Tag Archives: antisemitism

The Guest Book Book Review

As much as we wish it, families are far from perfect. There are secrets, scandals, and sins that have a way of passing down through the generations.

Sarah Blake’s new novel, The Guest Book, was published earlier this year. In the 1930s, Kitty and Ogden Milton have it all. A loving marriage, beautiful and thriving children and the status that comes with being one of America’s leading (and wealthiest) families. Then tragedy hits the family hard. To assuage his wife’s grief, Ogden buys a private island to use as a summer home. The island should be a place of refuge and relaxation for the Miltons. Instead, it becomes a symbol of the family’s secrets.

The secret starts with a refusal that could have saved the life of an innocent just before World War II. Twenty plus years later, the secret grows. Len Levy and Reg Paulding are not the usual guests invited to the island. Len is Jewish and secretly seeing one of the Milton daughters. Reg is African-American and the lone person of color in his world.

The secrets begin to unravel in the 2010s. Evie Milton, one of Kitty and Ogden’s granddaughters, comes to the realization with her cousins that the island is in dire financial straits. She also learns, with the help of her husband, that the family secrets are just below the surface. With a little digging, those secrets are revealed.

What I liked about this book was how Ms. Blake established the world that this novel is set in and the casual racism/antisemitism that is part of this world. I also liked the transition from the past to the present. It takes a skilled author to jump from different time periods and different points of view in a way that does not confuse the reader.

My problem with the book is that the ending is kind of expected. The big bombshell that is supposed to be the “long-buried” secret is not really a bombshell. I saw part of it coming nearly a mile away.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, History

Can Kristallnacht Happen Here?

81 years ago tonight, the semi-comfortable world that European Jews knew came to an end.

Up until Kristallnacht or the Night of the Broken Glass, the uptick in antisemitism that German Jews had experienced was mostly non-violent. November 9-10, 1938 changed everything. Jewish synagogues, homes, and schools were destroyed. Around 100 German Jews were killed and 30,000 German Jewish men were sent to concentration camps.

Given the current political and social climate that we live in in 2019, I feel like I have to ask if it can happen here, in the United States?

The scary answer is yes. The shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and Chabad of Poway in California occurred less than a year apart. In my hometown of New York City, the number of hate crimes against Jewish residents is rising quickly.

I sometimes take for granted that I live in a country that guarantees me the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I also take for granted that I live in one of the most diverse cities in the world.

I wish I could say that I live in a better world that German and European Jews lived in. But I don’t. Antisemitism is still alive and well. Until such day that antisemitism is dead and buried, a small part of me will be concerned that another Kristallnacht can happen here.

1 Comment

Filed under History, New York City

Thoughts On the First Anniversary of the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting

In 2019, we hope that hate and prejudice is a thing of the past. But hope often springs eternal.

This coming Sunday is the first anniversary of the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. 11 people were murdered simply because they were Jews. It’s nearly a year later and it hurts as if it was yesterday.

I sometimes try to delude myself that because I lived in the United States, this won’t happen to me. I am seen as a complete human being, not just a member of a particular religious or cultural group. But I have to face reality. Antisemitism is on the rise in numbers that has not been seen in generations. I shouldn’t be afraid to wear an outward symbol of my faith out of fear of being abused or attacked. But this is the reality that we all live in.

The shooting was the subject of this week’s Unorthodox episode. It made me feel less alone and less scared. But it also reminded me that I live in a world in which entering a house of worship requires passing by security and police. I wish that this was not the case, but it is.

May the memory of those 11 innocent people killed on that day forever be a blessing and may their blood be avenged.

Z”l.

Leave a comment

Filed under National News, Thoughts On....

Inviting Mahathir Mohamad to Speak at Columbia University is a Validation of Antisemitism

These days, it’s not that difficult to see the divisions in our world. College is supposed to heal these divisions and teach our young people that diversity is not only acceptable, but it is beautiful.

The message at Columbia University is the opposite.

Malaysian politician Mahathir Mohamad has been invited to speak at the university. The problem with this invitation is that Mr. Mohamad is not only an avowed anti-Semite, he takes pleasure in openly spewing the poison that comes out of his lips.

In defending the invitation, University President Lee Bollinger, stated the following:

“This form of open engagement can sometimes be difficult, even painful. But to abandon this activity would be to limit severely our capacity to understand and confront the world as it is, which is a central and utterly serious mission for any academic institution,” 

Mr. Bollinger claims that the ” invitation is neither a “validation” or “endorsement” of the speaker’s views.”

As I see it, the problem with the invite is that it validates antisemitism. It validates the BDS movement and other organizations that regularly harass Jewish college students, especially those who support Israel.

Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe in free speech and a college student’s opportunity to expand their world and their perspective. However, given the current political and cultural climate that we live in, a clear line in the sand must be drawn. That line is hate speech. The question is if university administrations have the balls to draw that line.

Leave a comment

Filed under New York City

Aligning With Linda Sarsour Will Not Get Bernie the Jewish Vote

In any election season, campaigns and candidates will ask how to appeal to a certain demographic to ensure that they will receive their votes.

Jewish Presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) has decided to bring Linda Sarsour into his campaign. Ms. Sarsour is known for her very public antisemitic and anti-Israel perspective.

I understand that Bernie wants to appeal to progressive voters. However, the choice of Ms. Sarsour, I fear may backfire. Especially with his fellow Jews who are feeling anxious (myself included) about the rising antisemitism in the world.

I also understand that he wants to appeal to the Arab-American community.

However, in trying to appeal to the Arab-American community, he is forgetting his coreligionists. There are quite a few candidates to chose from. In over-appealing to one community, he may forget another, which may end up costing him the nomination next fall.

Leave a comment

Filed under Politics

The Jexodus Is Not Happening

For generations, most of American Jews have voted and stayed firmly within the Democratic party.

You know who made the following statement today about American Jews and who they may vote for in next year’s Presidential election:

“Any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat — I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty,”

Americans have unfortunately become accustomed to his off the cuff remarks, dog whistles and half truths. The statement above is all three and much more. I find it to be personally offensive.

When one speaks of loyalty and the Jews, it smacks of antisemitism. The question of whom the Jewish community is loyal to has led the persecution, destruction and murder.

If he thinks that the whole Israel debacle from last week will make American Jews jump ship to the Republican party, he is dead wrong. Most American Jews that I know of still openly and proudly vote Democrat.

If nothing else, this statement may have the opposite effect and it I hope it does. This Democrat is not jumping ship anytime soon.

P.S. If he thinks that Ivanka converting to Judaism and raising Jewish children gives him cred with the Jewish community, he is wrong.

Leave a comment

Filed under International News, National News, Politics, World News

These Boys are More Than Heroes, They are Our Light in the Darkness

If you are able, I want you to please imagine the following: you are a member of a minority group. It is a warm summer day and you are spending time with your friends at the beach. You see someone drowning, they wear a symbol that represents the destruction and murder of your people. Do you let them drown or try to save their life?

On May 17th in Massachusetts, four young men who are students at a Yeshiva (religious Jewish school) saw a man drowning. They called over a police officer who helped to save this man’s life. They were unaware of the man’s Swastika tattoo.

With the extreme rise in antisemitism, these boys could have easily let this man die. But they saved his life. I hope that he remembers the young Jewish boys who are responsible for keeping him on this earth.

Even in the darkest of moments, there are pockets of light. These boys are pockets of light. I hope that there are more like these boys in this world.

Leave a comment

Filed under National News

If the Democrats Want to Win the 2020 Election, I Suggest That They Squash the Antisemitism In Their Party

For the nearly twenty years that I have been able to vote, I have voted mostly Democrat. My family has been also voting along the Democratic lines for as long as I can remember.

I hate to say it, but I may have to rethink my political affiliation. Earlier today, Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) made some comments regarding Israel, Palestine and the Holocaust are not only historically inaccurate, but they also have the capacity to inflame what is already a dangerous conflict. During the interview, she stated the following:

“There’s kind of a calming feeling I always tell folks when I think of the Holocaust, and the tragedy of the Holocaust, and the fact that it was my ancestors, Palestinians, who lost their land and some lost their lives, their livelihood, their human dignity, their existence in many ways, have been wiped out, and some people’s passports. I mean, just all of it was in the name of trying to create a safe haven for Jews, post-the Holocaust, post-the tragedy and the horrific persecution of Jews across the world at that time, and I love the fact that it was my ancestors that provided that, right, in many ways. But they did it in a way that took their human dignity away, right, and it was forced on them,” she said.

There are a number of inaccuracies that I would like correct the Representative on.

  1. The origin of the name Palestine comes from the Greeks who conquered ancient Israel and changed the name to prevent future generations from identifying Israel as their homeland.
  2. Before 1948, anyone who called the British Mandate of Palestine home was a Palestinian, even those of the Jewish faith.
  3. When Israel was declared to be an independent state, Arab leaders at the time promised a quick and easy war to remove the Jews and establish a new Arab state. The war did not go as planned. Meanwhile, no one talks about the Jews who were living in Muslim countries and had to leave everything behind to stay alive.

I am the first to admit that the actions of the Israeli government are not always perfect. I am the first to agree that there is racism is Israel, as there is everywhere in the world. But it is the only legitimate democracy in the Middle East, where all citizens are treated equally.

I don’t want to have to change my political party. I have no doubt that antisemitism exists in the Republican and Independent parties. But the fact is that if the Democrats do not excise this wound, they may lose the 2020 election. The last thing I want is to have you know who win another four years in office.

P.S. If you are interested in additional reading, Liel Leibovitz’s excellent article in Tablet Magazine hits the nail on the head.

Leave a comment

Filed under History, International News, Politics, World News

Grow Up and Stop Blaming the Jews For Your Problems

As I have gotten older, I have come to realize that there is a major distinction between the emotional maturity of a child and the emotional maturity of an adult. A child, when accused of doing something wrong, may blame someone else. An adult, when accused of the same act, will hopefully put on their big boy or big girl pants and accept that they have made a mistake.

The issue here is that some adults have the maturity of a child and not an adult.

In Tarnow, Bishop Andrzej Jeż accused the Jews of plotting to divide the Church and claim that priests sexually abused congregants.

This accusation pisses me off for two reasons:

  1. Yom Hashoah was earlier this week. The same lies that were responsible for the murder of six million Jews are the same lies that are coming out of this man’s mouth.
  2. The cover up of the priests who sexually assaulted their congregants has nothing to do with the Jews. This was a systematic cover up by Church officials. Grow up, put on your big boy pants and admit that the mistake rests solely on the shoulders of those who covered up the crimes.

There are those who say that antisemitism does not exist. It is a thing of the past. From my perspective, this article is just another example that antisemitism is still unfortunately alive and well in this world.

Leave a comment

Filed under History, International News, World News

The NY Times, Antisemitism and Pure Hypocrisy

The purpose of journalism is supposed to be subjective. The reporter is supposed to report the facts as they are and let the reader or the viewer determine how they feel about that particular subject.

Supposed is the key word in that sentence. The problem is that the point of view of the article or the news report often depends on the point of view of the reporter and their employer.

Recently, the NY Times published what can only be described as an antisemitic caricature. The editorial board published an apology yesterday along with an article talking about the rise of antisemitism in the world.

Pardon my French, but that is f*cking hypocrisy.

The irony that makes me angry is that the family who owns the Times is Jewish. The paper’s original owner, Adolph Ochs, was the son of German Jewish immigrants.

During World War II, instead of placing the news about the slaughter of Europe’s Jews on the front page (as they should have), the news reports were buried deep in the paper. If the paper’s then owners were in Europe instead of New York, it is likely that they would have been part of the six million.

As far as I am concerned, the apology is empty and worthless. Not only should the cartoonist be fired, but the editor who approved the cartoon be fired as well. These cartoons not only legitimize antisemitism, they add fuel to the rising fire.

Good job, NY Times. I knew that there was a reason why I don’t buy your paper.

Leave a comment

Filed under History, New York City