Ian Silverman, Rabbi

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In our contemporary American milieu, we begin January as a new chapter, with a batch of resolutions for the New Year. Similarly, with the departure of our beloved Chazzan, we at ENJC are also beginning a new chapter. And, according to Jewish tradition, every day is an opportunity for a new chapter, a potential for teshuva–a return to the correct path and to good living. Even God starts a new chapter each day, as the siddur claims, Hamechadesh bechol Yom Maaseah beresheet–we are awestruck at our God who each day 'creates the world anew.' With this in mind, there are four resolutions we can adopt into our Jewish lives, based on major themes in the portions we read in each of our January Shabbats. Perhaps you will embrace all or some of these opportunities.


In Miketz, which we read on December 30th, Joseph is appointed vizier of Egypt and devises a way to save the Near East from drought and hunger. Through his foresight and vision, suffering is alleviated and lives are saved. Let’s resolve, this new year, to make certain to redouble our efforts in supporting major organizations like Mazon, and make a personal effort to combat hunger by working with HIHI and with Long Island Harvest soup kitchens and food pantries, so as to minimize hunger for those who live locally.


In Vayigash, read on January 7, Joseph recognizes the repentance and improvement in his brothers, and reveals that he is their long-lost brother and that they must stop beating themselves up for past wrongdoings against him. Similarly, in our lives, we may have run-ins and moments of disagreement that turn ugly. This year, can't we perhaps turn to a loved one and forgive? Can't we gain a new perspective and maturity for a feud for which we may not even remember its' origin? Years may go by and affection may grow colder. Instead, love and let live. Forgive and forget. Reveal your real face to family and friends–a face that seeks to embrace rather than to estrange.


In Vayechi, which we read on January 14, we see an acme of pure love in the behavior of one of Jacob's grandsons, Menasseh, when he receives a lesser blessing from his grandfather than his younger brother, Ephraim. Jacob crosses his arms and knowingly puts his right hand on the head of Ephraim, even though he is the younger, saying that the younger brother will be greater than the elder Menasseh. In fact, the entire book of Genesis is about the jealousy of brothers: Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, Jacob and Esau Joseph and his brothers.  But Menasseh isn't jealous. He is happy for his brother. That is why, on Friday night, we bless our sons to be like Menasseh and Ephraim. These brothers broke the cycle of envy. May we resolve this year to break our cycle of envy, and when we catch ourselves coveting the blessings of others, let's make sure to count the many that we have.


On January 21, we read from the portion of Shemoth. We are introduced to Moses, who runs away from Egypt as a fugitive, and assumes the role of a shepherd. Moses needs to be convinced that he can be so much more. Yet he resists his calling and his talents, not believing in himself. God puts a staff in his hand and says, "Just do it." Moses finds his stride, and boy does he. This might be a lesson for all of us who are perfectionists or are too hard on ourselves. This year don't talk yourself out of trying for a new level of achievement, a new skill, or a new hobby. Don't settle for the familiar. Bring it on. You may fail but you have to believe in yourself and make that effort. You, like Moses, might surprise yourself with your talents if you do!

 


Finally, on January 28 we learn about parashat Vaera. In it, we see the plagues brought on by God for the willful disregard of God’s creations by the Pharaoh in his decimation of crops, trees, earth, air and water. These days, we are also conscious of the plagues brought upon our air, water, soil, and crop through the poor policies of leaders of many nations. The rise of our coastal waters is now beginning in Florida. Coral and algae resources in our oceans are under threat. The stability of soil is compromised by erosion, and deforestation continues. It is no longer God plaguing the planet; it is humankind and our leadership. Let us be the Moses and Miriams of the world and say, "Let my planet go." The enslavement of exhaustible resources, such as fossil fuels, both soils the air we breathe and threatens the earth, mountains, and water through mining. Let's speak out to our leadership, “truth to power.” We have the whole world in our hands. Let's bequeath it intact to our grandchildren through the policies we demand of our leaders.


I know that New Year's Day resolutions are not a part of Jewish practice, but since we partake of American customs, let’s customize them in Jewish fashion. Let's help those who hunger more, forgive and embrace more, covet less, believe in ourselves a bit more, and protect natures bounty into the future. And to this, let us say Amen.

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Israel Items of Interest

Three years after publishing an anti-Israel letter in the medical journal, The Lancet, the editor admits he has deep regrets and has dedicated the latest issue to highlighting health care in Israel. Read about it HERE.

Read an article by Chris Coons and Marco Rubio from the Wall Street Journal, "Every Senator Agrees the UN Must Change," HERE.

Israel's medical clowns- they cheer up sick kids, reduce anxiety, decrease pain, and alleviate depression. They are Jews, Christian Arabs, and others. Watch a YouTube video about them HERE.

Learn about the connection of Jews with Israel, the decades-long quest of Israel for peace with it's neighbors, the failure of Palestinian leadership to turn conflict into coexistence, and the contrast between the fate of Palestinian and Jewish refugees from the Arab-Israel conflict, HERE. 

Women of the IDF video

 

Rabbi Silverman's Suggested Sites to See

A group of 18 NFL Hall-of-Famers joined New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft on a trip to Israel that transformed their opinions of Kraft and of Israel, HERE.

Read a terrific article by foreign journalist Hunter Stuart, who, when exposed to the realities of reporting in Israel, found the his and his fellow journalists' pro-Palestinian views were very wrong, HERE.

Israel is the world's oldest victim of "false news," HERE.

Cold Spring Harbor's Judy Davis writes about the advantages of having Israel as an American partner in The Times of Israel, HERE.

Watch a video questioning the double standard when it comes to terrorism in Israel HERE.

Read an important article that rebuts the contention that the Holocaust is the reason the State of Israel exists, HERE.

As a Columbia University alumnus, Rabbi Silverman has written a letter to its president, Lee Bollinger, in protest of the "Nakba Project," an initiative of Columbia's Center for Palestine Studies and Adalah, and anti-Israel NGO. The project promotes extreme anti-Israel rhetoric and provides a platform for BDS-ers. Read about it HERE. 

Your tax dollars paid for an event in Congress, sponsored by Congressman Mark Pocan, with speakers that denied Israel's right to exit and called Israel's founding in 1948 a “catastrophe." Please sign your name to a petition that demands our leaders condemn this hate speech and to ensure that a congressional event like this will not happen again, HERE.

An Israeli rabbi settler who praised attacks on Arabs has been indicted for incitement. While it is troubling that rabbis have come to this, credit should be given to the the Israeli judicial system and mainstream Jewish scholars for disowning such thinking and indicting this rabbi. It would be significant if such legal mechanisms were applied to Palestinian society for similar incitement. Read about it HERE.

It's time for Jewish leadership, the Jewish Federation, Jewish Family Services, Hillels, and college students' families to stand up to campus bullying and intimidation directed against Jewish students. Read one man's opinion about where inaction leads, HERE.

Are charity dollars being well directed? The Middle East forum is trying to persuade foundations to stop funding to Islamist institutions in the West that provide platforms for speakers and to organizatins that defend Shariah-sanctioned rape and sex slavery. Read about it HERE.  

50 years ago, at the time of the Six-Day War, another campaign to drive the Jews out of Libya was waging. Read about the Libyan Jews in a blog from The Times of Israel by David Harris HERE.

Watch two short, 5-min videos on the claimes of Palestinians and the error of some "progressive" polemics against the State of Israel. Be sure to watch the second film directly following the first, on the false "indigenous" narrative of Palestinian leaders. 
Israel-hating Latino student finds something unbelievable, HERE.
The 2016 African Debate Champion shares his thoughts on Israel, HERE.

A surprising number of well-known retailers are offering anti-Israel/pro-Palestinian clothing and other items.This is an outrage that requires a strong reaction of displeasure directed right to their Customer service departments. Sears offers "Free Palestine" T-shirts, and Walmart and even Better Homes and Gardens offer "Free Palestine" phone cases (see phone cases HERE). Amazon offers 3 pages of Free Palestine T-shirts, including one for your baby.
Email Sears Customer Service

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Contact Walmart Customer Service HERE; Better Homes and Gardens Customer Service HERE.
You can call Amazon's general help line and ask to speak with management at 1-866-486-2360.

Spreadshirt, the manufacturer of the shirts, says they will continue to make them because "it does not break the law and does not incite violence." You can contact them and ask that they reconsider: https://www.spreadshirt.com/userarea/contact-C1336,  phone number: 1-800-381-0815

Watch an animated video about how anti-Semitism has mutated over time, HERE.

Read a blog by David Harris from The Times of Israel, on Israel at 69 HERE.

Read The Truth Behind Bar Mitzvah Tears, by Wendy Jaffe. A reflection that says it all perfectly, HERE.

Learn the proper protocol to handle Palestinian activists on campuses as exemplified by Georgetown University HERE.

A video about all the wonderful aid Israel provides worldwide, that will bring a tear to your eyes HERE.

 

 

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