Good Job, Governor!

I do not understand people who go after Gov. Larry Hogan for his  executive order to begin the school year after Labor Day (“Classroom Conundrm,” Sept. 9). Yes, it is an executive order, but in this particular instance, the majority of voters and residents in this state really want the school year to begin after Labor Day.

If an executive order is used to advance the will of the people and the will of people is overwhelming for the rule, then I do not see anything troubling with it. In fact, the governor did us a great favor in stopping any of the political debate on this issue, which truly does move at a snail’s pace in the current political environment.

Ramallah: A Happening Place

As someone who recently visited Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s grave, I was both amazed and sad that a rabbi would be “virtually lynched” because he considered visiting the site in Ramallah (“A Rabbi Is ‘Lynched,’” Sept. 9).  Visiting someone’s grave does not imply complete agreement with what they did or stood for.  A major reason for travel is to be exposed to new ideas, some not entirely comfortable.

While the rabbi’s visit to Arafat’s grave was canceled, I certainly hope that the group went into Ramallah and visited its bustling markets and established institutions.  It would have opened their eyes in a way impossible from reading newspapers or going to lectures.  We saw doting grandparents with their smiling grandchildren enjoying ice cream, young couples lugging TVs into their cars, businessmen with their attaché cases and women of all ages (in head scarves or not) out for the day.  In short, we saw a thriving city whose daily life rarely makes the news.

Yes, there were Palestinian flags and “Free Palestine” posters.  There were also posters for an annual children’s book fair and a Danish/Palestinian classical music concert.  First Bank  of Palestine ads featured teenagers in graduation caps and multigenerational families at dinner.  Other ads were for soccer equipment and facial massages.

Since the museum is not yet open, Arafat’s grave is (at best) a 10-minute photo op.  However, a visit to Ramallah is crucial for anyone who truly wants to  understand the situation that  Israelis and Palestinians are facing.

An Insult to Jews

I realize American blacks are often subject to racial abuse and stereotyping, as we Jews have often been.  But that does not excuse the vicious name-calling directed at Israel in the Black Lives Matter platform (“Black Lives Platform Gives Hope, Not Fear,” Sept. 2). Its claim that Israel (with U.S. support) is committing “genocide … against the Palestinian people” is not only preposterous, but insulting.

I have no intention of working with any group that chooses to denigrate the world’s only Jewish state. For years, Israel and Jews worldwide denounced the United Nations noxious “Zionism is Racism” resolution until that organization finally repealed it in 1991. Until the Black Lives Matter movement acts in a similar manner with its platform, the organized Jewish community should not support it. It is up to them, not us, to  fix this.

African-Americans have no monopoly on “righteous anger.”  When Jewish people and the Jewish state are libeled, we also get angry. We should not go out of our way to pacify those who insult and attack us.

Take Time to Listen

Being an Israeli should be a privilege not an excuse. Thirty-seven years ago when I made aliya from England at the wonderful age of 22, I was full of hope. Now less, much less.

I have no intention of  bemoaning what we’ve lost or failed to achieve. I’m not going to cry over the spilled milk and honey that has seeped through the cracks in our scorched and “oh so holy” soil. This is not a letter to wail or lay blame, After almost 40 years in Israel, I believe I have reached some kind of insight, possibly even enlightenment or maybe simply a better  understanding, albeit tainted by an increasingly overwhelming and uncontrollable wave of desperation and frustration, that we may have lost our way and that we are once again wandering in the desert.

I respectfully propose that we just stop a second and take stock. Now would be a good time to remember the word “listen.”

The more we listen, the more we understand. The more we listen, the more we respect. The more we listen, the more we’ll be respected. Listen more. Smile more. Let the other person say their piece before cutting them off without as much as an “excuse me.” Listen to peers even if you disagree. Listen to peers even if you have no interest in any other opinions other than your own. Listen to peers even when there’s no mutual respect.

Who knows? Perhaps you’ll realize that others have something to say too.

JT Drops the Ball, Part II

Racism? Elitism? Lazy journalism? Why are the white male business owners identified by name in the photo captions of “Wage Dispute” (Aug. 26) while the black and brown men and women who work for them are identified only as “employees”?

JT Drops the Ball, Part I

lettersI am aghast, puzzled, vexed and quite dumbfounded by the glaring omission in the JT’s  “Gene Wilder: ‘One of the Truly Great Talents of Our Time’” (Sept. 2) of his most Jewish movie, 1979’s “The Frisco Kid.” It is renowned for its  classic Kiddush Hashem scene of Wilder’s Polish rabbi’s willingness to sacrifice his life to save a Torah scroll from damage. This was a completely unacceptable lacuna in a Jewish publication serving a community with a  disproportionate number of Orthodox Jews.

False Accusations

The authors of “Black Lives Platform Gives Hope, Not Fear” (Sept. 2) are quite misguided. They are saddened and pained by the Jewish responses to the M4BL platform and contend that Jewish outrage at the policy platform is dividing the black and Jewish communities and preventing the communities from building relationships. Such a position by these social justice organizers is just plain wrong.

The M4BL platform, without any provocation, decided to  include in a document  that deals with black complaints against the police department, and American society in general, language that is inflammatory, hateful and false. It accuses Israel of being an apartheid state and calls for termination of aid to Israel, which would put the state in grave, mortal danger. But even worse, it accuses Israel of committing genocide, which equates Israeli treatment of the Palestinians with the Nazi  extermination of a third of our people. The platform calls for supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which is tantamount to calling for the economic destruction of Israel.

I ask these social justice  organizers why these false accusations against Israel are  included in a document of black complaints against racism in America. How do attacks against Israel further the black narrative of racism in America?

The M4BL platform does not include specific accusations against any other country. Singling out Israel can only be termed anti-Semitic. As Martin Luther King Jr. said so eloquently, being anti-Israel is being anti-Semitic. We should not be embracing the M4BL movement. It attacks the country of our Jewish brothers and sisters and by association, us, no matter how noble other parts of its platform may be.

No Friend of Israel

Ben Cardin (File photo)

Ben Cardin (File photo)

Sen. Benjamin Cardin’s Aug. 26 column in the JT, “Why Tim Kaine Is Good for Israel, Jewish Values,” was the ultimate in chutzpah.

Cardin, who voted against the Iran agreement, was supporting Sen. Kaine as being a friend of Israel when, in fact, Kaine helped forge the agreement with Iran.  That the Iran agreement is bad for Israel is evidenced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before a joint session of Congress. Further, a friend of  Israel would not have been one of eight senators (all Democrats) who walked out of  the prime minister’s address.

Kaine, a friend of Israel? Hardly!

Perfect Choice

Justin Levy (Photo by Daniel Nozick)

Justin Levy (Photo by Daniel Nozick)

In its Aug. 12 edition, the JT featured an article on Justin Levy as a person “You Should Know.” Subsequent to reading this commentary I knew that I had to write and compliment you on your selection.

Justin and I met a few years ago, and right from the beginning I knew that his firm handshake and look-you-in-the-eye greeting meant this was a man with good family values. I was not wrong. After having the privilege of meeting his parents, it was clear that he had had a solid foundation growing up.

Justin provided my two grandsons with a great role model, and I was proud to have him in their lives. Justin has put all of his “sweat equity” into his music studio, and he deserves to be successful.

CJE: Beyond Birth

What a joy it was for me to read the JT’s “CJE Offering New Opportunities for Young Families’ (Aug. 12). As the founding and first director of the CJE Early Childhood Department and as the originator of the prepared childbirth program, then called “In the Beginning: A Jewish Lamaze Experience,” it was  always a goal to involve these families in Jewish community programs and projects beyond the birth year.

A program that I initiated while at the CJE was an exit survey sent to the families of the children who were completing the programs to find out the programs’ impact. As these survey forms started to come in, it was rewarding to see the impact of these programs not only on the child, but also on the entire family.