A NYC councilman calls out the anti-Semitism of the BDS movement

Greenfield

Background: The NYC council is a democratically elected body of local government and is considered one of the most liberal and progressive in the country. Council members have been under pressure from BDS activists to boycott a planned trip to Israel. The council was discussing a commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz when anti-Israel activists disrupted the proceedings with shouts and protest, claiming later that they “shut down the meeting”. A group called NYC2Palestine that is an umbrella organization of groups including Occupy Wall Street and Jewish Voice for Peace took responsibility for the protest. Councilman Greenfield is the grandson of Holocaust survivors and made these remarks afterwards.

Speech by Councilman Greenfield:
Thank you Madam. You know I’ve waited my turn here, I followed protocol in the NYC Council and haven’t spoken out because I respect this chamber. I have to tell you that I’m still shaken to my core, I’m upset, I’m angry. But I’ll tell you honestly I’m actually somewhat pleased at what we saw here today. If you’re wondering why I’m saying that it’s because for the last few weeks we’ve heard from people who’ve said “Oh we don’t dislike Jews, we only dislike the state of Israel. We have no problem with Jews, we simply don’t want you to go to Israel”. But we know that’s not really at the core of what they were saying and today they proved it. While we were discussing a resolution regarding the murder of 1.1 million human beings; I will point out that 90% were Jewish but the other 10% were political dissidents, they were Jehovah’s Witnesses, they were gays. Those were the people who were being killed together in Auschwitz-Birkenau. While we were discussing that, they had the nerve, the chutzpah, the temerity to unfurl a Palestinian flag and to yell at us while we were discussing that. And so the reason I am pleased is because we can stop pretending that this is about Israel when the reality is that every Middle East country that is in existence today is not democratic and persecutes people of other faiths, and persecutes gays, and persecutes people who disagree with them, and persecutes people on twitter, and persecutes women who drive except for one country which is the State of Israel. And so what you saw here today was naked, blind anti-Semitism. That is what you saw and that’s what you watched and that’s what you witnessed. People who are upset for one reason. You want to know why they’re angry? You want to know why they are unfurling that flag today? Because Hitler did not finish the job, he only wiped out half of my family. And only by the grace of God is the other half, me, the grandchild, still alive today. That’s why those people are upset. Shame on them. Shame on them for hating Jews. Shame on them for hating people. Shame on them for disrespecting the most diverse democratically elected body in the United States of America and that is why we go to Israel. We go to Israel to make a message that is clear. That we will not be cowed by this fear and by this hatred that we have where these are people who would celebrate the death of Jews rather than mourn the death of innocents. I am embarrassed at what happened here today but I am pleased that we finally see what this is all about. Good old-fashioned anti-Semitism. Thank you.

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Tal Yifrach Z”L

Yesterday we attended an event organized by the IAUJC, the mother and daughter of fallen soldier Tal Yifrach visited and spoke about his 21 years of life.

Tal

His sister, Noy has put together a remarkable video that gives a glimpse into the life of this wonderful young man, cruelly taken from his family and the Jewish people. A remarkable, courageous, positive and inspiring young man, the type of man we would like our sons to become and our daughters to marry.

Tal Yifrach planned to study mechanical engineering after his military service. He was part of an elite army unit but never swore or used foul language, never said a bad word about anybody. Fundamentally a person of warmth and friendship. In addition to his family he leaves behind a young woman who planned to spend the rest of her life with him. An entire universe of life and love and potential. Tal’s mother talked about the atmosphere within Israel when hostilities broke out, the horrible realization and sadness as Israelis realized they would have to fight another battle for survival. She talked about the feeling of not knowing if one might be brutally murdered standing at a bus stop of waiting for a train and the sickening confrontation of the mega-terror attack Hamas had planned for Israel on Rosh Hashana. She talked about her phone conversation with Netanyahu following the death of her son. She shared with us that she told the Prime Minister her hope that all the courage and bravery shown by her son could be transferred to him as the leader of the country.

There was a lot of emotional intensity in the room with the outpouring of grief and loss. And get this. Not a single word of hatred was uttered. Tal did not fight in the cause of hatred. He fought to defend his country and the Jewish people. Tal and his family want peace, not war. They do not hate, they want to live in peace and to coexist with their Arab neighbors. The intensity of emotional outpouring could have easily been diverted into any one of a number of larger agendas. But it wasn’t. The focus was on one individual and his family.

Afterwards, I was talking to a friend who suggested that we could have attended an equivalent event for a Palestinian family. Certainly families on both sides of the conflict have searing pain. But I wonder if emotions aroused at an equivalent Palestinian event would have been diverted towards an agenda? Would the agenda be one focused on peace and coexistence? There is a distinction between a war one fights to defend one’s country and an unprovoked war of aggression. Clearly we have a lot of education to do within the Jewish community here and strengthen support for Israel.

Please watch and share the video of Tal Yifrach (click on picture below). His loss is unbearable, we must make sure his memory lives on.

young TalThank you to all of those involved in putting this event together and thank you to Tal Yifrach’s family for being willing to share him with us. May we all know better days עם ישראל חי.

 

World Premiere tonight!

THE NIGHT OF FOOLS
DIRECTOR: Rami Kimchi
Cornell Cinema (7:15 PM screening, free)

night of fools

Details from Cornell Cinema:

A docu-drama about a Jewish underground movement in Algeria during WW2 that, with only 400 men, succeeds in taking control of the city of Algiers, in which there are 25,000 French pro-Nazi soldiers. They keep control for one night, handing the city over to the Americans, who land on the city’s shores the next morning.

Rami Kimchi is an Israeli culture critic and filmmaker. His previous films include Galia’s Wedding (1986), Travels with My Brother (1997), Cinema Egypt (2001), and Father Language (2006). His main research interests are Israeli cinema, modern Hebrew literature, Yiddish literature, Palestinian cinema, and Near Eastern cinema. He has published a book, The Israeli Shtetls – Bourekas Films and Yiddish Literature (2012), and articles in Shofar, Reeh, Balshanoot Ivrit, Dapim, Moreshet Israel and Hakivoon Mizrach.

Honor their memories

teens

From Rabbi Steinsaltz, head of the Mekor Chaim high school, where two of the boys were students:

“People will light memorial candles, recite prayers, and attend vigils. Our boys were killed al Kiddush Hashem, because they were Jews. Therefore, to best honor their memories – indeed, to confront evil – we must act always as proud Jews, in our deeds and through our lives.”

Amen.

Klal YisraelTo reiterate. This is not political. This is not regional conflict. It is anti-Semitism.

remembering

Read more here and here.

tikvah

 

 

State of the Union

We’ve all heard and read about the Pew Report, although it has been surprising how little debate it has stimulated in the liberal secular Jewish community. Apparently there is a Yiddish saying “The house is on fire, and grandma is sitting calmly, knitting a sweater” which certainly seems applicable from my vantage point.

Another document that I feel is very illuminating in regard to current thinking in the secular US Jewish community is this email exchange between Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren and David Rothkopf, CEO and editor of Foreign Policy, a Washington publication that is influential in Democratic policy making circles.

What makes the exchange so incredibly fascinating is that Michael Oren and David Rothkopf were college room mates with similar backgrounds who made very different choices in their lives; choices that come to the fore in this remarkable discussion.

Kudos to both individuals for sharing their discussion. Read the exchange here.

One of the issues this exchange brings up is how even a trip to Israel may not have an impact when a person has a huge investment in a different reality. For a dramatic example of this read an account of the Guardian’s editor Alan Rusbridger’s trip to Israel.

In the case of David Rothkopf, I’d recommend three additional trips. The first would be to France. This would be a true holiday where he could plan his own itinerary, the only requirement would be that he would have to walk around wearing a kippah. The second trip would be to Houston Texas to take a workshop at the Institue for the Study of Modern Israel. For the third trip he can just take a day off and go down the street to the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy to discuss current Palestinian and Arab politics with Jonathan Schnazer, author of Hamas versus Fatah, the Struggle for Palestine.

I’d love to know how his conversation with Ambassador Oren would go after those trips. And of course, if he met these guys in Paris (click on picture for link), we’d let him take off his kippah (as French Jews probably would).

France

Many thanks to Israel Matzav for pointing out this publication.

On a lighter note, Shabbat Shalom everybody!

#Ruth

shabbat shalom

 

Israel Independence Day 2014

There are so many wonderful articles, moving stories and pictures of happy people celebrating the wonderful Jewish State of Israel.

Israel at 66

I’m would like to share this deeply moving article (originally published in Israel National News)

This is the Shabbat Drasha of Rav Avihu Schwartz, Ram at the Beit El Yeshiva, on the Sabbath preceding Yom Haatzmaut 2014, at the Nitzanit Synagogue in Beit El:

The Talmud tells of the love that our Rabbis had for Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel:  “Rabbi Abba used to kiss the stones of Acco. Rabbi Chanina would remove rocks from the roads, so that no one would be damaged by them and thereby have a complaint against the Holy Land”(Ketuvot 112a).

There was a great Talmid Chacham in the last century, Rabbi Yissachar Tamar, who wrote the book Alei Tamar, a commentary on the Talmud Yerushalmi. Regarding the above Gemara, the Alei Tamar brings the following story about the hassidic Rebbe of Sadigur (Alei Tamar, p69, on Tract. Sheviis, Ch4 Halacha 7):

“Every Yom Ha’Atzmaut, the Rebbe made his way to the Great Synagogue in Tel Aviv. There he would join the other congregants praying Hallel with great joy. After the services, the Rebbe would join the dancing throngs outside in the streets, clasping hands and dancing with enthusiasm and happiness. It was always obvious that the Rebbi of Sadigur felt a special joy on Yom Haatzmaut.

One year, one of his hassidim got up the nerve to have a personal audience with the Rebbe and question him about his Yom Haatzmaut behavior. The answer he received tells us how many light-years ahead of his contemporaries, and some of ours, stood the Rebbi of Sadigur:

‘In March,1938, the Nazis (may their name and memory be blotted out) swallowed up Austria, and entered Vienna. Their first move was to accomplish the degradation of the Jews, and as the Rabbi of the Jewish community, they chose me, giving me a big broom and had me sweep the streets of Vienna. As I did that work, I prayed: ‘Ribbono Shel Olam, may it be Thy will that I merit to take a broom and sweep the streets of Eretz Yisrael’.

‘Obviously, it is not fitting for your Rebbe to be seen in the streets of Tel Aviv sweeping in front of everybody. So, on Yom Haatzmaut I get up at 3 am, take a big broom and with great שמחה I sweep the streets of my neighborhood.

After sweeping in Vienna, the Nazis יש’וזכרם  (may their name be blotted out) shoved  a Nazi flag in my hands and made me climb to the top of a tall building and plant their swastika atop the roof. As I climbed, I turned to the Creator and said:

‘Ribbono Shel Olam, may I yet merit to wave the flag of Israel in a high spot in the Land of Israel’. And so I plant on my roof the flag of Israel on Yom Haatzmaut, with happiness and התלהבות, thanking the Lord that He accepted my prayers’.

To this the Alei Tamar adds: “May those who love His Land hear this, understand the issues, and add to his wisdom”.

To which I would underscore that understanding the issues is as important as ever. This article by Gideon Israel, “Israel at peace, Palestinians at war” is a great place to start for a succinct and objective commentary on the reality of Israel’s prospects for peace.

Enjoy celebrating Yom Haazmaut, Israel’s 66th Independence Day!

Yom HaZikaron

amidah phrase

I had the privilege of being a substitute teacher in the small school attached to our synagogue when the 6th grade class was learning about this phrase.

It was a tremendous experience to hear the thoughts of kids in the class. They had such beautiful interpretations such as a seed that is planted in the dust to generate new life.

On this Day of Remembrance journalist Daniel Greenfield has an essay “Who can count the Dust of Jacob“. that provides a moving and current perspective.

history

 

“Who can count the dust of Jacob? And yet each memorial day we count the dust.”

prayer for IDF

#Ruth