French Olympian apologizes for comparing Rio fans to Berlin games


A French Olympian apologized for comparing the booing he suffered at the Rio Olympics to what black American sprinter Jesse Owens went through at the 1936 Berlin games under Nazi rule.

“Yes, sorry for the bad comparaison [sic] I made,” pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie tweeted Thursday. “It was a hot reaction and I realize it was wrong. Sorry to everyone.”

Lavillenie made the comparison at a news conference Monday after being booed by Brazilian fans, who apparently saw him as the biggest threat to the Brazilian pole vaulter Thiago Braz de Silva.

“For the Olympics, [booing] is not a good image. I did nothing to the Brazilians,” Lavillenie, 29, said at the news conference. “In 1936 [at the Berlin Olympics], the crowd was against Jesse Owens. We’ve not seen this since. We have to deal with it.”

On Tuesday night, Lavillenie won the silver medal and Braz de Silva took the gold. The crowd booed the French runner-up nonetheless, and Lavillenie was later consoled by Braz de Silva and former Ukrainian pole vaulter Sergei Bubka, a gold medalist and one-time record holder.

Owens earned four gold medals at the 1936 games, earning a hostile reaction from Adolf Hitler and many in the crowd at the Berlin Olympic stadium.

Ginsburg apologizes for her attacks on Donald Trump


Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has apologized for her public attacks on Donald Trump.

“On reflection, my recent remarks and response to press inquiries were ill advised and I regret making them,” she said in a comment delivered by the court on Thursday. “Judges should avoid commenting on a candidate for public office. In the future, I will be more circumspect.”

Ginsburg, 83, has told several interviewers in recent days that Trump, a billionaire real estate magnate and the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, is unfit for office.

Direct criticism of a nominee by a Supreme Court justice is rare, if not unprecedented, although there have been tensions between justices and sitting presidents over the years.

Her comments had drawn fire not just from conservatives but from many of her liberal supporters. Both the Washington Post and The New York Times editorial pages said she had been inappropriate.

“He is a faker,” Ginsburg said of Trump on Monday in a CNN interview. “He has no consistency about him. He says whatever comes into his head at the moment. He really has an ego.”

She also wondered: “How has he gotten away with not turning over his tax returns?”

Over the weekend Ginsburg told The New York Times that she did “not even want to contemplate” a Trump presidency.

Trump called on Ginsburg to resign and questioned her mental acuity. He seemed to suggest on Twitter that he would try to force her out, although presidents do not have the power to remove Supreme Court justices.

“If I win the Presidency, we will swamp Justice Ginsburg with real judges and real legal opinions!” he said Wednesday on Twitter.

There was some conversation on social media on whether Trump intended to say “swamp” or “swap.”

Sanders campaign apologizes for ejecting pro-Palestinian group from rally


The presidential campaign of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders has apologized for ejecting members of a pro-Palestinian student group from a rally in Boston.

Members of the Boston Students for Justice in Palestine appeared Oct. 3 at a large rally for Sanders at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. They stood in the overflow area, where the speech was being broadcast on a large screen, holding a sign reading: “Will Ya #Feel The Bern 4 Palestine??!”

Group members said they were approached by police and venue staff and told that the Sanders campaign team asked them to take down the sign, according to the group’s Facebook page. Police then told them they were trespassing and threatened them with arrest if they did not leave the venue. 

“We understand we may have asked a tough question for Bernie’s campaign. However, what concerns us most about being unwelcome in this political space on the basis of a sign is not what is says about Bernie’s stance on Palestine, but rather, his team’s refusal to entertain diverse viewpoints,” the post said.

The group also posted a video on YouTube of the activists’ ejection from the venue.

Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager, told the Washington Post on Oct. 5 that the instructions to take down the sign came from a “rogue” low-level campaign employee.

“That person has been excluded from working on any of our future events,” Weaver said. He also said that the campaign called and apologized to the student group.

When saying sorry, don’t just speak–act


Last week, I betrayed a trust.

It was accidental, a seemingly small, ordinary mistake rooted in simple human forgetfulness (and perhaps a speck of carelessness if I’m being honest about it), but a mistake that nevertheless affected a friend’s life in a serious way. I felt awful, so I did what little I could to repair the shattered trust: I apologized sincerely. I promised myself I wouldn’t slip up again. And, when saying sorry didn’t feel like enough, I wrote a check.

Donating money to my friend’s favorite charity wasn’t designed to win her forgiveness or absolve my responsibility. That may be beyond my reach. But it was an action that I hope reinforced to both of us the seriousness of my regret. I may never erase that wrong, but doing some amount of good in her honor felt like a step in the right direction, a reminder to keep trying amid and despite moments of personal failure.

In Judaism, a sense of justice rarely ends at apology alone; it’s laced with action, too. Admitting mistakes to oneself and to others helps maintain the social glue that keeps us able to function as a community. But written Scripture and oral tradition also demand a moral and legal reckoning for putting wrongs to right. Concepts such as tikkun olam, or repairing the world through just action, go hand in hand with virtues of apology to God and to our fellows. Together, these ideas interlock into a pattern of behavior that’s often held aloft as the paragon of an ethical Jewish life: Doing the right thing not to reach some higher echelon after death, but for the sake of goodness alone.

To me, the ancient and modern actions that buttress apology — settling a fine with livestock, cooking someone their favorite treat or donating funds electronically — aren’t just punitive. In fact, I’ll argue that capping off an admission of guilt with a kind gesture can do as much for the “transgressor” (to use the language of the High Holy Days) as it does for the wronged. The way I see it, attempting to correct a mistake has the added effect of mentally repaving the principled path we’re meant to follow year-round — as Jews, yes, and as ordinary people, too. 

The moral math I’m proposing isn’t exactly tit-for-tat. Does buying a few extra boxes of Girl Scout Cookies make up for speeding off after tapping a car in a crowded parking lot? Of course not. How about holding open a door for someone after snapping at your parent or spouse? Not a chance (but hold the door anyway). 

Whitewashing bad behavior with good doesn’t do enough to address the initial complaint, especially when there’s an opportunity to smooth things over one on one, as uncomfortable, awkward and clumsy as that discussion may be.

In traditional Jewish belief, asking for forgiveness from the person we impacted is the only way to adequately settle the score, but we have no control over the outcome of that exchange, especially if the degree of hurt is more severe than “sorry.” What if they don’t forgive? And are placating words really enough?

Think back. Has there been a time of true remorse in your life that you’d rather spackle over than leave exposed? I’m guessing that for many, doing something the wrong way leaves a mark on us as well as on the person we’ve mistreated, intentionally or not. If you feel unworthy after extending the olive branch, like I did, now is the time to telescope your apology into something bigger. Engaging in a selfless act, such as picking up a shift at the local food bank, could help soothe your damaged sense of self while also doing right by someone else.

Every fall, the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur holidays offer a framework for admitting personal and collective wrongdoings. I take comfort in their formal, ritualized mechanism for expressing contrition: the vocal admission of all the not-so-nice things we humans are capable of, and the chest-tapping that physically warns against our baser instincts.

Together, we may not have embezzled great sums from our workplace or “run to do evil,” but the sentiment is clear: You may not have done this, but you’ve probably done something.

A central tenet during the High Holy Days season is the Hebrew word teshuvah. It embraces the concept of “returning,” and is a kinder, gentler alternative to the more prescriptive, condemning idea of “atoning” for one’s sins. Teshuvah invites us to return to blameless behavior and to pick up where we left off, forging the best version of ourselves we can possibly be. But what of our “sins,” which still lead back to us like a trail of blackened breadcrumbs? These cannot be returned. Unable to go back, to sweep away past actions we’re ashamed of, we must do our best to step forward.

It pains me to admit that my uglier instincts aren’t as straitjacketed as I’d like them to be. Every week I seem to behave in ways I wish I hadn’t, snapping at people who don’t really deserve my ire, or acting selfishly when it wouldn’t kill me to be a bit more patient and generous. I suspect I’m not alone. We hear it all of the time: Humans are fallible creatures, prone to rampages of egotistical self-importance, and bound up in micro-dramas of daily life. But I can’t help but think that if, after apologizing, we start to counterbalance bad deeds with better ones, then we again silence our ever-escaping demons and again encourage ourselves to live the right way. And if, in the process, our homes, our relationships, our neighborhoods benefit, then I wouldn’t apologize
for that. 

A California native, Jessica Dolcourt has nurtured a lifelong passion for Jewish issues and writing. She also writes about technology for CNET.

At J Street U event, Hillel president regrets hurt for backing out of J Street conference


Eric Fingerhut, the president of Hillel International, apologized to J Street U student leaders for any hurt he caused when he backed out as a speaker at the group’s conference in March.

Fingerhut was speaking Monday before 122 leaders during J Street U’s three-day summer leadership institute at a conference center in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

“There’s no question that the political dynamics are fraught, and I know we had that conversation,” Fingerhut said while gesturing to Benjy Cannon, the immediate past president of J Street U, the campus affiliate of the liberal pro-Israel lobbying group. “But there’s nobody responsible for any hurt that occurred in March except me.”

Fingerhut said he “took a step back” from the conference, which he reportedly pulled out of under donor pressure, when it became clear that his speaking during the J Street U conference could be viewed as an endorsement of the group’s policies.

“This is about engaging students,” Fingerhut said. “It’s not about endorsing an organization’s political agenda because Hillel doesn’t do that.”

Fingerhut talked mainly about inclusion in Hillel and the growing anti-Semitism frequently attached to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions efforts on campus posing a serious threat, but the student activists tried to steer the conversation toward Israel’s occupation, the two-state solution with the Palestinians and their feeling of marginalization by the wider Jewish community.

Several students said the Jewish community’s unwillingness to address the occupation and Palestinian suffering made it difficult for pro-Israel students to combat BDS on campus.

Zoe Goldblum, a sophomore at Stanford University and the newly elected vice president for the Northwest region of J Street U, detailed to Fingerhut how the BDS campaign on her campus turned into a referendum on race, oppression and occupation. She described a meeting in which pro-divestment students, mostly people of color, sat on one side of the room wearing red wristbands and kaffiyehs, while on the other side, wearing blue and white T-shirts, were the mostly white pro-Israel students.

It set a dynamic, she said, of “you can either support divestment and support anti-oppression, anti-occupation, or you can be a pro-Israel student.” For students who oppose oppression and occupation while supporting Israel, she said, the choice was “wrenching.”

“Mr. Fingerhut, I am telling you this story because I and students like me honestly do not know what to do when we go back to school in a few weeks,” Goldblum said. “As the president of Hillel International, what do you think I should do?”

Fingerhut responded that Hillel is proactively building coalitions and mending frayed relationships with students of color and with social justice movements.

On the influence of donors and stakeholders in the Jewish community, Boston University’s Solomon Tarlin related that following his Hillel student board’s decision to include the group, major donors began haranguing the Hillel director. When Tarlin asked if others had similar experiences, more than a dozen hands were raised.

“How can we work together to counteract the outside forces that are restricting our ability to fight for Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state?” Tarlin asked.

Fingerhut responded, “The debate, with all due respect, is not between J Street and powers that be in the community, it’s amongst the Jewish people, amongst the Jewish community on campus, some of whom will agree with you, some of whom won’t.”

Hillel’s responsibility, he continued, is to make sure all pro-Israel student groups have a home at Hillel so students can decide for themselves what position to take.

Many in Boston unmoved by marathon bomber’s apology


Before he was sentenced to death on Wednesday, Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev apologized in court for his role in the attack and its aftermath that claimed four lives and injured 264.

But few in Boston, from the survivors of the April 15, 2013 attack to the city's streets, were impressed by the 21-year-old man's words.

“I regret ever wanting to hear him speak, because he showed no remorse, no regret,” said Lynn Julian, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in the bombing and still lives near the site of the blasts. “He threw in an apology to the survivors that seemed insincere.”

Tsarnaev, an ethnic Chechen who immigrated to the United States with his family a decade before the attack, began his remarks on Wednesday by noting that it was the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a time of forgiveness, before going on to apologize and ask for blessings on his victims.

He said that he had been moved during his trial when he learned about the lives of the four people killed and 264 injured in the bombing and its chaotic aftermath. The bombing was one of the highest-profile attacks in the United States since Sept. 11, 2001.

“You told me how horrendous this was, this burden that I put you through,” Tsarnaev said in a soft, lightly accented voice. “I ask Allah to bestow his mercy upon those who are here today.”

Prosecutors showed evidence during the trial that the Tsarnaev brothers were adherents of al-Qaeda's militant Islamist philosophy and said the pair carried out their attack to “punish America.”

Scott Weisberg, a physician from Birmingham, Alabama, who was among two dozen people who spoke about the attack's toll on their lives in court, was also unmoved by Tsarnaev's statement.

“He said that he was remorseful, and I find that hard to believe, since I have come to a lot of the trial and never really saw that at all from him,” Weisberg said. “That's not going to change my impression of him.”

A Boston electrician waiting for a train at the South Station transit hub laughed when asked if he was moved by Tsarnaev's apology.

“I really don't think anything he says at this point can have an effect,” said Matt Schulze, 31. “The guy blew people up. I don't want to hear, 'I'm sorry.' I want him in a dark hole.”

As a legal matter, the apology came too late to have much bearing on the process, said Michael Casssidy, a Boston College Law School professor. U.S. District Judge George O'Toole had no choice on Wednesday but to impose the death sentence the jury had voted for in May.

“It is too bad Tsarnaev did not testify in this fashion during the punishment stage of the trial,” Cassidy said. “Such a display of remorse, recognition of damage, and request for mercy may have spared him the death penalty.”

Not everyone who heard Tsarnaev's words was unmoved.

Henry Borgard, who had been walking past the race's finish line when the bombs went off, on Wednesday discussed the psychological toll of the blast in court.

“I made the mistake of looking over at him as I was giving my statement and he was looking right over at me, which was a little disconcerting,” said Borgard, accompanied by the service dog that helps him cope with post-traumatic stress disorder. “When I made eye contact with him, it wasn't like looking in the face of a criminal; it was like looking in the face of a boy.”

Borgard, who at 23 is just two years older than Tsarnaev, said he forgave him.

“I'm going to take it on faith that what he said was genuine,” Borgard said. “Some of it was hard to hear, but I really was profoundly affected.”

Vatican says Pope meant no offense calling Abbas ‘angel of peace’


Pope Francis meant no offense to Israel by referring to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as being “an angel of peace” and intended to encourage harmony between the two sides, the Vatican said on Tuesday.

Francis met Abbas at the Vatican on Saturday and used the words as he presented the Palestinian president with a large bronze medallion representing the angel of peace, one of his customary gifts to visiting presidents.

Receiving Abbas at the papal apartments, the Argentine pontiff, speaking in Italian, said the medallion was an appropriate gift because “you are a bit an angel of peace”, according to a reporter representing several news agencies at the meeting.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said he had not heard the remarks himself and had nothing to add to the words attributed to the pope by the pool reporter.

“It is clear that there was no intention to offend anyone,” Lombardi told Reuters.

Early reports had conflicted as to whether the pope urged Abbas to be an “angel of peace” or if he had described him as such.

The pope met Abbas a few days after the Vatican formalized its recognition of the Palestinian state, a move which riled Israel's government.

The Vatican said after Saturday's meeting that the two had expressed hope that talks between the two sides could resume after breaking down a year ago.

Francis and Abbas, who met last year with former Israeli president Shimon Peres in an unprecedented inter-religious event at the Vatican, had a “very colloquial” exchange as they exchanged gifts, Lombardi said in a statement.

“In any case, the sense of encouraging a commitment to peace was very clear and I believe that the very gift of the symbol of an angel of peace was made by the pope with this intention as well as previous presentations of the same gift to presidents, not only to Abbas.”

Lombardi said the pope explains the significance of the medal to heads of state who receive it, and that the word “angel” in this context means “messenger”.

Abbas also attended a canonization ceremony on Sunday at which Francis made saints of two Palestinian nuns.

Kerry calls Netanyahu, apologizes for anonymous ‘chickenshit’ remark


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in a phone call to Benjamin Netanyahu apologized for a U.S. official’s anonymous attack describing the Israeli prime minister as “chickenshit.”

The conversation took place on Friday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters the following day. Kerry on Thursday had called the slur “disgraceful, unacceptable, damaging,” saying, “That does not reflect the president, it does not reflect me.”

In the phone call, Kerry and Netanyahu also discussed the situation in Jerusalem and the importance of de-escalating tensions.

Psaki said Saturday that Kerry “emphasized the importance of refraining from provocative actions and rhetoric, and preserving the historic status quo on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount.”

She added that Kerry spoke Saturday morning with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who also “expressed his serious concern about the escalating tensions in Jerusalem.”

Psaki told reporters that the State Department was working with “many counterparts” in the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority to calm the situation.

Unrest continued over the weekend at the Temple Mount and in eastern Jerusalem following the reopening of the holy site early Friday morning. Israel had ordered the site closed on Oct. 30 in the wake of the assassination attempt the day before on Temple Mount activist Rabbi Yehuda Glick.

Kerry is scheduled to meet Monday with a high-level Palestinian delegation led by chief negotiator Saeb Erekat to discuss going forward with peace talks, the situation in Gaza and lowering tensions in Jerusalem.

A Palestinian newspaper reported over the weekend that the Obama administration would offer a proposal to restart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians after Tuesday’s congressional midterm elections, The Jerusalem Post reported Sunday.

 

British company apologizes for not letting Jewish kids in store


A British sporting goods chain has apologized for a security guard preventing identifiably Jewish preteens from entering one of its stores.

The seventh-graders were wearing the uniforms of the Yavneh Academy, a Jewish secondary school, when they attempted to enter the Sports Direct store in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, on Friday, the Jewish Chronicle reported. The guard stopped them at the door and said “no Jews, no Jews.”

Other Yavneh students who wore coats over their uniforms were permitted to enter.

The company apologized and removed the guard, who was fired from the security company for which he worked.

Czech lawmaker says Catholic Church approved Nazi murders of Jews


A Czech lawmaker who said the Catholic Church collaborated with the Nazis is being called on to apologize.

“The Catholic Church did not suffer during World War II; it was one of the biggest allies of Nazi Germany,” Igor Jakubcik of the Social Democrat Party said during a debate June 20 in the Chamber of Deputies. “The Catholic Church approved of the transfers and murders of Jews.”

Jakubcik also said the church helped Nazi war criminals leave for South America after World War II, the Prague Post reported.

His statements came a day after the Chamber of Deputies recommended to Czech Republic President Milos Zeman to award the Medal for Heroism to Lidice priest Josef Stemberk, who was executed by the Nazis on June 10, 1942, along with many of the males of Lidice.

Lawmakers from opposition parties who called on Jakubcik to apologize said his statements were “unfortunate and ill-advised,” and “not corresponding with historical fact.”

Braun issues apology for doping in MVP season


Banned Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun acknowledged on Thursday he used performance enhancing drugs during his National League Most Valuable Player season in 2011.

“During the latter part of the 2011 season, I was dealing with a nagging injury and I turned to products for a short period of time that I shouldn't have used,” Braun said in a statement published on the Brewers' website.

“The products were a cream and a lozenge which I was told could help expedite my rehabilitation. It was a huge mistake for which I am deeply ashamed and I compounded the situation by not admitting my mistakes immediately,” he added.

Major League Baseball (MLB) in July suspended Braun for the rest of the season, at least 65 games, saying that he had violated the league's joint drug prevention program.

No details were given of the offence committed by Braun but he had been suspected of procuring performance enhancing drugs from Biogenesis, the now-shut Florida anti-aging clinic that was investigated by MLB.

Previously Braun was suspended for 50 games by MLB after he tested positive for elevated testosterone levels during the 2011 sseason but that ban was overturned in February 2012, after he successfully appealed claiming his tests were mishandled.

After winning that appeal, Braun made critical comments about the collection of his urine sample and the collector, saying that he viewed the process as “suspicious”.

On Thursday, Braun revisited his comments and said he was embarrassed by them.

“I deeply regret many of the things I said at the press conference after the arbitrator's decision in February 2012. At that time, I still didn't want to believe that I had used a banned substance.

“I think a combination of feeling self righteous and having a lot of unjustified anger led me to react the way I did. I felt wronged and attacked, but looking back now, I was the one who was wrong. I am beyond embarrassed that I said what I thought I needed to say to defend my clouded vision of reality.”

Braun said he was now in the process of trying to understand why he responded the way he did, acknowledging there was no excuse for it.

“For too long during this process, I convinced myself that I had not done anything wrong. After my interview with MLB in late June of this year, I came to the realization that it was time to come to grips with the truth.

“I was never presented with baseball's evidence against me, but I didn't need to be, because I knew what I had done. I realized the magnitude of my poor decisions and finally focused on dealing with the realities of – and the punishment for – my actions,” he said.

Reporting by Simon Evans in Miami, Editing by Larry Fine

Forget Braun, new film reminds us we have Al Rosen to go with Koufax and Greenberg


When Ryan Braun was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 2011, Jewish sports nuts talked about whether the Milwaukee Brewers’ slugger would end up in the pantheon with Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax.

Following Major League Baseball’s recent suspension of Braun for using performance-enhancing drugs, the answer seems to be a clear no.

Forgotten in the discussion of Jewish diamond greats is Al Rosen, a power-hitting third baseman who was a member of the tribe in more ways than one, playing his entire career for the Cleveland Indians.

But now comes a new documentary, “Beating the Odds: The Al Rosen Story,” celebrating Rosen’s contributions to baseball as a player and executive, as well as being a role model for American Jews.

Rosen’s MVP season of 1953 followed on the heels of Greenberg’s two MVPs (1935 and 1940) and preceded Koufax’s one MVP (1963) and three Cy Young Awards (1963, 1965 and 1966).

Like Greenberg — his idol — Rosen was nicknamed the Hebrew Hammer. Like Koufax, he enjoyed a brilliant career abbreviated by injury.

Rosen was a four-time All-Star who played in the 1948 World Series — the last one won by the Indians — and two seasons later led the American League in home runs with a rookie record 37 (he qualified as a rookie despite appearing in games the previous three seasons with Cleveland). His MVP was the last for an Indian.

He would help lead Cleveland back to the Series in 1954, but the Tribe was swept by the Willie Mays-led New York Giants.

Two years later, at age 32 and after just seven full seasons, Rosen played his last game, done in by a finger injury and back problems. Another factor: He learned Greenberg, by then the Indians’ general manager, was planning to cut his salary or trade him.

“I feel like my career was aborted,” Rosen, 89, told JTA in a recent interview. “It’s been troubling me over the years. I don’t dwell on it because it’s not worth dwelling on.”

The new documentary serves as a reminder that while Rosen might fall short of the Greenberg-Koufax bar, he should never be forgotten in discussions about the greatest Jewish baseball players.

The film was financed in large part by the Indians, who are selling it at Progressive Field souvenir stands and on the team’s website.

It chronicles the asthmatic Rosen’s rise from his native Spartanburg, S.C., to Miami, where his family moved to improve his health, through his youth exploits as a boxer and on to an accomplished baseball career. Rosen hit for a .285 average, slugged 192 home runs and batted in 100 or more runs five consecutive seasons.

Rosen is “one of the great names” in Indians’ history, said Bob DiBiasio, the team’s senior vice president for public affairs.

“We really felt it was important to participate in this project because you do need to document the rich history of the game and our franchise,” DiBiasio said.

The documentary was completed earlier this month, 60 years since Rosen was named MVP. Due to Major League Baseball’s licensing fees for footage, filmmaker Bill Levy opted to tell the story through interviews, narration and still photographs rather than utilize clips of Rosen hitting and fielding.

“He was a hell of a baseball player,” said Levy, who produces corporate films but as a journalist covered the team during Rosen’s career. “In his era, Al Rosen was a hero, Jewish or not Jewish. He was a hero to me. He carried himself in a dignified way.

“With this Ryan Braun thing, [Rosen’s] position as one of the three top Jewish baseball players of all time is still unchallenged.”

The 57-minute film’s other subtitle, “Making Elmer Yoter Eat His Words,” is a slam at the minor league manager who brought the 17-year-old Rosen to tears after a workout by saying he’d never amount to anything as a ballplayer.

“You’re wrong, Mr. Yoter, and some day I am going to make you eat your words,” Rosen is quoted as responding.

That was hardly the only opposition faced by Rosen. A football coach at his Miami Senior High School implied that Jewish athletes were soft — that they preferred tennis to contact sports.

“That’s etched in my memory,” Rosen says in the film. “You could never get it out of there because I always wanted to prove this guy wrong.”

The film also recalls Rosen approaching the Chicago White Sox dugout to challenge the player who screamed anti-Semitic slurs during a game at Comiskey Park. Rosen never found out the player’s identity, and told JTA that he admired Saul Rogovin, a pitcher and also a Jew, for not ratting on his White Sox teammate.

“I could imagine he was in a very difficult spot, and he handled it absolutely correct,” said Rosen, who ran into Rogovin years after the incident and asked about the heckler’s identity.

Rosen’s integrity also comes through in the documentary.

In 1953, Rosen nearly achieved the rare Triple Crown — finishing the season leading the league in home runs, runs batted in and batting average. Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers won the trifecta last year, only the 13th player in baseball history to accomplish the feat.

Heading into the final game, Rosen was first in homers and RBIs, and was neck and neck with Mickey Vernon of the Washington Senators for the batting title. Vernon had picked up two hits in four at bats against the Philadelphia Athletics; Rosen was 3 for 4 against the Tigers. If Rosen could hit safely in his last at-bat, he could secure the batting title and the Triple Crown.

Rosen topped a slow grounder to third base but was nipped at first trying to leg out the infield hit. He finished at .336, one point short of Vernon. Rosen led the league in homers (43) and RBIs (145), along with runs (115), total bases (367) and slugging percentage (.613).

“I knew I was out,” Rosen tells Levy of the deciding play. “I couldn’t have accepted being called safe on that play. … I just wouldn’t have been able to live with that. I was glad he called it right, and I accepted it. That’s just the way it was.”

So dominant was Rosen in ’53 that he won the MVP unanimously — a first. He wrote thank-you letters to each writer who cast a vote.

The next year, the Indians recorded one of the best regular seasons in baseball history with 111 victories before losing to the Giants in the Series. Rosen was on base when the Giants’ Willie Mays made his legendary catch of Vic Wertz’s drive to deep centerfield in Game 1 (Rosen said he fully expected Mays to make the play).

Perhaps the documentary’s greatest revelation is Rosen’s role in helping George Steinbrenner purchase the New York Yankees in 1973. (The two men had been part of a failed effort to acquire the Indians.)

Rosen later worked for Steinbrenner as the Yankees’ president and chief executive officer, and was there for the team’s 1978 World Series title. Rosen went on to run the Houston Astros and the San Francisco Giants, leading the latter to the 1989 World Series (a loss). He is still the only person to have won an MVP and been named Executive of the Year (in 1987, with the Giants).

Rosen retired from the front office in 1992. Were he heading the Milwaukee Brewers now, Rosen told JTA he’s not sure how he would have handled Braun, the son of an Israeli Jewish father and Catholic mother. The film came out before the suspensions of Braun and other players were announced. Rosen recalled that one of his Giants players had a cocaine problem.

The suspensions are “a terrible blow for baseball,” Rosen said. “I feel badly that it happened, I feel badly for baseball and I feel badly for the players. There will always be a tarnish on all [their] accomplishments.”

He added, “It’s not only Ryan Braun but many other fellas. But I know one thing: If I were a player today, I wouldn’t take anything without a doctor saying so and without a written note from the doctor.”

Rosen, the only living member of the starting lineup of the ’54 Indians, occasionally sees some of his contemporaries living nearby, including Hall of Fame slugger Ralph Kiner, an Indians teammate. He follows baseball with great interest, and said he’s particularly impressed by the performance of the Tampa Bay Rays and their manager, Joe Maddon.

And he’s technologically hip. Rosen follows international affairs closely — he includes three or four Jewish newspapers in his daily online reading — and stays in contact with his widespread family by Skype. All the Rosen households — he and his wife Rita have five children, four grandchildren and a great-granddaughter — have received a DVD of the film.

“That’s one of the things that makes me happy,” Rosen said of the documentary. “It’ll be something the kids will have.”

Make this the year of the apology


In the words of Elton John, why is it that “sorry seems to be the hardest word?”

With a sense of schadenfreude, we take sport in watching our political leaders and celebrities fall from their pedestals and lie in their attempt to cover up the scandal du jour. We relish TV shows like “The Good Wife” based on character transformations of unfaithful partners and the public (and private) humiliation that comes from admitting wrongdoing.

We have the luxury of being removed from the eye of the storm and think if only they had apologized in the first place, they could have saved face/their career/relationship/reputation/life.

Of course, we know it’s not so easy to say we’re sorry. For all that I think I am emotionally evolved, I have had many an argument with my spouse, family member or colleague in which the defensive wall shoots up and nothing short of a sledgehammer can bring it down.

The reticence to admit our own mistakes starts young. I saw it as my 3-year-old struggled through his first real apology. After he hit me—something slightly more forceful than a love tap and weaker than a full-on whack—and I doled out the requisite scolding, my husband and I insisted that he articulate an apology.

With several tries and averting his big green eyes, a sheepish grin crept over his face and he stammered, “S-ahw-reee.”

His experience held up a mirror to my own. It’s hard to admit when we are wrong and sometimes even harder to take responsibility for it. My son covered his embarrassment by not looking at me squarely in the eye.

Some of us don’t look at our wrongdoings, period. We justify our actions, blame others or deny there was a problem in the first place.

Facing our inadequacies and doing teshuvah, or returning to our best selves, is exactly what we are challenged to do beginning in the month of Elul and continuing through Yom Kippur. Many of us sit in synagogue and pound our hearts reciting a litany of “al chaits” (confessions) about how we missed the mark, vowing to do better next time.

The High Holidays present us with the imperative to live every day with the same sense of moral intensity as if it were our last, as Rabbi Eliezer teaches. This is the period that makes us aware of how fragile our lives are, a time in the Jewish calendar cycle and liturgy in which we are confronted with the possibility of our own mortality.

We are jolted into an awareness of how to live our lives more fully. By taking responsibility for our actions and repairing broken relationships, we can enjoy deeper connections to others—essential ingredients to a fuller life indeed.

While most of us log our greatest number of synagogue hours during the High Holidays, we must go outside the synagogue to do the important interpersonal work of the season. The medieval philosopher Maimonides sums this up nicely regarding Yom Kippur, saying in the Laws of Repentance that “repentance (or teshuvah) and Yom Kippur atone only for sins between the person and God … but sins against other people such as injuring, cursing or stealing are never atoned for until he has paid what he owes the person and appeased him.”

Doing the work of asking for forgiveness from another person is critical. Teshuvah, however, does not happen by issuing a single apology; it is a process. For Maimonides it included three essential steps: regretting bad behavior and confessing wrongdoing; rejecting the bad behavior by not repeating it when a similar situation arises; and resolving not to do it again.

The phrase “I’m sorry” kicks off a process of profound self-transformation. In Maimonides’ book, a person who has done real teshuvah is as righteous as one can get.

Sound appealing? This High Holidays season, let it be your “year of the apology.” Make a list of one or two people you have hurt in some way. During the 10 days of repentance, which fall between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, make a point to reach out to them. Admit your wrong, share your regret, refrain from repeating the behavior and resolve to behave differently in the future. Most likely they will ask you for forgiveness as well.

As the Rambam says, be open to offering forgiveness, lest you turn into the sinner. Let this High Holidays season be a time for sincere apologies. It’s not just something we say, it’s something we embody.

Israel hopes to mend ties with Turkey, government official says


Israel will work to mend ties with Turkey, a government official said on Friday, after Ankara expelled the Israeli ambassador and suspended military agreements with the Jewish state, deepening a feud between the two former allies.

Turkey’s announcement came the day after a U.N. report said Israel had used unreasonable force in a lethal raid on a Turkish ship bound for Gaza last year, but confirmed Israel’s view that its naval blockade of the Palestinian enclave was legal.

“Israel recognizes the importance of the historical ties in the past and present between the Jewish and Turkish peoples,” an official Israeli statement said.

“The state of Israel hopes a way will be found to resolve the dispute and will continue to act toward that end.”

Israel said it welcomed the report by a U.N. panel which looked into its 2010 seizure of the Turkish boat, the Mavi Marmara, which was trying to break the blockade of Gaza. Nine Turks died in the commando assault.

The Turkish foreign minister said on Friday that Turkey would “take all measures which it sees as necessary for freedom of navigation in the eastern Mediterranean”.

He did not elaborate and Israel urged Turkey not to send boats to Gaza, which is governed by Hamas, a Palestinian Islamist movement officially sworn to the Jewish state’s destruction.

“Israel assumes that Turkey will respect international law with regard to sailing in the Mediterranean,” the Israeli statement said. It reiterated that Israel regretted the loss of life on the Mavi Marmara, but repeated that the Jewish state would not bow to Turkish demands for an apology.

The long-awaited U.N. report was delayed repeatedly to allow for Israeli-Turkish talks on repairing the rift between the two former allies, whose strategic cooperation was seen by Washington as crucial in a Middle East now rocked by upheaval.

A copy of the report was leaked to the New York Times on Thursday.

Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Mark Heinrich

Designer Galliano denies anti-Semitism, apologizes


Fashion designer John Galliano denied accusations of anti-Semitism and racism that cost him his job, but he also apologized for his behavior and “personal failure.”

“I must take responsibility for the circumstances in which I find myself,” Galliano said in a public statement issued Wednesday, adding that he is “seeking help.”

The fashion house Dior announced Tuesday that it was firing its star creator after a video surfaced this week showing Galliano praising Hitler, and a second complaint of anti-Semitism was filed against him regarding events that took place last October.

“I have fought my entire life against prejudice, intolerance and discrimination, having been subjected to it myself,” said his statement, which was released by his attorney. “In all my work my inspiration has been to unite people of every race, creed, religion and sexuality by celebrating their cultural and ethnic diversity through fashion. That remains my guiding light.

“Anti-Semitism and racism have no part in our society. I unreservedly apologize for my behavior in causing any offense.”

Galliano was taken into police custody Feb. 24 following an altercation with two customers at a Paris bar, who claim the designer harassed them with slurs, including “dirty Jewish face, you should be dead” to Geraldine Bloch, 35, according to reports.

“I completely deny the claims made against me and have fully cooperated with the police investigation,” Galliano wrote in his statement. He has taken legal action against his accusers for defamation.

The designer claimed he was the victim of prejudice, not the instigator of it. He said he was verbally and physically assaulted over his “look” and clothing.

Paris prosecutors announced Wednesday that Galliano would be tried in court for “public injury toward individuals due to their origin, their religious affiliation,” according to a statement.

Galliano could face up to six months in prison and a $31,000 fine for hate and anti-Semitic speech.

Dior said it would continue with its scheduled fashion show on Friday during the city’s celebrated Fashion Week extravaganza.

French and international Jewish groups have praised the company for its swift decision to fire their designer. It is unclear who will replace him.

Charlie Sheen demanding apology from ADL


Actor Charlie Sheen is demanding an apology from the Anti-Defamation League for saying that his rant against the executive producer of his hit TV sitcom was “borderline anti-Semitism.”

A letter from Sheen’s attorney Marty Singer demands a retraction because, it says, Sheen’s only intention was to “address the man rather than his television persona,” the TMZ website reported Tuesday.

Sheen, in a radio interview Feb. 24 and in a letter posted on the TMZ website, called the “Two and a Half Men” executive producer Chuck Lorre a “contaminated little maggot,” said he was a “clown” and “stupid,” and referred to him several times as Chaim Levine.

Lorre’s given name is Charles Michael Levine.

“By invoking television producer Chuck Lorre’s Jewish name in the context of an angry tirade against him, Charlie Sheen left the impression that another reason for his dislike of Mr. Lorre is his Jewishness,” Abraham Foxman, ADL’s national director, said in a statement Sunday. “This fact has no relevance to Mr. Sheen’s complaint or disagreement, and his words are at best bizarre, and at worst, borderline anti-Semitism.”

Singer’s letter points out that Lorre referred to himself by the name Chaim on a vanity card in February, in which he also reportedly writes about “a lifetime of distancing himself from Judaism.” The letter also says the ADL should denounce Lorre for acknowledging his “disdain for the Jewish religion.”

Sheen went on the defensive over the weekend, saying his statements were not anti-Semitic. He said in his letter to TMZ that he was “referring to Chuck by his real name because I wanted to address the man, not the bulls**t TV persona.”

“So you’re telling me, anytime someone calls me Carlos Estevez, I can claim they are anti-Latino?” Sheen continued, referring to his given name.

The CBS network on Feb. 25 canceled filming of the final four episodes of the popular sitcom starring Sheen and could cancel the show all together.

For more on Charlie Sheen go to JewishJournal.com/HollywoodJew.

Beck apologizes to Reform Jews


Fox News host Glenn Beck apologized for comparing Reform Judaism to radical Islam.

In an apology on his radio program Thursday, Beck said he had made “one of the worst analogies of all time” in saying on a radio show on Tuesday that, like Islamic extremists, Reform rabbis place politics ahead of religion. He delivered a special apology to Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman, who was among the Jewish leaders who slammed Beck for his comments and demanded he apologize.

“To Abe and everybody else, if I offended you it was not my intent,” Beck said, noting that he often disagreed with Foxman but in this case the ADL chief was correct. “I see how I did that and I apologize for the action and the words. Enough said.”

The comments that got Beck in trouble Tuesday came in the context of a wider discussion about a recent open letter, signed almost exclusively by non-Orthodox rabbis, criticizing him for repeatedly comparing his ideological foes to Nazis. “There are the Orthodox rabbis and there are the Reform rabbis,” Beck said on Tuesday. “Reformed rabbis are generally political in nature. It’s almost like radicalized Islam in a way where it is just—radicalized Islam is less about religion than it is about politics.”

Foxman welcomed the apology and issued a statement saying the matter had been put to rest.

Jewish Funds for Justice, a liberal group that has scuffled with Beck repeatedly—most recently by taking out full-page advertisements calling on Beck to be censured for his misuse of Nazi analogies—said the statement was “welcome but incomplete.” The organization said Beck’s comments were of a piece with his longstanding hostility to toward religious groups that pursue a social justice agenda, calling it a “systemic” problem.

“We reiterate our call on [Fox News chief] Rupert Murdoch to end Mr. Beck’s tenure at Fox News and for Salem Communications to commit not to add his syndicated radio show to their New York stations,” the group said in a statement. “Anything short of this reflects an unwillingness to take seriously the harm Mr. Beck causes to many in our community and beyond.”

The spirit of Jonathan Swift, Rotbart should apologize


ALTTEXT

It Can’t Happen Here

I was shocked by Rob Eshman’s article wherein he found an unnamed organizer telling him that a coalition of blacks and Mormon leaders have begun laying the groundwork for a 2012 ballot initiative that would ban Jews from marrying Jews (“It Can’t Happen Here,” Nov. 14). I immediately went to my spiritualist, and he put me in contact with that great English satirist, Jonathan Swift, so I could get his opinion on the article and on Proposition 8.

As a Westside liberal Democrat and Barack Obama supporter who voted yes on [Prop.] 8, I needed assurance that my position was correct. Swift agreed with me that homosexuals should have all the contractual rights and obligations that heterosexuals get when they enter into a marriage contract. Swift also agreed with me that the word marriage should not be changed in its meaning and that some word should be found for homosexual contracts.

He also agreed that modifying the word marriage to include homosexuals, in fact, changes its meaning, thus giving confusion to the English language. It would be the same as if we eliminated either the word homosexual or heterosexual from English and applied only one of those words to all people, regardless of their sexual orientation.

I hope that Mr. Eshman, who is a journalist and words craftsman, agrees with my position.

Leon M. Salter
Los Angeles

Your very poor attempt at satire was the most appalling article to come out of this newspaper, particularly since you decided not to include the disclaimer in the printed copy of the paper. I suggest you grow up and take it on the chin.

Proposition 8 did not pass because the majority of Californians did not agree with it. Smearing other minority and religious groups is a shameful act that is not becoming of us Jews. I’m sure our Mormon and African American friends agree.

Dalia Moghavem
Los Angeles

By concocting a story about a black-Mormon coalition conspiring to ban Jews from marrying each other, Rob Eshman tries to scare the 8 percent of Jews — and 52 percent of Californians — who voted for Proposition 8 into changing their minds about gay marriage. With all the subtlety of an after-school special, he attempts to teach us a lesson in intolerance. The comparison, however, is ridiculous.

The op-ed piece’s anti-Jewish conspiracy fantasy — labeled as satire on The Journal’s Web site but, irresponsibly, not in the paper — does not lend legitimacy to the argument that homosexuals’ legal rights have been trampled upon by the passage of Proposition 8.

Those rights are secured by domestic partnership laws. For those against Proposition 8 because of church-state separation issues, then I’ll counter that gay marriage should never have been voted on and passed by the California Supreme Court. Once it was, the church-state line had already been crossed, and the people of California needed to be heard.

Through our democratic process, Californians have spoken. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman. I guess if gay rights activists, the ACLU and Rob Eshman disagree, then democracy be damned.

Daniel Iltis
Los Angeles

In your Nov. 14 “It Can’t Happen Here” column, you failed to make an important point. If the proponents of an anti-Jewish marriage initiative want to outlaw Jews marrying Jews, should they not be condemned for failure to propose — using the same “logic” — that Mormons not be allowed to marry Mormons, blacks not be allowed to marry blacks, Christians not be allowed to marry Christians, etc., etc?

Do those advocates — using any degree of common sense — think their biased proposal can, under any circumstances, be constitutionally upheld?

Joseph Ellis
Woodland Hills

Your editorial, “It Can’t Happen Here,” mocked the passage of Proposition 8 and its ban on same-sex marriage by suggesting that one day Scripture might be used to ban Jews from marrying Jews.

However, the ban on same-sex marriage has nothing to do, necessarily, with either Scripture or equal rights. The demand for same-sex marriage, with its eligibility to adopt children, denies the biological reality of male-female differences and ignores children’s developmental needs, which same-sex marriages could never provide, no matter how loving the two dads or two moms might be.

It is bigoted to deny that men and women are different and that these differences are precisely what children need from their parents as role models and as sources of male and female nurturing. Yet, ironically, by rejecting the other gender as sexual partners, homosexuals validate these male-female biological and psychological differences.

No homosexual couple has ever, or could ever, produce a child, and only traditional male-female marriage reflects the undeniable, biological reality of male-female differences, with their necessary psychological consequences for children’s healthy development. Biology trumps social agendas, and adults’ desires are secondary to children’s needs.

Bob Kirk
via e-mail

The people of California have now spoken twice, and they’ve made it resoundingly clear that they don’t want gay marriage. The majority rules in this country.

Your protestations simply sound like sour grapes.

Charles Zucker
via e-mail

Correction
In “It Can’t Happen Here” Rob Eshman erroneously stated that the Mormon Church gave $22 million in support of Prop. 8. That number is an estimate of the amount members of the Church donated to Prop. 8 at the urging of the Church. Also, the column was satirical, or, rather, was an attempt at satire.

Political Apology

As an open-minded Jew and Green Party member, I would like to apologize to other open-minded Democrat and Green Party Jews for Dean Rotbart’s fear-mongering and hate-inspired article (“I Apologize for the Jewish Vote for Obama,” Nov. 14).

Rotbart needs to realize that the Jews of today are not the scared and uninformed Jews of the past. Jews of today use the Internet, communicate with all religions, including Muslims, and still manage to love Israel and care for other Jews.

Saying that Jews in America do not care about Israel because of an Obama vote is ridiculous. More Jews chose to vote for Barack Obama because he is against the war in Iraq, wants to help the poor and middle class and is far more intelligent than both John McCain and Sarah Palin combined.

Rotbart wants us to feel guilt, regret and fear; the very emotions that the conservative party and our past presidential party have been trying to make us feel for years now. I’m happy to say that we voted for change, and the days of Jews being stuck in an uninformed past are over.

Rotbart, kindly leave your racist views out of The Jewish Journal!

Rob Joseph
Los Angeles

I want to let Dean Rotbart know that he should not include me in his apology to the most reactionary forces in America for my proud vote for President-elect Barack Obama.

Those of us who voted for Obama are actually following a political philosophy that has been a central part of Jewish life in America. Jewish immigrants started many of the labor unions in this country; they supported the civil rights movement and social programs to help the poor.

Mark Elinson
Los Angeles

As one of the nearly eight out of 10 Jews who voted for Barack Obama on Nov. 4, I strongly reject Dean Rotbart’s apology on my behalf. I voted with hope, pride and confidence for a candidate who represents the best in what America is and what America can become.

How dare Rotbart reduce my vote to political correctness and voting for the feel-good candidate.

While The Jewish Journal can and should print the opinions representing a range of views, I would urge The Journal to stop short of providing space, and thereby legitimizing, this type of hateful speech.

Ronni Hendel-Giller
Los Angeles

I apologize for the 22 percent of Jewish voters who voted Republican and gave demagogic credence to the poisonous venom that spews like raw sewage from the convoluted minds and mouths of conservative television and radio hosts.

I apologize for the 22 percent of Jewish voters who voted Republican and embraced hatred, bigotry and fear, while eschewing the traditional Judaic values of love, acceptance and hope.

I apologize for the 22 percent of Jewish voters who voted Republican and want the continuation of the war in Iraq, a war that has left Israel with more enemies and fewer choices and options to chose from.

I apologize for the 22 percent of Jewish voters who voted Republican and abandoned the majority of non-Jews who elected a president that carefully addresses the Israeli-Palestinian imbroglio and seeks to end the Wild West shootout that has become the Republican substitute for thoughtful diplomacy.

And finally, I apologize for Rotbart and his ideological cousins at the RJC, who believe that in Orwellian doublespeak, a fact is an epithet and a falsehood is the truth.

Marc Rogers
Sherman Oaks

I have never written a letter in response to an opinion piece before, but I was so troubled by what you wrote, I felt compelled to respond.

Your assertion that those of us who voted for Barack Obama don’t have good sense or the intellectual maturity is condescending and elitist. Your fear of Obama is nothing more than Republican talking points that I have heard bellowed from every host of a FOX News show. Get a new narrative — this one clearly didn’t work.

Your veiled comparison of Obama to Hitler was the last straw. Obama is not even president yet, and the reason why we are “teetering perilously on the brink of catastrophe” is because of President Bush, Dick Cheney and all the other neocons that John McCain embraced in his campaign.

I hope in the weeks and months to come, your ears will hear what we hear (an intelligent, pragmatic voice in the White House) and your eyes will see what we see ( a world standing with the United States again). Instead of publicly apologizing for the 78 percent of Jews that did see past the fear-mongering, angry rhetoric and lies, you should be thanking us.

Debby Pearlman
via e-mail

Dean Rotbart’s opinion piece, in which he apologizes to Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin for the Jewish vote for Barack Obama, was wildly off the mark and remarkably offensive.

Rotbart and others who share his view need to take a close look at themselves in the mirror. Do they want to continue supporting people like Ann Coulter, who said that Jews need to be “perfected,” and Sean Hannity, who invited Andy Martin, an anti-Semite, as a guest on his show?

While I do not believe Rotbart to be an anti-Semite, nor do I believe that Rotbart thinks that Jews need to be perfected, I do know that the 78 percent of Jewish voters who, according to exit polling, chose the Obama-Biden ticket have no need to apologize.

You do deserve an apology for Rotbart’s use of “the gathering clouds of Holocaust II” and his outright statement that the “nuclear holocaust won” in this election.

Rotbart does need to write an apology letter; he just addressed it to the wrong people.

Marc R. Stanley
Chairman, National Jewish Democratic Council,
Dallas

I guess Dean Rotbart would have voted for President Bush again if he had had the choice. Talk about hubris. No wonder his insulting viewpoint is considered, if one counts the votes, flawed by the vast majority of the Jewish voters and clearly shortsighted.

Israel needs not only a committed ally in the United States but also a competent ally if it is to achieve all of its goals. Most American Jews seem to agree that what benefits Israel most is a strong and internationally respected America.

Norman Schulman
Beverly Hills

I just read Dean Rotbart’s brilliant tongue-in-cheek apology for the Jewish vote for Barack Obama. The tip-off, of course, was his naming of Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity and Mike Gallagher as deserving of an apology.

These talking heads — with Rush Limbaugh — have committed one of the worst of Jewish sins, i.e., malicious gossip. Rotbart even repeats some of them in his positive take on guilt by association and fear-mongering.

Unfortunately, as Rotbart points out, there are about 22 percent of Jewish voters who will look upon his opinion piece as being serious, which supports President Lincoln’s observation that you can fool some of the people all of the time.

Gilbert H. Skopp
Calabasas

The Kids Are All Right

I wanted to thank Marty Kaplan for his article, because it helps me to believe that maybe others in your generation can look upon mine with kindness and appreciation (“The Kids Are All Right,” Nov. 14).

We have been told our entire lives that we’re indifferent, apathetic, lazy and isolated. On election night, one chant united us in our enthusiasm for the country: “Yes we can.”

Mickey Slevin
via e-mail

Got forgiveness?


Would you believe that most Jews, including Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews, don’t fully observe the High Holy Days?

I don’t mean the basic rituals, like going to synagogue, reciting the prayers, listening to the shofar and the rabbi’s sermons, having the holiday meals and saying the blessings. Most Jews do all that.

And I also don’t mean the spiritual element, like using this time of year to contemplate our mortality, reflect on the purpose of our lives, ask God for forgiveness and resolve to become better people and better Jews in the coming year.

No, what I mean is that most of us neglect what is arguably the most difficult and meaningful ritual at this time of year: Going to the people we’ve hurt, recognizing our hurtful actions and asking for their forgiveness.

This can be awkward and embarrassing, but our Jewish tradition has given us the perfect little window to help make this happen.

It’s called the month of Elul, a time for self-examination and repentance that culminates during the High Holy Days. As the month of Elul comes to a close and we begin the daily selichot (prayers of forgiveness), the mood of repentance becomes more urgent.

This is the moment we are about to enter right now: The zero hour of repentance — the Days of Awe before the Day of Atonement when one of our key obligations is to muster our courage and humility, go to someone we have wronged and say “I’m sorry, I messed up, please forgive me.”

The problem, of course, is that while we routinely do this with God, it’s a lot less comfortable to do it with our fellow humans.

But the other, more acute, problem is that our Jewish faith has this little wrinkle: God cannot forgive us for the sins we’ve committed against another person until we have first obtained forgiveness from that person.

Ouch.

Theoretically, this means a rabbi can tell you that until you obtain the forgiveness of those you have wronged, it’s useless to come to synagogue on Yom Kippur and ask God for His forgiveness — because He can’t give it to you.

If a rabbi did that, who would show up to the big show?

Most rabbis challenge us at this time of year to engage in things like more mitzvahs, more tikkun olam, more tzedakah, more Jewish learning and more spiritual connection. But in truth, if they really wanted to challenge us and encourage personal transformation, they’d pick the one mitzvah that requires the biggest emotional sacrifice: Having to suck it up in front of someone you’ve hurt and ask for their forgiveness.

To his credit, the ultra-Orthodox writer Jonathan Rosenblum, in an article from a few years ago, took his own denomination to task on this subject:

“Too often we arrive at Rosh Hashanah feeling woefully unprepared and wondering what happened to Elul. As Kol Nidre approaches, we rush around to those nearest and dearest to us to seek their forgiveness. But our requests lack the specificity that would indicate that we have given any serious thought to how we have wronged the particular loved one whose forgiveness is sought. Nor are our ritual assurances that we forgive with a whole heart worth very much.”

For too many of us, the modern-day excitement and pageantry of the High Holy Days — the marquee events, the glamorous sermons, the fancy clothes, the elaborate meals — have eclipsed the essential ritual, the one that deals with the pain we inflict on each other.

If I forget to pray one day, I’ve hurt no one except maybe for God, and I know He’ll forgive me. But if I offend, deceive, mock or dishonor another person, I’ve introduced real human pain into this world. And by hurting one of His children, I’ve also hurt God— who must surely be spending the holidays waiting for us to forgive each other.

I count myself in the group that God has been waiting for. I’ve done the basic High Holy Day rituals and recited the prayers asking God for His forgiveness. But when it came time to recognize my mistakes and ask people for their forgiveness, I’ve chickened out and used the classic cop-out: “If I did anything to hurt you, please forgive me.”

Like Rosenblum explains, “without a real chesbon hanefesh, some form of regular spiritual diary — of both the positive and negative — we are in no position to ask Hashem or our fellow man for forgiveness. Where there is no recognition of our failures, there can be no genuine regret, which is the starting point of teshuvah [repentance or return].”

On a more romantic level, Rabbi David Aaron of Jerusalem, in a recent article, reflected on the intimacy of forgiveness:

“The best time to remember your mistakes and wrongdoings and ask forgiveness of your beloved is in moments of love. The contrast between the bad times that were and the good time that is happening right now generates even greater feelings of love and appreciation.”

Imagine, then, the love and appreciation that would filter through our community this year if the sound of the shofar at Rosh Hashanah became our clarion call to seek out those we have wronged — whether it be our spouse, sibling, mother, father, child, friend, neighbor, colleague, teacher, client, business partner, supplier or stranger — and, with love and courage, admit our mistakes and ask for their forgiveness.

By returning to each other and paying our spiritual dues, we would repair our souls, enter the Day of Atonement with cleaner hands, reduce the amount of pain in our little worlds and allow God the chance to forgive us.

Not a bad way to kick off a new year.

David Suissa, an advertising executive, is founder of OLAM magazine and Ads4Israel.com. He can be reached at dsuissa@olam.org.

Rude Israeli Olympic medalist ticks off Chinese, Peres apologizes


BEIJING (JTA)—Israel’s biggest source of pride at the Beijing 2008 Olympics became its biggest blight this past week, after ” title=”interview published September 5th”>interview published September 5th in Israel’s Yediot Aharanot.

That was his answer when the reporter asked him to describe his hosts in one word.

Zubari also said he didn’t feel very comfortable during the month and a half he spent in China, and was happy he wouldn’t have to see any more Chinese people.

“They are difficult,” he said. “They don’t speak the language, their rituals are strange and even their pronunciation is weird.”
He added he didn’t like Chinese food and missed his usual food. “I can live off hummus.”

His comments could be especially damaging considering China is about to send its ” title=”Chinese citizen living in Israel”>Chinese citizen living in Israel who takes issue with comments by Israeli telecasters during the Games.

Since Zubari’s story broke in the Chinese online press, articles and posts on the web in Mandarin are numerous. They range from outrage to observations that Zubari is just an ignorant youth.

The Shanghaiist in an ” title=”Talkback”>Talkback” section on the Ha’aertz website also has international comments including some Chinese readers.

Zubari clearly offended beyond the online message boards, however, as the Chinese embassy in Tel Aviv canceled a reception for Israeli Olympians set to be held last Wednesday.

President Shimon Peres even apologized to the Chinese ambassador on Wednesday, and Ghaleb Majadle, Israeli Minister of Sport, Science and Culture made an ” title=”op-ed”>op-ed suggesting that better PR training for athletes (especially young ones like 22-year-old Zubari) could have prevented the gaffe.

Aussie Jews play key role in apology to aborigines


In what could be described as Australia’s Yom Kippur, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd last week expressed the one word his predecessors refused to utter to indigenous Australians: Sorry.

Rudd’s Labor Party wrested power from John Howard’s Liberals last November on a platform that included apologizing to the “Stolen Generations” — up to 100,000 mostly mixed-blood aboriginal children who were forcibly removed from their families between 1910 and 1970.

The text of the motion on the Stolen Generations, which won bipartisan support, acknowledged the “profound grief, suffering and loss” inflicted on Aborigines.

Australian Jews, some of who have been at the forefront of the decades-long reconciliation effort, applauded the apology.

“To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry,” Rudd said. “And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.”

In a historic speech that drew cheers and tears, Rudd said he hoped the apology would remove “a great stain from the nation’s soul.”

Mark Leibler, co-chair of Reconciliation Australia, a national organization that promotes reconciliation, said Rudd’s apology marked a “watershed” in Australian history, but that this should be just the beginning of the reconciliation process.

“The shame as far as this country is concerned will not be cleared up until we bridge the 17-year gap in the life expectancy between indigenous and nonindigenous Australians,” said Leibler, who attended the apology ceremony in Canberra on Feb. 13.

Leibler is also the chairman of the world board of trustees of Keren Hayesod/United Israel Appeal and national chairman of the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council.

“We’ve suffered 2,000 years of persecution, and we understand what it is to be the underdog and to suffer from disadvantage,” he said.

Jews have been at the forefront of pushing for civil rights in Australia.

In 1965, Jim Spigelman, a cousin of Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Art Spiegelman and now chief justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, led 30 students on the first Australian Freedom Ride — a journey into outback Australia to protest racial discrimination against Aborigines, who were not entitled to vote and were prohibited from swimming pools, pubs and other public places.

In the country town of Moree, a racist mob attacked the students and, according to newspaper reports at the time, Spigelman was smacked to the ground.

The man most Jews and Aborigines hail as having made the greatest contribution to the cause of aboriginal rights is Ron Castan, a Jewish Australian dubbed by aboriginal leaders as the “great white warrior.”

Castan, who died in 1999, was the lead counsel in the landmark 1992 Australian Supreme Court “Mabo judgment” — named for plaintiff Eddie Mabo — which overturned the legal fiction that Australia was “terra nullius,” or an uninhabited land, when white settlers first arrived in 1788. Aborigines now own more than 10 percent of Australia’s land mass.

In a 1998 speech, Castan implored the government to say it was sorry, citing Holocaust denial in his argument.

“The refusal to apologize for dispossession, for massacres and for the theft of children is the Australian equivalent of the Holocaust deniers — those who say it never really happened,” Castan charged.

In 1999, Howard proposed a motion expressing “deep and sincere regret” for the injustices suffered by Aborigines, but the then-prime minister said Australians “should not be required to accept guilt and blame” for the policies of previous governments.

Aborigines number about 450,000 in an Australian population of 21 million. They are the most disadvantaged group in Australia, suffering high rates of infant mortality, unemployment, alcohol abuse and domestic violence.

More than 100 members of the Stolen Generations were present at the ceremony, which was broadcast live on national television and on giant screens across the country.

“Our faith teaches and emphasizes the universal principles of coexistence and respect for human dignity and rights,” Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick, president of the Organization of Rabbis of Australia, said in a statement. “It teaches the need to recognize and rectify any failings we may display in our interaction between our fellow man. To say ‘sorry’ in a meaningful manner goes a long way in ensuring that mistakes and discrimination will not be repeated.”

In addition to their activism on aboriginal issues, Jews were instrumental in leading the crusade against the White Australia Policy, a series of laws from 1901 to 1973 that restricted nonwhite immigration to Australia.

The president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Robert Goot, said he is proud of the Jewish community’s ongoing commitment to reconciliation.

Rudd’s apology marked “the beginning in a new chapter in the quest by indigenous Australians for complete equality with their fellow Australians,” Goot observed.

Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence of the Great Synagogue in Sydney said in a speech on reconciliation this month that Jews must not “deny nor stand by nor stand silent in the face of the pain of the Stolen Generations. It is incumbent on us to acknowledge the wrong, to apologize for the damage caused.”

Noting the importance to Jews of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, the British-born rabbi said Australia should have a similar institution for Aborigines.

“There ought to be a national place where people who have suffered can come and identify with their past and understand that the incursion of their culture and heritage has been recognized and an apology has been made,” he said.

Rudd’s apology comes more than a decade after a 1997 inquiry in Australia’s Parliament, called the “Bringing Them Home” report, concluded that the Aborigines suffered “an act of genocide aimed at wiping out indigenous families, communities and cultures.” The report urged the government to apologize and offer compensation to the victims and their families.

The apology offers no recourse to compensation, although the issue is now being hotly debated. It also re-ignited the so-called “history wars” between those who believe the Stolen Generations were kidnapped in a sinister attempt to breed out their aboriginality and others who say it was a benevolent attempt to save half-caste children from the ills of aboriginal society.

UCLA Hillel rabbi apologizes, settles 2003 case with woman journalist


A UCLA Hillel rabbi accused of accosting a freelance journalist in October 2003 has sent the writer a letter of apology as part of a court settlement.

Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller
Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, UCLA Hillel director, was accused by Rachel Neuwirth of verbally and physically assaulting her outside Royce Hall, on the UCLA campus, during a speech by Alan Dershowitz more than four years ago.

The letter was part of a settlement reached by Seidler-Feller and Neuwirth on Jan. 19, 2007.

“>Click here for previous stories mentioning Rabbi Seidler-Feller.

Michael Richards: still not a Jew


Michael Richards is not a Jew.

As Cosmo Kramer in “Seinfeld,” Richards played one on TV. But he himself is not Jewish — not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Richards lashed out a heckler at the Laugh Factory last Friday, spitting out the “N” word without humor and with abandon. Audience members booed, several walked out, then Richards himself walked off stage.

The incident was caught on a cellphone camera and posted at the TMZ.com Web site, where it ignited a firestorm of criticism against Richards. Richards apologized on “The Late Show With David Letterman” Monday night. “I was at a comedy club trying to do my act, and I got heckled, and I took it badly and went into a rage,” he said. “For me to be in a comedy club and flip out and say this crap, I’m deeply, deeply sorry. I’m not a racist. That’s what’s so insane about this.”

Fellow comedians and fans have been quick to criticize Richards — and misrepresent his religious background. Comedian Paul Rodriquez held a press conference at the Laugh Factory, saying that Richards should know better, because the Hollywood community defended Jews against actor Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic tirades.

The implication was that Richards, a Jew, should not be launching racist attacks. He shouldn’t, but he also isn’t Jewish.

“Someone needs to tell Rodriquez that Michael isn’t a Jew,” said a television director who has known Richards for years. The two worked together in 1980 on ABC’s “Fridays” television show and have remained in touch ever since.

According to sources familiar with Richards, the actor was raised I no specific religious tradition. “He does not have Jewish blood,” said New York publicist Howard Rubenstein, who Richards retained to help manage his PR nightmare.

Rubenstein created some confusion over Richards’ heritage when he told the press that the actor is indeed Jewish. “He’s Jewish,” Rubenstein is quoted as saying to Yahoo news.

In a telephone interview with The Jewish Journal, Rubenstein clarified that Richards was not born Jewish and never converted to Judaism. “He believes in Judaism, and that’s what he’s adopted for himself,” said Rubenstein

According to traditional Jewish law, a Jew is any person whose mother was a Jew or any person who has gone through the formal process of conversion to Judaism.Liberal streams of Judaism also recognize as Jewish a person born of a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother. By any of these definitions, Richards is not technically Jewish, as Rubenstein acknowledged. “He identifies strongly with [Judaism],” the publicist said.

A biography of Richards on the Wikipedia web site lists no religion, but does say Richards is very involved in the Masons. Masonry is not a religion but Masons do subscribe to a set of ethical precepts.

“Seinfeld” was Richards’ first big break after a long and unlikely rise to stardom.

According to Wikipedia, Richards was born in Culver City to Phyllis (nee Nardozzi), a medical records librarian. He was raised by Nardozzi and William Richards, an electrical engineer. “Richards attended California Institute of the Arts but received a bachelor’s degree in drama from Evergreen State College in 1975.

He was drafted during the Vietnam War and stationed in Germany, as one of the co-directors of the V Corps Training Road Show. He produced and directed shows dealing with race relations and drug abuse. He then spent two years in the Army developing educational skits and a couple more years ‘finding himself’ at a commune in the Santa Clara Mountains. He drove a bus and developed a stand-up comedy act in 1979,” according to the Web site.

In “Seinfeld,” which aired from 1989-1998, Richards played Kramer, a character based on show co-creator Larry David’s former across-the-hall neighbor, Kenny Kramer. The real Kramer is indeed of Jewish heritage — not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Richards did appear Sep. 14 at the Laugh Factory’s evening of Jewish comics, called, “The King Davids of Comedy.” However, the management made it clear at the time that Richards and the other major comic at the event, Louis CK, were not part of that evening’s themed show, and that no photography would be permitted during their sets.

Following Richard’s racist remarks, Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada posted this message on the company’s Web site: “We do not support or condone the inappropriate, hurtful and offensive comments that Mr. Richards made on Friday night at the Laugh Factory.

“Mr. Richards was scheduled to appear on Saturday night and had informed management of his intention to apologize for his hurtful and unprofessional outburst from the previous night. He failed to do so and disappointed us.

“We have made it clear that Mr. Richards is no longer welcomed here. The Laugh Factory is a comedy club not a forum for personal attacks.”

Laugh Factory owner Masada is Jewish.

Confusion over Richards’ heritage grew after the Anti-Defamation League issued a press release Monday denouncing the actor’s tirade.

“Richards’ repeated use of the ‘n-word’ and apparent reference to lynching is offensive in any context. There is no excuse for such insensitive and bigoted language. It has no place in a comedy club and no place in America and must be clearly repudiated,” the release said.

“We hope Mr. Richards will now take a public stand against appeals to racism and bigotry and publicly apologize for his poor judgment in shouting them from the stage.”

The release did not address Richard’s own religion. In the past, the ADL has regularly taken public stances against instances of racism unrelated to anti-Semitism.

A Holocaust-Inspired Vegetarian


Recently, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) issued an apology for its Holocaust on Your Plate campaign and exhibit, which showed concentration camp images next to photos of animal abuse on factory farms. The comparison was extraordinarily tasteless, and widely condemned. PETA expressed surprise at the negative reaction, and while they should have known better, their campaign has thankfully ended.

However, we should not go as far as some who disavow any consideration of the Holocaust in reacting to cruelty to farm animals. PETA’s display was vulgar and offensive, but it taps into a deep call for justice that should speak to anyone who still feels the utter horror of the Final Solution, which continues to cast its dark shadow over the Jewish collective memory.

I remember as a child listening to survivors’ stories of utter inhumanity, trying to imagine the incomprehensible magnitude of suffering. I once started counting to 6 million, calculating that it would take months to do so even without stopping to eat or sleep.

Long after the war, my grandfather, an Auschwitz survivor, would cover his mouth in panic attacks, believing he smelled the gas. On Holocaust Memorial Day, I always confronted the unfathomable question of how so many people could act with a complete lack of compassion or basic moral decency. While such monstrous evil flourished, people went about their lives averting their eyes.

For me, these stories were defining elements of my moral character. The ethnic cleansings in Bosnia, the genocide in Rwanda — these were different from the Holocaust in important ways. And yet, the specter of concentration camps and gas chambers hangs over my head when I read about these atrocities, while the world does nothing.

I still remember when I first learned about factory farms. Animals crammed in crates and cages so tightly they could not turn around, lie down or stretch a limb; living in their own filth, beaten with iron bars and electric prods. Body parts torn off with pliers or mutilated with hot knives. Animals’ bodies hormonally and genetically manipulated to grow so fast that their legs deform and break under their own weight. Animals never allowed to breathe fresh air, feel sunlight, experience any mental stimulation or feel any affection. And then meeting their final fate, often skinned alive or drowned in tanks of scalding water.

Raised with storybook pictures of pigs rolling in the mud and chickens pecking in the barnyard, the reality of modern agriculture shocked me. The enormity of it — literally billions of animals each year suffering this miserable fate in our country alone — was incomprehensible. I’d never heard about it before — why was nobody talking about it? Could I justify these horrific abuses just for the momentary pleasure of flesh on my tongue? After all, these cruelties were not driven by ideology, but by economics: they were doing it because I was paying them to.

Had I not been raised under the shadow of the Holocaust, I might very well have chosen simply not to think about it. How easy it would have been to avert my eyes and enjoy my chicken wings. But the memory of 6 million murdered Jews spoke to me. Not because of some offensive equating of concentration camp victims with animals, or of the Holocaust with farming, but because I could not let myself be like the Germans who allowed themselves to be complicit in a massive crime. One does not have to offensively compare Jews with cows, or an ideology of hate with profit-driven cruelty, to see the application of what for me was a central lesson of the Holocaust: When the strong abuse the weak, we should not remain silent.

This was how the Holocaust inspired me to stop eating animal products. And I am hardly alone. Just as Holocaust memories have inspired so many Jews to fight for civil rights, religious freedom and other forms of social justice, they have also inspired many of us to fight against the horrors of factory farming. Doubtlessly, PETA was hoping for this kind of thinking with their wildly inappropriate exhibit, expecting that the injustice of the Holocaust would wake our consciences about another, albeit completely different, injustice. Unfortunately, in spite of their repeated assertions that they were not equating humans and animals, their exhibit appeared to do just that. People were rightly outraged.

Nevertheless, I worry that many Jews will remember the Holocaust but forget its lessons. We should never avert our eyes to cruelty, and say, “I don’t want to think about it.” Critics of the PETA exhibit universally concede that the factory farm cruelties are wrong, but have let PETA’s exhibit distract them from speaking out against these cruelties. With the exhibit over, we no longer have any excuse.

Right now animals are being squeezed into trucks so tightly that their innards prolapse. Animals with broken legs are being dragged to the slaughterhouse by chains behind trucks. Animals are being branded with hot irons and castrated without painkillers. Sick or injured animals are left without medical care to die slow, painful deaths. The abuses go on and on. While we shouldn’t need to remember the Holocaust to know this cannot be justified merely to please our palates, that memory serves for me as a stark reminder that I want no part in mercilessness.

Noam Mohr is coordinator of Jewish Vegetarians of North America. The views
expressed here, however, are his own.

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Rabbi to Undergo Anger Management


The UCLA Hillel rabbi who allegedly lost his temper and
assaulted a freelance journalist who called him a derogatory name has agreed to
a recommendation that he undergo 36 hours of anger management and pen a letter
of apology to his reported victim.

Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller has also said he will place
himself on paid administrative leave from UCLA Hillel, while an independent
attorney appointed by that organization’s national office investigates the Oct.
21 event. It is not known how long the inquiry will last.

Seidler-Feller agreed on Dec. 23 to the recommendations,
which were made a week earlier by a Los Angeles city attorney hearing officer
who had heard the case.

Eric Moses, spokesperson for the city attorney’s office,
said Seidler-Feller would take the anger management courses through Pacific
Educational Services (PES) and would cover the $450 course fee himself. PES
will notify the city attorney’s office upon Seidler-Feller’s completion of the
course.

Donald Etra, Seidler-Feller’s attorney, said the rabbi had
accepted the recommendations because it was “the expedient way of resolving the
case.” He said Seidler-Feller would only apologize for “the fact that there was
an incident.”

Etra went on to say that Seidler-Feller was the aggrieved
party in this case.

“She [Rachel Neuwirth] called him names, she physically
stuck her hand in his face,” Etra said. “The evidence at the hearing was that
he did not do anything to offend her.”

As of press time, the rabbi could not be reached for
comment.

Moses said an apology had to be heartfelt and genuine,
although he offered no specific guidelines. Neuwirth said she would only accept
an apology in which the rabbi showed true contrition.

“I can’t get over this,” she said. “I relive this all the
time. I never in my life thought a rabbi would behave in such a violent
manner.”

Neuwirth filed a civil suit on Nov. 20 against Seidler-Feller,
UCLA Hillel, Los Angeles Hillel Council and Hillel: the Foundation for Jewish
Campus Life seeking undisclosed damages for battery, intentional infliction of
emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress and negligent
retention. Seidler-Feller and the local and national Hillels have until late
January to respond.

Neuwirth’s attorney, Robert Esensten, said the hearing officer’s
recommendations bolster the civil suit. However, Etra said that the suit had no
merit, especially since the city attorney’s office  decided not to pursue
criminal charges against Seidler-Feller.

Rabbi Mark Diamond, the executive vice president of the
Board of Rabbis of Southern California, said he hoped the dispute could be
settled in a beit din (Jewish court of law) or through mediation or arbitration
rather than in court.

“Rabbi Seidler-Feller has shown a genuine desire to do the
appropriate teshuvah [repentance],” he said. “I very much hope and pray we can
resolve the issues and tone down the rhetoric.”

Neuwirth said she is not open to resolving the case in a beit
din.

Gary Ratner, executive vice president of the American Jewish
Congress, Western Region, said Seidler-Feller’s actions should permanently
disqualify him from working with college students.

“Who’s to say he is not going to blow up again at some later
date?” he asked.

But Emily Kane, co-president of UCLA Hillel’s student board,
said Seidler-Feller meant much to them.

“Chaim is a huge part of UCLA Hillel,” she said. “This is
just a temporary thing.”  

Unacceptable


After The New Republic’s Gregg Easterbrook wrote in his online column that Jewish executives in Hollywood "worship money above all else," he apologized.

Every group in some way lives up to its stereotypes, and even knows that about itself — otherwise there’d be no specific humor within each tribe or dismay about the tribe within the tribe. Tribes and nations have opposing codes, and smaller groups within bigger nations or cultures will always suffer for the differences. None of us live without summary judgments of other tribes, in the largest sense of that word. The scapegoat mechanism is biological, and a civilized person, knowing this, doesn’t bring his uglier opinions forward, because he knows that our summary judgments belong to the same rough instinct as road rage. We feel it, we control it, and sometimes we slip.

The problem with summary judgment is that for every particle of truth, the scapegoat mechanism uses the lie to protect us from the mirror. This is called projection, or as the founder of Christianity said, "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye, with never a thought for the great plank in your own?"

As far as I know, Halliburton and the big defense contractors who got the no-bid contracts to rebuild Iraq are controlled by Christians, but no one would say of them that Christians are warmongering profiteers bent on destroying America’s middle class to immiserate all but a few million families, who will then refeudalize the world. Or no one would say of Disney that because some of the largest holders of Disney stock, the Bass and Disney families, are Christians, we can say that Christians exploit the Jews’ undeniably fluid understanding of numbers to make the Christians rich and give some Jews the illusion that financial partnership equals social acceptance. Then, when the Jews are no longer needed, like, say, Andrew Fastow at Enron, the Christians hang them, or even, as with Dennis Kozlowski, the old-line WASPs use the crimes of anyone outside of their tribe to obscure their own role in the conspiracy. No one would say of them that Christians worship money, just because of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.

So who is guilty for Columbine? Blaming mass culture for destroying society isn’t new. Blaming the Jews for the destructive mass culture is also not new. Read "Mein Kampf." "Scream" and "Kill Bill" were written and directed by Christians. Is Easterbrook saying that Wes Craven and Quentin Tarantino were abducted in the night by Jews, their blood drained for the matzah and replaced with monster-movie Jew juice? Or that Christians, going back to ancient Rome, have an uncontrollable lust for images of blood, which the Jews exploit?

What is unforgivable in this is the phrase "worship money above all else."

Some may think that Easterbrook absolves himself of anti-Semitism with his aside that there are Christian executives who also worship money. But framed as it is, he puts the Jews in first position at the blood-soaked money altar. We started it. When you say the Jews worship money, when you say that Jewish executives worship money above all else, when you say that Jews don’t care about the screams of the innocent, you’re talking like a Nazi.

Easterbrook wrote: "Recent European history alone ought to cause Jewish executives to experience second thoughts about glorifying the killing of the helpless as a fun lifestyle choice."

Otherwise, what?

Adding to the distress, Leon Wieseltier, his editor at The New Republic wrote, "Insofar as Gregg’s comments impute Jewish motives for everything that Jews do, insofar as they suggest that everything any Jew does is intrinsically a Jewish thing, they are objectively anti-Semitic. But Gregg Easterbrook is not an anti-Semite."

Wieseltier is wrong. Writing without an editor, or cautious self-censorship, Easterbrook wrote what he really thinks: that the Jews control everything, and that the Jews, for their own good, should remember what happened in Germany. There is no support possible for Easterbrook, the damage has been done and the Jews have been hurt. The apology is not accepted.


Author Michael Tolkin is the co-writer of “Changing Lanes,” which has been named the Best Picture of the Year by Catholics In Media. His most recent novel, “Under Radar,” is published by Atlantic Books.

Sorry, Cybill…


While looking for juicy parts in "Cybill Dis-obedience," actress Cybill Shepherd’s memoir (Avon paperback, May 2001), UF found the following passage instead:

"There are all kinds of excuses for spite and intolerance, and no one is holding any telethons for 50-year-old, blue-eyed blondes. Last year in The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, there was a letter to an advice columnist from a man making demeaning stereotypical comments about Jewish women. Illustrating the column was a photograph of me with a caption reading ‘a prime example of a non-Jewish woman?’ Just because in 1972 I played the archetypal shiksa in ‘The Heartbreak Kid’ who steals the Jewish husband from his wife does not give the publication the right to use my image to represent everything Jewish women are not. This a terrible thing to do to my son and daughter, who will have their bar- and bat-mitzvah this year."

The Journal pleads guilty, and would like to make amends by inviting Ms. Shepherd to send in photos of the twins for our bar/bat mitzvah section.

Vienna Opens


The new Arnold Schoenberg Center occupies onefloor of the Palais Fanto in downtown Vienna. A recital auditorium isamong its features.

With a week-long celebration to mark theopening of the Arnold Schoenberg Center, Vienna heaped honors on theseminal composer of 20th-century music, while visibly agonizing overthe sins of its Nazi past.

The tone was set on opening night, when 1,800 ofVienna’s political, cultural and social elite gathered in the gilded19th-century Musikverein for three of Schoenberg’s major works –“Transfigured Night,” “Peace on Earth” and “Expectation.”

(Zubin Mehta, the scheduled conductor, had tocancel due to illness and was replaced by Giuseppe Sinopoli, who wasrewarded with six curtain calls by the enthusiastic audience.)

Before the Vienna Philharmonic sounded the first note,Viktor Klima, the federal chancellor of Austria, struck the mixedmotif of pride and shame that marked the festival.

Turning to Nuria, Ronald and Lawrence Schoenberg,the three children of the composer (1874-1951), who decided totransfer their father’s legacy to his native city, Klima said: “Whilewe are proud and thankful on this occasion, we cannot forget theshameful years of the 1930s, which saw the dispersion and extinctionof our fellow Jewish citizens.”

This apologia, which was re-emphasized by ViennaMayor Michael Haupl at the following evening’s concert, was not asautomatic and self-evident as it would be at a similar event inGermany.

For decades, Austrians preferred to think ofthemselves as “the first victims” of Nazism, glossing over thehysterical reception they gave Hitler in 1938 and their ardentsupport during the war.

The fact that the opening of the Schoenberg Centercoincided with the 60th anniversary of the Anschluss was taken as acue by the Austrian media to grapple with the country’s World War IIrole, including the brutal persecution of its Jews.

The Schoenberg Center, located near the city’smajor museums and concert halls, displays the astonishing variety oftalents possessed by the creator of the 12-tone scale, not only ascomposer but as painter, inventor, model builder, author and eventennis player.

A section is devoted to Schoenberg’s last 15years, spent in Los Angeles, and another to his Jewish identity.After converting to Lutheranism as a young man, the composer returnedto his ancestral faith in 1933.

Even while still nominally a Christian, he wrote aneo-Zionist play on which his opera, “Moses and Aron,” is based, and,early on, he foresaw the fate awaiting European Jewry withastonishing clarity.

For the last 25 years, the composer’s legacy hasbeen housed in the Schoenberg Institute on the USC campus. Afterprolonged and bitter clashes between USC administrators and theSchoenberg heirs, the decision was taken to move the institute’slarge collection of compositions, manuscripts, books, paintings,photos and memorabilia to Vienna.

Berlin and The Hague also vied to become thecenter’s new home, but, in the end, the heirs decided in favor oftheir father’s birthplace.

 

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