Will You Be Part of the “Next Generation”?

If I offered you the opportunity to learn an invaluable lesson, a lesson that won’t available in the not so distant future, would you take me up on the offer?

This Sunday, at 9:30AM – we will have the opportunity to mark Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) by listening to and learning from Hannah Temel – a long-time member of Ramat Shalom and a Holocaust survivor.  Hannah will be the first to tell you that she is part of an incredible group of people that is getting smaller as survivors get older.  No film, book, class or scholar can come close to teaching the Holocaust like a survivor can.  Anyone who has had the opportunity to sit and learn from a survivor is transformed, coming away from the experience with a new sense of understanding of the nightmare that we call the Holocaust.

Soon, there will be a generation that will only be able to read the stories of the survivors – or watch their stories told in documentaries on the Holocaust.  Gone will be the power of a face to face encounter with someone who lived what very few of us can even imagine.  When this happens, the Holocaust will truly become history – part of our past – and, as a result, much easier to forget.  But we can do our part to insure that this doesn’t happen.  We can be the “next generation” – the generation that learned from the survivors.  We can be the “next generation” that continues their stories, preserves their legacy and insures that the Holocaust is never forgotten.

On Sunday morning, you have the chance to learn from one of our own survivors.  Hannah’s story is both shocking and inspiring.  It needs to be heard – by as many of us as possible.  I hope you will insure that you are part of the “next generation”.  Join us on Sunday at 9:30AM for a powerful lesson.

Freedom Is Dangerous

Monday night, Pesah begins and we celebrate freedom!  Freedom from Egypt, from slavery, from Pharaoh.  Freedom to journey to Israel.  Freedom to embrace Judaism.  Freedom to make your own choices….Kind of.

Albert Camus wrote: “Freedom is dangerous; it is as difficult as it is exasperating.”

We simply need to turn to the turmoil in modern day Egypt and the greater Middle East to see the wisdom in Camus’ words.  A few weeks ago, as Mubarak was tossed out of power, headlines proclaimed that Pharaoh was defeated once again.  Freedom!  Freedom?  The violence in Tahrir Square has begun again.  Egypt’s future is uncertain.  Groups are struggling for power.  Mubarak is gone.  The tyranny is over.  But what will replace it?  Freedom is dangerous.

After leaving Egypt, our ancestors wandered in the desert.  They desperately needed guidance and direction – which they would find at Mount Sinai.  Here, they received the Torah – the rules and laws that have created the foundation of the Jewish community.  Without these rules and laws, without the structure of the Jewish community – the total and complete freedom we experienced after Egypt might very well have been our downfall.

Monday night, we celebrate freedom.  And when we do so, let us remember that absolute freedom is anarchy.  The freedom we all cherish is freedom with limits, boundaries and self-restraint.  This Pesah, as we gather to celebrate the exodus of our ancestors from Egypt, let us give thanks for the fact that we have the freedom to live in a country with rules that limit our freedom for the benefit of the common good.  Freedom is wonderful.  Absolute freedom is dangerous.  Freedom within the confines of a democratic society governed by laws is a blessing.

POST THAT NEVER POSTED

“And Aaron was silent” (Leviticus 10:3).

This week’s Torah portion details the very disturbing death of Aaron’s sons. Aaron, Moses’ brother, has a very peculiar reaction: he was silent. Perhaps he was in shock? Perhaps there were no words to capture his grief? While we do not know why Aaron reacted the way he did, we do know that everyone reacts to personal tragedy differently. Silence seems like a strange reaction. Aaron should have screamed, wept or questioned Gd. But, no words or emotions came – and this puzzles some of us. But our job is not to question how others respond to personal tragedy. Our job is to support them as they come to terms with their loss.

When it comes to communal tragedy, however, silence is wrong. By communal tragedy, I mean an event that results in a significant loss for us all. The events that have unfolded in and around Israel over the past week and a half, including the brutal murder of the Fogel family, the renewed missile attacks from Gaza, the terrorist attack in Jerusalem, the actions taken by the UN’s Human Rights Commission against Israel and blatant anti-semitic remarks made in the media (including that dispersions cast yet again by Helen Thomas) comprise a communal tragedy that affects every single one of us. It is proof that hatred against the Jews and our right to exist is very much a part of the 21st century. And, as if the recent attacks against the Jewish people were not enough, the lack of accurate media coverage of these events coupled with the overwhelming global sentiment that Israel provokes violence from the “oppressed” Palestinian community increases the severity of thi! s communal tragedy.

For me, however, the worst part of this tragedy is the global Jewish response: silence.

Innocent Israeli children are being butchered in the their homes and terrorized by missiles in their playgrounds. And we sit by silently as the hate mongers continue to spew their venom and characterize Israel as the aggressor.

While we might not understand Aaron’s silence in this week’s Torah portion ˆ we are not able to understand his feelings and, therefore, we are not entitled to question his reaction.

We are obligated, however, to ask ourselves: why are we silent as Israel is being attacked? Do we not care? Are we unaware of what is going on? Do we feel disconnected from the Israeli people? Do we rely upon biased sources that teach us that Israel is in the wrong? Obviously, I can’t answer these questions for you. But I ask you to wrestle with them.

Jews need to stand up for each other. Nobody else is going to do so. Israel needs us now. Our silence condones the attacks.

Last week, we gathered together to shake our groggers and drown out the name of Haman ˆ the man who was determined to annihilate us all. Let’s not let our grogger shaking stop just because Purim is over. Educate yourselves, speak up, write letters, support Israel, talk to your family and friends and insure that together, we do everything we can to stop the hatred that continues to plaque our people.

GOLDSTONE’S ERROR

Judge Richard Goldstone, who issued the infamous Goldstone Report in 2009, backtracked on his most serious accusations late last week. The Goldstone Report, which was part of a UN “fact-finding” mission into “Operation Cast Lead” (Israel’s 2008-2009 defensive action against Hamas/Gaza), accused both Israel and Hamas of “actions amounting to war crimes, possibly crimes against humanity.”

Goldstone outraged Israel by asserting that that the Jewish State intentionally targeted Palestinian civilians. He now has taken this accusation back:

“I regret that our fact-finding mission did not have such evidence explaining the circumstances in which we said civilians in Gaza were targeted, because it probably would have influenced our findings about intentionality and war crimes…If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.”

Judge Goldstone’s retraction is more than a day late and a dollar short. His report is the epitome of l’shon harah – evil speech – and has added fuel to the anti-Israel, anti-Semitic fires that are ablaze across the globe. What makes his actions so disturbing is that the judge did have information available to him that proved, beyond a doubt, that Hamas’ violence against Israel was the cause of Operation Cast Lead, Hamas deliberately placed Palestinians in harm’s way and that Hamas lied about the proportion of combatants among the Gaza dead. Judge Goldstone, a Jew and a supposed Zionist, has, through his irresponsible report, engaged in Motzi Shem Ra – murdering of the good name of Israel. This is a huge offense. The damage done to Israel’s reputation is enormous. And the number of innocent Israelis who continue to be murdered and terrorized by Hamas and others who were emboldened by the Goldstone Report continues to grow.

Hamas continues to fire missiles into Israel from Gaza. Yesterday, the terrorist organization fired a Kornet anti-tank missile at an Israeli school bus in the Negev. Sixteen year old Daniel Viflic is now lying in an Israeli hospital clinging to life. Did this make it onto the news you watched last night or the front page of the paper your read this morning?

In honor of Daniel and every other victim of Hamas terror and aggression, supporters of Israel have an obligation to raise our voices, lift our pens and write our emails in support of Israel and the truth.

For more information on how you can stay informed and speak out – please visit these links which I provided in April’s Tekiah:

The Jerusalem Post – www.Jpost.com

The Jerusalem Post is a leading Israeli daily newspaper available on-line and in English. The site will keep you up to date on all current events in Israel. Insightful Op-Ed pieces are accessible on-line.

Honest Reporting – honestingreporting.com

Honest Reporting is an extremely important site for anyone who cares about getting the facts about what is going on in and around Israel. The site takes on Israel bias in the media head on and regularly challenges and corrects inaccurate reports about the Jewish State. It is important to check this site often.

AIPAC (The American Israel Public Affairs Committee) – www.aipac.org

The site for the leading pro-Israel lobbying group in the U.S. An essential site for those who want to insure a strong U.S. – Israel relationship. The site keeps readers informed of ways they can speak up and affect policy.

Stand With Us – www.standwithus.com

An important site for pro-Israel advocates. Stand With Us is an international education organization that is committed to telling Israel’s side of the story and getting people involved in pro-Israel activities. There is a wonderful section that keeps readers up to date on Israel advocacy on college campuses.

Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs – www.mfa.gov.il/MFA

The official website site of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In addition to news, this site contains wonderful links to Israeli history, the peace process and the Iranian threat.