A Vision of Jewish Strength

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, “A Vision of Jewish Strength.”

 

With the rebirth of the State of Israel came the rebirth of the Jew. No longer the Jew cowering in the face of pogroms, Inquisition, Crusades, persecution, expulsions, and the Holocaust. The new Jew, as epitomized by the brave men and women of IDF, would be remade in the image of Moses who led the Jews out of Egyptian slavery, and King David who vanquished our enemies in our land, as well as the Jews of Purim and Hanukah, who fought ever so valiantly and to victory against the great empires of Persia and Greece or for us, whoever rises against us as the modern day equivalent.


But as important to the new Jew as our physical survival is that of our spiritual wellbeing. The persecution of Jews over thousands of years was not just a physical attack, as horrible as it was, but also a spiritual, religious, and cultural one, where Jews were prohibited from learning Torah, worshiping, and practicing as Jews. Thus, the second point of criticality in having the State of Israel is that it provides for Jewish sovereignty and ensures “the Jew as actor, determiner of his or her own destiny.” The Jewish people to truly thrive must be able to express themselves through their own language and history, religiously and culturally, and practically through their own leadership and decision-making to forge their own future.

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Ok To Be Ourselves!

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Someone shared this beautiful Jewish wedding gown on Facebook and I wanted to share it with you, because it represents life, love, and faith. 


While perhaps normally I wouldn’t just post this to my blog…


I thought that in light of the report that came out of 917 hate groups operating right now in the United States, that I would take this as an opportunity to be me.


To hell with all the haters out there!


– The more they hate us, the more I will love my Jewishness. 


– The more they try to stamp out our religious freedom, the more I will relish in it. 


– The more they try to kill us, the more I will live as a Jew.


No more Holocausts…no more bigotry…no more hate–it is enough! 😉

Bad Boyz

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Bad boyz, bad boyz what you gonna do?


When the bad boyz come to hurt the girls.


The bad boyz better watch out. 


Feminism is alive and well. 


Women are individuals full of rights and fights. 


No one will take away what is theirs by G-d given creation of their soul and body. 


Whoever tries to is destined to the dustbins of history. 


Bad boyz, bad boyz…better recognize that women are people too.


And they are smart, resourceful, powerful, and good. 


Sugar and spice and everything naughty and nice. 


911, 911, 911…take this bad boyz away.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Mice End Up Dead

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So there are three main ways of reacting when in a bullying situation by someone:


1) Passive – You can sit back and take it for now, shutting your mouth and turning off your feelings, maybe even running for safety, as you get temporarily scr*wed, but perhaps maintaining the moral high ground and smartly saving your chips and choosing your battles for the right time and place to set things right and the record straight. 


2) Aggressive – You can fight back, make sure you have a good strategy, but you may nonetheless end up blamed or bloodied, or who knows, maybe you actually win the day, but also you need to be sure to win the war. 


3) Assertive – You can hold your ground, assert your rights, maintain your own opinions, and do what you believe is right, being firm in your self-determination, but you could be reprimanded or punished for not falling in line or best case scenario, you could actually end up being respected for it.


Listen, there is no one right answer, but you need to be a man and not a mouse.


Protect yourself–and as long as you don’t go overboard or act like a jerk–be you, be proud, and don’t let anyone mistreat you. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

From Holocaust To Nation State

From Holocaust To Nation State
This is a really beautiful representation of the historical developments of the Jewish nation.



Where the Jewish people went from the fiery depths of the Holocaust to the rise of a modern democratic nation state of Israel. 



We are the same sons and daughters of Israel, but no longer exiled from the Holy Land and paraded like sheep to the slaughter from the hate mongers de jour. 



On the right are represented generations, who with the rise of every crazy demagogue that needed to blame their religious, political, social, and economic problems on a scapegoat, the Jewish people suffered at their bloody hands, discriminatory expropriation and expulsion, tax and torture, rape, pogrom, and slaughter.



On the left are shown the Jews from a free democratic State of Israel who are proud to seek a life of peace and security from persecution and who can chart their own course for their people and be a light unto nations for doing what is right and moral and contributing to the world in every significant development and advance of humankind. 



As the Jews went from slavery to freedom many thousands of years ago with the Exodus from Egypt and settlement of the land of Israel, so too today, we can count on the miraculous transition from exile to promised homeland and from persecution to self-determination. 😉



(Source Photo: here with attribution to Eliyokim Cohen)

Imprisoned and Reeducated

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)