Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
Aly Raisman is not only a gold-medalist Olympic Champion, but she is a Jew with a conscience, a memory, and not afraid to speak truth to power. Her use of Hava Nagila as the music for her individual routines was deliberately chosen as a statement of protest to the International Olympic Committee that refused to honor the 11 Israeli athletes murdered by Palestinian terrorists at the Munich Olympics in 1972. Read the full story here.
Kol hakavod to Aly not only for her medals, but for her character!
12.17.13 at 7:41 am | I applaud Rabbi Jacobs in her response to Dr.. . .
12.16.13 at 8:28 am | Israel's human rights organizations are not. . .
12.11.13 at 2:49 pm | Exile is not just about one’s physical. . .
12.7.13 at 5:18 pm | Joseph and Nelson Mandela demonstrate that a few. . .
12.3.13 at 6:33 am | Anat Hoffman's letter and a link to include your. . .
12.2.13 at 7:19 am | To acknowledge vulnerability is to accept our. . .
12.11.13 at 2:49 pm | Exile is not just about one’s physical. . . (127)
12.17.13 at 7:41 am | I applaud Rabbi Jacobs in her response to Dr.. . . (120)
12.16.13 at 8:28 am | Israel's human rights organizations are not. . . (71)
August 1, 2012 | 7:00 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
On the occasion of his son’s bar mitzvah a father offered this blessing concerning the importance of laughter as an agent in healing the world of its cruelty and injustice:
“Let your laughter be world-enveloping; a tonic against the pompous and the proud; a slingshot in the bully’s eye. Let it poke glorious holes in the narrow-minded zealotry of fanatics and extremists and absolutist goons who want the world to subscribe to their small-minded views regardless of the human lives it costs. Let your humor be a form of tikun olam, healing of the world.” (Barry Smolin to Milo – June 9, 2007)
Media Line News posted this video today covering an international conference of clowns in Haifa, Israel who use humor, parody, silliness, and other techniques to lift the hearts of children and their families burdened by illness. It is an uplifting story.
VIDEO: LAUGHTER — PROVEN TO BE THE BEST MEDICINE —http://media.themedialine.org/media/120724_clown.wmv
Here are some worthwhile quotes concerning pain, laughter, silliness, joy, and service to others:
“Laughter is carbonated holiness.” (Anne Lamott, writer)
“The secret of joy is the mastery of pain.” (Anais Nin, writer)
“Finding true joy is the hardest of all spiritual tasks. If the only way to make yourself happy is by doing something silly, do it.” (Rebbe Nachman of Bratslav)
“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” (Rabindranath Tagore, philosopher, writer, composer, painter, Nobel laureate)
July 29, 2012 | 8:00 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
Much has been written about the refusal of the leadership of the IOC to honor the memory of the 11 Israeli athletes murdered during the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich in a way befitting them as Olympians during opening ceremonies in London on Friday evening.
It is important, of course, for the world to remember what happened 40 years ago, but even more so to know who those 11 human beings were as fathers, sons, husbands, Jews, and Israelis. You can see their photographs and read their stories here.
Their names were:
David Berger—Ze’ev Friedman—Eliezer Halfin—Amitzur Shapira—Kehat Shorr—Mark Slavin—Andre Spitzer—Yakov Springer—Yossef Romano—Yossef Gutfreund—Moshe Weinberg.
Zichronam livrachah! May their memory be a blessing!
July 25, 2012 | 8:30 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
Yesterday, Governor Mitt Romney began his speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno, NV by accusing President Obama of “undermining” Israel’s position and speaking “as if our closest ally is the problem.” Romney charged, as well, that “the people of Israel deserve better than what they have received from the leader of the free world.”
The facts are clearly otherwise. Here are just a few of the things President Obama has done on behalf of Israel since he began his presidency (as compiled by the President’s supporters in 2011):
1. Worked on a multilateral strategy to counter efforts to de-legitimize Israel internationally (PBS 5/20/11);
2. Reaffirmed the special relationship between the US and Israel consistently;
3. Personally intervened with the government of Egypt to save Israelis being attacked in the Cairo Israeli embassy with gratitude expressed by the Israeli Prime Minister “attesting to the strong alliance between Israel and the United States” (PM Netanyahu – 9/10/11);
4. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has said he cannot remember a better period of support from the United States, and that Israel’s relationship with the US is the strongest and most important Israel has with any nation in the world (News - 8/4/11);
5. Sent Israel the largest-ever security assistance funding in 2010 ($2.775 billion) and raised that to $3 billion for 2011 (Remarks by Andrew J. Shapiro at the Brookings Saban Center for ME Policy – 7/16/10) enabling Israel to benefit from an unprecedented financial commitment from the US;
6. Made Israel the leading beneficiary of US security assistance funds from the Foreign Military Finance Program for military training and equipment (Shapiro, Ibid);
7. Granted Israeli forces access to advanced US military hardware (such as the F35 Joint Strike Fighter) and emergency stockpiles of US Arms (Reuters – 10/8/10; UPI – 1/19/10);
8. Led the US Congress to help fund the Iron Dome defense rock system to stop missiles launched from Hamas and Hezbollah (Associated Press – 4/16/11);
9. Was personally thanked by PM Netanyahu in his speech to Congress for being “very generous in giving us tools to do the job of defending Israel on our own…[and] for your steadfast commitment to Israel’s security…” (5/24/11);
10.Expanded bilateral security consultations and cooperation on a wide range of shared security challenges, including counter-terrorism and the prevention of illicit arms smuggling into Gaza (JTA – 1/21/09; White House – 7/20/11);
11.Lobbied heavily against the Goldstone report advancing beyond the Human Rights Council;
12.Expressed solidarity with Israel in the aftermath of the Gaza flotilla incident;
13.Blocked the efforts in the United Nations to shift focus away from bi-lateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in finding a 2 state solution (Washington Post – 9/18/09; Reuters – 4/6/11);
14. Maintained consistent support reaching back several presidencies (Republican and Democrat) in supporting Israeli security and right to self-defense (Wall Street Journal – 5/23/11);
15.Called for a non-militarized Palestinian state and “phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces [upon the condition] of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-military state…” (5/19/11);
16.Expressed opposition to the Palestinians unilaterally seeking statehood recognition at the UN (Haaretz – 9/13/11);
17.Attacked delegitimizing efforts against Israel and efforts to isolate Israel at the UN (5/19/11);
18.Shared Israel’s concerns about Hamas’ participation in the Palestinian government while understanding Israel’s reluctance to negotiate with a party that has been unwilling to recognize [Israel’s] right to exist.” Has insisted that Hamas recognize Israel’s right to exist, reject violence, and adhere to all existing agreements…” (AIPAC Policy Conference – 5/22/11);
19.Affirmed repeatedly that the US is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons; has led the American government and the international effort to create the most comprehensive and biting international sanctions regime that the Iranian government has ever faced (MSNBC – 6/9/10);
There are many more examples of President Obama’s support for the State of Israel, its security, integrity and well-being. Governor Romney’s challenge is not only wrong on the facts, but undermines the traditional bi-partisan Republican and Democratic consensus of support for the Jewish state that has until recently united American Presidents and Congress.
Israel’s security requires and has always depended upon American bi-partisan support. Romney’s false, short-sighted and self-serving use of Israel as part of his campaign for the Presidency is not in Israel’s best interest and he should cease and desist.
July 22, 2012 | 7:37 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
Once again, the leadership of the Presbyterian Church USA shows extraordinary insensitivity towards Israelis and Jews. This week the Church issued a statement that completely ignores the fact that those murdered in Bulgaria by a suicide bomber sponsored by Hezbollah (and probably Iran) were targeted specifically and only because they were Israelis/Jews.
Here is their complete statement on the massacre:
It is important to judge this statement in context. At this year’s Presbyterian Church USA National Conference earlier this month several votes were taken in their General Assembly on resolutions supporting the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement against Israel. See http://www.bdsmovement.net/2012/palestinian-civil-society-welcomes-presbyterian-church-usa-israel-boycott-resolution-9197
1. By a vote of 333-331 with two abstentions, the assembly rejected a proposal to divest from companies selling equipment to the Israeli military in the West Bank;
2. By a vote of 403-175, a resolution was defeated that would have likened Israel’s West Bank presence to apartheid;
3. By a vote of 457-180, a resolution passed targeting only products manufactured in the West Bank.
There is nothing wrong with criticism, but there is a difference between fair and unfair criticism of Israel.
Israel is not a perfect society. No democracy is. Thus, being a critic of Israeli policies does not mean one is automatically anti-Israel. Indeed, Israelis themselves are among the most self-critical citizens of any nation in the world.
However, when individuals and groups consistently criticize one nation and one nation alone, one has to question such people’s deeper motivations and agenda.
After watching for several years the Presbyterian Church USA’s efforts on behalf of the BDS movement, those advocating for it I believe are unfair criticizers and part of the “anti-Israel camp.”
By “anti-Israel camp” I refer to those individuals and organizations whose criticism of Israel goes far beyond what is factual, reasonable and fair. These people rarely if ever voice criticism against Hamas’ or Fatah’s documented human rights violations against their own populations. They rarely if ever criticize human rights violations in other countries against which Israeli policies vis a vis Palestinians in the West Bank (as bad as they can be) pale by comparison. And they ignore the history of this conflict which gives context for current events.
Let us not, however, over-estimate the significance of the Presbyterian Church USA. It is a small denomination of 2.3 million members in America and Puerto Rico among an estimated 230 million American Christians. Yet, despite their very small size their resolutions have grabbed the world’s attention.
As an American Zionist of the moderate-left, I believe that criticism from love is the highest form of patriotism. That is why I have found a natural Zionist home in J Street, an American pro-Israel pro-peace movement that advocates for American leadership in helping Israel and the Palestinians find a two-state resolution to their conflict. I believe, as well, that if criticism of Israel does not pass the “stink test” of J Street, then one should ask about the motivations and agenda of those critics.
Before the vote, J Street called upon the Presbyterian Church USA to defeat the BDS resolutions. See http://jstreet.org/blog/post/boycott-divestment-and-sanctions-put-allies-at-odds. There J Street’s President Jeremy Ben-Ami wrote:
I would say to the Church’s leaders as they again consider joining forces with the BDS Movement, that the Movement’s rhetoric and tactics are not only a distraction, but a genuine threat to conflict resolution. Even the limited divestment approach under consideration by PCUSA falls under the rubric of larger BDS efforts to place blame entirely on one side of the conflict. Such an approach encourages not reconciliation, but polarization. Further, too many in and around the BDS movement refuse to acknowledge either the legitimacy of Israel or the right of the Jewish people as well as the Palestinian people to a state.
Now - back to the Presbyterian Church USA statement of this week concerning the tragedy in Bulgaria. Why did it completely ignore that the victims of this attack were Israelis-Jews? This could not be an oversight. It had to be deliberate. And it does not pass the “stink-test!”
I would hope that those fair-minded and decent members of the Presbyterian Church USA, of whom there are many, will protest the insensitivity and, yes, deeper animus of its own leadership towards the Jewish people and the state of Israel.
In the meantime, the Jewish people mourn our dead: Maor Harush (24) and Elior Price (25) from Acre; Itzik Kolangi (28) and Amir Menashe (28) from Petah Tikva; and Kochava Shriki (42) from Rishon Letzion.
We send our prayers and love to their families and friends in their loss. Zichronam livracha – May the memory of the righteous be a blessing.
July 20, 2012 | 7:48 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
Below is an inspirational 11-minute TED talk and presentation by Louie Schwartzberg, photographer and film-maker, that is well worth watching:
Rebbe Nachman of Bratzlav, one of Judaism’s greatest tzadikim, put it this way:
“How wonderful it would be if we were worthy of hearing the song of the grass; every blade of grass sings a pure song to God, expecting nothing in return. It is wonderful to hear its song and to worship God in its midst.” (Cited in A Hidden Light: Stories and Teachings of Early HaBad and Bratzlav Hasidism, by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and Netanel Miles-Yepez, p. 235).
And never to be outdone, we read in Psalms 136:
Hodu LAdonai ki tov, ki l’olam chasdo…
L’Oseh niflaot g’dolot l’vado, ki l’olam chasdo.
L’Oseh hashamayim bitvunah, ki l’olam chasdo.
L’Roka ha-aretz al hamayim, ki l’olam chasdo.
L’Oseh orim g’dolim, ki l’olam hasdo…
“Give thanks to God, for God’s love is eternal…
Who made great wonders, for God’s love is eternal.
Who made the heavens with wisdom, for God’s love is eternal.
Who spread the earth over the waters, for God’s love is eternal.
Who made the great lights, for God’s love is eternal…”
July 18, 2012 | 6:25 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
If a peaceful two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the goal of Israel’s leaders, as Prime Minister Netanyahu has stated, then the Levi Committee’s recommendations are anathema to that goal. Indeed, if the Israeli government were to adopt the recommendations that call for the legalization of Israeli settlement everywhere in the West Bank, a two-state solution to this conflict would become impossible.
The Committee’s recommendations would all but assure a “one-state” nightmare scenario, signal the end of Israel’s Jewish majority democracy by forcing Israel either to cede its Jewish character to the new Arab majority and remain democratic, or retain its Jewish majority and deny equal rights to Arab residents of Israel and lose its democracy. If Israel became the former, I fear she would lose much of Diaspora Jewry’s support, and if she became the latter she would invite unprecedented international pressure against her as a profoundly undemocratic state.
Further, the Levi Committee’s assertion that there is no Israeli occupation in the West Bank because, among other reasons, “it is impossible to foresee a time when Israel will relinquish these territories, if ever,” sends a dangerous signal to Palestinian leaders about the prospects for peaceably achieving a state for their people, and will give fodder to Palestinian extremists by unifying the Palestinian community as it prepares for the next war.
Truth to tell, there is nothing good or positive about the Levi Committee’s recommendations if Israel’s goal is a two-state solution to this conflict. It is irrelevant whether there is a legitimate argument about the “legality” of the settlements. It is irrelevant that Jews should have a right to live anywhere in the land including the West Bank just as Arabs live inside Israel. It is irrelevant that Israel occupies the West Bank because she won the war imposed upon her 45 years ago.
What is relevant is how the Jewish people will live in security and peace alongside a Palestinian state. What is relevant is how a partition of the land can be achieved. What is relevant is how the United States and the Quartet can assist these two peoples in making peace.
If Israel is more concerned about pursuing Truth (i.e. that it is justified historically, legally, and morally to hold onto the West Bank indefinitely) instead of pursuing peace as called upon by Jewish tradition, then it will adopt the Levi Committee’s recommendations. However, that would be a tragedy of historic proportions.
Those who love Israel should hope that her leaders stop its drift towards and acquiescence to the incessant demands of the settler community thereby destroying Israel’s future as a Jewish majority democracy.
Yes, Israel is justified in being suspect of Palestinian intentions and rightly concerned about threats from her enemies. However, for the sake of Israel’s democracy and Jewish character, the Israeli government should reject the committee’s recommendations and redouble efforts toward finding a two-state resolution to this conflict.
July 17, 2012 | 7:27 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
Last December 1, 2011 I posted on my personal blog the following arguing for the release of Jonathan Pollard. Yesterday, from Israel Hillary Clinton once again stated that Pollard would remain imprisoned. For the life of me, I do not understand why, nor the rationale upon which successive presidents have based their decision to keep Pollard in prison.
I reprint my original blog again and will do so periodically until it is no longer necessary.
01 Thursday Dec 2011
It is time for President Obama to commute Jonathan Pollard’s life sentence to time served for his guilty conviction of spying for Israel. Not only has Pollard now spent 26 years in prison, but he is in failing health. The latter would not be reason enough to commute the sentence if the punishment really did fit the crime, but the sentence from the beginning was grossly unfair.
Long ago it was revealed that Casper Weinberger, the then American Secretary of Defense, bore such animus against Pollard for his leaking American security documents to Israel that the Defense Secretary wanted to make a severe example of Pollard for his treachery. Weinberger had submitted a letter to the judge in Pollard’s case incorrectly alleging that information from Pollard had reached the former Soviet Union, and it was on this basis that the judge made the sentence so severe.
All this information was recently repeated to Vice President Joe Biden when he met with seven American Jewish leaders about the Pollard case. Included in this meeting was Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, Dr. Simcha Katz of the Union of Orthodox Congregations, Rabbi Julie Schonfield of the Conservative Rabbinical Assembly, Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, Rabbi Steve Gutow of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and Michael Adler, a Miami community leader.
The meeting was called because two months ago the Vice President publicly condemned Pollard in the harshest terms provoking a strong response from many in the American Jewish community. The good news is that VP Biden welcomed a meeting at all. To date he is the highest-ranking American official ever to hold a meeting about Pollard, as was reported by Rebecca Anna Stoil, the Washington Representative of The Jerusalem Post. However, the Jewish leaders agreed to strict confidentiality as to what Biden’s response was or what he would advise the President to do in this case.
Pollard’s sentence is extreme relative to the sentences of other guilty foreign spies and agents. The average sentence in an American court given to others convicted of the same crime of spying for an ally as Pollard received has been two to four years. People convicted of treason also served far less time than Pollard. The Jewish leadership delegation cited to Biden the case of Hasan Abu-Jihad, who received only a 10-year sentence for spying for al-Qaida. American spies Aldrich Ames and Robert Hansen, convicted of spying for the former USSR, also were given less time. Other than Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, who were executed for passing top nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union in the early 50s (only Julius was likely guilty), no one has received a more harsh sentence than Jonathan Pollard – and again, his crime was passing secrets to an ally, Israel.
Reason and precedent dictate that Jonathan Pollard be released with a commutation of his sentence soon, perhaps before Hanukah. Humanitarian concerns also recommend his early release. Pollard has been hospitalized 4 times in the last year and suffers from a number of maladies including diabetes, nausea, dizziness, black-outs, problems with his gall bladder, kidneys, sinuses, eyes, and feet.
Finally, the Jewish leadership delegation told the Vice President that there is virtual consensus in the American Jewish community that President Obama should commute Pollard’s sentence to time served. The Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis both passed resolutions years ago calling for justice and commutation. I agree wholeheartedly.
There is a political consideration here for the President as well. Though his record is solidly pro-Israel (only the Republican Jewish coalition refutes this based on anti-Obama political enmity), his releasing Pollard would be well-received in Israel and would undercut the same Republican Jewish Coalition that loves to distort and lie about Obama’s pro-Israel credentials.
Mr. President – commute Pollard’s sentence now!