(Source Video: Dossy Blumenthal)
Category Archives: Sacrifice
Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) @JCC Rockville
Memorial for the 23,741 fallen soldiers and 3,150 victims of terror.
Brave, strong, and dedicated to the survival of Israel.
May their memory be a blessing!
Also a beautiful video my daughter, Minna sent to me.
(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Memorial Day Stars and Stripes
Loved this lady’s sweater of the American Flag.
So cool with the stars on the sleeve like that.
I thought this was especially nice for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.
As we remember those that have sacrificed so much, and the many that have fallen making the ultimate sacrifice, so that all we could be free.
“In the olden days,” they used to say America was the “goldene medina”–the golden country–the land of opportunity!
But really, the gold itself is just fools gold, the real greatness of being here is the freedom to be who you are and to have the human rights and protections to pursue whatever your dreams are.
Maybe that’s what the stars on the flag are really all about–we can all reach for the stars–whatever stars we want–and many will actually be able to achieve the impossible. 😉
(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
The Success Iceberg
Thought this was really so true.
Under the tip of the iceberg of success lay all the factors that most people don’t see.
The vast mass of persistence, failures, sacrifices, disappointments, good habits, hard work, and dedication.
Success really is an iceberg!
Don’t be jealous of the success at the tip of the iceberg of others unless you put in all the ingredients beneath–plus a prayer to the Almighty Above for his blessings.
Have a Shabbat Shalom!
(Source Photo: Michelle Blumenthal)
Thank You To Our Warfighters
I took a photo of this wonderful sign on this construction truck.
“To All The Men And Women Of Our Armed Forces
United We Stand.”
Next week on Wednesday is Veterans Day, but feeling gratitude to those who stand and fight for our freedom is not just a one day a year message.
Let’s always remember that freedom is not free! 😉
(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Everything Else Is Anticlimactic
We went to a Veterans Day Concert yesterday, and it was quite moving.
Before the music–60’s and 70’s (and some dancing)–started, there were a number of heartfelt speeches by distinguished veterans of the Vietnam War.
One lady was a nurse in Saigon working 16 hour days tending to the wounded and dying from the battlefield. She joined the army after 8 of her high school friends from her small hometown were killed in the war. The nurse told us how on the flight to Nam, they were told to look to the person on the immediate right and left of you, becuase one of you will not be coming home.
Another speaker was a special forces Army Ranger who was fighting in North Vietnam on very dangerous covert missions. He led many draftees, who he said had only minimal training, yet fought bravely on missions with bullets flying overhead and mortars and rockets pounding their positions. He described one situation where he knelt down to look at a map with one of his troops, and as they were in that psition half a dozen bullets hit into the tree right above their heads–if they had not been crouched down looking at the map, they would’ve both been dead.
A third speaker was a veteran who had been been hit by a “million dollar shot” from the enemy–one that didn’t kill or cripple him, but that had him sent him to a hospital for 4-6 weeks and then ultimately home from the war zone. He told of his ongoing activities in the veterans community all these years, and even routinely washing the Veteran’s Wall Memorial in Washington D.C.
Aside from the bravery and fortitude of all these veterans, what was fascinating was how, as the veterans reflected, EVERYTHING else in their lives was anticlimactic after fighting in the war. The nurse for example read us a poem about the ladies in hell (referring to the nurses caring for the wounded) and how they never talked about the patients in Nam because it was too painful, and when they returned home, they had the classic symptoms of PTSD including the hellish nightmares of being back there.
Indeed, these veterans went through hell, and it seems that it was the defining moment in (many if not most of) their lives, and they are reliving it in one way or another every moment of every day.
Frankly, I don’t know how they did it being dropped on the other side of the world with, as the special forces Vet explained, maps that only told you in very general terms wherer you even where, and carrying supplies for at least 3 days at a time of C-rations, water, ammo, and more–and with the enemy all around you (“there were no enemy lines in this war; if you stepped out of your units area, it was almost all ‘unfriendly.'”). One Vet said that if you were a 2nd Lt., like she was, your average lifespan over there was 20 minutes.
The big question before we go to war and put our troops in harms way is what are we fighting for and is it absolutely necessary. For the troops being sent to the battlezone, everything else is just anticlimactic–they have been to hell.
(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)
We Need More Rabbit
This was a funny scene down at Foggy Bottom today.
The Nesquik rabbit was giving out chocolate milk bottle samples.
On a warm August day today, this was nice.
But also, it was refreshing to see a little light-heartedness downtown.
We all–adults and kids–need more of this–to enjoy life.
It was interesting how we are so going in the opposite direction these days.
Not only with all the bad news around the world…
But even with how hard we have to work just to keep up (24/7) and with a world where our kids are having to work and miss out on what is supposed to be some more or less carefree exploratory years to find themselves.
Now it’s SAT prep, AP classes, internships, volunteer opportunities, and extracurricular activities–all the time.
In this regard, in the Wall Street Journal today, there was a review of a book called Excellent Sheep.
The book’s author explains how “For many students, rising to the absolute top means being consumed by the system…[where they] sacrifice health, relationships, exploration, [and] activities…[those things] essential for developing souls and hearts.”
The kids are often working so hard that they are anxious, depressed, and often miserable.
When getting ahead and becoming wealthy (a priority for 80%!) becomes the prime reason for our young adults’ existence, maybe we have missed the boat in terms of finding true meaning and joy in life.
Hard work and striving for success is a good thing, but worshipping the proverbial “golden calf” is not productive.
Like the rabbit, I would give a thumbs up to those for whom a more well-balanced life rules the day–where success, meaning, and joy all play an important part, and we can drink some chocolate milk and not take everything so darn serious. 😉
(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Eulogy For My Beloved Mother, Gerda Blumenthal
We are here today to remember and honor my mother, Gerda Blumenthal, who passed away on Monday.
My mother was my personal heroine, even as just two days earlier, a great hero of the Jewish people died as well–Ariel Sharon, a former Prime Minister of the State of Israel and a hero general who fought militarily to defend his people, but who also disengaged the State of Israel unilaterally from Gaza to make peace.
Sharon’s role in history to secure the Jewish people came on the heels of the Holocaust where 6 million Jews were murdered – one of every three in the entire world!
To my mother, the holocaust was one of the defining moments in her life. She was just 5 years old, when the murderous Nazi secret police, the Gestapo, came up behind my mother and her father on the street in Germany, grabbed him and dragged him off to the concentration camps. My mother, a child, was left alone crying on the streets, until some neighbors found her and brought her home to her mother. Miraculously, her father was one of the few to actually be let out a number of weeks later, as he had already received visas for the family to come to America. He had lost 20-30 pounds in just those few weeks of brutal slave labor and beatings, but he and the family were free to come to this country and start anew.
Like many of the immigrant families who were forced to flee persecution, my mother and her family arrived here penniless, and her father who didn’t even know the language, worked as a tailor to try and support the family. My mother had wanted to pursue her education—and to be a nurse—but when she graduated high school, she was asked to immediately go to work to help the family earn a living in those difficult days. She did this dutifully and worked—mostly doing secretarial work, which was popular in those days—while raising my sister and I and taking care of my dad. My mom would put me on the school bus, rush off to work, and be home in time to make dinner for all of us. Mom was unwavering in her commitment to taking care of us. Mom taught me what family was, what it was to put family first, and what it was to work hard, very hard, always being there to take care of us, even when at times, it seemed like too much for any human being.
My older sister and I are eight years apart. But there was another sibling, Susie, born between us. However, she died as a baby leaving my mother and father bereaved of their 2nd child still in the early years of their marriage. Despite this new challenge in their lives—and what seemed like another personal test—my mother carried on with my father to build the family, and I came along four years later. I have always tried to make my mother and father proud of me, especially in light of the loss of their other child.
My mother and father—were best friends, but like all loving couples, they also argued—but they always came back together again to make up and bond. And I learned well from them that in relationships, we can argue, but we can work things out—even though it’s not always easy to say I’m sorry or I was wrong, but we come back together because we are a family–we love each other and have that commitment. The loss of my mom is magnified, because of that deep love, but also because we are a small family that has always lived a hop, skip, and jump from each other—like one extended family.
My mother and father put my sister and I through private Jewish school, all the years, and then through college and graduate school—so that I was able to get my MBA and my sister her PhD. Even in later years, she helped babysit for my children and was like a second mother to them, so that my wife, Dossy could get her PhD as well. She loved my daughters—Minna and Rebecca, and my niece, Yaffa, so much. My mother and my father even moved here to Silver Spring in 2000—soon after we relocated here to work for the government—so they could be with us and the grandchildren—even though my mother really loved living in Riverdale, NY and the community and friends there, and would otherwise never have left there.
I will never forget the endless sacrifices made for us, which contrasts to many other families in modern times, when people seem more focused on career, their own interests and happiness, and mired in the world of the Internet and social media. But my mom taught me that while we may want a lot of different things, we need to put our priorities in order and focus on what is really important—family, friends, and faith.
Like Ariel Sharon who suffered a stroke eight years ago, my mother was diagnosed with the horrible disease of Parkinson’s—also eight years ago. My mother went from being the one who took care of everyone to where my father, in his own old age, and his own illness, had to take care of her. He did this with unbelievable courage and tirelessly, he did everything for her—everything! Even when we all thought she needed to go to the nursing home, he brought her home and cared for her himself for two years under extremely trying circumstances. Until this last April, when my mother was hospitalized again and was too ill to go home again. She went to the Hebrew Home In Rockville, and later because of her severe pain was put under hospice care. My mom unfortunately suffered horribly—more than we have ever seen anyone suffer. When she passed this week, I was horrified to lose my mother, as anyone would be, and at the same time, I was grateful to G-d that perhaps she now had some rest from the all the terrible illness and suffering and was finally at peace.
She died on Monday almost immediately after the Rabbi said the final prayers with her, and so I hope that the prayers and good wishes of the Rabbi and all of us—her family and friends—are heard in heaven and usher her in as a righteous soul, loving wife, mother, and grandmother—and grant her everlasting peace and reward from the Almighty.
Mom, we will always remember everything you have done for us. You taught us what a good traditional Jewish home and values are. Thank you for the love, care, and endless sacrifices. You will live on in the children and grandchildren and hopefully, our lives will be a merit for you. We love you always, and miss you. May G-d welcome you back, grant you peace, and bless you.
Work Life IMBALance
Mental, emotional, and physical health often feeds off of maintaining a good balance in life.
Yet, the financial services industry has been notorious for making people work unearthly hours, but also paying them unG-dly sums of money, especially in end-of-year bonuses.
I remember reading the other year that the average bonus at Goldman Sachs was something like $750,000!
The price people pay for this is work, work, and more work (and like in the film, Wall Street, often some very unscrupulous behavior as well).
Many people get apartments down by Wall Street, so when they stroll out of the office at 1 am (maybe that’s a good night), they can get to their place and clock a few hours of sleep before it’s back to the office–in record time.
Does the wealth accumulation and perhaps early retirement make it worth it–I guess to some people it does.
Today, the New York Times reported how financial firms like Bank of America (BOA) Merrill Lynch is perhaps seeing the ill effects of this misguided “human capital strategy.”
Finally, they are now encouraging people to “take four days off a month” and we’re taking about weekends.
That still leaves you with 6 days a week of work and typically 90 hours per week in the office!
Anyway, this is what they call being “committed to making the work experience better.”
This is coming off the heels of a 21-year old intern at BOA that died last Summer in the office “after working three consecutive nights” even though they attributed the death to epilepsy.
Work is good and healthy, except when it’s extreme and not. Work-a-holism is a disease and money is at the root cause.
It’s great to be committed to the organization, mission, people and to doing your best, but it’s another to sacrifice your soul, health, family and friends, and other interests that make you a well-rounded person.
Ambition is healthy, greed is deadly–and if you have to come up with three lemons to see that, then it may be too late. 😉
(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Imprisoned and Reeducated
China always seems like such a beautiful and mystical land to me.
The innate beauty of this huge, yet sort of remote country, a homogenous people who have a raw brilliance yet type of innocence about them, and the ancient practices of natural medicine and martial arts, and a meditative demonstration of inner tranquility.
In contrast to this image, I have read about forced labor and tough punishment on people in various Asian countries, with a poignant focus on the North Korean camps with untold horrors. But recently, there seems to be more information being shared about forced labor camps in China as well.
First, I read about the notion by China’s ruling elite that the individual is nothing, and the State is everything. Therefore, the sacrifice of one or tens of millions of individuals for the sake of the greater country and those in power is acceptable, perhaps even desirable. This aligns with an extreme of utilitarianism–the greatest good for the greatest number, but irregardless of the effects on the individual.
This is very different than Western Countries, which have a tremendous value that is put on each individual–their voices and opinions, their rights and freedoms, and the protection and safeguarding of each person’s life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. There is emphasis on the individual and the social contract that exists between them and their government. In this system, the whole (State) is greater because of the sum of it’s parts (of individuals), not in spite of it.
Last Friday, I read about the consequences of these differences in political philosophy in an article in the Washington Post about the grim conditions in Chinese labor and reeducation camps.
What struck me the most was the opening of the article that described one of the Chinese reeducation camps.
“For the first weeks, Shen Yongmei was told to sit on a rough plastic stool from 6 a.m. to 8. p.m., her back absolutely straight, her hands on her knees, and stare in silence at three sentences painted on a wall.
– What is this place?
– Why are you here?
– What attitude are you going to employee in order to comply with the police?”
The 55-year old women was told to contemplate on these and any slackening could result in a beating.
After this, the women went through months of “reeducation through labor”–screwing on the plastic plugs on ballpoint pens–a quota of 12,000 a day.
All this to wash clean her “disobedient thoughts”!
In Judaism, there is a teaching that we don’t really get punished for thoughts, but for actions. A person can’t fully control where their thoughts stray, although we can take steps to control our wondering eyes, mischievous speech, gluttonous eating, and so on.
Similarly, in America, we are not punished for having a bad thought, but for committing a criminal act.
Yet, in China just being suspected of harboring disobedient thoughts can get you (and your family) into a whole lot of trouble and necessitate your rehabilitation through coercion.
For the last week, I have not been able to stop thinking about the image of the lady on the stool for 14-hours a day starting at those three questions in order to reform her.
Treating people like misbehaving children who are put in a quiet corner of the classroom for a short time and told to think about what they did and when they are ready, they can come back and join the rest of the class.
But these are not misbehaving, they are not children, they are not in a classroom, and it is not contemplative for a short time, but punitive and threatening of much worse to come if they don’t comply.
There are so many horrors out there that can be inflicted on human beings–not even for doing something wrong and violent, but for simply not agreeing with those in power.
Of course the state is important. But perhaps it is not a state, but a prison, if the people are forced to consent both in body and mind?
I would suggest that we can learn from the Chinese that a hedonistic, near-constant focus on the “I” and immediate gratification does not achieve long-term, well being for the “us”. And that there is an important place for individual self-sacrifice for the greater good.
This reminds me of the Jewish saying from Ethics of Our Fathers, where Hillel says that “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am only for myself what am I?”
Perhaps, a balance of looking after oneself and giving generously to others and the Nation can provide for both personal growth and satisfaction as well as a higher, long-term, purpose for the survival and advancement of the collective.
My belief: Education and not reeducation is the answer. Good jobs with fair pay and benefits and not labor camps is the answer. Self-determination and sacrifice and not State protectionism is the answer.
(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)