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Honoring a Brave Man

On February 6, I, like many others, was shaken to hear of the death of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. I am honored to have been asked to eulogize him for one of the most important Jewish newspapers.

You can read excerpts from my words on our American Alliance of Jews and Christians page here.

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein 1952-2019

On February 6, 2019, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews passed away suddenly from a heart attack.  Rabbi Daniel Lapin was asked to write a eulogy for The Jewish Press, which describes itself as, “America’s Largest Independent Jewish Weekly.” Here are some excerpts from that eulogy.

It is neither pleasant nor easy to say goodbye to an old friend. My world became a lot lonelier last Wednesday afternoon when Yechiel Eckstein departed this world for his heavenly reward. Reflecting on the loss is most of what I have been doing since then.

…Do you know how cyclists achieve speed records? They ride behind a high-speed truck fitted with a huge wind deflector. Using the full power of its thundering engine, the truck speeds just ahead of the bicycle. Shielded from the wind and fury, the rider pedals away in a tranquil wind shadow.

Yechiel was my wind shield. We Jews, like other people, often succumb to the seduction of driving with our eyes glued to the rear-view mirror. We diligently dodge the dangers of yesterday while blithely ignoring the threats of tomorrow. It’s true that Christian theology spilled much Jewish blood over many centuries. But today Jewish blood is being spilled by murderous Muslims encouraged by a radical secularism that is hostile to people of faith and the State of Israel. Today, Christians are the victims, not the oppressors. Yechiel saw all this over 30 years ago.

Unaware that Yechiel had preceded me by eight years, I formed an alliance of Jews and Christians in 1991. Contradicting centuries of conventional wisdom that insisted Christians were our implacable foes, my work was not without controversy. However, as painful as the assaults I endured from my fellow Jews were, they were as sprinklings of confetti compared to what was inflicted upon Yechiel…

He absorbed much of the fire and fury aimed by those who were determined to see Christians as the enemy. By the time I came along and insisted that the problem we Jews faced was not Christians but, in fact, a secularism that was seducing our youth and emboldening radical Islam, I was able to operate in a relative wind shadow. Yechiel was my wind shield…

He conducted himself with love and concern toward all he came into contact with. Jew and Christian, employee, associate, donor, or beneficiary – all felt that Yechiel was genuinely interested in them and really cared about them…

Yechiel was a courageous man. The default condition for human beings is cowardice, not courage. That’s why Moses, Joshua and Solomon were adjured to be courageous. It doesn’t come naturally. Friendship towards evangelical Christians was not a popular posture in the Jewish community prior to 9/11. Despite possessing the intellect as well as the cultural adroitness to speak out of both sides of his mouth, he never did. Eckstein never ducked the issues. He was exactly who he was with no apologies and was always willing to engage in discussion or debate.

He was devoted to truth and suffered real pain at the skullduggery practiced by many he considered friends. I don’t think he ever understood how people were able to turn their backs on years of friendship for the sake of political expediency. He was a courageous man so he never could understand cowards.

History has long proved Yechiel Eckstein correct. That Jews and the State of Israel have mortal enemies is without doubt. That for the most part, Christians are philo-Semitic and stand with Israel is equally certain. It is indisputable that the warmth felt towards Jews and Israel by millions of gentle Christians – for the first time in two millennia – owes much to Yechiel Eckstein.

Insensitive or Unforgivable?

Starting in 1965 and continuing through 1971, Hogan’s Heroes was a popular TV comedy. Actor Bob Crane played Colonel Hogan, the highest ranking American prisoner of war interned in a German POW camp. Unlike the actual Nazis, the Germans in the show were invariably rather benign and clumsy oafs, continually being outwitted by their prisoners.

If Nazis and captured American military men don’t sound terribly funny to you, I agree. As a child, I was enough offended by the show that when an adult in my orbit enjoyed it, it seriously reduced my respect for that individual.

Now, decades later, I am rethinking my views. Increasingly, accusations are being hurled at people for actions they took decades earlier. Imagine if there had been a TV show that portrayed a Southern plantation in the 1850s where the Black slaves actually ran the show because the White masters were incompetent? Would one of the show’s actors or anyone accused of liking the show be electable today? I doubt it.

I still think that Hogan’s Heroes was juvenile and in poor taste. But, maturity has provided me with the ability to see that disagreeing with me is not automatically contemptible. One of the stars of the show was a man named Robert Clary. As a Jewish teenager, he spent a few nightmarish years in Nazi concentration camps. After his release from Buchenwald, he discovered that his parents and many other family members had been murdered in Auschwitz. Robert Clary did not think that the Nazis were amusing clowns.

Werner Klemperer, who played the German Colonel Wilhelm Klink in the show also had a Jewish father.  If his family had not left Germany in 1935, he too would have met Nazi standards for extermination.

John (originally Johann) Banner, who played the bumbling German Master Sergeant, Schultz, was born into a Jewish family in Vienna, Austria. They emigrated in 1938 to the United States, avoiding the fate of many of their family members who were murdered. Mr. Banner served in the U.S. Air Force during World War II and told TV Guide, “Schultz is not a Nazi. I see Schultz as the representative of some kind of goodness in any generation.”

These are only three of Hogan’s Heroes actors whose lives intersected with the Holocaust and World War II. If you are shaking your head not understanding how they could participate in a comedy about the era, so am I. Despite reading their explanations for appearing in the show, I still don’t get it. I also don’t get how anyone found the show anything other than offensive.

However, I have no choice but to recognize that decent people disagreed with me. Pretending that those who watched the show were all anti-Semites is foolish. Jews and ex-GIs were not only among the actors but also among the audience. It is sophomoric and dangerous to suggest that it was o.k. for Jews and ex-GIs to appear in the show or find it funny but that anyone who had anything to do with the show who is not in one of those categories is a hateful human being.

I doubt that a show like Hogan’s Heroes would run on national TV today. Neither would a movie that featured blackface get made today. But, as much as I would like to see Democrat VA Governor Ralph Northam out of office, I fear that the forces urging him to resign care less about all Americans respecting each other as they do about political calculation; and it is a calculation that promotes hatred, resentment and victimhood. (It looks now like the press has decided to allow Governor Northam to tough it out—my point still stands.)

Here is a paradox. Until a few years ago, anti-Semitism and racism were declining. One of the factors in both their revivals has been that they have been turned into cudgels. Accusing someone of either “ism” became a weapon with which to destroy careers and lives. Because of the “isms” is has become impossible to have honest conversations about issues that affect and harm America and her citizens.

Today, the press and the expanding far-Left influence are out for blood rather than trying to create a nation of individuals who can live peaceably together.  By insisting that people identify by their nationality, bloodlines and genes (unless it has to do with specific approved gender issues, of course) we set ourselves up for loathing the other. We are all losers when we shut down free speech even of the juvenile, insensitive and offensive type. We imperil our society when we turn every single American into someone whose less than finest hours dangle over him or her like the sword of Damocles. 

Hogan’s Heroes isn’t going to be revived today, but we now have elected officials in Congress who speak positively about real-life, not fictional, people who want to wipe out the Jewish people. Today, we are judging people by their gender, racial and ethnic groups more than we did a few decades ago.

Is this progress?

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Everyone Needs to Give

A “Your Mother’s Guidance” post by Rebecca Masinter

In the Sinai desert, the Tabernacle was the place where human beings could get closest to God.  Building it was a project for everyone—no exceptions.  Everyone in the nation contributed to it.

In our homes, we often have different people with different strengths, weaknesses, and contributions to make.  Just as the Tabernacle needed to come from men and women, leaders and laymen, our homes are also built when everyone has a role and can contribute and be a giver in his or her own way. 

Here’s the kicker: it’s not that the Tabernacle needed to come from everyone as much as that everyone needed to build the Tabernacle.  The Israelites were fresh from generations of slavery and poverty and needed to see themselves as people with great resources and skills.  By having all the Jews contribute to the Tabernacle, God was showing them their abilities, wealth, and talents.  Through being givers of such magnitude, they could recognize their worthiness and value.

There are two ways we can ask for help in our homes.  One is focused on our need,

“I need help.  I’m overwhelmed.  Can you do x, y, or z?” 

That is not bad or wrong and is certainly sometimes the reality.  But think for a moment of the same help being contributed but with a whole different attitude.  What if it’s not about me, it’s about my kids? It’s important for our children to know they have worth, resources, skills, and talents that contribute to our families.  What if I ask my child for help not because I desperately need it, but because my child needs to give? 

When we need help in the moment we tend to ask the one who is most capable or easily available, but in truth, it’s a good idea for us to think proactively about what each child can contribute and how we can make that happen in the best times in the best way.  Here’s a simple example: for many years I have kept a lightweight battery operated vacuum cleaner in the kitchen.  This vacuum can easily be operated by a 3 year old and it is a real help to have my kitchen floor cleaned!  I also store dishes in bottom cupboards to allow younger children to unload dishwashers and set the table. 

My older kids also need me to think through how I can facilitate their contributing.  The older they get the less frequently they’re home!  But even my high school son who’s rarely home knows that he is a huge contributor to our family; we need him and count on him.

Finally, it may not be easy or obvious to figure out how a particularly challenging kid can be a meaningful contributor to the family.  This child needs it even more than the others!  We have to see and believe in his strengths and give him the responsibility to contribute positively to our family, so that he can begin to believe in himself and his abilities too.  The lessons from the Tabernacle are so profound! No one is exempt.  Everyone needs to be a giver, and everyone has what to contribute. By giving, we all, in actuality, receive far, far more.

THOUGHT TOOLS

  • More? Sure! Everything? Never! February 12, 2019 by Rabbi Daniel Lapin- A business professional in Michigan named Ken Lingenfelter owns about 230 cars.  Entertainer Jay Leno has about 170 and Jerry Seinfeld owns about 150.  Each of those avid car collectors has a list of a few more cars that he’d really love to acquire but knows he probably won’t.  Healthy people eventually recognize that nobody… Read More

ASK THE RABBI

  • How Do I Encourage My Wife to Dress Better? February 12, 2019 by Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin- Hi Rabbi Daniel and Susan, I need some advice and assistance regarding my wife and her appearance. When we first dated and were married, she cared much more about looking nice around me. In the past few years or so, she seems to care little about her appearance. She many times hasn't showered in the… Read More

SUSAN’S MUSINGS

  • Insensitive or Unforgivable? February 14, 2019 by Susan Lapin- Starting in 1965 and continuing through 1971, Hogan’s Heroes was a popular TV comedy. Actor Bob Crane played Colonel Hogan, the highest ranking American prisoner of war interned in a German POW camp. Unlike the actual Nazis, the Germans in the show were invariably rather benign and clumsy oafs, continually being outwitted by their prisoners.… Read More

ON OUR MIND

  • Honoring a Brave Man February 14, 2019 by Rabbi Daniel Lapin- On February 6, I, like many others, was shaken to hear of the death of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. I am honored to have been asked to eulogize him for one of the most important Jewish newspapers. You can read excerpts from my words on our American… Read More

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About Rabbi Daniel Lapin

Rabbi Daniel Lapin, known world-wide as America’s Rabbi, is a noted rabbinic scholar, popular international speaker and best-selling author. He hosts the Rabbi Daniel Lapin podcast as well as co-hosting the Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV Show on the TCT network with his wife, Susan. He is one of America’s most eloquent speakers and his ability to extract life principles from the Bible and transmit them in an entertaining manner, thus improving peoples’ finances, family and community life  has brought countless numbers of Jews and Christians closer to their respective faiths.

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