Jewish Journal

Michael Berenbaum

  • Geneva is not Munich, and President Obama is not Neville Chamberlain

    1 week ago

    If I could wave a magic wand, I would ask the Jewish community to stop using Holocaust analogies. They simply don’t work. We are different and the world is different.

    Permit me a simple example. No one disputes that Israel has second-strike capacity and that anyone who...

  • Obama and Israel: rationality, self-interest and hatred

    June 1, 2015 | 11:44 am

    This past week President Barack Obama went on a Jewish offensive trying to gain support for the forthcoming agreement with Iran by giving an interview to Jeffrey Goldberg, the wise and deeply committed Jewish writer for The Atlantic, and by speaking at Adas Israel Congregation, the...

  • Time for a kosher hot dog and a beer and Dodger baseball

    April 8, 2015 | 4:07 pm

    Spring is upon us. The seders are over, the Iran problem endures. Romance is in the air and, with romance, some men’s and women’s hearts turn to baseball. 

    I dutifully bought my season-ticket package of 40 games to Dodger Stadium — 40, not 81, because I don’t attend on Shabbat...

  • Boehner invitation to Bibi signals Congress, White House showdown

    January 22, 2015 | 11:10 am

    The invitation by Speaker of the House John Boehner to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress on the question of Iran is a crude interference in Israeli election politics. 

    The speech, scheduled for early March, and a fortnight before the...

  • Would you stay in France?

    January 21, 2015 | 11:43 am

    In the wake of the horrific terrorist killings in France, my heart took many turns. First there was shock, soon replaced by grief, then anger, followed by resolve. Now it may be time for reflection.

    The response from the French and then the Israelis to the two attacks raised some...

  • Learning Leadership from Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis, z’l

    December 19, 2014 | 3:11 pm

    Much will have been written over the next few days about the massive contribution that Rabbi Harold Schulweis has made to Jewish life in our time. Yet as an observer, participant and shaper of Jewish life, I feel that there is still more than can be said. Permit me to focus on his...

  • Hero or traitor: The life, murder and afterlife of Reszo Kasztner

    December 11, 2014 | 3:02 pm

    Before there was Eichmann, there was Kasztner. 

    Now that I have your attention, permit me to explain. 

    The Kasztner trial, as it became known — the formal title of the trial was Attorney General of the State of Israel v. Malkiel Grunewald — was the first of two Holocaust trials...

  • So right, yet so wrong: The truth Sheldon Adelson told us

    November 19, 2014 | 3:20 pm

    The media has covered casino magnate Sheldon Adelson’s address to the Israeli-American Council, a recently formed organization of Israelis who live in the United States, many of whom have truthfully become Israeli Americans.

    When asked what to do about the land and what to do...

  • Do Jews need more chutzpah? Does Judaism?

    November 19, 2014 | 1:46 pm

    I began reading Rabbi Edward Feinstein’s “The Chutzpah Imperative: Empowering Today’s Jews for a Life that Matters” (Jewish Lights) with two conflicting emotions — admiration and skepticism. Every time I have been in the presence of Feinstein, I have learned something — large or...

  • After the fog of war: An early assessment of the Israel-Gaza conflict

    August 13, 2014 | 4:23 pm

    It is far too early to assess the impact of the latest war in Gaza, but still some preliminary thoughts are in order:

    Anti-Semitism panic

    Judging by what I have been reading in the press blogs and emails, it seems as if many Jews are in a panic about the rise in anti-Semitism....

  • Yad Vashem and sirens

    July 16, 2014 | 3:23 pm

    I have been in Israel for the past several days attending conferences on the Holocaust at Yad Vashem and at the Ghetto Fighters’ House, near Nahariya — all amid the shelling. 

    Sirens go off in the morning and the evening, and we face a decision whether to hasten to the shelter or...

  • Odd Man Out

    April 30, 2014 | 4:02 pm

  • Celebrating the newest Roman Catholic Saints

    April 23, 2014 | 10:58 am

    Ordinarily, Jews have little interest in whom the Roman Catholic Church canonizes as saints. Yet, on the Sunday after Easter, the day that coincides with Yom Ha-Shoah, the 27th of Nisan, two men, Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, will be elevated to sainthood, and both of them...

  • Begin biography moving, not convincing

    March 12, 2014 | 4:32 pm

    In his new biography, “Menachem Begin: The Battle for Israel’s Soul” (New York: Next Book, Schocken), Daniel Gordis writes passionately and poignantly about the life of former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, from childhood in Brisk (now Brest-Litovsk) to the post of prime...

  • Living at the heart of a “Promised Land”

    December 12, 2013 | 11:16 am

    Ari Shavit, My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel (New York: Spiegel and Grau, 2013) pp. 449).

    The anguish of the believer is not the same as that of the renegade, and Ari Shavit writes as a believer in the Zionist enterprise. Not Zionism in the mystical sense that...

  • Keene, Kaliningrad and Riga: Confronting the memory of Kristallnacht

    December 2, 2013 | 3:59 pm

    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.

  • Rabbi Jacob Pressman turns 94: A community treasure

    October 23, 2013 | 12:06 pm

    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...

  • Iranian President Hassan Rouhani talked the talk

    October 3, 2013 | 11:21 am

    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.

    According to the translator hired by the...

  • A work unworthy of Pulitzer Prize winner Alice Walker

    August 14, 2013 | 11:41 am

    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...

  • Memoirs of Chasidic masters’ liberated Scion

    June 6, 2013 | 2:42 pm

    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. Several years later, he produced...

  • Senator Frank R. Lautenberg 1924-2013

    June 4, 2013 | 9:20 am

    Frank Lautenberg’s rise to wealth and prominence is a classic rags-to-riches story. Born in Paterson, N.J., the son of Polish and Russian immigrants who came to the United States through Ellis Island, his early life was unsettled as his parents moved about a dozen times while...

  • Jackie and the Jews [Irish, Italians, Blacks, Poles]: Ethnicity in post-war America

    April 8, 2013 | 11:06 am

    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...

  • How the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum changed my life

    April 3, 2013 | 1:59 pm

    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...

  • Boy Avenger

    April 3, 2013 | 9:19 am

    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. As Kirsch, a prolific author, attorney and book editor for the Journal,  notes,...

  • A voice that was freed – and now is silence

    February 13, 2013 | 9:54 am

    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.

    Best known for his pioneering work as founder of  the Shalom Hartman Institute, which is a innovative and original...

  • Why the Sunday Times of London’s cartoon IS anti-Semitic

    January 30, 2013 | 3:04 pm

    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,...

  • ‘Where are we going?’: Against the lessons of history

    January 9, 2013 | 1:12 pm

    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...

  • PRO: Should Chuck Hagel become secretary of defense?

    January 9, 2013 | 10:22 am

    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.

    There is real anti-Semitism in the world; openly...

  • What’s the Strategy?

    December 25, 2012 | 8:41 am

    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."...
  • Five Jewish takeaways from the 2012 election

    November 8, 2012 | 9:44 am

    The prime minister of Israel does not speak for the Jews of America, nor do many of the Jewish organizations.

    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...

  • U.S. response to a cry for help during World War II

    October 24, 2012 | 12:07 pm

    A prosecutor by training and a historical novelist by avocation, Gregory J. Wallance has written books of historical fiction and historical nonfiction. In “America’s Soul in the Balance: The Holocaust, FDR’s State Department and the Moral Disgrace of an American Aristocracy”...

  • What was President Obama’s mistake?

    May 31, 2012 | 1:45 pm

    The President made a simple and very basic mistake when he spoke of Polish death camps.

    There were death camps and they were situated in Poland – deliberately so – but there were no Polish death camps.

    The most accurate way to refer to these camps is “Nazi death camps in...

  • President Obama's diplomacy has been given a chance

    May 4, 2012 | 10:34 am

    According to Jewish tradition, prophecy ceased 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.

    The conventional wisdom had been that the Israelis had a window of...

  • Time for a (kosher) hot dog, a beer and dodgers baseball

    April 18, 2012 | 11:36 am

    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,...

  • Paideia Conference Considers Jews in a Multicultural World

    October 26, 2011 | 12:07 pm

    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...

  • Holocaust truth is told on Muslim soil

    September 27, 2011 | 11:15 am

    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...

  • Jews saving Jews

    April 26, 2011 | 5:51 pm

    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...

  • COUNTER-POINT: How best to support an imperfect Israel

    January 5, 2011 | 4:24 pm

    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.

    There are several problems with the arguments advanced in...

  • Why Jewish community executives make so much money

    December 15, 2010 | 5:32 pm

    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...

  • Master historians take use of oral history to new level

    November 3, 2010 | 5:56 pm

    “Remembering Survival: Inside a Nazi Slave Labor Camp” by Christopher R. Browning (W.H. Norton and Co., 2010)

    “The Death of the Shtetl” by Yehuda Bauer (Yale University Press, 2010)

    Among the great privileges of reading contemporary Holocaust history is seeing the...

  • Dennis Prager’s false debate

    September 22, 2010 | 1:27 pm

    Two weeks ago, The Jewish Journal published a column by Dennis Prager titled “A Question for ‘Progressive’ Jews Who Support the Ground Zero Mosque.” In it, he argued that there are similarities between plans to build an Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero in Manhattan...

  • Purim Government

    March 12, 2010 | 1:45 pm

    I have just breathed a sigh of relief. Good news: the world is a less dangerous place; the Jewish people are more secure.

    If I understand what happened in Jerusalem last week: the Government of Israel has just informed the world that all the reports of a nuclear Iran being an...

  • The Scales of Justice and the Angel of Death

    February 1, 2010 | 4:33 pm

    “Operation Last Chance: One Man’s Quest to Bring Nazi Criminals to Justice,” Efraim Zuroff (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009) pp. 238.

    The spiritual heir of Simon Wiesenthal, Efraim Zuroff, and Eli Rosenbaum of the Office of Special Investigation (OSI) of the U.S. Department...

  • Who Owns the ‘N’ Word?

    October 28, 2009 | 8:26 pm

    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...

  • Has Justice Returned to the Justice Department?

    May 6, 2009 | 9:11 pm

    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.

  • Justice Has Returned to the Justice Department

    May 1, 2009 | 4:22 pm

    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.

  • Has Federation Abandoned Its Central Role?

    April 23, 2009 | 3:00 am

    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...

  • 20th Century Zionist Asks: ‘Has Jacob Become Esau?’

    March 4, 2009 | 2:55 am

    “Between Jew and Arab: The Lost Voice of Simon Rawidowicz” by David N. Myers (Brandeis University Press, 2009).

    In the Middle East, questions endure for generations; answers elude the generations.

    For some time now the relationship between Israel and its neighbors has centered...

  • Politicizing Word ‘Holocaust’ Trivializes It

    February 4, 2009 | 4:09 am

    Names make a difference, and names must be used with precision, or they are abused.

    Naming is the most human of deeds. It was how Adam ordered the animal world; it is how scientists control disease and identify phenomena.

    I fear that we have spent a generation building up the...