Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Museum on the Seam

Museum on the Seam

I did forget all about the Atlas wedding, until I saw a picture of the bride that was posted 52 minutes ago on facebook.  If you are there, then we won't be able to talk.  Rats. Tomorrow for sure.  I have free time from 5pm to 7pm tomorrow that's 10am-noon. Let's try connecting then. I am sure that the Hartman Institute will have wifi.  If I can't get on, I'll go to a cafe on Emek Refaim for a drink use their wifi.

Today I went to Mt. Scopus today.  So much new building I didn't even recognize anything. I bought a book for Eli. I couldn't pass it up. It's called Eich Oseh Sabba. The Sabba makes all the animal sounds to teach the grandson what an animal says e.g. "What sound does the cat make." It is cute.  Of course on the way home, my bus broke down.

Earlier I went to the Museum on the Seam.  It's exhibition was all about leadership, usually about corrupt leadership.  This is what  I wrote in my dairy.

The other day I went to the Museum on the Seam which deals a lot with tolerance between different groups especially between Jews and Palestinians.  It is in the old Jordanian army post at the Mandelbaum gates dividing  Jerusalem  pre '67.

From the book on their exhibit  "And the trees went forth to seek a king."

We love them and hate them. Admire and scorn them.  We trust their promises, as we watch them being led handcuffed and humiliated.

Who is worthy of leadership? What motivates people to become leaders?  Is it an inner feeling of justice and an ability to see the truth which guides them? Or rather is it a disappointing and manipulative desire for self-glorification and abuse of one's position at the expense of the masses

See the parable Judges 9:8-18.

We long for a leadership that can discern the needs of the people.  A spiritual leadership, motivated by a true sense of mission, a leadership that admonishes, warns, and alerts, that lights the way through the personal dedication to the notion of justice, freedom, and peace in Israel and the nations.

See Prof. Eliezer Schweid's book "Prophets for their People" Jerusalem, Magnes Press 1999 for examples of good leadership like Ben Gurion.

Since the outburst of the Arab Spring, a bloody wars in the Middle East over the shape of the ruling authorities.  In Europe and in Israel leaders are being  tried in court and in the Far East horrendous crimes are being committed to ensure the safeguard of the existing leadership.  In these times of confusion, due to the lack of morality and clear ethical codes on behalf of a leadership detached from its people, we face the danger of losing faith in the institutions of power.

From And the Tress went forth to seek a king intro by Raphie Etgar curator.

I am reminded of what Sharansky said last year at the RA convention when somebody asked him if he was interested in going back into the government.  He said, "No.  He always does things backwards.  He went to jail before he was elected to the Kenesset."  The list of Israeli leaders being convicted is great. Ehud Olmert, Uri Luripansk, former President Katsar, former chief rabbi.  Other leaders like Netaniyahu and Barak were acquitted  for lack of evidence.

There is a group to fight government corruption in Israel called Ometz.

Same thing in America where the political party blocks everything the President wants bills, appointments, etc not because  it is right for the country but just because they don't want to give him any victory

Do we get the leaders we deserve or need?

It was a very thought provoking exhibition but mostly depressing.

Sent from my iPad

Some initial thoughts about the aftermath of the murder of the 3 Israeli teens.

Some initial thoughts about the cruel murder of Eyal Yifrah, Gil-Ad, and Naftali Frenkel

I know that the issues are complex and there are no simple solutions to anything dealing with the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.  But if I were in charge or an advisor, this is what I would do.

I understand the Israeli need to strike back fast and hard.  First of all, I would advise against it.  I know that Hamas and other Arabs would see this as a sign of weakness, but I know just the opposite.  Restraint is a sign of strength.

Secondly, the culprits of this brutal crime must be brought to justice.  If possible, I would bring them to court, try them, and let justice take its course.  I would pressure Abbas to continue to condemn the murder of innocents and make the P.A, help bring those suspects to justice.  If he is a true leader, he can do no less. If all that can't be done, then I have no problem of killing them in the line of duty.

Lastly, I wouldn't have destroyed the homes of the terrorists by the IDF for a couple of reasons. As a parent, I know that I have little or no control over my teenage children let alone my adult ones.  Why should the parents suffer even if they agree with the kidnapping and murder of the boys (thinking thoughts are not a crime) as long as they are not accomplices?  At least officially, this affair has split the PA and Hamas and I think that is a good thing.  Destroying homes will give the two factions the ability to unite against the unfair Israeli occupation.  Moreover, up to now, the civilized world has sympathized with Israel.  Destroying the homes may or may not be legal in international law, but certainly it gives the world an opening to sympathize with the "poor Palestinians" and ignore the righteous cause of the Israelis.  I think it will be a P.R. disaster for us.

These are some of my thoughts as I sit in Jerusalem mourning those 3 boys.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Prayer alone is not sufficient

I believe in the power of prayer.  Prayer can give you courage and strength in times of need.  When you are lonely prayer can remind you that you are never truly alone for God is near to all who call upon Him.  Prayer can accentuate joy while help you cope with sorrow.  Yet, prayer is not sufficient unto itself.  I can pray all day long and all night long to win the lottery, but if I don’t purchase a lottery ticket I don’t have a chance to win. You can’t just pray to do well on a test or in contest without studying or preparing yourself appropriately.  You can’t just pray for peace without working towards peace.

This past Sunday Presidents Shimon Peres and Mohammed Abbas joined Pope Francis in the Vatican to pray for peace.  I hope that the prayers of these 3 men soften their hearts and the hearts of their countrymen. But prayers are not enough to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

If the Palestinians truly want peace, then their entire narrative has to change.  The Palestinian Media Watch monitors the Palestinian media for libels, demonization of Israelis and Jews, terror, and more (http://www.palwatch.org/main.aspx?fi=157&doc_id=11559What they uncover underscores why prayers for peace are not sufficient.

 Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik reports:

“In May, the Palestinian Authority TV's daily program Palestine This Morning  introduced a new filler between the different sections of the show. The filler presents Jerusalem, Haifa, Jaffa, Nazareth, Acre, and the Negev Desert as "Palestine."

Palestinian Media Watch has documented that just like Hamas, the PA regularly uses PA TV to teach Palestinians to see a world in which there is no Israel - only "Palestine." The message that Israel does not exist is also directed specifically at children.
“In the new filler, which has been broadcast regularly since May 6, a door opens in a green leaf, and balls inscribed with names of cities and areas roll out. Along with names of places from the PA areas are the names of Israeli cities and regions. At the end, the leaf forms part of the letter "P" in the word "Palestine."

Text on balls:
"Jerusalem" (city in Israel) 
"Nablus" - "Ramallah" 
"Jericho" - "Bethlehem" 
"Haifa" - "Jaffa"  (cities in Israel) 
"Salfit" - "Tulkarem" 
"The Negev" (desert in Israel) 
"Nazareth" - "Acre" (cities in Israel)
"Palestine This Morning"
[Official PA TV, regularly May 6 - June 5, 2014”

And how can there be peace when murder is extolled?  Once again the two above reporters write:

“The official Palestinian Authority daily chose to devote a full op-ed to a long, romanticized description of the last hours in suicide bomber Raed Barghouti's life. The terrorist's bombing in Jerusalem wounded dozens in 2001.

"Raed Barghouti... held the arm of his young brother, Rayyan, and took him to the market to buy him school supplies for the new school year. Later, he took him to a [photo] studio to have their picture taken together. Rayyan didn't know that this was to be his brother Raed's last picture, before he joined the procession of Martyrdom (Shahada) and Martyrs (Shahids)."
 [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, May 13, 2014]

“These were the opening lines of the op-ed, which went on to describe the bomber's last kind deeds (paying another brother's university tuition) and his mother's devastated reaction to the news of his "Martyrdom":

"A mother's heart is her guide. She couldn't fall asleep until late, and then dreamed a dream of truth. [In her dream,] she was standing in front of Raed's house... when, suddenly, the house collapsed on its foundations and its bricks turned to dust. The mother leaped out of bed, horrified by what she'd seen... [The TV news] spoke of a Martyrdom-seeking operation (i.e., suicide bombing) in Jerusalem and broadcast images of the man who had carried out the operation - or what was left of him. His mother cried out, 'Allah help his family' - without realizing that she was praying for Allah to help her."

“The author describes how the suicide bomber "left behind testaments to his people," one of which stated that "the night is darkest just before dawn," and ends by asking Allah to "have mercy on our Martyrs, who fell so that we might live."

“As documented by Palestinian Media Watch, the PA honors terrorists  in numerous ways, including paying them high salaries  while they are in prison and upon their release and glorifying them in speeches at events. Suicide bombers and other terrorists who were killed are honored by being calledShahids- Martyrs for Allah - one of the highest levels of Muslim religious achievement possible today, and streets, summer camps and sporting events are named after them.”

Although Israel isn’t as nearly as extreme as the Palestinians, they too don’t advance the cause of peace on a day to day basis.  Sometimes I feel that Israel responds to the P.A. like a little child.  If you do this, I going to build more settlements just to spite you.  That was Israel’s reaction to the swearing in of the unification government between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.  I would have preferred a response like this.  Israel is willing to sit down with the new unification government anytime and anyplace as soon as Hamas renounces its intent to destroy Israel. 

I can’t understand why Israel also doesn’t build new homes in the Galilee where the Arab population outnumbers the Jewish population.  When a two state solution comes into reality, those settlers whose settlements will be dismantled will need a new home to live in.  Why not prepare now? Why not the Galil?  It is no less Jewish than the West Bank.

I pray for the peace of Jerusalem.  I believe in the power of prayer.  Prayers for peace are wonderful.  I’d just wish that they were backed by actions on the ground.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Underdog Effect

"Everybody loves the Underdog and  wants them to win, unless you happen to be playing against the underdog" Stephen K. Shaw

Today is Israel’s 66th birthday.  I remember an old story back when Assad’s father still ruled Syria with an iron fist.  He was so anti-Israel that when the nation’s school system received blow up globes of the world, he had his principals cut out Israel from the map as if it didn’t exist.  Of course the teachers couldn’t blow up the globe because the air kept escaping where Israel should have been.  The moral of the story is that the world wouldn’t exist without Israel.  Here is a link to 18 Israel inventions that just could save your life.  http://israel21c.org/health/18-israeli-inventions-that-could-save-your-life/?utm_source=Yom+Ha%27atzmaut+Newsletter&utm_campaign=Happy+TA&utm_medium=email

Yet, if Israel is so great, I wondered why so many people favor the Palestinians over the Israelis in the conflict?  Israel is certainly not perfect. Life under Israeli rule is hard and at times unfair.  We could and should do a better job as our tradition and the Declaration of Israel’s Independence demand of us. Nevertheless, Israel is a democracy where there is an independent judiciary. All Arabs can seek justice.  Israeli Arabs have the right to vote and serve in the Knesset.  An Arab sits on the Israel Supreme court.  There is a free and open press and the right to protest.  But living under the Palestinians rule nothing like that exists.  Everybody agrees that the P.A. and Hamas governments are corrupt.  Human rights are trampled upon especially if you are a woman or a homosexual.  Honor killings and murder of homosexuals are common place.  There is no right of assembly and free press.  Members of the opposite party are harassed and even out right murdered.  Palestinian terrorist have lobbed thousand upon thousands of missiles at civilian targets. Suicide bombers have killed innocent men, women, and children at bus stops, restaurants, discothèques, and even at a Passover seder.  Gilad Shalit, an army soldier, was kidnapped and the Red Cross wasn’t permitted to visit him during his years of captivity as allowed by the Geneva Convention. Unfortunately the list of these crimes is longer than I have time to share.  In other words the Palestinians are not always the best neighbors in the world to share a backyard.

Believe it or not the answer to my question can be found in this week’s Sports Illustrated issue (5-5-14).  I was reading the article “Long Shots” by Chris Ballard.  Upsets do happen in the NBA, but no league serves up fewer postseason upsets.  He writes,

“Why do we love upsets?  Plenty of social scientists have studied the matter. In 2010, Slate published a lengthy article citing the findings of this research-how, all else being equal 81% of us choose to root for underdogs; how once a presidential candidate is described as an underdog he or she is immediately perceived as more liable; how we naturally assign positive attributes to underdogs.
In the end it’s simple math: the more unlikely the success, the more rewarding it is.  And therein lies the frustration, and the allure….

No doubt about it.  The Palestinians are the underdogs and garner all of the world’s sympathy.  That’s almost ok with me.  I’d rather have the status of a strong, resilient, and thriving Jewish State in our ancestral homeland than being the vulnerable wandering underdog relying solely on the good will of others as we were the 2000 years before 1948. That didn’t turn out so well for us Jews especially if you remember all the expulsions, inquisitions, blood libels, pogroms, and the Holocaust.  Now is definitely better.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Remember Yes, but How?

This is my welcome I gave last night at our annual Yom Hashoa Memorial Service.

Shalom. I am Rabbi Gary Greene of Marathon Jewish Community Center and I would like to welcome you here for our annual Yom Hashoa memorial service on behalf of my colleagues Cantor Heyman of Marathon, Rabbi Eli Shifren of Temple Torah, Rabbi Gordon Yaffe and Cantor Shron of Congregation Dor LeDor, all the Presidents of the three shuls, and on behalf of all the hard working members of our joint Yom Hashoa committee.

When I saw the documentary, No Place On Earth,  how Sonia Hochman’s family was saved from the Nazis by living underground for a year and a half, I was moved by their story.  Their bravery, ingenuity, resourcefulness, their love for one another, and their joie de vivre are inspirational.  My favorite part of the documentary was the very end of the movie when they showed pictures of each family with at least 3 generations in each photo because this demonstrates their resilience in particular and of the Jewish people in general.  Hitler is no more but we’re still here and flourishing.

We are dedicating our Yom Hashoa service this year to the memory of Alice Herz-Sommer, a piano virtuoso.  Until she died this past February at the age of 111 years old, she was the oldest living survivor in the world.  Alice was billeted with her son during their time at Theresienstadt, and he was one of only a few children to survive Theresienstadt. Her husband died of typhus in Dachau, six weeks before the camp was liberated. After the Soviet liberation of Theresienstadt in 1945, Alice and Raphael returned to Prague and in March 1949 emigrated to Israel to be reunited with some of her family, including her twin sister, Mariana. Alice lived in Israel for nearly 40 years, working as a music teacher at the Jerusalem Academy of Music until emigrating to London to be with her son in 1986. Her son Raphael, an accomplished cellist and conductor, died in 2001, aged 64, in Israel  at the end of a concert tour. He was survived by his widow and two sons.

Alice Herz-Sommers had every right to be bitter because of all of her life's experiences, but chose not to be.  She bequeathed her wisdom to us as her legacy.  She said that one must look for the beauty in life.  She saw beauty in life everywhere.  She said, “I know all about the bad, but I only look at the good things.”  She was asked whether she hated the Nazis and she said she hated no one because “Hatred eats the soul of the hater, not the hated” and “Hatred breeds only hatred.” 

Beyond fighting Anti-Semitism here at home and abroad, I can think of no better way to remember all the Jews during the Holocaust than carrying on their legacy by being as brave, resourceful, loving, and resilient, and now looking for the beauty in life no matter what are circumstances are. In this way, they will live on through us, our children, our grandchildren, and great grandchildren from this time forth and forever more. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Will the real fifth question please stand up.

The real fifth question[1]

Many of you have learned because many of us have taught that the text of the Haggadah eliminates Moses from the narrative to emphasize God’s role in the redemption of the Jewish people.  Indeed God is the hero of the story. “In every generation they stand up against us to destroy us-and the Holy Blessed One saves us from their hand!” “’God brought us out of Egypt’-not by an angel, not by an archangel, and not by a messenger.  It was God alone, in His glory, and by Himself.’”

With the above quotes, the rabbis emphasized God’s role in order to exclude other supernatural beings that the pagans believed in.  Although God wrought miracles in the land of Egypt to free the Israelite slaves, this fact does not preclude human participation in the drama of the Exodus. The Haggadah itself subtly teaches us that human participation was a necessary component in the story of the Exodus.  Allow me to illuminate several examples from the Haggadah to demonstrate how important human participation truly was.

We find Moses mentioned in the Haggadah twice, once directly by name and once he was alluded to.  “’Signs’-This is the staff.  It is written, “Take this staff in your hands (Moses), and with it perform the signs.’ (Exodus 4:17)” “At the Red Sea it is written, ‘Israel saw the great hand that God had directed against Egypt.  The people feared God and in his servant Moses.’ Exodus 14:31” The first quote introduces Moses to Pharaoh for the very first time and the second quote is when he leaves Pharaoh on the shore of the Red Sea.  These two verses found in the Haggadah serve as bookends which highlight the importance of Moses throughout the entire story.  Let’s face it.  The staff that ate the magician’s staffs when they were all turned into snakes just didn’t walk into Pharaoh’s court all by itself.  Moses brought this staff with him when told Pharaoh, “Let my people go!”  The second quote alludes to Moses standing over the Red Sea with his staff outstretched over the waters to part them. As you can see, the Haggadah doesn’t think Moses was chop liver.

Speaking of the Red Sea episode, according to the Midrash the water didn’t part until Nachshon ben Aminadav from the tribe of Judah took a leap of faith and jumped into the water.  Only after he jumped in, did the water split.  Once again showing how important human participation was in the saving of the Jewish people.

The Talmud in Sotah 12a teaches us that if it wasn’t for the righteous Jewish women of that generation, the Israelites wouldn’t have been redeemed out of the land of Egypt.  The apple, nut, and wine mixture, Charoset, alludes to one example of these righteous women.  Of course, the Charoset symbolizes the mortar the Jewish people used to build the pyramids.  Nevertheless, the Charoset hints to another Midrash.  Pharaoh used back breaking labor as an effective birth control method. At the end of the day the Jewish men were too exhausted to do anything else.  The Jewish women realized this would be disastrous because there would be no future generations to come into this world.  When the men broke for lunch, the women went to the apple orchards where the men were resting, brought them lunch, and seduced them. Without these women subverting Pharaoh’s schemes, Moses, Aaron, Miriam, would never have been born.  The apples in the Charoset remind us of these righteous women!

Finally, the Haggadah has a strange verse from Ezekiel “I made you as the plants of the field.  You became many and grew, and became mature.  Your breasts were full, your hair was grown, but you were naked and bare. (Ezekiel 16:7)  I passed by you and saw you covered with blood, and I said to you, ‘By your blood you shall live!’ and I said to you, ‘By your blood you shall live! (Ezekiel 16:6)  Why are we talking about a naked person covered with blood?  The Zohar, the book of Jewish mysticism, explains why this verse is quoted in the Haggadah.  God does not manifest providence-rewarding virtue or punishing evil until He witness human actions. “Rabbi Yehudah said, ‘If so, why blood?...(Rabbi Yossi) replied, ‘There were two bloods: one of circumcision and one of the Paschal Lamb. Of circumcision, Compassion (the sefirah of Hesed); of the Paschal Lamb, Judgment (the sefirah of Din). Before the Israelites left they had to circumcise all the males and offer up the Paschal Lamb.  The midrashic interpretation is apparently based on the repetition of the exclamation “In your blood live”  In other words, the Israelites were naked of commandments and thereby they weren’t worthy of redemption until they did something. Without the bloods of circumcision and Paschal Lamb they would not have been redeemed.  Only after they observed these two mitzvot would God make the Exodus happened.

God is great, but without our ancestors’ active participation in the events leading up to the Exodus “then even we, our children and our children’s children would still be slaves in Egypt.”  What was true for our ancestors is true for us today.  If we want to see a redeemed world, we have to act as God’s partners. Only when we do our share, will the Holy One be aroused and manifest His providence.  So the real fifth question isn’t “When do we eat?”, but rather “What am I doing to bring redemption closer?”  Answer that question correctly and we shall no longer need to say “Next Year In Jerusalem.”

Hag Pesach Samayach!

[1] I am indebted to David Arnow.  This blog is inspired by his article “The Passover Haggadah: Moses and the Human Role in Redemption.”  To read this article go to www.livelyseders.com and click on the articles tab.  You will see a fuller discussion of this topic.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Deja vu all over again

“Déjà vu all over again” Yogi Berra

Back in 2009 Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced a Pentagon review of the deadly shooting that left 13 dead and another 24 wounded at Food Hood to help ensure that “nothing like this ever happens again.”

It’s déjà vu all over again.  5 years later a depressed Iraq veteran potentially suffering from post traumatic stress shot and killed 3 people and wounding 16 others before turning his gun on himself at Fort Hood this past Wednesday, April 2, 2014.  According to the New York Times (April 4, 2014), “Specialist Lopez bought his gun at the same shop near the base where the 2009 gunman, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, bought his weapon.  Each shooting started in a medical support area for troops, and each ended when the gunman confronted a female police officer rushing to the scene.

It’s déjà vu all over again. Just this past September there was another shooting spree leaving 12 people dead at the Washington Navy Yard.

It’s déjà vu all over again.  Every month New York Times columnist Joe Nocera publishes a list of gun violence occurrences in order to put a human face to victims and not let them be an anonymous number.  Here is his April 3 Gun Report:

Joshua Lee Nun, 9, was shot to death by his 12-year-old brother near Panama, Okla., Wednesday afternoon. The boys were reportedly playing with a gun, and it discharged and hit the victim in the chest. The boy’s mother and other children were home at the time. Authorities are investigating how the children got the gun.
A 9-year-old girl was hit in the back by a stray bullet as she was doing homework in the dining room of her home in Youngstown, Ohio, early Tuesday. Police said the girl was caught in an exchange of gunfire several yards from the home. No arrests have been made.
Three people—Lacravia Collier, Franklin Mitchell and Lashawn Tyson—were shot and wounded following an argument outside an apartment complex in Greenville, N.C., early Wednesday. Police believe the shooting stemmed from a fight at Buffalo Wild Wings earlier that night. No arrests have been made.
Marquis Sams, 20, and Wilneka Pennyman, 19, were killed in a drive-by shooting in front of a home in the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami, Fla., early Wednesday. Pennyman tried to run off but collapsed outside the home. Sams was found dead in a car parked outside. Police are not sure if they were targeted.
Melissa Vaughn Green, 33, was shot and killed by a man who then turned the gun on himself at an apartment complex inRussellville, Ky., Wednesday afternoon. A neighbor said the suspect, Kenneth Temple, was the victim’s ex-husband or ex-boyfriend, and he had just spoken to the woman’s current boyfriend before opening fire in the parking lot. Green and Temple leave behind two children.
Casey Nicole Mitchell, 33, a mother of four, was shot and killed during a domestic disturbance at a home in Brunswick, Ga., Tuesday. Jermaine Javon Thomas, 37, fled the scene but was arrested the next day.
A 45-year-old woman was shot and killed in front of her children during a dispute with her domestic partner in Newton County, S.C., Tuesday night. The victim’s 12-year-old daughter was shot in the hand, and the suspect’s 3-year-old grandson witnessed the shooting. Aaron Garsua McClain, 45, was arrested at a motel inGeorgia.
A 20-year-old man was shot and wounded while trying to defuse a domestic dispute in an apartment in Fall River, Mass., Wednesday afternoon. Guillermo Santana, 29, is being sought.
A man shot himself after crashing his car into the car of a woman with whom he was having a domestic dispute in Loudoun County, Va., Tuesday evening. He is being treated for life-threatening injuries.
A 21-year-old man was shot and killed at a home in Markham, Ill., Tuesday night. Police have launched a widespread search for suspects.
Ralph Quarels, 21, was killed and another man was wounded in a shooting in east Oakland, Calif., Tuesday night. The victims were shot while driving a rental car. Police don’t have a motive and have not yet made an arrest.
A 35-year-old man and a 27-year-old woman were shot multiple times and killed in north St. Louis, Mo., Wednesday afternoon. Their bodies were found in a car across the street from a middle school.
A woman was shot and wounded in a townhouse development inLower Paxton Township, Pa., early Wednesday. Neighbors said the woman kept a low profile. She is not cooperating with police.
A 25-year-old man was found lying in a driveway with a single gunshot wound to his chest following a disturbance at a home inOwasso, Okla., Tuesday night. Witnesses told police the shooter was Ryan Brashier, 23, who surrendered to officers outside a QuikTrip store. Police did not reveal a motive.
Tarrance Roshawn Campbell, 24, was shot multiple times and killed in High Point, N.C., Tuesday night. His body was found lying in the road. Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call police.
Jarrick Boone, 21, was killed and a 23-year-old man was wounded in a shooting in Beverly Hills, Mo., early Wednesday. There’s no word on suspects.
A woman in her 60s was shot during an attempted robbery inYork, Pa., Wednesday night. Police are searching for a suspect.
A man was shot and wounded during a fight in front of a home inDesert Hot Springs, Calif., Wednesday evening. Police are asking anyone with information to contact them.
Dominique Curtis Scott, 23, was shot and killed at a home inRidgeland, S.C., Tuesday. Devin Dwayne Swinton, 23, is being sought. He is considered armed and dangerous.
Emery Lorenzo Williams, 64, was killed in a drive-by shooting while on his way home from church in Spartanburg County, S.C., Wednesday night. The victim was on the phone with his wife when he was shot, and his car crashed in a parking lot across from a fitness club. Police said the shooting appears to be random. No arrests have been made.
Samuel Sawyer was shot in the face during an argument with his neighbor involving romantic jealousy in Valdosta, Ga., Tuesday night. The victim’s fiancé said Hubert Heflin, 48, called her a bad name, and has been trying to break up her relationship for years. Heflin, an ex-convict, was arrested. Police said the victim will likely lose his eye.
Nathan Benjamin Trapuzzano, 24, was shot and killed during an attempted robbery while he was power walking near his home in Indianapolis, Ind., Tuesday morning. Surveillance video shows one of the would-be robbers shooting the victim in the stomach. His wife was expecting their first child. “As with many tragedies, this seems so senseless, and yet the outpouring of love and support reminds us that there is so much good in this world,” his family said in a statement. No word on arrests. In a separate shooting late that night, a man was found shot and critically injured in an alley behind a row of houses on the northwest side of Indianapolis. No word on a suspect.
A 17-year-old boy was shot and wounded while allegedly breaking into a home in the Montbello neighborhood of Denver, Colo., Tuesday afternoon. The homeowner was not arrested. Police will present their findings to the district attorney’s office, which will determine charges.
A woman was shot as she walked out of a business along a busy stretch of Stockton, Calif., Tuesday night. Officers were responding to a fight and gunshots outside a nearby restaurant when they located the victim in her car. A possible suspect was spotted running from the area.
A woman was shot and critically injured in the Berea neighborhood of Baltimore, Md., late Wednesday. Police have not released a suspect description or motive.
A 28-year-old man was shot and killed on a street in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan, N.Y., early Tuesday. Police canvassed the area for a shooter, but he or she remains at large.
Koruth Deon Mangle, 43, was shot to death in his apartment inHarvey, La., Wednesday night. The victim’s son said family members were in their apartment when intruders kicked in the door and shot the victim in the head, “like it was personal.”
A 22-year-old man was shot multiple times and killed in a suspected gang-related attack in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, Calif., Wednesday afternoon. The victim was found on a sidewalk. No arrests have been made.
A 16-year-old boy was shot in the thigh in a home in the Point Breeze neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa., Wednesday night. Investigators said someone is in custody. No word on a motive.
Sinque Hagler, 24, was shot in the stomach and killed inWilmington, Del., Wednesday afternoon. The victim, who went by “Man-Man,” was found in his car near the Wilmington Housing Authority’s Riverside project. He leaves behind two daughters under the age of three.
Gerid W. Forste, 31, was shot and killed during an argument at his apartment in Valparaiso, Ind., early Wednesday. The suspect, who shot the victim multiple times with an AR-15 rifle, confessed to police at the scene. No motive was given.
A man was shot and killed on the north side of Saginaw, Mich., Wednesday afternoon. At the time of the shooting, local police were preparing for a citywide anti-violence march.
A 21-year-old woman was shot in the knee in an apartment building in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago early Wednesday. A man was detained for questioning. No word on a motive.
According to the Gun Violence Archive4,280 people have been injured by gun violence in America and 2,624 have been killed since Jan. 1, 2014.
I wondered how the 4 children in the Haggadah would respond to all this gun violence?  Here is my take.

The Four Children and gun violence
The wise child says: The vast majority of Americans want sane gun laws to curb senseless gun violence and needless death. “Over 75% of the American people are on our side; American mainline denominations are on our side; 75% of NRA members are on our side. The only possible thing that could stand in our way is to forget who we are (that we are created in God’s own image) and why God put us here (to be His partner to perfect the world). “  (America and its  Guns Page 213)

The wicked child says:  There are no circumstances when regulation or restriction should be placed upon the acquisition of guns. Guns don’t kill, only people kill. Guns represent Judaism’s most cherished values of self-preservation.  Besides I don’t know anybody personally who was killed by gun violence.

The simple child says:  Why would anybody want to come into my school with machine gun and kill so many of my friends?

The child who doesn’t even know how to ask just weeps.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Gun Violence as the 10 Plagues

I feel like the Vizzini character in the movie “The Princess Bride.” 

[Vizzini has just cut the rope The Dread Pirate Roberts is climbing up a steep cliff]
Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Just over a year since the Sandy Hook Massacre where Adam Lanza murdered 20 children and six adult staff members, 70 laws have been passed to loosen gun restrictions.   Inconceivable.  As I write this a bill expanding how people can buy, carry, and use guns in Georgia is now waiting for the governor’s expected signature. It reduces licensing requirements and provides Georgians with a stronger “Stand Your Ground Defense.  This bill will allow people to carry loaded guns in more places than ever before, including bars.  Aren’t there enough fights in an overheated alcohol induced state already without guns being present? Inconceivable.  They may also be carried in unsecured areas of airports. Even toting a gun in secured areas will merely be a misdemeanor in Georgia as long as you did it by mistake. After all, who among us has not had the embarrassing experience of forgetting they were carrying their Glock semiautomatic through airport security? (From the New York Times editorials of March 25 and 26, 2014)

The Republicans wanted to include allowing guns on college campuses and in Houses of Worship.  Inconceivable!  Thank God, at least these measures failed.  I am gratified to learn that the lawmakers continued the ban in government buildings with security checkpoints, like the Capital where they work.  Of course guns are welcomed in any unsecured government building.  Inconceivable.

Now President Obama’s nominee, Dr. Vivek Murthy, to become the next Surgeon General is getting fierce push back from the NRA and their paid-off friends in Congress, because he tweeted: “Tired of politicians playing politics w/ guns, putting lives at risk b/c they’re scared of NRA. Guns are a health care issue. #debatehealth” Even some Democrats who are up for re-election this year are feeling the heat from the NRA and are leaning to veto this excellently qualified doctor from Harvard to the post of Surgeon General.  Gun violence is a health care issue here in America.  The number of people murdered and seriously injured due to guns violence has only increased each and every year now. I guess job security is more important that doing what is right.  Inconceivable.

Maybe the word doesn’t mean what I think it does.

On Passover we remove a drop of wine each time we recite one of the 10 plagues. We diminish our cup of joy because our redemption came on the back of other people’s suffering.  The Egyptians had to bear each and every one of those plagues.  I have written a new set of 10 plagues based upon the scourge of gun violence in our midst. Perhaps we should further diminish our cup of joy this year as we recite these new 10 plagues with our prayer that the inconceivable laws to reduce gun violence become conceivable.

Gun violence’s 10 Plagues
1.      In most states, a person can buy and own a gun without knowing how to use it and there are no requirements that gun owners are trained in the safe operation of guns.

2.  More than 50% of guns acquired at crime scenes come from only 1% of gun dealers.  The ATF knows who the rogue dealers are, but present law blocks the agency from publicizing their activities or putting them out of business.

3.   Some gun owners have turned their guns into idols for they
a.      Nurture deep emotional attachments to instruments that are made to kill.
b.      Grow threaten and angry when gun values are questioned and refuse honest dialogue about the place of guns in society.
c.       Support no preventive measures to stop gun violence, only punishment.
d.      Show little or no grief for society’s gun victims.
e.      Vigorous oppose any law to restrict sales to the most dangerous members of society.
f.        Claim an absolute, unrestricted, unregulated constitutional right to use their guns against our government if they consider it tyrannical.
g.      Claim the blessing of a loving God on weapons that kill.
h.      Believe the solution to gun violence is to have more guns.

4.       We cultivate a language of a gun culture when we use such common phrases as
a.      Big shot
b.      Hot shot
c.       My aim was off
d.      The smoking gun
e.      Trigger happy
f.        Stick to your guns
g.      Go off half –cocked
h.      Shoot from the hip
i.        He is a straight shooter
j.        Take a shot in the dark
k.       I’ll be a son of a gun especially when my father is a pistol
l.        Gun shy
m.    Shot down
n.      You call the shots
o.      Don’t shoot the messenger.
p.      How many more expressions can you think of?

5. The soaring medical cost caring for the victims of  gun violence
a.      A report, “Gun Violence Among School-Age Youth in Chicago” calculated the annual cost of gun violence at $2.5 billion, or $2,500 per Chicago household 
b.      This is just for Chicago.  Dare we do the math for the entire country?

6.  Guns manufacturers are advertising women and children “friendly” fire arms.
a.      Most women that purchase handguns do so to make themselves safer, but do they have that effect? The Violence Policy Center took a look at the 2011 homicide data and found that the opposite was true. Not only does having a gun in the home greatly increase a woman’s risk of intimate partner homicide, it provides no protection against homicide. Children are not only at risk to die a gun death themselves, they are also at high risk to losing their mother to a gun

7.  Too many loopholes allowing people to get around background checks like at gun shows.
a.      The Brady Bill, which went into effect in 1994, instituted federal background checks on firearm purchases to prevent prohibited people from owning guns. Mayors Against Illegal Guns studied the efficacy of these background checks in preventing violent crimes, and their results were astounding. 16 states and the District of Columbia also require background checks on private sales, and those states are consistently safer. The data shows that background checks do work.

8. Congress has failed to ban semi-automatic assault weapons and limit the number of rounds in a magazine.
a.      There have been nearly 2 mass shootings a month during the last four years, 93 total. Mayors Against Illegal Guns used FBI data to survey every incident where at least 4 people were murdered with a gun. They noted that use of assault weapons and/or high capacity magazines resulted in 151% more people shot and 63% more people killed. No more than 15% of mass shootings took place in “gun – free zones”. Learn the truth about mass shootings, and what can prevent the next one.

9.  Stand your Ground laws
a.    The killings of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis brought national attention to the prevalent “shoot first” laws. The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence studied the impact of these laws and found that they increase, not decrease, violence. They also learned that “shoot first” laws combined with lax concealed carry laws combine to create a license to kill.

 10.  Over 32,000 American’s are killed by guns every year.
a.      This is an epidemic. In 2010 15,576 children and teens were injured or killed by guns. More children and teens are losing their lives to guns now than they are to cancer. Our national gun violence problem has become such an epidemic that pediatricians now see guns “as much of a threat as bacteria and viruses.”

All facts for the plagues of gun violence come from either America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose by James E. Altwood or Moms Demand Action at https://momsdemandaction.org/get-the-facts/

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Bearing False Witness

Last week David Brooks wrote an op-ed article “The Prodigal Sons.” I responded to his piece with a letter to the editor of the New York Times.  I didn't expect my letter to be published because I wasn’t commenting on the content of his op-ed, but to just one sentence in it.

Thanks to my brother George, I was very familiar with the story of the Prodigal Son found in the Christian testament, Luke 15:1-32.  He recommended the book The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Home Coming by Henri J.M. Nouwen. Nouwen is a Catholic priest who wrote this meditation of the meaning of the story based upon Rembrandt’s painting of this story.  For those who do not know the simple story line it goes like this.

A father has two sons.  The younger didn’t want to wait for his inheritance and asked for it while his father was still alive.  The father divided his estate into two equal parts.  He gave one to the elder son and one to the younger son.  The elder son remained home and worked the property, maintaining its value, and taking care of his father.  The younger son took the money and ran away.  After a time he had squandered his entire inheritance.  How so?  I am reminded of an old joke.  A millionaire was asked how he lost his fortune.  He replied.  “I spent ¼ of it on fast race cars, ¼ of it on fast ponies at the race track, ¼ of it on fast women, and the rest I just wasted.”  Now penniless, all the younger son’s false friends abandoned him at best or took advantage of him at worse.  Finally, the son realized that his own father’s slaves fared better than he so he decided to return.

When he returned home, his father welcomed him back with opened arms, threw a big party, and slaughtered the fated calf.  The older brother grumbled how unfair that was.  He remained home and did everything that was correct and right, but his father never threw him a party and killed the fated calf.  But when his brother returned home after wasting all of the inheritance, the father throws him a big bash.  The father comforts the older son says to the effect all that I have is yours.  I am just happy my other son is home. 

It is a great parable of love and forgiveness.  As I learned in Nouwen’s book, there are many different Christian interpretation of this story.  I found fault with David Brooks’ interpretation. To be specific, the context he set the story.  Brooks wrote: “The father’s example is especially pernicious now, the critics continue.  Jesus preached it at the time of the Pharisees, in an overly rigid and rule-bound society.  In those circumstances, a story of radical forgiveness was a useful antidote to the prevailing legalism.”  He perpetuates that anti-Jewish canard that Judaism is the religion of law and Christianity is the religion of love and grace.  Amy-Jill Levine writes: “…But problems enter when homilists or teachers do not know Jewish history or theology and out of ignorance construct a negative Judaism over and against which they position Jesus, or when they presume that Jesus’ numerous insightful and inspirational comments are original to him rather than part of his Jewish identity.” (“Bearing False Witness: Common Errors Made About Early Judaism” found in The Jewish Annotated New Testament.) What Brooks doesn’t know about early Judaism can fill volumes.

Here is my letter to the editor:

David Brooks in his op-ed article “Prodigal Sons” (Tuesday, February 18, 2014) demonstrates his lack of Jewish history and theology and out of ignorance continues to use an anti-Jewish interpretation of the Prodigal Sons gospel story by claiming that “Jesus preached it at the time of the Pharisees, in an overly rigid and rule bound society.”  By doing so he continues the canard that Judaism is the religion of law and Christianity is the religion of grace.  We Jews have never found the observance of the commandments burdensome any more than people find their country’s laws.  Just the opposite.  We have always seen the commandments as a sign of God’s love for the Jewish people Rabbi Hananiah ben Akashya said:  “The Holy One, praised be He, desired to grant merit to Israel; and therefore has He given them a copious Torah and many commandments.” In reality any modern state today has more laws on the books than there are in all the Jewish sources put together.  As a Jew, Jesus sometimes makes the law even more stringent. For example, he considers For example, he includes in adultery remarriage after a divorce. (Mt 19:9)  Even though Mr. Brooks conclusion may resonate, he should, as the rabbis teach, “be careful in the words he uses.”