Did Jewish Values Die with the Six Million?

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How can you be a Jewish state when you have no Jewish values? Do we need to quote Tanach and Talmud to remind ourselves of the Jewish values that have been ingrained on our souls since we were tykes? Don’t we do that every week in the synagogue? Is anyone listening? Isn’t Israel supposed to be, you should forgive the expression, the Mecca of Diaspora Jewry?

So why is it that fewer and fewer Jews care about Israel? Maybe it is because they don’t like what they see in a host of Israeli policies, from making nice with some of the vilest governments in the world to treating refugees from genocide like criminals. It is something that is hard to wrap your head around. As hard as trying to understand how rabbis in New York refuse to let victims of child abuse dial 911 without their permission.

Who are the people throwing rocks through black-owned shop windows in Tel Aviv and setting fire to Eritreans in Jerusalem? People who were educated in the Land of Yad Vashem? How many billions did we spend trying to teach people how to live together and prevent genocide? As Jews and as a Jewish community, we yell “hate crime” every time someone looks at us cross-eyed, denies the Holocaust, or paints a swastika on a wall, including at Yad Vashem in early June. In the meantime, we Jews treat each other, our children, and the strangers among us like we are less than worthless.

Did the Six Million die for nothing? They had faith in a free, democratic and ideal state of Israel that would be the salvation of the world. Ani Mamin they sang in the Ghettos and camps. Hatikvah was on their lips together with the Shma as they went to the gas. We sing those songs on Yom Hashoah along with the Partisaner Hymn and Kaddish.

Where is that land of Israel, the land of Jewish values and ideals? Today it’s a place where Israeli government officials tell the big lie about North Africans, and prevent their own people from protesting peacefully. Government officials said that these refugees from genocide are raping Israeli women, giving them AIDS, and are a cancer on Israeli society. And they are deporting them back to their countries of origin with ugly rhetoric and violence reminiscent of Kristallnacht.

The ideal Israel in our souls, the Israel of blue skirts and embroidered blouses, of campfires and idealism, only exists in our imaginations. As a student of history, not bubbeh mayses, the story of the birth of Israel, the story of how the Jewish community behaved before, during and after the war in Mandate Palestine, in Europe, in America, in community after community–except for a handful of people who put themselves on the line in the attempt to rescue Jews–is not a pretty story.

The fictional Ari Ben Canaans of Exodus and the Rabbi Michoel Wiessmandls were rare characters. The Israeli right wing murdered the man who saved my mother and thousands of others during the Holocaust. To this very day, the behavior of the established Jewish communities in the secular and denominational world is shameful–from the treatment of the North Africans, including Ethiopian Jewry and women in Israel and everywhere else where they are forced to sit in the back, not drive, not go to school, etc.(in the organizational Jewish world there is equal work, not equal pay and glass ceilings) to the decades of covering up child abuse and domestic violence everywhere. And if anyone tells you that women in Judaism are free, look them in the eye and say “Agunot.”

The typical American Jew looks on, aghast, as Israel self-immolates in front of Diaspora Jewry, and Diaspora Jewry faces its own house of horrors. So much for being a light unto the nations. So much for the lessons from the Holocaust. So much for Jewish values. How the hell did we become the monsters we teach our children not to be. How can we, just four generations after the Holocaust, remain silent in the face of our leaders’ moral bankruptcy? How can we tolerate it when a Jew calls another Jew a Nazi? How can we tolerate it when our own people behave the way they do?

Maybe Jewish values died with the Six Million. Maybe that’s when Jewish leadership died. Elie Wiesel once said, “Jeanette, don’t wait for leaders. Be your own leader.”

Listen to Wiesel. Speak truth to power. If you don’t like what you see in the Jewish community, don’t wait for someone to lead you. Pick up a phone, post something to facebook, make your voice heard. Protest and demand the end of hypocrisy. Be your own leader.

In New Jersey, Vice is Nice–But Incest is Best!

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By doing an end run around Roe v. Wade, States and the Feds are making incest legal by redefining its victims as minors only.

by Jeanette Friedman

In the Soprano state where vice is nice, incest is best and legal among consenting adults. It is incredible that in New Jersey, where Governor Chris Christie and Congressmen Chris Smith and Scott Garrett are political paragons of virtue, incest among consenting adults is perfectly legal, but therapeutic abortions to save the life of the mother wouldn’t be if those same men have their way.

This is the same state that arrogantly cut $1 billion from education, and who knows how much more from programs that provide women with low cost screenings for reproductive diseases, including ovarian, cervical and breast cancer and programs that provide children with food. Looks like the language in HR 3, HR 217, and HR 358, Congressional bills designed to do an end run around Roe v. Wade, was born in New Jersey. It’s also a sneaky way to make incest legal in America, since all three bills state incest only applies to people under 18.

New Jersey does not apply any penalties when both parties engaged in incest are 18 years of age or older. The county prosecutor I spoke to, who stayed on background, wouldn’t say outright that it was legal and kept referring to sexual assault. He asked me to read the sexual assault statute, and I kept asking, “What if the victim doesn’t understand that this is sexual assault? What if Daddy is in control?” There was no comment–but they won’t prosecute if the victim is 18+.

A 2006 Harvard Law Review article said it all: “Inbred Obscurity: Improving Incest Laws in the Shadow of the ‘Sexual Family’”. Harvard Law Review. June 2006. Get it here. It’s legal in France, Belgium, and in Brazil from the age of 14. But you can get up to life in prison for it in Ireland. The Irish understand that incest is always rape.

There are plenty of people who say it’s not a problem, especially the Libertarians. Even Supreme Court Justice Arthur Kennedy says it’s no one’s business. ..Amazing how they keep their noses in women’s private parts, but no one’s permitted to stick noses into their crotches. They clearly understand the uses of power.

I wrote “What do you mean it’s not rape?” because people are inserting the word forcible in front of the word rape for legal purposes–as if rape is not a forcible act, with or without the use of threats, weapons or drugs. Everyone knows it’s all about power and has nothing to do with sex. That’s why rape is used as a weapon of war. Imagine, if you aren’t marked up or if you’ve been drugged, you won’t be a victim, you’ll be an accuser, In Georgia, at least, they want to go that route, and Rep. Bobby Franklin, a Republican, would make all abortions, described as “prenatal murder,” illegal based on the belief that all life begins at conception. Miscarriages in Georgia will become felonies if the mother cannot prove there was no “human involvement.” Unlike New Jersey, at least, in Georgia, incest is still a crime at any age–until the Feds make it legal.

America has lost its collective mind: they are legalizing incest while they send women back to the stone age. Move-on did a PSA with Lisa Edelstein of HOUSE (like young people watch it, not!) and it ends with a lone wire clothes hanger in the closet. How many women under 40 know what that hanger is for? How many of them can even imagine what it was like before Roe V. Wade? We’re talking pregnancies resulting from incest, rape, or affected by drugs and disease that result in non-viable fetuses…
As a result, some hospitals will let women die. Creating non-viable fetuses via incest? Those lawmakers just gotta have those babies.

In South Dakota, they debated for days to decide if your doctor or family member could become a victim of justifiable homicide if he or she takes the fetus to save the life of the mother. They finally shelved it when outsiders reacted.

It’s not just women’s reproductive rights under attack. It’s Head Start, nutritional programs, day care centers, all those things that help single mom families struggling at the edge of poverty keep families and soul together.

Even The Daily Show noticed.

But maybe we are mistaken. Perhaps this is part of a Republican jobs plan. If they get what they want, funeral directors will get plenty of work, emergency room and neo-natal ICU units will need more medical personnel. Prisons will need to be expanded and more prison guards hired…as well as social workers, parole officers…and everything it takes, like $73,000 a year per kid, to keep these unwanted and damaged kids in Juvenile Hall for a year. But if it’s incest, they won’t prosecute because it costs too much.

The men who think they are cutting the budget are gutting American values–diminishing rape victims by calling them accusers; by not allowing American women to make decisions about their own bodies, and denigrating their own mothers, sisters and daughters when they legalize incest between consenting adults in the name of ending abortion.

It makes you wish they’d hurry up and legalize marijuana.

In the aftermath of Arizona, change the paradigm

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By Jeanette Friedman

Even after the moving memorial service and perfect presidential moment for those murdered in Tucson, when Barack Obama acted as President of the United States and not the head of the Democratic Party, the most extreme Internet commentators continue to hide behind their screen names and post vituperative comments designed to agitate their followers.

Their actions make it easy to believe that if President Obama sacrificed himself so that another person might live, or saved the life of a poster’s family member or even the life of the poster him or herself, they would still tear him apart. After the killings in Tucson, a reasonable person would have expected pause, perhaps a moment of introspection, a slowing down of the endless stream of antipathy that fills our ears and eyes. Few of these posters and well-known pundits seem to have enough human decency to stifle the poison coming from their keyboards. It matters not to them if their overheated rhetoric might convince lunatics to pick up guns and blow people away. History is filled with examples of political rhetoric leading to violence—including Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, blood libels, the Holocaust, contemporary genocides, and even the murder of Israeli Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin.

Since these unnamed villifiers don’t seem to be able to stop their addiction to their rage and hatred, what would they do if their favorite targets—the President and his supporters—disappeared? They would have to find something else to denigrate and despise, because such an addiction is tough to break. Will the usual victims of blood libels become their next targets? Sarah Palin, for one, throws words like blood libel around and is clueless about their meaning. These cowardly posters think they are brilliant American historians (not) and insightful students of politics (also not) and you can bet they do not know that an innocent New York Jew, Leo Frank, was lynched by the prominent citizens of Marietta, Georgia in 1915 for the murder of a little girl. They probably also don’t know there was a blood libel against Jews in Massena, New York in 1928.

So what will these enraged posters and pundits do when the silent majority decides to stop being quiet and demands that the rivers of digital hatred in our political discourse be dammed? Will they change their focus and target those who are tired of politics as blood sport and want reasonable discussion on the issues?

In America, freedom is a privilege, earned via good citizenship. Civics, decent behavior, respect for each other matter. Enlightened, informational discussions of the issues matter. Pulling a lever or pushing a button in a voting booth matters—and if you don’t exercise that right, then just shut up and get out of the way. If you believe what these posters put out there, and you don’t want to pay taxes, don’t expect the fire department to put out the fire when your house is burning. Don’t expect folks to pick up the garbage you generate, and don’t expect your children or descendants to get a decent public education. Expect senior citizens to be homeless. Do not expect to see the best of America, expect the worst.

Pundits spit lies and fire like hydra-headed dragons. For them and the anonymous, ubiquitous Internet commentators, it’s all about despising those who disagree with them. Their tone and attitude diminish our American values. No matter how many columns such people write and how many comments they post, they are like electronic hooligans who live to generate page views and damn the consequences. Clearly they have forgotten that words can kill. We don’t know who dismisses them, or who is nurtured by their loathing. When they upload their venom-loaded verbiage with such glee, it makes you wonder how they can sleep at night or stand to look at themselves in the mirror. It almost makes you ashamed to be an American.

Perhaps it’s time for the silent majority to say, “Enough!” and demand that politicians and strategists change the existing paradigm, and let reasonable, common decency trickle down to the rest of us.

Can We Talk? A 2003 interview with Douglas Rushkoff that still pertains

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DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: Can We Talk?
By Kenneth Applebaum with an intro by Jeanette Friedman

THIS WAS WRITTEN IN 2003

The Jerusalem Report called him an atheist because he is an iconoclast, but then, the writer who was so supremely critical of this young, 42-year old deep thinker, Douglas Rushkoff, obviously doesn’t understand the second of the Ten Commandments. Jews are the original iconoclasts. That’s why everyone else hates them—for that and providing the world with the rest of the Ten Commandments. But people don’t get it. Douglas Rushkoff, author of Nothing Sacred, does get Judaism, very, very well. And because he does, more and more institutional Jews and Jewish institutions see him as a threat to their well-being.

Why? Because he asks good, hard questions and understands that we might not like what happens when we get the answers. And as anyone who ever read or saw Yentl knows, you are judged by the questions you ask. Many of us know from our own Hebrew School and Yeshiva experiences that we really aren’t supposed to ask questions, because a: our teachers (rabbis) might not have the answers or b: they don’t want you to know the answers, c: they are afraid of the answers. It seems they want to be the exclusive holders of the supreme knowledge and interpretation of the Torah.

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FACTS, NOT FOX

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BY JEANETTE FRIEDMAN

NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM

COMMENTARY

A few weeks ago, Cablevision subscribers in Northern New Jersey began seeing announcements about how Channel 5 and Channel 9 were going to be yanked off of cable. That’s because Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., the company that owns Fox News and a whole load of media companies, wants $150 million from Cablevision — $150 million that will come out of subscribers’ pockets — to pay for channels that are normally broadcast for free. Cablevision has made counteroffers, asked for government arbitration and Rupert Murdoch and company have basically said, “Show us the money, or they’re gone with the wind.”

And so they are. Channel 5 and Channel 9 are no longer on Cablevision, and if you want to watch first run episodes of Glee, House, Lie to Me and The Simpsons — not to mention New York Giants’ games and the World Series, you will have to find a different service provider. And this is not the first time they’ve blackmailed service providers by yanking channels.

But I noticed something very interesting. Though News Corp. pulled their pop-culture and sports channels from Cablevison, why didn’t they also pull their “fair and balanced” Fox News Network now that we’re in the middle of mid-term elections?

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