Showing posts with label Freedom of Religion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Freedom of Religion. Show all posts

April 29, 2020

Towards Peace and Freedom Among Nations

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "Towards Peace and Freedom Among Nations."
Natan Sharansky showed tremendous personal strength and integrity to respond with humor and wit while suffering under the Soviets in prison, separated from his wife, deprived of all outside contacts, placed in “punishment cells” cold, hungry, and sleep-deprived, and regularly interrogated to try to get him to incriminate himself and his fellow refuseniks and human rights activists. Sharansky is truly a hero who stood up as a Jew persecuted in the Soviet Union and as a human rights activist leading the way to help other refuseniks to get released, with eventually millions escaping through the “Iron Door” to emigrate to freedom in Israel and the United States.

Yesterday, we celebrated Israel’s 72nd Independence Day, so I will add that for too many years since the founding of the State of Israel that the Soviets armed and supported the Arab League nations in warring against Israel and in seeking its destruction. However now, Israel and Russia not only have an anchoring of social idealism in common, but also Israel has 15% of it citizens from there. Further, as Israel has made peace with Egypt and Jordan decades ago, and has a warming of relations with the Gulf States, perhaps Russia will also continue to come around to growing a mutually beneficial friendship with Israel.

(Free Photo via Pixabay)

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January 10, 2020

A Vision of Jewish Strength

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "A Vision of Jewish Strength."
With the rebirth of the State of Israel came the rebirth of the Jew. No longer the Jew cowering in the face of pogroms, Inquisition, Crusades, persecution, expulsions, and the Holocaust. The new Jew, as epitomized by the brave men and women of IDF, would be remade in the image of Moses who led the Jews out of Egyptian slavery, and King David who vanquished our enemies in our land, as well as the Jews of Purim and Hanukah, who fought ever so valiantly and to victory against the great empires of Persia and Greece or for us, whoever rises against us as the modern day equivalent.

But as important to the new Jew as our physical survival is that of our spiritual wellbeing. The persecution of Jews over thousands of years was not just a physical attack, as horrible as it was, but also a spiritual, religious, and cultural one, where Jews were prohibited from learning Torah, worshiping, and practicing as Jews. Thus, the second point of criticality in having the State of Israel is that it provides for Jewish sovereignty and ensures "the Jew as actor, determiner of his or her own destiny." The Jewish people to truly thrive must be able to express themselves through their own language and history, religiously and culturally, and practically through their own leadership and decision-making to forge their own future.

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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December 14, 2019

Another Week, Another Anti-Semitic Attack

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "Another Week, Another Anti-Semitic Attack."
From The Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh to the Poway Synagogue shooting in California to the shooting at the kosher market in Jersey City this week. The latest shooting occurred literally just the day before President Trump issued an executive order at a White House Chanukah celebration to cover anti-Semitic acts under the civil rights laws that ban discrimination based on national origin. Yet, despite the Constitution and all the protective laws and orders on the books, we are getting to the point where it is starting to look and feel awfully like there is nowhere safe anymore if you are a Jew, even in this great land of freedom.

What anti-Semitism, G-d forbid, will the next week bring, and the week after that, and after that? This vile behavior coming from people that hate us just because we are Jews, because we are Jacob and not Esau. May our eyes be open to what is happening around us, and may Hashem have an abundance of mercy on us.

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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October 4, 2019

Celebrating With Security

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "Celebrating With Security."

Take a look around you at the new security measures and people risking their lives for yours and your family. Take a moment to thank them. But also, recognize that the security isn't there just for show, it's there because the hatred and threats have tangibly increased along with the ever present means to carry them out. It is critical that we continue our vigilance and the strengthening of our security measures, because those that hate us for who we are and for our faith are not going away, and unfortunately, they may even continue to grow in numbers and resolve. However, none of us should live in fear and be forced to stay away from our religious institutions, our Torah study, and prayer, but rather to the contrary, we need to stand up strongly--in defiance and in faith!

While I don't know what specific security measures we will see next Rosh Hashanah, I can say with almost absolute certainty that it will be more and not less and that you should definitely be taking notice.

(Image by Robert-Owen-Wahl from Pixabay)

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December 4, 2018

Celebrating Chanukah At Ulpan

It was so nice tonight at Ulpan. 

Morah Degani had a special night planned for us tonight to celebrate Chanukah. 

She called me up to light the candles for the 3rd night and recite the blessing. 

Then she played Chanukah songs and we sang along to the Hebrew words on the screen. 

We later read and talked about the story of Chanukah and all the meaning and significance of it for having freedom of religion/worship and to maintain our religion and not assimilate. 

It was a beautiful way to learn and practice our Hebrew. 

Happy 3rd night of Chanukah! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 2, 2018

On The First Night Of Chanukah

Please see my article in The Times of Israel called, "The Lesson of the Candy Lane Menorah."
It was a beautiful ushering in the first night of Chanukah by Chabad of Bethesda, Maryland. The "candy" menorah that they were going to use was somehow destroyed, but Chabad came with a spare--they are terrific...even when things go wrong, miracles can happen, but we have to be prepared like Chabad was tonight.

Happy First Night of Chanukah to everyone! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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October 27, 2018

Shooting at The Tree of Life

Please read my new article in The Times of Israel called, "Devastation at The Tree of Life Shooting."
No, this is certainly not the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden--this murderous scene was certainly no Eden! On this Shabbat there is not life in that holy house of worship, but another familiar Jewish massacre from a gunman screaming, "All the Jews need to die!"
Let us be strong together and hope for the full redemption when peace and brotherhood will soon prevail. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 22, 2016

Did You Know You're A Sinner

So walking down the street here yesterday, I ran into a sign and was handed a postcard, declaring:
"Sin Awareness Day"

Then I was confronted by a gentleman (or not so gentle) who proceeded to explain to me that I--and everyone else--are sinners!

Innocently, I ask, "Well, what have I done?"

The missionary answers with a stern face, "I'm sure you have lied!"

I said, "I don't think so," but then to play alone, I smirked and said, "Well what if I did?"

He answers and says, "You'll need to repent!"

Thinking that Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) is right around the corner in a couple of weeks, I thought to myself, hey that's right in line with where I'm going anyway...

The guy continues--of course--to try to enlist me to his "savior" that he believes can save us from all our sins. 

I challenged and said, "Well, how about Moses?"

He roars back, "Moses?!!!" and starts railing on about "convert, convert, convert." 

Uh no, thank you, I am fine with the faith of my father, and grandfathers, and great grandfathers, etc. 

And I appreciate if we can avoid the forcible conversion parts of yesteryear from various empires, caliphates, crusades, and inquisitions, with no shortage of associated torture, executions, and expulsions. 

Then breaking this historical context and glancing at the back of the postcard that he handed out, I did like this one thing that it said:
"Sin is not primarily a measure of how bad you are, but a measure of how good you are not."

Heck, why be negative about ourselves (we are not inherently bad); instead see that we not living up to our potential and try, always, to do better. 

In that I am definitely a believer!  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 20, 2016

Attack On Human Rights

So we're sitting in the coffee shop and this guy near us has some books on the table. 

He's reading three things:

- The Holy Bible

- Second Amendment Primer

- The Heller Case (the landmark decision by the Supreme Court in 2008 protecting an individual's right to bear arms for self-defense in "federal enclaves"). 

So somebody says jokingly, "You think he's a Republican?"

It made me think how we get judged by not only our behaviors, but also by our apparent beliefs, politics, and associations. 

Even if we don't necessarily do anything wrong or controversial, people see us, sum us up, and place judgment upon us. 

Moreover, while we may have a legal right to do something, people may still look disparagingly on us for exercising our rights.

Speak your mind freely, practice your religion openly, stand firm on privacy, own a gun in a liberal part of town, and you may find yourself being stared, pointed, or sneered at, whispered about, threatened, harassed, or otherwise disapproved of in small and/or big ways. 

My question is how is something a right if people still can mistreat you for exercising it in appropriate ways?  

I've heard people say things like you're eligible for X, Y, or Z, but you're not entitled to it.

They confuse rights with eligibility, rather than entitlement. 

So some people water down our Bill of Rights that way--thinking, saying, and acting in way that you are eligible to do something, BUT only if you ask nicely or do it a certain way that the other person arbitrarily approves of, and not that you are entitled to it as a basic human right!

Yes, of course, we all need to behave responsibly and not yell fire in a crowded theater, but that doesn't mean that human rights are subject to the whim of people's mood's, tempers, personal views, and bullying behavior. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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