About Abigail

I am a film producer and CEO of AskAbigail Productions. Currently working on a documentary about Yiddish since the Holocaust.

Chanukah – Why do we light those candles? Vaclav Havel and Kim Jong Il

This morning I was musing about Chanukah and the great unprecedented events of our time, the recent death of Vaclav Havel of Czechoslovakia and Kim Yong Il of North Korea with my Mormon trainer, Steven. Yes, my trainer Steven, is a committed and practicing Mormon. We train and we talk twice a week. This morning it was about the unexpected death of Kim Yong Il, the North Korean “Great Leader”, the starvation and virtual imprisonment of the North Korean people who are dominated by a well fed and well armed military. North Korea is the world’s most militarized nation, with a total of 9,495,000 active, reserve, and paramilitary personnel. It is a nuclear-weapons state and has an active space program. (wikipedia) and this led us to think about how the few enslave the many via ideology all over the world.

Jonathon Kay writes, Kim Il-sung knew that the only way to legitimize his repressive, impoverished regime was to insulate subjects from the outside world (the dials on North Korean radios are soldered so as to lock them in permanently to the state propaganda network) and to turn himself into an ersatz deity. Over 500 statues of Kim Il-sung dot the North Korean landscape, and a revisionist history of his days as an anti-Japanese guerrilla fighter have been embellished to the point that they seem like something out of a 1980s-era Arnold Schwarzenegger film.

It seems the pen is mightier than the sword and both sides know it.

So what does this have to do with Chanukah? I share with you this video that lays out the background of the Chanukah story.

Chanukah is the story of the weak and the few against the strong and the many. However there is another important lesson that we learn from this video and the Chanukah story. The lesson of knowing what to fight for. The Macabees were fighting the ideology of the Greeks which conflicted with the human rights articulated by the torah. This is what gave them the courage to fight because they understood that fighting for these principles was more important than life itself.

Vaclav Havel, who fought against the same kind of enslavement as in North Korea by the former Soviet Union, on the other side of the world, and won, understood both of these issues.

And after he succeeded in freeing his people, he is quoted by Irwin Cotler sharing this important truth, “those who would repress the human rights of their own citizens will threaten the rights of the citizens of other countries.” We are seeing this manifesting all over the world, in Syria, Iran, where tyrants are willing to fight to the death to buttress their own power, they endanger all of us with their power and their arsenals.

None of us have crystal balls regarding the future, but the story of Chanukah reminds us to light the candle, and not give up the struggle. Again I quote Vaclav Havel, the only lost cause is the one we give up on before we enter the struggle.

Let’s light those candles, remind ourselves why we are lighting them, and take courage from the victories of those who have shown the way.

Thoughts and Reflections on the Eve of Yom Kippur

A few short weeks ago on August 23rd, 2010 I attended and videotaped an amazing conference organized by CIJR (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research) here in Montreal.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Wiesenthal Center gave the lunchtime address. He started by commenting that in the face of intellectual giants who were presenting during the day such as Professor Wistrich of Hebrew University and Professor Small of Yale University, he did not feel compelled to exert himself on the intellectual plane. And so he shared three incidents which resonated powerfully with me, one of which I will share with you today, as it feels particularly apt on the eve of our annual Yom Kippur observation.

Rabbi Cooper shared that he has traveled extensively internationally, meeting with government officials, the Pope, and the public on issues of concern to the Jewish people. For example, he shared that he has traveled to Japan and many other countries to educate about the dissemination of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and to shut down its publication.

After one of these talks to a group of Japanese businessman, the Rabbi respectfully asked, “Are there any questions?” As Japanese audiences are known for their polite reticence, he was very surprised as one CEO stood up and said ‘Yes, Rabbi, I have a question. Rabbi Cooper, we understand now that Jews don’t get together to plot world conspiracies and financial domination in their synagogue, but can you tell us what do Jews do in synagogue? Do Jews pray?” This question stopped him in his tracks, and it stopped me in my tracks as well. I think of it especially now as we Jews begin our twenty-five hour annual stint of fasting and prayer. How do we explain what happened there?

How do you share a five thousand year tradition while standing on one leg?

For now I refer you to the following website of Beliefnet: for a hands-on explanation of the key elements of Yom Kippur as well as a description of the actual service. But on a deeper level, how does one share a five thousand year practice that has evolved with each generation continuing to maintain its loyalty both to the past and the future?

On September 10th, 2009, I participated in a webinar with Rabbi Yitz Greenberg on the prayer service of Yom Kippur. Rabbi Yitz Greenberg and Rabbi Kimmelman share how the ritual of the Yom Kippur prayer service is connected not only to the individual Jew but also to the community and all nations. He shows us how the prayers are carefully crafted to pray for peace not just for the individual but for all nations and all people in the universe, and to be realized under the rule of law, truth, and justice. And these are not mere empty words but also a prescription for achieving it.

The amazing thing about our tradition is that it has been evolving for five thousand years with loyalty to the past, the present, and hopes for the future.

The main refrain on Yom Kippur is “Tshuva, tefillah and tzedaka, maavirin et roah hagzera.” I say this in Hebrew transliteration because each word is multilayered, powerful, and significant and difficult to translate but I will attempt it. Tshuva, (return to our sources) tefillah (prayer) and tzedaka (doing just acts) can have the power to mollify evil outcomes.

To be continued… gmar tov: traditonal greeting at the end of Yom Kippur – May our prayers be fulfilled for good in the next year and within our lifetimes.

May we all pray together this Yom Kippur for the tshuva (improved behaviour) of every Jew, every human being, every government, and all peoples in the Universe. Even a slight improvement in each individual’s awareness and behavior can have a major impact on all of us.

Shana tova oometukah.

Wishing you a good and sweet year during this coming year.

Everything You Always Wanted to Know about the Shofar but Were Afraid to Ask

At this time of year you are probably getting used to hearing Happy New Year, Shana tova, and the words Rosh Hashanah bandied about and wondering what is this exactly. Rosh Hashana is a combination of penance and joy. It is hard to explain so I will share a short (2 1/2 min.) video I recently discovered that explains this weird holiday, and also contains the blowing of the shofar – the ram’s horn – which I will talk more about after the video.

Now you are probably wondering what is the meaning of the shofar? The shofar is a ram’s horn which is reminiscent of human vocal expression and is supposed to awaken us to do the work of self-evaluation and introspection regarding the world and our place in it during the month prior to Rosh Hashanah, and also integral to the High Holidays (Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur) services. And by the way it’s harder to get a sound out of it than it looks. (Yes I tried and failed). But here are some examples of people who succeeded.

The longest shofar blast.

And a totally new initiative, the shofar flash mob, groups who got together at different places in the world to blow shofar together.

And last but not least, here is an adorable video of my nieces and nephew wishing you all a happy Rosh Hashanah. Shana Tova!

 

 

Academics as Theologians: Judith Butler and Stephen Hawking

The internet wages war mainly via words and images. However words and ideologies are indeed important in understanding and in influencing the world. The Jewish Bible claims that G-d’s ideas and words preceded the creation of the world. “In the beginning there was the word” and indeed ideas do precede actions in a thinking world.

Judith Butler, a feminist, a philosopher, a professor of critical thinking who also happens to hold the Hannah Arendt Chair in Philosophy at the European Graduate School in Sass-Fee, Switzerland, – another point of irony for anyone who knows about the controversies that swirl around Hannah Arendt, who was also a Jewish and academically acclaimed, but very controversial  philosopher) is about to receive an honorary degree from McGill University in Montreal.

She has been criticized for supporting the BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Movement that was seeded at the notoriously anti-semitic first Durban UN Human rights conference,and which has become an international political arm of the Palestinian “electronic and political” intifada against Israel. BDS has become an industry solely focused on Israel and has spawned legal opposition groups. Here is how one of them Shurat Hadin describes the BDS movement:

“The Briefing: Israel, and the Jewish community at large, is beset by a dangerous international campaign utilizing new strategies to delegitimize the Jewish State. Unable to defeat the IDF militarily or weaken the population through persistent terrorism, the extremist groups, Islamic terrorists and their rogue regime allies have embarked upon a global effort to demonize and isolate Israel, casting it as a pariah state.The widespread Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and its utilization of Lawfare, is the main component of the “Durban Strategy” adopted by Israel’s opponents at the U.N.’s Human Rights Conference in 2001. Tactics like the Gaza Flotilla,  the effort overseas to indict IDF officers and elected officials for war crimes, blood libels in the media, the boycotting of Israeli academics, and the persistent debate over whether a Jewish State has a right to exist, are having a perilous impact on Israel’s security and diplomatic capabilities.  As the Anti-Defamation League has stated: “The BDS movement at its very core is anti-Semitic.”

Judith Butler has defended herself in a blog: “Judith Butler Responds to Attack”. Sadly, she exposes her lack of critical thinking in a long and wordy defense focusing on her “Jewish and ethical” background without any appreciation of the political and ideological war that she has been drawn into by her academic leftist convictions. At one point she states:

“…A few words are taken out of context, their meaning distorted, and they then come to label or, indeed, brand an individual. This happens to many people when they offer a critical view of Israel – they are branded as anti-Semites or even as Nazi collaborators; However she uses exactly the same tactic of devaluing the scholars who criticize her by saying: “SPME, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East is not, as The Jerusalem Post has reported, a large group of Jewish scholars in Germany, but an international organization with a base in Australia and California. They are a right-wing organization and so part of an intra-Jewish war.

Having attended one of the SPME conferences in Miami, I can assure her that the members of SPME are scholars of academia just as she is, not all Jewish by the way, and actually from all parts of the world including Germany. They have united to fight the spurious BDS movement which was ignited on campuses all over the world and has been embraced by left-wing academics such as herself.

I have written about anti-semitism, the anti-Jewish rhetoric and ideology, that is propagated by Islam in more than one post:

Jonathan Spyer on Obama’s Foreign Policy and Antisemitism: an unsexy subject.

However, today I read an editorial that reveals the Christian anti-Jewish “replacement theology” bias that I would have thought was by now obsolete in the Christian world.  By “replacement theology” I refer to the Christian doctrine that Judaism is an inferior religion that has no validity since it has been superseded by the birth of Christ and Christianity, the superior religion. We all owe Mordechai Ben Dat a debt of gratitude for reading and analyzing the 10 page treatise published by the Scottish Church (PDF), which few of us would ever read, and exposing its virulent outdated ideology in  Polemics as Theology. He writes, “The document titled ‘The Inheritance of Abraham? A Report on the ‘Promised Land,’ is a brazen attack on the Jewish state as well as on the Jewish religion.” If you have some time you will appreciate his insightful article.

In addition, we have recently witnessed the sad case of the atheist scientist, Stephen Hawking, refusing to attend a scientific conference in Israel, because he too supports  BDS, and boycotting Israel for “human rights abuses”.  As Allan Dershowitz astutely pointed out, Hawking has previously attended conferences in China and Iran without objecting to their human rights abuses. Allan Dershowitz writes:

“Yet Iran is a country that Stephen Hawking visited. He did not boycott that Islamic country. He limited his boycott to the democratic nation state of the Jewish people.
 
Not only did Steven Hawking visit China, he praised it effusively. Although Chinese universities are considerably better than Iran’s, there is no real freedom to criticize the government or the Communist Party. The people who brought us Tiananmen Square still hold positions of authority in China. Dissidents are persecuted. There is no semblance of fair trial. Censorship reigns.
 
Yet Stephen Hawking did not boycott China. He boycotted only Israel — the only country of these three with real academic freedom and the only country where people with disabilities are fully integrated, first-class citizens of society. In China, many disabled children are aborted due to the country’s one-child policy. In Iran many disabled people are kept hidden within families because of prevalent cultural taboos.
 
I am neither an academic or a scientist or a rabbi or a priest. All I can do is to share what I see and rely on the power of words and the internet to shine a light on these issues.
 
Author: Abigail Hirsch, MSW, social worker, filmmaker, blogger, journalist, citizen of the world:
 
Author’s note: This was first published four years ago on May 7, 2014. I am republishing it today because, sadly, this message is just as relevant today as it was then.
 

Why does the State of Israel observe the Jewish national day of mourning called Tisha’bAv every year?

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Why does the State of Israel and the Jewish people all over the world, continue to observe the National Day of Mourning Tisha B’Av, which commemorates the destruction of the two temples and the Jewish peoples’ two  previous exiles from the land of Israel, when we now have a sovereign Jewish State in the land of Israel? Today happens to be Tisha B’Av, (the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av) and while normally I commemrate this day outside of the modern State of Israel, this year I am fortunate to be spending it in Jerusalem, Israel. In fact, I can tell you that this is no minor holiday,either in the diaspora or in Israel. Traditionally, the day decrees a full day of fasting and prayer that Jews have observed since the destruction of the First Temple (2500 years). In Israel and increasingly in the diaspora as well, there are not only synagogue rituals and readings but also public gatherings in synagogues, in Jewish institutions and parks, including talks and film screenings relevant to the subject. In Jerusalem, a film festival was dedicated to this theme at Beit Avichai in Jerusalem which I attended called “The Earth Trembles”. Contemporary Israeli films on contemporary social and political subjects were screened in the presenceof the producers and actors.

Recently Mahmoud Abbas made a speech announcing to the world that Israel has no indigenous rights in the Middle East, his Palestinian version of reality is based on a premise of left wing ideology, namely, that Jews in Israel have been and are part of a pattern of “settler colonialism”.  

  • Abbas: “The Egyptian thinker Abd al-Wahab al-Masri described the Zionist entity in this way: ‘The goal of Israel’s creation is to establish a colonial state that has no connection to Judaism’ – that is, it exploits the Jews to its end.”

Why is this significant? I quote from the article Palestinian Settler-Colonialism published by the Besa Center. 

  • One of the mainstays of the modern university is the idea of settler-colonialism. This argues that certain societies are birthed by settlers implanted in a foreign territory, either directly by or with the consent of an imperial power. These colonists then dominate and eradicate the indigenous population.  They develop bellicose cultures that eliminate the natives from historical, literary, and other narratives. Primary examples often cited are the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, South Africa and Israel.
  • Among the many concepts abused and perverted by the Palestinians, such as “settler clonialism”, “apartheid” accusations of Israeli “genocide” rank the highest for blatant audacity, and for twinned calumny and odiousness.

The observance of Tisha b’Av, a Jewish day of mourning or the last 2500 years is an elegant rebuttal to this argument. the second destruction of the Hebrew Temple in Jerusalem, occurred in 70 AD, 500 years before the birth of Mohammad and 2000 years before the modern university idea of “settler colonialism” was argued.

Ben Gurion the pioneer settler and first Prime Minister of the State of Israel that was declared following the UN vote regarding the establishment of the State of israel  expresses these ideas elegantly.

  • Ben-Gurion: “From a Jewish standpoint Zionism is not just a flight from persecution and restrictive laws, but primarily love of a homeland and a vision of the rise of a nation-state. Our Zionism is composed of a national ideology, a feeling of love for the land, an aspiration to political independence. And of a desire and a need to settle in the Land of Israel. Take away from Zionism the hundreds-years-long love for the ancestral homeland, take away from Zionism the political aspiration to independence – and Zionism is emptied of its content” (Bama’archa, vol. 2, p. 48).
  • Ben-Gurion: “Our right to the Land of Israel does not stem from the Mandate and the Balfour Declaration. It precedes those. The Bible is our mandate… I can state in the name of the Jewish People: The Bible is our mandate, the Bible that was written by us in our Hebrew language, and in this land itself, is our mandate. Our historical right has existed since our beginnings as the Jewish People, and the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate recognize and confirm that right” (testimony to the Peel Royal Commission, January 1937, Bama’archa, vol. 1, pp. 77-78).
  • “A homeland is not given as a gift and is not acquired by means of political rights and contracts. It is not purchased with gold and is not conquered by force, but is built with sweat. This homeland is a historical creation and a collective endeavor of a people, the fruit of its physical, spiritual, and moral labor down through the generations. … The Land of Israel will be ours not when the Turks, the English, or the next peace conference agrees to it, and it is undersigned in a diplomatic treaty – but when we, the Jews, build it. We will not attain the real, true, and lasting right to the land from others, but from our labor. For the Land of Israel to be ours, we must build it; the mission of our revival movement is the building of the land” (New York, September 1915, Mema’amad Le’am, p. 10).
     
Author: Abigail Hirsch, MSW, filmmaker, blogger, journalist, citizen of the world
 

Antisemitism: For the Curious

I have written many posts about antisemitism because it is so infuriating. Lies about Jews and Judaism and Israel spoken with authority, such that one is easily deceived.

Here is a brief history by Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and historian with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.that I am reprinting so that you can never say that you were not warned.

Antisemitism is a form of senseless irrational hatred towards Jews couched as truth. And that is the infuriating aspect of it that it is no longer politically incorrect to espouse antisemitic views, longstanding irrational hatreds against Jews.

What are these irrational ideas about Jews? Is it true that all blacks are lazy? Is it true that all Jews are rich? that Jews control the media and US foreign policy. That jews are treacherous and disloyal? That Jews kill Christian children to use their blood to make matzo on Passover? Many people in the world in the past and the present  espouse these beliefs about Jews.

If Jews are so rich and so powerful, how did Hitler manage to murder 6 million of them in such a short space of time?
and what is this obsession with Israel described as an immoral, apartheid driven genocidal entity?  Why did an obscure academic organization called the American Studies Association recently vote to endorse a resolution calling for a boycott of Israeli universities. The self-appointed moralists were purportedly outraged over the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians. Given academia’s past obsessions with the Jewish state, the targeting of Israel is not new. Yet why do the professors focus on Israel and not Saudi Arabia, which denies women the right to drive and only recently granted them the right to vote? Why not Russia, which has been accused of suppressing free speech, or India, which has passed retrograde anti-homosexual legislation? The hip poet Amiri Baraka (aka Everett LeRoi Jones) recently died. He was once poet laureate of New Jersey, held prestigious university posts and was canonized with awards — despite being a hateful anti-Semite.
After Sept. 11, 2001, Baraka wrote a poem that suggested Israel knew about the plan to attack the World Trade Center. One of his poems from the ‘60s included this unabashedly anti-Semitic passage: “Smile, jew. Dance, jew. Tell me you love me, jew … I got the extermination blues, jewboys. I got the hitler syndrome figured.” Yet that did not preclude The New York Times and National Public Radio from praising him after his death.
Trendy multicultural French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala is known for his anti-Semitic provocations and for making a gesture that has been described as an inverted Nazi salute. He recently quipped of a Jewish journalist: “When I hear him talk, you see … I say to myself, gas chambers … a pity.” Auschwitz is now a joke? Not only do people talk of it as a joke, they say the Jews are using the Holocaust for personal gain, and even lying about its extent. Several years ago, David Irving,  an English historian was convicted of libel in an English court for publishing that there were no crematoria at Auschwitz and that the murder of  6 million by the Germans is greatly exaggerated. Sadly it was the Germans themselves who were so sure of the correctness of their hatred towards jews that they kept careful records of  their evil deeds.
Antisemitism has existed since ancient times because the Jews have always been different, adhering to their own peculiar laws, and always a minority among world powers such as Rome, Egypt and Persia.
As Christianity gained ascendance over Rome, the church was obsessed with negating Jewish theology and demonizing Jews. Mohammed also had to explain why Jews did not accept his prophesy. And so he compares them to apes and monkeys and antisemitism is used to fuel Arab hatred away from their despotic rulers.
Real life Jews and Israelis have multiple identities and multiple attitudes towards the state of Israel, towards the Jewish religion but the anti-Semites paint all Jews and Israel with the same negative brush. Oh and yes even some Jews agree with them. Even that does not make their mythical fantasies about Jews true.
What is true is that immediately after the Holocaust, it became politically incorrect to express antisemitic thoughts or ideas. Sadly since about 1995, it has become more and more fashionable and even politically correct to express hostility towards Israel, to question its right to exist, to smear it with a Nazi and genocidal apartheid label and we see the rise of antisemitic attacks on Jews and their property and their human rights to dignity.
We see these thoughts and ideas propagated on the internet and in books and films and Youtube videos and also in rising antisemitic attacks on Jews and their property, all over the world. It is this acting out that is most worrying.
We see the extent to which antisemitism has become politically correct in the responses to Harper’s visit to Israel in Canada in the Canadian papers. Many of them were shocked and disappointed by his support of Israel asking whether his stance was “balanced”. He is the only world leader who has grasped the insidious nature of the Arabs’ hatred of Jews, and how that is what is keeping a state of war alive between Israel and the Arab population: a hostility that Israel has been contending with since it inception during the war of  1948 and 1967 and the continuing violence against Israel which the Palestinians have not abjured. to this day.
It is hardly anti-Semitic to focus on problems between Israel and the Palestinians, or even to pressure the Israelis. It becomes so, however, when problems elsewhere are simply ignored, and Israel alone is singled out to be chastised. The record of the United nations vis a vis Israel amply demonstrates this. I have the statistic but I won’t bore you with them.
Has the United Nations ever focused on the 13 million Germans who were ethnically cleansed from Eastern Europe about the same time that thousands of Palestinians left what became Israel? Would the American Studies Association boycott Chinese universities over the absorption of Tibet?
Is the world really troubled about divided capitals such as Jerusalem? If so, why not an international conference on the Turkish occupation of a divided Nicosia on Cyprus?
Can’t Mr. Kerry use shuttle diplomacy to settle who owns all those disputed rocky islands that have led China and Japan to the brink of war?
Nazis and racists in our time, spearhead Jewish hatred, based on ancient crackpot defamations that date back to the Jewish Diaspora in Europe since the Roman destruction of Judea.
Victor Davis Hansen, a classicist and historian with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University writes in his blog “the cowardice of political antisemtism:
“ lately, anti-Semitism has become more a left-wing pathology. It is driven by the cheap multicultural trashing of the West. Jewish people here and abroad have become convenient targets for those angry with supposedly undeserved Western success and privilege.
Aside from the old envy, and racial and religious hatred, I think cowardice explains the new selective anti-Semitism. Mr. Kanye West would not dare slander radical Muslims, given the violence and threats against European cartoonists and filmmakers who have dared to create work perceived as insulting to Islam. The American Studies Association would not call for a boycott of Russia despite its endemic persecution of homosexuals. After all, Russian President Vladimir Putin is as unpredictable as Israeli politicians are forbearing.
Mr. Kerry is not rushing into Damascus to stop the bloodletting that has claimed far more lives than all the Palestinians lost in 70 years of conflict with Israel. Syrian President Bashar Assad, Shiite terrorists and al Qaeda would not listen politely to Mr. Kerry’s pontificating sermons.
The sort of anti-Semitism we see from buffoons such as Dieudonne M’bala M’bala is appalling, but the double standard to which Israel is held in matters of foreign policy by those who should know better is in many ways even more galling.”
What is to be done about it? We need to talk about it and expose it as we are doing here. Silence is aquiescence and we dare not be silent.  We know where that leads.

As Hemingway wrote;

Ask not for whom the bell tolls: it tolls for thee.
And don’t think this does not include you:
As martin NieMoller, a German pastor says:
First they came for the communists
And I did not speak out,
Because I was not a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
The they came for the Jews
But 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.

by Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and historian with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jan/15/hanson-the-cowardice-of-the-new-anti-semitism/#ixzz2rkvMq5mn

And this was just published: It says the same truth, only more bluntly. Antisemitism is an “industry of lies” that are reported as truth.

industr

 
The Industry of Lies is about antisemitism today: one of the greatest frauds of recent decades – a fraud of historic, even epic, proportions. When almost half of all Europeans believe that Israel treats the Palestinians just like the Nazis treated the Jews, when leading politicians assert that the Arab-Israeli conflict is the central cause of violence in the world, and when prominent intellectuals argue that Israel is an apartheid state, the unfortunate reality is that the lies are winning.
 
As a result, Israel has become the devil incarnate in the eyes of many otherwise good and reasonable people – people who genuinely want to see peace but inadvertently contribute to the continuation of the Israeli-Arab conflict. The tragedy is that they are neither helping the Palestinians nor promoting agreement or reconciliation. Instead, they lend legitimacy to the most fallacious claims of the most extreme activists, thereby empowering radicals who have no interest in attaining peace.
 
Israel is not free from flaws. However, this book draws a clear distinction between legitimate criticism and the “industry of lies” that has emerged from two unlikely sources – the media and academia, undermining their reputations as bastions of truth and knowledge. Ben-Dror Yemini presents an in-depth analysis of the many inaccurate and malicious accusations leveled against Israel and refutes them one by one in this thought-provoking and well-researched volume that invites us to rethink the causes and consequences of the Israeli-Arab conflict.
     

Is Peace Possible Today?

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Last week I attended the CIJR sponsored talk by Moshe Kedar in Montreal.

The title of the talk is Israel at 70. Prof. Kedar actually explains how Israel became Israel and then brings us up to date regarding the current state of Israel in the Middle East. His is an optimistic picture based on the ideas of a historian and an insider of the Israeli intelligence apparatus.

To skip the introduction start watching the video at 9:25 min.

And for those who wonder whether peace is worth fighting for and whether it is even possible, I offer this gift: A choir of thousands which got together in a huge stadium to sing together on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the declaration of the Independent State of Israel. The dividends of peace are available to all of us all over the world if we only cooperate together for the sake of peace: A stadium full of Israelis young and old singing together a hymn of gratitude – “All Kol Aileh” For all of these, the honey and the bee sting, the sweet and the bitter….The song actually has English subtitles – A prayer for Peace and its dividends.

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I am writing this one day after President Trump cancelled the JCPOA/Iran Nuclear Agreement. In spite of the intransigeance of Iran and the tragedies unfolding today in Syria, Sudan, Yemen and Gaza, I dare to believe and we must all continue to hope and pray and work for an umbrella of peace that will cover all the world speedily and in our time.

Author: Abigail Hirsch, MSW, filmmaker, blogger, journalist, citizen of the world

Cantor Moshe Kraus Speaks at Faith Temple and Shaftesbury High School in Winnipeg

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Moshele de zinger cover

Pastor Rudy Fidel and his wife Gina were so impressed with Cantor Kraus’ memoir of his life experiences “Moshele: Der Zinger: How My Singing Saved My Life”, that they organized a week of events for Cantor Moshe Kraus and his wife to speak in Winnipeg. I accompanied them on this trip as part of my work to create a documentary featuring Cantor Kraus’ life story which has many twists and turns. On Wednesday, September 12, 2017, Cantor Moshe Kraus, age 95, spoke to a gym full of students at Shaftesbury Public High School. The event was followed and broadcast on the CBC evening news that same evening.

On Sunday morning Cantor Kraus was welcomed at Pastor Rudy’s Church, Faith Temple.  by Pastor Rudy, Indian Chief Baird and Chief of Chiefs, Jerry Daniels, and a klezmer band.At 10:35 min. into the event seen below, Cantor Kraus shares another one of his many stories – this one about a Hungarian Bishop who came to visit him during the German occupation of Hungary during WWll…

Author: Abigail Hirsch, MSW, filmmaker, blogger, journalist, citizen of the world

Judaism Israel and the World: 73 years after the Shoa.

Screen Shot 2011-12-19 at 3.28.34 PMThought: Words: Action:

Today is Yom Hashoa ve Hagvura – The day Jews both mourn and celebrate. They mourn the destruction of more than six million innocent men, women, and children, hunted down for the sole reason that they were Jews (the Shoa) and the Gvura (courage and heroism), they celebrate the courage of  all those who fought to survive. Every moment of continuing life every day required courage everywhere during this period and great courage was required and offered by many, many who died and many who survived: all of them fought to defeat the enemy and some lived to see the defeat of the vicious enemy –  Nazi Germany and her vicious antisemitic policy.

This day always comes shortly after celebration of the Passover holiday, commemoration of the miraculous Jewish liberation from slavery three thousand years ago. Regardless of whether you believe the exodus from Egypt actually happened or not, we have to acknowledge with the reader of the Passover Hagada that “if we had not been freed, we and our children and our children’s children would still be enslaved: but tonight we celebrate as free men and women.”

Last night I attended the annual shoa commemoration project of the Montreal community. Every year, six survivor families are chosen to light a candle and to share their story. Each survivor, flanked by their families, tell their story on a short prerecorded video. No matter how often one attends these programs one is consistently awed by these stories of survival and redemption.

When I returned home I saw two programs on PBS  ((Public Broadcast Station). One program (Nova) visits the city of Vilna/Vilnius to attempt to find the underground traces of the Great Synagogue of Vilna over which a school has been built. This documentary tells the story of the destruction of the culture of Vilna, which was also known by Jews as the New Jerusalem, and the murder of the 70,000 Jewish residents of Vilna, and the heroic survival of 8 of the 80 last Jews of Vilna – 76 men and 4 women who were tasked with burning the bodies of their brethren, while imprisoned in a deep pit over several months,  just before the arrival of the Russians. These 76 men and four women who realized that they too would be executed at the end of their task, succeeded in creating a secret underground tunnel which led from the pit in which they were imprisoned into the forest for a last ditch effort at escape. Only eight of the eighty persons survived this escape through the tunnel. And the whole episode became a legend which survived only as a “tale” told by the survivors.  A group of scientists returns to the site and succeeds in uncovering the remains of the tunnel thus verifying their story. At the end of the show, we see the eight survivors, now living in various parts of the world, reunited with each other.

The next program was a 90 minute production called GI-Jew, which told the story of the 500,000 Jewish American men and 20,000 Jewish American women who enlisted and fought in the American army to destroy the Nazi scourge and to save whoever could be saved from the Nazi onslaught. Among them were 1,000 Jewish American Rabbis who served as American army chaplains. Throughout the war they accompanied the troops and organized services for soldiers, and upon liberation for survivors. And victory was not at all assured over 5 long years of war in Europe and the Far East.

Whether you believe in the G-d of Israel or not, something has enabled the Jewish people to survive every attempt at destruction and to continue to thrive for the last three thousand years. I believe what has enabled them to survive and to thrive is the ideology of the Torah, which lays out a vision of justice and compassion for all living beings, individually and in community, and for the planet itself.

Yes, I was born a Jew to parents who lived through the terrible time of the Shoa in Europe. I have struggled with the issues of the Shoa (Holocaust in Hebrew) my whole life. What have I learned from this over the course of my lifetime? The lesson I take away from this is that the ideas of Torah are mightier than the sword. What are these ideas? First, the idea of a G-d interested in humanity, who has “an eye that sees and an ear that hears”. It is a G-d who prescribes rules for communal living, which include prohibitions against murder and theft, and also legislates that one is not to covet the goods and assets of one’s neighbor, including his wife. Also one where individuals and communities struggle with the right path that will conform to this G-d’s ideas of truth, justice, and compassion. And in this Jewiish world, there is  also room for human error and correction without resorting to violence. The torah prescribes economic principles as well as how to deal with murderers and those who may kill accidentally. It prescribes a code of behavior for the common man, for the King and for the priest and it tells us how to regulate time, weekly, monthly, and by the year. The laws of Sabbath and  dates of the holidays are thus prescribed. And the Torah does this while also giving us a narrative history of the Jewish people from their beginnings as a family to the creation of the nation in the dessert following the exodus and laws for dealing with the settlement of the land of Israel, whose boundaries are also described in the Torah.

We see that those who have missed out on the precepts of truth justice and mercy described in the Torah and who revel in the power of the sword, have repeatedly been doomed to the ash bin of history. This is evident in the demise of the powerful empires that did not know G-d or mercy or justice, such as the Assyrian Empire, the Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the British Empire, the Spanish Empire, The French Empire, the German Reich, the Soviet Empire, etc. What is the remedy to all this fighting and destruction? One thing and one thing only: for every one to lay down their arms and to acknowledge that life, liberty, and happiness can only come to those who lay down their arms and struggle to improve the lot of their human compatriots. This is the most powerful idea, and the idea of redemption prescribed by the Hebrew prophets.  It is what we pray for at the end of the seder – for everyone to lay down their arms and to acknowledge the rule of the G-d of justice and compassion. Jews of course are aware of vengeance but we are admonished to leave retribution and vengeance up to the Almighty alone.  Our duty is to get on with our lives in a productive way. We leave vengeance to the Almighty as is discussed in this blog regarding Jewish views on vengeance. blog.

…The prophet rehearses the classical Jewish teaching that even a merciful and patient God will ultimately wreak powerful, unanswerable retribution upon the enemies of His chosen people.

 Following Torah prescriptions would work much better than war crimes trials, and better than hollow statements often made by politicians and human rights activists regarding peace and “never again”. Only organized actual disarmament by all rulers and civilians and working towards improving the lives of all, as prescribed in the Jewish Bible (Torah) will bring us to a just world where violence is renounced and the lion can lie down with the lamb as detailed in the biblical book of Micah chapter 4 verses 2 and3

verse 2: Many nations will come and say,
“Come and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD
And to the house of the G-d of Jacob,
That He may teach us about His ways
And that we may walk in His paths.”
For from Zion will go forth the law,
            Even the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

verse 3; And He will judge between many peoples
And render decisions for mighty, distant nations.
Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation will not lift up sword against nation,
And never again will they train for war.

Redemption lies in getting the agreement of all peoples to lay down their arms in the name of justice and compassion and the rule of the Transcendent Law:  And I believe that the amazing thing is that this actually lies within our power today but we do have to start the ball rolling:  the right hashtag? – the right call  to all leaders and to all individuals to lay down their arms? to embrace love between man and man via the amazing instrument of the internet ? Is it possible?  I am envisioning setting a date in the near future for this to happen at the same moment all over the world – Like New Years Day during World War one when both sides spontaneously lay down their arms on the battlefield and celebrated together – “Peace on earth good will to men”. The Rabbis have said that if all the nations were to observe one Sabbath, at the same time, it would be a signal that the Messianic times had arrived.

Who will join me in this project?  How long can we all continue to deal with the effects of hatred, war and destruction? Wouldn’t a world focused on feeding the hungry and clothing all of the poor be a much better kinder world for all of us!

As i shared this post with my friends, many responded “its too idealistic, it will never work”. I believe that it can work and will work. Who could have dreamed seventy years ago that we would have a Jewish State that is not only able to defend itself but has become the strongest nation in the Middle East and a powerhouse for agriculture, water purification, medicine, pharmacology, technology, and humanitarian aid, – truly  “a light unto the nations”.

And here is another post which I discovered today illustrating the “gvura” heroism of those who took action and resisted the Nazi onslaught:With Eternity in their Hearts, Daniel Seaman

The story of young women at the outset of their lives who, when challenged by history, responded with remarkable courage. The Jewish “Couriers” who were real life “Wonder Women”.

 

The three couriers (from the left) – Tema Sznajderman, Bella Chazan, Lonka Korzybrodska (Photo – Ghetto Fighters House Archives)
 

During the Holocaust, Jewish resistance groups employed women as messengers to communicate with the world outside the ghettos. Daniel Seaman tells the story of three daring young women—Tema Schneiderman, Lonka Kozybrodska, and Bella Chazan—who risked their lives to help their people:

In December 1941, Tema, Lonka, and Bella were. . . invited to the Christmas party at Gestapo headquarters in the then-Polish city of Grodno, disguised as Polish Catholics. . . . [Before the war, all three had been] members of their local chapters of the [Zionist-socialist] He-ḥaluts Dror Jewish youth movement. . . . Once the war broke out, the youth movements, with their elaborate network of connections, proved to be an unexpected asset for the Jewish communities in Eastern Europe that were deliberately isolated [from one another] by the Germans.

Tema, Lonka, and Bella, like several other female members of the youth movement, were the natural choice to serve as the link between the communities, known as the “couriers” (k’shariyot in Hebrew). Disguised as non-Jews, they risked their lives to move from ghetto to ghetto, traveling through treacherous territory, transporting documents, papers, money, ammunition, and weapons across borders and into ghettos. . . .

Not long after that evening, the dangers of the tragic era would inevitably catch up with them and their luck would run out. First Lonka, who in June 1942 was caught at the border crossing at Malkinia. She was interrogated as a member of the Polish Underground, [her captors not realizing that she was a Jew], and held in the [notorious] Pawiak prison in Warsaw. When she failed to arrive at her expected destination, Bella set out to look for her. She too was captured at the same border crossing and also sent to Pawiak. Bella and Lonka never revealed their identities, never broke, never exposed secrets though tortured severely. They never broke character either, [maintaining the ruse that they were Polish Gentiles].

Of Tema’s fate, it is known that she was transferred to the Treblinka extermination camp after being captured in the Warsaw Ghetto on January 18, 1943, during one of her many daring excursions to the place. She most likely perished there.

While Lonka died in Auschwitz, Bella survived and lived to the age of eighty-two in Israel.

And this was a comment posted following this article by Nancy Rexin Evans who shares the story of her own Mother who also had risked her life and joined and underground movement.

Nancy Rexin Evans says:

  • This article was heart-wrenching and brought tears to my eyes as I read about this brave young woman and brought memories of my own mother, a 19 year-old non Jewish woman with a huge Jewish heart and a lot of ‘chutzpa getting angry at this ‘new fangeld upstart Adolph and his brown-shirts, a group of thugs going about, beating up people and going after Jews, her own friends included. She and others joined an underground movement where they started to print and distribute anti fascist flyers. She was caught after being betrayed by her best friend and room mate, arrested and interrogated for several months yet never gave away any names. Subsquently, she was sent to Ravensbrueck, outside of Berlin, afterwards to a labor camp from where the Americans liberated her. One of the soldiers became my dad. Two things stayed with me when Grandmother told me that the Jews were God’s chosen and to always remember that. The night before she died she made me promise to never forget the Jews and always stand up for them and Israel which we visited shortly before her passing, overwhelmed how beautiful Israel was. She would speak to schools, churches, the media, etc. about what happened and how survivors rebuild their home land. “Am Yisrael Chai” indeed.
    May we always remember! Never Again!. Thank you for this article and the bravery of those young women who should make us ashamed whenever we complain about little inconveniences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free Speech and Fake News on Campus

In this post I  explore academia, professors, and their legitimate sounding papers and books that may even use legitimate concepts but apply these concepts fallaciously. I refer to the left, using the ideology of “colonialism” to apply to Israel, and the Palestinian strategy of applying the South African ideology of “apartheid” to the Israel/Palestine conflict, and plain deceptive media like “Electronic Intifada”

Over the years, I have become acquainted with Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of The Electronic Intifada, Jewish Voices for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voices for Peace, Israel/apartheid conferences.

Here are some images of Omar Barghouti.

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And here is his bio on wikipedia:
Omar Barghouti is a founding committee member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and a co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Wikipedia
Born: 1964, Qatar

Note that his first degree was from Tel Aviv University. He is identified with the website Electronic Intifada whose Home page has the following screen today: December 25, 2015 and is an example of the misleading media which employs classic antisemitic methods of lying and deception about the truth of what is going on.

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Of course they don’t tell you that on Christmas eve there were three separate attacks, car jammings and knife attacks on IDF soldiers and Israeli civilians as reported here in The Times of Israel. The Israel news report lists the incidents, the attackers and their victims, and the condition of both attackers and victims.

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This is how it was reported in the Israeli press.

One person was lightly injured Thursday morning in a suspected car-ramming in the West Bank north of Jerusalem, Israeli officials said, the third attack in as many hours Thursday morning.

The army said a car tried to hit soldiers and border police at the Adam junction next to the Rama army base. The driver was shot and killed at the scene, an IDF statement said.

The incident was the third attack of the day after two separate stabbing incidents, also in the West Bank.
Earlier Thursday, a Palestinian stabbed and injured two security guards at an industrial park outside the West Bank settlement of Ariel. Guards at the site shot and killed the attacker during the incident, police said.
One victim, 24, was listed in serious condition after suffering several stab wounds to his upper body. A female guard, also 24, was listed in moderate condition with a stab wounds to her upper body, according to police and the Magen David Adom rescue organization.
Less than an hour later, a Palestinian man attempting to stab soldiers with a screwdriver was shot and killed near the West Bank city of Hebron Thursday morning. The army said the assailant, “armed with a screwdriver, approached a checkpoint near Hebron and attempted to the stab security forces.” The soldiers opened fire on the man, killing him, the IDF said.

Sadly, Since September, Israel has endured hundreds of knife attacks and car rammings on civilians in many cities both inside Israel the West Bank. There have been many dead and many injured on both sides. However clearly the aggressors are the stabbers and terrorists. And the world media largely ignores it because of its anti-Israel bias. Some people call anti-Israel bias – antisemitism. So there you have it!