Sunday, November 30, 2008


This is Not Your Father's Edition: Haveil Havalim 193.


Suketu Mehta, from Mumbai writes about the terror attacks. Two paragraphs stuck out. The first:

Mumbai is a “soft target,” the terrorism analysts say. Anybody can walk into the hotels, the hospitals, the train stations, and start spraying with a machine gun. Where are the metal detectors, the random bag checks? In Mumbai, it’s impossible to control the crowd. In other cities, if there’s an explosion, people run away from it. In Mumbai, people run toward it — to help. Greater Mumbai takes in a million new residents a year. This is the problem, say the nativists. The city is just too hospitable. You let them in, and they break your heart

In the news reports on the vile, cowardly, and murderous attacks, time after time, it was reported how the population of Mumbai did their best to help those trapped in the hotels and wounded on the streets. They did so at great risk their lives. Sandra, at the Jewish Center, faced the terrorists head on and slammed a door in their face. Hours later, when she heard two year old Moishe calling her name, she didn't hesitate and ran toward him, scooped him up from amid the bodies of his dead parents, and carried him out of the building. Hers is but one of the many of selfless acts by those in Mumbai who tried to help one another.

The other paragraph that struck me reflects the anger I've been feeling about the Jewish Center attack. I'm angry about the loss of life and all those who were murdered but the attack on the Jewish Center was personal. I didn't know any of those were murdered but they were my people. I know there are many critics of Chabad but my personal experience has been positive. Mehta has this to say:

In 1993, Hindu mobs burned people alive in the streets — for the crime of being Muslim in Mumbai. Now these young Muslim men murdered people in front of their families — for the crime of visiting Mumbai. They attacked the luxury businessmen’s hotels. They attacked the open-air Cafe Leopold, where backpackers of the world refresh themselves with cheap beer out of three-foot-high towers before heading out into India. Their drunken revelry, their shameless flirting, must have offended the righteous believers in the jihad. They attacked the train station everyone calls V.T., the terminus for runaways and dreamers from all across India. And in the attack on the Chabad house, for the first time ever, it became dangerous to be Jewish in India.

Think about that last statement. India has become dangerous for Jews. The sickness and evil of Islamic terrorists is spreading.

It is a war on the openness that we have in the West and in India. It is a war on ideas and the notion that all people are free to chose how to live their lives. It is an evilness and a darkness. There should be no excuses for these vile murderers. Condemnation must be given where ever the attacks occur. There can be no excuse given for terror attacks in Israel, Spain, London, New York, Bali, and India. These terrorists are not freedom fighters. They are not militants. They are cold-blooded murderers who seek nothing more than to silence the songbird of freedom.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Shabbat Shalom!

Terrorists Are Cowards

The Islamic terrorists in Mumbai couldn't content themselves with slaughtering innocents in cafes, bus stations, hotels, and the Jewish Center. They attacked a hospital for women and children as well.

Already, news reports and opinion columns are asking who is to blame. The f@@@ing terrorists who happen to be Islamic cowards are to blame. No one else, just those murdering cowards.

Fiddler on the Roof

Yesterday, TCM showed Fiddler on the Roof. I've seen it about three times and it led me to read Sholom Aleichem's books. Throughput the movie, Teyve and his family have the daily joys and struggles of people everywhere. Then you see the fiddler on the roof and you know something is about to befall Teyve and his neighbors. First, it is the half-hearted pogrom. The official who leads it is reluctant but does it anyway. At Tevye's eldest daughter's wedding, the gifts for the bride and groom are torn apart and through the village, window shops are smashed and stores are looted. At the end, all the Jews in the village are ordered to leave in three days. The fiddler plays madly. The fiddler represents the bittersweet life of many Jews. There is the dancing at the wedding and there is the precariousness of life. And yet, Teyve, his family, and his neighbors have a wonderful capacity to continue to struggle on. The point is that Jews have been targets in one or another for over 2,000 years. And in the end, the toast of l'chaim is said with gusto.

Today, no less than in the Dark Ages, during World War II, and Israel's rebirth, Jews are targets. Even in America, this bastion of religious freedom, Jewish shuls and schools have to be heavily guarded. Across the world, in places like France, Jewish school children riding school buses are targets.

The latest attacks have occurred in India. Two hotels and the Chabad Jewish center were attacked by Islamic terrorists. The fate of the Chabad rabbi and his wife are still unknown at this time. The two hotels are very popular with tourists. Why the Chabad Center?

News Bunny: The insurgents targeted luxury hotels and such, why do you think they also targeted a Jewish center.

News Hack: I just don't know what their motive could possibly be. We'll have to identify the insurgents and then figure it out.

We must say Tehillim, Psalms, for everyone being held hostage by the terrorists, who by the way, have made a demand and gee, what a shock: “We urge the Indian government to return stolen Muslim lands,” the terrorists said in a statement.

It's surprising that the world hasn't condemned the tactics of India's commandos against the terrorists. After all, these Islamic terrorists are just trying to get the land 'stolen' from them, the terrorists are surely justified in their murders of civilians? It is the same excuse they give for attacking Israelis. When Pakistan was formed, close to 10 million people were uprooted, funny how there isn't a UN refugee department for them. Kashmir was given to India. These is the land the Islamic terrorists consider 'stolen'. Why isn't the Indian government condemned when it does everything in its power to stop the murderous rampages of Islamic terrorists?

Perhaps the answer is this 'joke':

Speaker: Hey, I just heard that the first act of the re-unified German Parliament was to declare their intention to kill all Germany's remaining Jews... and two postmen.

Listening: [after a long pause] Um, I don't understand... why two postmen?

Speaker: What, wiping out Germany's remaining Jews doesn't strike you as odd,... but the death of two postmen does???!

The joke echoes the actual statements by newscasters. It is somehow acceptable for Jewish life to be spilt. It is somehow acceptable to condemn the Israeli government for its actions against Islamic terrorists while countries like Lebanon, Egypt, India, and even Pakistan use the same or even harsher methods without condemnation.

A few weeks ago, the Torah portion read was the akedah, the binding of Isaac. G-d tells Avraham that human sacrifice is a big no no.

The majority of people on this planet want world peace, I think it will only come when a Jew can wear a Star of David and walk down any street without fear of being attacked. This is something that cannot be done safely in many parts of the world. This is something that cannot be done even in some parts of the US.

Anti-Semitism is rising across the world. The position of the fiddler on the roof is becoming even more precarious. Iran openly threatens Israel with nuclear annihilation.

In Treppenwitz's post, he makes the observation that out of India's 1.1 billion population, there are about 5,000 Jews. We know why the Islamic terrorists targeted the Jewish center. It is only because it is a Jewish center. It is no different from when the Israeli athletes were targeted by Islamic terrorists. It is no different when a Jewish high school in Jerusalem is targeted by Islamic extremists. It is no different than when an Islamic terrorists smashes the head of a Jewish 4 year old against rocks, It isn't because of 'stolen' lands. It is because they are Jews.


Every year about this time, when stores are gearing up for the mad holiday shopping season, there are those who say there is a war on Christmas. It is said even though stores are decked in holiday trimmings of green, red, gold, and other colors. It said even though most city streets are decorated with light of the season. People are upset because instead of saying Merry Christmas, a lot of stores have policies of clerks saying Happy Holidays.

I'm not offended when someone says Merry Christmas to me. By the same token, please don't be offended if I wish you a Happy Chanukah in return. The local radio stations usually start playing Christmas songs after Thanksgiving. The one I listen to also has songs of the holidays at their web-site. Since it was promoted as songs of the holidays, on the first day of Chanukah, I asked if they could add maybe one Chanukah song. Please don't take offense when this is done by me and others. I and many others take pride in our holidays and there are some very beautiful songs for Chanukah. It's not just about dreidels and latkes.

While the stores are covered in Christmas decorations and filled with the sounds of holiday music and the streets are covered in lights and holiday decorations, it seems a tad absurd to declare there's a war on Christmas.

One other thing, please don't become too upset when a rabbi or someone else requests a hanukkiah be added to public holiday decorations. I know the courts have ruled that Christmas trees are secular in nature, but really isn't aren't they a symbol of Christmas? If I remember correctly, to some Christians, the Christmas tree is a symbol of the eternity of G-d and some churches, Catholics in particular, save the Christmas trees to burn during Easter.

A hanukkiah is a symbol as well. It's lights remind us of the struggle for religious freedom. And their glow enhances the season for all.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Edition

Yesterday, I held a great big pity party of one. It's been a rough couple of weeks. I had to get two new tires for my car. The last of the doctor bills have come in for my son. Because of this, I wasn't able to make the trip to New Orleans to buy a kosher turkey. Instead, our feast will consist of the traditional Thanksgiving lox. I was a pitiful sight yesterday. Today, I woke happy.

I realized overnight that it isn't the turkey that makes it Thanksgiving. It is family and friends. I realized how much I have to be thankful for. The bills will eventually get paid. I have food on the table. I have a home. I have family that love me in spite of my contentious nature. I have friends that send me emails and notifications at Facebook just when I seem to be the most down. How do they know? They're friends, they just know.

Today, this is what I'm most thankful for. I'm thankful to live in a country that offers the freedom of religion to all. I'm thankful that I live in a country that has looked past the color of a person's skin and has judged on character and elected Obama. I'm thankful that even in these difficult financial times, the United States still has a wealth that towers over all.

I'm thankful that I live in a country where some see opportunities to start new businesses. I'm thankful to live a country that is so generous. Even as people have to tighten their belts, there are news reports that food banks for the poor are seeing an increase in donations of food. I'm glad that I live in a country where people are not only being angels to children during this time but to the elderly as well. Walgreens in Biloxi has an angel tree for the elderly. I'm thankful that I live in a country where people are willing to give up their time to help their neighbors in need. I've stated many times before, after Hurricane Katrina, the Mississippi Gulf coast saw another surge. This surge was more massive and potent than Katrina's record breaking 28 feet guestimated by NOAA(it is closer to 40 feet). This surge consists of those who opened their wallets and donated record-breaking amounts. This surge consists of those who volunteered and cooked and drove the Salvation Army and Red Cross food vans. This surge consists of those who came to the Mississippi Gulf Coast and worked shoulder to shoulder with us clearing out mold infested sheet rock. It consists of those who came here and worked shoulder to shoulder with us clearing our streets one block at a time. It consists of those who came down here and are still coming over 3 years later, who are working shoulder to shoulder with us in raising up new homes. They swing their hammers with us.

This the real America. It consists of Christians, Jews, Muslims, other religions, and atheists working side-by-side to help one another. This real America also consists of the vast numbers of college-aged and high school kids who have come down and are still coming to help us rebuild.

Thank you G-d. Thank you to my family and friends. Thank you America.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


The United States has been very good to immigrants. We are a nation of immigrants. In my lifetime, I've seen two sorts of immigration. The first, was the wave of Vietnamese people who moved into the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the 1980's. They were mostly welcomed into our communities but there were the usual fears of jobs being taken etc. Since then, the Vietnamese community has thrived here. We get to see celebrations of Tet(New Year)with all the dragons and fireworks. We have been introduced to seem very nice food. A Buddhist temple has been built.

The second wave we're experiencing is that of Hispanics. After Hurricane Katrina, these workers flooded our area and have been a great boost in our rebuilding efforts. We've seen stores start to carry more and more products with a Hispanic theme. Like the Vietnamese immigrants, these immigrants are building communities along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Little mercados dotting the area. I can practice the little Spanish I know.

These immigrants are not unique to our area. In the late 1800's and early 1900's, we the Mississippi Gulf Coast a wave of immigrants from Slavic countries. They built strong communities and today, some of their traditions have become a mainstay of life.

The first immigrants to the area were the French. They arrived in Biloxi in 1699.

Each wave of immigrants offers something new and exciting and is a microcosm of the United States. For we are a nation of immigrants and their ideas and some of their traditions are integrated into our society.

Each new wave is met with some resistance. The Jews who immigrated from Eastern during the early 1900's were met with suspicion. As were the waves of Irish, Italians, and Germans. And yet, somehow, the United States has always grown stronger.

It will be the same with the Hispanics. Immigrants have come to this country escaping religious and political prosecution. They come for the opportunities that this country offers. They are vital to our country.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Which Makes More Sense?

This one(NSFW language)


this one

With Friends Like These

With friends like these, who needs enemies? Secretary of State Rice has announced it is Israel's fault for the peace deal not going through. Olmert calls Bush Israel's best friend forever. Some friends, eh?

The fact that Israel and the Palestinians have not reached a peace agreement and will likely fail to do so by the end of 2008 is "largely due to" political turmoil in Israel, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday night.

"Even though there was not an agreement by the end of the year, it is really largely because of the political situation in Israel," Rice told reporters.


Olmert often speaks of the close personal friendship he has developed with Bush over the past three years. When Bush visited Israel in May, Olmert showered the president with praise, saying, "You're a great person, you're a great leader, and you're a great friend." Though largely unpopular internationally, Bush is loved in Israel, where he is seen as a staunch defender of the US ally.

Some ally Israel has in the US. Never mind the belligerence of Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, no peace deal is the fault of Israel.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Puppy Pile Up


This year, I couldn't write a post about Kristallnacht. Many point to it and say that this was the start of the Shoah. To find out how the destruction of over a 1,000 synagogues, the deaths of over 30 Jews(some say the deaths were in the thousands), the destruction of Jewish businesses, and the round-up of Jews, you have to look at the years before. For years, Hitler told the German people that Jews were to blame for all the ills of the world, that Jews were vermin, and that Jews were sub-human. Jews were not 'real' Germans. It was all too easy for 'real' Germans to stand-by or actively participate in the destruction of Jewish life.

It was all too easy for the rest of the world to remain virtually silent while the sounds of broken glass echoed through the streets of Germany. It was all too easy for Allied Forces to ignore the pleas of Jews to bomb the train tracks leading to the death camps even after it was verified that people were being fed to the ovens of Auschwitz.

Silence echoed through the halls of American justice. During World War II, men of all faiths joined American Forces. Jews were no different and they fought in Europe and in the Pacific. Some were captured as POWs. Even then, the Germans were intent on making sure their Final Solution took place. The Germans separated the Jewish soldiers and sent them to slave camps.

I cannot and will never understand the silence of the United States on the treatment of its Jewish soldiers:

From there, the Nazis separated 350 U.S. soldiers for being Jewish or "looking like Jews" and sent them to the slave camp around February 8, 1945. To this day, the U.S. Army has never officially recognized its soldiers were held as slaves inside Germany. Survivors of the camp signed documents to never speak about their captivity.

I cannot and will never understand why the US War Department reduced the sentences of those in charge of the slave camps:

It picks up with Charles Vogel, the uncle of Bernard and Martin. A veteran of World War I, Charles Vogel was a dogged and powerful attorney who was devastated by the loss of his nephew. At the time, he was the lead attorney for Adams Hats, with a Manhattan office at 1440 Broadway.

Working pro bono, Charles Vogel contacted more than 100 survivors of the Nazi slave camp after the war and built a case against the two Berga commanders: Erwin Metz and his superior, Hauptmann Ludwig Merz. He turned over his findings to the U.S. War Department, and the material was used against Metz and Merz in a war crimes trial in Germany. Not a single Berga survivor was allowed to testify at the trial.

Metz and Merz were both sentenced to die by hanging.

But on June 11, 1948, Charles Vogel received devastating news from the U.S. War Department.

"The sentence of Metz was reduced to life imprisonment and that of Merz to a term of five years. Because of the voluminousness of the record it is not possible to set forth in detail reasons for the reduction of the sentences," wrote Col. Edward H. Young, the chief of the War Crimes Branch, Civil Affairs Division, in a one-page letter.

One week later, Charles Vogel fired off a terse, four-page response, expressing outrage and urging the government to try the men again, this time allowing Berga survivors to testify about what they endured.

"The information contained in your letter of 11 June 1948 is a surprise and shock," Charles Vogel wrote.

He spent the next few months gathering signatures of dozens of "survivors of this horror and by the next-of-kin of the G.I. dead."

Charles Vogel went straight to the top of the U.S. government, pleading in a petition to President Harry Truman, Secretary of State George Marshall and Defense Secretary James Forrestal to act against "these monsters."

"The civilian prisoners received treatment on a par with that at Buchenwald and Dachau [Nazi concentration camps]. This in itself is sufficient cause for Merz and Metz to hang. The added crime that American G.I.s were treated so inhumanly magnifies their guilt. Merz and Metz were tried by the War Crimes Court and sentenced to hang," Charles Vogel said in his petition.

At least 350 American soldiers were sent to Nazi slave camps. They were separated from their brothers in arms because they were Jews. Why weren't these soldiers allowed to testify? Why were the sentences of Merz and Metz reduced to a travesty of justice?

At times. the adage of silence being golden is a mockery of decency, humanity, and justice.

H/t: Dov Bear

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thanksgiving Edition

Haveil Havalim 192: Thanks and Giving is up!

A Nice Break

I've been suffering from a cold/flu since last Friday. Sneezing and coughing is no way to go through life. At least this weekend I've managed to do more than just sleep all day. Last night, I even had a nice break. I was able to go see the Robin Helzner Trio. This sample doesn't really capture the vibrancy of the trio. It was a fun show with a lot of joking. During the show, we clapped along, hummed the nigguns, and sang the choruses. We sang in English, Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino, and even Ugandan. At the end, there was dancing in the aisles. If they come to your area, go see them.

The concert was a celebration of the recovery from Hurricane Katrina on going along the Mississippi Gulf Coast and in Louisiana. It was sponsored by the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute for Southern Jewish Living and the Covenant Foundation. Thank you!!

Y'all need to go see them if you get a chance.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Shabbat Shalom!

An Auto Bailout Plan

It could work and makes sense:

Vested interest
• Why don't the big oil companies bailout the automakers? It makes sense because without cars they aren't going to make very much money are they?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tar and Feathers?

The Republican party has been in some sort of weird denial since losing the presidential election. Many prominent conservatives have been increasingly stating that there is something very wrong with the Republican party. They are being ostracized by their fellow Republicans. I expect some to soon be calling on Kathleen Parker not only to be ostracized but tar and feathered for the column she wrote today. She nails it for the reason so many like me fled to the Democrats after McCain chose Palin as his running mate:

It isn't that culture doesn't matter. It does. But preaching to the choir produces no converts. And shifting demographics suggest that the Republican Party -- and conservatism with it -- eventually will die out unless religion is returned to the privacy of one's heart where it belongs.

Religious conservatives become defensive at any suggestion that they've had something to do with the GOP's erosion. And, though the recent Democratic sweep can be attributed in large part to a referendum on Bush and the failing economy, three long-term trends identified by Emory University's Alan Abramowitz have been devastating to the Republican Party: increasing racial diversity, declining marriage rates and changes in religious beliefs.

It was not only Palin's lack of qualifications which drove many people away. McCain had a chance to be a real maverick and bring the Republican party closer to the center. Instead, he selected Palin as his running mate. She was not qualified and if you do a Youtube search, you can find Palin and some sort of preacher in an odd show of trying to cast out any witchy behavior.

There were so many things wrong with the idea of Palin being vice-president. If she is the Republicans nominee in the 2012 or 2016 presidential races, the death knell of the Republican party will be complete.

During McCain's campaign, we saw their campaign looking toward Joe the Plumber. It times, it seemed good ole Joe was the face of McCain's economic policy. We saw Palin talking about little pockets of what she calls 'real' America. We saw attacks on elites, liberals, and the news media. In short, they attacked everything.

McCain had a real chance to move the Republican party toward the center and away from those who want to ruin our schools by placing Intelligent Design in the curriculum. He had a real chance to move away from the perception that the Republican party is just for evangelical Christians.

If the Republicans keep choosing people such as Huckabee and Palin as leading contenders for presidential nominees, they will lose more and more to either the Democrats or a third party.

There have been many brave conservative voices, such as Kathleen Parker, speaking out about the direction the Republican party is going. I expect some like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck to start calling for Kathleen Parker to be symbolically(if not actually) to be tarred and feathered. An speaking of Glenn Beck, what exactly does he mean by "thinning out the herd"?

After listening to that exchange, this Sinclair Lewis' quote comes to mind:

"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."

Friday, November 14, 2008

Shabbat Shalom!

LOL Palin Edition

Another Question

Jameel left a comment at my post Overturned Shovels. He said he had never heard of the custom of overturning shovels at Jewish funerals. I had never heard of it before Rabbie Annie talked about it. I like the idea. I did a quick google search and only saw one entry in which it was mentioned. Has anyone else heard of it?

Interesting Thanksgiving

First the good news, I will be having a kosher turkey for Thanksgiving! Last year, it was all veggies.

I have a deep secret. In my family, I'm the most liberal. At family gatherings, I've learned to avoid discussing religion since I'm also the only Jew. Politics is another subject I've learned to be hesitant in family discussions. But my secret is out. I told my Mom and youngest sister I voted for Obama.

After my son and I enjoy our Thanksgiving dinner, I'll be heading up to my sister Debbie's home, We always have birthdays and other celebrations at her house. Based on some of the conversations I've had with Mom and my sister Denise, I expect to have a very interesting time.

Thursday, November 13, 2008



Main Entry:
\ˈmȯr-ə-(ˌ)bənd, ˈmär-\
Latin moribundus, from mori to die — more at murder
circa 1721
1 : being in the state of dying : approaching death
2 : being in a state of inactivity or obsolescence
— mor·i·bun·di·ty \ˌmȯr-ə-ˈbən-də-tē, ˌmär-\ noun

The Republican party had a very good chance of changing with the selection of McCain as its presidential nominee. But he blew it with his choice of Palin as his running mate. His campaign became farce with Joe the Plumber. Instead of explaining his economic policy, McCain let an unknown plumber declare that Obama's tax plan sounded like Socialism/Marxism. Instead of explaining his policies, McCain and Palin both tried to use the tactics of fear. Between Palin's "little pockets of 'real' America" and a McCain adviser calling northern Virginia 'fake', a lot of voters, including me, were put off by the divisiveness.

With the selection of Palin, McCain experieinced a bump in poll figures. Yet as more people began to listen to Palin and learn about her, many began to question McCain and his leadership abilities. Many prominent Republicans such as Colin Powell openly endorsed Obama. Today, there are some calling for Operation Leper in order to purge the Republican party of those who don't support Palin. Talk about a cult following.

Obama moved the Democrats toward the center. McCain and Palin have moved the Republicans further right. Obama campaigned on hope and change. The Republicans could only offer the same worn-out tactics of fear and divisiveness.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

2 for 2

A science museum in Mississippi? Yes!! You can help. Biloxi native and astronaut of the Apollo 13 mission Fred Haise is kicking off $2 Our Hero campaign. It seeks to raise $2 from 2 million people.

The Infinity Science Center will be at the Mississippi welcome center on I-10. Currently, those who want to take a tour of Stennis Space Center have to park at the welcome center and wait for scheduled buses. Stennis Space Center has a nice interactive program but other than the space shuttle flight simulator(very, very cool!), most of the activities and films are outdated.

The only thing I would miss is the observation deck at Stennis. It's three stories tall and you can see eagles, falcons, osprey, etc.

Please help. Thanks!

Question of the Day

The election of Barack Obama is historic. The United States has looked beyond the color of person's skin and judged on character. Another historic election comes to mind, that of John Kennedy, the first non-Protestant president.

I have one question. Could a non-Christian be elected president?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

We Salute You

and thank you this Veteran's Day.

Looking for Sense

Jack has summed up nicely and graphically some of the contradictions of those who oppose gay marriage. I must admit, over the years, I've overturned my opposition. Perhaps the older you get, the more compassionate you become. Who are we to deny two people who love one another the chance to marry?

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Panic Edition!

Haveil Havalim 190: Post Election Panic is up.

Overturned Shovels

A few short weeks ago, Mark was able to join us in our ground-breaking. He had been struggling with illness for the past two years and he seemed to be improving. On November 4, he passed away. Friday, our congregation performed the mitzva of burying the dead. Rabbi Annie, from the Princeton Jewish Center, was here with a group of Jewish teenagers who are helping to rebuild the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She explained why we turn the shovels upside down and do not pass it from person to person.
It is done this way because even though we are doing a mitzva, it is one that should be done without haste. It also has to be done as a community.

Mark was full of laughter. He was one of those people that you almost immediately feel a sense of friendship. He was the caretaker for our shul before Hurricane Katrina damaged it beyond repair. He saved our Torah scrolls by evacuating them to a safe place. It has been hard watching he and Mom struggle these past few years. He did it while keeping a sense of humor. We are going to miss him.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Corners of the Field

Jewish law states farmers can not harvest their fields all the way to the corners, nor pick up the gleanings or fallen fruit. These are to be left for the poor and strangers to gather. It also states that the poor cannot gather more than their share. It also states that it is better to give a poor person a job or a loan. This way, the poor person can pull himself up. It further states that all must give tzedakah, the poor as well as the rich.

Jewish tzedakah also has a progressive scale of giving. A rich person is encouraged to give more than the required 10% but less than 20%. No one is to give tzedakah to the point where they will become improvised. Tzedakah is more than just giving charity.

"Tzedakah" is the Hebrew word for the acts that we call "charity" in English: giving aid, assistance and money to the poor and needy or to other worthy causes. However, the nature of tzedakah is very different from the idea of charity. The word "charity" suggests benevolence and generosity, a magnanimous act by the wealthy and powerful for the benefit of the poor and needy. The word "tzedakah" is derived from the Hebrew root Tzadei-Dalet-Qof, meaning righteousness, justice or fairness. In Judaism, giving to the poor is not viewed as a generous, magnanimous act; it is simply an act of justice and righteousness, the performance of a duty, giving the poor their due.

Justice and righteousness is the cornerstone of tzedakah. It is not just the giving money to feed the poor and to cloth the naked. It also is burying the dead. It is also teaching someone a skill in order they may support themselves or loaning them money. It also acknowledges that there are those who will abuse the system in order to get more than their share or refuse to work altogether. Should this stop us from helping those who are in need of food, housing, clothing or need education?

Many of our tax dollars in the United States go to programs to help those in need. Grants and loans are available to those who cannot afford college or vocational school costs. Programs such as WIC, food stamps, etc help to feed the poor. Other programs help the working poor with loans to buy affordable housing. Many of those loans go through FHA since many of those type of loans are under $100,000. Some would like to blame the financial crisis we are experiencing on those loans.

One group received loans through an affordable home mortgage program, called the Community Advantage Program (CAP), designed to expand homeownership among lower-income and minority homebuyers. The other group received subprime mortgage loans.

Researchers compared the default rate (90-day delinquency) within two years of origination. Borrowers with comparable characteristics who had subprime loans were three to five times as likely to go into default as those with CAP loans, the study found.

The working poor are not to blame for the financial crisis. Loans for housing helps improve the community. Grants and student loans also help improve the community. It does so by giving the working poor a hand-up. These programs help to actually increase tax revenue.

Obama's tax plan was met with a great deal of criticism. Some felt it was unfair to add an extra 3% tax burden to those making over $250,000 while at the same time, decreasing the tax burden for those that make less. Some were shouting hysterically that this was Socialism, Marxism, and even Communism.

All of this from the simple idea of lessening the tax burden on the working poor and the middle class. Some argue that increasing the tax burden on those make over $250,000 will lead to job losses and the inability to create jobs. We've been hearing this since Reagan and his 'trickle-down' economics. Since then, we've seen more and more of our jobs go overseas. We've seen a decline in the United States leadership in technology.

President Bush promised more funding for technical and vocational programs to help retrain those who lost jobs. Somehow, funding never came available. Hopefully, Obama will have greater success in his endeavors.

The United States has many social programs that can be likened to the idea of leaving the corners of the fields for the poor and strangers. In the news, you hear reports of those dubbed "Welfare Queens". You seldom hear of the millions of others who needed the help and used it to pull themselves up. Those corners help to improve the lives of all.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Shabbat Shalom!

An American Success

The United States has a long history of rugged individualism. Throughout our history, strong men and women have made a difference. The Founding Fathers fought the British empire over the right to have a government that was by the people and for the people. There were those who sought to end the cruelty of slavery. There were those who faced head-on the guns and batons of businesses who wanted to keep labor unions out. There were leaders such as Abraham Lincoln who did not have access to education and yet, his was curious enough to go out and learn. He went from a log house to the White House.

There are others who are less well-known. Some, like Booker T. Washington I read about in school. Against the background of being born a slave, he succeeded in establishing a college. Theodore Roosevelt invited him to dinner at the White House. One hundred years ago, this was met with much criticism.

Times have changed and for the better. We have a President-elect whose personal history is one that blends overcoming early hardships as well as representing the new mobility of our nation. Obama comes from a broken family. His father was from Kenya. Obama was born in Hawaii just two years after it became a state. He only met his father once and his mother had to go on welfare. With the help of his grandparents, he was able to go to some very good schools. Like many others, he has used the education he received to advance.

It wasn't just his education, which to some means elitism, that propelled him to the White House. Like other leaders in the mold of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan, he goes beyond the simple concept of individualism. All of these leaders succeeded to positions of leadership on their merits. Others have done the same without being well regarded or remembered.

I have my thoughts on why the Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Reagan stand out more so than than Cleveland, Harding, and other presidents. I'm not going to share them at this time. I seem to be at a cross-roads with many of the bloggers I read on a daily basis. I'm inviting opinions.

Why do you think George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan stand-out as presidents?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Real America II

From Obama's celebration on Tuesday.

You Bethca!

Tuesday, the United States averted a disaster. McCain had many great selections to choose from for his choice for Vice-president. Instead of putting country first, he kowtowed to the far religious right and selected Palin. One of the controversies in this years race had to do with NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. According to McCain insiders, Palin couldn't even name all the countries in North America. Maybe she was too busy looking at Russia from her front porch to notice all those other countries. You bethca!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Strength of a Nation

The United States is unique. We somehow are able to weave the 300 million individual opinions that exist and still strive to work together. Sometimes we have arguments that can be very contentious. I know I've been very outspoken about my views on Sarah Palin. Some of my readers, many I consider friends, may have been bewildered at the direction I've been gone these last few weeks. I'm hoping the Republican Party can once again the Big Tent it used to be and no longer consider some parts of America to be 'real' and by that implication, other parts not 'real'.

Our greatest strength has always been us. Some examples:

My Vast Right Wing Conspiracy

Crossing the Rubicon



Seraphic Press

Volokh Conspiracy

Confederate Yankee

Likelihood of Success
Here's to the real America: All of us!!

Update: I'll be adding other links as the day goes by.


Daisy Cuter



Too Close to Call

Usually, as soon as the polls in Mississippi close, the networks declare Mississippi for the Republicans. They are still showing Mississippi too close to call. Alabama was called for McCain in about 15 minutes after the polls closed in that state. West Virginia, which looked like it may have leaned toward Obama last week has been called. Texas, Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Louisiana have been called for McCain.

Georgia, Florida, Virginia, and Mississippi are still too close to call! They just called Virginia for Obama!

Update: At 9:53 PM, Mississippi has now been called for McCain. I think it is still too close to call for Mississippi. The lead McCain has has been diminishing and there is still 36% of precincts not reported.

I'm very happy to say that it looks like Obama will be our next president!!! Florida has been called for Obama!!! Obama now has 324 electoral votes!!!!

Voting Machine Irregularities

Voting Machines Elect One Of Their Own As President

Informal Exit Poll

The radio station I listened to asked callers to tell who they voted for. Some of the responses:

Mickey Mouse
Green Party-Cynthia McKinney
Ralph Nadar
Bob Barr

McCain and Obama votes were tied.

Vote Today

Beautiful weather. Marshall Ramsey of The Clarion Ledger

No matter who is elected today, McCain or Obama, he will be our president. I still think Obama has a chance to win in Mississippi. From the polls, Obama will more than likely be our next president. Record numbers are expected to be voting today. Go vote!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Another Endorsement for Obama

I missed this yesterday The Clarion Ledger, a Jackson Mississippi has endorsed Obama for president. This is a big change for The Clarion Ledger. It had, let's say, a color-skewed view of the Civil Rights Movement.

Since the 1970's, The Clarion-Ledger has been changing as has the whole State of Mississippi. So far, for 2008, there have been no reported cases of hate crimes in Mississippi. There are still KKK members, but most of those handful of sick and twisted people, are ignored. Mississippi has changed so very much from the 1960's. The Clarion-Ledger endorsement of Obama is just another step in the direction for change, hope, and progress. Some excerpts from the endorsement:

McCain has more experience than Obama in the Senate, more knowledge of foreign affairs and has military experience. But Obama, 47, offers the character and achievement of someone his age that is exemplary, including election to his state's legislature, election to the U.S. Senate, editor of the Harvard Law Review and professor of law at the University of Chicago. Few candidates for president have ever had his intellect and academic achievements.

But the American public doesn't always judge candidates on their paper accomplishments either - whether that's Andrew Jackson's roughhewn populism or Reagan's folksiness, or John F. Kennedy's charisma.

We gauge people not only by what they have done, but what we believe they will do, based on who they are and what they have achieved. Voters look for "it," an indefinable something that gives them hope, a thrill, a belief in America.

Obama offers that "something" - call it charm, charisma, a positive vision for the future, a voice for empowerment, a role model for youth - Obama has "it." That seems clear to the young and those who don't regularly engage in politics.

And he has "it," whatever "it" is, with a party machinery eager for change after eight years of corruption, division, war, greed and economic failure.

Martin Luther's I Have a Dream has come so very far when a state known for its evil and rank history of racism can say 40 years later: "We gauge people not only by what they have done, but what we believe they will do, based on who they are and what they have achieved".

I may be disappointed tomorrow morning but I do believe Obama has a chance to win in Mississippi tomorrow. I think the poll numbers are a lot closer than indicated. I may have to eat my words, but I believe the majority of Mississippians want change. Yesterday, WLOX, had coverage on McCain and Obama activities on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Obama supporters walked along the new Biloxi-Ocean Springs Bridge and were filled with enthusiasm.

Another Gotcha Question

iReporter Brad Bailey asks Sarah Palin why he is the only minority there. She responds that that the Constitution preaches equality. Then, she just couldn't help herself. She states, "We live it". She says that because her husband has Native American ancestors. Here's a picture of Todd Palin.

Brad just chuckles after her "We live it" statement.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Real Maverick

The old McCain . This is the person I like and respect.

McCain's Really Bad Choice

I voted by absentee ballot Friday. As of Friday, 6,000 voters in Harrison County had done the same. I still believe the poll numbers are closer Obama in Mississippi than indicated. It may be wishful thinking on my part because I would like Obama to win in Mississippi. The most recent national poll numbers show Obama with a comfortable lead in poll numbers and the latest polls reflect Obama has garnered over 300 electoral votes.

This race could have been a lot closer for McCain. However, the closer to Tuesday, the more negative his campaigning has become. The 'real' America, the 'elitists', the 'fake' Virginia, the 'liberal' media, and so many other catch phrases have turned away many moderate conservatives and independents.

McCain's biggest problem has been the selection of Palin as his running mate. He had a real chance to change the direction the Republican has been heading for many years. The Republican party has been ensnared by the Moral Majority and the evangelical movement.

This has always bothered me. I have always doubted the wisdom of entangling religion with politics. I've mentioned in several previous posts that the United States is not a Christian nation. I believe it to be a nation of Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists, and many others. Little did I know that Obama said basically the same thing:

Read Obama's 2006 "Call to Renewal" address. While affirming his own Christianity as well as his belief in separation of church and state, he called on secularists to respect religion. He also said this: "In fact, because I do not believe that religious people have a monopoly on morality , I would rather have someone who is grounded in morality and ethics, and who is also secular, affirm their morality and ethics and values without pretending that they're some one they're not . . . Moreover, given the increasing diversity of America's population, the dangers of sectarianism. Have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers."

McCain used to have the same view point but the presidential race became more important to him somewhere along the road:

Years ago, on another planet it seems now, McCain called Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and other extreme right-wing pastors "agents of intolerance." That was during his failed 2000 presidential campaign. This time around, he embraced Falwell -- even after the late evangelist blamed 9/11, in part, on "the pagans and the abortionists, and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians."

Earlier this year, he sought and accepted endorsements from Rev. John Hagee, who has called the Catholic Church "The Great Whore", and from Pastor Rod Parsley, his "spiritual adviser," who calls Islam a "false religion" that should be "destroyed." After negative publicity about both endorsements, McCain finally rejected them.

The same Newsweek article asks this of Sarah Palin:

Why didn't she renounce David Brickner, Executive Director of Jews for Jesus, when he spoke earlier this year at Palin's Wasilla Bible Church and described terrorist attacks on Israelis as God's "judgment of unbelief" of Jews who haven't embraced Christianity.

Before Palin was selected to be Vice-President, Adam Brickley started a web-site called Palin for VP. He is described thusly:

Brickley’s family, once evangelical Christians, now practice what he calls “Messianic Judaism.” They believe that Jesus is the Messiah, but they also observe the Jewish holidays and attend synagogue; as Brickley puts it, “Jesus was Jewish, so to be like Him you need to be Jewish, too.” Brickley said that “the hand of God” played a role in choosing Palin: “The longer I worked on it the less I felt I was driving it. Something else was at work.”

Brickley is an authentic heartland voice, but he is also the product of an effort by wealthy conservative organizations in Washington to train activists. He has attended several workshops sponsored by the Leadership Institute, a group based in the Washington area and founded in 1979 by the Christian conservative activist Morton Blackwell. “I’m building a movement,” Blackwell told me. Brickley also participated in a leadership summit held by Young America’s Foundation (motto: “The Conservative Movement Starts Here”) and was an intern at the Heritage Foundation. He currently lives in a dormitory, on Capitol Hill, run by the Heritage Foundation, and is an intern with, a top conservative Web site.

There are others who have doubts about McCain's choice of Palin:

The selection of Palin thrilled the Republican base, and the pundits who met with her in Juneau have remained unflagging in their support. But a surprising number of conservative thinkers have declared her unfit for the Vice-Presidency. Peggy Noonan, the Wall Street Journal columnist, recently wrote, “The Palin candidacy is a symptom and expression of a new vulgarization in American politics. It’s no good, not for conservatism and not for the country. And yes, it is a mark against John McCain.” David Brooks, the Times columnist, has called Palin “a fatal cancer to the Republican Party.” Christopher Buckley, the son of National Review’s late founder, defected to the Obama camp two weeks ago, in part because of his dismay over Palin. Matthew Dowd, the former Bush campaign strategist turned critic of the President, said recently that McCain “knows in his gut” that Palin isn’t qualified for the job, “and when this race is over, that is something he will have to live with. . . . He put the country at risk.”
(Read the rest of New Yorker article)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Less Than 72 Hours!!

The US presidential will be over in less than 72 hours. Plenty, plenty of time to check out Haveil Havalim189-The Elections Edition