I travel for my work; I travel often -- my wife and children might say too often. Just before Chanukah, I was in Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Canada, New Hampshire, Washington, D.C., and then back home. A hectic schedule is of little interest, but what I experienced might be.
For decades now, as Rabbi Jacob (Jack) Pressman celebrated a milestone birthday, there was a gala show and dinner starring Rabbi Jack and his myriad show-biz friends to manifest and celebrate the many talents and achievements of this extraordinary man. Five years ago, Temple Beth Am celebrated his 90th birthday when he turned 89, just in case.
As one who has studied a folio of Talmud each day for the last 14 months, I am tempted to present President Hassan Rouhani’s interview with CNN as a text to be studied, dissected point by point, sentence by sentence in talmudic fashion.
What is a reviewer to do when a truly gifted writer writes a genuinely awful book? I suspect that I was invited to write this review because the editor suspected that I might be open to the author’s experience, moved by the power of her words, and might not dismiss her critique of Israel, her sympathy with the Palestinians and her participation in the Gaza flotilla out of hand.
A decade ago, distinguished Orthodox filmmaker Menachem Daum produced and directed the documentary “A Life Apart: Hasidism in America,” a restrained and loving effort to introduce the seemingly strange and alien world of Chasidism to outsiders.
Frank Lautenberg’s rise to wealth and prominence is a classic rags-to-riches story.
Jackie was the first. Jackie could not just play the game for himself. He was playing the game for every one of his race who had been denied a chance, whose future was closed because of racism and segregation. Indeed, as I remember it, Jackie played the game for every minority kid whose opportunities were constrained because of discrimination.
My daughter, Ilana, then a young college student, asked if she could go with me to the opening of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, on April 22, 1993 (the date was tied to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising’s 50th anniversary). I said: “I will be leaving very early.” She responded: “I’ll be up.”
I began reading Jonathan Kirsch’s “The Short, Strange Life of Herschel Grynszpan: A Boy Avenger, a Nazi Diplomat, and a Murder in Paris” (Liveright Publishing Co., 2013) with considerable skepticism.
Rabbi David Hartman has gone to his eternal rest, but not before he made a monumental contribution to Jewish life and a significant contribution to Jewish thought.
Gerald Scarfe the British cartoonist who published the sketch of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu building a wall on the bodies of Palestinians and using their blood as cement, has denied that he is or ever was an anti-Semite. Scarfe said: "I am not, and never have been, anti-Semitic." Fair enough.
It is an oft-repeated cliché of the Holocaust that “those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” That statement — first made by Edmund Burke and usually attributed to George Santayana, who wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” — is too simple a truism.
Were it not so sad, so absurd and so stupid, I might be amused by the recent attacks against former Senator Chuck Hagel as being anti-Semitic for his failure to distinguish between the Jewish lobby and the pro-Israel lobby.
A couple of years ago a private conversation between then French President Nicholas Sarkozy and President Obama was caught on a live mike. Sarkozy said I can't bare Netanyahu, he's such a liar." Obama responded: "You're fed up with him but I have to deal with him more than you do."
One of the most significant losers of Election Day was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who openly opposed President Barack Obama from the very beginning of his administration, first on settlements and then on the question of Iran.
A prosecutor by training and a historical novelist by avocation, Gregory J. Wallance has written books of historical fiction and historical nonfiction.
The President made a simple and very basic mistake when he spoke of Polish death camps.
According to Jewish tradition, prophecy cased with the end of the Biblical era, , but it doesn’t take a prophet to predict that Israel will not be attacking Iranian nuclear installations, at least not for a while.
I just attended the Dodgers’ opening day celebration of the 50th anniversary of Dodger Stadium and the wonderful baseball game that followed, a 2-1 thriller marked by excellent pitching, daring base running and a game-winning home run in the bottom of the eighth by Andre Ethier, who knew how to celebrate his 30th birthday.
Recently, I attended a three-day conference celebrating the 10th anniversary of Paideia, the European Institute for Jewish Studies in Sweden. The brainchild of Barbara Spectre, an American-Israeli-Swedish philosopher who has led the program since its inception, Paideia brings together young Jews for a year of intensive study. Imagine in an American context a Wexner Jewish Heritage Program leadership retreat that is sustained for 10 intensive months. By now, Paideia has several hundred alumni working, living and creating throughout Europe. They were returning to learn, celebrate and renew.
While Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was spewing hatred and denying the Holocaust from the floor of the United Nations, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas were trading charges as to who is responsible for the nonexistent peace process, I was attending a small but significant event taking place at Al Akhawayn University, an elite English-language college in the picturesque ski resort town of Ifrane, Morocco. It was the first Holocaust Conference — nondenial Holocaust Conference — on Arab soil.
As I was finishing reading Andrew E. Stevens’ memoir, “Rebel With a Cause: The Amazing True Story of Urban Partisans in World War II,” in collaboration with Meir Doron (Allied Artists, $9.99), I received an e-mail from a former colleague reminding me of a promise I had made to write about Jews saving Jews during the Holocaust. She had long been contending that among the major untold stories of the Holocaust, and some of its most important unsung heroes, were those Jews who put their lives at even more acute risk to rescue other Jews.
What a wonderful idea. Let us counteract a boycott by engaging in a boycott of our own; let us boycott the boycotters who in turn can retaliate by boycotting the boycotters of the boycott.
The Forward newspaper has done a service to the American Jewish community by publishing the salaries of major executives of American Jewish organizations. They are essentially Jewish communal civil servants, and, as do all civil servants, they sacrifice a measure of privacy — and what is more private in the United States than the amount of money one earns? — for two very important goals: transparency and accountability.
Among the great privileges of reading contemporary Holocaust history is seeing the maturation of a field, especially the distinguished work of its most senior and most respected historians as they break new ground, cover new fields and hone their skills.
I am not sure whether I qualify as a progressive, but I may know something about Auschwitz and its controversies and also about museums and their task of memorialization. So permit me to respond to Dennis Prager.
I have just breathed a sigh of relief. Good news: the world is a less dangerous place; the Jewish people are more secure.
“Operation Last Chance: One Man’s Quest to Bring Nazi Criminals to Justice,” Efraim Zuroff (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009) pp. 238.
This week, we have finally reached Holocaust overload.
It began Sept. 23, 2009, when the General Assembly of the United Nations featured a speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denying the Holocaust. In a speech widely cheered in Jewish circles, both in Israel and the Diaspora, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rose to the bait the next day; standing with German documentation of the gas chambers, he went toe to toe, rhetorical flourish to rhetorical flourish, with the self-elected leader of the Iranian people. “It didn’t happen,” the president said.
The Obama administration has decided to drop the charges against Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, two former AIPAC officials who were to be tried under a rarely used section of the 1917 Espionage Act that makes it a crime for civilians to receive and disseminate secret information.
Having just completed the Passover seders I realize that the attitude with which one asks the question is often as important as the question itself. The distance between the wise and the wicked child is not that great — it is the distance between “we” and “you,” between participation and alienation — but the response to the two questions is radically different.
Names make a difference, and names must be used with precision, or they are abused.
Did Israel attempt to address the problems uncovered by the Jewish condition in the Holocaust? Absolutely and surprisingly successfully. However, it has neither ended Jewish vulnerability nor achieved normalcy for the Jewish people, something that does not surprise religious Jews but astonishes secular ones. At 60, it has not -- or at least not yet -- achieved the status of a fully privileged member of the comity of nations. That will have to be the achievement of the succeeding generation.
Over the past several years, a new genre of original Jewish documentation has emerged in closets and attics of Holocaust survivors. The documentation has all the authority of the diaries and notes that were written in situ, within the ghettos, within hiding, even within concentration camps and elsewhere during the Holocaust.
The Jewish community is now openly discussing whether Jerusalem should be on the negotiating table for a Palestinian-Israel peace agreement.
Last month, Kol Nidrei services on the evening of the Day of Atonement held at a local Hancock Park yeshiva were interrupted by the government officials pressing a zoning violation. It was an act of stupidity and insensitivity, not anti-Semitism.
Almost 25 years ago, I read a one-line description of Jewish leadership that has haunted me ever since. The author, whose name I have repressed, wrote: "Only a confirmed anti-Semite could believe that the Jewish people have the leadership they deserve." I protested his statement then, but I am not sure I can disagree now.
Sarah Ogilvie and Scott Miller set a difficult task for themselves. Writing their book was easy. So, too, was researching what happened on the voyage of the St. Louis, the Hamburg-American line ship that traveled from Germany to Cuba in May 1939, carrying 937 passengers who were escaping Nazi Germany. The authors' greater challenge was to uncover the fate of the passengers after the ship had been turned away from numerous ports. Their dogged pursuit of all leads yielded some surprising results.
Jews, who constitute 3 percent of the American people, were considered for most of the past half century 33.3 percent of the American religious experience, and this reflected itself in civic ceremonies, such as presidential inaugurations, when priests, pastors and rabbis were invited to participate. Those times have passed.
Bill Styron died last week at the age of 81.
The author of the "Confessions of Nat Turner" and "Sophie's Choice" was indisputably a great writer, a writer's writer. His words were carefully, painstakingly chosen and anyone who loved the English language enjoyed the pure craftsmanship of Styron.
Kristallnacht marked the end of Jewish life in Germany; a pivotal turning point in what later became known as the Holocaust. A generation is passing, but it is a generation that has left behind voluminous records, testimonies and memoirs, video recordings and diaries, letters and notes.
We could have been in the fifth year of an independent Palestinian state if Yasser Arafat had been willing to make a deal with Bill Clinton and Ehud Barak; instead we are we where we are.
On May 30, the United States Postal Service issued a series of new stamps honoring six career State Department diplomats who earned the gratitude of this nation for taking "risks to advance humanitarianism...[and] peace," even if their actions put themselves "in harm's way."
Rosen recognized that he ruffled too many feathers to be out front. So he groomed protégés to assume that role. He mentored one so well that he became the head of AIPAC; another became the first Jew to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Israel.
When Pope John XXIII convened Vatican Council II, he initiated the process that led to Nostra Aetate, which 40 years ago this year essentially dropped the charge that Jews were responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus. Nostra Aetate accorded fundamental respect to Judaism, not only as the mother religion of Christianity, but also as an ongoing religious faith.
Both of these men have made important contributions to the U.S.-Israel relationship -- Weissman, an expert on Iran, and Rosen, a principal architect of the U.S.-Israel strategic cooperative relationship for more than 20 years.
Raul Hilberg was not encouraged when he approached his professor, Franz Neumann, about writing his doctoral dissertation on the role of the German civil service in the Holocaust. Neumann assented, but warned: “It’s your funeral.”
For Jerusalem to maintain its primacy, its centrality, the brilliant creation of the 1950s, which was then far ahead of its time, had to be updated to the creative language of 21st-century museum-making.
For five excruciating years, from the moment that David Irving sued her for libel in England until the appeals process ran its course, Deborah Lipstadt had to remain silent.
There is a fierce anger at the core of Ruth Linn's work, the anger of a woman who suddenly and irrefutably discovers that the story she has been told by her Israeli teachers, Israeli society and Israeli culture from childhood onward regarding the Holocaust is but a partial narrative.
The Chabad telethon is an appropriate occasion to consider one of the anomalies of contemporary American Jewish religious life.
Reichminister Joseph Goebbels delivers a speech to a crowd in Berlin urging Germans to boycott Jewish-owned businesses. He defends the boycott as a legitimate response to the anti-German "atrocity propaganda" being spread abroad by "international Jewry." April 1, 1933.
The top 10 reasons why the vulnerability of the 1930s cannot be compared with contemporary Jewish vulnerability:
Persecution is something that religious groups have known elsewhere. Religious freedom has allowed them to flourish in the United States -- religious freedom and tolerance.
"A Moral Reckoning: The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and Its Unfulfilled Duty of Repair" by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen. (Knopf, 2002). $25
After provoking a furious debate over the role of ordinary Germans in the Holocaust with his book, "Hitler's Willing Executioners" (Vintage, 1995) Daniel Goldhagen tackles an even more explosive subject, the role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust, in his new book, "A Moral Reckoning." The power of the book is neither in the answers it gives nor the evidence it marshals, but in the questions it poses. None is more central than the one that frames the book: "What must a religion of love and goodness do to confront its history of hatred and harm, to make amends with its victims and to right itself so that it is no longer the source of a hatred and harm that, whatever its past, it would no longer endorse?" Goldhagen approaches the question in three parts: Clarifying the Conduct, Judging the Culpability and Repairing the Harm.
One of the most depressing of the many depressing aspects of the second year of the new millennium has been the resurgence of anti-Semitism and the importation into Islam of anti-Semitic motifs that were abandoned and discredited in the post-Holocaust Christian world.
The announcement that Richard Joel has been named as president of Yeshiva University (YU) is an important and salutary development in American Jewish life. Joel is a gifted leader, able spokesman and prolific fundraiser. He has been able to establish the national Hillel organization which he heads as a "big tent" for American Jews -- one that embraces unaffiliated and under-affiliated Jews at a vital stage in their lives (college), while also serving the most committed Jews who enter its buildings to eat, study, pray and socialize with other Jews.
"The Holocaust: A History" Debórah Dwork and Robert Jan van Pelt (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, $27.95).
There is great modesty -- appropriate to the subject and to the stage of our knowledge -- in the title of this work: "The Holocaust: A History." Deborah Dwork and Robert Jan Van Pelt recognize that with a subject so complex there are many ways of writing the history of the Holocaust -- they have chosen but one way -- but their choice is certainly defensible and comprehensive. Their history of the Holocaust is not only worthy of note; it is worthy of the subject.
A new president of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) was inaugurated in a moving ceremony held Oct. 13 in the ornate Plum Street Temple in downtown Cincinnati.
While not every piece is to my liking, every work in the show has a point.
Edwin Black's new book, "IBM and the Holocaust" (Crown) has generated significant interest. Full-page advertisements in the New York Times and other prestigious newspapers and interviews on the "Today Show" and other prominent television programs have all been part of its marketing program. Despite its many substantial problems, the work is important.
The Response of Orthodox Jewry in the United States to the Holocaust: The Activities of Vaad-Ha-Hatzala Rescue Committee, 1933-1945, Efraim Zuroff, Yeshiva University Press, 316 pages, $39.50
There is an eerie consistency to the mishandling of the David Irving story in the Los Angeles Times, which again on May 30, as on January 7, allowed itself to be used as a propaganda instrument for Holocaust denial.
In the wake of the Littleton shooting tragedy, a nation of finger-pointers has rounded up the usual suspects: media violence, guns, video games, the Internet. But for Jonathan Kellerman, this laundry list -- inevitably brought out in the wake of such violence -- omits one major source of responsibility: the perpetrators. "We'll blame society," says an unsurprised Kellerman. "And we'll forget about it until the next tragedy."
Kellerman is not being cynical or prophetic, just reflective.
Kim Murphy doesn't present the stakes in the Irving vs. Lipstadt libel case and she falls into the traps set by the deniers, hook, line and sinker.