I’ve been running around, so I’m a little bit late with this one. Still, you might think the wait h as been worth it, because I think I may have found the best Hanukkah video for this year. Happy Hanukkah!
I recently found myself watching 2013’s “Comedy Central Roast of James Franco.” It was a deeply disturbing experience.
The last time I watched a roast was sometime in the 1970s. My father loved those old Dean Martin celebrity roasts. They were intended to be PG, which meant that the insults were pretty gentle and none were obscene. The celebrities were ribbed about such things as peculiar mannerisms, spending habits, silly clothes, and G-Rated womanizing.
Racism or crude sexual uniform were never part of these roasts. Instead, the roasts relied on the same ecumenical comedy that characterized most of television from I Love Lucy through to the Archie Bunker sea-change in the early 1970s: the humor was intended to apply in some way to all Americans. Even ethnic humor — Jewish or African-American or Asian — was homogenized and made into universal truisms about human nature.
The James Franco roast was something altogether different. For one thing, it was incredibly obscene (which is pretty much to be expected of anything shown on premium cable channels). Practically every other word seemed to be an expletive related to scatology or sex. As for the sexual references, in the first 30 minutes (after which I felt so slimed I checked out), all were directed at Franco’s allegedly homosexual habits. (Film clips show Franco enthusiastically french-kissing men; Wikipedia indicates that his private life is heterosexual.) You can see examples here, here, here, and here.
To the extent that these comments about homosexuality were all meant to insult Franco, it surprised me a lot that the roast wasn’t roundly castigated as homophobic. It was after all the adult version of that middle school insult “You’re gay!” That statement, of course, is deemed “bullying” and “homophobic” and apt to get the youthful transgressor who hurled such an insult instantly incarcerated in the Dan Savage Re-education Academy.
Admittedly, this kind of crude sexual joking is a staple in films (leaving one to wonder why Leftists are always “shocked! shocked!” when it shows up in schools). What isn’t a film staple, however, is the oozing, rank antisemitism the roasters displayed. It’s important to understand the context for these jokes: most of the people on the stage, and most (although not all) of the people making these antisemitic jokes, are Jewish. Franco himself is Jewish, but so are Sarah Silverman, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Andy Samberg, and Nick Kroll, among others.
Of course, Jews have always been famous for aiming jokes at themselves. Just as Yiddish is a language awash in unique words describing the human condition, so too are Jewish jokes heavy on describing the various types you’ll find in closely confined communities, whether in the shtetl or the ghetto.
A few things characterize the classic Jewish jokes. First, as originally told, they were by Jews, about Jews, and for Jews. Second, they have a gentle quality. They recognize the humanity of their subjects, even if the subject is the over-selling matchmaker, the con artist, or the loser. Third — and this flows directly from the humanity in the jokes — is that many of them have an underlying admiration for the man who can make money despite crippling prejudice; the matchmaker who never loses faith in the importance of the covenant between man and woman; the con man who lives on his wits, rather than being a crude, strong-arm crook; and the nebbish, who is, in so many ways, every man.
To illustrate my point, here are just a few jokes from that marvelous compendium, Leo Rosten’s The Joys of Yiddish:
The pedestrian said to the schnorrer (“an impudent indigent,” among other meanings): “Give you a nickel? Why? Why don’t you go to work? You’ve got the arms and legs of a horse!”
“Ha!” cried the schnorrer. “For one lousy nickel, am I supposed to cut off my limbs?”
A nebech (or nebbish, the everyman who makes his own misery) pulled into a parking place on a busy street in Tel Aviv. Along came a policeman.
“Is it all right to park here?” asked the nebech.
“No,” said the cop.
“No? But look at all those other parked cars! How come?”
“They didn’t ask.”
And the nebech’s partner in crime, the shlemiel; or, as the saying goes, “A shlemiel is always knocking things off a table; the nebech always picks them up.”
A shlemiel came to his rabbi, distraught. “Rabbi, you’ve got to advise me. Every year my wife brings forth a baby. I have nine children already, and barely enough money to feed them — Rabbi, what can I do?”
The sage thought not a moment. “Do nothing.”
The shadchen (matchmaker) was impressing the young man with the boundless virtues of a female, and ended: “And to look at, she’s a regular picture.”
The young man could not wait for his blind date.
But when he accosted the shadchen the next day, his voice was frosty: “Her eyes are crossed, her nose is crooked, and when she smiles one side of her mouth goes down….”
“Just a minute,” interrupted the shadchen. “Is it my fault you don’t like Picasso?”
Those Jewish jokes — told by Jews and about Jews — are not vicious. They speak to universal archetypes, and they do so with fondness, even love. Contrast them with just a few of the jokes told at the James Franco roast, one that saw Hollywood Jews perform for all of America. I’ve copied these jokes verbatim from sites celebrating how “funny” they are, so my apologies for their awful language and crude antisemitism:
King of Hollywood: [about The Guilt Trip] Listen, if I wanted to watch two ugly Jews weaving through traffic, I’d watch Seinfeld’s web series.
Nick Kroll: Many of you might not know that Seth has a writing and directing partner named Evan Goldberg. What does this other guy look like that you’re the face of the operation? I assume he’s like a sweaty Orthodox Jew eating a pastrami sandwich, and he said [scrunching up his face and using a thick Yiddish accent] “I did nine dick jokes on page four, and I was thinking that the guys are friends, and then they’re not friends, and at the end of the movie, they’re friends again.”
Sarah Silverman: I can’t tell if this is the dais or the line to suck Judd Apatow’s balls. This dais is so Jewey. What is this, the Comedy Central audit of James Franco?
Sarah Silverman: Jonah is such a Jewy dick, you have to watch his movies through a hole in a sheet.
Nick Kroll: “James Franco is truly our generation’s James Dean. So handsome that you forget he’s only been in two good movies. Dean, of course, died at the tender age of 24 sparing himself the embarrassment of writing self-indulgent short stories and getting roasted by a bunch of jealous Jew monsters.
Nick Kroll: “Seth Rogen is so Jewish.”
Crowd: “How Jewish is he?”
Nick Kroll: “Seth Rogen is so f***ing Jewish… Anyway, it’s great to be here.”
These awful “jokes” are just the ones that internet publications deemed amongst the funniest things the assembled “comedians” said. There were more, and they were all in the same vein, saying horrible things about Jews. None of them gently laugh at the human condition. None offer insight into human foibles or human decency. All play into the most vile stereotypes about Jews: Jews are ugly, Jews sweat and stink, Jews are obsessed with sex, Jews are eaten by jealousy, and Jews are simply “f***ing.”
These jokes are a primer in self-loathing. They perfectly reflect the Stockholm Syndrome that has overtaken America’s Progressives Jews. These young Jews — who are amongst the most recognizable people in America, and have become power brokers in Hollywood — have internalized all of the worst stereotypes about Jews. They believe this of themselves.
Moreover, as is often the case with people who perceive themselves as defective, they’re trying desperately to be the first to insult themselves, relieving the “normal” person with nothing left to say. (Sarah Silverman’s stories of her horrific childhood bear out this theory about beating yourself first, before someone else does it.)
This technique is useful insofar as it means that you — the “defective” one — don’t have to hear someone else say something loathsome about you. It fails utterly, however, when it comes to defusing or destroying the prejudice and hatred. Those are still out there, hanging in the air, only you’ve become your own executioner. The hater, by leading you to internalize the hate and then voice your self-hatred, has made you complicit in your own destruction.
I mentioned at the beginning of this post that I felt slimed listening to the grotesque, obscene, scatological, salacious and antisemitic effluvia that flowed from these young “entertainers.” I was also deeply, deeply saddened. This is where 50 years of the Leftists’ grand march through American culture has left us. Jews once thought they were special. They were God’s chosen people and the people of the Book, bringing justice and morality to the world. They may have been in the ghetto, but they were not of the ghetto.
Today, America’s most fortunate young Jews lack this cultural confidence. They find themselves disgusting. They ‘re not just of the ghetto. They are the miserable filth lying in the ghetto’s gutters. To cleanse themselves of that stain, they commit ritual seppuku on TV and movie screens across America and across the world.
(NOTE: I know that some of these Jews, such as Sarah Silverman and Seth Rogen, support Israel, and for that I am grateful. Having said that, you don’t support the pro-Israel cause by constantly demeaning and stereotyping the Jewish people.)
Let me preface this by saying that I have a super-smart, really well-informed cousin. He’s the one who used to be a prison chaplain and, based upon that experience, came up with a profound insight that I use over and over (most recently regarding the terrible beheading murder in Oklahoma):
It is not a contradiction to be a Muslim and a murderer, even a mass murderer. That is one reason why criminals “convert” to Islam in prison. They don’t convert at all; they similarly [sic] remain the angry judgmental vicious beings they always have been. They simply add “religious” diatribes to their personal invective. Islam does not inspire a crisis of conscience, just inspirations to outrage.
My cousin was brilliant all over again this morning, when I posted on my Facebook page an image showing that, while everyone focuses on the small number of Palestinians who refused to assimilate into Israel, the world ignores the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were ethnically cleansed from Arab and Muslim nations from 1948 onward:
Here’s my cousin’s incredibly erudite, off-the-cuff comment about immigration and assimilation in the Middle East:
The main difference between Israel and the Arabs is a question of humanity toward refugees. Israel was in dire poverty in the era of Mizrachi (i.e., Sephardic immigration from 1948-57). No UN relief money was given to Israel to assimilate 900,000 Mizrachi refugees, who arrived with no money, and no possessions, but with plenty of medical problems (especially eye infections).
The existing Ashkenazi leadership in Israel was horrified by the Mizrachi refugees’ medical problems, lack of language skills( a specially bad problem with Yemenite refugees), and domestic violence. Impoverished Israel first settled the Mizrachi refugees in tent camps, then in hastily constructed settlements on the frontiers.
Within three generations, the results of assimilation are overwhelmingly obvious. Israeli is a homogeneous country, bound by a single Israeli culture and is one of the most educationally and economically successfully nations in the world.
The exact reverse happened with the Palestinians. They have been afforded UNRWA refugee status for 66 years. This contrasts with the UN’s behavior to all other refugees after WWII, who were only given refugee status for 5 years. The Arabs’ recurrent wars against Israel are partially facilitated by UNRWA, especially insofar as it provides safe houses for terrorists and their weapons and produces “educational” curriculum that features genocidal, virulent hatred of Jews.
The Palestinian refugees, rather than making their way to a new, safe land, retreated 10 to 20 miles at most from the homes they abandoned. This contrasts with the thousands of miles that the Mizrachi Jews had to traverse to find safety.
The Arabs have waged an anti-Israel propaganda war based upon the continued existence of these UNRWA supported Palestinian “refugees.” Because of their peculiar status, one that encourages them to think of themselves as perpetual victims and displaced people, the Palestinians have been their own worst enemy. A good example is the fact that Kuwait expelled 400,000 Palestinians after Yassir Arafat openly supported Saddam Hussein’s war on Kuwait. (An act that provides that another good example of Arab/Muslim support for ethnic cleansing!)
There is a project afoot for Jews all over the world to say the Shema for Israel at 7:00 p.m. Israel Time. (That would be Noon on the East Coast and 9 a.m. here in California.) The idea is that this most powerful prayer, if said by Jews all over world at the same time, will have an effect:
Sh’ma Yis’ra’eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad. Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One. In an undertone:
Barukh sheim k’vod malkhuto l’olam va’ed. Blessed be the Name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever.
V’ahav’ta eit Adonai Elohekha b’khol l’vav’kha uv’khol naf’sh’kha uv’khol m’odekha. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
V’hayu had’varim ha’eileh asher anokhi m’tzav’kha hayom al l’vavekha. And these words that I command you today shall be in your heart.
V’shinan’tam l’vanekha v’dibar’ta bam And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall speak of them
b’shiv’t’kha b’veitekha uv’lekh’t’kha vaderekh uv’shakh’b’kha uv’kumekha when you sit at home, and when you walk along the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up.
Uk’shar’tam l’ot al yadekha v’hayu l’totafot bein einekha. And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes.
Ukh’tav’tam al m’zuzot beitekha uvish’arekha. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
V’hayah im shamo’a tish’m’u el mitz’votai And it shall come to pass if you surely listen to the commandments
asher anokhi m’tzaveh et’khem hayom that I command you today
l’ahavah et Adonai Eloheikhem ul’av’do b’khol l’vav’khem uv’khol naf’sh’khem to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul,
V’natati m’tar ar’tz’khem b’ito yoreh umal’kosh v’asaf’ta d’ganekha v’tirosh’kha v’yitz’harekha. That I will give rain to your land, the early and the late rains, that you may gather in your grain, your wine and your oil.
V’natati eisev b’sad’kha liv’hem’tekha v’akhal’ta v’sava’ta. And I will give grass in your fields for your cattle and you will eat and you will be satisfied.
Hisham’ru lakhem pen yif’teh l’vav’khem v’sar’tem va’avad’tem Elohim acheirim v’hish’tachavitem lahem Beware, lest your heart be deceived and you turn and serve other gods and worship them.
V’charah af Adonai bakhem v’atzar et hashamayim v’lo yih’yeh matar v’ha’adamah lo titein et y’vulah And anger of the Lord will blaze against you, and he will close the heavens and there will not be rain, and the earth will not give you its fullness,
va’avad’tem m’heirah mei’al ha’aretz hatovah asher Adonai notein lakhem. and you will perish quickly from the good land that the Lord gives you.
V’sam’tem et d’varai eileh al l’vav’khem v’al naf’sh’khemuk’shar’tem otam l’ot al yed’khem v’hayu l’totafot bein eineikhem. So you shall put these, my words, on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them for signs on your hands, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes.
V’limad’tem otam et b’neikhem l’dabeir bam And you shall teach them to your children, and you shall speak of them
b’shiv’t’kha b’veitekha uv’lekh’t’kha vaderekh uv’shakh’b’kha uv’kumekha when you sit at home, and when you walk along the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up.
Ukh’tav’tam al m’zuzot beitekha uvish’arekha. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
L’ma’an yirbu y’maychem vi-y’may v’naychem al ha-adamahasher nishba Adonai la-avotaychem latayt lahem ki-y’may ha-shamayim al ha-aretz. In order to prolong your days and the days of your children on the land that the Lord promised your fathers that he would give them, as long as the days that the heavens are over the earth.
Vayo’mer Adonai el mosheh lei’mor And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying…
Dabeir el b’nei Yis’ra’eil v’amar’ta aleihem Speak to the children of Israel and say to them
v’asu lahem tzitzit al kan’fei vig’deihem l’dorotam v’nat’nu al tzitzit hakanaf p’til t’kheilet they should make themselves tzitzit (fringes) on the corners of their clothing throughout their generations, and give the tzitzit of each corner a thread of blue.
V’hayah lakhem l’tzitzit ur’item oto uz’khar’tem et kol mitz’vot Adonai va’asitem otam v’lo taturu acharei l’vav’khem v’acharei eineikhem asher atem zonim achareihem And they shall be tzitzit for you, and when you look at them you will remember all of the Lord’s commandments and do them and not follow after your heart and after your eyes which lead you astray.
L’ma’an tiz’k’ru va’asitem et kol mitz’votai viyitem k’doshim lei’loheikhem In order to remember and do all My commandments, and be holy for your God.
Ani Adonai Eloheikhem
asher hotzei’ti et’khem mei’eretz Mitz’rayim lih’yot lakhhem leilohim
Ani Adonai Eloheikhem
I am the Lord, your God
who lead you from the land of Egypt to be a God to you.
I am the Lord, your God.
(If my short notice means you missed the deadline, please say the shema anyway, at any time. It can’t hurt.)
Back in the early/mid 1970s, I, like every good American Jew, did Israeli folk dancing. Our family was very serious about it, so much so that we’d usually attend the annual get-t0gethers in San Luis Obispo at which the top Israeli choreographers would introduce their new dances for the year.
At one of the annual events, a choreographer introduced a new dance called “Li Lach.” I loved it because it was a bright, energetic dance that periodically broke out into a polka. I am a big fan of polkas and waltzes and, back in the day, could do them pretty darn well. Li Lach was also fun because the chorus was the word “why” repeated over and over again, which meant that the dancers would swing joyously around the dance floor, polkaing and hollering out “why, why, why!” at the top of their lungs.
Fast forward forty-odd years: I’ve made a playlist on Spotify that has hundreds of my favorite songs (many of which I share here on “just because music” posts). These songs span decades, genres, and countries. After I added Bashana Haba’ah to my playlist, it occurred to me to search out Li Lach. I couldn’t find it on Spotify, so I turned to YouTube.
Sure enough, there on YouTube was the song Li Lach. Unfortunately, it’s not a straight out recording but is, instead, the background music part for a video showing amateur Israeli folk dancers in a big gym. (If anyone can find a straight recording, I’d sure appreciate that.) For some reason, too, the recording is speeded up, so it makes the whole thing sound like an Alvin and the Chipmunks version of the song.
Despite its failings, I found the video fascinating for two reasons. First, the choreography hasn’t changed in forty years. And second, it’s a Chinese group doing the dancing. That made me laugh until, with perfect timing, I read in PJ Media that the Chinese are fascinated (in a good way) by Jews and Judaism . . . so maybe it’s not so funny after all:
Over the past couple of decades the Chinese have become more interested in the Jews. Of late the Chinese regime has been bringing Jewish scholars and theologians to the People’s Republic to discuss Torah, Talmud, Mishnah and even some of the more mystical tracts.
Read Michael Ledeen’s whole post to see his intriguing theory about this new love affair.
Today is Yom Hashoah — Holocaust Remembrance Day — a day on which Jews and all civilized people around the globe commemorate the 6 million who died at the hands of virulent antisemites. Israel takes this day very seriously.
For those unclear on the whole Israel concept (Obama, Kerry, and State Department, I’m speaking to you), Israel is the only liberal democracy within the Middle East. It’s the only nation in that region that allows all people to worship freely, that accords full rights to women, and that protects all minorities, including sexual and racial minorities, from discrimination, even while extending to them the full panoply of available civil rights. When its neighbors kicked out around 1,000,000 Jews in the years after 1948 in order to make their nations judenrein, Israel took in every single one of those refugees (distinguishing itself from the surrounding Arab nations who refused to take in the tens of thousands of Arabs who fled Israel after the UN recognized its statehood).
Showing what a crude bastard he is (which is separate from his being a stupid, malevolent, narcissistic gold digger), John Kerry chose Yom Hashoah as the day on which to announce that Israel is on the verge of becoming an apartheid state. This is is the same John Kerry, of course, who has been repeatedly stating that it’s all Israel’s fault that his misbegotten peace talks failed, never mind the fact that Palestinians demanded concessions before negotiations began, refused to give up anything, refused to negotiate, continued to celebrate mass murderers, and recently allied themselves with a terrorist group.
This is also the same John Kerry who appears incapable of realizing that the only reason that the Palestinian territories, Gaza, and the surrounding Arab nations aren’t apartheid nations is because they skipped the whole “discriminating against minorities” part. Instead, they simply slaughtered or expelled their Jews and are now working towards the same end with their Christians.
John Kerry has gone from being merely a pathetic buffoon to becoming a grave national embarrassment, at least from the viewpoint of ordinary Americans who value freedom and recognize Israel as a light unto nations, especially situated as it is in the heart of the globe’s darkness. Sadly, the only thing keeping Kerry in office is the fact that the Democrat Party power structure, from the President on down, wholeheartedly (and with increasing openness) agrees with Kerry’s sentiments.
Although Obama et al are becoming less coy about their old-fashioned, virulent antisemitism, they are not entirely immune to public pressure, provided that enough of the public puts pressure on them. We are the public and it’s time for us to raise our voices. The Emergency Committee for Israel has issued a good statement to that point:
On Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry raised the specter of Israel as an “apartheid state.” Even Barack Obama condemned the use of this term when running for president in 2008.
Yet this was no gaffe. Secretary Kerry’s musings on the Jewish state’s dire future have become a regular feature of his public remarks. His latest prediction follows other statements in recent months that have in effect threatened Israel — never the Palestinians — with a list of disasters should his diplomatic efforts fail: violence, isolation, delegitimization, boycotts — and now “apartheid.”
It is no longer enough for the White House to clean up after the messes John Kerry has made. It is time for John Kerry to step down as Secretary of State, or for President Obama to fire him. And it would go a long way toward repairing the damage Kerry has done if his predecessor as Secretary of State, who is the likely Democratic Party nominee for president, explained why this kind of rhetoric had no place in her State Department and why it will have no place in her presidential campaign.
If you would like to see John Kerry forcibly retired, call (202) 647-4000.
UPDATE: This seems like an appropriate place for Dennis Prager’s video about the Middle East conflict:
Every Jewish holiday, creative young Jewish people bring something new to the musical world:
Palestinians smear their fallen enemies’ blood on their hands, dangle bodies outside of windows, and have candy-strewn parades celebrating the bloodshed when their enemies fall into their hands. Israelis teach their enemies to walk again. (I apologize for the long commercial before the video, but you may want to wait it out, because the video really is worth seeing.)
The above video is from Time Magazine online which lately has been doing something very peculiar: publishing a handful of fair and balanced articles and videos. I don’t know what’s going on there, but I hope it’s a trend, not an anomaly.
I had lunch today with two friends, both conservative, neither Jewish. Since we were talking politics, both asked me a question I hear repeatedly from non-Jewish conservatives — How can Jews support Obama?
It occurred to me — and this is a very depressing though — that Jews are repeating an old pattern. American Jews are Jews in name only, insofar as theirs is, at best, a superficial association with the religion. I’m a bit of an anomaly, in that I don’t practice the religion, but believe absolutely in its conservative strictures.
If I remember my Bible correctly (and with my memory, that’s a big “if”), the Bible is very clear: when Jews start worshiping false idols, they are punished and they are punished horrifically.
The most false of all false idols, of course, is the type of assimilation that sees Jews claiming to be Jewish while rejecting the Jewish God. This is a type of assimilation that sees them losing all the way around. They never fully integrate with their neighbors, even though that’s their primary goal, and they also break their covenant with God.
American Jews, by worshiping Obama as a false idol have set themselves up for another round of punishment. Even worse, the consequences of their actions will fall most heavily, not on them, but on Jews in Europe and the Middle East. While most Americans (outside of Ivy League colleges) are not antisemitic, the antisemites in the rest of the world are smart enough to know that Obama gave them a free pass. As has always been the case, from the Bible through to the Holocaust, a core of true-believers will survive, and the rest are in for a hell of a time.
As you can see, Obama’s actions, not to mention rising anti-semitism around the world, make me nervous.
Whew! I just depressed myself.
If you’re a politically conservative Jew looking for intellectual food on the internet, or if you’re just a conservative (not Jewish) looking for more to read on the internet, check out The Jewish Voice and Opinion, a publication that has been promoting traditional Jewish thought and conservative politics for 25 years. Here’s how it describes itself:
The Jewish Voice and Opinion speaks out forcefully and unashamedly for the unique concerns of what we have termed “classical Judaism.” As a politically conservative Jewish publication, we take as our mission to present news and feature articles not generally available elsewhere in the Jewish or secular media.
Now in its 25th year, The Jewish Voice and Opinion has been influential in religious and political circles throughout the United States, Israel, and elsewhere. It is often quoted and reprinted. It has been admired, feared, often debated, but never ignored.
Please check it out.
A friend sent me this article by a former Israeli soldier who know works for StandWithUs, an organization that counters the antisemitic and anti-Israel bile that pours forth on American campuses under the banner of the BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) movement. The hatred he experiences is staggering, all the more so because it is so irrational. It is pure, undiluted hatred, of the type Jews have had the misfortune to face repeatedly over too many centuries:
To give you a taste of the viciousness of the BDS attacks, let me cite just a few of the many shocking experiences I have had. At a BDS event in Portland, a professor from a Seattle university told the assembled crowd that the Jews of Israel have no national rights and should be forced out of the country. When I asked, “Where do you want them to go?” she calmly answered, “I don’t care. I don’t care if they don’t have any place else to go. They should not be there.” When I responded that she was calling for ethnic cleansing, both she and her supporters denied it. And during a presentation in Seattle, I spoke about my longing for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. When I was done, a woman in her 60’s stood up and yelled at me, “You are worse than the Nazis. You are just like the Nazi youth!” A number of times I was repeatedly accused of being a killer, though I have never hurt anyone in my life. On other occasions, anti-Israel activists called me a rapist. The claims go beyond being absurd – in one case, a professor asked me if I knew how many Palestinians have been raped by IDF forces. I answered that as far as I knew, none. She triumphantly responded that I was right, because, she said, “You IDF soldiers don’t rape Palestinians because Israelis are so racist and disgusted by them that you won’t touch them.”
Such irrational accusations are symptomatic of dangerous anti-Semitism. Yet, alarmingly, most mainstream American Jews are completely oblivious to this ugly movement and the threat it poses. They seem to be asleep, unaware that this anti-Jewish bigotry is peddled on campuses, by speakers in high schools, churches, and communities, and is often deceptively camouflaged in the rhetoric of human rights.
It seems appropriate to include here a link about the medical care Syrian civilians are receiving in Israeli hospitals that turn no one away.
Feel free to be inspired and to donate to StandWithUs, an organization that uses every penny wisely. (I just gave my mite and hope that it helps.)
Tonight marks the first night of Rosh Hashanna, the Jewish New Year. More specifically, tonight is the 5,774th year that Jews have honored this particular holiday. It is, so far as I know, the oldest continuously operating calendar in the world.
Tonight also marks a Jewish New Year that sees the world balancing delicately on a thin red line, one that Obama drew a year ago, and that he today denied. To those who point out his unequivocal words, he says “Pish tosh. Truth is now, as it has ever been, defined by my needs at any given minute.” It’s nice to own your own reality.
Because the red line at issue is in the Middle East, Israel and her Jewish subjects are always the Arabs’ first target, never mind their own ills and failures. As has happened many times in the past, some Jews, both in Israel and the diaspora, wonder if there will be a “next year, in Jerusalem.”
But while this New Year happens to fall during a worrisome time, Rosh Hashanna is be definition a time of hope and renewal. Yad Vashem reminds us of this with its collection of New Year’s cards from the years immediately before, during, and after the Holocaust.
I was particular struck by the cards the Jews created in 1940 in the Lodz ghetto (renamed Litzmannstadt after a German general). Despite the ever-tightening noose the Nazis were putting around Poland’s population, the residents still took time to observe this essential moment in the annual calendar:
I doubt many, if any, of the people in that picture taken in better times survived the war:
On September 8, 1939, the Germans occupied Lodz and renamed the city Litzmannstadt (after the German general Karl Litzmann, who had conquered it in World War I). Lodz was home to 223,000 Jews on the eve of World War II. At the war’s end, no more than 7,000 Jews from the Lodz Ghetto had survived the camps.
Seven thousand survivors out of 223,000 once vital, living people may sound like a depressing start to the New Year, but I have a point. From those 7,000, as from all the other pockets of survivors across Europe and, from the Arab pogroms, across the Middle East, came one of the world’s most spectacular countries.
Israel is spectacular by every metric: It is a thriving, pluralist, inclusive, liberal democracy that emerges like a glittering stone from a surrounding swamp of tyrannical medievalism. It grants equal rights to all citizens, has one of the highest literacy rates in the world, has an armed force that is the wonder of the world (thanks, of course, to decades of American support), and contributes to scientific, technological, and agricultural advancements at a rate far in excess of its small size. If you visit it, you find a dynamic, fun-loving people who are fiercely devoted to LIFE. Unlike its surrounding neighbors, Israel is not a death cult; it’s a life force.
Many have tried, but none, ever, whether Babylonians, or Romans, or Germans, or Muslims, have succeeded in snuffing out completely this light unto the world. And when this light in the world survives, we are all, every one of us, made better and brighter because of it.
So every year is a Happy New Year because Jews have survived for 5,773 years and will undoubtedly bring their ferocious will to live and to contribute to the world’s well-being for another 5,773 years.
Shana Tova, my friends!