Monday, November 05, 2018

Shabbat Shalom

In my lifetime, I've visited numerous different Christian churches. I've even been inside Buddhist and Hindu temples, as well as a mosque. Never a synagogue. I remedied that omission Friday night by attending services at Easton's Temple Covenant of Peace. I wanted to show solidarity with my Jewish brothers and sisters. It was an amazing and wonderful night.

Friday night, you may recall, was rather miserable. Torrents of rain caused flooding on several roads. There was even a tornado warning. Was Someone trying to keep me away? Would I be hit by giant hailstones as I made my way in? I saw an elderly couple in the parking lot. I decided to stick close to them, figuring that the Almighty would let me slide if I at least looked like I was helping them. It worked.

Once inside, I was floored by the literature available. I grabbed a copy of Hakol, the Lehigh Valley Jewish monthly newspaper. It is both informative and very well written. Cantor Jill Packman, who told me I could sit anywhere, handed me a copy of the prayer book. It's called a Siddur, and you read it backwards.

That's pretty much the way I do everything.

The front of the synagogue is decorated with a "Tree of Life" mural, which made me think about what had happened the previous week. Unknown to me, "Tree of Life" is a symbol used by Jewish, Christian and Muslim mystics.

Reading the prayer book backwards is mystical enough for me.

As people trickled in, they greeted me with "Shabbat Shalom." Once the ninth person said this to me, I finally understood.

While waiting for services to start, Rabbi Melody Davis came up and introduced herself. She even invited me to have dinner with them. Apparently, the first Friday of every month is "Dinner with the Rabbi." Though the food smelled great, I had to decline because I had just finished eating.

I was by no means the only gentile in the crowd. Several Christians and Muslims came. Rabbi Davis thanked us during the service, and even read a letter from a Catholic priest in Easton, expressing his solidarity.

The service itself was quite cheerful. There was a lot of singing. Cantor Jill Pakman has a beautiful voice and sings with passion. People joined in. Because it was mostly Hebrew, I hummed while reading the English translations.

There is a similarity to the Catholic mass. At the beginning of the mass, we are told to greet someone. We're supposed to say, "May the peace of Christ be with you." I usually say, "Peace on you!" This often sounds like I'm saying something else and really does piss off the person I greet. The Jewish service has a greeting, too, but you're supposed to go around and talk to a bunch of people you don't know. For me, that was mostly everyone.
Rabbi Davis gave an election speech. It consisted of two words.

"Please vote."

Part of the service also included a short speech by congregant Sara Camuti. She was born in Poland in 1945. Her mother and father made it through the war with assumed names. Her father even had some sort of job at the SS, where he would learn information and give it to the resistance. She spoke of her family's journey to the U.S. with the assistance of HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society). Today, HIAS stands for a world in which refugees find welcome, safety, and freedom.

As he service ended, everyone was invited to share in a small cup of wine and some bread. Because I'm an alkie, I skipped that part, too.

The only way to rid this world of ignorance is to speak out against it and embrace people who might be different from us.

The Hakol, incidentally, had a story about the 57% increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the US last year. Some of my readers tried to minimize this reality by saying that Jews are confusing anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. Wrong. The statistics gathered by ADL are assaults, vandalism and harassment.

Though Donald Trump himself is no anti-Semite, he appeals to people's darkest fears and prejudices. This emboldens white supremacists. But guess what? Anti-Semitism exists among so-called liberals, too. This is evidenced by the recent arrest of a black Democratic activist who was caught in Brooklyn as he vandalized a temple by writing “Hitler” and “Die Jewish rats” on its wall.

As Liel Leibovitz observes,
When the Democratic Party’s leaders, including a former president and a former attorney general, stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Louis Farrakhan on the stage at Aretha Franklin’s funeral, is it any wonder that some are prone to listen when Farrakhan refers to Jews as termites?


Anonymous said...

Most of this is very nice, but since you can't resist misrepresenting what I said in my previous comments, I need to correct you. I wasn't saying that Jews are confusing anti-semitism with anti-Zionism. I was saying that YOU were. You said that anti-semitism has increased on college campuses "even among professors", essentially blaming anti-semitic terrorism on academic lefties, even though the national director of the ADL, which often also conflates anti-semitism and anti-zionism, specifically says that much of this is not coming from within. Instead, antisemitic propaganda is showing up on campuses because neo-nazis are trying to recruit there[1].

Is there anti-semitism on the left? Absolutely (although the example of Farrakhan is weird, since in many ways he is very conservative, and also just generally a crank. I will admit I do not at all understand the respect Farrakhan enjoys in some corners, but apparently he wanted to thank Franklin for her support after one of his mosques was attacked[2]). The British Labour Party has members under investigation for antisemitic slurs. It unfortunately spans the political spectrum.

But I am tired of this both-sides-do-it nonsense. Conservatives, including the president and his son have a habit of spreading anti-semitic conspiracy theories, including the one that the Pittsburgh shooter specifically cited as his reason for his rampage. Even after the shooting, GOP candidates have put out anti-semitic campaign mailers[3]. And do you really think it is a coincidence that so many conservative conspiracy theories revolve around George Soros? I mean FFS, only you could go to a memorial service for the victims of a massacre by a right-wing terrorist and go home to right a post criticizing liberals. Is this really who you want to be?

If you are going to gripe about your readers, at least accurately represent their criticisms.


Anonymous said...

By the way, if you are curious as to why I describe myself as an anti-zionist, it not because I don't believe that Jews should have a place to live where they feel safe and secure. It is because religious freedom is necessary for a democracy to function and state religions breed oppression and hatred.

Did you notice that when the Israeli minister for diaspora affairs spoke in Pittsburgh, he didn't call the Tree of Life a synagogue? That is because for many Israeli Orthodox Jews, the Reform and Conservative streams of Judaism are considered heretical. Discrimination at work.

Anonymous said...

Religion and politics? Where is moldy old Dowd.

Anonymous said...

Remember, words do have consequences and can inspire the unhinged, but nowhere in President Trump’s statements are urgings to build and deliver explosive devices to your political opponents, not even those who urge their followers to “get in the face” of Republicans in their congressional offices or favorite eateries.

Despite Democrat's constant references to David Duke in an attempt to paint Trump as racist, Trump did not seek any political endorsement from the likes of Duke and repudiated it when it came. Following the Democrat’s own reasoning, one can credibly say by embracing noted anti-Semites Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton Democrats have been enablers of the deadly anti-Semitic hate most recently seen in the horrific massacre at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.

President Donald Trump took a pounding by Black Democratic "leaders" at the service for Aretha Franklin. The Rev. Al Sharpton took Trump to task for supposedly demonstrating a lack of respect by saying, “She worked for me on numerous occasions.” Other speakers took shots at the president either by name or by implication for his supposed racism and bigotry. Onstage, in the front row, sat Mr. Sharpton, Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and former President Bill Clinton, all of whom know a thing or two about racism and bigotry. Their careers depend on exaggerating the extent and the impact of anti-black white racism.

One must remember that at a rally in Harlem in 1991, Al Sharpton said, “If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house.” A few days later, a young black boy was accidentally killed when struck by a car driven by a Hasidic Jew. For three nights, Jews in Crown Heights were subjected to what one Columbia University professor called “a modern-day pogrom” in which two people died and almost 200 were injured. On day two of the riots, Al Sharpton led a march of about 400 protesters in Crown Heights, shouting, “No justice, no peace.” Days later, Sharpton referred derisively to Jews living in Crown Heights as “diamond merchants.” A few years later, Sharpton called whites moving businesses into Harlem “interlopers.”

Also sitting next to the antisemitic Sharpton at Franklin’s funeral was Lewis Farrakhan, whose hand Clinton shook. As recently as February 2018, Farrakhan said: “Jews were responsible for all of this filth and degenerate behavior that Hollywood is putting out, turning men into women and women into men. White folks are going down. And Satan is going down. And Farrakhan, by God’s grace, has pulled the cover off of that Satanic Jew, and I’m here to say your time is up. Your world is through.”

Now, if you believe the Democrat's picture of President Trump sitting just a few chairs down from David Duke, posing for a picture with him, or shaking his hand, present it to the Trump-deranged Democrats. You see, we DO have a picture of President Barack Hussein Obama with the bigot Farrakhan, both with beaming smiles. Harvard Law Professor and longtime Democrat Alan Dershowitz said he would not have campaigned for then-Sen. Barack Obama if he knew about the future president's photo op with Louis Farrakhan. Dershowitz stated that Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, is a "virulent anti-Semite and anti-American". "He has called Judaism a gutter religion. He is a horrible, horrible human being".

Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton are not a tireless public servants. They are anti-Semitic bigots who has been warmly embraced by the leaders of the Democratic party who now condemn Donald Trump. As we mourn the tragedy in Pittsburgh, let us remember who the enablers of such horrific hate have been.

Not President Trump. Nice try Bernie.

Bernie O'Hare said...

1:23, I did accurately describe you for confusing anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. These are your own words. "Anti-semitism is obviously a huge problem, but the amount of it on college campuses is way overblown by conservative pro-Israel groups refusing to see the distinction between anti-zionism and anti-semitism." The incidents reported by the ADL are limited to harassment, vandalism and assault. They do NOT include anti-Zionist remarks. As for Farrakhan, he routinely mingles with top Democrats and Democratic activists. They say and do nothing about his anti-Semitism.

This hatred of Jews cuts across both sides of the political divide. It knows no ideology. Trump has created an atmosphere in which anti-Semitism has been more mainstream, but many Democrats are themselves anti-Semitic. As for college campuses, example upon example abounds. You refuse to recognize what is right before you.

Bernie O'Hare said...

6:08, As I said, I do not consider Trump an anti-Semite. He has, however, created an atmosphere of hate and fear in which people's darkest impulses bloom. There are numerous examples from the alt right. Und=fortunately, there are also numerous examples from the left. It knows no ideology.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"By the way, if you are curious as to why I describe myself as an anti-zionist, it not because I don't believe that Jews should have a place to live where they feel safe and secure. It is because religious freedom is necessary for a democracy to function and state religions breed oppression and hatred.

Did you notice that when the Israeli minister for diaspora affairs spoke in Pittsburgh, he didn't call the Tree of Life a synagogue? That is because for many Israeli Orthodox Jews, the Reform and Conservative streams of Judaism are considered heretical. Discrimination at work."

This itself is an anti-Semitic statement. You are equating religious belief with "discrimination." You're nuts.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

If you think that's nuts, then clearly you didn't red the byline of the article I was referencing (and cited if you actually cared enough about honest debate to read it). "Mr. Oren is a former Israeli ambassador to the United States and a member of the Knesset." Or are you going to insist that he's an anti-semite, too?

And religious beliefs can absolutely be discriminatory, religion was was frequently invoked to justify segregation in the US, and is still commonly invoked to justify discrimination of LGBTQ people.

In all four of the articles you cite, they only note a single specific incident by antisemitic academics: a professor at Connecticut College who wouldn't write recommendation letters for Jewish students going to Israel. This is bad, but it isn't systemic, and it certainly isn't the rampant conspiracy theorizing that goes on on the right that has caused some synagogues to hire armed guards, nor is it the slaughter of 11 people at their house of worship. Hell, one of the Times pieces you posted actually says exactly what I have been saying: "Activists on the left — sometimes including young Jews — call for boycotts and divestments from companies doing business in Israel, or the occupied territories. Mainstream Jewish groups are now branding such campaigns as anti-Semitism. Where to draw the line between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism is a growing source of friction in many colleges and state capitals." What you describe in your 8:30 mark is not my confusion, I know what the ADL stats describe, but, I assume partly because the ADL conflates anti-zionism with anti-semitism, you saw "college campus" and wrote about a rise in antisemitism by academics, which their stats do not show.

At some point you are just going to have to acknowledge that this issue is way more complicated than you have been convinced it is.

Anonymous said...

6:08, I don't know what Democrats "warmly embrace" Louis Farrakhan, but I can assure you, he is not widely liked within the party. On top of being an anti-semite, he is sexist and a homophobe. And Al Sharpton isn't really taken seriously either. But it is telling that you think racism against blacks by white people has been exaggerated.

Trump didn't tell people to get in the faces of legislators, but he did offer to pay the legal fees for people at his rallies who beat up protestors, which strikes me as worse.

Anonymous said...

8:34. Trump didn't start the fire of incivility. Nor did he ever preach violence. Or racial animosity. Or economic injustice. He doesn't roll that way. Never has. Never will. He fights. Hard.

Charlottesville was billed as a rally against the removal of confederate war statues, titled "Unite the Right" – not "Unite Fascists." The event was hijacked by Democratic Antifa extremists who garnered all of the media coverage. But many of the people who attended the event were there not to fly the swastika or clash with leftists; they were there to defend American heritage. Afterward, Trump remarked that there were good people on both sides, while he condemned hatred and racism. He's not a fan of Antifa, so presumably he meant that there were good people there in favor of removing the statues and good people against their removal. The Democratic narrative is that the crowd consisted exclusively of three parts: peaceful leftists, violent leftists valiantly fighting fascism, and violent Nazis. Further, the Democrats suggest that President Trump knew this to be true and nonetheless praised the Nazis as "good people." That interpretation seems an insane fiction, but it's a central talking point of the Democrats and echoed in the media. In the real world, President Trump refers to all American racial, ethnic, and religious groups in only the most positive and glowing terms.

If you need a reason to vote on November 6, vote Republican if only to put the Democrats in their place, and to punish them for their violent, irresponsible rhetoric.

michael molovinsky said...

@9:22, I have heard all your arguments for years. a favorite trope of the anti-zionists is that jews and israelis support their assorted groups.... jews are historically introspective, although a small country, israel have more newspapers and divergent opinions than anywhere else. BUT, at the end of the day, there is far more democracy and human rights than can even be imagined elsewhere in the middle east.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anti-Semite @9:22, After this tragedy, you are the asshole who refused to express one word of sympathy for the Jews who were killed, but instead launched into a big explanation of the differences between anti-Zionism and anti-semitism. Your own words reveal you hold Jews in low regard. You are a bigot, and like any good little Nazi, attempt to justify your hatred. Go pander your hatred at your Lehigh classes and make sure you give an F to any student who dares defy you.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Bernie,when is your Bris ceremony ?.

Anonymous said...

anon 6:00, Wow, you must be a retired Trumpette to have so much time on your hands to write your little essay on your hatred of the left. Trump plays to the hate and fear in all of us. It is his implement o terror. He sees what scares people and turns that fear into hate. Hate sadly leads to action. If you want to dwell on that asshole Farrakhan aka Calypso Louie, go right ahead. Most democrats don't even know who he is or much less care. The false equivalency is astounding.

Trump is the president of the US, not a kooky minster. His words have meaning and his call for hate are clear. Defend him all you want with false analogies but the man is a disgrace and will hopefully be tossed from office in two years as he is temperamentally and emotionally unfit to be President regardless of the economy.

When to you appeal to fear and hate you do not have to point out any specific group to target, you just light the fuse. The synagogue and the Jews were sadly the target this time. When weak minded and hateful people feel emboldened by such behavior they act. He is acatatlst and as such unfit for his office.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I deleted a comment from the anti-semitic professor who has yet to express any condolences for the lives lost.