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Sometimes all it takes is to write a letter
Much of the time, you don’t get a response, but every once in a while your efforts can have a profound impact that will galvanize further letter writing. I was disturbed when I read about anti-Semitic actions taking place on the campus of The University of Missouri. My sister, Sheree, sent me the article, Over 80 Fliers Promoting University of Missouri Event With Israeli Journalist Systematically Torn Down, from The Algemeiner (see link below). I immediately took it upon myself to write the University of Missouri President, Choi Mun, and let him know that even to those of us in Long Island NY, these acts of anti-Semitic vandalism matter. They affect the self-regard of the pro-Israel Jewish students trying to disseminate the vantage point of Israel in the crosshairs of the hateful acts of terrorists at their border. You can read the article from The Algemeiner HERE.
So I wrote to the President of the University of Missouri:
Dear Dr. Mun,
I was disturbed to hear of the vandalism of 80 flyers advertising a speaker from Israel at the Jewish fraternity at UMizz. Has the administration investigated who is behind it and condemned it as an effort to stifle free speech in your campus? I am certain the pro-Israel Jewish students feel unsupported and vilified. The speaker was providing illuminating information about the suffering of Israeli civilians on their southern border, enduring incoming missiles and incendiary balloon arson attacks, information often downplayed by many media outlets. These attacks have led to massive ecological and wildlife damage. There is no doubt the objective is both to hide the truth and intimidate pro-Israeli viewpoints that present a fuller picture of the reality in the ground. It would be gravely disappointing if administrators were passive in the face of efforts to undermine legitimate presentations seeking to flesh out the truth in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So often what passes as fact is simply pro-Palestinian propaganda that echoes the same unsubstantiated tropes about Israeli "oppression." Please advise as to what your administration’s position in this vandalism has been.
Well, the very next morning I received a letter from President Choi Mun. It read as follows:
Dear Rabbi Silverman,
As leaders of a university that values free speech and dialogue, we are very disappointed to learn of the vandalism. Our Chancellor, Alex Cartwright, has been direct and forceful in his stance against any intimidation and any action that hinders free expression. I will work with the senior leaders at MU to learn more about this issue and to address it.
Shortly after this, I believe the next day, I received an email from Chancellor Cartwright, who wrote me the following:
Dear Rabbi Silverman:
As President Choi has stated, we are committed to free speech and we are extremely disappointed to hear about vandalism. Vice-Chancellor Ward and his team are investigating this and President Choi and I will follow up on those efforts.
Then, I received another letter from a man named Gary Ward. It was cryptic and read as follows:
If you send a number I will call you tomorrow with a status. Look forward to visiting with you!
I was not sure what that meant at all and was concerned that it was from the "other side" of this issue. What is a "status?" What is he saying about visiting me? So I wrote the following:
Not sure what you are talking about. I wrote a letter because flyers were torn up on your campus for an Israel talk. I live in Long Island NY. Please clarify what you mean!
So he responded:
Dear Rabbi Silverman,
I apologize, I should have provided you with more information. My name is Gary Ward and I am the Vice-Chancellor of Operations for the University of Missouri. I was copied on President Choi’s and Chancellor Cartwright’s email to you. If you would like, I can provide you with an update on the status of our investigations. I can be reached at [his cell number]. If I don’t answer please leave me a message and I will call you back later.
So I picked up my phone and called the number, and he informed me that two individuals have been detained– one, a student and one, not a student, who are being investigated with regard to violations of Title IX infractions pertaining to their acts of vandalism. Free speech is one thing, he told me, but paraphrasing, he said, administrators are not handcuffed when it comes to acts of this nature involving harassment, intimidation and vandalism, and it is supremely important to not let matters of this nature get out of hand by ineffectually addressing them.
I thanked him for their responsiveness to this matter and told him that I thought his university should be a model in their handling of intimidation of pro-Israel programs and for the pro-Israel Jewish student and faculty populations who wish to promote balanced views regarding the Middle East.
So if you think writing a letter is waste of time think again my friend!
Thanksgiving, just a few weeks away, has always been my favorite holiday of the year, so what better time to share with you what we are thankful for. I, personally, am thankful for both of my children having graduated from college, and no longer having any tuition bills!
ENJC is thankful that you, our congregants, were generous with your donations for this year’s Yom Kippur appeal. As promised during my High Holiday speech, this month we will be sealing the rest of the roof with the silicon product that we used successfully on the ballroom roof.
We are thankful for our recent additions to the ENJC team. The hallways are buzzing with excitement about what is happening in our Religious School. Some parents have said that their children have learned more in one month than they did in two or three years. Thank you to Fran Pearlman, our new Religious School Director. In October, our first three students, who studied under the direction of our new Bar/Bat Mitzvah tutor, Lisa Maron, became Bar and Bat Mitzvah. All of the parents have been singing her praises and the performance of her first three students support those accolades. Benjamin Fuchs, Madeline Stubing and Nathaniel Tyll were awesome on their special day. Mazel Tov to all of the proud parents and families.
I am thankful for the wonderful hard work and support from both the Executive and Congregation Boards. The team devotes long hours to ENJC and each board member attends numerous meetings so that our synagogue can address the questions and concerns of our congregants.
October provided Sisterhood the opportunity to say thank you to their Woman of the Year, Linda Pollack. It was a great night, enjoyed by all that attended. In November, the Men’s Club will be giving their thanks to two well-deserving men, Arnie Carter and Werner Hess. Thank you to Linda, Arnie and Werner for all that you have done over the years to make ENJC a better place.
On October 21st, we held a memorial service for Cantor Nussbaum. It was very well attended and a moving tribute to a special man. All that had known him were thankful for the time that they spent with him. It was terrific to see so many congregants, both past and present, come out for the memorial. Thank you to over 250 of you for attending–Yasher Koach.
I am very excited to announce that ENJC won a 2018 Federal Non-Profit Security Grant. This money will be used toward making ENJC a safe place in today’s turbulent world. I will be updating the congregation as we start some of these projects. This grant provides us three years to complete our security projects. Congratulations and thank you to the committee that helped secure the grant for ENJC.
I hope that all of the ENJC families have a HAPPY THANKSGIVING! Read More
Dedicated to the baby who was to be named at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA on Shabbat morning, October 27, 2018
Little boy, what’s your name – do you have one?
Sweet baby, just eight days, what should we call you?
I have heard the sacred circumcision postponed for jaundiced yellow,
but never before for bloodshed red.
Is your name Shalom? We long for peace in this troubled world. I hope you are Shalom.
Is your name Nachum? Oh, how we need to be comforted in our grief. I hope you are Nachum.
Is your name Raphael? Our broken hearts and bleeding souls need healing. I hope you are Raphael.
You should have been carried high into the congregation on Shabbat morning – past from loving hands to loving hands – on a cushioned pillow to receive your Jewish name.
Instead your elders fell and were carried out on stretchers in plastic bags. Their names on tags.
Is your name Moshe? Our unbearable anguish and rage demands justice. I hope you are Moshe.
Is your name Ariel? We need the ferocious strength of lions to protect our people. I hope you are Ariel.
Is your name Barak? We need courageous warriors to vanquish our enemies. I hope you are Barak.
The blood on Shabbat morning was supposed to be covenantal not sacrilegious, sacramental not sacrificial, sacred not unholy. The tears were supposed to be of
boundless joy not bottomless sorrow.
The cries were supposed to be “mazel tov” not the mourner’s kaddish.
Is your name Simcha? We need an end to sadness by bringing joy into our world. I hope you are Simcha.
Is your name Yaron? We need an end to mourning by bringing song into our lives. I hope you are Yaron.
Is your name Matan? We need the gift of children who will bring a better tomorrow. I hope you are Matan.
So little boy, what’s your name? Take them all if you will. Take a thousand names. Be Peace and Comfort and Healing. Be Justice and Strength and Courage. Be Joy and Song and a Gift to the world.
Be every good name and every good thing.
And, Sweet baby, take one more name if you will – because I hope you will be blessed with a long, blissful, beautiful and meaningful life… Read More
I hope you are Chaim.