mourner is able participate in meaningful conversation; the latter takes place at a set time, when one comes to communicate with G-d, not the mourner, as the Shiva house quite often morphs into as mob scene. What makes it even worse, is that I have seen a religious leader here in Dallas who should have had the seichel (common sense) to know better, show up at D (davening) time and then proceed to hog both the attention as well as time of the mourner, totally oblivious to the fact that he was denying countless others the opportunity of offering the mourner a hand or a hug or both, as well as the ability to express condolences.
Having introduced two pairs of letters in the preceding paragraph, I should like to introduce two more: K&N (Kishkes-gut and Neshomeh-soul). Shiva houses should be all about the Neshomeh. That’s why there is the tall candle that burns, having been lit upon returning from the cemetery. As a matter of fact, that candle is called a Neshomeh candle, in that the soul of a person is likened to a light before G-d (Proverbs 20:27). Short of unusual circumstances, the only place for kishkes at a Shiva house is when you realize that the disgusting I SHIVA contains more than a modicum of truth. Then it ought to tear at your kishkes. After all, when L&B triumph over V&D, it is the deceased who is relegated to chopped liver status.

IS IT POSSIBLE?

As one who is generally unimpressed with the Press (and that’s putting it mildly), I was delighted to read a story last week, in which journalists actually covered the Palestinian – Israeli conflict from a human interest point of view! Rather than fanning the flames of animosity, journalists were actually able to get their story, even though it was based on … mentschlechkeit! Imagine that!
It seems that five American Yeshiva students set out in a car for Hevron, in the hopes of praying at Kever HaMachpelah or Cave of the Patriarchs, where Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah are buried. Nothing wrong with that! I’ve been to Hevron a number of times and I highly recommend the experience. Unfortunately, the Yeshiva students made a wrong turn and ended up in the Jabal Johar neighborhood, which is both Judenrein and under complete and total Palestinian control.
The “welcoming committee” began throwing rocks, bricks and stones at the car. After all, Palestinians will be Palestinians, especially when there is a CNN or Fox or Ynet camera crew or reporters from leading American newspapers within sight, to encourage these and other overgrown teenagers to carry on with their sub-human behavior. As the Yeshiva students managed to extricate themselves from the vehicle, the “cousins club” surrounded them and began to shout Jew! Jew!
Here’s where the story takes a turn:
Fayez Abu Hamadia, a resident of Jabal Johar led the Yeshiva students away from the group of good ol’ boys, “just havin’ a little fun” and brought them to the safety of his home. Speaking to them in Hebrew, Fayez Abu Hamadia reassured them that they would be okay, and helped dress the wounds of one of the students who was bleeding from his face and leg. He then had the Yeshiva students call the Israeli army to arrange safe escort back to the military checkpoint.
Is it possible that there would be less throwing of rocks and bricks and stones if the media simply ignored these miscreants? I am fully aware that my thinking is off the charts, but humor me anyway.
Is it possible that there are others like Fayez Abu Hamadia who see Palestinian rock, brick and stone throwing youth for what they are and are either afraid to speak out against them or have become inured to such criminal behavior?
Is it possible that the average Chaim Yankel (John Doe) here in the United States and elsewhere, fails to draw either of the above conclusions (which I admittedly couched in question form, given my sardonicism) and wistfully asks: when will this cycle of violence end? That is, if they bother to ask at all.
Most appalling of all, I cannot help but feel that any number of rabbis will devote at least part of their High Holy Day sermons to the “plight” of the “poor Palestinians”.
If this is the most burning issue when it comes to teshuvah and becoming better Jews, then indulge me one more question, if you will.
Is it possible that that among the many requests we place before HaShem, there will be one where we ask for greater understanding and discernment, so that we realize that on a typical day, what actually takes place between Palestinian and Jew is anything but newsworthy.

LIFE MATTERS

Last week, Peggy Hubbard appeared on a video (you can see it on You Tube) excoriating the Black community in and around St. Louis Missouri as well as throughout the rest of this country for its audacity of taking up the mantra Black Lives Matter. Her timing could not have been better, in that with Rosh Hashanah less than two weeks away, I cannot help but feel that it would behoove many a rabbi in this country to address the following topic somewhere in the cycle of High Holy Day Sermons: Lives Matter.
As powerful as the Rosh Hashanah Torah portion is, where we read the story of the birth and sacrifice of Isaac, I cannot feel that the exchange between HaShem and Cain directly following the first fratricide would have served as a far better choice for Rosh Hashanah fare. Lesson Number One that ought to be derived from this fratricide fiasco is that humans have worth… Until they conduct themselves in such a fashion where they show themselves to be worthless, by being a boil on society that needs to be lanced. In that case, such miscreants should be separated from society; not incarcerated, but separated. If I’m not mistaken, Australia first began as a penal colony for British criminals. The vast majority of us have shown through our own conduct that we have worth. That’s why it makes perfect sense for us to ask HaShem to inscribe us in the Book of Life.
“Am I my brother’s keeper?” is far more vulgar in my opinion than the worst of language used in any and all of today’s cinema. It insults my intelligence; it makes me very angry. “Am I my brother’s keeper” not only abdicates responsibility, but it shifts the blame elsewhere. At the risk of sounding pompous, had I been asked to co-author or ghost write the Ten Commandments, I would have replaced the “covet commandment” with “Thou shalt take responsibility”. Personal responsibility is what makes a society great. The greatest threat to any society as well as to one’s personal freedom for that matter is when personal responsibility is taken away and subsumed by a totalitarian government. And there’s only one thing worse than a government or a dictator that takes away personal responsibility. That’s when the individual abdicates such responsibility himself by showing he is either unable, incapable or simply too lazy to assume such responsibility.
Cain refused to take responsibility; Cain was an abject failure. Aside from ducking responsibility, Cain’s main concern was for his own safety. Not once did he express remorse; not once did he ask what could he do to ameliorate the position he put himself in. Because of his being so self-absorbed, Cain showed that the only life that mattered was his own; because of his being so self-absorbed, Cain showed that he was a taker and a user instead of a giver and a contributor. Takers and users believe that the only lives that matter are their own. Takers and users live just for themselves and that makes them not fit to live with. Takers and users value no one else and nothing else. Lives don’t matter to them…except their own.
Lives matter. That’s what Rosh Hashanah is all about; that’s what Judaism is all about. In addition to wishing each other a year of goodness and peace, let us also strive for a year where we recognize the worth of others as well as ourselves, where responsibility once again plays a central role in our lives, where we contribute to society instead of taking from society and using it for our own benefit. Let us show that Life Matters is not merely an empty, shameful