King Abdullah, the Jane Addams of Saudi Arabia

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By now, you have read and heard the the official American media “take” on the late King Abdullah was that he was a “moderate reformer” who sought to “open up” the Saudi Kingdom to Western values and practices.  Kind of like the famed Chicago Reformer Jane Addams he sought to improve the social conditions of his people  but alas, circumstances did not give this benevolent monarch the necessary time to fully develop his progressive views.

King Abdullah was a vicious despot who brutalized, murdered, and imprisoned all who dissented from his absolute rule.   Like the rest of the “House of Saud” he appropriated  the wealth of the nation for himself and his extended family while treating the non-Saudi population in his country like dogs.  Women were (and are) second class citizens and non-Saudi women who have the misfortune to live in that nation are treated even worse.

The New York Times published today the famous photo of Abdullah walking hand in hand with Bush, while “Prince” Bandar speaks to Condi Rice.  Anyone who knows anything about the real Saudia Arabia knows that in that country, a woman of African descent who dared to speak to a Saudi Prince would be in danger of having her tongue removed.

The Saudis were, and continue to be financial backers of terror all around the world.  They do this for the same reason that candy store owners pay the Mob-to keep the vandals away from them.  One day, historians will wonder why, when the majority of 9\11 attackers were Saudi, we attacked the enemy of the Saudis, the Iraqis.  To this day, if you recall, the report that discusses the Saudi role in 9\11 is classified.  Saudi members of the “Royal” family were allowed to fly home after 9\11, while all Americans were grounded.

If I sound bitter, it is because I am.  The failure of the media and of others to explore the reality of the Saudi family, their support of terror and brutality, and their complex ties with the highest levels of the political elite in our country  is a true moral failing.    I will not miss “King” Abdullah, neither him, nor his noxious, repressive reign.

“Je Suis Charlie”? What Took You So Long? – Friday, January 9, 2015

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Rabbi Doug Sagal:

My colleague says it beautifully

Originally posted on Rabbi Audrey Korotkin:

I am writing these words as Shabbat approaches, two days after the horrific slaughter in Paris, in which Islamic terrorists murdered twelve people, including the entire editorial staff of the satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo,” purportedly for insulting the prophet Mohammed and therefore the entirety of the Muslim world. The killers are still on the loose, and now another armed gunman associated with them has taken hostages at a kosher grocery store in eastern Paris, on a Friday morning when he clearly knew the market would be crowded with pre-Shabbat shoppers.

As the two terrorist brothers – at least one of them well known to French security forces as a jihad recruiter – remain at large, the French nation has been joined by others across the globe in protest of this cold, calculated, well-planned mass murder. “Je Suis Charlie,” posters and t-shirts and social-networking sites proclaim, “I Am Charlie.” Condemnation for…

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In memory of Rabbi Harold Schulweis, read one of his books

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One of the finest rabbis in America died just days ago, Rabbi Harold Schulweis. Long serving senior rabbi of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, CA, Rabbi Schulweis combined an uncanny pulpit ability with genuine scholarship and intellectual pursuits.
Few rabbis have the ability to both lead a congregation and make a real contribution to the scholarly life of American Jewry-Harold Schulweis was one of these precious few. His books are not easy to read-may I suggest his short little work called Conscience-the Duty to Obey and the Duty to Disobey.   http://www.amazon.com/Conscience-The-Duty-Obey-Disobey/dp/1580233759     Our rabbis taught that when the we read the words of our teachers, it is as if they continue to live amongst us.  May the memory of Rabbi Harold Schulweis be for a blessing.

From Death to Life

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Yesterday, I made the long drive out to eastern Long Island to officiate at a funeral. As I drove, I spotted the staging areas for the funeral this weekend of Officer Liu, one of two murdered NYPD patrolmen, killed almost two weeks ago for no other reason than the color of their uniform.

I reflected on the fact that 2014 ended with considerable tales of death. The two officers, the tragedy in Shanghai, the loss of yet another plane over a cold and inhospitable sea.

We completed the book of Genesis this shabbat, and it too ends with tales of death. The deaths of both Jacob and Joseph conclude the book that began with the creation of the world.

However, the next book, Exodus, immediately begins with birth-the birth of the Israelite people followed by the birth of Moses himself, who will lead that people to freedom. Perhaps the Torah message of death followed by birth will carry over into this new year. May 2015 be year when we see less death and sadness, and more birth and joy and renewal.

Boxing Is Jazz

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During the winter break I took my son to see “Whiplash”- a scary and amazing film about jazz and the agony required to create great music. I have always liked jazz but never understood it at all. In the last few minutes of the film I realized something about this art form. Jazz is essentially the art of mastering the fundamentals, and then having the courage and creativity to improvise while “in the moment”. The great jazz musician has the ability to maintain the fundamental melody while creating new combinations of notes and measures that both diverge from and support the baseline sound.

Boxing is exactly the same process. The fundamentals are basic-jab, straight hand, uppercut, hook, roll, move. But in the course of a sparring session, or a fight, the the great fighter is the one who has the courage and creativity to improvise-to build out of the fundamentals a “riff” that pays careful attention to the baseline moves but improvises combinations and punch sequences that create both the unexpected and the exhilirating. Ali had this gift. Floyd Mayweather, I think, has this gift, which is why he remains unbeatable. Tyson did not have this gift, but his fundamentals were so solid that fighting Tyson was like fighting a machine that threw perfect punches, perfectly executed each time.

Boxing is a lot like jazz.

I met Ernie Terrell

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The boxer Ernie Terrell, a very fine heavyweight whose most famous match was against Muhammad Ali, died in Chicago yesterday.

Terrell lost the match and was beaten badly, but the fight was most famous because Terrell had taunted Ali at the press conference, calling him “Cassius Clay” instead of his Muslim name.  In the ring, Ali beat Terrell punctuating his punches with “What’s my name!”

Years later, when I was a rabbi on the South Side of Chicago, I used to frequent a restaurant owned and operated by Black Hebrews.  (The food was kosher and they spoke a little Hebrew, which was fun).  Ernie Terrell was a regular at the restaurant, and the owners introduced me to him.

Rest in peace-