The Seeds of Brussels were planted exactly twenty years ago-and we did nothing

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As the civilized world recoils in horror at the carnage in Brussels, it is instructive to look at the date of the attack on innocents using the  Belgian transportation system.   It was twenty years ago, almost exactly, in February and March of 1996, that a wave of suicide attacks struck Israel, targeting buses in Jerusalem and a major thoroughfare in Tel Aviv, Dizengoff street.   Nearly 60 Israelis were slaughtered by Hamas suicide bombers over the course of ten days.  Among the dead were at least two young American citizens and the twenty year old son of the prominent Haaretz columnist Nahum Barnea.

Arguably, the destruction on the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv ushered in our modern age of the suicide bomber who purposely targets public transportation and places of assembly, shown to such awful effect in Belgium yesterday.  Yet twenty years ago, after the usual pious claims of sympathy, the Western world promptly turned its back on Israel and its suffering.  Had we as a civilized society worked together to end the scourge of suicide bombing and to address the growing terror apparatus, perhaps, just perhaps, the streets of Brussels would not have flowed with blood yesterday as did the streets of Jerusalem twenty years ago almost to the day.  But, dare I say it, because the victims years ago were largely Jews, and Israelis, the world, and its concern moved on.  But the world moved on, Benjamin Netanyahu was elected not long after, largely as a result of the terror bombings, and we are where we are today.

Recall that in Israel, the most popular bumper sticker went from “Shalom Haver” (goodbye friend) in memory of Yitzhak Rabin, to “Shalom Haverim” (goodbye friends) in memory of the scores killed.  Sadly, that bumper sticker is just as relevant today.

I am one of the Rabbis boycotting Trump

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I am proud to be a delegate to the 2016 AIPAC convention in Washington next week.  While I don’t always agree with the positions and decisions of AIPAC, I stand strongly with Israel and believe that AIPAC works tirelessly on Israel’s behalf, and for that reason deserves my support and participation.  AIPAC has made it abundantly clear that they more than welcome even those of us who differ on issues of AIPAC policy.  Further, AIPAC has some of the nicest people working for them I have ever met.

I will be at AIPAC, but I will not be at Trump’s speech to the group on Monday.  I haven’t decided to simply not go, or go and leave as he begins to speak, but I will not sit silently by as he addresses the group.

To paraphrase my beloved late grandmother, Trump is “not good for the Jews”.  He is a pathological narcissist who uses hate and violent rhetoric to feed his constantly needy ego.

He has disrespected women, Muslims, latinos, immigrants, journalists, in fact anyone who has challenged him.  He has encouraged violence and employs a private squad of paid enforcers who have beaten and struck protesters.

Yes, I’ve heard about his newly Jewish daughter and her supposed Orthodox lifestyle.  if you live in my part of New Jersey you are more than aware of the prominent family into which she has married.  My grandmother would also say, “Don’t gossip about other families”.  I’m taking your advice, bubbe.

I know that people I love and care about support Trump.  To them I would say, its been my experience that narcissists care only about themselves.  Nothing in Trump’s narcissism has made me think he is any different.  Nothing in Trump’s speeches or actions have shown that he cares a whit about anyone other than himself.

I will proudly be at AIPAC.  I will not be in the room when Trump speaks.

 

 

 

From Howard Baker to Mitch McConnell-Our present dilemma explained

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Those who are younger than I am probably have never heard of Sen Howard Baker, Republican of Tennessee.  He died just two years ago, at the age of 88.

Howard Baker was Senate majority leader, like Mitch McConnell today.  But the resemblance ends there.  Baker was a principled man who, during the constitutional crisis of Watergate, helped bring an end to the presidency of a man from his own party, and arguably, helped preserve the political institutions of the country.  Was he punished for turning on his own party?  No-he later became chief of staff under Ronald Reagan and was lauded for the rest of his life as an elder statesman of our country.

People who are wondering why our country is in such a state need only look at the de-evolution from Baker to McConnell for the answer.

I once met Howard Baker.  On a visit to Washington with my family, we occupied the same little Senate “zip” train (remember when tourists could do that?) and my dad introduced us.  I remember that Baker asked if we were from Tennessee, and then, wished us a very pleasant stay in Washington.  Little did I now that the man was a living lesson in civics.

The leader bears the burdens of the people

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This past week, I was shaken to my core.  I was in the local pharmacy when I overheard the young dad next to me on the phone with his wife, trying to figure out what they could give up this month in order to afford his little daughter’s medication.  Their deductible was so high that one bottle of pills cost 360 dollars.  Even the pharmacist looked stricken as we could not help but overhear his desperate phone conversation, as his daughter stood by watching.  The very next day, I learned that a childhood friend of mine, father of a serving Marine, had unexpected surgery and could not afford his hospital bill.  He was appealing to friends to help him pay his expenses.

We just have read in the Torah that the Koheyn Gadol, the High Priest carried on his shoulders on two epaulets the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.  The sages tell us that this was to remind him that as leader of the community he was to always remember that he bore the responsibility of caring for his people and hearing their cries and pleas.

Too bad that in our time, our “leaders”, and their fawning supporters in the media, care not a whit for the burdens and true distress of the people.  My guess is that their shoulders are so narrowed by greed, narcissism, and selfishness that they could not bear the burden if they tried.

The Binding of Isaac-the App

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Jewish people know that “The Binding of Isaac”-in Hebrew, the Akeyda is a central story of our high holiday season.  Now, there is an apple game that works on the iPhone called…

The Binding of Isaac-Apparently, the idea is that Isaac must escape his monstrous parents and he battles demons and evil creatures along the way.  Take a look at the trailer-warning-there are some disturbing images.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/113200/

Time for the Fourth Estate to Step Up

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The Iraq War did not do it.  Katrina did not do it.  The slaughter of children in Newtown did not do it.  The collapse of our economy did not do it. Now, citizens who have the misfortune to reside in Flint, Michigan are sick and in some cases may die because of corruption, incompetence, and venality.  Still, our country does not appear to care.

I am convinced that one of the only things that can save us is that journalists, wage earners threatened by the same pressures that most of us face- a fumbling economy, job scarcity, fear of unemployment, fearful and timid supervisors, and stagnant wages, put aside those fears and simply take on the what is now sacred task of telling the story of 21st century America in all its unpleasant dimensions.

So watch “Spotlight”again.  Forget about becoming the next Chuck Todd, David Gregory,  or David Brooks. They are nothing but paid entertainers.  Embrace a sacred calling.  Remember that arguably what made America a democracy was a journalist named John Peter Zenger challenging the authorities of his day.  Journalists-this is your hour.