After bombings, New Yorkers cop an Israeli attitude: ‘Stuff’ happens By Andrew TobinSeptember 22, 2


“I heard the explosion, then I went to the deli.”

In the hours after the bombings Saturday in New York and on the Jersey Shore, the phrase became an instant slogan for New Yorkers’ purported coolness under fire. Attributed to a witness of the bombing that injured 31 people in Manhattan, one of three apparently attempted by a New Jersey man apprehended Sept. 19, it quickly spread online.

Media commentators soon picked up on the meme of New Yorkers’ resilience.

On “The Daily Show” Monday night, host Trevor Noah made light of news footage of New Yorkers complaining about being mildly inconvenienced by the bombing. BuzzFeed highlighted tweets by New Yorkers debating which of Manhattan’s ill-defined neighborhoods should be properly identified as the site of the bombing.

Over here in Israel, a country that prides itself on how quickly it recovers after a terrorist attack, experts on social resilience agreed that Americans are rightly impressed by New Yorkers — though they said Saturday’s bombings, which had no fatalities, was not a particularly severe test. While Israelis have been prepared for terrorism by decades of experience, they said, New Yorkers may develop resilience just by living in the hectic city. 

“If you have past experience with continuous disruption it helps, it helps to be prepared for disruption caused by terror,” Meir Elran, the lead researcher on homeland security at the Institute of National Security Studies, a leading think tank in Israel, told JTA.

“As we say in Hebrew: Shit does happen. I think New Yorkers may be uniquely aware of that.”

In social science, resilience can be defined as a society’s ability to bounce back from a disruption, or an event that interferes with daily life. The faster a society returns to normal following a disruptive event, like severe violence or a natural disaster, the more resilient it is said to be. The more disruptive the event, the longer it will take to return to normalcy. 

Past experience of disruptions and social capital are major predictors of resilience.

“It is true that people are resilient in general. Otherwise the human race would not have sustained itself for so many generations through so many various disruptions,” Elran said. “It is also true that there are societies that are more resilient than others, and the rate of resilience of a society depends to a great extent on past exposure to disruptions and how socially and economically well off it is.”

Unfortunately, Israel has dealt with regular disruptions by Palestinian terrorism since before its founding. Rather than collapsing, the society has strengthened, including by gradually and haltingly improving its preparation.

After the second intifada and the Second Lebanon War, both in the 2000s, Israel shifted its security doctrine to include protecting the homeland rather than only taking the fight to the enemy. The state built a security barrier with the West Bank, developed missile defense systems and restructured its Home Front Command, among other things. (On Tuesday, sirens sounded across Israel as part of a national preparedness drill, a practice introduced after the Second Lebanon War.)

At around the same time, observers have said, there was a shift in the way Israelis thought about themselves. Matti Friedman, a former correspondent for The Associated Press, said in his new book that Israelis by 2000 had given up on reshaping the Middle East, be it through Oslo-like compromise or Lebanon War-like force.

“When these things began to be clear, something interesting occurred,” Friedman wrote in “Pumpkinflowers.” “People in Israel didn’t despair, as our enemies hoped. Instead they stopped paying attention. Our happiness would no longer depend on the moods of people who wish us ill, and their happiness wouldn’t concern us more than ours concerns them.”

Speaking to JTA from Jerusalem, he said: “There have been stabbing attacks here over the last few days. The city is completely unaffected. It hasn’t come up in people’s conversations. It hasn’t affected people’s plans that I know of. If the intention is to disrupt people’s lives and make them afraid, it’s not working.”

Deeming Zionist slogans outdated, Friedman in his book suggested a new one to rival New York’s: “On the bus.” This was the terse answer an Israeli soldier named Harel gave to an interviewer who in 2000 asked how he managed to return to Southern Lebanon after his entire platoon was killed in the helicopter crash that ultimately led to Israel’s withdrawal from the area.

An Israeli border police officer checking a Palestinian man in front of Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, Sept. 20, 2016. (Sebi Berens/Flash90)

An Israeli Border Police officer checking a Palestinian man in front of the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City, Sept. 20, 2016. (Sebi Berens/Flash90)

Of course, New Yorkers have faced terrorism, too, most notably the world-shaking attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Like Israel, New York and the United States, traumatized by the attacks, responded by becoming more prepared. The creation of the New York Police Department’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Transportation Security Administration are just a few examples. But terrorism is not part of daily life in the Big Apple the way it is in Israel.

“The situation in New York is still fundamentally different,” an Israeli researcher on social resilience told JTA on condition of anonymity because of the public nature of his policy work.

“Attacks like those [in New York and New Jersey] this week are sporadic, quite rare events that contradict the usual story of life in New York City. So for now at least, it is possible to ignore terror as part of a shared reality there.”  

Elran said the level of disruption caused by the bombings was “very low.”

Still, the American celebration of New Yorkers’ resilience to terrorism has empirical backing, the researchers said. Studies have found the first responders and the public in general returned to normal life remarkably quick after 9/11, in many ways within a few weeks.

New Yorkers may be resilient to terrorism despite relatively little experience in part because the intensity of living in the city involves near constant disruption on a small scale, according to the researchers.

“Events happen here very quickly, and in New York, it is also the case,” said the social resilience researcher in Israel. “People there experience work-related stress and life is very intensive.”

Elran said it takes a certain degree of sophistication to understand that things are not always going to be stable.

“New Yorkers, with their diversity of experience, can been seen as people who are more accustomed to disruption,” he said. “And it helps that they tend to be socially and economically well to do.”

Israel, too, has flourished socially and economically despite the constant threat of terrorism. The nation’s adaptability, arguably informed by its challenges, has made Israel a world leader in technology and security. But there are downsides, the social resilience researcher said.

“There is no magic way to avoid paying a price,” he said. “In Israel, there are high levels of frustration and aggression, and you know what the driving culture here is like.”

Anyone who has taken the New York subway during rush hour may be able to relate.

N.Y. City Council Passes $20 Million Bill Funding Security for Private Schools


The New York City Council passed a bill to provide private schools nearly $20 million in state funding for security guards.

Following the Dec. 7 vote, the measure awaits Mayor Bill De Blasio’s signature.

Councilman David Greenfield, a Brooklyn Democrat whose district includes heavily Jewish neighborhoods, introduced the bill last year.

It provides funding for a security guard at every private school with more than 300 students. Private schools with more than 500 students will receive an additional guard.

The Orthodox Union had advocated heavily for the bill.

“Now more than ever, with families increasingly concerned about security, all kids deserve a safe learning environment, and this bill helps provide that,” said Maury Litwack, director of state political affairs for the O.U.

Along with the entire council, Litwack singled out Greenfield and the council’s speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, “for voting to protect all of our schoolchildren, regardless of where they attend school.

Two Jews shot with BB guns in Orthodox section of NYC in past 10 days


Two Jews were shot with BB guns in a heavily Orthodox neighborhood of New York City.

City Councilman Rory Lancman said that the victims, neither of whom was seriously injured, were shot over the past 10 days in the Kew Gardens Hills section of Queens, the Queens Chronicle reported Monday.

The New York Police Department is investigating the incidents as potential anti-Semitic hate crimes.

A spokeswoman for Lancman told the paper that the first incident was approximately 10 days ago, but she was not sure of the precise date. The second incident occurred on Friday.

Both victims were wearing clothing traditionally worn by Orthodox Jews. The gender of the first victim was not specified, but the second one was male.

New York State Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz issued a statement saying, “I am deeply saddened to hear about the recent incident that betrays an unfortunate prejudice alive in our neighborhood. We live in a community that should celebrate and be proud of our diversity. Acts of bigotry will not be tolerated or go unpunished. I am confident that all perpetrators will be brought to justice, ending a recent string of shameful crimes.”

Queens, one of New York City’s five boroughs, is one of the most ethnically diverse counties in the United States. Kew Gardens Hills, which is home to Lander College for Men and various yeshivas, has a large haredi Orthodox population.

Anthony Weiner announces bid for mayor


To announce his official bid for mayor of New York City, Anthony Weiner created a video in which he portrays himself as middle class, down to earth, repentant, and ready to fight for the middle class in NYC.

Ed Koch Eulogized as Friend of Israel, Jewish People


Ed Koch was remembered as a friend of Israel and the Jewish people by a cast of political luminaries at the former New York City mayor’s funeral.

At a service that filled the cavernous sanctuary of Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan — the crowd included former President Bill Clinton, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo — Koch was compared to Moses.

“In his own way, Ed was our Moses, just with a little less hair,” Bloomberg said, noting that this week’s Torah portion described Moses’ leadership in taking the Israelites from bondage in Egypt.

Koch, who died Feb. 1 at 88, is credited with leading New York City out of a debilitating financial crisis in the late 1970s, leading to a renewal that flourished under his successors.

Israel’s consul general in New York, Ido Aharoni, recalled in his eulogy that the combative Koch literally “bled” for Israel, retelling a famous story about how the mayor was hit on the head with a rock thrown by a Palestinian while on a trip to Israel in 1990. 

Koch was interred in an Episcopal cemetery in Manhattan.

NYC health commissioner condemns metzitzah b’peh


The New York City Health Commissioner has issued a strongly worded statement calling for an end to a controversial circumcision-related rite.

Dr. Thomas Farley said that direct oral-genital suction, known as metzitzah b’peh, should not be performed during Jewish ritual circumcision, and announced that several hospitals, including those serving the haredi Orthodox Jewish community, have agreed to distribute a brochure that describes the risk of contracting the herpes virus from the practice.

The controversy over metzitzah b’peh was reignited in March after it came to light that an unidentified infant died Sept. 28 at Brooklyn’s Maimonides Medical Center from “disseminated herpes simplex virus Type 1, complicating ritual circumcision with oral suction,” according to the death certificate,

Health Department investigations of newborns with herpes virus between 2000 –2011 have shown that 11 infants contracted the herpes virus when mohelim, or ritual circumcisers, placed their mouths directly on the child’s circumcision wound to draw blood away from the circumcision cut, according to a statement from the Health Department. Ten of these infants were hospitalized, at least two developed brain damage, and two babies died.

The brochure “Before the Bris” describes the risk to infants of contracting herpes through direct oral-genital suction and advises parents to ask the mohel before the bris if he practices metzitzah b’peh.

“There is no safe way to perform oral suction on any open wound in a newborn,” Farley said. “Parents considering ritual Jewish circumcision need to know that circumcision should only be performed under sterile conditions, like any other procedures that create open cuts, whether by mohelim or medical professionals.”

Haredi leaders have resisted calls to replace direct oral suction with alternative approaches used by some mohelim, such as the use of a sterile tube or gauze to take the blood from the circumcision wound.

ADL raps Wodka vodka ads for stereotyping


The Anti-Defamation League criticized the New York ad campaign of Wodka vodka for reinforcing anti-Semitic stereotypes.

The ads feature two dogs, one wearing a Santa cap and one wearing a yarmulke with the message “Christmas Quality, Hanukah Pricing.” According to the ADL, the billboards were featured in several locations in New York.

“In a crude and offensive way of trying to make a point that their vodka is high quality and inexpensive, the billboards evoke a Jewish holiday to imply something that is cheap and of lesser value when compared to the higher value of a Christian holiday,”  Ron Meier, ADL’s New York Regional director, said in a statement Tuesday.

“Particularly with the long history of anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews and money, with the age-old notion that Jews are cheap, to use the Jewish holiday in dealing with issues of money is clearly insensitive and inappropriate.”

On Wodka’s website, other ads include a sheep wearing a sombrero with the message “Escort quality, Hooker pricing.”

My True Best Feature — My Crazy Charm?


My friend Nanea is breaking up with singlehood, and my girls and I are ready to help. Best friends since UCLA, we throw Nanea a wild bachelorette party weekend in NYC.

My group takes a bite out of the big apple. We shop uptown, dine downtown, theater on Broadway, picnic in Central Park — good times, good times. Saturday night, we hit a bar in the meat packing district.

The joint is too cool for signage, but not too cool for us. I’m sporting a black lace tube top from Forever 21, and I am rocking that discount couture. Picture me… I look even better. Feeling feisty, I take the tiara intended for the bachelorette and wear it all night. Normal, no? Effective, yes? It’s an instant conversation piece.

I’m meeting people. I’m making friends. I am in a zone. I even start a game of truth or dare. I’m the life of the bar.

Local boy Jake buys us a round and brings good conversation. We have one of those long ask-anything, reveal-everything chats reserved for bars in strange cities and freshman year dorms. All of us girls have boys at home, so the chat is for pure flirt’s sake. We talk relationships, dating, hook-ups and land on what’s our type.

Jake looks our gaggle of girls up and down and says, “For me, the perfect woman would have Shana’s top, Nanea’s bottom, Angel’s lips and Carin’s….”

Carin’s what? My mind races through the endless possibilities. I’ve been working hard with my trainer and my little bod is working for me. So he’ll totally go with my flat abs and tiny waist. Or maybe he’s a curves guy, and is all about my swingin’ hips. Oh, but men do dig my long, flowing dark blonde — OK, fine, highlighted dark blonde — hair. Hmmm. What is the sexiest part of Carin Davis?
There are really too many to just say one. But Jake managed to:
“The perfect woman would have Shana’s top, Nanea’s bottom, angel’s lips, and Carin’s … ridiculousness.”

My ridiculousness? Whatchu talkin’ about, Willis? My ridiculousness?
That’s crazy talk. He might as well have said I have a good personality and doomed me to wallflower status. My ridiculousness. Ha! I am a very cute girl.

More than cute — attractive. Yeah … I’m like a model. That’s right. I’m like a 5′ 2″ supermodel. I’m talking “Deal or No Deal” briefcase-babe hot.
And yet you claim my best attribute is my ridiculousness?

Wait. Hold on. You think I’m ridiculous?

“Um, you are wearing an unexplained tiara,” Jake points out.

I get it. Bedazzled hair wear is cool for Miss America, but not for me. Well, listen here buddy. There’s nothing wrong with a girl having a little sparkle.

So I’m bizarrely outgoing, unusually uninhibited, and have been known to like center stage. A lot. But to say that makes me ridiculous — that’s uncalled for. And for your information, no one uses the term “ridiculousness” anymore, the PC phrase is “normalcy challenged.”

Why am I getting so fired up? Why do I care? This is some guy I’ve known for an hour, not one I’ve dated for a while. I’ve got an amazing boyfriend at home who thinks I’m a babe. I think….

I drunk-dial my boy Scott and recap the night. He seems amused as I describe our social antics, public game play and the cheer I was dared to perform for the bar. Then I tell Scott about Jake’s perfect woman. And he laughs, in a way that says Jake may have gotten it right. I am little ridiculous. And that’s kinda hot.

Could it be that my looks only complement my true best feature — my crazy charm? Interesting. Men find my charisma endearing, even magnetic. Anyone can be good looking, but I’m good fun.

Looking for back up on my theory, I poll my male friends and ask: “What makes a woman sexy?” Their answers: confidence, wit, intelligence and large breasts (OK, there’s always one).

But maybe Jake and Scott are on to something. I am a confident, energetic, funny, silly, spunky girl and that makes me sexy. For me to think otherwise would be ridiculous.

Freelance writer Carin Davis can be reached at sports@jewishjournal.com.

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