Monthly Archives: January 2016

The Lady or the Tiger: Some Theses—by Peter Eisenstadt

images-211) The question of the hour for liberal Democrats is the choice. Who will it be? For those living in South Carolina, where the primary is coming up in a few weeks, the decision is imminent.

2) Hillary Clinton has been at the forefront of American politics for an astonishingly long time, for a quarter-century. No one else on the scene from the early 1990s, including her husband, is still a major political player. It is a career with few parallels, male or female, in recent American political history. read more

Crossing the Bridge with Dr. King*—by Ayala Emmett

images-16Last Sunday we crossed the Ford Street Bridge, three Jewish women in a car with a GPS looking for Mt. Olivet Baptist Church. We were on our way to join a prayer service to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King. Our visit would be the second part of a get-together that had begun on Friday at Temple B’rith Kodesh, welcoming the Reverend Rickey Harvey and members of Mt. Olivet Church. Magnificent music had infused our Sabbath service as our two choirs joined. We sang, bodies swaying and hands clapping in the presence of oneness of Jews and African Americans praying without borders and with boundless joy. The service defied histories of divisions, refused acrimonies and produced a “we the people.” read more

We Too Are Plagued–by Deborah L.R. Kornfeld

Flint Water Disaster Lead contamination is poisoning children
Flint Water Disaster
Lead contamination
is poisoning children

“You will be liberated! God hasn’t forgotten you! The Almighty has heard your cries!” declares Moshe as he speaks to the Israelites in the beginning of the book of Exodus( parshat VeEra). Pretty good news you might say. Did they cheer and run to their homes to pack up their paltry possession? Did they breathe a sigh of relief and hug one another thrilled that their ordeal would soon be over? Were they revved up and ready to go? No, no, no- they looked back at Moshe with empty eyes and a shrug. The Torah tells us that “ ve- lo shamu el Moshe mkotzer ruach omavoda kasha.” (They didn’t listen to Moshe because of a contraction of their spirit and all the hard work.” This phrase “kotzer ruach” has been translated as anguish or disappointment, but neither of these translations catch the heavy weight of a people so long oppressed that the eternal hope, that tiny little flame, that often buoys a people through difficult experiences is barely a flicker. read more


No More ignorance
No More ignorance

A group of starving young students from Manchuria assembled during mid-morning on Legation Street in Beijing only four days after my husband and I arrived for our vacation. They sat quietly and in an orderly fashion. They had sent a representative to petition the mayor for provisions of food. We had front row seats to the event as our compound was across the way from the mayor’s residence. The students looked no more than thirteen or fourteen years old. They had no weapons. They just sat on the street waiting for their spokesman to return from the mayor’s mansion. The group politely moved aside to make room for me when I went out to shop for antiques that afternoon. Mort and I happened to return from our respective errands at the same time. read more

New York Values –by Peter Eisenstadt

images-18It is not easy to cede the moral high ground to one Donald Trump, but Ted Cruz accomplished this remarkable feat by accusing his rival for the Republican presidential nomination of being an incarnation of “New York values”—“I think most people know exactly what New York values are: socially liberal, pro gay-marriage, pro-abortion, focused on money and the media.” Trump, in response, knocked Cruz’s crude slurs out of the park, speaking of 9/11 and the subsequent rebuilding.

It is a myth that New York City is the archetypal liberal city. Since the end of the term of John Lindsay in 1973 to the election of Bill DeBlasio in 2013, New York City elected exactly one liberal for one term, David Dinkins, along with the moderate Democrat Abe Beame; three terms of the conservative Democrat Ed Koch; two terms of the even more conservative Republican, Rudolf Giuliani; and three terms of the moderate to conservative quasi Republican mega-billionaire, Michael Bloomberg. And as Trump pointed out, New York City was the home of William F. Buckley, to which many other conservative luminaries can be added; Brooklyn born and raised economist Milton Friedman, as well as that lifetime New Yorker, Madison Grant, the author of The Passing of the Great Race, and in my opinion, the most influential anti-Semite in American history. read more

If I am Not For Myself, etc. (Thoughts About the AHA Vote)* -by Peter Eisenstadt

images-17Over the weekend, I attended the American Historical Association (AHA) annual convention in Atlanta. Historians, as a rule, are not a particularly raucous bunch, and the 3,500 or so historians generally went about their business quietly, delivering papers, buying books, trying to cadge free food at various receptions, and the like. But there was one exciting moment. At the business meeting, there was a vote on a resolution introduced by an organization called Historians Against the War (HAW)condemning Israeli interference with higher education and academic freedom on the West Bank and Gaza, and calling on the AHA to monitor Israel’s behavior. This resolution was tailored to garner as much support as possible, and unlike earlier resolutions introduced by HAW, it did not explicitly call for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Still, it was an attempt to get the AHA on record against Israel’s educational policies, and perhaps use it as a toehold from which to launch stronger BDS resolutions. read more

Measuring Joy –by Sharon Knapp

Joy Jar
Joy Jar

It’s winter, and because we live in an area where there’s snow on the ground for nearly as many months as there’s not, it’s sometimes hard not to experience the doldrums. Last year, my partner and I decided to find a way to combat the negativity that winter brings by focusing on the little things that brought us joy. We decided to take our favorite glass cookie jar and repurpose it. It became what we called our Joy Jar, and we set it in a prominent spot in our kitchen so we’d pass it every day. read more

President Obama’s State of Union and ICE Deporting Children and Mothers—by Ayala Emmett

State of the Union
State of the Union

Why is this night different from all other nights? It is different because tonight President Obama will give his last State of the Union address.
Yet, there are news today of another unceremonious, undemocratic and without due process event, “ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] personnel have entered homes—sometimes without a warrant or consent—and roused children from beds before taking families into custody.”

The painful dissonance that frames this day was underscored as I heard on NPR this morning about the deportation of these children and mothers asylum seekers, and at the same time I read an appealing and democratic email from the much admired First Lady Michelle Obama, “Tonight, Ayala, Barack gives his final State of the Union speech, where he’ll talk about his vision for this next year and beyond.
Everything we’ve accomplished…is possible only because of the incredible support we’ve seen from people like you, Ayala.
So I want to say thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for standing by our President’s side for the past seven years. And I want to make sure you’ll be tuning in tonight at 9:00 p.m. ET, so you can hear for yourself, one last time, what Barack has to say about how, together, we can keep moving our country forward: Thanks for standing with us, Ayala. Now, let’s finish what we started — together.”
read more

PBS ‘Frontline’ Netanyahu Profile: Informative but Incomplete*—by Ralph Seliger

With “Netanyahu at War,” the PBS Frontline series continues its tradition of visiting its subject with a combination of fast-paced dramatic footage, sprinkled with authoritative talking heads providing commentary with some (limited) variation of views. It understandably features commentators who have been in the spotlight on Israel, including Dennis Ross, Ari Shavit, Peter Beinart, Jeffrey Goldberg, and David Remnick.

Unremarkably for a less than two-hour broadcast, it is not anything like a complete run-down of major events in the past 20 years since Netanyahu first first became prime minister in 1996. Perhaps surprisingly, however, there is no mention of Ariel Sharon, the Gaza Disengagement, Ehud Olmert, Operation Protective Edge (the Gaza war of 2014); likewise, there is nothing on how Netanyahu bested Livni in 2009 despite having fewer votes (in fact, the only mention of Livni is one appearance as a talking head about something else). There is no mention of how he defeated Herzog in 2015 by rallying votes from other right-wing parties in the eleventh hour; you’d never know that the plurality vote for his Likud party last year was a mere 23% of the total. The details of how Israel is governed by coalitions of diverse parties may seem too arcane for television, but it is important in understanding Israeli politics. read more

Women Launch the Exodus and Confront Book Banning in Jerusalem*—by Ayala Emmett

images-1The first day of 2016 featured women in politics. It happened in synagogues last Shabbat on January 1, as we read the opening chapters of the Book of Exodus in which six women make history and emerge as political catalysts. All are remarkably brave; all are women who make bold moves in the political/ethnic/religious arena of their time. Framed in contemporary political lexicon, the women speak truth to power, brand civil disobedience, and defy book banning and closing of the mind in Jerusalem. My reading of Torah within the current politics of book banning and fear-mongering in Jerusalem is informed by the idea that in a Jewish universe, word and world are in frequent dialogue. read more