Breaking the Back of BDS

Rabbi blog 06 17

In recent days there has been some positive news on the BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction against Israel) front.

 In Las Vegas, this month, a meeting of deep pocketed Jews and Jewish organizations took place. The meeting was called by the right-wing Zionist Sheldon Adelson and the left leaning Zionist Haim Saban. Fifty million dollars was raised during the meeting for the purpose of combating the growing BDS movement taking place on America’s college campuses.

And recently in the states of Illinois and South Carolina the legislatures have passed bills making the boycotting of Israel in commerce and business essentially impossible.

The push back against BDS has begun and none too soon. The BDS movement, cloaked in concern for the plight of the Palestinian people, is an Anti-Zionist, Anti-Semitic movement. On the official BDS web-site, where one can read the BDS’s charter, it calls for the demolishing of the Jewish State.

With all the human tragedy that fills our world each and every day there are those, so myopic in their hatred of Israel, that they can see nothing else. Today in the Wall Street Journal it was reported that there are now more human refugees from war torn countries than at any other time in recorded human history!

Palestinians in the West Bank and in Gaza are the masters of their own fate. The peace table awaits them. All their leaders need to do is show up. The millions of refugees from Syria, Kurdistan and Iraq live without hope. They live in tents. They have no leaders to plea their cause. For them I weep and for them I pray.

In the face of BDS I will speak out. And I will go out of my way to support Israel by finding Israeli products for purchase. I ask you to do the same. Here’s a web-site that you can use to help support this effort:

http://www.israeliproducts.com/

The truth is so many products the world is presently using comes by way of Israeli entrepreneurship. Here is a short video recently produced on Israel’s innovation in agriculture just one area of phenomenal growth.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyhXztYVefk

We can break the back of BDS. Please get involved. Sign anti-BDS petitions. Contact your legislators. And buy Israeli products.

All the best, Rabbi

When the Nazis Came to Skokie

NazisInSkokie

On June 25, 1978 Nazis marched in Skokie, Illinois. It wasn’t much of a march only about twenty Aryans showed up in fascist uniforms. In the end they didn’t march; they just milled around for about ten minutes, got in their cars and left. Skokie was the chosen site for these hate mongers due to the fact that one in six Skokie residents was a Holocaust survivor. At the time Skokie had the highest concentration of Holocaust survivors in the United States. Even though Jewish residents of Skokie were outraged by the prospect of Nazis marching in their streets the ACLU accompanied by a number of Jewish attorneys insisted that the hate mongers were legally protected by the American Constitution. America is a nation that protects “free speech,” no matter whether the speech is loving or hateful.

Not so long ago, that is before Roy Feldman became the Executive Director of SEABA, the Burlington Art Hop was frequently used as a venue for anti-Jewish art and hate speech, dollar bills fashioned in the shape of a Jewish star, a Holocaust mural depicting Jews dying in Poland that transforms into a scene of Palestinians dying by the hand of Israelis and guest speakers that were vehemently anti-Zionist. Many in the Jewish community protested, myself included. We asked not for censorship; we simply asked for balance. We handed out leaflets, we challenged the speakers and we approached many of the financial sponsors of the event asking them to reconsider their sponsorship, given the hate, in coming years. It worked!

This past Sunday in Garland, Texas, a community just outside Dallas, Pamela Geller, a self-confessed crusader against global Islamic fundamentalism, organized a Draw Muhammad Cartoon Contest. Knowing Muslims find it religiously offensive to depict their prophet in this manner was Ms. Geller’s primary motivation. So it wasn’t surprising to anyone that two young men, believed to be associated with global terror, arrived to the event in order to kill as many as possible. Fortunately the two were killed by law enforcement before they carried out their plan.

In America Nazis have the right to march, Anti-Semites can display their hideous art and people can hold art contests that prove to be an affront to some people’s religious sensibilities. It doesn’t mean I have to like it and it doesn’t mean I can’t do something about it. However what it does mean is that violence and murder are never reasonable responses to hate. If we were to kill everyone with whom we disagree in the end we would be living all alone.

Living In a World Devoid of Law or Love

kenya massacreIt's hard to imagine what it must have been like to be a Christian student on the campus of Garissa University in Kenya this past week; called out of your dormitory by members of Shabab, an Islamic terrorist organization and ordered to recite Moslem prayers. And when it's discovered you cannot do so, because you're a Christian and not a Moslem, to be immediately shot in the head. One hundred and forty-eight innocent Christian students were massacred before government authorities gained control of the campus.

On April 14, 2014 276 Christian school girls were kidnapped from their school in Northern Nigeria. The kidnappers were members of Boko Haram, an Islamic terror organization. More than 50 of the school girls soon escaped, but the remainder has not been released. The remaining hostages are forcibly being converted to Islam or sold into slavery.

There is a war taking place against Christians in Africa and the Middle East and we Jews, well acquainted with violence and anti-Semitism, need to speak up. On Easter Sunday Pope Francis addressed this horrible reality in his homily.

Speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican, Pope Francis asked for "concrete participation and tangible help in defense and protection of our brothers and our sisters, who are persecuted, exiled, slain, beheaded, solely for being Christian.'

He added: "I hope that the international community doesn't stand mute and inert before such unacceptable crimes, which constitute a worrisome erosion of the most elementary human rights. I truly hope that the international community doesn't look the other way."

Religious tolerance is a basic human right. I will be calling upon elected officials to respond to these heinous crimes against our brothers and sisters of faith. I ask you to do likewise.

In Peace,
Rabbi James Scott Glazier

It's Nice to Feel Proud

On Tuesday, March 3rd Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke before a joint session of Congress. In preparation of the Prime Minister's speech I cleared my calendar so as to afford me the opportunity to watch and listen.

I know much has already been shared about the Prime Minister's historic visit to Congress. Some have hailed it while others have disapproved. It's not my intention to wade my way through these conflicting currents. Rather I'd like to take a moment and consider some of the less discussed elements of the Prime Minister's appearance and speech.

What a profound command of the English language Mr. Netanyahu possesses. Few native born Americans can speak with such command and confidence. The Prime Minister speaks without any discernable Israeli accent. When you hear him speak you can be easily convinced that he was born here in America. The ability to speak with such mastery places Mr. Netanyahu at an extreme advantage particularly with respect to connecting with the American public.

I felt so proud to see Israel's Prime Minister speak before Congress. Here it's less about who the Prime Minister happens to be and more about America's deep and abiding relationship with Israel. Israel is beloved by millions in our nation as exemplified by the Prime Minister's warm welcome in the capital. As an American and a Jew I pray that the relationship between these two democratic states will endure.

And finally I was reminded by the Prime Minister's speech that the vital interests of both the United States and Israel are one and the same. What threatens the United States threatens Israel. And conversely what threatens Israel threatens the United States. Truth be told what Mr. Netanyahu shared could have been shared by any of our elected officials either in Washington or in Jerusalem.

Sometimes it's important to get above the pettiness, above the arguments of whether the Prime Minister should or should not have come and see the larger picture. Iran is a threat, to not only to Israel but to the United States as well. I thank Mr. Netanyahu for bringing that sad but true reality home.

Creating Jewish Life Anywhere

Jewish life in Vermont doesn’t come to be without a high degree of commitment and hard work.  The synagogues, Hillel, the Israel Center and our newly established Jewish Communities of Vermont group are all the result of this commitment and hard work and for that I am extremely grateful. Frequently Jews visiting Vermont from more urban areas are astonished to learn about the depth and breadth of Jewish life in our state. I recently read an article by Michele Schipper in the blog “My Jewish Learning,” entitled, “Southern and Jewish” Does Not Mean “Less Jewish.”  I’ve posted the article below. I highly recommend reading it and when you do, think “Vermont” every time you see the word “Mississippi.”  Let me know if you feel the same way.

All the best, Rabbi James Scott Glazier

My family flew to Los Angeles two weeks ago to attend the funeral of my father-in-law, z’’l. We had been with him for a visit in December, and we are grateful for these good and recent memories. He was truly a wonderful man. Throughout this journey to Los Angeles, many emotions flowed through us. We were relieved that he’s no longer suffering, sad that he won’t be here for so many lifecycle events and moments with the grandchildren. I was expecting to feel those emotions. I was unprepared for some of the others that came up while we were there.

My husband grew up in the L.A. area, and his parents and his brother and extended family still live there. We are the ones who don’t – the “family that lives in Mississippi.” At the shiva house, as people chatted after the service, I received an odd comment, from a woman I did not know. The woman said: “I noticed your children seemed to be able to really participate in the service with the Hebrew… and you’re from Mississippi? That’s wonderful.”

In that moment, I think I was in shock, so being the “polite woman from Mississippi” I simply responded by saying thank you and moved on to the next person. However, two weeks later, it’s still bothering me – it’s that itch that’s in the middle of your shoulder blade that you just can’t reach so it just keeps irritating.

I’m sure this woman felt like she was complimenting my children, but the implication that they would be Jewish illiterates because we live in Mississippi is infuriating and ridiculous! Yes, it’s wonderful that my children are from Mississippi and have learned Hebrew, attend religious school, participate in youth group, and so on. But it shouldn’t be shocking, and I imagine there are others who share this woman’s sentiment.

Raising Jewish children anywhere can be a challenge. You have to work at participating in the Jewish community. It’s very easy to sit at home and not get involved. We have been active in our synagogue and involved in Jewish organizations. We go to Shabbat services, religious school, holiday celebrations and programs at the synagogue. We have a Shabbat meal together, and our children are enriched by going to Jewish summer camp. Two of our children have gone on a NFTY-in-Israel program, and our third will go once he turns sixteen.

We enjoy a fulfilling Jewish life here in Jackson, Mississippi. We don’t enjoy it “in spite of where we live”—we enjoy it because we seek it out. We participate. We make the effort. You can live in Los Angeles and do nothing Jewish beyond going to a good deli and eating fresh lox. And you can live in Mississippi and do something Jewish every day. It’s not about where you live—wherever you live, it’s about the choices you make.

The legacy that my husband’s parents gave him, raising him in Los Angeles, and the legacy my parents gave me, raising me in Mississippi, is a shared one: we are committed to being active participants in the Jewish community. It is a legacy that I hope our children take with them – wherever they may choose to live as adults.

And to that I proudly say, “shalom, y’all”— from Jackson, Mississippi.

Creating Jewish Life Anywhere

Jewish life in Vermont doesn’t come to be without a high degree of commitment and hard work.  The synagogues, Hillel, the Israel Center and our newly established Jewish Communities of Vermont group are all the result of this commitment and hard work and for that I am extremely grateful. Frequently Jews visiting Vermont from more urban areas are astonished to learn about the depth and breadth of Jewish life in our state. I recently read an article by Michele Schipper in the blog “My Jewish Learning,” entitled, “Southern and Jewish” Does Not Mean “Less Jewish.”  I’ve posted the article below. I highly recommend reading it and when you do, think “Vermont” every time you see the word “Mississippi.”  Let me know if you feel the same way.

All the best, Rabbi James Scott Glazier

 

My family flew to Los Angeles two weeks ago to attend the funeral of my father-in-law, z’’l. We had been with him for a visit in December, and we are grateful for these good and recent memories. He was truly a wonderful man. Throughout this journey to Los Angeles, many emotions flowed through us. We were relieved that he’s no longer suffering, sad that he won’t be here for so many lifecycle events and moments with the grandchildren. I was expecting to feel those emotions. I was unprepared for some of the others that came up while we were there.

My husband grew up in the L.A. area, and his parents and his brother and extended family still live there. We are the ones who don’t – the “family that lives in Mississippi.” At the shiva house, as people chatted after the service, I received an odd comment, from a woman I did not know. The woman said: “I noticed your children seemed to be able to really participate in the service with the Hebrew… and you’re from Mississippi? That’s wonderful.”

In that moment, I think I was in shock, so being the “polite woman from Mississippi” I simply responded by saying thank you and moved on to the next person. However, two weeks later, it’s still bothering me – it’s that itch that’s in the middle of your shoulder blade that you just can’t reach so it just keeps irritating.

I’m sure this woman felt like she was complimenting my children, but the implication that they would be Jewish illiterates because we live in Mississippi is infuriating and ridiculous! Yes, it’s wonderful that my children are from Mississippi and have learned Hebrew, attend religious school, participate in youth group, and so on. But it shouldn’t be shocking, and I imagine there are others who share this woman’s sentiment.

Raising Jewish children anywhere can be a challenge. You have to work at participating in the Jewish community. It’s very easy to sit at home and not get involved. We have been active in our synagogue and involved in Jewish organizations. We go to Shabbat services, religious school, holiday celebrations and programs at the synagogue. We have a Shabbat meal together, and our children are enriched by going to Jewish summer camp. Two of our children have gone on a NFTY-in-Israel program, and our third will go once he turns sixteen.

We enjoy a fulfilling Jewish life here in Jackson, Mississippi. We don’t enjoy it “in spite of where we live”—we enjoy it because we seek it out. We participate. We make the effort. You can live in Los Angeles and do nothing Jewish beyond going to a good deli and eating fresh lox. And you can live in Mississippi and do something Jewish every day. It’s not about where you live—wherever you live, it’s about the choices you make.

The legacy that my husband’s parents gave him, raising him in Los Angeles, and the legacy my parents gave me, raising me in Mississippi, is a shared one: we are committed to being active participants in the Jewish community. It is a legacy that I hope our children take with them – wherever they may choose to live as adults.

And to that I proudly say, “shalom, y’all”— from Jackson, Mississippi.

Haters Gonna Hate, Hate, Hate, Hate, Hate

 

Bess Myerson 1957

Bess Myerson died on December 14, 2014 in Santa Monica, California. For most Americans under the age of forty Bess Myerson isn’t a household name. Even for me, that is when I was old enough to be introduced to her, she was just someone who was on the celebrity panel of the television show I’ve Got a Secret.  On the panel with her were Gary Moore, Bill Cullen, Betsy Palmer and Henry Morgan.  When I was in my teens I finally came to learn that Bess Myerson’s greatest fame was having been named Miss. America in 1945. She was America’s first and still only Jewish Miss. America.

A Jewish Miss. America? And in 1945? On September 2, 1945 Japan surrendered and the Second World War ended.  Six days later in Atlantic City, New Jersey Bess Myerson was elected Miss. America by a panel of Army Air Force Veterans. As the only Jewish contestant Miss. Myerson was encouraged by the pageant directors to change her name to “Bess Meredith” or “Beth Merrick” but she refused. After winning her title and as a result of her religious identification Miss. Myerson received few commercial endorsements and she later recalled that “I couldn’t even stay in certain hotels…there would be signs that read no coloreds, no Jews and no dogs. I felt so rejected. Here I was chosen to represent American womanhood and then America treated me like this.” Eventually she cut short her Miss. America tour and instead traveled with the Anti-Defamation League. She spoke out against discrimination in a talk she entitled, “You Can’t Be Beautiful and Hate.”

Two days ago in Miami just prior to the Miss. Universe Pageant Miss. Israel took a “selfie” which included Miss. Slovenia, Miss. Japan and Miss. Lebanon. Miss. Israel’s selfie photo went viral in social media. When Lebanese officials learned of Miss. Lebanon’s (Saly Griege) appearance in Miss. Israel’s (Doron Matalon) photo they were outraged. Some demanded Miss. Lebanon remove herself from the pageant; others made veiled threats against her. Her response was to claim that she was the innocent victim of a “photo bomb.” 

I would suggest that the words and legacy of Bess Myerson still ring true today: “You can’t be beautiful and hate.”