Lysistrata and the AR-15

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Lysistrata was a play written by Aristophanes and performed sometime around 400 bce in Athens, Greece. The play concerns the bloody Pelopennesian war and the unsuccessful efforts to halt the violence.

Finally, the women decide to withhold sex from the men until they agree to halt the bloodshed.  If I recall correctly, the men become so sexually deprived that they agree to make peace and the play ends with a big celebration.

As I write this, House Democrats are holding a sit-in at the Capitol to demand common sense gun reform.  But frankly, if Sandy Hook, San Bernadino, Virginia Tech and Orlando  could do nothing to halt the absurd situation of a country awash in military hardware in the hands of those unqualified and ill-suited to own them,  then I am afraid that this effort will similarly fail.

So a modest proposal.  Taking a cue from Lysistrata, women who are genuinely concerned for the future of their children make the same demand on the men of America-pass gun legislation or face a cold bed.  I would imagine that after a week or two of forced abstinence, enraged husbands and boyfriends would be marching on their legislators and demanding action.  Fear of the NRA pales in comparison.

Nothing else has worked.  Its worth a try.



My Temple on the Streets

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I train in the early hours of the morning in a gym located in a city about 15 minutes away from my doorway.

At the hour of 5:45, the streets of the city are empty-except for large crowds of Hispanic men lining the sidewalks waiting to be picked up by the contractors for day labor. Holding take out coffee and rolls bought from the Spanish grocery stores, the men congregate, talking and joking.   Contractor’s trucks slowly cruise up and down, occasionally stopping to pick up their workers and drive them to the wealthy towns that ring the city.

Not long ago, I was stopped at a light, when I noticed that one man was wearing a sweatshirt that looked strikingly familiar.  I quickly realized that he was wearing a “Temple Emanu-El Westfield” hoodie, one of those we give out to our student aides who work in our school.  The light changed, and I had to drive off, but I saw him the next day, and the next.

Where did this  gentleman get his Temple Emanu-El sweatshirt?  It could have been one of many we give away to the homeless people that live in our building twice a year.  It could have come from a clothing drive that we sponsor-it could simply be one that a Temple family donated in the course of time.  Truthfully, who knows?

Either way, I feel a unique kinship with this man.   Every day now I look for him, but he seems to be gone.   I drive past his spot slowly, but I look in vain.

I now keep an extra shirt in my car in case I see him again and plan to give it to him.   After all, we represent the same organization, and he deserves a clean shirt.



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.