Recently, Nicholas Kristof wrote a moving Op Ed piece (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/25/opinion/anne-frank-today-is-a-syrian-girl.html?_r=0) comparing a wounded Syrian girl to Anne Frank. This sermon is a response to his essay.
Firstly, in Nicholas Kristof's defense, it is hard to argue against having compassion for little children, whether Syrian, Yemeni, Yezidi, Kurdish, Sudanese, Muslim or Christian, who suffer in war zones created by political and religious division. And, one also needs understand, the well-meaning effort of the child of a refugee from WWII, Kristoff, whose own Polish father was, himself, subjected to Labor Camp conditions during the occupation of the Third Reich in Eastern Europe. Still, one would think that Kristof might also be able to ferret out the distinctions. One evil cannot always be compared and equated with another, dramatic effect notwithstanding.
Muslim Syrian children, in this case, are collateral damage of a war. They are not targeted for extermination. Jews, during Shoa, had only two possible destinations from which to obtain visas–Shanghai and the Dominican Republic–both of which had limited absorptive capacity and little ability to dispense these visas to Jews on the run. Syrian refugees should have 21 Arab Muslim nations in an Arab League willing to help absorb and financially support them in safe war zones, which could be establish by military means, if there was a willingness to do so. So far, only 3 have come forward even to help absorb refugees. (To their credit, Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon). Where are the rich Gulf states in this equation? During the Holocaust, Jews did not have 21 nations to which to appeal. They had only one Jewish State in the making (the Yishuv in British Mandate Palestine) and the Brits were doing their darndest to restrict Jews from emigrating there! This is why the State of Israel's existence and its mission is so vital today.
One wonders why Kristof isn't calling these Arab States to task before appealing to the nations of the west. Many of these nations are not signatory to the Geneva convention, which obligates their responsibility toward their Arab brethren. Why is that tolerated rather than condemned by bodies like the UN Human Rights Commission or by such compassionate journalists like Kristof? Why is that not more objectionable than Western nations' reluctance, themselves reeling from Radical Islamic terror? More to the point, Kristoff seems unaware, as do many activist organizations of the anti-Semitic and anti-Western curriculum, that these children have been force fed. Don't Jewish communities in particular, and western societies in general, also need to be aware of the culture of hate against Israel, taught to Syrian children from kindergarten on? Isn't it potentially a serious problem that might arise if western nations absorb thousands of these young people?
Shalom, chaverim! I hope that all of you are enjoying the summer in your own personal ways. The weather has been hot, but I hear the beach is pleasant. Just remember the sunscreen!
From the outside, things at the East Northport Jewish Center appear very quiet. Clergy and staff are taking their vacations. Programming is limited. We have a regular service schedule, but attendance is lighter than the rest of the year. Do not be deceived. Your Board of Directors and the various standing committees are hard at work planning for the coming holiday season. I hope that you will do your part to help the process along.
As you receive this, the deadline for the High Holiday Ticket Request Form is approaching. Please get your paperwork and payments into the office by Friday, August 19th, in order to be eligible for the seating priority lottery. This lottery determines the order in which the ticket requests are filled.
If you are interested in helping out with the planning for the holidays and beyond, we have many committees, any of which would be glad for your support. The largest, most visible committees are Ritual, Education, Community Relations and Fundraising. Ritual is responsible for worship services, holiday observances and all religious activities of the synagogue. The Education committee helps run the Religious School. Community Relations organizes community meals, blood drives, Tot Shabbats, delivering meals to the sick or shut-in, as well as occasional social and entertainment programming. Fundraising raises moeny for the shul through large one-time campaigns and smaller, ongoing projects. Finally, while the Membership, Building Administration and House Administration Vice Presidents don't currently head active committees, from time to time, they also could use a little extra help. If you feel you have skills that could be useful, please contact the appropriate VP to inform them of your interest. If our interests or skill set do not seem to ally with an existing committee or department, let's talk! I'm sure we can find a place for you!
The festive holiday of Shavuot is quickly approaching and I thought that I would focus on just one minghag (custom) of this beautiful chag.
It is customary on Shavuot to eat cheese blintzes which is rather interesting and curious. The underpinning of Shavuot is that we received the Torah on this chag, which makes it extraordinary. Reverting back to the custom of eating cheese blintzes. The shape of a cheese blintze is like a Torah as the cheese is rolled into the dough. The inside is sweet and makes for a delicious snack!
We can absolutely learn much from this custom. Judaism is like a cheese blintze in that it sweetens our lives and adds meaning and flavor. Further, limudei kodesh, the study of Torah, can and should be sweet at all times. Studying Torah should not be a drag or feel boring. On the contrary, our approach should be one of excitement as we study the Torah and multiple texts that have resulted, since we received the Torah at Mount Sinai.
With the idea of sweetness in mind, we recently had a TEENS REUNION at the ENJC. I contacted all of our teens who have celebrated a Bar or Bar Mitzvah at our synagogue in the past 3-4 years and encouraged them to come down to Shabbat morning services on Saturday/Shabbat, May 14th. Thirty-one teenagers and many parents joined us for services and their presence certainly sweetened our services tremendously. My personal thanks to all of the teens and their parents for making our services so very special.
Beginning Saturday night June 11th and commencing June 12th and 13th, we observe the holiday of Shavuoth. Shavuoth is an important pilgrimage festival and the day that marks 50 days from when we began counting the Omer sheaf offering on the holiday of Pesach. The narrative of Exodus, Chapter 19, also makes a good case that it was the day on which we stood at Sinai and received the thunderous utterance of Ten Commandments that provided the scaffolding of the entire Torah.
There are many theories as to why it became customary to eat dairy on Shavuoth. One theory suggests that when the Israelites received the kosher laws, they were reluctant to eat meat since the laws were complicated, and ate dairy. Another theory says simply that the Torah would be our manual in the Land of Milk and Honey. Another states that just as we wean our young and vitalize them with milk, so we must passionately do so with our Torah. A sage points out that the numeric equivalent of Halav is 40, reminding us of the forty days Moses spent on the mountain top.
Here is a favorite from Nachalat Tzvi. When Moses went up to the top of the mountain he was transported to heaven. There he was required to wrest the Torah away from the possessive angels, who had possessed them for 954 generations, even before the creation! G-d transformed Moses' face to look like Abraham's. He turned to the angels and said "did you not eat milk with meat when I served you at the time you came to tell me about Sarah having Issac?" They had to admit that they did. "If that is so, then you violated the rules of the Torah that you possessed!" Having softened them up by this strong offensive parry, he continued his argument "...do you do work that you need to observe the Sabbath? Do you steal things so that you need a commandment that says thou shall not steal? ...do you worship idols that you need a commandment that says serve no other gods before me?" The angels, defeated by this argument, surrendered the 10 Commandments to him. As a result, it became customary for Jews to begin their Shavuoth festival with the dairy meal, and follow it after a short time with a meat one!
We will be observing this custom with blintzes and ice cream sundaes on Saturday night, June 11th at our special learning session in honor of the festival. Our Tikun Leil Shavuoth will be covering rabbinic ideas on the nature of revelation and aspects of the Book of Ruth. It will begin with Maariv at 9pm.
Please help make this a delectable and successful program. May I take this time to wish you and yours a sweet and joyful Shavuoth festival!
As your rabbi, and in the name of our wonderful Community Relations Committee, it is my honor to invite you to attend our Yom HaShoah Program at 7:00 pm on May 5th at East Northport Jewish Center.
This year, our program will feature the exciting and deeply meaningful discovery of Chris Nichola. Mr. Nichola, while spelunking (aka, caving) in the Ukraine, came across remnants of what was, no doubt, a record for the continuous habitation of a cave. Jews near Kerowlowka, Ukraine survived there, underground, for over a year-and-a-half, hiding from extermination efforts by the Nazis. Nichola traces his discovery and the subsequent meeting of survivor families, whom he came to know and befriend, with a multimedia presentation. It is a most moving story which has been made into a feature length documentary film.
Unlike our usual format, this year’s service will precede the program, as we are only able to have our presenter on Thursday, the day of Yom Hashoah, May 5th. We will begin our ceremony at 7:00 pm sharp, with the participation of some of our survivor families. The ceremony will include The Theme from Schindler’s List, performed by pianist Terry Bernstein, and the participation of Rabbi Silverman and Cantor Nussbaum. All families will be invited to stand on the bima with our Torah scrolls and our Holocaust Torah from Kolin, Czechoslovakia, as Cantor chants the mournful Kel Mahlei Rachamim. Once our moving ceremony is completed, with the lighting of candles commemorating the loss of our precious 6,000,000, we will begin our special program.
This ceremony and program is our yearly marking of Yom HaShoah. There may be some relatives or friends you wish to invite because our program will probably be a day later than the one that others might attend. Please invite your loved ones and friends to ours.
May the clarion call of Zachor (Remember) and “Never Again” be reinforced and echo strongly this Yom HaShoah season. Our Kedoshim–those who perished–must never be forgotten and the lessons of the Holocaust must never cease. Please grace us with the attendance of your family at this important event.