Friday, November 24, 2006

Mar-heshvan IV

21 Heshvan - My uncle Rabbi Joseph Levinson, Ha-rav Yosef ben Shammai - passed away in 5760. My uncle was the Remser Rav, aka the rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel on Avenue A and Remsen Avenue in East Flatbush. He was well known in the Rabbinical Council of America. I celebrated Pesah at his community sedarim two consecutive years when my parents were too busy in their drycleaning establishment to prepare their own sedarim. I would usually get maftir when I visited him.
When the neighborhood started going down and others hightailed it out for "safer" places and sold their shuls to churches he stayed put and continued serving those too old or poor to leave. He said Hallel in his shul on Yom Ha-atzma'ut even after it became politically incorrect in Brooklyn to do so. A product of several Litvish yeshivot, he was always cool and level headed and I never heard him raise his voice to anyone. He had several heart attacks and congestive heart failure, and I was visiting him in the hospital when the heart monitor went flat and he joined Yitzchak Rabin and Rav Meir Kahane, who were also taken from us in this bitter month of Heshvan. I had the z'chut to help carry his aron to kvura and to fill in the grave. Yehi zikhro barukh.

Mar-Heshvan III

A little late - but I've been busy.

18 Heshvan 5751 - Rav Meir Kahane was taken from us by an Arab assassin's bullet. His main accomplishment was teaching Torah. Nothing unusual for a rabbi, but this one taught real authentic Torah. Not the erzats product that developed in Europe's ghettos, but the Torah of Tanakh. From him we learned how normal Jews living normal lives conduct themselves; hint - they do not hide under their beds when people come to kill them. When Jews were coming under attack in New York's changing neighborhoods he taught us to stand up for ourselves physically. I trained in karate (was never very good at it) in a dojo that he set up. If more had followed him, perhaps the shul in East Flatbush where my uncle served as rabbi for some thirty years would still be a shul, which brings me to. . . .[see above]

Friday, November 03, 2006

Cowardly attack in Midwood

It happened in the Midwood section of Brooklyn, not far from where I live and havel lived all my life. Not all the facts are in, but it appears that a Pakistani immigrant in his 20's, enjoying an ice cream and minding his own business outside a Dunkin' Donuts, was set upon by five Jewish youths, at least one of whom sported brass knuckles. The goons shouted epithets, "Muslim terrorist," "Muslim motherf---er, get out of our country" and such as they beat him savagely. The victim is in Bellevue Hospital and will require reconstructive surgery. The police have five men in custody, all Jewish, and are prosecuting it as a hate crime.

I feel personally violated. We're used to "frum" Jews involved in white collar crime, but violent crime - the acts of Eisav - is supposed to be the province of other people. Goons in Howard Beach and Bensonhurst set upon passersby with baseball bats and tree limbs because their skin is the wrong color. My neighborhood is supposed to be safe; anyone can walk here day or night and nothing will happen to him. If the facts are as described, we have an unspeakable hillul Hashem. An innocent man beaten for no reason other than being Muslim. Isn't that what we suffered through the centuries? Kishinev anyone? Crown Heights? I thought we were supposed to be better. What if the goons did have reason to believe that the man they beat up was a terrorist? Call the police or the FBI! Who on earth made them judge, jury and executioner? And what of all the onlookers on that busy street? Nobody stepped in to help? Isn't that what we're constantly complaining about when one of our own is victimized by muggers? And five on one? Brass knuckles? Not only are these hooligans criminals, they're a despicable bunch of cowards. They want to fight terrorists? Let them join the Army and fight the terrorists in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Everybody who is anybody in our community must join as one to condemn this cowardly act. If any observant Jew other than the alleged perpetrators' lawyers defend them, it will only compound the hillul Hashem. There is no defense for such an act. And the police have to throw the book. Those goons belong in jail.

Mar-heshvan II

Today, 12 Heshvan, is the eleventh yahrzeit of Yitzhak Rabin. I remember running ten miles from work to the Israeli consulate to sign the condolence book. The act of running was cathartic, an affirmation of Jewish strength honoring a man who personified Jewish strength, who was God's instrument of victory in the Six Day War. When I got to the consulate, a man from CBS News was interviewing people on the line to sign the book. I told the cameraman that I was opposed to the Oslo process before the assassination and still was, but that a Jew murdering the Prime Minister was disgusting and no good could possibly come of it.
That Shabbat, Rabbi Milton Polin, then at Kingsway Jewish Center and a past president of the Rabbinical Council of America, delivered the angriest sermon that I ever heard from him. "Murder is Arab business," he thundered, "It is not Jewish business." What did we gain, he asked? Shimon Peres? Is he any better than Rabin? I think subsequent events proved that he was much worse, not that murder would in any way be justified if he had been better. Before the assassination and since, Yitzhak Rabin was vilified as a traitor and worse by "men" who are not fit to shine his shoes. Was any of them responsible for the security of the state for one hour? Did any of them send young men into battle knowing that some would not return? Of course not!
A "traitor" betrays his country for money or some other personal gain. Prime Minister Rabin was genuinely convinced that Yassir Arafat was as tired of war as he - Rabin - was, and that "land for peace" was best for his people. He might have been wrong but if he was he could and should have been replaced the democratic way. Ballots not bullets.

We have Yitzhak Rabin to thank for this

Here's me at the Israeli consulate being interviewed by CBS before signing the condolence book: