Posted by Rabbi Yonah Bookstein
Stevie Wonder’s statement on why he ditched the FIDF banquet sounds like he is being impartial. Yet, a real impartiality would be to play for both audiences. The fact that he cancelled is a victory for Israel’s enemies — and a major dis to Israel.
A Message from Stevie Wonder
Given the current and very delicate situation in the Middle East, and with a heart that has always cried out for world unity, I will not be performing at the FIDF Gala on December 6th. I am respectfully withdrawing my participation from this year’s event to avoid the appearance of partiality. As a Messenger of Peace, I am and have always been against war, any war, anywhere. In consistently keeping with my spirit of giving, I will make a personal contribution to organizations that support Israeli and Palestinian children with disabilities.
Hoping for one world, one people, one day, Stevie Wonder.
Stevie we are all for world peace. Count me in. But this move is a sucker punch, a coup for BDS, and will not advance the cause of peace one iota. And as a Detroiter, this just got personal.
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November 6, 2012 | 1:41 pm
Posted by Rabbi Yonah Bookstein
(Part one of several blogs on my recent return to Poland after an 11 year absence.)
The snow began falling just as the busses were unloading for the 5th Annual Limud conference in Poland. (They spelled it Limud in Poland.) It has been eleven years since I left Poland after nearly a decade of community building there in the 1990′s.
Amidst the emotional reunion with friends that I had not seen in a decade, were hundreds of people who I didn’t recognize. 700-1000 of them depending on who you asked. A whole new wave of young Jews, older Jews, families, kids, all who had seemingly come out of nowehere.
Limud was staffed by energetic young volunteers at a conference center which had undergone a recent renonation that would make it the envy of any conference center in the USA. Registration was effortless and the good organization continued until the very end.
Without a doubt Limud was a blast. Everything that a Limud should be. Dozens of classes, community meals, late night conversations til dawn. A cross polination of people and ideas and intnerational trouble makers like myself. Yet what struck me the most was that the weekend was a cultural weekend. The current rejewvination of Polish Jewry, distinguishing from the one that I was part of starting in 1991, has been a secular revolution sponsored in most part by the JDC with help from the Taube and others. It was not that there were lack of religious programming – reform and orthodox minyanim took place – but their popularity was mininal. Maybe in total 100 people participated.
Back in the early days of the Jewish renewal when the communist system had dissapeared, the Jewish community was into the spiritual side of renewal. Ritual. Prayer. Hebrew. All the things that the communists had banned. No more phoney Yiddish theater, people wanted authentic forms of Judaism.
Today that is out the window in favor of a very cultural renewal. Classes and discussions ran the entire spectrum. The event was primarily Shabbat friendly, and the attedees were thrilled about being in a Jewish enviroment, whithout that spectre of anti-Jewish prejudice or fear of being outed.
Limud Poland has its own character: A very large number of elderly Jews and a huge number of very young folks. A cleverly named bookstore “Books & Stein” which I found flattering . The hotel bars opened at 10am. A real Polish disco that lasted until 4am. Dozens of wait staff cleared the tables whenever a dirty plate appeared. The food was extremely Polish, but meatless. Which in and of itself is radical in a country that eats a lot of, well, meat. Limited signage but no one was lost. About 25% of the classes were text based, while the others were discussions, lectures, or workshops. They made some killer lentil soup that I sampled. There were 2 Polish based reform rabbis, 2 Polish based orthodox rabbis, (a few import rabbis) and a karaoke style havdallah complete with some pumped up bald Israeli singer accompaning a CD of poplaur Israeli music from Hava Nagila to Ani Maamin, all in heavy euro disco beats.
Another element of Limmud Polaska which stood out for me most after an 11 year absence, was the diversity and unambiguous ambiguity of the Jewish heritage of the participants. There was no distinction made between those of mixed, distant ancestry, or Jew curiosity. There were no second class Jews as there were in the 1990’2 when one needed a Jewish parent to qualify. Now people are accepted on their own terms and there is little effort to verify the Jewish pedigree of the participants. My gut feeling is that most of the people have strong Jewish roots — it is still not so cool to be Jewish in Poland. It was a great way to reacquaint myself with the renewal of Jewish life in Poland and I hope to make it back for Limud Polska #6.
November 5, 2012 | 4:49 pm
Posted by Cheston Mizel
Here we stand, the end of a long fought battle in sight.
The whole world is watching. The stakes could not be higher.
The global economy faces continued uncertainty; regimes face instability; wars continue to rage; the threat of terrorism and unrest continue to grow. Here at home, we are careening toward the fiscal cliff as millions continue to dig their way out of the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.
On Tuesday I am going to do my civic duty to vote my conscience. I am going to vote for the person that I believe has the skills to solve our fiscal crisis, the character to defend freedom, who is genuinely concerned for Israel and its fate. On Wednesday, even if my guy loses, I am going to wake up and go about what needs to be done.
No matter who wins the Presidency, the challenges we face are larger than any one person. I do not mean to minimize the choice before us. Not at all. From my personal perspective, the choice of candidate is clear.
Nevertheless, there are others who are equally passionate on the other side. Not to mention the dangerously passionate on either extreme. Americans have become more divided than at any other time I can remember. At times, it has gotten downright nasty. I am aghast to read headlines of people threatening violence if unsatisfied with the result.
Given this environment, the spectre of an election, so close as to be contested, is perhaps the most frightening scenario of all. While reasonable people could differ on which path to take, the divisiveness and unrest that can result from any perceived injustice benefits nobody.
I sincerely hope and pray that cooler minds will prevail and that the winner of this election will have a clear victory, in which even the losing side will concede that the people have spoken. Nevertheless, no matter what happens on Tuesday, we are going to have to wake up Wednesday morning and work together to face these problems together.
One of the great lessons of history, that we dare not forget, is that when we are divided, we can become so polarized that we neglect to take responsibility for one another, no less our own actions. We justify our animosity, rationalizing it as righteous indignation.
Unless, that is, we are able to look beyond our differences and recognize that what we have in common is far more relevant and important than what divides us.
At the end of the day, we are in this together. Having been blessed to be Americans, we have a responsibility to be beacon of freedom and hope for many around the globe. If any country can lead the global economy out its current morass, it it us. If any country can lead the world to greater safety and stability, we are the best positioned to do so. The only way we can do that, is if each of us, as individuals take personal responsibility for reaching out, building bridges and healing wounds. This is something that can't happen from the Oval Office, this is something that takes leadership from the bottom up.
Each and every one of us needs to work within the power of our own sphere of influence to build unity and it starts by reaching out a hand.
There are still millions of people in the East Coast that need our donations, our love and our support. There are millions of others who are struggling in so many ways and a society in need of healing. The general course of this nation’s future may well rest on the choice we make on Tuesday. But what matters every bit as much is what we get up and do on Wednesday and the day after that.
This ethos of unity, and its pursuit, is something that has driven me to work to promote unity in the Los Angeles Jewish community. This election cycle has left us even more fragmented than we were before. Its time to come together and celebrate one another and the future that is ours to build. Please join me and hundreds of my closest friends for the 3rd Annual Night of Unity On November 18, 2012, and support of Jconnect and Jewlicious’ efforts to inspire and connect thousands to Jewish life. For more information: www.NightofUnity.com