Jewish Ideas and Concepts

  • Korach’s Rebellion and the BLM Movement Korach’s Rebellion and the BLM Movement

    The parallels that can be drawn between this parsha/portion and the anti-racism riots and demonstrations led by the Black Lives Matter movement happening all over the world are astonishing.

  • The Jewish Lens On World Events The Jewish Lens on World Events

    The Jewish nation exists today because it never let go of its rich cultural heritage. In good times and bad… in our legacy texts there is not a subject under the sun that has not been carefully dissected.

  • 2020 Principles to Live By: New Year 2020

    Now that you have reviewed these principles, I think you will agree with me that if the world were to take notice of these principles, we could actually come to achieve peace for all mankind, and we could easily solve all the challenges facing us – challenges of poverty, racism, climate change, and anything else that might come up.

  • Budapest Five Memoirs: the Jewish Hungarian Shoah/Holocaust Experience

    amazing first-person accounts of people’s experiences before during and after the Shoah/Holocaust in Hungary.

  • Shofar 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 video I recently discovered that explains this weird holiday…

  • Tisha b'Av Why does Israel Continue to Observe Tisha b’Av – the fast day commemorating the destruction of the ancient temples?

    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?

  • Israel Observations of Passover in Israel

    Since there is so much attention being paid to Jews and Israel and so much misinformation, I would like to share my own reflections regarding the Jewish message to the world, in the present day, that is personified in the Passover story.

  • Photo of candles Yom Hashoah Vehagvura: Day of Remembrance

    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.

  • Baltimore Confronting BDS Today: a conference in Baltimore

    I never considered myself right wing or left wing but the lies and calumnies of the Israel/apartheid BDS gang that has proliferated on campuses need to be exposed. Jews and non Jews need to come to grips with the tactics and concerted efforts put forth by networked Muslim Brotherhood organizations to politicize and divide campus communities and initiate and arouse unsafe, antisemitic environments for pro – Israel supporters and of course for Jews whether they support Israel or not.

  • History and Antisemitism in Islam

    Dr. Mordechai Kedar, was invited to speak at McGill by ISGAP. He spoke on Antisemitism in Modern Islamic and Arab Discourse. Mordechai Kedar, born in Tel Aviv, is a Religious Zionist and an expert in Israeli Arab culture. He served for 25 years in IDF Military Intelligence, where he specialized in Islamic groups, the political discourse of Arab countries, the Arabic press and mass media, and the Syrian domestic arena.[1] He holds a Ph.D. from Bar-Ilan University. He is fluent in Hebrew, Arabic, and English and is described as “one of the few Arabic-speaking Israeli pundits seen on Arabic satellite channels defending Israel”. https://vimeo.com/121391375  

  • Hitler et la fillette Experience the Holocaust through the eyes of a young girl

    At the tender age of fifteen, Catherine Shvets was writing about the Shoah through the memories of her survivor grandmother. She addressed the important actions of nameless rescuers who saved a little girl, the theme of Shvets’s recent oeuvre , « Hitler et la fillette ». Catherine Shvets, born in Quebec of Russian Jewish heritage, is today twenty-one years old and a second-year student in philosophy of education at McGill University. Sonia Sarah Lipsyc interviews Catherine Shvets about her book “Hitler et la fillette” that brings us into the moving experience of the holocaust through the eyes of a young girl. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwYwBcbaBLI  

  • Klez Kanada KlezKanada 2012

    Klez Kanada is Quebec’s largest annual festival of Jewish/Yiddish culture and arts. Every year, musicians, Yiddishists, Jews, and non-Jews gather in the Laurentian Mountains at camp B’nai Brith for a week of inter-generational song, dance, and culture. This year, I attended several very interesting lectures and was treated to numerous musical performances by a wide range of artists, both young and old, from all corners of the globe. Here are a few of the photos from the festival.   (Photographer: Chris Zacchia)  

  • AskAbigal Productions Logo Rosh Hashanah: Angst

    Rosh Hashana is the season of Jewish angst. It is the Jewish New Year, a time when Jews are supposed to grapple with their own demons. It is a time for self assessment, for asking forgiveness from those we have harmed and making resolutions for the future. Life however is not entirely in our hands and we reflect also on the fragility of life and ask for a new year of joy, good health and continued life, all the time knowing that none of us has any guarantees in this regard. Our prayers meditate on the question “Who will be raised up, and who will be brought down? Who will live and who will die in this new year?” And this suspense is the suspense of life itself. And this is the drama of the Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur Holiday cycle to which we have to bring our mind and soul. A friend sent me the following parody of New Years wishes. May your hair, your teeth, your face-lift, your abs, and your stocks not fall. And may your blood pressure, your triglycerides, your cholesterol, your white blood count and your mortgage interest not rise. May you get a clean bill of health from your dentist, your cardiologist, your gastroenterologist, your urologist, your proctologist, your podiatrist, your psychiatrist, your plumber, and the Internal Revenue. May you find a way to travel from anywhere to anywhere during rush hour in less than an hour, and when you get there may you find a parking space. May this Yom Tov, find you seated around the dinner table, together with your beloved family and cherished friends, ushering in the Jewish New Year ahead. May what you see in the mirror delight you, and what others see in you delight them. May the telemarketers wait to make their sales calls until you finish dinner, may your checkbook and your budget balance, and may they include generous amounts for charity. May you remember to say “I love you” at least once a day to your partner, your child, and your parent(s). You can say it to your secretary, your nurse, your butcher, your photographer, your hairdresser or your gym instructor, but not with a “twinkle” in your eye. May we live as intended, in a world at peace with the awareness of the beauty in every sunset, every flower’s unfolding petals, every baby’s smile and every wonderful, astonishing, miraculous part of ourselves. Bless you with every happiness, great health, peace and much love during the next year and all those that follow. Wishing everyone a “Shana Tova Umetooka”: A good and sweet year to everyone. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIQzmQjE6XM L’shanah Tova to all of us.

  • Caring Angels/Mentschen In New Hampshire

    Joel Yan, a Jewish lay spiritual leader and myself, were on our way home from a week-long retreat of classes and singing at the biannual Aleph Kallah at Franklin Pierce College. It was Sunday and both our families were expecting us back that day. No sooner had the car stalled, people started stopping, asking if we needed any help, offering to move the car off the road, to diagnose the problem and even to offer us shelter if we needed it. Katherine Stewart (originally from Ontario and a graduate of Joel’s alma mater, University of Toronto) stopped and gave Joel her phone number urging him to call if needed. A man in a pick-up truck stopped and helped to diagnose the problem saying the same thing had happened to him with his Toyota Camry – the cable broke disabling the automatic transmission and prompting the car to stop in its tracks. Bruce who lived across the street drove up in his pickup truck with his wife saying we should knock on his door if we needed a drink or somewhere to relax. Another person drove up in his jeep  with a small American flag. By this time Joel had taken out his music stand and guitar and was playing up a storm in the searing heat. Norm then drove up on his bike pulling a broken air conditioner and hung out with us for a while. The attendant at Mikes’ Market at the Mobil gas station at the corner allowed me to charge my phone, and use the bathroom. Even the AAA truck driver who arrived after a two hour wait was especially kind, explaining the car could be driven safely once it was in gear, and we really did not need to be towed to a garage. But our very special mentsch/angel was Ralph Scott Britton. He had been directly behind us on a motorbike when the car broke down. First, he helped diagnose the problem, and push the car off the road. Then he stayed with us helping total strangers for over 3.5 hours. He waited with us for the AAA to come, advising us all along, and then escorted us to Keene behind his motorbike while we looked for a place to stay and a solution to the car problem. In the end, Scott trained Joel how to switch the gears manually under the hood and then watched and tested him making sure he could do it himself. Then, only when he was sure we were safe he sent us on our way. He refused any compensation for all his help and suggested only that we pass his good deeds along to others who were in need. And thanks to Scott and all the other kind people we met, we made it safely with the broken cable, first to our friends in Vermont who put us up for the night, and the next day to Montreal and Ottawa to our respective families. We feel that sharing these stories is a way of passing on the power of good will that we experienced in the tiny hamlet of Winchester. Thank you to all of you. You are clearly a community that cares. “mentsch” a Yiddish word that means “a human being, a person who does the right thing when he sees what needs to be done, and brings honor to what is truly human.” sometimes known as an “angel”.

  • Lessons from Henry Morgentaler and Carlos de Soussa Mendes

    Yesterday, a full auditorium at the Jewish Public Library, in Montreal, watched the film about Aristide de Sousa Mendes, Disobedience, made for French television, and we all listened to the moving discussion by the panel, one of whom was Louis Philippe Mendes, the grandson of Aristide Sousa de Mendes, who grew up in and happens to live in Montreal. This is how the movie, created by French television, is described in a recent post: Joel Santoni’s powerful drama is a vivid retelling of the moving true story of Aristides de Sousa Mendes, the Portuguese Consul General stationed in Bordeaux, France, during World War II.  His government had issued strict orders to all its diplomats, in a document called Circular 14, to deny visas to Holocaust refugees seeking to escape Occupied Europe through Portugal.  Sousa Mendes defied these orders and issued Portuguese visas to an estimated 30,000 people in May and June of 1940 in an operation described by the Holocaust scholar Yehuda Bauer as “perhaps the largest rescue action by a single individual during the Holocaust.” Sousa Mendes’ defiance of government’s order was harshly punished by Salazar, ally of Hitler, the dictator of neutral Portugal. As Louis-Philippe reminded us last night: Aristides de Sousa Mendes’s act of conscience consisted in defying the direct orders of his government and exhibiting courage, moral rectitude, unselfishness, and self-sacrifice by issuing visas to all refugees regardless of nationality, race, religion or political opinions. The movie shows how all of his heroic work was done over a period of several days with the help of his male secretary, and a certain Rabbi Kruger, a man introduced by a letter from a friend who Aristide welcomed into his home along with his four daughters at that very time, and his eldest son. Aristide de Soussa Mendes was the father of 14 children and his mistress was also expecting at that very time. A moving and gripping story that is a lesson for all humanity and for all time. The same day, I listened to the Gian Gomeshi interview with Dr. Abraham Morgentaler, son of the late abortion rights advocate Dr. Henry Morgentaler, following his father’s  recent death at the age of ninety. The outpouring of interviews and reviews unleashed by the death of Dr. Henry Morgentaler, were intense and worldwide, but hearing about him from his son was special. As his son explained, Henry Morgentaler, grew up in Lodz, Poland, facing local antisemitism there, and then at the age of eighteen endured the Nazi invasion which led him and his family first to a ghetto and then being transported to Auschwitz. After losing both his parents and surviving a slave labour camp, Henry arrived in Montreal, became a doctor, married and had children, and in the course of his work championed medical abortions for women in Quebec and Canada, at a time when the Church considered that sinful, and the laws of the land supported that stance. He went to jail more than once for upholding his values, and eventually won for women the legal  right to a safe, medical abortion in Canada. Two stories that Abraham Morgentaler, the son, shared struck me as poignant. He was perhaps nine year old at the time. He and his friends were arguing about who was the best hockey player in the world, “Rocket Richard or Richard Beliveau”. Eventually, all the kids ganged up on him: one kid said “we all believe that it’s Rocket Richard, so you are wrong!” He was telling his father about this when his father was putting him to bed, and he recalls his father saying very clearly, “It is possible for everyone in the world to say that you are wrong and for you still to be right.” The other wonderful image was Gian Gomeshi asking Abraham Morgentaler his favorite memory of his father to which he responded that he would always remember his Dad, at family celebrations addressing the family, and then singing either a Yiddish song or one of his favorite Edith Piaf songs. And I am thinking perhaps, “Rien de rien, je ne regrette rien”? Although Aristides de Sousa Mendes died in poverty, his heirs have banded together with community members to share his story. You can read all about it on the site of the Sousa Mendes Foundation. The movie has been shown at many Jewish Film Festivals and private screenings. Currently, the movie can only be seen via arrangement with the Sousa Mendes Foundation.

  • Spring Newsletter

    Happy Passover, Happy Easter, and Happy Spring to all. As many of you are aware, Passover – the celebration of freedom and the seminal holiday of Jewish continuity – invites us to reflect on the past and present. In that spirit, I would like to share with what I have been working on in the last few months. Since I last wrote to you, my documentary, “Yiddish: a tale of survival” has been completed, and is now in the process of being launched. So far we have had one private press screening at McGill University. It was reviewed by Janice Arnold of the Canadian Jewish news and I was also intervhttp://www.cjnews.com/arts/doc-looks-challenge-preserving-yiddish-theatreiewed by Pierre Landry of the CBC on International Human Rights Day. In the next few weeks, I will be sending the DVD’s to those of you who have supported this project on IndieGogo. Without your support it would not have been possible. I am also sending the film to festivals around the world, including US, Australia, Europe, Israel, and Asia. If you would be interested in organizing a private screening of the film for groups, associations or academic purposes please contact me and I would be glad to work something out. In other news, AskAbigail Productions has been hired to videotape and post the McGill talks for ISGAP, (Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism). Every month they have guests of international calibre, such as David Matas, Jonathon Speyer, and Shalem Coulibaly. AskAbigail Productions has continued to support the efforts of CIJR (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research) and I continue to serve on their board. The other day, as I was chatting with my Iranian emigre taxi driver friend, he said to me, “If I could only see peace in the Middle East in my lifetime, I would die a happy man.” Insh’Allah, may it be so…. I welcome your feedback and comments and look forward to working towards freedom and peace together with you in the new year. Abigail Hirsch

  • Purim, Jews, and the Academy Awards

    This year, Purim and the Academy awards happened to fall on the same day. Personally I thought the show was classy and the most fun in a long time. Seth McFarlane can sing and dance and deliver a joke. I loved the dance numbers and I only fell asleep once. (I read in the paper the next day that Barbara Streisand had been there. I totally missed her!) The next day, there were many articles about Abe Foxman, the head of the Bnai Brith Anti Defamation League, who objected to Seth’s jokes about “Jewish Hollywood” and a series of responsive essays on why these jokes were the best thing that ever happened to Jews. I think they all have a grain of truth but the funniest aspect is that it all happened on Purim: the day that Jews celebrate an ancient anti-semitic attempt to eliminate them by making jokes and putting on parodies called “Purim shpiels”. Some feel that the whole tradition of Jews and the theatre was born in this tradition of Purim shpiels. Check out my blog which explains this tradition and has a terrific modern day example of a Purim Shpiel video. Now what’s the back story that validates all of this brouhaha? I have read the book  How Jews invented Hollywood and watched the recent PBS Television documentary about Jewish song writers and creators of musicals on Broadway. Jews wrote many favorite Christmas Songs like “Silent Night” and “I am dreaming of a White Christmas”. Yes, Jews excelled in these areas starting in the early 1900. The dirty little secret is that they excelled in these areas because they were restricted from other occupations by anti-semitic social structures. A very good book that illustrates this social phenomenon is An Orphan in History, a memoir by Paul Cowan that shares the history of two Jewish families, his paternal and maternal parents and grandparents living in the US since the 1850’s. Jews were restricted in universities, corporations, and law firms in USA into the 1950’s. Dershowitz’ book Chutzpa talks about graduating from Harvard Law School in the fifties, and being unable to get a job in any firm, because they did not want any Jews. Yes, he had to start his own firm. Independence is the name of the game. Jews have always had to thrive in spite of anti-semitism. During the middle ages in Europe, they were restricted from farming, and so had to engage in commerce to make a living. Additionally, lending money was forbidden by Christian laws so Jews became the only legal money lenders. But I digress. This morning I was schmoozing about the Academy awards issue with my trainer who is a practicing Mormon. He was telling me about the Broadway musical The Book of Mormon which has been having a strong Broadway run for the last four years. Yes, it makes fun of Mormons, but it also shares their story and he loves it. Similarly, he was telling me how he loved Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat because the music and the parody still tell the wonderful Joseph story in all its details. Then he said: Could you ever imagine something like that using the Koran as a base text? End of story.

  • Israel Purim 2013 Facts and Fancies

    What is Purim? Purim is a Jewish holiday that is celebrated exactly four weeks before Passover. It is based on the story told in the Book of Esther: 3:8 And Haman said unto king Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king’s laws: therefore it is not for the king’s profit to suffer them. 3:9 If it please the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed: and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver to the hands of those that have the charge of the business, to bring it into the king’s treasuries. 3:10 And the king took his ring from his hand, and gave it unto Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the Jews’ enemy. Play and laughter, food and drink is the order of the day. Here are some recent pictures posted to my facebook page from our recent Purim holiday which took place last Sunday. Rabbi Jonathon Sacks says: “It is important to celebrate because here is an instance where Jews overcame their enemies and were victorious, and this is worthy of celebration.” And here is my favorite Purim video for this year – Move Like Graggers Remix (Purim Song) by Temple Israel, West Bloomfield, Michigan How many Purim themes can you name here?

  • Yiddish Book Center The Yiddish Book Center

    The miracle of Yiddish in our time is embodied by the Yiddish Book Centre in Amherst Massachusetts. The center which was originally founded by Aaron Lansky in 1980, when he saw the need to save Yiddish books that would have otherwise ended up in the trash heap. The organization has saved over 1 million books to date! The center’s mission is to tell the whole Jewish story by rescuing, translating and disseminating Yiddish books and presenting innovative educational programs that broaden understanding of modern Jewish identity. As part of continuing the legacy of Yiddish, they regularly invite speakers to talk about Yiddish and Yiddish initiatives. Last week it was my pleasure to give a talk about my upcoming documentary Yiddish: A Tale of Survival. I was invited to talk to a group of University students studying Yiddish over the summer. Below is a short excerpt from the talk. https://youtu.be/FWga9rh2uU4 And for more about the film visit, Yiddish: A Tale of Survival

  • SHOLOM ALEICHEM Theodore Bikel: Laughter Through Tears

    Yesterday, I was privileged to see Theodore Bikel’s performance of his one man show, SHOLOM ALEICHEM: LAUGHTER THROUGH TEARS. In it, he channels the life of Sholem Aleichem by combining his own life and twenty-two of Sholem Aleichem’s characters from his plays and stories. I loved it because it was like seeing the past before your eyes, a past that I had only been able to imagine through plays such as this one. Theodore Bikel is at this point eighty eight years young. He performs a one hour and forty-five minute tour-de-force performance without an intermission. He moves from one part of the stage to another and sings Yiddish standards to enhance the themes. The translation of the songs is seamlessly woven into the fabric of the play so that even those with minimal understanding of Yiddish, still comprehend and appreciate the interludes. Of course if you do understand Yiddish, it will move you to tears. Thank you, Theodore Bikel for bringing Sholem Aleichem to life for another generation.

  • Jerusalem Ron Prosor, Israeli Ambassador to the UN

    Ron Prosor, Israeli Ambassador to the UN, recently spoke at the Jerusalem Post Conference (2012) regarding the issue of Israel/Palestine peace, delegitimation of Israel, and changing attitudes at the UN. I was privileged to be able to capture his talk and I share it here with you. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QR9b5YSSRPo&feature=plcp

  • Jerusalem Jerusalem Post Conference: Elyezer Shkedy

    I recently attended the Jerusalem Post conference and filmed it in its entirety. I personally resonated with the talk of Elyezer Shkedy since he and I share some personal history. His father is a sole survivor of a Hungarian family and my family, also, is Jewish, Hungarian, and survived those terrible times. The theme of the conference was building the Zionist Dream and he exemplified this in the talk below. http://youtu.be/zMDKj5s6_aY

  • Jerusalem Highlights of the 2012 Jerusalem Post Conference

    After attending the Jerusalem Post Conference, I reviewed the footage and have highlighted below statements of Gilad Erdan, Israeli Minister of the Environment, and Danny Ayalon, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister – as they relate to the two most serious challenges facing the Jewish State of Israel today: The Israel/Palestine refugee conflict, and the threat of a nuclear Iran. The clip below addresses the Iranian nuclear threat to Israel and the world and the responsibility of Israel and the International community according to Israeli cabinet members. http://youtu.be/KpaGzBeYMeA The following clip reviews the Israeli aspirations to resolve the ongoing Palestinian refugee crisis in our time. http://youtu.be/CQjC99mVtIQ Here, Gilad Erdan details Israel’s provision for basic human rights, electricity and water for Palestinians in the disputed territories, recognizing the universal human needs for these basic necessities since 1967 and to the present. http://youtu.be/FDz9nd5Z7LQ  

  • Sholem Aleichem Laughing in the Darkness Thoughts about Sholem Aleichem and the Current Pogrom in Syria

    Last night, I made a special effort to watch the documentary Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness, a recent documentary biography of the life of Sholem Aleichem, playing at Cinema du Parc. Sholem Aleichem, was the pen name of Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich who lived from 1859 to 1916. He was a popular chronicler of the lives of the Jews of that period. The Jewish population had been living for hundreds of years in the Polish/Russian countryside, and was facing the onslaught of modernity. French ideas of emancipation, American ideas of liberty and the pursuit of happiness, socialism, and the struggle against the rule of the czar, all intermingled with the cultural traditions of the Jews. Most European Jews were speaking Yiddish at that time; a language that developed over the thousand year settlement of Jews in Europe and is a confluence of Hebrew, German and Slavic languages. Sholem Aleichem, wrote in Yiddish, although it was already a time when Jews were beginning to favor the languages of the countries in which they lived rather then their “mame loshen” – “mother’s tongue” of the home and hearth. Sholem Aleichem wrote about the Shtetle – characters who inhabited his world. He reflected on his time and place, and gave voice to the average Jew living in the Polish and Russian countryside. He wrote about Tevye, the Milkman, the character on which Fiddler on the Roof was based, and about Motl, the Cantor’s son. Die Kleine Menshelech, a play based on these same characters was the one that began the rebirth of Yiddish in Israel during the 1970’s. We all know that during the Holocaust, six million mostly Yiddish speakers, of every walk of life were murdered by the Nazi. I am currently working on a documentary about Yiddish culture. What has happened to the Yiddish language three generations after the Holocaust? Does anyone still speak, or remember Yiddish? Among all the excitement of hearing Sholem Aleichem’s accents and ideas in English on screen, another thing that stuck out was the documentary reporting of the systematic attacks against Jews in Poland and Russia starting in 1881. This was a new phenomenon at the time. Jews and their neighbours had been living side by side in relative harmony. Jew baiting was a medieval phenomenon, the nineteenth century was supposedly a period of “emancipation and liberty” for the common man. And then came the unexpected violence, killing of Jewish men, women and children in their homes. These were the “pogroms” initiated following the assassination of the Czar in 1881 and repeated in 1905-06. Sholem Aleichem, himself, lived through the pogrom in Kiev in 1905. The film reports that, he and his family “hid for three days in a hotel” while the massacres were going on. I suppose this is what gives rise to the title of the documentary, “Laughing in the Dark”. The startling photographs of murdered bodies with grieving family members pictured in the documentary do not leave me. They remind me of the news stories we have been hearing about the deaths of Syrian citizens, men, women and children, in Homs and in other areas of Syria. The death toll reported so far is over 9000 people, with no end in sight. Homes vandalized during the pogroms in Kishinev in 1903. In hindsight, it is easy to see that the absence of response to the violence perpetrated against Jewish citizens in Poland and Russian led directly to the politics and daring destruction of Jews, practiced by the Nazis as an instrument of State. Sadly, I am reminded of the current practice of a similar statecraft in Syria today. But this has been going on for years in the Soviet Union, in North Korea, and Iran.

  • Desert Purim Today – 2012

    Today, I attended the CIJR Colloquium on the Iranian question. Three professors, Prof. Frederick Krantz, Chair (Concordia University), Prof. Harold Waller (McGill University), and Prof. Norrin Ripsman (Concordia University) all spoke on the topic of Syria, Egypt and the “Arab Spring”: Israel’s Security Situation, following an introduction by  Rabbi Yonah Rosner. The Rabbi spoke using the drama of the Purim story as a backdrop. Yesterday, in synagogues, in Israel and all over the world, Jews participated in Shabbat Zachor, the Sabbath before Purim which each year reminds us of the injunction “to remember and not to forget” those who have attacked our innocents in the past, (Deuteronomy 25:17-19) or the dangers that these kinds of enemies pose at any time. In my own synagogue, Rabbi Aigin also spoke about these issues. Iran has made open and clear threats to annihilate the Jewish people, to wipe Israel off the map. Both Rabbis reminded us of Queen Esther’s injunction, and the importance of Jewish unity in the face of these kinds of threats. Our history reminds us that threats are serious. And as Prof. Krantz (a historian), pointed out, the only difference between pre- Holocaust times and post Holocaust times is that the Jewish people now have a state, the independent State of Israel, and a well trained army and armaments to address these kinds of threats. However, we are also reminded that the Book of Esther, never mentions G-d, but only the acts and foibles of men and women, some ordinary and some in authority, Kings and Ministers. Tomorrow President Obama addresses AIPAC, (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) the annual gathering of heads of American Jewish institutions and ordinary folk. We will all have to judge, is Obama Ahashverosh – the weak and easily influenced vacillating King described in the Purim Story who first has his Queen Vashti killed for insubordination. But rulers are not always wise or compassionate. This we see clearly in our our own time. Most of them seem to be focused clearly on acquiring wealth and retaining power at any cost. Prof Krantz reminded us of the heavy responsibility that Prime Minister Netanyahu now carries on his shoulders, the responsibility of guarding over six million Jews in Israel and the fate of their brethren in the Diaspora as well. For our fates have and always will be linked. Esther in the Purim story reminds us that if Jews have any hope for redemption they must be united, especially in times of crisis. The Purim scroll is called the Megillah, and it is a tradition to have fun and to put on satirical plays on Purim, they are called Purimshpiels in Yiddish. Another Yiddish expression is “man tracht und G-t lacht.” Man works and G-d laughs or the English idiomatic equivalent is “Man proposes G-d disposes”. This article: Remember: The Answer to Terrorism has a deep message regarding how to respond in the face of threats. Happy Purim to all.

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