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AAJC Happenings

What Happened In Vegas Did Not Stay in Vegas

October 4th, 2017 Posted by AAJC Happenings, On Our Mind 13 comments

What happened in Vegas didn’t stay in Vegas. Its pulsating shock waves raced out across the country, whiplashing into every American heart. The very thought of that merciless rain of hot lead thudding into the flesh of unknowing innocents just elicits sad gasps of incredulous agony.

It only took a few hours for the predictable flood of media and political responses. Many were the standard clichés mentioning prayers, thoughts, shock and horror. Others sought explanations for this massacre or explored the means to prevent similar events from ever happening again.

We human beings are created with both head and heart. This means we should always respond to circumstances both intellectually and emotionally, but never both at the same time and never confusing head and heart.

Allow me to offer an example or two: If I need a surgeon, I want a doctor to whom I relate and who relates to me. When we discuss my surgery, I want him to know of my physical and emotional state and I want him to know of my parents and of my children. I want a surgeon with heart. However, once I am on the table in the operating room, I don’t want him thinking of anything but the technical medical and anatomical problems beneath his skilled fingers. I want him to be all head. Yes, I do want both head and heart, but at different times. When I sit in his consulting room anxiously discussing my prognosis, I don’t want to hear just dispassionate clinical analysis; I need some warm sign of his caring. During the operation, I don’t want him distracted by any emotional considerations.

Similarly, any wise young woman contemplating marriage to a man should engage in both a head and a heart analysis. Is he someone stable, upright and responsible? But also, is she romantically attracted to him? Again, confusing these two important but separate analyses will cause possibly tragic error. If she dismisses concerns about his moral and financial habits because she can’t take her eyes off his pleasing looks, she’d be heading for trouble. If she feels physically revolted by his repugnant hygiene but finds herself drawn to the secure and moral atmosphere he radiates, she’d probably be making a serious marital mistake.

It is entirely proper that our first response upon hearing of the Vegas massacre should be via our hearts. We empathize with the pain of those who lost loved ones and those whose lives were forever changed during those hours of horror. We feel the hurt. We feel the fear. We feel burning hot anger towards the horrible human who caused all this suffering. We feel bewilderment at how it could have happened. And if we didn’t experience all these feelings and if we failed to feel for those who were there, we’d be monsters.

But if we analyze the event and propose public policy solutions whilst yet in the grip of those feelings we’d be fools.

I hope these words spark a dialogue. Please note that comments may not be posted or answered quickly as our office and store will be closed from sunset Wednesday night PT through Saturday evening in observance of the opening days of Sukkot.

June 4th, 2017 Posted by AAJC Happenings No Comment yet

Anti-Semitism That Worries Me

May 1st, 2017 Posted by AAJC Happenings 17 comments

Over the last months, there has been a spike in Anti-Semitic activity. Graffiti has been sprayed on Jewish Community Centers, bomb threats have been called into synagogues, and cemeteries have been vandalized.  Pundits on the Left lay blame to this development, strangely, not on a metastasizing of Anti–Israel sentiment cultivated by President Obama, but on the rise of the blue-collar voter, given voice and vitality by the Trump administration.   While I disagree with their assessment, talk of blue-collar Anti-Semitism brings back memories of a day some 30 years ago when I was almost beaten up by blue-collar teens in a small town in New Jersey.

For most of high school I attended a yeshiva in Edison, New Jersey.  The neighborhood the yeshiva called home was white, working class; small homes on small lots, dignified by well-cared lawns and well-kept cars.

The locals were proud, patriotic Americans.  Every Memorial Day and July Fourth, large flags fluttered throughout the neighborhood. I distinctly remember a tremendous outpouring of support for the troops during Persian Gulf War I, in 1990.

The yeshiva was in the neighborhood but not of the neighborhood. It had bought an old City Hall building and then an old public school across the street. Most of the teens were from Brooklyn, and we were a foreign entity in the area. Many of the locals wished we hadn’t come. The neighborhood was generally safe, but there was a steady, low-level stream of anti-Semitism. It usually happened on Friday nights, when the riff-raff was on the way to or from the pub.  I remember pick-up trucks driving by, their occupants throwing pennies at us and yelling “Jew bagel.”  Every now and then a window would be broken. There was one fist fight behind the gym that ended poorly for both parties.

But the date that comes to mind was a Sunday in the Spring of 1987.  What had been a weekly Sunday afternoon pickup softball game quickly developed into a “yeshiva boys vs. local teens” rivalry.  That particular day it seemed as if every girlfriend and cousin had come to watch.  Loud music and the smell of alcohol pervaded the park.

The locals had a lead on us most of the game. They were up by two in the bottom of the ninth and we were having our last.  We had runners on first and third with two outs. A tall, strong yeshiva boy named Reuven Stengel came up to bat.  He took his time, waited for his pitch and barreled the ball deep into left field, over the road that ran through the outfield, into the cemetery behind it. The locals went stark-crazy.  As the tying run crossed third base, the teen taking third knocked him down.  Reuven, in a world of his own, ran right by both of them and scored.  The yeshiva boy on third got back up and scored after Reuven. The locals said we lost because our runners scored in the wrong order. We said we won because their man had knocked our man down.

It was chaotic and time to leave. We started walking towards yeshiva when one of the locals began to yell, “They stole my glove; the Jews stole my glove!”  I was walking with my friend Uriel Gleiberman and he was holding two gloves. I asked him who owned the second glove; he said it belonged to a friend who asked him to bring it back to school. The locals began searching us. If Uriel had picked up the wrong glove we were in for a beating. The locals searched Uriel and let him go. He didn’t have their glove.

The way I remember it, that Sunday was our last baseball game.  The rabbis at yeshiva found out what had happened and put an end to the games.

This past February, some thirty years later, I flew from Dallas to New Jersey to attend the rededication of the yeshiva building.  After the scheduled program, I drove around the neighborhood to take in the old sights.  The houses around the school were much the same, small houses on small lots, with well-manicured lawns and nice cars up front. Occasionally, I would see a new brick facade or fence added.  I sensed a definitive acceptance of the yeshiva by the locals. The school is now there for over three decades, and it is there to stay.

I drove back to the baseball field and parked the car. It was a cold day, but I stepped outside, closed my eyes and relived that Sunday afternoon in May, 1987.

I thought about primitive, blue collar anti-Semitism. And I was at ease. It was not and is not a serious deal. The primitive offering of the lower class, it is entirely insignificant.  It begins and ends with the bottom rungs of society.  The best and the brightest of the bunch, individuals who move from the lower class to the middle class, leave it behind. What I do fear, however, is Leftist Anti-Semitism.  It begins at the very top, championed by professors, academics and writers; people of influence.  It is they who have know-how and political acumen, it is they who have morphed Anti-Semitism into its newest, politically acceptable version of “Anti-Israelism.”  It is they who have forged common cause with radical Muslim groups. The combination of secular intellect and Muslim wealth and numbers is indeed a formidable threat.

That alliance will hurt us much more than teens in pickup trucks calling us names, largely because, in the sum of things, our lawns weren’t as neat as theirs, and our cars weren’t as polished.

I’d bet that most of the locals voted for President Trump.  I did too.  I am ever so glad that their patriotism blossomed, that they feel empowered to push for a stronger America.  I was an original supporter of Senator Cruz, but have come to realize that this country has moved too far from dignity and discipline to expect a majority to vote for conservative principals.  At this point, only raw, blue-collar nationalism can garner a majority to turn the tide back, and thankfully it did in the last election.

I look back at the locals in Edison, NJ and respect them. They are hard-working folk. It is they, fired up by patriotism, who will bring this country back from the brink, away from divisions of class and race, away from victimhood and dependency, motivated by a mission to Make America Great Again.

I believe that greatness is its Judeo-Christian value system.  They believe its greatness is its tenacity.   One thing I know for certain is that I want to play ball with them once again.  And this time, it will be with them, not against them.

 

The author of two books, Rabbi Yaakov Rosenblatt serves as the Director of the American Alliance of Jews and Christians (AAJC)

This article first appeared on World Net Daily

Immigration and the Protesting Rabbis

February 27th, 2017 Posted by AAJC Happenings 2 comments

On Monday, February 6, some 200 rabbis and rabbinical students protested outside Trump International Hotel in Manhattan.   19 of them blocked traffic and were arrested for disorderly conduct.  The group was protesting President Trump’s executive order placing a 90-day hold on immigration from seven countries which lack adequate security programs to vet the peaceful nature of visa holders: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen.

Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of Teru’ah, the left-wing rabbinical group that organized the protest, said it was meant to show that many Jews oppose the ban.

“We remember our history, and we remember that the border of this country closed to us in 1924, with very catastrophic consequences during the Holocaust.  We know that some of the language that’s being used now to stop the Muslims from coming is the same language that was used to stop Jewish refugees from coming“, she said. 

As the great-grandson of a rabbi who immigrated to the United States in 1924 because of religious persecution, these words caught my attention.

My Zaida, Rabbi Jacob A. Dubrow, was a rabbi in the Vinnitsa region of Ukraine.  During the Russian Civil War, he was marked for death by Ukrainian Whites.  Fleeing to a large city he survived the threat, but was at risk for deportation to Siberia when the Reds were victorious.  He escaped Ukraine and acquired a hard-to-get visa to the United States.  His wife and daughters followed and arrived in New York in 1926.

I wonder what Zaida would have said about the travel ban.

Zaida was a Lubavitcher chasid, an Orthodox Jew.  He passed away decades before I was born; even my father knew him only as a child.  Nonetheless, having followed in his path as an Orthodox rabbi, and having close friends within the Lubavitch movement, I am confident I know what he would have said.

Zaida was a quiet man, a scholar.  He was thoughtful, benevolent, but firm.

Undoubtedly, he would have been against a blanket ban on immigration from war torn countries. He would have advocated that America accept peaceful refugees of war seeking a better life for their families.  He would have supported families being allowed to reunite; without that, my grandmother and her sisters would have never been allowed to join him in the United States.

Yet, he was a wise man.  He would not have supported, for example, the immigration of the Ukrainian Cossacks who tried to kill him.  His passion for justice would have led him to do all he could to stop barbarous murderers from entering this country.  Being benevolent does not mean being a fool.

Zaida would not have relied on a letter from Cossack leader Admiral Alexander Kolchak, certifying that a potential immigrant was upstanding.  He would have advocated a vetting system to make sure people from cultures that embrace murder and mayhem, were indeed peaceful and of law abiding.

A rabbi who escaped death by telling his neighbors he was traveling north and instead travelled south, would have never accepted the liberal concept that all people are inherently good, that all humanity would be sweet as apple pie if only we welcome them into our homes.  Zaida saw human beings at their worst, and he would have passionately advocated keeping those who embraced evil away from these hallowed shores.

The very notion that the United States should rely on Iran – a country that threatens to destroy Israel and America – to vet visa holders to make sure they don’t want to destroy America, is madness.  The idea that Syria, Sudan and Somalia have the will and ability to separate 100 Muhammad Attas from 1000 of his peaceful coreligionists is absurd.

Ignoring evil is not a Jewish concept.  It is a liberal concept.  Liberal rabbis protesting in support of unchecked immigration from countries where large swaths of the population seek to destroy the West are sorely misguided. To be Jewish is to be benevolent.  But to be Jewish is to recognize the reality of good and evil.  Judaism values doing good, selfless and endless good – within the context of supporting good and destroying evil.  Sadly, those who don’t recognize the reality of evil are least prepared to stand against it.

I pray that God give President Trump the strength and fortitude to protect the citizens of this great country, and that America continues, for centuries to come, to accept millions of peaceful immigrants, whatever their religion or lack thereof, who embrace the Judeo-Christian values that have made this country great.

This article appeared first in The Jewish Press.

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