Things That Make Me Angry: The Anniversary of the Buffalo Shooting and Nakba Day

Hate should have no place in this world. It turns us against one another and forces unnecessary destruction of property and life.

This past Sunday was the first anniversary of the shooting in Buffalo. It is a remembrance that no one wanted or needed. But because we allow racism to persist and refuse to enact reasonable gun control laws, 10 people lost their lives.

Earlier this week, the 75th anniversary Nakba Day was “commemorated” by the United Nations and pushed in the halls of Congress by Rashida Tlaib.

Instead of getting on my soapbox, I’m going to let the experts do the talking.

At the end of the day, the only way to end racism and prejudice is to face the truth and see one another as human beings. Until then, we will continue to destroy one another over superficialities.

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Leopoldstadt Play Review

There are some theatrical experiences that stay with you forever.

Leopoldstadt, by Tom Stoppard, is presently playing on Broadway. Taking its name from Vienna‘s old Jewish quarter, the play follows an assimilated and upper-class Austrian Jewish family from the turn of the century until the mid-1950s. Some members of this particular family have married out or have converted to Catholicism for business and social opportunities.

Though it seems that the antisemitism of the past has died, it is simmering just under the surface. As time progresses and the family changes, the safety net slowly dissipates, revealing the dark underbelly that was only waiting for an opportunity to be released into the world.

Leopoldstadt is one of the best plays I have ever seen. If my own work is half as good as this script, I will jump for joy.

What astounds me is that there are 38 main characters across multiple decades and generations. In my own writing, one of the rules that I go by is to limit the number of people who exist within the worlds I am creating. Too many characters make it confusing for both the writer and the reader/audience. No one on that stage is an afterthought or hastily drawn.

Based on the revelations of Stoppard’s own family history that was hidden for decades, this story is universal, heartbreaking, joyous, and a reminder that the Holocaust is far from ancient history.

By the time we got to the final scene, the stage felt empty. It was as if the ghosts of those who were murdered filled up the space, begging the audience to never forget. My heart was pounding, and my mouth was open, but I could not speak. Without giving the specific details away, I will say that it is devastating and heartbreaking.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. Run, don’t walk to see Leopoldstadt.

Leopoldstadt is playing until July 2. Check the website for tickets and showtimes.

I Will Protect You: A True Story of Twins Who Survived Auschwitz Book Review

Among the many horrors of the Holocaust (and there are many) is the use of prisoners in Auschwitz as lab rats. Done by “Dr.” Josef Mengele, his specialty was the tests that were done on identical twins.

The late Eva Mozes Kor and her sister Miriam were one of many pairs of twins who were used as guinea pigs. Her memoir, I Will Protect You: A True Story of Twins Who Survived Auschwitz, co-written by Danica Davidson was published last year.

Until the age of ten, Eva and Miriam had an ordinary childhood. In 1943, they were deported to Auschwitz. Separated from their parents and siblings, the girls survived twice over. Not only were their parents and sisters murdered, but they were among the minority of twins who did not die from being experimented on.

Though the book is meant for a younger audience, adult readers will not be bored. The details are so precise and cinematic that it is hard to ignore what can only be described as hades on Earth.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

I Will Protect You: A True Story of Twins Who Survived Auschwitz is available wherever books are sold.

Today is #EndJewHatred Day

There is an old rhyme that many of us learned as children about sticks and stones.

 Sticks and stones may break my bones / But names will never harm me.”

The reality is that both have the power to hurt or destroy us.

Today, April 29th is #EndJewHatredDay.

Naked and open Antisemitism is on the rise in numbers that have not been seen for decades. Jews who have lived in comfort and safety with (most) of their non-Jewish neighbors, colleagues, and friends have been on the receiving end of vitriol that should scare the shit out of all of us.

There are two objectives for today. The first is for those of us who are MOT (members of the tribe) should be loud, proud, and unafraid of speaking our truths. The second is for our allies to be equally as vocal, to stand beside us and tell the haters where they can go.

A group of people who are a minority in their nation cannot fight hatred by themselves. They need others (specifically members of the majority culture) to walk hand in hand with them and work toward equality.

The fact is that we can learn from the past and prevent a repeat of what was. We just need the courage to do so.

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Some Things Never Change: How Saba Kept Singing Review & Justice for Joey Borgen

As much as things change, they stay the same.

In honor of Yom HaShoah earlier this week, PBS aired the documentary How Saba Kept Singing. The film followed David Wisnia, the late Cantor and Holocaust survivor.

Originally from Poland, David was the only member of his immediate family to see the end of the war. The only reason he walked out of Auschwitz was his singing. The audience travels with David and his grandson Avi as he talks about his past and visits the place in which he nearly died.

I loved it. I was in tears by the end. This was a man who had every reason to be angry and bitter. But he found the light and a reason to live. It is a message that anyone can relate to.

Back in 2021, Joey Borgen was attacked in broad daylight in New York City. His crime was being visibly Jewish and attending a pro-Israel rally.

His attacker (who shall remain nameless on this blog) was given a slap on the wrist: six months in jail and five years probation. Alvin Bragg‘s office claims that they did a thorough investigation. If they did, these men would have been charged with a hate crime and given a significant jail sentence.

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The message is loud and clear: anyone who verbally or physically assaults a Jewish person in NYC will not be treated as the criminal they are. They will be told they were naughty and nothing more.

That is not the city I know and love. Shame on you, Alvin Bragg. You know better. You could have done better, but you chose not to.

Thoughts on Yom HaShoah 2023: Book Bans, Repeating History, and A Slight Glimmer of Hope

The only way to truly learn from the past is to walk through the pain. The problem is that many of us, for a variety of reasons, are unable to walk through that pain.

Today is Yom HaShoah. Though World War II ended 77 years ago, it sometimes feels like we are still stuck in 1940s Europe. Antisemitism is on the rise. Book banning is becoming the new norm in certain parts of the country.

Last week, two African American teenagers verbally assaulted Jewish teenagers via the Nazi salute.

Beyond the obvious disgust, this incident points to the lack of education. Black people in Nazi Germany were as much a target as Jews, Roma, LGBTQ, etc.

But even with all of that, there is still light. The #StandUpToJewishHate campaign will (crossing fingers) will prevent another Holocaust.

May the memories of the 6 Million (my own relatives among them) be a blessing. #ZL

Lucy, Maia, and Rina Dee Should Be Alive

We all know that war and death go hand in hand. The question that unfortunately too often avoided is who is killed. Is it the soldier on the battlefield or the civilian who is trying to live as normally as possible?

Last Friday, Rabbi Leo Dee lost two of his daughters, Maia (20) and Rina (15) in a terrorist attack in Israel. His wife Lucy initially survived the attack but later died in the hospital. As a human being and a fellow Jew, my heart breaks for Rabbi Dee and his family. It’s one thing to destroy a military facility. It is another thing entirely to kill innocent civilians (the Palestinians usually MO). I ask you to close your eyes and just listen to a heartbroken husband and father whose family is forever changed.

The conflict was the subject of one of the segments on The Brian Lehrer Show. My beef with the conversation (as one of the listeners pointed out) is that the blame was mostly put on Israel. It was only later on that the Palestinian leadership was called out for their part in this decades-long war.

In a related news headline, the IDF was again accused of purposefully going after worshippers at the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem last week. As usual, the finger-pointing was in one direction while the truth was buried.

If you are on Twitter, I ask that you create or share an existing tweet with the hashtag #DeesDays. Let Rabbi Leo know that he is not alone as he moves on without his wife and his daughters.

May their memories be a blessing. Z” L.

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On the Media Is Wrong About the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict

There is a lot of misinformation about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Unfortunately, it often comes from the mainstream media and its attempts to tell both sides of the story.

On March 31st, WNYC‘s On the Media discussed the 70+-year-old war with her Arab neighbors and the political issues swirling around Benjamin Netanyahu. You can listen and draw your own opinion.

However, I ask that you have an open before making a decision. What I will say is that this war is more about prejudice and antisemitism than anything else.

P.S. As we all know, today is Easter Sunday. Israel is the only country in that region in which Christians (and people of all faiths) can openly and freely practice whatever they believe.

Courtesy of Facebook.

Remember This Review

Groupthink is defined as the follows:

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon in which people strive for consensus within a group. In many cases, people will set aside their own personal beliefs or adopt the opinion of the rest of the group.

In Europe during World War II, while many went along with the antisemitic lies that led to the deaths of 6 million of my co-religionists, a brave few did everything they could have to save lives. Among them was Jan Karski. His story is told in the PBS/Great Performances program Remember This.

Playing Karski is David Strathairn in a one-man performance. He starts with the character’s early years, goes though the life-changing and heartbreaking experience during the war, and finally ends with his later years in America.

Stratharin gives a powerhouse performance. It took my breath away and reminded me that even when the masses speak hate, there are still a few who are not afraid to speak truth to power.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Remember This is available for streaming on the PBS app.

P.S. The #StandUpToJewishHate campaign (led by New England Patriots owner and philanthropist Robert Kraft) is unfortunately timely and necessary. My prayer is that it does some good before it is too late.

Once We Were Home: A Novel Book Review

Trauma, by definition, has the power to leave emotional scars that can have a lifelong influence on us. Add on childhood trauma and the experiences of a young person during a war and you have the potential for major damage.

Once We Were Home: A Novel, by Jennifer Rosner, was published earlier this month. The book follows four protagonists as they survive World War II and deal with its aftermath. Siblings Ana and Oskar are smuggled out of the ghetto and live under Christian pseudonyms. After liberation, Ana quickly returns to the faith of their parents. Oskar prefers the life he had during the war.

Orphaned Roger grew up in a monastery in France. When surviving family members come to claim him and bring him to Jerusalem, Church leaders do everything they can to prevent the reunion. In the late 1960s, Renata is a post-graduate student whose early years are a mystery. After her mother’s death, she is determined to answer the questions that have been buried for decades.

What Rosner does well reveals the strength it takes to go through something like this and still live a full life. Her narrative also speaks to the difficult path that her characters walked to find a measure of happiness and satisfaction. For me, this book is a reminder that our children are more resilient than we assume them to be. As someone with mental health issues, the book highlights that we easily forget that mental health is as important as physical health.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Once We Were Home: A Novel is available wherever books are sold.

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