Monthly Archives: August 2014

Thoughts on Gaza—by Peter Eisenstadt

Thoughts on Gaza
Peter Eisenstadt

How can I write about the Gaza War? How can I not write about the Gaza War? These are the questions I have tormenting myself with this summer, trying to write something and finding, time and again, that I can’t.

On the one hand, the Gaza War has been an absolute horror, a war blundered into by both sides, a war that has accomplished nothing, has solved nothing, has created over 2,000 corpses, destroyed countless buildings, and has made, if possible, both sides hate and fear the other side more than before.   And if you add the still developing story of ISIS to the mix, this August is right up there with the famously unfun summers of 1914 and 1939 as one of the most unrelievedly gloomy and depressing summers of all time.

read more

Deborah The Prophetess & Yael: Two Poems For Parashat Shoftim—by Barbara D. Holender

Deborah The Prophetess & Yael: Two Poems for Parashat Shoftim
Barbara D. Holender

Deborah The Prophetess

So, Barak, we’ve won the big fight
and Sisera’s done for
and good old Deborah’s one of the boys.
Off to the battlefield, Deborah,
I won’t go if you don’t, Deborah–
Why doesn’t it occur to you
I want to wear gorgeous robes
and smell of perfume
and just stay home, like Jael.

How come I know everything in advance
and you know nothing from yesterday?
For days before the battle
your men kept pure from women–
Where do you think your army went
all hot with victory
while you were counting Canaanite foreskins?
Damn it, Barak, wake up!

read more

Ferguson Must Have an American Response—by Peter Eisenstadt and Ayala Emmett

Ferguson Must Have an American Response
Peter Eisenstadt and Ayala Emmett
August 28 2014

Michael Brown, an unarmed 18 year old, shot and killed, his body uncovered, exposed to the sun for more than four hours–was finally laid to rest on Monday. For the last time, and finally with dignity, Michael Brown a mother’s child, a father’s namesake was surrounded, embraced, and mourned by family, friends, ordinary citizens, celebrities, clergy and politicians. So many people inside the church and outside paid their respects but America, or more specifically, white America–with very few exceptions–was absent. There were no visible white clergy and no 2016 political aspirants. It seemed that the Ferguson tragedy was black Americans’ grief.

read more

God in the IDF: Two Israeli Colonels Write Letters

God in the IDF: Two Israeli Colonels Write Letters
August 22, 2014

The Jewish Pluralist publishes today two letters by IDF Colonels with opposing views on the place of God and religion in the Israeli army. The letters were sent to us by David Langerman and Batya Sadot who served in the IDF. They are concerned that the IDF historic freedom from religious coercion has been eroded.

The letters of the two commanders capture a move to bring religion as policy into the IDF and the distress and fears that this move has caused; the letters are published here in their entirety. The first letter, by Colonel Ofer Winter commander of the Givati Brigade was addressed to all Givati soldiers, placing God at the center of the battle in Rafah; the second letter was a critical response by Colonel (Reserve) Ilan Eshel claiming that religion as policy has no place in the IDF.

read more

Zipporah—by Barbara D. Holender

Zipporah
Barbara D. Holender
For this week  parashat Re’eh

I know I’ll never get that house he promised me.
We’ve had an option on the property for years.
You’d think it was a million miles away–
we could have been there already,
but first he won’t take the responsibility
and then he drags along the whole mischpoche.

I can’t reach him, his head’s in the clouds.
Moses, I tell him, a promise is a promise;
and he says, It’s a firm commitment,
have a little faith. But nothing
keeps happening
and happening
and happening.

read more

A Tisha B’Av Redux–by Nick Clark

A Tisha B’Av Redux
Nick Clark
Temple B’rith Kodesh
August 11, 2014 / 15 Av 5774
Rochester, NY

Tisha B’Av. It is the annual Jewish day of mourning and reflection, remembering the destruction of the first and second Jewish temples in Jerusalem. Over time “this” has come to include subsequent horrors visited upon the Jewish people including the Holocaust, the conflict in present day Gaza, and the growing anti-Jewish attitudes in France, Germany and other countries.

Some Jewish thinkers have made the case that these events should be not be so much mourned as celebrated.

read more

Thoughts In Times of War—by Paul Goldberg

Thoughts In Times of War
Paul Goldberg
Written in Rochester, NY
August 18, 2014

Forces driving me today, war in Israel and indeed in the entire area, but really my own focus is Israel and war in Ukraine, which seems more immediate since our time in Kiev and the Baltic capitals only last October.

I watch the news in so many ways, listening to NPR, reading the Kindle edition of the New York Times, reading emails and stories on Facebook and Google+ and oh yes sometimes on the television, although I must admit that the Daily Show and Colbert Report are more likely to capture my attention than CNN, NBC or Fox. It seems that no matter how I let the world into my awareness, no matter how I try to filter the media stream, word of war/terrorism/mindless killing will find its way into my awareness.

read more

Miriam’s Well—by Barbara D. Holender

Miriam’s Well
Barbara D. Holender

Due to the merits of Miriam, a mysterious well, created on the eve of the first Sabbath, accompanied the Children of Israel in the desert.
Midrash

It followed her everywhere
like a lover, easing us to rest,
springing from hidden places
in our wanderings.

Always we were thirsty. Angered
by our wailing, she’d stamp her feet.
Even from the pools of her heelprints
we drank.

Once in anguish
she beat the rocks with her bare hands
again and again, weeping.
Water gushed, cleansing her blood,
soaking her hair, her robe.
She cupped her hands, rinsed her mouth,
spat; she splashed, she played.
Laughing, we filled our bellies.

read more

My Mom and Lauren Bacall—by Peter Eisenstadt

My Mom and Lauren Bacall
Peter Eisenstadt

My mom loved Lauren Bacall. Perhaps that is not the right word. My mom was Lauren Bacall. You have to understand that my late mother, Betty Eisenstadt (nee Cooperstein) was not the sort of woman who spent her time pouring over movie magazines or gazing at Hollywood stars. She was a serious young woman. But the similarities were too strong and striking to be ignored.

They were both Bettys. Bacall was born Betty Joan Perske. (My mom was actually born Bessie Cooperstein, but when she was a teenager her sisters told her that Bessie was a name for a cow, not a young woman, and she became Betty.) They were about the same age—Bacall was two years older than my mom. They both were native New Yorkers who grew up on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, or really, in Yorkville, when it still was one of the largest German communities in the city. (My mom remembered her and her girlfriends trying to disturb assemblies of the pro-Nazi German-American Bund by throwing paper bags of horse manure into meetings.) They both attended the same high school, Julia Richman, a “commercial school” that tracked many bright young women, like my mom and Lauren Bacall, away from a college prep, academic track. And perhaps most important, they both were Jews, daughters of immigrants, members of the first large cohort of Eastern European Jews born in the United States.

read more

My Mom and Lauren Bacall—by Peter Eisenstadt

My Mom and Lauren Bacall—by Peter Eisenstadt

My Mom and Lauren Bacall

Peter Eisenstadt

My mom loved Lauren Bacall. Perhaps that is not the right word. My mom was Lauren Bacall. You have to understand that my late mother, Betty Eisenstadt (nee Cooperstein) was not the sort of woman who spent her time pouring over movie magazines or gazing at Hollywood stars. She was a serious young woman. But the similarities were too strong and striking to be ignored.

They were both Bettys. Bacall was born Betty Joan Perske. (My mom was actually born Bessie Cooperstein, but when she was a teenager her sisters told her that Bessie was a name for a cow, not a young woman, and she became Betty.) They were about the same age—Bacall was two years older than my mom. They both were native New Yorkers who grew up on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, or really, in Yorkville, when it still was one of the largest German communities in the city. (My mom remembered her and her girlfriends trying to disturb assemblies of the pro-Nazi German-American Bund by throwing paper bags of horse manure into meetings.) They both attended the same high school, Julia Richman, a “commercial school” that tracked many bright young women, like my mom and Lauren Bacall, away from a college prep, academic track. And perhaps most important, they both were Jews, daughters of immigrants, members of the first large cohort of Eastern European Jews born in the United States.

read more