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.
Monday, October 16, 2023
In This Moment: "The Jews Brought This Upon Themselves"
******** I'll be doing a Zoom Meet-Up on Wednesday evening at 7:30. This will give people of all ages a chance to comfort, cry and share ideas together. It is open to all adult members of the congregation family (teens are meeting in person on Tuesday), including college students and other 20-somethings. To get the Zoom link you will need to email either Mindy in our office (firstname.lastname@example.org) or me directly, by Wednesday afternoon.********
In This Moment
This morning, once again we come together as a community - the Israeli flag raising at Government Center drew an enormous crowd. See the news report here. In my presentation, I stated:
"This is not just garden variety terrorism — and that's bad. What Hamas did on Oct. 7 and what Hamas is sworn to do is genocidal terrorism. No civilized person can possibly defend or justify an act of genocidal terrorism."
Matt Blumenthal's Remarks
I asked State Rep. (and TBE member) Matt Blumenthal if I could share the text of his impassioned remarks from this morning. I feel it's important, because so many people have been asking me how to respond to those who are falling into the trap of equivocation and moral fuzziness in conjoining what happened on October 7 to the wider conflict. People are seeing this grotesque insensitivity everywhere, at school, at work, at social and cultural events. People are resorting to stale, "knee-jerk" thinking, or worse, often without realizing what it is they are defending: an act of genocide. Here's what Rep. Blumenthal said:
It’s been just over a week since October 7—just over eight days. It feels like an eternity, and also no time at all.
You would think that, over those eight days or so, my feelings and thoughts would have clarified. That they would have settled. But as the days have passed, and the toll of innocent Israelis subjected to Hamas’s brutality has climbed—more than 1300 brutally slain, more than 150 taken hostage—like many of you, I’m sure, I have felt only a deepened fog of grief and confusion.
As we’ve grieved, as friends and family have reported for duty, it’s been comforting to see the condemnation of the attacks, and the support and solidarity for Israel and Jews, here in Stamford and around the world.
But we have seen other things, too. All too often, it feels like statements of grief or condemnation for the shedding of Jewish blood—seemingly only Jewish blood—are followed by the word “but.”
And even more heartbreakingly, from some corners, we have seen people condone, excuse, or even celebrate Hamas’s premeditated, genocidal barbarism. This is moral depravity. There is no excuse, no condoning, no justification for Hamas’s purposeful slaughter of innocent Israelis, the kidnapping of children and women and the elderly, the rockets still raining down over Israeli towns and cities. There is no justification or excuse for terrorism.
That’s why it’s so important that we—that you—are here today, standing with Israel and the Jewish people.
That’s not to say we can’t acknowledge the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians to have their own state, living in peace alongside Israel. That’s not to say we don’t mourn and feel for the innocent Palestinian civilians killed or caught in the fighting. How could we not? We are the people whose patriarch negotiated with God, even in the face of God’s wrath, for every life he could save.
But there I go again: but, but, but.
How about this: Like every other nation on earth, Israel has the right to defend itself and its population, and to exist as a free, peaceful, and democratic state and a homeland for the Jewish people. And that sentence, my friends, ends with a period.
And so let us pray. Let us pray for the safety and success of the Israeli soldiers and the defeat of Hamas. Pray for the safety and well-being of the civilians caught in the fighting, Israeli and Palestinian alike. Pray for peace.
As we grieve, as friends and family report for duty, as Israel defends itself, may we continue to live by our Jewish values. May we never let our grief, our fear, and our confusion at the actions of monsters harden our hearts.
As Reb Nachman said long ago said, and so many of us have sung: “All the world is a narrow bridge. The thing is not to be overcome by fear.”
We, the Jewish people, will not live in fear.
Am Yisrael Chai.
We continue to mourn the dead
We mourn all the dead, including a Palestinian-American victim of hate in Chicago. I know little about the alleged killer, 71 year old Joseph Czuba. NBC reports that his wife, Mary, told investigators that Czuba "listens to conservative talk radio on a regular basis" and became obsessed with the war between Hamas and Israel. But regardless of one person's motives, the ground was sewn in this country for Islamophobic hate crimes long ago, and we must fight it with every fiber of our being.
We fight hate wherever it rears its ugly head. RIght now, it's manifested in the grotesque pattern of blaming the Jews for their own suffering. And when you blame Jewish victims for their unfathomable suffering, this is the company you keep....
Item, Persian Empire: "Haman then said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people, scattered and dispersed among the other peoples in all the provinces of your realm, whose laws are different from those of any other people and who do not obey the king’s laws; and it is not in Your Majesty’s interest to tolerate them." (Esther 3:8)
Item, 1543: "Alas, it cannot be anything but the terrible wrath of God which permits anyone to sink into such abysmal, devilish, hellish, insane baseness, envy, and arrogance. If I were to avenge myself on the devil himself I should be unable to wish him such evil and misfortune as God’s wrath inflicts on the Jews, compelling them to lie and to blaspheme so monstrously, in violation of their own conscience. Anyway, they have their reward for constantly giving God the lie." (Martin Luther, "The Jews and Their Lies")
Item, 1919: "(Henry Ford) attributes all evil to Jews or to the Jewish capitalists," the friend wrote in his diary. "The Jews caused the war, the Jews caused the outbreak of thieving and robbery all over the country, the Jews caused the inefficiency of the navy…"
Item, 1925: "Here he stops at nothing, and in his vileness he becomes so gigantic that no one need be surprised if among our people the personification of the devil as the symbol of all evil assumes the living shape of the Jew... Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord." (Adolf Hitler, "Mein Kampf")
Item, 2014: A television news anchor on a state-owned Russian television network said theJews brought the Holocaust on themselves. Evelina Zakamskaya of the Rossiya 24 channel made the statement earlier this week during an interview with writer Aleksandr Prokhanov on the Ukraine crisis. The interview was first made public by Americablog.
In the words of Brown-RISD Hillel director Rabbi Josh Bolton, "Accusations that somehow Jews are responsible for the horrific violence perpetrated against them are morally repugnant. We will not be silent in the face of this rhetoric."
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The Progressives Who Flunked the Hamas Test (Helen Lewis, Atlantic)The terror attack on Israel by Hamas has been a divisive—if clarifying—moment for the left. The test that it presented was simple: Can you condemn the slaughter of civilians, in massacres that now appear to have been calculatedly sadistic and outrageous, without equivocation or whataboutism? Can you lay down, for a moment, your legitimate criticisms of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, West Bank settlements, and the conditions in Gaza, and express horror at the mass murder of civilians? See also:Can a Donor Revolt Save American Universities? (Free Press) - After universities both-sides the mass slaughter of Jews, Bill Ackman, Jon Huntsman, and others are saying ‘the buck stops here.’
How Israel-Hamas War Misinformation Is Spreading Online (Time) - At least 14 false claims related to the war garnered 22 million views across X, TikTok, and Instagram within three days of the Hamas attack, according to confidential findings shared with TIME by NewsGuard, an organization that tracks misinformation.
America Made Mistakes After 9/11. Here’s How Israel Can Avoid Them (Free Press) - After 9/11, Israelis essentially told Americans, Now you know. In fact, most of us knew almost nothing and had to spend years learning by painful experience. If Americans now have anything useful to tell Israelis, it would be: Don’t. Don’t let your justified fury replace reason. Give vent to rage, but think coldly—avoiding civilian casualties is in your self-interest. Don’t storm into Gaza without a plan for afterward. Don’t imagine that overwhelming military force can solve an immensely complex historical and political problem. Don’t continue to ignore or inflame Palestinian grievances in the West Bank, even if they’re raised by people who celebrated Israeli deaths.