September 23, 2018

Letters to the Editor: Mensch List, Jerusalem, Settler for Peace, Nonviolent Protests, and Lorde

Author Was Indeed a Mensch

While your annual “Mensch List” issue (cover story, Jan. 5) highlighted people who embody the Jewish community’s future, we would like to honor someone who touched a future she knew she wouldn’t live to see.

Last year, author Amy Krouse Rosenthal died. Days before succumbing to ovarian cancer at age 51, she received acclaim for her New York Times essay “You May Want to Marry My Husband.” It was a beautiful and touching love letter to her about-to-be-widowed husband, Jason, creatively penned as a dating profile for him so that “another love story begins.”

She touched many more lives as a children’s book author — an underappreciated art for which she had a special talent. Her book “Uni the Unicorn,” an imaginative story about a unicorn who believes that little girls are real, is one of our 5-year-old daughter’s favorite bedtime books, alongside “Goodnight Moon,” “Chicken Soup With Rice,” “Sylvie,” “If Kisses Were Colors” and “A Giraffe and a Half.” Rosenthal’s books “Spoon” and “Little Pea” are adorable, too. She was an exceptionally gifted writer and storyteller, and through her books, she will continue to touch the future.

Shoshana and Stephen A. Silver, San Francisco


Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel

Here is a proposal I’ve not yet seen. I’m sure someone will tell me why.

Israel swaps the West Bank for the Gaza Strip, minus a narrow passage to the sea. Each state shares Jerusalem as its capital. What becomes of the settlements and the property of Gaza is a problem with many solutions, none beyond the capacity of negotiation. Each party will object, no doubt, but the status quo benefits neither. The proposal gives the Palestinians more territory than they are likely to obtain any other way and freedom at last. Israel expands its territory, less in quantity than by annexing the West Bank, but more in quality. Currently Israel has one friend. With its occupation over, it can devote its energies to being a good neighbor and a positive participant in the United Nations.

Start talking. There is nothing to lose.

Robert Ragaini, Santa Monica and New York


Moses and Nonviolent Protest

While enjoying all of the discussions of this weekly parsha, Rabbi Denise L. Eger’s comments resonated with my own longstanding understanding of the developmental story of the life of Moses and especially of his significant emotional conflict: his unbridled rage! (“Table for Five,” Jan. 5). It ultimately kept him out of the Promised Land. Lost was the first opportunity for the exposition of the power of a nonviolent protest.

True leadership calls for thoughtful reflection and not impulsive, incendiary behaviors. We are living in a time when national leadership demonstrates provocative words and threatens dangerous actions. These, too, are demonstrations not of strength but of disqualifying Mosaic immaturity. The Talmud offers a guide to keep in mind when selecting leaders: “Who is mighty? One who conquers one’s passions, as it is said: One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and one who rules over one’s spirit is better than one who conquers a city.” (Pirkei Avot 4:1)

Sheldon H. Kardener via email


A Settler for Peace

Caroline Schuhl Schattner’s efforts to bring Palestinians and Israelis together are indeed courageous and inspiring (“Settler Opens Her Home to Peace,” Jan. 5) but the Journal’s story portrayed her as a lone actor while, in fact, she represents Roots-Shorashim-Judur — the joint Israeli-Palestinian grass-roots initiative for peaceful coexistence and transformation based in Gush Etzion.

Readers who are inspired by Schattner’s work should visit friendsofroots.net to see how the work of this small, dedicated group, mostly volunteers, is slowly changing life on the ground in the West Bank.

Dave Paller via email


FROM FACEBOOK:

‘Settler Opens Her Home to Peace,’ Jan. 5:

Does (Caroline Schuhl Schattner) know she is living in a land that a Palestinian family was kicked out of, their home demolished and a new home built for people like her? In other words, she is living in a stolen land. It will be much appreciated if she gives her home back to a Palestinian family and does this from France.

Hassan Basma

The problem is that so many (especially Jews) still believe that this attitude is uncommon among Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria. It isn’t. The vast majority live, work, play, desire peace from and coexist with their Arab neighbors every day.

Yad Yamin

The real peace is possible only when Palestinians really want it. If they deny terrorism, stop hatred, put down their arms, Israel will be the first to stretch her hand to them. Palestinians will have everything: education, prosperity, economy, jobs, you name it. But the problem is they don’t want peace.

Alex Lapidus

This is a wonderful article and I hope she will be truly blessed in her quest. It’s just so disheartening that this well-intended article has to be met with so many negative comments. It surely is the root of the problem. God bless her.

Nechama Shana Kulszan

‘Pixar and the Zohar,’ Jan. 5:

Loved this movie (“Coco”) and so did my husband and 7-year-old (boy/girl) twins.My granddaughter totally got it. She said, “This is a movie of family love.”

Grace Borenstein

“Coco” is a beautiful movie. Día de los Muertos is a beautiful tradition. Mexican, Mexican indigenous, Spanish and Jewish teachings (part of the Talmud and part of the Zohar) speak about communicating with the departed and their continued presence or visits among us (especially on ritual occasions at certain ceremonies). People who look at the world through only one cultural lens tend to view everything that way, even though it may be in fact about another people. Since at an energy/spirit level, all dynamics/laws are basically the same, this is not wrong, only confusing for those who see only a switching or scrambling of categories.

Yma Marton

‘Meet the Fosters,’ Jan. 5:

This reminded me of our foster parenting days — filled with joy and sadness, love and pain. So often when asked how we could return them to their parents, our response was that they are like library books; love them, treat them as if they are your own, but always remember they really do belong to someone else.

Judith Apfelbaum

‘“For We Are Glorious,” ’ Jan. 5:

Karen Lehrman Bloch is an emerging and important voice in expounding on the values of classic liberalism while exposing conflicted progressive ideologies and faux liberals.

Sasha Juno

‘Where’s #MeToo for Persian Victims,’ Jan. 5:

You’d think Western feminist groups would be standing up and speaking out for the brave Iranian women who are rejecting masculine imposed limitations, but for some reason, they are not. I can’t imagine why.

Alex Bensky

‘Oh, Lorde,’ Jan. 5:

There are three possible responses to the weak-minded people who succumb to BDS pressure: denial, derision or engagement.
Denial is obviously the wrong choice.

Engaging these artists on its face appears the most responsible and high-minded. However, when the Israeli ambassador to New Zealand tried to do that by inviting Lorde to meet and discuss, he was roundly condemned for pressuring and bullying the poor girl.

So, in this anti-intellectual age of tweets and sloganeering, derision turns out to be the better response. Disgusting but true.

Yoni Shiran 

Israel doesn’t need Lorde and would do well to withdraw any future invitations to perform there.

Gary Coren

No, her young fans are not socially conscious because they did not ask her to boycott Russia. It’s time for Jews to stop being polite and nice when people call you baby killers.

George Naftali Muenz


CORRECTIONS

In the Jan. 5 edition of Movers and Shakers, the Shalom Institute in Malibu was mistakenly referred to as the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles’ Shalom Institute in Malibu. The programs are unaffiliated.

Alana Yakovlev’s name was misspelled in an article about her pro bono work (“Law Isn’t Just a Profession — It’s a Calling,” Jan. 5).

Oh, Lorde

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

It’s a good thing Jews don’t celebrate Christmas, because this last one would have been thoroughly spoiled.

’Twas the night before said holiday when 21-year-old New Zealand-born pop star Lorde, a Grammy-winning artist, succumbed to pressure from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and canceled her Tel Aviv concert planned for later this year.

“I pride myself on being an informed young citizen, and I had done a lot of reading and sought a lot of opinions before deciding to book a show in Tel Aviv, but I’m not too proud to admit I didn’t make the right call on this one,” the singer said in a statement.

Lorde’s acquiescence to the forceful politics of BDS was a blow to Jewish and Israeli morale, prompting defenders of Israel to respond with rebuke.

Instead of lobbing attacks and insults, what if defenders of Israel encouraged Lorde to perform for her fans to
promote reconciliation and peace?

Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev offered a slyly mocking appeal to the young musician, urging her to reverse her decision. “I’m hoping you can be a ‘pure heroine,’ like the title of your first album,” Regev said in a statement. “[B]e a heroine of pure culture, free from any foreign — and ridiculous — political considerations.”

But asking an artist to be free of political considerations when it comes to the most loaded conflict in the world is naïve and shortsighted. The current generation of young people is the most interconnected in human history, and as a result, deeply socially conscious. Many of them are eager to integrate their values into the decisions they make. Besides, how can you insist a celebrity with a worldwide following divest herself of what happens in the world?

You can’t.

Regev’s statement isn’t the worst offense committed by a lover of Israel in defending the Jewish state. That accolade belongs to The World Values Network, led by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who on New Year’s Day took out a full-page ad in The Washington Post shaming and defaming Lorde for bowing to BDS pressure.

The ad states, “21 is young to become a bigot.” At the center of the ad is Lorde, superimposed on a split-screen background that features two contrasting images: In one, men clutch babies to their chests as they run from a scene of total destruction. In the other, beautiful buildings of Jerusalem stone stand tall and proud, topped by Israeli flags. “Lorde and New Zealand ignore Syria to attack Israel,” the ad declares.

Lorde certainly doesn’t deserve any credit for heroism. As the ad suggests, she schmeissed Israel while proceeding to perform in countries with far worse records. If her aim is to take a stand against countries with stained human rights histories, she’d best cancel other stops on her tour, starting with Russia. President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea was a strutting display of anti-democratic expansionism and his autocratic tactics at home are equally treacherous. According to Human Rights Watch, “Today, Russia is more repressive than it has ever been in the post-Soviet era.”

Because she is young and inexperienced, Lorde is not worthy of our scorn.

But if Boteach and others think politicized assaults on a global superstar are the way to “win” against BDS, they’re mistaken. The language of Boteach’s ad is mean-spirited and offensive, and will only further alienate the pop star and her millions of fans. How does that serve Israel?

Instead of lobbing attacks and insults, what if defenders of Israel encouraged Lorde to perform for her fans, and perhaps use her platform, to promote reconciliation and peace? What if Regev had offered to help facilitate an additional concert in the West Bank for Palestinian fans? What if the message was inviting and encouraging instead of angry and denigrating?

BDS has failed to intimidate musicians into not performing in Israel far more than it has succeeded. Fighting the nasty fight only makes Israel — and us — look foolish, spiteful and, worst of all, guilty.


Danielle Berrin is a senior writer and columnist at the Jewish Journal.

Seriously, Lorde?!

Lorde in a pose that will NOT be captured in Israel. Credit: Liliane Callegari - Flickr: Lorde @ Lollapalooza 2014

2017 was the springtime for international concerts in Israel. With artists like Justin Bieber, Britney Spears, Aerosmith, Daddy Yankee and Radiohead making Tel-Aviv one of their tour stops, it seemed as if the world has finally and officially dismissed the BDS movement and the pillars of lies it stands upon.

 

But then came the announcement that Lorde has backed down from her Tel-Aviv concert scheduled to take place in June, and ruined everything…

 

According to the official announcement, the music star said that “the right decision at this time” was to cancel her concert, scheduled earlier this month for June in Tel Aviv. “I pride myself on being an informed young citizen, and I had done a lot of reading and sought a lot of opinions before deciding to book a show in Tel Aviv.” But after having “lots of discussions” about the matter, “I’m not too proud to admit I didn’t make the right call on this one” in first scheduling the concert.

 

And then, just like that, she took us back a few years, to the darkest of times in our international cultural relationships, when the BDS movement was at its prime.

 

Is this about who screams the loudest? Because if so, then we definitely don’t stand a chance in this battle. BDS has the loudest voice, but it’s also because they shout catchy slogans and avoid the truth. Speaking about the complicated reality we live in takes a softer voice, and requires a lot of patience. But being the “instant generation” we are, we prefer the issues of the world being presented to us in short, simple sentences.

 

This makes “Israel is an Apartheid state” easier to follow than “we live in a conflicted area, where one side has declared independence 70 years ago but the other side insists on owning the exact same territory. The Palestinians live under the Palestinian Authority governance and Israeli Arabs enjoy equal rights in Israel. However, the Palestinian demand for the Israeli territories lead to terrorism and violence, which requires Israel to stiffen border checks from Palestinian Territories into Israel, and sometimes, when missiles are being fired from Gaza to Israel – to fight back.”

 

Even this paragraph doesn’t cover the tip of the iceberg, but it’s long enough for people to move along to a simpler messaging.

 

The responses to Lorde’s cancellation were definitely heard. People tried, in more or less polite ways, to explain to her just how ridiculous her decision is, and how ignorant it is to cancel a concert based on something she heard and didn’t like. But sadly, it’s easier to fall into gorey rhetoric and definite statements about murder and apartheid than it is to do some reading.

Hebrew meme saying (from top right): “Thanks. for not. listening. to lies. NOT YOU. and came. to perform. in Israel)
By: Bar Elmaliach

Honestly, there’s nothing more frustrating than knowing the truth and seeing someone falling for lies. Hey, Lorde! Think there might be an apartheid regime here? Come and see for yourself. Or ask any of your musician friends who were here in recent years (like Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga, Rihanna or Elton John.)

 

Want to take action in promoting peace in the region? Perform and have ads posted in Arabic as well as in Hebrew, like Robbie Williams did.

 

Besides, isn’t music about bringing people together, not deepening conflicts? Isn’t music about people, not countries? After all, you did chose to maintain your concerts in Russia, where the anti-LGBT “Gay Propaganda Law” has recently been denounced.

 

I believe Creative Community for Peace put it best in saying: “Artists should never become beholden to the political views of a small but loud minority. … Lorde became the target of that wrath, and we’re deeply disappointed that rather than rebuff the boycott movement and follow in the footsteps of Radiohead, Nick Cave, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, and many other artists who have chosen to build #BridgesNotBoycotts, she canceled her show.”

 

So Lorde, if you’re reading this, know that instead of taking us forward, you took our entire society a mile backwards. And yes, even though I believe you naively fell for deception and lies, shame IS on you.

Watch: ‘Mohels,’ an a capella take on Lorde’s ‘Royals’

Ever noticed how “mohels” rhymes with “royals”? Well the University of Maryland a capella group Kol Ish did, and thank goodness.

In their version of teen pop star Lorde’s “Royals,” retitled, yep, “Mohels,” the boys have a thing or two to say to those opposed to circumcision.

It’s pretty intense — think lines like “I’ve never left a forsekin on the flesh,” and “Don’t want to tell you what to do/so leave us be or we’ll cut you too” — but also sort of genius.

In fact, turn down the volume on those pretty voices and you might just be able to hear the Maccabeats kicking themselves for not coming up with it first. Although a rendition from those sweeties would have probably been a lot rosier and peppier, and performed in a video that did not contain handwritten messages like “It’s just the tip” and “cut and proud.”