As a Jew, I have absolutely no problems with “resolutions” at the beginning of January each year. As a matter of fact, I’m very much in favor of resolutions … provided these resolutions are in keeping with resolutions that I hold to be the sine qua non of our existence as individuals in society.

Each year, I find abhorrent the views some Jews hold about Israel, the synagogue, and Judaism in general. Each year I come to realize that typically the biggest antagonists against Israel, the synagogue and Judaism are those who are most ignorant. Whenever a view about Israel or the synagogue or Judaism in general is formed by one incident or one experience or news reports, there is good reason to believe that view is both biased and lacking in information. Among the various definitions of the word resolution, there is one that tells us that resolution is the ability to capture and produce more details of any given image. Even though such a definition tends to be optical in nature, most, if not all of us go through life harboring distorted images. Only when resolution exists do we gain a clearer picture.

Imagine if you will what a difference resolution would make in the lives of American Jews who walk around with clouded vision as far as their religious homeland and their place of worship are concerned.

At the other end of the spectrum are those Jews for whom Judaism, the synagogue, and especially Israel, evoke responses that are totally visceral in nature. As a young teenager, I recall Mrs. Faiman from across the street telling my mother how she would plead with her husband not to sit in front of the television and follow what was transpiring at the United Nations during the early part of June 1967, as delegates from around the world would meet to censure Israel … for Israel’s own good, of course. When it comes to Israel, we Jews would do well to learn that the existence and well-being of Israel does not and must not depend on mah yomru hagoyim or what the nations will say; the well-being of Israel is inextricably related to the support it receives from Jews within its borders as well from Jews around the world. Once we Jews embrace that resolution, we will never again view U.N. resolutions 242 or 1515 or any other resolution the U.N. passes the same way.

Ideally, Rosh Hashanah and particularly Yom Kippur are rife with resolution. Even though Teshuvah has for the most part been understood to mean repentance, resolution would make for a far better translation. Judaism strongly cautions against entering a new year with unresolved issues causing individuals to be at odds with others or even with themselves. Unless the past is resolved, how can one welcome the future? When it comes to our personal resolutions – provided they are fair and equitable – few, if any dare offer unsolicited advice.

You say you want to make a resolution? By all means! Realize, however, that a study undertaken to track New Year resolutions showed a meager 12% success rate. Better, focus on resolutions where you achieve clarity. Better, embrace resolutions not to be swayed or angered by what other nations say. Better, concentrate on resolutions to repair and clean up mistakes of the past. A better resolution you won’t find.


There is a Yiddish aphorism that teaches us that what takes place in Christianity will soon affect Judaism as well. With Christmas in the air, I should like to flip that aphorism in the hope of offering solace to my fellow Christians in our society. As a spokesman for a religion and belief system from which Christianity emanated, it is my hope and prayer that those celebrating the birth of their savior will find solace from a Jew, an “older brother” of theirs.

Christians of America!  Do you see what I see? I see that the sociological studies have infested your religion as well. Not content with the good tidings and cheer that they brought Judaism (I’m being totally facetious), the Pew Report – all in good faith of course – feels compelled to share similar doom and gloom with the Christians of this country. My response to the Pew Report that only 40% of Christian millennials view Christmas as a religious holiday is “so what”?  If history has taught my people anything, it’s that if Judaism has withstood any number of trials and tribulations, calamities and persecutions, it will survive millennials as well. So too will Christianity. Judaism and Christianity are not “straight line” religions, showing constant undisturbed growth over the years. Each has weathered its share of peaks and valleys. Each will continue to do so.

Christians of America! Do you hear what I hear? I hear that there is a whole onslaught of new Christmas songs. That’s perfectly normal, in that music is an expression of our culture. When all is said and done however, it will be the tried and true “golden oldies” that will bring smiles to your faces and tears to your hearts. Even though those tried and true all-time favorites are often less than a century old, they will bring you back to simpler times. They will serve as the link in the chain binding one generation with another. Let the millennials tune into the latest and greatest holiday cheer – if they tune in at all; by all means don’t let them drum out Drummer Boy; don’t let them silence “Silent Night”. As one who is barraged by any number of latest Chanukah songs (some of them quite good) each year, my heart skipped a beat when an elementary school student sang a Chanukah song for me in Yiddish the other week. It is that Yiddish song, not any millennial melody that creates a sense of history.

Christians of America! Do you know what I know? I know that when it comes to religion, worry about those “who are in the same pew” as you. Make sure that they have a ride to Church; make sure that they aren’t alone for Christmas. You owe it to them, not to someone who you don’t see at worship services nor are likely to see at worship services. Neither the tastiest turkey nor the most palatable pudding in the world is going to convert a millennial. Filling one’s stomach is not, nor has it ever been the same as enriching one’s soul. Take it from someone who (ashamedly) comes from a people where Kosher Hotels advertise “groaning” Kiddush tables. Spirit and stomach may rest in the same person, but are still light years away. If your Christian love is such that you simply refuse to write millennials off, then pray for their souls. I truly believe that your heartfelt prayers will be more efficacious than any other effort you undertake through invitations, programs, and events.

Christians of America! As a spokesman from a 4,000 year old religion, I ask that you see what I see, hear what I hear, and know what I know. Be the best Christians you can be and celebrate Christmas in a most meaningful way. After all, what has taken place in Judaism will soon affect Christianity a well.


A good many American Jews of retirement age are very much familiar with The Lord’s Prayer. Jewish, it isn’t. Pope Francis has been aware for some time now that something is amiss with the venerated Christian prayer. That is why it came as no surprise when it was reported that the Pontiff wished to tweak the text of the Lord’s Prayer. He was particularly troubled by Christians asking of G-d: “Lead us not into temptation.”

Meaning no disrespect to the Holy See, but temptation is not necessarily a bad thing. As far as Judaism is concerned, temptation comes in two flavors – good and bad. Trouble is, throughout the generations, so many Christian theologians have been stuck in the Garden of Eden, where the first couple was tempted by the cunning serpent to indulge in the forbidden fruit, that these theologians simply can’t see the forest for the tree (sic). For these theologians, temptation is synonymous with evil. “Gevalt,” exclaim our rabbis. Were it not for temptation, those who came across one small cruse of certified oil while cleaning up the Greek mess in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem would have been left in the dark. It was temptation that led them to light the oil, even though rationally they held out little, if any, expectation that the oil would last beyond twenty-four hours. Similarly, it was temptation and not intellect that led a small ragtag Maccabee army to engage in battle with a larger, better trained army that was superiorly equipped. Chanukah and (good) temptation go together like potato latkes and sour cream.

Meaning no disrespect to the Bishop of Rome, but G-d does not lead us into temptation, nor has G-d ever led us into temptation. Truth of the matter is G-d does not lead us anywhere. In Judaism we call that free will. And that’s the way it has been ever since Adam and Eve. This world is wired with free will for humans and because of this, G-d was able to say to Cain: If thou do well, things will work out just fine, but if you mess up, you’ll wish that you were never born. Just as G-d cannot lead us into complacency, so too G-d cannot led us into temptation. Some 21 centuries ago, there was any number of our people who were tempted by the Greek lifestyle that was so pervasive at the time. Those Jews earned the moniker Hellenists. And when the Hellenists went too far and brought that lifestyle into places that were off limits, the Hasmoneans took up arms against the Hellenists and civil war broke out. That’s how the story of Chanukah took root.

Meaning no disrespect to the Pontiff, but if he wishes to place G-d and temptation in the same sentence, then he might consider rewriting the Lord’s Prayer, so that the petitioner asks for strength, determination, and fortitude from HaShem to properly deal with temptation. If it’s good temptation, the petitioner should pray for strength not to have second thoughts or to shy away, but to go for it; if it’s bad temptation, the petitioner should pray for strength to fight that temptation and to overcome it. Just as there were those who succumbed to the Hellenist lifestyle, so too were there those who resisted the Hellenist lifestyle. And the rest they say, is the history of Chanukah.

As long as we live, as long as we are healthy in mind and soul, temptation will always be part of our lives. A true mentsch, perhaps even a Tzaddik is one who knows how and when to implement (good) temptation and when to subdue (bad) it. In doing so, that mentsch or Tzaddik  will succeed in bringing more light into this world than any Chanukah Menorah.


Yesterday, the Supreme Court met to hear the case of plaintiffs David Mullins and Charlie Craig and defendant Jack Phillips. Jack Phillips is proprietor of Masterpiece Cake Shop in Colorado. He refused to bake/create an elaborate wedding cake for Mr. Mullins and Mr. Craig, citing his religious beliefs that find same sex marriage to be at best, unacceptable.

The “Jewish response” is predictably split. Generally speaking, the Orthodox side with the baker; the Conservative and Reform side with the grooms. It seems to me however, that there ought to more to the Jewish response than denominational demarcation.
On more than one occasion, fellow Jews have “made a tsimmes” because of religious belief, or lack thereof. It mattered little to them if they took up the cudgel against government or private industry. A little over a decade ago, Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky created a ruckus over synthetic Christmas trees on display at Sea Tac airport. Although he insisted that all he wanted was equal footing for Chanukah menorahs being displayed as well, his outcry was seen as indignation, resulting in Christmas trees being removed from the airport. Once upon a time, airlines in this country provided meal service on domestic flights. Alaska Airlines was one of those carriers. On the meal tray, Alaska Airlines included a prayer card. A few decades back, a (Jewish) passenger made news, as she threatened Alaska Airlines with a lawsuit, claiming that the prayer card on her meal tray was an infringement on her religious beliefs and causing her to lose her appetite, thereby preventing her from eating the meal, much less enjoying it. It mattered little to this Jewish passenger that the prayer card on her meal tray contained verses from the Book of Psalms, otherwise known to us as “tehillim.”

I may very well be a lone voice, but it seems to me, that as a people that has been denied entry into colleges and Medical Schools and Law Schools because of “beliefs”, as a people that has been denied membership into Country Clubs and prohibited from living in certain neighborhoods in any number of American cities because of “beliefs”, we Jews should be most careful in considering and weighing beliefs, including those beliefs that are seen by many as being legitimate and kosher.

As a rabbi, I am empowered to officiate at non-Jewish weddings. As a rabbi, I am empowered to preside over the marriage of two non-Jews, who for whatever reason seek my services. Among the recurring nightmares that plague me, is being approached by a same sex couple –say, on Christmas day when I am in my office doing work, minding my own business. With marriage license in hand, they ask me to join them in matrimony. Does my refusal to do so, place me in the same onerous position as Jack Phillips? (I cannot truthfully fall back on the claim that I do not officiate at civil ceremonies, because there was at least one civil ceremony that I did preside over.)

It seems to me that with Chanukah soon upon us with its message of establishing boundaries (the straw that broke the camel’s back was a Hellenist Jew who overstepped his boundaries and sacrificed a pig on the holy altar. Similarly the Greek king Antiochus overstepped his boundaries with his harsh decries interfering with the practice of the belief of a foreign people) that regardless of yesterday’s finding of the Supreme Court, it behooves us to carefully establish boundaries that will not only protects us but  respects others as well.


Afghanistan? No. So began the vote seventy years ago this week, in Flushing Meadows, New York where the United Nations had its temporary home. Those assembled were voting on U.N. resolution 181 whether, what was then Palestine, should be partitioned into an Arab State as well as a Jewish State. Less than a half year later, the State of Israel would come into the being. For the first time in two millennia, Jews would have a country of their own.

Seventy years is synonymous with dreaming, according to the rabbis of the Talmud. Our rabbinic sages base this analogy on the introductory verse of Psalm 126 which introduces Birkat Hamazon or the Grace after meals when recited on Shabbat and festivals. Back in 1947, Ben Gurion, Begin et al would clearly have assigned our world of today to a fantasy world or a world of dreams, as far as Israel and the United Nations.
“You must be dreaming,” the early Zionist leaders would in all likelihood have said if someone would have told them that there would come a time when an Israeli Prime Minister would be addressing the United Nations. But an Israeli Prime Minister has addressed the United Nations…more than once. And when Benjamin Netanyahu has addressed the United Nations, he has down so as a proud Israeli and a proud Jew with his head held high, commanding the respect of his friends while drawing the ire of his foes. But sympathy? World sympathy is totally foreign and unknown to the generation of Benjamin Netanyahu as well as those of subsequent generations. World sympathy went by the wayside decades ago, along with our national neuroses of Mah Yomru HaGoyim or what will the (non-Jewish) nations say or think.

“You must be dreaming,” the early Zionist leaders would in all likelihood have said if someone would have told them that there would come a time when an American Ambassador to the United Nations would be lecturing many of those assembled, wagging her finger at them, telling them that they were biased against Israel. The early Zionist leaders of the Ben Gurion generation could not possibly have fathomed an American Ambassador to the United Nation warning many of those assembled to “get off of Israel’s back” and to take their anti-Semitism which is masqueraded as anti-Zionism and to “stuff it.” But that is precisely what a bold, determined and self-assured Nikki Haley has done. For the record, Ambassador Haley previously served as Governor of South Carolina, a state not known for any Jewish cabal or similar.

“You must be dreaming,” the early Zionist leaders would in all likelihood have said if someone would have told them that there would come a time when Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations would be elected as chairman of the U.N. Legal Committee, making him the first Israeli chosen to head a permanent committee of the U.N., only to be elected a year later as Vice-President of the 72nd annual session of the UN General Assembly. Similarly, those very same early Zionist leaders would have stared in disbelief to learn that a mere two years ago, the United Nations purchased close to 98 million dollars’ worth of Israeli goods, more than double the amount purchased two years prior to that.

As one who is no great fan of the United Nations (I was at the U.N. with thousands of others, 42 years ago this month protesting their adopting General Assembly resolution 3379 declaring  Zionism equals Racism), as one who dismisses their  ceaseless ludicrous and baseless incessant condemnation of Israel for anything and everything (the U.N. women’s rights commission condemned Israel as the world’s only violator of women’s rights, ignoring real abusers of women’s rights such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and many others) even I have to admit that Israel has made unbelievable strides in an organization that held a vote seventy years ago this week that would ultimately result in the birth of the State of Israel. You must be dreaming!



I have no idea how many of you will be offering up a prayer of thanksgiving before you sit down to the turkey and trimmings, Thursday afternoon. I truly hope that you do offer up such a prayer. In fact, I am providing you with three different prayer topics that you may wish to chew on. Feel free to use any, all or a combination of the ideas I present below:

Coming from an Eastern European heritage where our ancestors were treated as second class citizens at best, Thanksgiving is a national holiday in which we Jews can fully participate with no reservations  on our part whatsoever. Can you imagine if the Pilgrims had dined on wild boar for their first Thanksgiving? Can you imagine if no Thanksgiving dinner would be complete without curds and whey? Can you imagine if the Plymouth pilgrims had chowed down on clam chowder for their first Thanksgiving? Thankfully, turkey was the fare, and even if Turkey was a strange bird to us Jews in every sense of the word, our rabbinic leaders concurred that the fowl was edible, as incredible as that might be. And the pumpkin pie along with the sweet potatoes and stuffing or dressing also comes with rabbinic endorsement, provided of course all ingredients added to the pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes, stuffing or dressing are kosher.

Thanksgiving is the “wince less before Wenceslas”. Several years back in December, Sarah Moore who worked in the Tiferet office, was kind enough to run an errand with me. Sarah followed me in my car as I dropped off my wife’s car at the mechanic. Driving back to Tiferet (Sarah was at the wheel) Christmas music was playing on the car radio. “Would you like me to switch stations”, Sarah instinctively asked. I reassured Sarah that I was a fan of any number of Christmas songs, especially those orchestrated by Manheim Steamroller. I may or may not be in the minority of rabbis who has an appetite for Christmas songs. There are other rabbis no doubt as well as other Jews for that matter who wince at songs that deal with subject matter that evokes negative associations. Not so Thanksgiving. Other than not receiving a much hoped for invitation, or having to eat the meat of the Turkey you must grin and bear whenever it is served to you, there is nothing offensive or hurtful about Thanksgiving to any religion, including ours. We Jews have every reason to be thankful, that there is nothing offensive about Thanksgiving – unless of course you simply detest turkey.

There are “date sensitive” holidays and there are “day sensitive” holidays. The former refer to those holidays that are celebrated on a specific date on the calendar regardless of the day of the week that it falls out. The latter refer to those holidays that are celebrated on a specific day of the week, regardless of the date on the calendar. Christmas is “date sensitive”; Thanksgiving is “day sensitive”. As Jews, it should hardly matter if Christmas day falls on Shabbat, or the day before or after. As Jews, it matters a great deal, that Thanksgiving always falls on a Thursday, giving us plenty of time to prepare for Shabbat. For this too, we owe a big debt of thanks.

On Thursday, as we sit down to our Thanksgiving repast, let us be sensitive to the bountiful blessing this country affords us. Let us be cognizant of the challenges those who went before us had to deal with to secure the freedom that is ours. Let us be aware how truly blessed we Jews are to be able to celebrate a holiday that is so very “kosher” in so many ways.



For the last several decades, we Jews have been privy to or heard about situations where Jewish youngsters raised in good Reform and Conservative homes, or those who were disenfranchised from our religion and heritage altogether, eschewed their upbringing and went “whole hog,” ending up in the ultra-Orthodox communities of Chabad, Breslov, or “no-name” long-beard and peyos (side locks) Judaism.

It was with a great deal of interest, therefore, that I read about how one young man from the “radical” Satmar sect of Chassidim – the grandson of the  Satmar Rebbe no less – abandoned Satmar, his family, his wife, and his infant daughter to become a combat soldier in the Israel Defense Forces. How ironic! Satmar, a sect that totally rejects Israel, in that it believes that a Jewish State can only come into being with the arrival of the Messiah, has a descendant of its leading family prepared to give his life for the safety and well-being of that very same country.

Chaim Meisels grew up totally proficient in Yiddish, severely limited in English, and with Hebrew that revolved around  prayers such as “Ashrei,” “Barchu,” and the language and parlance of religious texts – all in perfectly intoned Eastern European Hebrew. In addition to the challenge of having to travel through time in order to update himself to accommodate present day Israeli culture, Chaim now had the task of learning to speak contemporary Hebrew. Nor is Chaim the only one ever to desert his past. There are hundreds if not more “Chaims” here in this country as well as elsewhere who have rejected and bolted. What does this tell us?

First and foremost, we can deduce that Satmar and other insular groups are not without their own internal problems. Children do not come into this world with warranties or guarantees that that, for better or worse, they will follow the footsteps of their families as well as the communities of their formative years, where they were raised and educated. Just as open communities have been known to produce children who totally reject the values of their parents, so too do secluded communities raise children, albeit in seemingly smaller numbers, who totally reject the values of their parents.

As much as some of us would like to believe otherwise, we can’t live our children’s lives for them. Yes, children lack experience, and therefore have been known to have judgement that is questionable at best. And yes, children make mistakes that can and sometimes will affect them for the rest of their lives. But as tragic as this may be, there might not always be an alternative. When Chaim Meisels displayed signs of rejection and bolting – he opened up to his rebbe and came clean, confessing that he had not observed Shabbat for years and that he no longer felt part of Satmar – the rebbe had a “brilliant” solution; all of Chaim’s problems could be solved through a wife. And so, at the age of 17, there was Chaim standing under the chuppah with a woman he had met with for 50 minutes (no need to worry, her parents questioned Chaim thoroughly – in the realm of Talmud). The only problem was that instead of bolting and rejecting parents, siblings and a community, Chaim bolted from and rejected a young wife and infant daughter as well.

Rejecting and bolting is far from a Jewish phenomenon. The Amish, along with similar sects (l’havdil or perish the comparison), face similar problems where children reject and bolt. Restraint, a basic human need, has to be implemented by parents and society with caution. Restraint is very individualistic, especially when it comes to religion. For some, the ability to restrain is synonymous with the ability to maintain. It is welcome, for it provides a framework for everyday life. Contrary to what many of us would like to believe, a healthy life is a life with a set of rules. The only questions are how many rules, and how pervasive are those rules. For others, restrain is synonymous with disdain. And that is exactly what happened with Chaim Meisels. Other than perhaps some “niggunim” (Satmar melodies) and perhaps some foods emblematic of his past, Satmar, along with its values, is quite possibly viewed with contempt and revulsion by Chaim as well as others who rejected and bolted.

For many of us, the Chaim Meisels story holds great interest; for others, particularly family and community, the Chaim Meisels story is a source of embarrassment and shame.



  • Typically, R&B is understood to mean Rhythm and Blues.
    For this article, R&B means rejecting and bolting

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart

As much as we claim to be focused on the Holocaust, the second week of November typically goes by with scant recognition of Kristallnacht or the Night of Broken Glass, when 79 years ago, Synagogues and Jewish owned businesses, Jewish hospitals, Jewish schools and Jewish homes were vandalized, ransacked and in some cases set ablaze courtesy of the Sturmabteilung (Storm Detachment – the original paramilitary of the Nazi Party) aided by overzealous German citizens. Over 1000 synagogues went up in flames and over 7,000 Jewish businesses were either damaged or destroyed. Over 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to Concentration Camps. Early estimates (the numbers grew) were that close to 100 Jews were murdered outright.

Close to eight decades ago, Nazis, along with Nazi sympathizers broke glass. Our tradition on the other hand forbids us to break promises. So much so, that an entire prayer appears in our liturgy, asking HaShem to annul, but not to break any promises that we may have inadvertently made to Him. The name of that prayer is Kol Nidrei and it would be unthinkable for us to inaugurate the solemn holy day of Yom Kippur without intoning Kol Nidrei. Reputations have been ruined and friendships have been shattered because of broken promises. Glass can be replaced; reputations are far more delicate than the finest glass.

Close to eight decades ago, Nazis, along with Nazi sympathizers broke glass. Our tradition on the other hand forbids us to break hearts. One who guards his mouth, guards his soul (as well as the soul of others).  In our society, we hear a great deal about heart disease as well as heart attacks. Perhaps the best way to cut down on heart attacks where we inadvertently or deliberately cut into the hearts of others is to think and think again. More often than we realize, what we say (or what we fail to say) what we do (or what we fail to do) has attacked more hearts and broken more hearts than the American Medical Association could possibly fathom.

Close to eight decades ago, Nazis, along with Nazi sympathizers broke glass. Our tradition on the other hand forbids us to break any links in the chain of our tradition. Hitler was successful when it came to exterminating Jews, but Hitler could never have been successful when it came to eradicating Judaism. By its very nature, Judaism is impervious to outside forces. Only we Jews can eradicate Judaism. Each time one of us breaks his or her link with Judaism, that person does his or her share in helping break a tradition that has survived for millennia despite overwhelming odds.

Never break a promise, don’t go breaking any hearts, refrain from taking part in the breaking of any links in that chain of tradition. There is one occasion where we Jews do break glass. Yet, it is neither a sign of vandalism nor wanton destruction. We break a glass at a wedding, as we wish fulfillment of dreams, achievement of goals, happiness and joy. A goodly number of reasons have been offered for the breaking of the glass at a Jewish wedding. Why not add one more? Nazis, along with their Nazi sympathizers broke glass to signify a bitter end; we break glass to signify a sweet beginning.


This Thursday marks the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Balfour Declaration. Named for Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Arthur James Balfour, the Declaration stated in part: “His Majesty’s Government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”

Can you imagine such magnanimity? The British government viewed with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, when Palestine was not even under British control! It wasn’t until December 9th of that year, five weeks after the Balfour Declaration was signed, that British forces led by General Sir Edmund Allenby wrested Jerusalem from Turkish control. In fact, it wasn’t until practically a year later, on October 31, 1918, when all of Palestine came under British control. I’m sure that at that time, His Majesty’s Government viewed any number of territorial changes with favour. Who knows? Perhaps His Majesty’s Government also viewed the retaking of the expanded Thirteen Colonies with favour as well. Why, I think that Lord Balfour was simply divine – at least in his own mind. Having perused the Torah any number of times, I’ve come across HaShem promising the Land of Israel to Abraham and his descendants, but I’ve never come across Lord Balfour promising the Land of Israel to Abraham and his descendants.

But it was more than a national home for the Jewish people that His Majesty’s Government viewed with favour. His Majesty’s Government viewed fairness with favour. His Majesty’s Government knew that it had to show fairness to both the Arabs and the Jews already firmly ensconced in Palestine. And so it did. His Majesty’s Government showed fairness to the Jews and even more fairness to the Arabs. His Majesty’s government simply knew that unfairness to Jews would lead to hurt, anger and feelings of being disenfranchised; unfairness to Arabs led would lead to slit throats. Just as His Majesty’s Government viewed the establishment in Palestine of a national home for Jewish people with favour, so too did the British view un-slit throats with favour. And that’s why immigration to Palestine of Jews looking to escape Hitler was curtailed and cut down to a trickle by the British, as was immigration to Palestine of the bedraggled, war torn Jews who somehow managed to defy the odds and survive Hitler.

If His Majesty’s Government viewed fairness with favour, it also viewed justice with favour – its concept of justice. And that’s why His Majesty’s Government views how it was done dirty by the very same Jews it sought to “civilize.” The savage bombing of the King David Hotel by the Igun Tzvai LeUmi will never be forgotten, nor will the kidnapping and hanging of Sergeant Clifford Martin and Sergeant Mervyn Paice (the Irgun Tzvai LeUmi threatened to hang the two kidnapped Sergeants if the British carried out the execution of Avshalom Haviv, Meir Nakar and Yaakov Weiss.) Apparently justice, full and complete justice, has yet to be carried out. Otherwise why has no State Visit to Israel ever taken place by any British Prime Minister? “When the time is right” remains the official response issued by 10 Downing Street.

His Majesty’s Government cedes land that is not its own, His Majesty’s Government views fairness with favor, especially when dealing with Israel’s Arab population, His Majesty’s Government has yet to put aside decade’s old recriminations against Israel, despite its own besmirched, sullied reputation between the years 1917 through 1948. Chutzpah, isn’t it?


Thirty-seven years ago, practically to the day, President Carter, seeking re-election to this nation’s highest office,  made the following comment during Presidential Debate #2 with Ronald Reagan: “I asked my daughter Amy (then 13 years old) what the most important issue (confronting the United States) was?”

I hadn’t thought about the “Amy question” for the longest time. Last week, the “Amy question” resurfaced when a leading Jewish newspaper in this country queried 18 rabbis what they thought was the most serious issue confronting American Jews. As might be expected, 18 different answers were proffered… And then some.
At the risk of adopting a “sour grapes attitude” in that I wasn’t among the 18 (come to think of it, I would have declined comment, had I been asked), I should like to share my answer with you, my faithful readers: The most serious issue confronting American Jews is American Jews.

I offer three reasons:

A good many American Jews spend a good many hours reading a good many reports on the state of American Jewry. As a result, there are those who work themselves into a tizzy and run around spouting jeremiads that the (Jewish) sky is falling. Pish-Tosh! The sky is not falling and the earth is not shaking under our feet. Times are a changing, and a new American Jew is emerging. Yet American Jewry is no worse off than it was, say, half a century ago. As a matter of fact, in some respects, American Jewry is far healthier than it has ever been. I do not recall major American cities having as many kosher restaurants as is currently the case. Nor do I recall so many Sukkahs being constructed for the festival. The variety of food bearing kashrut symbols is simply staggering. The number of Jewish Day Schools is “naches to the nth degree.”  Sure, assimilation is spinning out of control and yes, endogamy is not what many of us would like it to be, but there are many aspects about American Judaism that even our grandparents would never have believed.

I used to think that “I’m proud to be a Jew” was a meaningless statement. I now believe that “I’m proud to be a Jew” is a dangerous statement. Unless one is a Jew by choice, being a Jew is purely an accident of birth. It requires absolutely nothing of the Jewish individual, not even a declaration of faith. What I have yet to hear is for someone to exclaim, “I’m proud of my Jewish accomplishments” or “I’m proud of the time and energy I’ve put into becoming a better versed, as well as better educated, Jew.” We live in the age of workouts and personal trainers. Shouldn’t there be Jewish workouts and trainers as well? Recently, I served as a personal “trainer” to someone who wanted to learn to lead prayer services.  In less time than one could imagine, that person achieved his goal. In doing so, he has every right to exclaim, “I’m proud of my learning how to lead synagogue services.”

It began with the slogan “a shul with a pool.” The thinking was to let the Jewish community be all things to all Jews. As praiseworthy as it was intended to be, while such thinking has strengthened the Jewish community, it has, by the same token, taken its toll on individual Jews. By spending considerable time, as well as a great deal of effort, in taking advantage of so much that the Jewish community has to offer, little if any time and even less energy is left for prayer services, education classes, and instructional programs. I’m not aware of Jewish handball or Jewish basketball, but I am very much aware of serving HaShem. Communal prayer has always been and continues to be at the top of that list. Jewish education has always been a sine qua non for our people. Individual participation has always been the most important thing.

Anti-Semitism, terrorism and all other “isms” are real and genuine concerns. None of them – individually or collectively – will destroy the Jewish people or the Jewish religion.
What I want…what’s most important to me, is a guarantee that Judaism, synagogue Judaism, prayer Judaism, home Judaism, and street Judaism will remain strong and vibrant. Such a guarantee is not as farfetched as you might think, despite all other serious issues confronting American Jews today.