Author of "Embracing Auschwitz" and "Mensch•Marks: Life Lessons of a Human Rabbi - Wisdom for Untethered Times." Winner of the Rockower Award, the highest honor in Jewish journalism and 2019 Religion News Association Award for Excellence in Commentary. Musings of a rabbi, journalist, father, husband, poodle-owner, Red Sox fan and self-proclaimed mensch, taken from essays, columns, sermons and thin air. Writes regularly in the New York Jewish Week and Times of Israel.
Friday, November 8, 2019
Shabbat-O-Gram for November 8: Veterans Day and Kristallnacht
Prof Stephen Berk speaking last Sunday about the Jews of Cuba.
Our TBE group - 38 strong - departs for Havana on March 15.
Neshama Carlebach inspired and delighted us on Friday and Saturday evenings
Mazal Tov to the family of Lana Busch, who becomes bat mitzvah here this Shabbat morning. Join us tonight for services at the special time of 6 PM. We set this time so we could accommodate two types of Shabbat dinners, one at 5 PM for families with young children, and a pot luck dinner after the service, at 7 PM, for the congregation-at-large. You can sign up for the potluck here. Thank you to TBEConnect for putting together this program, which offers the chance for us to linger over Shabbat dinner in the traditional manner, after the conclusion of evening services. You can get a sneak preview of our Torah discussion for tonight here (and a more comprehensive guide here). For Shabbat morning, we'll discuss, in the spirit of Abram and Sarai, "What's in a Jewish Name (and why we change them).
Never is Now!
TBE will be sending a group to the day-long summit on anti-Semitism and hate, "Never is Now," to be held in Manhattan at the Javitz Center on November 17. You can read all about it here. If you are interested in attending, the fee is $225, but if we can get a group of 10, the fee drops 18%. When you sign up at the website, use the following code: NINTBE
I'm happy to announce that we have successfully concluded our "Redeem the Torah" fund. Last Friday at 2:36 PM, we passed the 40 donation mark, so now no one will need to fast for 40 days following the unfortunate fall of one of our scrolls. I joked last weekend that the curse was magically lifted and that our candelabras suddenly transformed into human beings and started singing, "Be Our Guest." But in all seriousness, there is no shortage of discomfort when a Torah falls and that angst often spills over into the realm of the cosmic. Superstition may be misguided, but the feelings are real. We needed to get the universe back into balance, and, through Tzedakkah, we did.
While the urgency of the Torah drive has been alleviated, the urgency of hunger has not. So, with Thanksgiving approaching, please do continue to donate to any of these charities, or to others of your choice.
This weekend marks the 81st anniversary of Kristallnacht. On November 9 to November 10, 1938, in an incident known as "Kristallnacht", Nazis in Germany torched synagogues, vandalized Jewish homes, schools and businesses and killed close to 100 Jews. In the aftermath of Kristallnacht, also called the "Night of Broken Glass," some 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to Nazi concentration camps. German Jews had been subjected to repressive policies since 1933, when Nazi Party leader Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) became chancellor of Germany. However, prior to Kristallnacht, these Nazi policies had been primarily nonviolent. After Kristallnacht, conditions for German Jews grew increasingly worse. Read more background here.
The tragic aspect of all this is that Hitler could still have been stopped, even then, had the world called his bluff. The world did not. The "great appeasement" of Hitler is usually ascribed to Neville Chamberlain at Munich in 1938. But in truth, it was Kristallnacht, just a few weeks later, that was the most appalling appeasement of the dictator, and the entire world was at fault.
Hitler's bluff could have been called much earlier too. November 9, which has become a defining date in modern world history, was also the date of Hitler's infamous Beer Hall Putsch, in 1923. A recent article in the New York Times reminds us how there was nothing hidden about the man and his insidious methodologies, even as early as 1919, when he basically invented modern propaganda. The very fact that he had the opportunity to write his masterpiece of incitement and manipulation, "Mein Kampf," during a brief stint in a comfy jail, after he had tried to bring down the government in that Munich beer hall, shows us how the danger was ignored by those who should have known better. The man committed treason, but the punishment did not fit the crime. He spent only nine months in prison.
In "Mein Kampf," Hitler wrote lots of insidious things, one of them being that propaganda "must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over." Hitler and the Nazis repeated again and again a simple slogan to discredit the press: "Lügenpresse." Today the extreme right in Germany has revived this term, which in English is "fake news."
David King, author of the recent book, "The Trial of Adolf Hitler," writes, "Hitler wasn't very well known before the Putsch," King explains. "He sounded funny, almost like a buffoon. He wanted to take over [the Weimar] government, but instead of taking over a military barracks, he took over a beer hall. Hitler and his troops fired a shot and declared a national revolution. Later in the shoot out, a bullet missed Hitler. By Sunday morning he was arrested."
If only the buffoon had been taken more seriously, when everyone thought he was so harmless and amusing.
The biggest lesson from November 9, both in 1923 and 1938, is that we can never ignore red flags, especially when they are being waved so defiantly, right in front of our noses, and especially when their clear intent is to destroy norms and institutions that preserve democratic values. Hitler was rightly jailed for trying to subvert the rule of law and upend his country's fragile democracy. He should have remained in jail for a lot longer, at least until Kristallnacht, had safely passed. Had that happened, there never would have been a Kristallnacht, and the significance of November 9 would have been altered forever.
Take a moment to remember the sacrifices of the brave men and women who have valiantly fought to so that America might continue to be a shining beacon of hope for the world. Especially during these dark times for our country, we need to be reminded what America has always been - and what it is capable of becoming again. Here are some relevant quotes, followed by two poems.
"I think there is one higher office than president and I would call that patriot." -Gary Hart
"This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave." -Elmer Davis
"On this Veterans Day, let us remember the service of our veterans, and let us renew our national promise to fulfill our sacred obligations to our veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much so that we can live free."-Dan Lipinski
"My heroes are those who risk their lives every day to protect our world and make it a better place-police, firefighters, and members of our armed forces."-Sidney Sheldon
"Our veterans accepted the responsibility to defend America and uphold our values when duty called."-Bill Shuster
"A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself. "-Joseph Campbell
"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." -John F. Kennedy
"The willingness of America's veterans to sacrifice for our country has earned them our lasting gratitude."-Jeff Miller
"I dream of giving birth to a child who will ask, 'Mother, what was war?'" -Eve Merriam
"Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die." -G.K. Chesterton
"Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened." - Billy Graham
"In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot." -Mark Twain
"Never give in - never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy." -Winston Churchill
"The most persistent sound, which reverberates through men's history, is the beating of war drums." -Arthur Koestler
"How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!" -Maya Angelou
"The hero is the man dedicated to the creation and / or defense of reality-conforming, life-promoting values." -Andrew Bernstein
"Better than honor and glory, and History's iron pen, Was the thought of duty done and the love of his fellow-men. " -Richard Watson Gilder
"The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave." -Patrick Henry
"Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys. Look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death!" - Sun Tzu
"Without heroes, we are all plain people, and don't know how far we can go." - Bernard Malamud
To the Soldier, To the Veteran
These things I do not know:
The sound of a bullet.
The power of a blast.
The blood of a comrade.
The depth of your wound.
The terror at midnight.
The dread at dawn.
Your fear or your pain.
These things I know:
The sound of your honor.
The power of your courage.
The blood of your wound.
The depth of your strength.
The terror that binds you.
The dread that remains.
Your dignity and your valor.
For these things we pray:
The sound of your laughter.
The power of your voice.
The blood of your yearning.
The depth of your healing.
The joy that frees you.
The hope that remains.
Your wholeness and your love.
The Last Soldier
When the last soldier passes on,
When armies are disbanded and militias discharged,
When weapons are abandoned and armor discarded,
Your mission will, at last, be over.
For you know the soldier's secret.
Yours was not a mission of war
Nor a mission of ruin.
Yours was not a mission of destruction
Nor a mission of death.
Your mission was safety, security, protection.
Your mission was honor, loyalty, service.
Your mission was to end violence, tyranny, despair.
When the last soldier passes on,
When the uniforms are retired and the final grave filled,
We will remember all who served and sacrificed for our nation.