Posted by Rabbi Yonah Bookstein
Delmon should keep swinging the bat in a Tigers uniform because Judaism believes in the God of second chances. Judaism instructs us that we must give everyone the opportunity to make amends. In fact, I have a few suggestions that can make Delmon one of the most popular players in the Jewish community today.
When Young was arrested on April 27th, and charged with misdemeanor aggravated harassment and assault, Motown, the baseball world, and the Jewish community cringed in disbelief. Some called this the end of his short career.
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, who is happens to be Jewish, suspended Young for seven days without pay. With a $6.75 million dollar salary, that added up to $258,000 in lost wages. The Tigers were prohibited from further disciplinary action because of baseball and the players’ association labor agreement.
Young issued an apology to his friends, family, team and the community, and confessed that the whole incident was related to an alcohol problem that he will now address.
In a press conference before Saturday’s game after the end of his suspension, Young said, “I made a lapse in judgment, but I can tell you that I am not an anti-Semitic. I wasn’t raised that way, came from a good family, and we weren’t taught any of that, especially growing up in a diverse area.”
In fact it seems that the hardest part of the ordeal for Young is being branded an anti-Semite.“Me branded being racist or bigoted, that’s not me,” he said. “I have a lot of diverse friends; I live in a diverse area; that’s just not me or my character.”
And while there is part of me and I am sure many other Jewish fans, who, every time that Delmon Young is going to approach the plate for the foreseeable future, will be reminded what happened, that doesn’t have to be the case.
The entire essence of the Jewish High Holidays challenges us to seek out those that we have wronged and ask forgiveness. We ask God for forgiveness for what we did against God, and we ask friends and family to forgive us for how we let them down or hurt them in the previous year.
The Days of Awe compel us to believe that everyone deserves a second chance. Does this forgiveness extend to Delmon Young? You bet.
While the hurt in me thinks that Young and his number should be ejected from baseball, on further contemplation, that would be wrong.
Rather, let’s give Young a chance to learn from his mistakes, become a spokesperson for tolerance and most importantly, let him become an ally of the Jewish community.
The power of teshuva can turn this hurtful incident into a one that teaches compassion and love.
Young knows that one apology can’t convince people that he’s not an anti-Semite and said, “I know it’s going to take a while. I can’t smooth this thing over and convince anyone after one speech, but just go out there every day and be a positive influence.”
Delmon, if you sincerely make amends now you will be forgiven in an instant.
Here are some of my suggestions:
Delmon, I am sure that you can become not only a friend to the Jewish community, but that you can become a shining example of the power of teshuva, the power of the individual to transcend their shortcomings and become great.
We as a Jewish community will forgive you, and make sure that you are remembered as a great friend of the Jewish people.
Rabbi Yonah is an Oxford educated rabbi who loves music, Israel and runs Jewlicious. You can follow him on twitter.com/rabbiyonah
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May 6, 2012 | 11:10 pm
Posted by Rabbi Yonah Bookstein
Moran Samuel sat in her wheelchair on the dais after winning a gold medal in the rowing competition. She waited for the Hatikvah to start. And waited. And then a strange song started that sounded nothing like Hatikvah. She signaled that this was not the right song. What happened next you will never forget.
Moran Samuel was not always disabled. She awoke one day when she was 24 and was paralyzed from the chest down due to a rare stroke in her spine. Undeterred by her disability, she became the leading woman player in Israeli wheelchair basketball, and began rowing competitively.
She arrived in Italy ready to win her last competition before the paralympics in London. The Italians though were not as thoroughly prepared as Moran. They didn’t have Hatikvah ready, maybe because they didn’t think that an Israeli was going to win.
When Moran realized that they didn’t have the music, she took the microphone, and sang it herself. See the video below courtesy of Mideasttruth.com
Hat tip to TM
Rabbi Yonah is an Oxford educated Rabbi who loves music, blogging, and Jewlicious. You can follow him on @rabbiyonah
April 25, 2012 | 3:09 pm
Posted by Rabbi Yonah Bookstein
Los Angeles is home to more Israelis than many Israeli cities. And yet, last year the Israeli Festival was cancelled after falling on financial ruin, and a lack of general community support. It seemed that this most Israeli of American cities, was going to let Israeli Independence go by without a peep.
Then came Naty and Debbie Saidoff to the rescue.
The Saidoffs are major philanthropists, founding members of the Israeli Leadership Council and many other organizations. They were distraught thinking that Israeli Independence Day would not have a major celebration in Los Angeles. So instead of complaining, they rolled up their sleeves, got out their rolodex, and created a windfall of activity that is accomplishing in months, what it would have taken normal channels to accomplish in more than a year.
What drives a community member to do so much? I decided to have a heart to heart with Naty and see what makes him so passionate about community-wide celebration.
“I remember that 25 years ago, that Yom Haatzmaut meant that you walk through Jewish Los Angeles, until you can’t walk anymore. We would push our strollers with our kids through the street, waving the Israeli flag. The whole city knew that it’s was a special day. For the last 25 years the walk was MIA, because of logistics, it was expensive, many excuses, but none very good. The festival moved to Pan Pacific, and to the valley, and finally last year — there was nothing.”
He continues, remarking on the dynamic cultural diversity of LA and the way the city embraces international community celebrations, but not one for Israel. “In a city like Los Angeles that has Chinese New Year where they shut down half the downtown, and huge commemorations of Cinco de Mayo, we need to have a day of the white and blue of Israel. We have 600k Jews and no major community event that celebrates the miracle and the marvel that is Israel. Since that last walk 25 years ago, we have lost a generations of kids riding in strollers through the streets.”
Why is this year different than other years? Why are the Saidoffs — and their organization the Israeli Leadership Council — so determined to share their love of Israel with the next generation? It is simply because they know it is hard to stand up for Israel in today’s political climate. “This year more than others, we have the BDS movement to delegitimize Israel. This past Sunday on 60 minutes, millions of people saw a Jewish reporter falsely accusing Israel of being anti-Christian. What they did is to say that “Israel is nice to you because they want your money, but really they are bad to you.” In fact Israel is the only country in the middle east where Christians have any security….
“In this environment, not to celebrate Israel — and what Israel has done for the world — would be a shame. We need to celebrate the legitimacy of Israel.The question is not why have such a big celebration of Israel, the question how can we not have such a festival!”
This year’s festival, in addition to a myriad of activities, booths, pavilions, stages and rides, highlights the interconnectedness of Jewish life and values with Americans life and values. The spirit of determination that energized the creation of the State of Israel in the face of opposition and destruction has been brought to Israeli life in Los Angeles - both to support and defend America and democracy.
“We are bringing an American war hero, Tibor Rubin, who is a survivor of the death camp, then joined the American army and won the medal of honor. Why? because if we cannot take for granted the lives that were sacrificed so that we can have our celebration. This celebration came at a real price, of life and limb. When we know the price that was paid, and the real cost of the festival and the cost of freedom, we can rejoice together.”
Naty is happy with the reception the festival has gotten from the local neighborhood groups.
“What is amazing is the support from the neighborhood committee. Everyone thought that they would be against it, but they voted 11 to 1 to allow the Festival, and even that one who voted against it, is not in favor and handing out flyers. This is an unparalleled celebration of Israel…. You will see that as we celebrate, we also educate.” In addition, Councilman Paul Koretz managed to get the permits expedited, and the city behind the celebration in record time.
Additionally, Naty underscores that the celebration of Israel is not just for Israelis, or not even just for Jews, “The Festival also allows our Christian brother and sisters that are devoted and devout, to show their expression of love for Israel.”
Naty’s enthusiasm is infectious. He is motivated by a deep love for America and Israel and a belief — strongly shared by me — that opportunities to celebrate create stronger bonds of community, in addition to identification with Israel and the Jewish people.
It’s not easy in a city like LA, even with the enormous Jewish and Israeli-American population, to get everyone on board for a community wide event. But the main organizers, the Israeli Leadership Council, and partners StandWithUs, The LA Israeli Consulate, JLTV, the JNF, the Mati Israeli Community Center, Hidabroot, and The Jewish Federation have managed to pull in 100 local organizations, schools and other institutions to participate.
“We need to see action, to be instigators. We need to be Nachshon and cross, and jump in the water and see that something happens.”
To get tickets and more information about the festival visit Celebrate Israel
April 9, 2012 | 12:00 pm
Posted by Rabbi Yonah Bookstein
The laughing and eager crowd of mostly single, Jewish adults were watching the large projection screens at the front of the conference hall, because the on-stage speaker, Rachel Dratch, appeared tiny and barely visible.
Dratch, a spunky and hilarious veteran of Saturday Night Live, got her point across, as did the other speakers on the Main Stage over the three days of the Las Vegas conference, pitching the Jewish Federation in an elaborate promotion of Jewish community involvement.
By the time the curtain closed on Tuesday morning, TribeFest II seemed like it was a success.
TribeFest, a conference for Jews in their late 20’, 30’s and 40’s, was held for its second year in Las Vegas. Vegas is a town that everyone loves for conferences because even if the conference is boring, there are myriad ways to be entertained and the hotel rooms are to-die-for. For the Jews of TribeFest, Vegas offered a beckoning non-stop night-life to enjoy after a half-day of conferencing.
The conference excitement did not depend solely on Vegas. Organizers and partner organizations crafted a program of break-out sessions that tapped into hot issues in the Jewish community such as sustainability, social entrepreneurship, LGBT, Israel & Zionism, dating, and the upcoming Presidential elections. The entire Monday morning program was devoted to a massive social-action project that brought thousands of books and reading help to students at troubled Vegas schools.
Aside from laughing with Dratch, there were more tears, laughter and inspiration to be found on the Main Stage. A team of lay leaders and staff selected the speakers with a strategy in mind—to underscore the TribeFest narrative of Jewish identity and how attendees can impact their community, do more, and give back, especially within a Jewish and Federation context.
TribeFest presented inspirational speakers such as Talia Leman (age 16) the CEO and a founder of RandomKid; Rochelle Shoretz, a two-time breast cancer survivor, who founded Sharsheret; and Jonathan Greenblatt, founder of Ethos Water, which provides drinking water to impoverished children. Many of the inspirational speakers shared stories of overcoming illness and personal adversity, in addition to their connections to the Jewish community. They also featured community and social entrepreneurs on the massive stage such as Jordan Wolfe from CommunityNEXT in Detroit, and Shoshana Boyd Gelfand, the Director of JHub in London.
I asked many participants about their level of current involvement in the Jewish community. While only the Federation surveys will be able to tell exactly, anecdotal evidence suggests that most of the participants are engaged in some way with their Jewish communities back at home. There were also many age-appropriate, Federation fundraisers, programmers, and lay leaders, in addition to Jewish organizational professionals who were there to participate and present. It is the hope of organizers that those already involved with the Federation will bring back enthusiasm from TribeFest and previously un-engaged participants will be more likely, in the future, to become engaged in local activities.
Sunday and Monday programming culminated with a mash-up of dinner, drinks, music and a shuk of Jewish organizations and initiatives from everywhere. Ethiopian crafts, and Israeli High-tech projects were present along with groups like Israel Forever, Nefesh b’Nefesh, AEPi, and Repair the World. Rabbinical seminaries also had booths. Relatively obscure but eminently talented Israeli acts, reggae band Hatikvah 6 and rocker Aya Korem, were a huge hit in addition to American hip hop artist Kosha Dillz, and the Israeli American band Moshav.
TribeFest participants were fortunate to be joined by Sheldon and Miriam Adelson whose company owns the Venetian. The Adelsons participated on Sunday and Monday and made themselves available to speak with participants for nearly two hours at Sunday’s Mashup.
There were other gatherings on the periphery of TribeFest. A leadership track, a rabbinical track, and some independent parties. Jewlicious and another event organizer, E-3 from Denver, created a huge sensation with a cocktail party replete with DJ and extravagant drinks, in one of the hotel’s finest 8,000 sq foot Chairman Suites.
One of the most memorable moments for me came towards the end of TribeFest. I found myself laughing with 200 other participants at one of the worst on-line dating profiles in the history of Jewish online dating, which was being displayed as an example of how-not to create an online persona. The room, full of single Jews, many of whom with tales of woe and disappointment from the dating experiences among their tribe, offered advice to the speaker about how to make the profile better. And this only made the audience laugh more.
The primary motivations behind getting Jews to Vegas for TribeFest were opportunities to socialize with other Jews and the attractions the city offers. But the primary message they carried away was not one of hedonism and excess. Most came away embracing the Federation’s mission to help Jews in need, Israel, and to serve as dedicated members of the tribe.
The organizers were clearly interested in how many participants took advantage of the subsidized stays in Las Vegas to conference and how many to party, after facing criticism from some about last year’s event. Event participation was recorded for each person by tracking their conference badge via RFID, a wireless non-contact system that uses radio-frequency electromagnetic fields to transfer and store data. Among the key things that JFNA wants to learn are which issues resonated most deeply with participants to help shape future events, and how to use data on individual participants’ interests to help connect them with programs in their communities.
TribeFest is the best thing going for JFNA — a significant organizational and communal accomplishment for the largest charitable network in the Jewish world. So while participation on a national level at their annual General Assembly convention is down, and Federations around the country are downsizing, TribeFest’s 1,500 delegates is more that last year’s participation and shows no sign of slowing down.
Taking off my observer hat for a moment: TribeFest, like Limmud and Jewlicious Festival, has my backing. We need many more creative efforts to bring Jews together for the purposes of connecting with one another, becoming connected to and inspired about Jewish community, and, yes, partying with fellow Jews.
Our people — and especially those in their 20’s and 30’s — sorely need these experiences as part of their Jewish identity. The number of young Jews around the country eager for opportunities for Jewish connection is huge.
Rachel Dratch, herself of TribeFest participant age, told me, “TribeFest feels very community oriented…. It’s nice to plug back into the Jewish community, I feel a bit unplugged. Its good to recharge and get the Jewish energy going again.” Many others echoed her sentiments.
Building a Jewish future requires us to deploy new and creative ways of engaging our people who are often only partially committed to creating their own Jewish futures. The Jewish Community in North America has tools to engage the Next Generation.
As Sheldon Adelson told me, “Tomorrow’s adult participants are what will connect one generation to the other. These [young] people are the cement. Gatherings like [TribeFest] are the cement to connect generations.”
TribeFest, Jewlicious Festivals, and Limmud, are engaging young Jews by bringing dynamic people together as speakers, teachers, performers, and participants, in intense communal Jewish experiences. These immersive programs help this generation feel proud, feel connected, solve problems, and understand that they are a valued part of the Jewish community.
This approach is working.
Rabbi Yonah is Director of Jewlicious. Follow him on twitter.com/rabbiyonah.
April 1, 2012 | 8:18 am
Posted by Rabbi Yonah Bookstein
Jewlicious will be holding a Shabbat Tent Passover Seder at Paid Dues Festival lead by rapper Kosha Dillz at 6pm on April 7, 2012, in San Bernardino, California.
Paid Dues, one of the nation’s largest hip hop shows, coincides this year with the Jewish festival of Passover. With many Jewish attendees planning to attend the Hip Hop Fest, the Jewish rapper Kosha Dillz who is performing approached Chang Weisberg of Guerilla Union and Murs about the possibility of hosting a small Seder at the Festival for anyone who wants to participate.
With support from the Festival organizers, Kosha approached me about the possibility of Jewlicious and the Shabbat Tent project (www.shabbattent.org) creating a Passover Seder complete with Matzah, grape juice and a Haggadah
With so many Jewish attendees not wanting to miss out on Passover, it made sense to help create a seder at Paid Dues. Thanks to their support, the Seder will be available to people of all backgrounds.
“This might be the first time in history that anyone ever combined live hip-hop and Passover,” said Kosha Dillz who is performing with artists such as Wu Tang, Odd Future and Mac Miller. “For me it’s the only way I can play this amazing festival with family approval.”
Information on the Holiday will also be available for all attendees at the “Shabbat Tent” through- out the day, which is slated for a 6PM Seder. You may also find some of your favorite rappers in attendance.
March 21, 2012 | 1:26 pm
Posted by Rabbi Yonah Bookstein
My name is Rabbi Yonah, and I am over-wired.
Tethered to my iPhone. Waiting for the ding or buzz to announce some new tidbit of information. Someone re-tweeted. Breaking news from who-knows-where. Is that a txt message? An appointment?
At the office the routine doesn’t change. Even on vacation, no roaming farther than my portable WiFi hotspot can find service.
The intended consequences of our wired world creates such a host of distractions and interruptions that it’s a wonder some days that I manage to get anything accomplished.
Even before I became a permanent IP address in the great server in the sky, I discovered the Jewish Sabbath during college and fell in love with unplugging from the info-byte matrix. Finding a home in personal connections and spiritual devotion provided an oasis in time to refresh my soul.
While Sabbath observance is often dismissed as archaic, attitudes are changing as the pace of information and methods of delivery are unrelenting.
I am not the first to realize that over-connectedness is a harmful side-effect of our digital world, interfering with our personal, spiritual, and professional lives.
We are starting to recognize the dangers of addiction to being connected to a device-based community at the loss of real conversations and communications that take more than 140 characters.
As a response, my friends at Reboot created The National Day of Unplugging, a tech-detox day, in 2010.
With roots in Jewish tradition, this day of rest “brings some balance to our increasingly fast-paced way of life” and reclaims time, “to connect with family, friends, the community and ourselves.”
The Day of Unplugging advocates that for twenty four hours, from sundown Friday, March 23 to sundown, Saturday March 24, “shut down your computer. Turn off your cell phone. Stop the constant emailing, texting, Tweeting and Facebooking to take time to notice the world around you. Connect with loved ones. Nurture your health. Get outside. Find silence. Avoid commerce. Give back. Eat Together.”
This can be a challenge. Changing ingrained habits is never easy, especially for 24 hours.
Reboot is not advocating an Amish or Luddite culture shift. The wheels of the wired world will start spinning soon enough. However, the opportunity has arrived for many of us together to take a chance on finding serenity. Be brave and try it!
Those ancient Hebrews were on to something 3500 years ago when they laid down their tools to “rekindle” their souls.
February 16, 2012 | 11:51 am
Posted by Rabbi Yonah Bookstein
Yes, that is correct. Norman Finkelstein, the embattled and much maligned former professor, has called the BDS effort, an effort to destroy Israel.
Jewlicious blogger and publisher David Abitbol, has revealed a video interview with long-standing Israel nemesis Norman Finkelstein where he describes the BDS movement as “cultish and dishonest”. The video, posted on YouTube originally, then taken down because of some complaints, lives on Vimeo.
Abitbol writes in his post on Jewlicious.com, “He described these movements as cultish and dishonest and essentially agreed with our long standing criticisms of these movements – that support for the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment movement is basically a call for the destruction of the State of Israel.”
The interview is a stinging rebuke of the BDS effort. Abitbol quotes liberally from the video, with passages that seem to be geared to Israel advocates who want to discredit BDS:
We have to be honest, and I loathe the disingenuousness. They [BDS Movement] don’t want Israel. They think they’re being very clever, they call it their three tier – we want the end of the occupation, we want the right of return and we want equal rights for Arabs in Israel. And they think they’re very clever because they know the result of implementing all three is what? What’s the result? You know and I know, what’s the result? There’s no Israel… there’s no Israel, full stop… If you want to eliminate Israel that’s your right but I don’t think you’re going to reach anybody. I think it’s a non-starter.
I have been critical of Norman for years starting with the first time I heard him speak at CSU Fullerton in 2004. This is the first time that I can recall that he has been publicly seen too distance himself from some of the most heinous anti-Israel efforts in America. Is Finkelstein changing his tune? Abitbol doesn’t think so, “Finkelstein hasn’t left the movement, he hasn’t renounced any of the beliefs that have motivated his 30 year career as a critic of Israel and supporter of the Palestinian people. He just called it like he saw it.”
January 18, 2012 | 12:04 pm
Posted by Rabbi Yonah Bookstein
If you want your restaurant to prosper, give free food to the homeless. This is according to the anecdotal evidence put forward by my homeless friend Yehuda. Yehuda has been on the streets for five years in Los Angeles and can can’t shake a heroin addiction. He lives on small change from kind souls … and restaurants. Yehuda once had a thriving window dressing business and a million friends. Today he depends on people’s leftovers and meals from generous restaurants for his fare.
Yehuda taught me this important lesson when a recently opened, kosher-certified, national franchise shut down, much to the surprise of the neighborhood. The story followed an arc that Yehudah had seen before.
Yehudah began approaching the new fast-food sandwich shop that had opened on his regular stretch of road. They were generous with Yehuda, offering him a sandwich as much as once a day. The food went a long way to sustaining him, and a few other homeless Jews who call Pico-Robertson home.
The new gleaming store was packed the first few months. But as time went on, the crowds became thinner. Eventually, the free sandwiches became less and less frequent. The worse business got, the more they resented him. Soon they stopped giving him food. Within months the restaurant had closed its doors. A successful national franchise, on a popular restaurant block, with special kosher certification, was now a thing of memory.
If this were one isolated case, it would not prove anything. But it was not.
Over the course of these five years, Yehudah has seen other restaurants come and go. The same pattern of generosity followed by hostility accompanied the downfall of all those restaurants. There was one place that chased him out with a broom — they were closed within a month. It didn’t matter that Yehudah warned them against treating the homeless this way. He warned them that their tight fist, would be their downfall. But who is going to listen to a junkie homeless man for business advice? Nobody it seems.
One of the businessmen that didn’t treat Yehudah well, who subsequently opened a new shop after his latest one failed, began to see that Yehudah had a point. He started giving Yehudah food every day. Whenever Yehudah stopped by, he was sure to walk away with something fresh to eat. Yehuda said the business was booming.
I went to check this out for myself.
Passing by this establishment for the last six months, I can attest that the place is thriving. Customers line up for food. They run out of product all the time. The owner is happy, and the business, even in these times when small restaurants are really hurting, is thriving.
Restaurants often chase the homeless away, instead of inviting them to the backdoor for a warm meal. We, the customers, loathe their pan-handling when we are trying to have a coffee with friends. We resent them for interfering with our plans to go and get something to eat, and for making us feel guilty. Let someone else give them a hand, I have heard said too many times.
Prosperity is not deserved, but is a blessing bestowed by God. The Torah teaches that when a person puts out his or her hand, it is a commandment to fill it. Therefor it is not surprising that the Torah’s economic principles can be a lesson to us all. Generosity begets blessing.
Hopefully, someday soon, our MBA students will learn about the economics of generosity, and restaurants that want to have a fighting chance, will adopt Yehuda’s simple business plan.
Follow Rabbi Yonah Bookstein on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RabbiYonah