Tag Archives: antisemitism

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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The Iron Dome Saves Lives, But AOC & Co Refuse to See That

When it comes to American politics and antisemitism, the impression used to be that only thing with a right wing ideology believed the lies. Those who defined their political views as left wing knew better and stood up against those would spew such disgusting ideas. But the truth is that it exists on both sides of the aisle.

Earlier this week, the budget was held hostage by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and a handful of other Congresswomen. They demanded that unless the $1 billion dollars promised to Israel to keep funding the Iron Dome was removed as a line item, they would vote against the bill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was forced take it out of the final bill to keep the government funded after October 1st. Her compromise was to propose a standalone bill. It’s close, but no cigar.

What AOC and company either fail to realize or don’t even consider is that the Iron Dome does not differentiate between a rocket heading toward a Jewish home or an Arab home. It’s purpose is to save lives and prevent property destruction, regardless of whose name is on the deed and what religion they practice. But as usual, they are unwilling to even consider that maybe Israel is not all bad. I am going to end this post with a couple of tweets from Daniella Greenbaum Davis and Eve Barlow because unlike other people, they are not afraid to speak the truth.

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Stolen Beauty: A Novel Book Review

If you can, imagine the following: you have lived a relatively peaceful life. Your family is comfortably settled without major problems. There are haters, but they have little to no effect on your day to day schedule. Then you are othered and everything you know is about to go out the window.

Stolen Beauty: A Novel, by, Laurie Lico Albanese was published in 2017. In the early 20th century, Adele Bloch-Bauer is a young newlywed who is at the top Vienna‘s social circle. When she meets artist Gustav Klimt, the mutual inspiration transpires beyond the canvas and the bedroom. But not even his gift with the paint brush can keep the growing anti-Semitism from reaching Adele.

Nearly 40 years later, Adele’s niece, Maria Altmann, is herself a newlywed. But the city she has known her entire life has turned against her after the Nazi Invasion. Suddenly, her Jewish faith has made her, her family, and her co-religionists outsiders. Forced out of her home and praying that her husband is released from prison, she has two choices. She can stay and hope that this is the worst of it. Or try to get out and save her family’s legacy from abroad.

A literary companion to the 2015 film, Woman in Gold, this book is wonderful. The switch between Adele in 1903 and Maria in the late 1930’s is seamless. Though history tells us that Maria would get out of Europe and eventually reclaim her family’s property, the question of when and how holds the reader until the last page.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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The Convert Book Review

These days, depending on who you speak to, religious intermarriage is either just part of normal life or has a hand in breaking down the various faiths. But for as many opinions on this subject that exist, there is one thing that cannot be disputed: it is not a new idea.

The Convert, written by Stefan Hertmans and translated by David McKay, was published last year. In eleventh century France, an unlikely couple has fallen in love. He is David Todros, the son of a prominent Jewish Rabbi and a yeshiva student. She is Vigdis Adelaïs, the daughter of a high ranking Christian family. In spite of the obstacles of faith, family and everything around them that is telling them to back off, they decide to get married. Vigdis converts to Judaism, giving up the life she had before she met David.

She expects that she her father will do everything in his power to bring her home. What she does not expect is an anti-Semitic pogrom and a journey that will take her halfway around the world before she returns to Europe.

Based on the Cairo Genizah, a group of documents and scrolls dating back more than a thousand years, this book is part fact and part fiction. What I liked was that the format is different than other novels in this genre. As we follow the characters on their respect journey, we travel with the author as he goes on a similar journey to put the pieces of the puzzle together. He is able to walk the fine line of using the information that is known while adding historical details that make the period come alive.

What I appreciate is that Vigdis is not the helpless damsel in distress type. She has experiences that could easily kill her. But she survives and is able to make it through a world that others her as both a woman and a Jew.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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The Futility and Wasted Resources of Hate: Lebanon & Ron DeSantis

“Hate” is a word with a mixed meaning. It can be as benign as stating that you hate a certain type of food or color. Or, it can be as malicious as saying that you hate a certain group of people. We all know where this second statement can lead to.

In Lebanon, its been a year since explosion in Beirut. Instead of addressing the crisis that immediately followed the blast and healing the damage that it created, the neglect of those in power has added to the misery of the ordinary citizen. Both the government and the economy are collapsing. One might think that logic would come into play, but it hasn’t. The geniuses who lead this nation thought that the best use of their dwindling resources was to fire rockets at Israel.

If anyone can explain to me how this makes sense, I would love to hear it.

Earlier this summer, we started to believe that Covid-19 was starting to fade into history. Then the delta variant hit and the number of cases started to rise again. In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis has chosen to pretend that the virus is ancient history. He has removed all mask mandates, threatened to withhold funding to school districts that require masking, and is more concerned with his re-election campaign than the welfare of the people who reside within the state. He has also blamed immigrants for the increase in hospitalizations instead of looking to the fools who still refuse to get vaccinated. Covid does not care if you were born in this country or if you emigrated from another nation.

Blaming immigrants (or any minority group for that matter) has unfortunately been part of the human experience. The problem is that we never learn that this is belief is nothing but a myth. It is an easy way out instead of facing the issues that hold us back.

I know that we will never be able to answer this question, but when will we learn that hate is nothing more than a waste of time?

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The Woman with the Blue Star: A Novel Book Review

It is easy to judge someone based on a stereotype or a first impression. But when we get to know them, we hopefully will get to see the real person and not who we think they are.

Pam Jenoff‘s new book, The Woman with the Blue Star: A Novel, was published in May. In Krakow, Poland in 1942, 18-year-old Sadie Gault’s life has been turned upside down. Because she is Jewish, she and her parents have been forced to move into the Krakow Ghetto. When the Nazis decide that it is time to liquidate the ghetto, they escape into the sewers beneath the city. Hiding with her pregnant mother and another family, she looks up one day and sees a young woman her age looking back to her.

On the outside, Ella Stepanek is living a comfortable life (relatively speaking). Her Catholic faith has so far kept her alive and safe. But once she gets home, it is another story. Ella is the only one of her siblings still living at home. Both of her parents are deceased. Her stepmother would love nothing more than to have an empty house. She has also opened her doors, literally and figuratively to the new regime.

As the two girls become friends, Ella starts to provide Sadie with as many provisions as possible. But with both the war and the hunt for hidden Jews ramping up, they realize that the decisions that must be made have life-changing consequences.

I have been a fan of Jenoff for the last few years. She perfectly balances the historical record with fictional characters, telling stories that transcend the time and place in which they are set. I also very much appreciate that most, if not all of her protaganists are female. We can talk all we want about representation. But until writers, readers, and publishers step up, male protaganists will still dominate the world of fiction.

Reading this book, I am reminded that the Holocaust is not ancient history. Many who survived are no longer with us. Without their testimony and the recording of their experiences, this dark day in history will be lost to memory. It is, therefore, incumbent upon the younger generations to listen while we can and make sure that what they lived through is preserved, re-told, and never forgotten.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Ben & Jerry’s Has Chosen to Boycott Israel. I Choose to Boycott Ben & Jerry’s.

In a living democracy, we have the right to protest when we disagree with a government or a private entity. But the key is knowing all of the facts.

The latest tactic by BDS is via the ice cream company Ben and Jerry’s. As of this week, the company will no longer be selling its products within the West Bank and Gaza.

I’m sure that the people who made this decision are not dumb. However, they made a dumb decision. Now granted, the company has been left leaning politically since its founding in the late 1970’s. But that does not mean that they are exempt from doing their homework before making such statements.

What people who support these anti-Israel boycotts don’t even consider is who is affected. Six years ago, the pressure go to the point in which a SodaStream plant had to close and remove hundreds of Palestinians from their payroll. These were good jobs with good pay. But because of anti-Semitism and the sheep like mentality of some people, these 500 employees had to find another way to earn a living.

We were given working brains for a reason. I wish that we use them before opening our mouths every once in a while. The next time I want ice cream, I will buy another brand.

P.S. If you would like to tell Ben & Jerry’s how wrong they are, the petition is here.

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Letters Across the Sea Book Review

War has a way to pulling us apartment, forcing us to see someone else as “the other”. It can also bring us together and remind us of our common humanity.

Letters Across the Sea, by Genevieve Graham, was published earlier this year. In Toronto in the summer of 1933, Hannah Dreyfus and Molly Ryan are best friends. Both the grandchildren of immigrants (Eastern European Jews and Irish Catholic respectively), they are friends in a time in which antisemitism is rising in their hometown. Though Molly only sees her BFF and has a crush on Max, Hannah’s big brother, other people are not so tolerant of their differences. Things come to a boil in August during the Christie Pits riot, forcing Hannah and Molly to go their separate ways.

Six years later, World War II is on the horizon. After years of toiling at any job she could get, Molly has finally gotten her dream job as a journalist. Men from across the country have enlisted. Among them are Max and Molly’s brothers. When the letters from the soldiers start to arrive, Molly must contend with the past and the unspoken truth that has been buried since that night in 1933.

This book is amazing. Graham’s eye for the historical facts while creating a fictional world is top notch. I was fully invested in the story, hoping that Molly and Max would get together while praying that the male characters would come home. It was a history lesson in the best way, learning about this time in Canadian history without feeling like the reader is sitting in a university lecture hall.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Google Hired an Anti-Semite as Diversity Chief

The job of diversity chief is to ensure that employees feel that they do not have to hide their religious or cultural identities to feel safe at work.

Yet somehow, the HR people at Google ignored this most basic job description when they hired Kamau Bobb. When it was discovered that back in 2007, he made the claim that Jewish people “have an insatiable appetite for war and killing”. Instead of firing him (as they should have), he was kept on the payroll, but was moved to another position.

Now granted, this blog post is 14 years old. One would hope that he would have learned a few things in that time. The irony in this story is that the company’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, are both Jewish. Aside from the extremely scary rise in antisemitism in the US and around the world, the fact that this man accused his employers of having bloodlust should have been a reason for immediate termination. Instead he was given a slap on the wrist and retained his employment.

The message, as I see it, is clear. Antisemitism is not something to be ashamed about and shunned for. It is acceptable and even applauded. The only way to get rid of hate and prejudice is to confront it. By not doing so, the powers that be are adding even more fuel to the fire and allowing this disgusting perspective to thrive. Adding fuel to the fire of this problem is that this company is so ingrained in our daily lives that we could not avoid it if we wanted to.

Good job, Google.

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Thoughts on Jewish American Heritage Month

The best way to combat prejudice and hatred is education and knowledge.

May is Jewish American Heritage Month (JAMH). Given the recent and scary rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes following the latest skirmish in the Middle East, perhaps this month will open the door to conversations and create opportunity for further co-existence.

My family has been in this country for over a century. I am proud of what I can say that those I love have accomplished and what my fellow American Jews have given to this nation. We are only 2% of the population, but what we have done is much more than what the census says.

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