Tag Archives: antisemitism

The Only Way to Honor MLK is to Continue on the Path He Started

These days, it’s easy to reference Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His “I Have a Dream” speech is iconic and universal.

The problem, as I see it, is that there are too many today who give lip service to his legacy. Specifically to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. On paper, some (ahem, Republicans) will state emphatically that they are for voting rights and protecting the right to vote. In reality, they are constricting the access to the polls for certain populations, knowing that these groups have by a wide margin, have supported their opponents.

When the Supreme Court agreed via Shelby County v. Holder that two sections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were unconstitutional, it opened the door to the dangerous situation that our nation is presently in. The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021 would not only strengthen its predecessor but would also hopefully prevent another Shelby County vs. Holder. The issue is that this nation and this Congress is too fractured to protect the ideals that we claim to hold near and dear.

The only way to honor Dr. King’s legacy and memory is to continue where he left off. Though the ground that has been gained is tremendous, the reality is that there are many battles ahead of us.

P.S. Dr. King was also outspoken about antisemitism, a fact that I wish that was not lost to history.

“When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism.”

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Enough With the Antisemitic Bullshit: Updates From The Hostages Held up at the Texas Synagogue

When my immigrant ancestors came to this country more than a century ago, they came for the freedoms and opportunities that did not exist in the places of their birth. They were also escaping from the antisemitism that at best limited their chances for a productive life and at worst, killed them for absolutely nothing. I imagine that they hoped that in emigrating, their descendants would be accepted for who they were and not hated/discriminated against for their religious beliefs.

It breaks my heart that this hope still lingers in the distance.

Earlier today, hostages were taken at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. The purpose of this heinous act was to get the attention of the authorities and force them to release Aafia Siddiqu. Siddique is serving a nearly 100-year sentence for attempting to kill Americans overseas.

I am so f*cking tired of this antisemitic bullshit. I’m tired of being forced to choose between being accepted by the wider non-Jewish world and being true to the faith I was raised in. For once, I would like to wake up and know that no one gives a shit about who I pray or don’t pray to. But we live in a world in which hate, prejudice, and fear still have a firm foothold on our reality.

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Emma Watson is Wrong About Israel

As a proud Jewish person, I get tired of the antisemitic, anti-Israel bullshit. For once, I wish we would just get over it and move on with their lives. As I see it, it takes way too much physical and emotional energy to hate another person simply because of who they are. Why not just live and let live?

Recently, Harry Potter and Beauty and the Beast star Emma Watson made a rather controversial post on her Instagram account.

Outside of her work as a performer, Watson is known as a feminist and a humanitarian. The fact that she is committed to both causes is nothing to sneeze at. But they are undermined when Israel is marginalized and demonized due to either purposeful lies or ignorance. Watson seems to be an intelligent and educated woman with a dedication to creating a better world. The problem is that she, like many people either ignore the facts or doesn’t bother to do their research before professing support of a terrorist organization. The issue grows tenfold when someone who has a platform as she does spreads lies.

I have nothing against those of Palestinian origin. My problem is when a government uses their resources not to build up their country, but to destroy another and convince the people that the neighbor is to blame. One of the podcasts I regularly listen to, Israel Story, had a recent episode about the Sbarro suicide bombing that occurred in the summer of 2001. Instead of just interviewing the surviving victims and their family members, they also interviewed the family of the person responsible for the attack. While I find it heartening and revealing is that the brother of the bomber partially places the blame on his government, not on Israel (start at 1:12:39).

Is she antisemite? I don’t know, I’ve never had the opportunity to meet her in person. But I do know that Israel is the only nation in that region in which women are fully enfranchised. The Tel Aviv Pride parade is one of the biggest gay pride parades in the world. It is a full-fledged democracy in which all citizens, regardless of any societal labels, have the same rights and responsibilities.

I don’t want to tell her to shut up and look at her next script. But I do want to give her a history book and recommend that she do a little reading before making her next broad and misleading statement.

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The Nazi’s Granddaughter: How I Discovered My Grandfather was a War Criminal Book Review

We all grow up with tales of the family members who have come before us. The question is, what is fact and what is fiction?

Journalist Silvia Foti grew up with the story that her maternal grandfather, Jonas Noreika, gave his life for his native Lithuania, fighting against the Communists. As her mother breathed her last, Silvia promised that she would write the long-awaited book about Jonas. Her initial research matched her expectations: a martyred war hero whose name and reputation earned him a place of honor. What Silvia did not expect was that he was a member of the Nazi party and ordered the deaths of thousands of his Jewish neighbors.

Her journey is chronicled in The Nazi’s Granddaughter: How I Discovered My Grandfather was a War Criminal, which was published last March.

This is a memoir to savor. Foti brings in both her journalist experience and the want of a granddaughter to find out the truth about the man who partially contributed to her DNA. With the ever-present shadow of antisemitism and the sadly still too present Holocaust denial, this book is the light in the darkness. I wish there were more people like Silvia Foti. By both bringing Jonas’s actions into the spotlight, she is opening the door to making sure that the victims are remembered and there will never be any chance of claiming that the Holocaust never happened.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Best Books of 2021

  1. The Four Winds: Kristen Hannah has done it again. Her Cinderella-esque tale of a woman who resecues herself from a live of drugery, poverty, and low self esteem is one to be read again and again.
  2. Jewish Pride: Rebuilding a People: Ben M. Freeman‘s treatise on Jews, and Jewish history is a must read for anyone who for once and for all wants to defeat antisemitism and all forms of hate.
  3. Girly Drinks: A World History of Women and Alcohol: Mallory O’Meara‘s non fiction book explores how inspite of a certain image, women have been creating and drinking all forms of alcohol for centuries.
  4. I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J Trumps Catastrophic Final Year: The subject of you know who will be on the lips of writers and political historians for years to come. Authors Carol Leonning and Philip Rucker examine how the former President believed that he did not need help in running the country.
  5. Squirrel Hill: The Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting and the Soul of a Neighborhood: Writer and podcaster Mark Oppenheimer tells the story of how a single neighborhood was affected by the murders of eleven Jewish residents in 2018.
  6. Peril: Bob Woodward and Robert Costa take a deep dive into how close the American democracy got close to destruction.
  7. The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh: This JAFF by Molly Greeley gives the spotlight to Anne de Bourgh, a minor Pride and Prejudice character who has yet to be fully seen or appreciated.
  8. Three Ordinary Girls: The Remarkable of Three Dutch Teenagers Who Become Spies, Saboteurs, Nazi Assasins-and WWII Heroes: This fascinating and powerful tale of three young ladies who led an underground war against the Nazis during World War II.
  9. Why She Wrote: A Graphic History of the Lives, Inspiration, and Influence Behind the Pens of Classic Women Writers: Written by the Bonnet at Dawn podcast hosts, this book examines the life and works of the women writers we have loved and respected for generations.
  10. The Matzah Ball: A Novel: Jean Meltzer’s Chanukah themed rom-com about two people who are secretly in love, but cannot speak the words due to the current and past trauma.

Here’s to the books we loved in 2021 and the books we will love in 2022.

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Jewish Pride: Rebuilding a People Book Review

Throughout human history, Jews have been at best tolerated, and a worst forced to convert or submit to the sword. But even with all of that pressure, we have not only survived, but thrived.

Jewish Pride: Rebuilding a People, by Ben M. Freeman, was published at the beginning of the year. Influenced by coming out and living as a gay man, Freeman examines both Jewish history and contemporary Jewish culture. He talks about antisemitism, the image of Judaism that is imposed on us, and the choice we have to either remain true to ourselves or change to be accepted by the non-Jewish world.

I truly enjoyed this book. It is both a middle finger to those who hate us and a challenge. To the Jewish reader, Freeman is asking us if the cost of assimilation is worth it. To the non-Jewish reader, he is not asking for friendship and acceptance, he is asking them to examine their own prejudices and ideas about our faith and those who practice it.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Thoughts on Hanukkah in 2021

History is more than a series of dry events written in a book. If we are able to understand what our predecessors have gone through, then perhaps we will finally learn from their actions.

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah.

One of the things that strikes me this year is that it feels more relevant than ever. With antisemitism on the rise, it’s not difficult to see the parallels between what we are going through in 2021 and the Maccabee’s fight for religious freedom. As the United States is potentially stumbling into autocracy and away from democracy and religious pluralism, this story is more than important than ever.

If you celebrate, wherever you are, have a Happy Hanukkah.

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Thoughts on the 3rd Anniversary of the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting

There is a joke about Jewish history: “they tried to kill us, we survived. Let’s eat”. But like any joke, there is a truth behind the laughter. Though we are still here, the collective emotional scar of the losses is still with us, even if it is generations after a specific event.

Today is the 3rd anniversary of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. To even type those words hurts. It could have happened in any synagogue in America. But this person chose to walk into Tree of Life and started shooting. What I remember about that day is the fear as I watched the news. I have not attended services reguarlarly in decades, but I have family who does. My initial fear was that this heinous act had reached my relatives. Thankfully, it didn’t.

The message that was sent did not need to be spoken. According to the gunman and those who think like him, we do not belong in this country. Our “differences” (which are merely on the surface) mark us for at best being questionable outsiders and at worst, put a target on our backs. I would love to say that in the three years since 11 innocent people were murdered, that this was the turning point away from hate and prejudice. Unfortunately, as we all know, it wasn’t.

May the memories of those killed that day be a blessing. Z”L.

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Squirrel Hill: The Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting and the Soul of a Neighborhood Book Review

Antisemitism is on the rise. It is a fact that is sadly indisputable. When innocent congregants were murdered at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27th, 2018, it was a wake up call.

Squirrel Hill: The Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting and the Soul of a Neighborhood, by Mark Oppenheimer (co-host of the Unorthodox podcast), was published earlier this month. In the book, Opppenheimer focuses on the community, both past and present. It starts with the history of both the city and the neighborhood and ends with how it has bounced back since that day. What makes Squirrel Hill unique is that it is both diverse and has retained it’s Jewish neshama (soul). While in other parts of the country, there is an obvious demographic, cultural and religious shift over the decades, this district has maintained its identity.

When the gunman (who the author does not mention by name and shall be referred to in the same manner in this review) entered the synagogue, it was an event that can only be described as knowing the rose colored glasses off of our collective faces. With a journalist’s eye and the heart of an ordinary human being, Oppenheimer speaks to survivors, the victim’s family members, local residents, historians, and others to tell the story of a moment in time that will forever be preserved in a moment of hate, fear, and heartbreak.

I loved this book. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was on multiple lists of the top books of 2021. If the author’s approach would have been to wallow in grief and anger while telling this story, he would have had every right to. But he treats the subject with sensitivity and the understanding that not everyone involved is ready or able to talk about that day and its aftermath.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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People Love Dead Jews: Reports from a Haunted Present Book Review

Anyone with an inkling of knowledge of Jewish history knows that it comes down to one phrase: they tried to kill us, we survived, now lets eat”. Though its a joke, the truth behind it is far from funny. Over the millennia, we have been accused of lies, forced to convert and assimilate to survive, persecuted, and murdered.

Dara Horn‘s new book, People Love Dead Jews: Reports from a Haunted Present, was published last month. A respected novelist and writer whose work has often focused on anything and everything related to Judaism, Horn examines how we look at deceased Jews are looked with starry eyed nostalgia. But yet, when it comes to living members of the faith, antisemitism is still an all too dangerous part of our lives. Using examples such as Anne Frank, Shylock, and the Auschwitz. Not Long Ago, Not Far Away, Horn looks at how modern Jews are experiencing the same bullshit that our ancestors went through.

I loved this book. Pulling no punches, the author knocks the rose colored glasses off the reader’s face. She forces us to take a long and difficult look at the past and how its time to get real. As I see it, we have an opportunity to put to rest the deception that has caused too many generations to suffer for no reason. The question is, are we willing to do so? Or is it easier to just repeat the actions of our predecessors?

Do I recommend it? Yes.

P.S. There is an adjoining podcast, Adventures With Dead Jews that is the perfect complement to the book.

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