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Speak Out In Times of Great Moral Crisis

29 Jan

“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.” Dante


In March 2002, my husband and I took our two children to Washington, DC, for spring break. We decided that in order to show no fear in face of terrorism we would go to our nation’s capitol and visit all of the museums and sites.

The White House was still closed to the public. There were snipers on the roof. And new obstacles to block terrorist attacks were being put into place.

But we went to museums, to the Library of Congress, to the Ford Theater, to George Washington’s Home at Mount Vernon. We showed our children that these places will stand. And no matter what happens, we as citizens of the United States had freedoms.

My son was 11 and my daughter was 15. My husband had already been to the Holocaust Museum. We decided that I would take our daughter there, while my husband took our son back to the hotel. A good decision at the time, as it is a difficult museum to see.

My daughter and I walked the halls of the museum. We watched movies and videos. We listened to testimony. We looked at memorabilia. Then we went to the Hall of Remembrance. I wanted to light a candle in memory of my family who perished in the Shoah. For my great grandmother, Chava, for whom I am named; her husband, Gimple, and their children, in laws, grandchildren, sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews who had all perished in the fires of hatred.

But there were no candles left. And I cried. My daughter searched throughout the room for one last candle for me to light.   And then she sat with me as I cried.   I cried for all those who perished without a name. I cried for all those families who had no one left to cry for them.

When I left I purchased a poster, this poster that I show on this blog. This poster, which I framed and hung in my home office; its words call out to me even louder now.   We cannot remain silent in times of great moral crisis.   We cannot be silent like those who said they were only following orders.

We in the United States are now in a great moral crisis. There is no legality in singling out one religion over others. Timothy McVeigh was not a Moslem, he killed 168 people in Oklahoma City. He was a white Christian.   Should we ban all white Christians?

I am so shocked by what is occurring. Those in Congress who say they have values and care about family and country. You are living in a lie. Your alternative truths are lies.

For those of us of faith, we know what the Torah, the Bible says.  It says: “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them.  The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native born.  Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.  (Leviticus 19:33-34).  We were strangers in a strange land.  And most of those who live in the United States now were also strangers in a strange land, the descendants of immigrants and refugees.

Anyone who really cares about our country and our people, you must not be silent. We must speak out in times of great moral crisis!  Call your Legislators and Senators; speak out.  Vote!  Support the ACLU! Do not remain silent.  If we do,  then we are condoning those who are the enemy of what the United States stands for: liberty and justice for all.

Why I Marched

22 Jan
my-coexists-sign

My personal rally sign.

Bring in the light.  Restore hope. Support those who are afraid. Make it known that we stand together.

I was not walking against Trump, rather I was marching for those who were feeling lost, frightened and scared since his election. I wanted them to see that we are not silent. That we stand together, and there is no return to the 1930s.

People are so down and pessimistic. While I am an optimist. I always try to find the happy, bright and light in each adventure that impacts me.

So on Saturday I saw the light. On this day when I had planned to go to synagogue and chant Kaddish on the yahrzeit of my mother, I took a different path.

My Mom was one of the kindest people. She taught fourth grade for 30 years.  And she opened her arms to all people. In her honor I marched with so many who were opening their hearts and arms.

My physical self marched in Kansas City, while my spirit marched with women and children and men throughout the world.

To all I say, ” Look at us. We are women! We stand together! We are not afraid! And we will be active in our pursuit of justice and equality for all.”

Fear Is Not The Right Response

11 Jan

I have heard the word, “fear,” way too often in the past few weeks. Really! Stop with the fear! You want to be angry. I can handle that. I am angry. I am angry that terrorism and politics are causing many to bend with fear. Do NOT!

White supremacist; ISIS; mentally ill young men with guns; shootings at an airport, at a school, a nightclub, at a mall; Nazi symbols defacing property and tombstones; tirades of racist and anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric during political events and elsewhere. Bomb threats phoned into Jewish Community Centers and schools.

Since 9/11 so many people seem to live in fear.  It seems  important decisions that impact many are based on that fear as well.  Yes, we must be careful. But we have to stop being so afraid!

People tell me and write on Facebook that they are afraid. Well I am not afraid. I am so darn ANGRY!  I believe what I have is righteous anger!

I am angry that in 2017 that people have not realized that this is one world, and we all live in it. That if a bomb goes off in one area, it impacts many areas.   We are all connected. And no matter what anyone believes, we really do have to work together to keep our world intact.

I am angry that guns are such a problem in the USA. That mentally unstable people can so easily obtain a gun and blast away, taking lives and destroying families.   I am angry that the sane gun owners do not stand up to the gun lobby and say, “Enough is enough.   We want the right to have guns, but we also do not want so many innocents killed. Let’s do away with semi automatic and automatic weapons.”  I am angry that this has not yet happened.

I am angry that instead of stopping gun violence with the only thing that would work, less guns. Some states, including my own, have legislators who voted to allow concealed carry for people who are not even trained to use guns. They are all insane in my mind. And they make me ANGRY!

I am angry that people are not kind to each other. They use words and actions that harm others and do not ask forgiveness. I am angry that some judges still allow convicted rapists off with a short sentence, and do not consider the victim of the rape. What is this? The judges should be impeached.

I am angry about what I perceive as a war against women’s health issues. I am tired of women being written out of history and their stories being hidden away, as men seem unable to deal with the competition of smart, intelligent women. I AM ANGRY!

I know I seem angry about many issues. But my biggest anger is for those who say they are afraid!   Franklin D. Roosevelt stated so wisely, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!” And that is what I believe.

Do not let yourself be immobilized by fear. Words associated with fear include: “scared to death, “ “Frozen in fear,” “make your blood run cold,” “wild with fear,” panic, anxiety and terror.   These are not the words we need to use.

Be angry. This emotion promotes action. And we need action to combat what is happening in the world. My grandmother left Poland when she was 16 years old, alone, in 1922. She had lived through the First World War in Poland. And she had survived and was ready to move on. She did not let her fear make her inactive. NO, she lived. And she fought to get to the USA.   And then she helped members of her family escape Poland in 1936.   Her rightful anger gave her the energy to ACT. And her actions saved lives.

When you are angry, you might ‘bite someone’s head off’ but you will not be silenced!

I am not saying to be out of control angry. My mother would say, “When you lose your temper, you lose the war.” I do not advocate losing your temper, but I do advocate using your anger to bring to action to accomplish good.

No terrorist or terrorism or shootings or anti-Semitic acts will frighten me. But these actions will enrage me and move me to actions.

So stop being afraid! Fear is not the right response to evil. Work for good. Be angry and DO SOMETHING!

In Other Election News … Cannabis

10 Nov

As we all consider the ramifications of a Trump presidency, another important decision was being decided. Three states approved marijuana for recreational use: California, Massachusetts and Nevada. And three others approved the use of medical marijuana: Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota.

There are now 28 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized medical marijuana!

The world is changing!

I could say that the country needs to be stoned to get through the next four years. But I think that is a bit of gallows humor. So I will stay on topic: Pot.

There is even a large ‘cannabis’ industry. A young man I have known since he is four recently finished his law degree.   He found a job immediately in a Chicago firm. I asked him what was his specialty, as he focused on business law. His reply, “Cannabis law.” I laughed.

I laughed even more when I spoke to his Mom.   She was abashed. But happy he was doing so well. It seems that there is a lot of legal matters in the cannabis industry. I am sure he will be employed in his chosen field for many years! What a great job choice.

Last year my husband and I saw the change in marijuana laws in action. While in Seattle we went on a walk to find a medical marijuana store. My husband is a physician, and he had many questions about medical marijuana. The employees at the store were really helpful and informative. They answered all his questions, and even let him peak into the inner sanctum….where all the marijuana was bundled and waiting to be used. It was just a peak, but I will tell you…there was a lot of marijuana there!

They were dealing with some major issues in Washington due to Senate Bill 5052 which went into effect on July 2016. This bill tries to integrate recreational and the medical marijuana system. The people we spoke to, in June 2016, complained bitterly on how the price of weed would increase dramatically for all. And those using it medically would have to pay much more once it all became recreational. Also people who used marijuana medically would have to register, while recreational user would not.

I am not sure what is happening now, four months later. But with tide against legal restrictions across the country, I am really not worrying about Washington’s pot users.

Weed, dope, pot, marijuana, cannabis: it is a big money business! However, because there are federal restrictions on the sale of marijuana, it is still a business with many legal issues. I think as the states keep making it legal, the federal government will change as well.

I must say, with all the unrest in the world and in the United States, with the hatred and bigotry that was stirred up, I find it somewhat unsettling that the same people who voted for a conservative view of the world, also voted yes on legalization of cannabis issues.

I could come up with my own conspiracy theory. But I will leave it at this. Soon marijuana will be legal throughout the USA. I only hope that women’s rights, LBGT rights, religious rights and other anti-discrimination rights also stay legal.   Citizens are fighting for the right to get stoned. I hope we all continue to fight for the rights of all citizens to live in a free world that respects their rights as well.

 

I Wonder About November 9, 2016: 78 Years after Kristallnacht

30 Oct

I wonder.

I wonder if there is some cosmic meaning to the date of this year’s election in the USA. November 8, 2016, is one day before the 78th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass when Nazis in Germany burned synagogues and destroyed the businesses owned by Jewish families. The Nazis killed, burned, destroyed and vandalized.

I wonder if Kristallnacht would be re-enacted or reinvented in the USA as the Republican nominee has stirred up the bottom of the pond and brought forth, not a new nation, but a new uprising of hatred against the other.

I wonder what will happen on November 9, 2016?

I wonder what the Jews in Germany felt as citizens of a country where the people turned against them. It scares me as I see the citizens of the USA and the European Union turn against Jews through out the world. And I see, here, in the one country where Jews have always felt a feeling of saftely, an uprising of hatred.

I wonder about the famous poem by Pastor Martin Niemoller:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

I wonder what he would be thinking now if he still lived.

But it is not just for the Jews that I fear for in this somewhat uncertain world. I fear for all those considered the Other determined by Race or Religion or Nationality.

I wonder if the USA will ever be the same after this nasty, tasteless, hate-filled election.

I wonder, I hope and I pray that when it is over on November 9, 2016, the 78th anniversary of Kristallnacht, that we will have learned from the past.

I wonder, I hope and I pray that peace will return. And the hatred that was stirred up can somehow be mitigated and returned the the bottom of the pond. Never to be disturbed again.

 

We Always Have Our Minds, We Must Use Them

21 Jul

“They can never take your education or your mind,” my Grandfather told me. He escaped from Europe in 1918 in an effort to avoid service in the military. For a Jew in 1918, a military career was not a good option.

Although Grandpa’s formal education ended, he was a strong believer in education for his children and grandchildren. He came to a country, that although it had quotas for college at the time, there was still an opportunity to get an advanced education for everyone. In New York City, many children of immigrants went to CCNY, City College of New York, where education was basically free!

He would be proud to know that five of his great grandchildren have or are working on secondary degrees: four master’s degrees already completed, one in progress and a PhD on its way. No one can take this education away.

We are the people of the book, the Torah. We are a people who stress learning and education. My family is one that continues this tradition. In this country we have had the opportunity to learn at any college or university. We have had the freedom to study Torah as free and independent people.

My Grandfather never learned to read English well. We grew up reading street signs for him as he drove. In fact, I learned to read by listening to my Grandmother read to him.   My Grandmother also came from Europe and was fortunate enough to go to night school to learn English.

But do not think my Grandfather was uneducated. He was not. He was literate in Yiddish, Hebrew and Polish, as was my Grandmother. English was their fourth language.

My Grandfather was a Cohen, from the priestly group of Judaism.   He had a beautiful voice. When I was a small child, I loved to sit under his tallit with him as he chanted the prayers.

I also stress education.   I have taught high school. I work at a school now. And I made it clear to my children, from infancy, that education was the most important job they had.

No matter what you do in life. No matter where you live. Nothing can ever take your education away from you.

In Israel they know this. Recently Shimon Peres, the 93-year-old, past president, said: “In Israel, a land lacking natural resources, we learned to appreciate our greatest resource, our minds.”

This is a truth for everyone.   Education and your mind are always yours. No one can take these away.

The United States has been a country of immigrants; a country where people can get an education. Where people can read the books they want to read, study the topics they want to study; use their minds to be whatever they want to be. The USA is a country of free speech and freedom of religion.

I hope it continues. We always have our education and our minds. I hope people use their minds this November.  I hope they remember that we all came from elsewhere.  Use their minds and their education to do what is best to keep our country free, to keep the haven for immigrants alive, to avoid the pitfalls we see in Europe.  The world is a scary place right now.  But we need to use our minds to keep out fear and to reject those who would use fear and hatred to change American.

What I Think About on The 2016 Fourth of July

4 Jul

I am a fortunate person. My paternal great grandparents immigrated to the United States in the 1880s, and my maternal grandparents arrived in the early 1920s, before the Immigration Act of 1924 severely limited immigration and imposed a strict quota system. It was a bigoted act designed to limit immigration of Africans as well as Southern Europeans and Eastern Europeans.   It actually banned the immigration of Arabs and Asians.   It was due to this horrible act that so many Jewish people trying to escape Nazi Germany were banned from entering the United States and were murdered.

Finally, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 was passed and enacted on June 30, 1968, just in time for a Fourth of July celebration. It ended the strict limits of the quota systems and allowed preference visa categories that took into account an immigrant who had family members who were citizens, as well as an immigrant’s special skills.

Think of what this act might have meant for tens of thousands of Jews stuck in Europe. In my own family, the 1924 act caused the death of my grandfather’s family. He was able to get Visa’s for his parents, but not for his siblings. His parents refused to leave. And so everyone perished in the Holocaust.   My grandmother was able to get a visa for her father and younger sister, but not her brothers. Fortunately they survived.

The Immigration Act of 1990 increased the total immigration allowed and the number of visas from the 1965 law. But also in the 1990s other laws were passed to make it more difficult for legal and illegal immigrants adding reasons for deportations, according to a Wikipedia article on “The Laws Concerning Immigration.”

But the world changed on September 11, 2001, and along with it views on immigration. People got scared. We began to allow fear to rule the country. And if we do that, we let the terrorist win through fear. That is what they want.

We seemed to have gone back to the ways of the 1920s, when the white men in power seemed so afraid of those that were different. Many restrictive laws were enacted before women had the right to vote. The 19th Amendment was only ratified on August 18, 1920. At first many women did not vote. It took time for women to stand up and have their voices heard.

I cannot prove that having women’s votes changed the direction of the United States, but I believe that women voters have influenced many aspects of life in the USA.

The fact that we now have three women on the Supreme Court has made a difference. The fact that we have women in office on all levels of government: local, state, national, has made a difference. The fact that we have had women running for the two highest offices in the USA: vice president and president, has made a difference.

I am so proud and glad to be a citizen of the United States of America. I am so glad that my ancestors made the journey to the USA in times that were so difficult and were allowed to settle here and become citizens.

I hope that we all remember what is written in the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

We must not let fear of the other make us forget that the United States was founded by the ‘other.’ Everyone who signed the original Declaration of Independence was the descendant of an immigrant. We were not perfect. The treatment of the Native Americans and slave ownership was not right. But the founders did their best with the information they had. The Constitution helped them make changes to reflect the society. Slavery ended, women got the right to vote.

With the death of Elie Wiesel, we must remember his words as he reminded us of the Shoah and our responsibility to keep another one from happening: “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

And we must side with the victim. We are a country founded by people searching for religious freedom, searching for a place to live with freedoms and the rights to be as equal as anyone else.

This Fourth of July, we must not give in to fear and hatred. We must protect those fleeing from war. We must not become a bigoted, hateful country. We must remain the defender of the victim. That is the heritage I want to rejoice on this July Fourth.