Saturday 28 February 2015

Mussar: Balancing Accountability with Compassion

The Act of Rigorous Forgiving --
by  David Brooks in The New York Times Opinion Pages--2/10/15
All Rights Reserved
There's something sad in Brian Williams's need to puff up his Iraq adventures and something barbaric in the public response.

The sad part is the reminder that no matter how high you go in life and no matter how many accolades you win, it's never enough. The desire for even more admiration races ahead. Career success never really satisfies. Public love always leaves you hungry. Even very famous people can do self-destructive things in an attempt to seem just a little cooler.

The barbaric part is the way we respond to scandal these days. When somebody violates a public trust, we try to purge and ostracize him. A sort of coliseum culture takes over, leaving no place for mercy. By now, the script is familiar: Some famous person does something wrong. The Internet, the most impersonal of mediums, erupts with contempt and mockery. The offender issues a paltry half-apology, which only inflames the public more. The pounding cry for resignation builds until capitulation comes. Public passion is spent and the spotlight moves on.
I've only spoken with Williams a few times, and can't really speak about the man (though I often appear on NBC News's "Meet the Press"), but I do think we'd all be better off if we reacted to these sorts of scandals in a different way. The civic fabric would be stronger if, instead of trying to sever relationships with those who have done wrong, we tried to repair them, if we tried forgiveness instead of exiling.

Forgiveness is often spoken of in sentimental terms — as gushy absolution for everything, regardless of right or wrong. But many writers — ranging from Hannah Arendt and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to modern figures like Jeffrie Murphy and L. Gregory Jones — have tried to think hard about rigorous forgiveness, which balances accountability with compassion.

They've generally described four different processes involved in forgiveness:

Pre-emptive mercy. Martin Luther King Jr. argued that forgiveness isn't an act; it's an attitude. We are all sinners. We expect sin, empathize with sin and are slow to think ourselves superior. The forgiving person is strong enough to display anger and resentment toward the person who has wronged her, but she is also strong enough to give away that anger and resentment.

In this view, the forgiving person makes the first move, even before the offender has asked. She resists the natural urge for vengeance. Instead, she creates a welcoming context in which the offender can confess.

Judgment. A wrong is an occasion to re-evaluate. What is the character of the person in question? Should a period of stupidity eclipse a record of decency?

It's also an occasion to investigate each unique circumstance, the nature of each sin that was committed and the implied remedy to that sin. Some sins, like anger and lust, are like wild beasts. They have to be fought through habits of restraint. Some sins like bigotry are like stains. They can only be expunged by apology and cleansing. Some like stealing are like a debt. They can only be rectified by repaying. Some, like adultery, are more like treason than like crime; they can only be rectified by slowly reweaving relationships. Some sins like vanity — Williams's sin — can only be treated by extreme self-abasement.

During the judgment phase, hard questions have to be asked so that in forgiving we don't lower our standards.

Confession and Penitence. At some point the offender has to get out in front of the process, being more self-critical than anyone else around him. He has to probe down to the root of his error, offer a confession more complete than expected. He has to put public reputation and career on the back burner and come up with a course that will move him toward his own emotional and spiritual recovery, to become strongest in the weakest places.

Reconciliation and re-trust. After judgments have been made and penitence performed, both the offender and offended bend toward each other. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, trust doesn't have to be immediate, but the wrong act is no longer a barrier to a relationship. The offender endures his season of shame and is better for it. The offended are free from mean emotions like vengeance and are uplifted when they offer kindness. The social fabric is repaired. Community solidarity is strengthened by the reunion.

I guess I think Brian Williams shouldn't have to resign, for the reason David Carr emphasized in The Times: Williams's transgressions were not part of his primary job responsibilities. And because I think good people are stronger when given second chances.

But the larger question is how we build community in the face of scandal. Do we exile the offender or heal the relationship? Would you rather become the sort of person who excludes, or one who offers tough but healing love?

Kol Tuv,

Friday 27 February 2015

Achdut in Teaneck!

The Jewish Link of New Jersey:

An amazing example of achdus and support for our neighbors. Kol hakavod to the members of Congregation Beth Aaron and the Jewish Center of Teaneck.
Teaneck—At approximately 2 p.m. last Erev Shabbos, a pipe burst in the main sanctuary of Congregation Beth Aaron on Queen Anne Road and caused significant damage, rendering the shul uninhabitable for Shabbos. As the sun began to set, and it came time to light candles, many members wondered if the sh…

Kol Tuv,

Thursday 26 February 2015

After loss of US award, PA governor reiterates esteem for terrorists - PMW Bulletins

Kol Tuv,

When a Black German woman discovered her grandfather was a Nazi

«Indeed, it was not until years later that Teege, a German-born black woman who was given up for adoption as a child, discovered that one of the central characters in the film, Amon Goeth, was her grandfather. Many viewers recall the figure of Goeth, the brutal commander of the Plaszow concentration camp in Poland – played in the film by Ralph Fiennes – from the scenes in which he shoots Jewish inmates from the porch of his home. But Teege, who had not been in touch with either her biological mother or biological grandmother for years, had no idea about the identity of her grandfather.

The discovery came like a bolt from the blue in the summer of 2008, when she was 38 years old, as she relates in the memoir "Amon," which was published in German in 2013 (co-authored with the German journalist Nikola Sellmair), and is due out in English this April under the title "My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me: A Black Woman Discovers Her Family's Nazi Past."»
When a black German woman discovered her grandfather was the Nazi villain of 'Schindler's List' - Jewish World Features - Israel News | Haaretz

Kol Tuv,

Wednesday 25 February 2015

Mitchell First: Esther Unmasked

Exploring mysteries - The Jewish Standard
«According to Teaneck's [Beth Aaron's] Mitchell First, Queen Esther and King Achashverosh can be identified with the Queen Amestris and King Xerxes Greek historians have mentioned.

How he reaches this conclusion is outlined in his newest book, "Esther Unmasked: Solving Eleven Mysteries of the Jewish Holidays and Liturgy," published by Kodesh Press, released this week just in time for the annual Yeshiva University book sale that continues through February 23.»
Kol Tuv,

Tuesday 24 February 2015

Europe's declining Jewish population

Jeremy Gimpel:

Europe's declining Jewish population (millions)
1939 - 9.5
1945- 3.8
1960- 3.2
1991- 2.0
2010- 1.4

TODAY- Less than 1
Kol Tuv,

NY court: PLO, PA to blame for terror attacks a decade ago | The Times of Israel

February 23, 2015, 8:30 pm 38
NEW YORK (AP) — The Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority were the catalysts for a series of terrorist attacks in the early 2000s in Israel that killed or wounded several Americans, a US jury found Monday at a high-stakes civil trial.

In finding the Palestinian authorities liable in the attacks, jurors awarded the victims $218.5 million in damages for the bloodshed. The US Anti-Terrorism Act could allow for that to be tripled.»

Kol Tuv,

Monday 23 February 2015

The Sefarim Sale -Hakkarat Hattov

Last night after the Teaneck Beth Aaron dinner, our family trekked to the YU/SOY sefarim sale. B"H, the place was not so full, and we had excellent service...

I'd like to express our gratitude for the kindness and the enthusiasm of those young men and women, who were so eager to do a great job and to help us get the sefarim we needed. It was a very warm feeling during a very cold February, to be treated like VIP's. Thank you so much.

Kol Tuv,

Why is Netanyahu coming to the US?

This speech by Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer gives all the reasons that Bibi Netanyahu will take the risk of upsetting President Obama by coming to address the US Congress.
Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the nearly 67 years of Israel's independence, we should be grateful for many things.
We should be grateful that we have signed peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan that have endured decades of challenges.
We should be grateful that Israel has transformed itself from an agriculturally based economy to a global technological power.
We should be grateful that Israel is a world leader in medicine and science, and can boast of a dozen Nobel Prize Winners.
We should be grateful that Israel has world class museums, first rate restaurants, European League Basketball Championships and a country so exciting that Israelis actually have to go to Manhattan to unwind.
But above all else, the birth of the Jewish state should make the Jewish people grateful for three things: First, Israel gave us a voice. Second, Israel provided a refuge. Third, and most important, Israel enabled us to defend ourselves.

Now, everyone can appreciate the significance of having a refuge. For nearly seven decades, Jews fleeing oppression have found a home in Israel. They came from the killing fields of Europe, were driven out of hostile states in North Africa and the Middle East, were rescued from Ethiopia and arrived en masse when the iron curtain fell.
Today, it is the Jewish community of France that is flocking to Israel. Three years ago, 1900 French Jews made Aliyah. Two years ago, 3500 came. Last year, 7,000 came. This year, we expect 15,000 to come.
That's nearly 3% of the French Jewish community – the equivalent of some 200,000 American Jews moving to Israel in a single year.
French Jews are coming because like Jews elsewhere in Europe, they live with a fear they have not experienced since the 1940s.
Their cemeteries and synagogues are desecrated, their schools are attacked, and their fellow Jews are murdered for being Jews.
For a few decades after the Holocaust, anti-Semitism in Europe was politically incorrect. But time has shown that this proved to be a notable exception rather than a new norm.
Anti-Semitism has once again become as European as Croissants.

And it is not just militant Muslims in Europe, who with their grotesque chants of Gas the Jews, spread the old poison. It also includes many European intellectuals -- only they mask the old hatred of the Jewish people behind a new hatred of the Jewish state.
When Nobel Laureates compare Gaza to Auschwitz, when the Middle East's only democracy is singled out for boycotts, and when European governments fall over themselves to embrace a Palestinian government which is backed by a genocidal, terror organization, it's not legitimate criticism of Israel. It's anti-Semitism.
When 60% of the Human Rights Council's resolutions are directed against Israel as hundreds of thousands are being butchered in Syria, gays are being hanged from cranes in Tehran, and scores of journalists rot in Turkish prisons, it's not legitimate criticism of Israel. It's anti-Semitism.

A few weeks ago, the signatories of the Geneva Conventions convened for only the third time in their history to condemn a country - and guess what, all three times they have met was to condemn Israel.
They didn't meet to condemn the Khmer Rouge for killing two million Cambodians. They didn't meet to condemn the genocides in Rwanda or in Darfur. They didn't meet to condemn the giant concentration camp that is called North Korea.
They met to condemn Israel, the most beleaguered democracy on Earth - where there is free speech, freedom of religion, independent courts, genuine elections and where the rights of women, gays and all minorities are protected.
And one more thing: When the International Criminal Court – a court that was founded in the wake of the Holocaust to be a permanent Nuremberg that would ensure that mass murderers are brought to justice – when that court goes after Israel for defending itself against a terror organization that fires thousands of rockets at its cities and uses its own people as human shields, it's not legitimate criticism of Israel. It's anti-Semitism.

But amidst all this hatred, and the threats to Jews living in Europe, one thing has changed.
Despite all the concerns regarding the future of French Jewry, one set of questions is not being asked today: Where will the Jews go? Who will take them in? Where can they find refuge?
Those questions are not being asked because Israel is the answer. And I am proud that my Prime Minister made clear to all French Jews that while they have the right to be protected in France, they will be welcomed with open arms in Israel.
And if they decide to come to Israel, they will not be treated as visitors from a foreign land but as family members who have come home.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
If people can appreciate the significance of Israel as a refuge, they can appreciate even more the significance of the Jewish people restoring our capability to defend ourselves.
They appreciate it because they know what happened to our people when we lacked that capability. They know that a defenseless Jewish people was once subjected to calamities of a scope and scale that is unprecedented in the history of nations -- centuries of persecution and blood libels, expulsions and countless massacres, and of course the most horrific calamity of all – the Holocaust.
They appreciate that the simple truth remains that if Israel's enemies laid down their arms, there would be peace, but if Israel laid down its arms, there would be no Israel.
They appreciate that without the capacity to defend ourselves, Israel would not have survived five wars, two conflicts in Lebanon, 3 conflicts in Gaza, decades of terrorism and tens of thousands of rockets.
And they appreciate that Israel must have the power to defend itself by itself against the enormous threats we face today – from Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, terror organizations in the Sinai and the Golan, and of course from an Iran determined to develop nuclear weapons.
But if people can appreciate having a refuge and having the ability to defend ourselves, few seem to appreciate what it means for the Jewish people to finally have a voice – a sovereign voice that must be reckoned among the nations.

That became clear to me earlier this month in the debate over whether the Prime Minister of Israel should go to France for the solidarity march in Paris.
To me, his trip there was a no-brainer. After all, Israel constantly asks France to stand with us in our battle against terrorism. It's only natural that Israel should stand with France in its battle against terrorism.
But there were those in Paris and even some in Jerusalem who thought that Israel's presence there would divert attention from the united message France was trying to deliver against terror and focus it instead on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Now, those who think that what the French are facing in Paris is fundamentally different than what Israel is facing in Jerusalem simply don't get it.
And it is precisely because of this wrongheadedness that is was imperative for an Israeli Prime Minister to be there.

He had an obligation to explain that Israel's fight is their fight. He had an obligation to explain that the fanaticism that is driving Boko Haram in Nigeria, ISIS in Iraq and Syria and Al Qaeda throughout the Middle East is the same fanaticism that drives people to attack sentries in Ottawa, shoppers in Sydney, and cartoonists in Paris.
And he has an obligation to explain that this fanaticism is the same fanaticism that drives people to fire thousands of rockets from Gaza, stab passengers on a bus in Tel Aviv and hack worshippers to death in a synagogue in Jerusalem.
This fanaticism is not about this or that grievance. It is not driven by the policies of this or that Israeli government. It is bred by Palestinian leaders who glorify terrorists as heroes, name public squares after killers and who through their media and schools poison children with constant incitement toward Jews and Israel.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
In the battle against militant Islam, Israel is the canary in the coal mine.
Israel is an outpost of Western civilization, tolerance and pluralism in a region poisoned by tyrants and terrorists.
You know when we'll know that what happened in Paris proves more than a powerful photo-op. You know when we'll know that Europe has truly woken up to the dangers of militant Islam.
When they stop blaming the canary for the poison. When they stop blaming Israel for militant Islam and start standing with Israel against militant Islam.
But for that to happen, to enable Europe to begin to connect the dots – for our sake and theirs - Israel must not be silent. Israel must speak the truth. Fearlessly and unapologetically.
That is why it was so important for the Prime Minister to go to France. That is why it was so important for him to march in Paris and speak out.
And if was important for the Prime Minister to speak out in Paris about anti-Semitism and the threat from militant Islam, it is even more important for him to speak out in Washington DC about the dangers of a nuclear Iran.

The Prime Minister's visit here is not intended to show any disrespect for President Obama. Israel deeply appreciates the strong support we have received from President Obama in many areas – the enhanced security cooperation, heightened intelligence sharing, generous military assistance and iron dome funding, and opposition to anti-Israel initiatives at the United Nations.
The Prime Minister's visit is also not intended to wade into your political debate. Israel deeply appreciates the strong bipartisan support we enjoy in the American Congress -- where Democrats and Republicans come together to support Israel -- Just as Israel appreciates the wide and deep support that it enjoys among the American people.
Rather, the Prime Minister's visit to Washington is intended for one purpose -- and one purpose only. To speak up while there is still time to speak up. To speak up when there is still time to make a difference.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Iran is the world's most dangerous regime. It has already devoured four Arab capitals – Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Saana in Yemen – and it is hungry for more.
Iran is the greatest sponsor of terrorism in the world, perpetrating or ordering attacks in 25 countries on five continents in the last four years alone.
Iran is responsible for the murder of thousands of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and hundreds of Marines in Lebanon. It is responsible for the bombings of US Embassies in Africa and for the twin bombings two decades ago in Argentina.
This reign of terror and violence has all happened without Iran having a nuclear weapon. Now just imagine how much more dangerous Iran will be with nuclear weapons.

And do not think that America is beyond Iran's reach.
Today, Iran is building ICBMs - Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. Now only in cartoons do ICBMS carry TNT. In the real world, they carry nuclear payloads.
And those ICBMS that Iran is building are not designed to hit Israel. Iran already has missiles for that.
Those ICBMs are designed to reach Europe and the United States – to reach New York, Washington and Miami.
For Israel, a nuclear armed Iran would be a clear and present danger.
Iran's regime threatens Israel with destruction. Its leader, Ayatollah Khomenei, recently tweeted - in English - that Israel must be annihilated.
Iran has used Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other proxies to fire thousands of rockets and threaten Israel from Lebanon, Gaza, the Sinai and the Golan Heights.
Iran's regime is both committed to Israel's destruction and working toward Israel's destruction.

Today, the international community stands at the precipice of forging an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program.
The agreement that is being discussed today is not an agreement that would dismantle Iran's nuclear weapons capability, but rather one that could leave Iran as a nuclear threshold state.
That is an agreement that could endanger the very existence of the State of Israel.
Now there may be some people who believe that the Prime Minister of Israel should have declined an invitation to speak before the most powerful parliament in the world on an issue that concerns the future and survival of Israel.
But we have learned from our history that the world becomes a more dangerous place for the Jewish people when the Jewish people are silent.
That is why the Prime Minister feels the deepest moral obligation to appear before the Congress to speak about an existential issue facing the one and only Jewish state.

This is not just the right of the Prime Minister of Israel. It is his most sacred duty -- to do whatever he can to prevent Iran from ever developing nuclear weapons that can be aimed at Israel.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
For nearly two thousand years, the Jewish people were a stateless, voiceless, and powerless people. We had no sovereignty, no voice in international affairs, and no capability to defend ourselves.
As storm clouds gathered against us, the Jews often had nowhere to go. They begged others to speak to Kings and Presidents on their behalf. They begged others to raise the alarm so that people of good will might heed their call.
And when those storms finally raged, the Jewish people pleaded with others to protect us, to give us shelter to survive another day.
Are there any survivors here tonight? Please stand up.
You know what it means to live in a world where the Jewish people had no state. You know what it means for the Jewish people to have no one to speak on their behalf.
You know what it meant to live in a world where the Jewish people have no power to defend themselves.
But today is not 1938.
The Jewish people are no longer stateless. We have restored our sovereignty in our ancestral homeland.
The Jewish people are no longer voiceless. Israeli Prime Ministers can address the United Nations and the American Congress, and Israeli Ambassadors can speak up in the world's capitals and on CNN.
And most important, the Jewish people no longer beg others to defend us. We can defend ourselves.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Jewish people are a people who have survived all the evil that history has thrown at us.
And we will survive the evil that we face today.
But we will not do it by bowing our heads and by hoping that the storm will pass.
We will do it by standing tall and by confronting the storm with faith and courage.
And I have no doubt that as Israel stands tall, you will all be by our side – standing tall, standing proud, standing with Israel.

Kol Tuv,

Sunday 22 February 2015

United with Israel: The Islamic State Video

While I continue to question myself whether I should have done so or not, I saw the ISIS video showing the execution of the Jordanian pilot. It affected me and I voiced my comments in my latest blog post on United with Israel, "The Islamic State Video". It can be seen at and also on Facebook at where it has 2,229 likes, 1025 shares and 183 comments (including one of my own). Feel free to comment here or there.

French PM is too friendly with Jews, says party grandee | The London Times
«A row over antisemitism hit France's ruling Socialists yesterday after a party grandee claimed that key policies were being shaped by the prime minister's Jewish wife.

The claim by Roland Dumas, a former foreign minister, that Manuel Valls was "under Jewish influence" generated widespread disapproval. Critics pointed out that Mr Dumas was echoing far-right conspiracy theories and Islamist propaganda.
The controversy has come at a sensitive time following shootings at a kosher supermarket in Paris last month, rising antisemitism in France, and attempts by President Hollande to dissuade Jews from leaving for Israel.»

Kol Tuv,

Saturday 21 February 2015

Mussar: The Nature of Free Choice

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin wrote: 
Train According To His Nature

A person cannot break his inborn personality. But everyone has free will to choose how he will act within the basic structure of his personality. Whether you will be righteous, evil, or average - it's up to you!

As the Talmud (Shabbos 56a) states: A person born with a tendency to shed blood makes his own choice as to whether he will draw blood for healing, or as a robber, or as a butcher, or as a mohel (ritual circumciser). That is, the choice of how to express your basic personality is the key factor in determining your greatness (or lack thereof).

King Solomon (Proverbs 22:6) instructs us to "train children according to their individual natures." When your approach is in alignment with the child's personality, he will continue in this positive path his entire life. If, however, you try to force the child (or anyone, for that matter) to act in a way that is inconsistent with his basic nature, he might listen superficially out of fear. But as soon as he can escape your authority, he will turn away from what you have taught him.

This concept is so valuable, that it is worth reading it five times - to internalize and remember it.

(see Vilna Gaon - Proverbs 22:6; Rabbi Pliskin - "Consulting the Wise")

Kol Tuv,

Thursday 19 February 2015

When a Tragedy Occurs, Bar Minan

Guest Blogger:
Rabbi Simchah Green
Pregnancy loss, whether through miscarriage or at birth, weighs heavily upon all family members as well as their community.

You have a professional resource at
Do not hesitate to call upon them when the need arises.


Kol Tuv,

"Islamism: If You Can’t Say it, You Can’t Fight it," Arutz Sheva, February 16, 2015

Arutz Sheva
Op-Ed: Islamism: If You Can't Say it, You Can't Fight it 
Matthew M. Hausman
While the world was reeling from last month's terror attacks in Paris, there was finally some acknowledgment of the one-sided religious war being waged against the West, as French officials identified the perpetrators as radical Muslims and called for international solidarity against Islamist extremism. 

After turning a blind eye for so long – and after enabling extremist organizations such as Hamas and facilitating resurgent anti-Semitism – Europeans finally spoke truth over political correctness.  Whether they have the fortitude for sustained confrontation with theological totalitarianism is another matter, but for at least a brief moment in time they recognized the threat for what it is.

In contrast, the Obama administration continued to ignore any connection between terrorism and radical Islam, instead referring to the perpetrators as extremists without identifying their motivating beliefs.  In a recent interview the president actually referred to the attack on the kosher market in Paris as "random." 

This refusal to acknowledge the obvious may be political, but it is also myopic – and it undercuts any serious effort to combat global terrorism.  Just as the government's characterization of the Fort Hoot shootings and Oklahoma beheading as "workplace violence" ignored the national ramifications of the terror threat, the president's refusal to concede the doctrinal roots of the Paris tragedy showed an astonishing failure of world leadership.

Kol Tuv,

Wednesday 18 February 2015

Cory Booker on Coptic Murders

Cory Booker wrote:
«I am disgusted by the murder of nearly two dozen Coptic Christian hostages by religious extremists in Libya. This injustice is a crime against people of all faiths who reject violence in the name of religion. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims and the Coptic Christian community mourning their deaths across the world and here in New Jersey.»
Good News:
Sen. Booker is outraged at the heinous murder of Coptic Christians

Bad News:
Sen. Booker Blames "Religious" Extremists" in general, without being more specific, as if to say, that all religious extremists are equally violent

Note, NJ has a sizable Coptic community.

Kol Tuv,

Tuesday 17 February 2015

The Lawfare Project

The Lawfare Project:

On Bad Press for Israel:

Sheer intimidation, not ideology, is the main factor skewing reporting on Israel.


On UC Davis:

SANTA CRUZ, California — After the Jewish community suffered two hate crimes at UC Davis in recent days, 23 organizations with hundreds of thousands of members and supporters demanded UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi conduct a formal investigation into registered student group Students for Justice i…

Kol Tuv,

From 'Biblical Pagans' to a Christian Zionist Revolution in Israel

Jeremy Gimpel:
From 'Biblical Pagans' to a Christian Zionist Revolution in Israel

Meet Israel Defense Forces Major Mor Shadi Khalloul, who talks to VOI's Ari Abramowitz and Jeremy Gimpel about his mission to revive Israel's Aramaic-Christian population, and strengthen their connection and commitment to the Jewish state.

Kol Tuv,

Monday 16 February 2015

Prof. Irwin Cotler, Canadian MP

UN Watch:
UN Watch salutes our board member Prof. Irwin Cotler, Canadian MP and former Justice Minister, for receiving the Law Society of Upper Canada's inaugural human rights award. In the article below, former prime minister Paul Martin salutes Prof. Cotler's 'huge sense of fairness', adding: "He was at the forefront of the international struggle against apartheid. When I was in Africa, people would come up to me and say, 'Do you know Irwin Cotler?'"

Kol Tuv,

Rav Dov Fischer On Obama

Netanyahu Must Absolutely Make that Speech - Op-Eds - Arutz Sheva
«It is imperative that Israelis — and everyone else — understand that Obama not only despises Netanyahu, as he has from Day One — but will despise any Israeli Prime Minister who builds in Jerusalem, who builds anywhere in Judea or Samaria, or who resists giving up land to Abbas and signing a peace agreement that Obama dictates.  He dictates to friends, and Obama sincerely believes a Mideast narrative that is popular among American left-wing ideologues and psudo-intellectuals: that Israel is a White colonialist settler state, created and propped up by Western imperialism, aimed at suppressing an indigenous Third World population of victimized people who lived in that land long before Jews did, from time immemorial...»
Kol Tuv,

Sunday 15 February 2015

Please Daven for Rabbi Shlomo Krupka

Please daven for Refuah for Rabbi Shlomo Krupka of Livingston New Jersey. He had a terrible stroke and is in a coma. Please Daven for his Be Ezrat Hashem total Refuah -- 
Shlomo Yitzchok Ben Elka.

He is a most sweet kind person, father of ten Children and beloved community Rabbi - who has been very instrumental in bringing many Jews back to Judaism. 

Kol Tuv,

Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU)

FFEU In the News

Kol Tuv,

"Bibi and the Diaspora"

«Netanyahu thrives on making all Jews in the Diaspora associate with Israel in their eyes and others, because it strengthens the Zionist's purse and political backing especially in the rich corners of Brooklyn, the upper West Side and Palm Beach. But his real interest is not in protecting the Jews of the world, but rather in continually creating a threat and enemy to overcome. What he really does by associating Diaspora Jews with Israel, is that he creates in the minds of the nations where these Jews live, the feeling that Jews cannot be trusted, they are 5th columnist, they have a conspiratorial secret cabal to seize and maintain power and riches in the world and in their nation. This creates anti-Semitism and damages the lives and the freedoms of all Diaspora Jews. It undermines the stability of nations and the harmony of all the people of those nations. Netanyahu and his FM Lieberman are the greatest cause of anti-Semitism and threat to Jews and Jewish freedoms and liberties on earth today! Israel and Zionism are a festering sore that is becoming gangrene and its pussy ooze is seeping into the Congress of the United States.
Benjamin Netanyahu has nothing in common with the vast majority of American Jews, seven out of ten of which voted for a man he implicitly demonized as 'anti-Israel'; but he still intends to 'speak in their name' before Congress.»

Kol Tuv,

Saturday 14 February 2015

Mussar: Genuine Kibbud Av vo'Eim

קיצור שולחן ערוך סי' קמג סעי' כ"א

מי שהוא רוצה באמת לכבד את אביו ואת אמו, יעסוק בתורה ובמעשים טובים, שזהו הכבוד הגדול להאבות, שאומרים הבריות: אשרי לאב ואם שגידלו בן כזה. אבל אם אין הבן הולך בדרך הישר, הרי אבותיו ישאו חרפה עליו, והוא מבייש אותם בבושה שאין גדולה הימנה.

וכן האב שרוצה לרחם על בניו באמת, יעסוק בתורה ובמעשים טובים, ויהא נוח לשמים ונוח לבריות, ויתכבדו בניו בו. אבל מי שאינו הולך בדרך הישר, גם זרעו מגונה אחריו. וכן בעוון אבות בניו מתים, כדכתיב: "פוקד עון אבות על בנים". ואין אכזריות גדולה מזאת שהוא גורם בחטאיו שימותו בניו. ואין לך מרחם על בניו יותר מן הצדיק, כי זכותו עומד לאלף דור.

Hakarot Hattov to R Arie Folger for bringing this to my attention.

Kol Tuv,

Thursday 12 February 2015

Alan Parsons is rocking Tel Aviv

The Jewish Standard:

Alan Parsons is rocking Tel Aviv after telling Roger Waters and the rest of those urging a boycott of Israel: "Music knows no borders, and neither do I."

Parsons was a sound engineer on Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon - which Waters was a member of.
"Roger Waters honoured my request not to publish my reply to his first letter to me, but he failed to comply with my clearly stated desire that the whole matter of his 'problem' with my concert in Israel should remain private between the two of us. He has now pressed his case in two open letters on his Facebook page without any published defence from me. So in the circumstances, I have decided to make my (originally personal) reply to him public - see below. I will be making no further comment on this matter and thank all our Israeli fans in advance for their loyalty, support, and for attending our show in Tel Aviv.

Alan Parsons


Dear Roger,

I appreciate your note and your passion.

However, this is a political matter and I am simply an artist. I create music, that is my raison d'être. Everyone - no matter where they reside, what religion they follow, or what ideology they aspire to - deserves to hear it if they so choose.

Music knows no borders, and neither do I.

Your colleague,

Parsons also tweeted a link to Israellycool, a pro-Israel blog covering the issue:


Kol Tuv,

Are Islamists winning their war to silence critical commentary in the West about Islam?

The Lawfare Project:

Islamists are winning their war to silence critical commentary in the West about Islam. So says Flemming Rose, culture editor of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which originally published the now-infamous images of Muhammad, in his recent book, "The Tyranny of Silence."

Kol Tuv,

Wednesday 11 February 2015

Tuesday 10 February 2015



The Lawfare Project:

AG Harris, now a candidate for U.S. Senate, needs to respond to legitimate concerns about professor's antisemitic webpage on California State University Northridge server

Kol Tuv,

The Mystery of the Jews
Kol Tuv,

Monday 9 February 2015

How Brian Williams (and Tom Brokaw) betrayed my family | Sherri Mandell | The Blogs | The Times of Israel

Kol Tuv,

Saudi Hypocrisy

UN Watch:

NOT A JOKE: Saudi Arabia has just launched an investigation into why female envoy Manal Radwan spoke at the U.N. without wearing a head scarf. Irony: her speech condemned Israel for violating women's rights. Maybe Manal should visit Israel and speak in the Israeli Parliament, where she can condemn anyone she wants without having to hide her hair or face.

Saudi Arabia launched investigation into why Manal Radwan, one of its top female envoys, spoke at the UN without a head covering. Her speech was condemning I...

Kol Tuv,

Sunday 8 February 2015

Science Says...

The Chicken came before the egg!

Kol Tuv,

Peter Beinart Should Apologize to His Readers | Jewish & Israel News
«This is what one might call Body Count Morality: more Palestinians have died, so they must be the victims and Israel must be the aggressors.

By that logic, Germany, with more than seven million military and civilian casualties in World War II, must have been the victims, and America, with its 405,000 casualties, must have been the aggressor. For that matter, Beinart should be denouncing President Barack Obama right now as an aggressor, since ISIS has suffered many more casualties than the American pilots who have been bombing ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq.»

Kol Tuv,

Saturday 7 February 2015

Mussar: Hilchot Lashon Hara from Stoicism

Here is an Epictetus / Stoic version of Hilchot Lashon Hara


Below is an excerpt from the hand-book. The clearest Stoic statement about gossip I can think of....
33.1. Lay down from this moment a certain character and pattern of behavior for yourself, which you are to preserve both when you're alone and when you're with others.

2. Remain silent for the most part, or say only what is essential, and in few words. Very infrequently, however , when the occasion demands , do speak, but not about any of the usual topics, not about gladiators, not about horse-races, not about athletes, not about food and drink, the subjects of everyday talk; but above all, don't talk about people , either to praise or criticize them, or to compare them.
Epictetus (2014-01-10). Discourses, Fragments, Handbook (Oxford World's Classics) (p. 297). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition
Kol Tuv,

Thursday 5 February 2015

Mohammad Zoabi

The Jewish Standard:

Amazing interview with Israeli-Arab Mohammad Zoabi, whose vocal condemnation of terrorism and passionate love of Israel has cost him nearly everything (also featuring his mom!):

Relevant Facebook pages: Mohammad Zoabi Fans,
Voice of Israel

Kol Tuv,

Tuesday 3 February 2015

Speech at the U.N. exposing the organization's anti-Israel bias, hypocrisy and double standards.

UN Watch:

Must-See Video! Speech at the U.N. exposing the organization's anti-Israel bias, hypocrisy and double standards.
Testimony by UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer at UN Human Rights Council, October 2014.

Kol Tuv,

Monday 2 February 2015

Strange Bedfellows

The following article was originally written for the Jewish Tribune in Toronto. The Tribune is, however, in a bit of a transition and I do not know if it will be published there or not. As such, I thought it appropriate to put it up on Nishmablog now.

* * * * *

Strange Bedfellows

            Of course, the tragic terrorist attacks which recently occurred in France were connected; there was clearly an inherent link between the murders at Charlie Hebdo and those at the kosher grocery store. Yet, while no one denied this, a critically significant aspect of this connection seemed to be conveniently ignored by many. Recognizing this link would actually affect how one sees what is happening in Israel – and it would seem, some people do not want to consider this.
            A theoretical argument could actually be made to see the two events as separate and distinct, connected indeed in what happened but unconnected in theory, essence and motivation. One was against a left-leaning magazine which satirized a religion; it was an attack against freedom of speech and similar Western values. The other was against a Jewish store; it was a statement, it would seem, regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict, in condemnation of Israel and, by extension, Jewish identity. A person could theoretically and conveniently ask: what does one have to do with the other? Charlie Hebdo, furthermore, had also published some pretty offensive cartoons against Judaism. How easy to maintain that the two incidents must have different roots, that Charlie Hebdo and a kosher store would seem to be strange bedfellows. Yet, indeed, inherently linked they would seem to be – as they apparently were in the minds of the terrorists themselves. And this is a link that cannot be ignored.
Many people would like to define the Israel-Palestine conflict in a realm by itself without any connection to the other issues within the Moslem world. This perspective then allows the conflict to be defined within narrow parameters as a social conflict between two peoples, one defined as stronger and the other defined as weaker. This serves a certain agenda. A problem, though, for proponents of this view is that this conflict does not actually exist within its own frame only but is also part of the greater issue associated with radical Islam. The recent events in France clearly demonstrated this. What does Charlie Hebdo have to do with a kosher grocery store? The answer is everything and without recognizing this, one cannot really properly comment on Israel-Palestine.
The challenge to those who wish to maintain a narrow perspective on Israel is that the people who attacked Charlie Hebdo were also in conflict with Israel. The problem with Israel, for these individuals, was thus not simply that it is a Jewish State but, just like Charlie Hebdo, it is also an entity whose values are not in line with radical Islam. The personal rights of individuals, for example, are also thus at stake in Israel’s conflict. This is not to say that every proponent of Palestine is a supporter of radical Islam but, as long as such supporters are intertwined in the Palestinian hierarchy, those same motivations that led these terrorists to attack Charlie Hebdo must be recognized as potentially part of the present Palestinian agenda. Israel’s fight is thus more than a social conflict between peoples. At issue are also basic human rights.
Values of rights and freedom are actually not a result of the promotion by a person of his/her interests but, rather, are really built upon the recognition of the rights of the other in opposition to one’s own views. It is the accepted co-existence of individuals with opposing views which actually delineates a free, civil and peaceful society or interaction of any nature. The value of mutual respect is integral to any form of civility. Radical Islam, though, rejects such a value. It declares itself correct and sees the differing wishes of all others to be irrelevant, even inherently, corruptly flawed. It is in this way that Charlie Hebdo and the kosher grocery become connected. To the terrorists who attacked them, they are both others who need not be respected. Applied to Israel, this means having to also deal with individuals who have no respect for it or its citizens.
The world speaks of necessary negotiations between Israel and Palestine. At the same time, the world no long speaks of necessary negotiations with entities like ISIS. This is the heart of the issue. Honest negotiations demand mutual respect. If the same radical Islam that permeates ISIS is also part of the Palestinian world, a limitation is inherently existent on whatever negotiations may be possible in the Israel-Palestine conflict. That is the question that surfaces from the terrorist attacks in France. Included in whom Israel has to deal are people similar to those who attacked Charlie Hebdo. That must be recognized to understand what Israel is facing. Ignoring that reality only complicates the actual situation. Seeing a narrow perspective regarding Israel – not recognizing that Israel must also battle individuals who negate human rights – only makes things worse.

Sunday 1 February 2015

Gwoździec, one of the magnificent 18th-century wooden synagogues of Poland

The Jewish Standard:

Artists Rick and Laura Brown are not Jewish and not Polish, and yet they set out to rebuild Gwoździec, one of the magnificent 18th-century wooden synagogues of Poland, all of which were destroyed by Nazis during World War II. Their vision inspires hundreds of people to join them. Using their hands, old tools and techniques they rediscover Gwoździec's history, culture, and art.
Raise the Roof follows the Browns and the Handshouse Studio team to Sanok, Poland, as they begin building the new Gwoździec roof. The crew has six weeks to hew, saw, and carve 200 freshly logged trees and assemble the structure. Working against this deadline and despite torrential downpours and exhaustion, the team must create the structure, and disassemble it again for shipping and eventual installation.
To paint the intricate ceiling murals, the Browns face another challenge: the 1914 photographs of Gwoździec are black and white and there is only one, partial color study. Using that as their Rosetta Stone, the Browns slowly build a library of Gwoździec's colors.
Armed with pigments and stacks of wooden boards, the team sets up to paint the ceiling mural in what seems to be an art gallery in Rzeszów, Poland. In fact, this building and those in seven other Polish cities where they will work during the summers of 2011 and 2012, are all former or active masonry synagogues. Each Handshouse-trained painting leader is tasked with creating the mural's most iconic images and training students to paint thousands of flowers and vines.
Although Rick and Laura Brown chose to rebuild the Gwoździec because it was one of the best documented, the historic material they found was spotty. Many questions about the synagogue were left unanswered:
What sparked this period of profuse and energetic construction and painting?
Why were the Jews of this time willing to break the Second Commandment prohibition against graven images in decorating this building?
What cultural and artistic movements inspired artists to create these resplendent spaces?
Raise the Roof takes us on this journey of discovery.
Tickets to the Raise the Roof screenings on February 3, 8, 12 and 13 can be purchased from the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. The project's filmmakers Yari and Cary Wolinsky and builders Rick and Laura Brown will discuss the project and the film with the audience at the February 12th and 13th screenings.
Follow Raise the Roof on Facebook to be informed when there is a screening near you.
YouTube link:
Kol Tuv,