01 Apr Speak Your Vues
J STREET HAGADDAH
Every spring, the Jewish community is treated to a colorful variety of new editions of the Passover Haggadah. There’s something for everybody—you can find Haggadahs that focus on everything to the environment to The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel TV show. And now, just in time for the 2020 holiday, brace yourself for the most disturbing version yet, courtesy of J Street: The Anti-Israel Haggadah. That’s not its official name, of course. And J Street will surely bristle at the notion that anything it does can be described as “anti-Israel.” But almost every page in the new J Street Haggadah drips with denunciations of the Jewish State. It starts with “Kadesh,” the first cup of wine. Israel is “ruling people who do not want to be ruled by us,” it declares. For “Yachatz,” the breaking of the matzoh, readers of the J Street Haggadah are told that “Israel grabs and settles territory” that belongs to others and is to blame for “the degradation of occupation.” “Ma Nishtana”? How does this night different from other nights? It differs because now Israel is “perpetuating injustice against the Palestinians.” The Four Questions? The “wise child” accuses Israel of failing to implement equal rights. The “troubled child” claims Israelis are guilty of “the mistreatment of Palestinians.” And the “simple child” —read: stupid child— says “I love Israel. What’s wrong with that?” It actually gets even preachier than that. A section called “Ten Modern Plagues of the IsraeliPalestinian Conflict” lists ten ways in which Israel persecutes Arabs. Palestinian terrorism is mentioned—but only in order to blame Israel. The Israeli army’s counter-terrorism policies “encourage retaliatory terrorist attacks,” J Street claims (against all evidence). So it goes through the remaining parts of the Passover service. The bitter Maror is said to reflect the bitterness of the “slavery” that is “inflicted by us” (meaning by Israel). The sweetness of the Charoset contrasts with Israel’s “oppression of others.” Elijah’s Cup supposedly reminds us of “the pain of the Palestinians.” All of J Street’s talk of “occupation” will no doubt surprise anybody who knows the basic facts of recent Middle East history. The “occupation” of the Palestinian Arabs ended way back in 1995, Israel withdrew from the cities in Judea-Samaria (the so-called West Bank) where 98 percent of the Palestinian Arabs reside; and in 2005, Israel withdrew from 100 percent of the Gaza Strip. Far from being “occupied by Israel,” virtually all of the Palestinian Arabs today live under Palestinian rule. They are governed by the Palestinian Authority in Judea-Samaria, and by Hamas in Gaza. They run their own affairs, pay taxes to a Palestinian ersatz government, and vote in their own elections. They enjoy self-rule in every significant respect but two: they do not have total control of their borders, and they do not have a full-fledged army. The J Street Haggadah concludes with the traditional declaration, “Next Year in Jerusalem!,” but with a very nontraditional twist. Jerusalem is “a symbol of conflict and confusion,” J Street asserts. Next year, it hopes, that Jerusalem, too, will no longer be plagued by the “occupation” of “East Jerusalem.” In the authentic Haggadah, of course, there is no such thing as “East Jerusalem.” And in the Torah, there are hundreds of references to Jerusalem, but none to the artificial entity that J Street calls “East Jerusalem.” That part of the city includes the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, and the Jewish Quarter. “For Zion’s sake I am not silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I do not rest,” the prophet Isaiah proclaims (62:1). It’s a call to the Jewish people throughout the generations and a reminder that undivided Jerusalem is the heart of the Jewish nation. J Street does not rest, either, but its energy is devoted to an agenda that includes using Jewish symbols and texts to denigrate the Jewish State. That’s a very peculiar way to celebrate one of the most sacred days on the Jewish calendar.
Editor’s Note: Yes we need the real Geulah!
As we approach Passover we are reminded of the more recent “Let My People Go” in Jewish history — that of the rallying cry of the Zionist activists who defeated the Soviet superpower in the Twentieth Century. Gal Beckerman’s 2010 history of the battle waged in both the former USSR and in the US to rescue Russian Jews is titled “When They Come From Us, We’ll Be Gone; the Epic Struggle To Save Soviet Jewry” and it received much attention when released 10 years ago and still stands today as the most successful book to cover the topic. This is a time of worldwide resurgent violent anti-Semitism and this book’s portrayal of how grassroots Jewish activists and community based organizers joined together to change the landscape of Jewish history is the exact type of inspiration that is needed right now. All who care about the Jewish future would benefit from re-examining Beckerman’s study. Beckerman is a journalist and not a historian and in his book he departs from the sanitized, establishment view of the fight for freedom and sheds light on many corners of the Soviet Jewry movement that others would have purposely neglected. Early in his narrative Beckerman singles out the groundbreaking work of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry / SSSJ and Yaakov Birnbaum as the catalysts for the American side of the campaign. The lesson that Jewish students with little money and no political power can initiate change by working in a disciplined and smart way is a highly instructive one. A careful reading of the book leaves one with the fact that activists inspired by the great pre-World War Two Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky, on both sides of the Iron Curtain. More than that, these activists very often at the forefront of the Soviet Jewry movement in the formative years of the struggle. Unfortunately, Beckerman draws no conclusions from this and he seems mostly oblivious to the fact that adherents of Jabotinsky collectively made a more substantial contribution to the campaign than any other ideological grouping. The book opens with a look at Yosef Mendelevitch and his fellow Riga based activists. In this section, Beckerman illustrates that it was the older Jabotinsky activists that in the 1960s inculcated in the younger Jews, who were Mendelevitch’s age, a new outlook: “by showing a young person a map of Israel, teaching him a few Hebrew songs, and exposing him to Jabotinsky’s essays, they could alter his sense of himself.” On Mendelevitch himself Beckerman writes that “The first piece of illegal writing Mendelevitch read, typed and loosely bound with a needle and thread, was a collection of Jabotinsky’s writings.” In the depiction of the rise of SSSJ Beckerman notes the central role adherents of Jabotinsky played in Birnbaum’s efforts. This Jabotinsky connection repeats itself in America again and again. Later, when the 1965 creation of the first successful adult activist group, the Cleveland Council on Soviet Anti-Semitism is covered Beckerman relates that “the group found inspiration in…Jabotinsky” but he fails to make any connection to the Riga activists who were also inspired by Jabotinsky four chapters earlier. Later, when the Jewish Defense League’s part in the story is covered, Beckerman notes that veterans of the Jabotinsky movement made up many of its early leaders and activists. However, again, he does not point out that the decisive commonality in all of these isolated groups and efforts was Jabotinsky. Who was Jabotinsky? Ze’ev Jabotinsky (1880-1940), is a figure who is too often forgotten today. He was a Zionist leader, orator and writer and he founded the Jewish Legion during World War I, as well as the Haganah self-defense units in Jerusalem in 1920. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s father, Benzion, served as Jabotinsky’s personal secretary just after the outbreak of World War II. What were Jabotinsky’s vital contributions? His words, deeds, and ideas animated a generation of young Jews to resist the Nazis, rescue fellow Jews from Hitler’s forces, and fight for the freedom of Israel as soldiers in the Irgun and the Stern Group/LEHI. Later, the movement for freedom for Soviet Jewry both in the United States and inside the Soviet Union itself was led by Jabotinsky Zionists and this is all interrelated. Beckerman provides the evidence of the key role Jabotinsky’s devotees played in freeing Soviet Jews but does not present the much needed closing argument. And it was needed. The book is uniquely inspiring to would be young Zionist activists –it’s virtually a handbook for them– but the soul in the story is missing. And that is Jabotinsky’s exclusive brand that is comprised of blend of four ingredients: Jewish pride, street activism, devotion to duty, and unapologetic Zionism.
Editor’s Note: During this time we don’t want to sow discord. There are a lot of different views to this article. Let us hope that we see the Geulah Sheleima!
FICKLE OR SCHIZO
Dear Editor: It makes no sense to call someone “schizophrenic” for changing their minds frequently. Fickleness is not at all connected to schizophrenia.
Editor’s Note: I must have been ‘’ schitzo” or Fickle when I responded. Or maybe it is you the letter writer who has these symptom. The bottom line is stay safe and stay healthy and a Kosheren Pessach.
POLITICS AS USUAL Dear Editor: With the rise of the Far-Right and the Radical-Right, we not only have been experiencing the growth of “Survival-of-the-Fittest” Social Darwinist ideology in today’s national Republican Party (especially in the US Congress) featuring their desire not only to cut and reduce spending on all of the federal government social programs that help the middle and lower classes (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, College Student Loans), but we also get their growing cold-hearted desire to abolish all of them which they try to keep a secret from the American people as authors Jane Mayer and Nancy MacLean have well-documented by pointing out how they often use “stealth tactics” which are part of what Nobel-Prize winning economist Paul Krugman characterizes as their “Bad Faith.” And along with this, we get what Alfred Hitchcock referred to as “Brutality With A Smile.” An example of this was when Presidential candidate Donald Trump literally mocked, made fun of, insulted, disrespected, and humiliated candidate Carly Fiorina by shouting “Look at that face!” I still find it hard to believe that any human being could have been so cruel, sadistic, and abusive as to humiliate another human being like that, especially a very accomplished woman who had to bury a child due to drug addiction and who has had to experience having a double mastectomy. Ms. Fiorina has suffered greatly in life, and did not deserve to be abused and publically humiliated like that. No one does. But as someone who believes in G-d, I believe that ultimately we are all held accountable and will be held accountable for how we have treated others in life, and that includes a right-wing, serial spouse-cheater, and dirtbag like Donald Trump.
Sincerely, Stewart B. E
Editor’s Note: Wow an anti Trump diatribe! It is sad that some people need to resort to personal attacks. He won the election and is our President like it or not. You have the choice to vote him out in Nov. Don’t be shocked if he wins another term.
The humor section included a piece about a college kid in 2030 reminiscing about watching zir pastor on a laptop. Isn’t this a Jewish publication?
Editor’s Note: Yes we are a Jewish publication but it does not preclude us from not recognizing there are many different people in this world. Stay safe and healthy.
As a member of the board of Trustees at New York Community Hospital, this story warmed my heart. The hospital is running low on medication and called around to many pharmacies for help. When calling John Gallagher at Harrico Pharmacy on Coney Island Ave in Brooklyn, he not only said sure, I’ll help, John gave his entire supply supply of 600 doses of medication to the hospital. He didn’t even accept payment. He said you need it more then I do right now! These are the real Heroes! Let’s all be part of the solution.
Editor’s Note: Wow! No words! Kol Hakavod! Thanks for sharing.
I so enjoy the paper. Its entertaining and informative in a light manner. Therefore i always look forward to the weekly quotes. This week i laughed so much at the Laughter and inspiration page which I understand from acquaintances can be accessed through Whats App which most of my acquaintances do not subscribe to. I was told these are jokes that made the rounds during the week. Can you please share with me where I can subscribe to get these funny and inspirational messages in a timely manner especially since we are spending so much time at home these days and I do have Whatsapp. Thank you and keep up your great community work.
Editor’s Note: I am not sure how to subscribe it seems to be word of mouth.
Your Vues has recently, come of age; With a new layout, & words from many a sage. I had to write, to share my view; And the feelings I felt, with all of you. Last week’s(March 25) edition, was great all around; With advice about Corona & Davening, that was really sound! The Laughter & Inspiration, had me laughing more & more; While the story of Mrs. Thompson, brought tears to the fore. It’s always interesting to read, the various answers that you seek; When asking celebrities, the question of the week. Keep up your good work, doing what you do; Let’s pray for Refuos & Yeshous, that the virus if finally through.
Rabbi Dovid L Brooklyn, NY
Editor’s Note: Thanks for your words of chizuk.
It was 3 months ago, January 1, when the entire Jewish world celebrated the Siyum HaShas. There were gatherings of tens of thousands for the Kavod of the Torah. The peak was Met Life with one hundred thousand people gathered together. The davening there was so special. And the Krias Shema, Kabalas Ol Malchus Shamayim, the coronation of HaShem as our King, was awe inspiring. Fast forward, and here we are. As of Tuesday morning, in all of Eretz Yisroel there is only one Minyan. It is at the Kosel with only ten people. Kever Rochel, Rashbi, Rabbi Meir, and every single Shtiebel and shul are to be closed. (I am not discussing those who don’t, they will have to answer for their actions.) Throughout the world, this is the situation. But we still have to daven and say Krias Shema. How are we supposed to do it? Maybe this is our goal for these times. It is easier to be inspired by the outside influence. When you were at Met Life, and any other place where the multitudes inspire you, you can be carried along. But what about my own small voice? Can I make it powerful by myself? When I am not at the Kosel, Hoshanah Rabbah or Purim morning with so many others, can I inspire my davening on its own? Let the wall of our home be our Kosel for each and every one of us. The Gemarra says that if you do not know which direction to face for Shmoneh Esreh, then direct your heart to the Kodesh HaKodoshim. I saw (I think in the Sfas Emes), what it means is to make our own heart the Kodesh HaKodoshim. If we do that, then our Tefilah is like at the Kosel. Then at the Kosel there won’t be just ten people, but every Jew davening throughout the entire world will fill the plaza of the Kosel.With the Bracha of the Torah – “Because I HaShem will heal you”.
Rabbi Zave R
Editor’s Note: Thanks for your words of chizuk. I hope this will help our readers through this difficult time.
I just signed the petition “Governer Andrew Cuomo: Allow a family member in the room with coronavirus patient” and wanted to see if you could help by adding your name. Our goal is to reach 15,000 signatures and we need more support. You can read more and sign the petition here: http://chng.it/gtzTSnjmMz Thanks!
Editor’s Note: Hard to say what is right. It must be terrible that there are people during with no one there to say Good bye.
So today in the middle of all the madness there was a one hundred year old Chasidic lady with Covid pneumonia and I was desperate to send her home so she wouldn’t die in the hospital, but she dropped her blood pressure and we had to keep her. And then for an hour her son kept calling me to find out how she was, and I finally told him look, she’s a hundred years old with pneumonia in both lungs. She’s not good. She’s not going to do well. And then he wanted to talk to her and I said you can’t I’m too busy, and he called back ten minutes later and I said, listen sir, your mother is not conscious anymore. And he said that’s okay, it’s very important that I do a prayer for her, could you hold the speaker to her ear. I had ten other pressing things to do. But I stopped what I was doing out of respect for this 100 year old woman and put the cell on speakerphone and told him to talk. He started the prayer of the dead and he began to cry and could barely get the words out. And I saw she had numbers tattooed on her arm. He was crying for his mother and praying the shema, the verses of unity and it woke up some emotion in me that I had forgotten about. Time slowed down and I felt restored to myself. When he was done he thanked me and blessed me and I said thank you to him.
Editor’s Note: Inspiring. I hope that lady goes up there and beseeches Hashem to stop this madness. She should be a Meilitza Yosher for her family and all of Klal Yisroel. In addition I am compelled to saw that all those who are sitting shiva and need to to say kaddish, my heart goes out to you. May Klal Yisroel see Simacha and the Geula Sheleima. We have had too many korbanos! Mi Sheomar Leolamo Dai Yomar Letzoroseinu Dai!!!
A 78 years old was hospitalized and needed to be connected to oxygen for 24 hours. When he recovered and was about to be discharged the doctor presented him a bill in the amount of $5,000. The man started to cry the doctor tried to tell him not to cry about the amount he owes. The 78 yr old explained that he is not crying about the $5,000 bill, he’s crying because for 78 years he’s breathing free oxygen from hakb”h and never paid anything, do u know how much I owe him? The doctor bowed his head and shared tears…… To you dear reader as I, that breathes free air from our father in heaven, take two seconds to send this message to a friend and tell him about the free services from hashem to his world…… that we cannot afford to continue taking for granted.
Editor’s Note: Well said! We need to internalize this when we get out of this to remember and appreciate a Shul a Minyan every breath we take and the world as a whole. How fortunate we are that we are ablr to make brachos especially the bracha on fruit trees where we thank Hashem for letting us enjoy the beauty of this world.