Dear WJC Family,
There were so many prominent news stories this week that it was hard to prioritize. I saw story after story about “The Slap” at the Oscars. Everyone had to express an opinion about it, even though it was hardly the most consequential violence we saw on television this week. Don’t get me wrong, it was ugly and stupid and deserves chastisement, but is it really worth days of our attention?
There are the ongoing atrocities being perpetrated by the Russian military and Vlademir Putin in Ukraine, a situation we cannot afford to take our eyes off of or tire of addressing. However, as far as I’m concerned the most important and poignant story got hardly a mention in the American Press. Over the last week, and last I saw the count, 11 people had been killed in several “lone-wolf” terror attacks in Israel. These are violent attacks on civilians in Israel with no care about who the victims might be.
As reported by Sarah Tuttle Singer (an Israeli journalist and author who was a guest of our World Jewery Committee in June of 2020) “7 were Jews – including secular and religious—mostly civilian, except for one border police officer who fled antisemitism in France. She happened to be eating at a restaurant when the terrorists began firing outside and she ran out to stop them along with her partner—who wasn’t Jewish—and was also gunned down. 1 was an Arab (Christian) police officer who prevented Gd knows how many more murders. 1 was a Druze border police officer (who was having a meal with his Jewish partner when the shots rang out). And 2 were Ukrainian workers who were not Jewish.” Such a diverse and random grouping, in life they found their homes in proximity to one another in a country that took them in, in their deaths they are a testament to the complexity and diversity of Israel society.
These are some of the worst terrorist attacks in Israel in years and yet they go hardly unmentioned in the news. What are we to do or say? How are we to mourn when so few seem to care? First of all, let’s keep this moment human. It is too easy to get caught up in movements and politics and such when it comes to incidents in Israel. If you know someone in Israel, anyone, call them and ask them how they are doing. Let them know you are thinking of them, sending love and prayers and strength. Then, use your voices in whatever way works for you to focus attention on this – with friends in conversation, on social media, or perhaps in prayer.
And while “The Slap” has gotten a lot of attention (perhaps too much), there is something I want to talk about from the Oscars. I was particularly impressed by this special moment, where Lady Gaga displays some of the most tender, respectful and empathetic care for an infirm and somewhat confused Liza Minelli. I could watch this exchange of “I got you” – “I know. Thank you” 1000 times and get misty every time! It is a true example of how to dignify and support our forebears, the giants upon whose shoulders we stand.
To honor that reminder I would like to ask you to donate to Project Ezra and provide Passover food for poor, elderly and infirm Jews on the Lower East Side. Please click here and make a donation—today is the last day! They deserve to hear our figurative, “I got you,” and be reminded that we care and appreciate them.
With all that is swirling around at this moment in time, we are especially blessed to have an opportunity to learn with our Scholar in Residence, Chancellor Shuly Rubin Schwartz. Chancellor Rubin Schwartz is not only a renowned academic and administrator of one of the premier institutions of Jewish learning in the country, she is a sensitive and wise leader. Attached below, along with a couple of video holiday messages just to give you a feel for her teaching, is a podcast episode she did for a JTS Podcast called, “What Now?” The podcast is about reactions to tragic loss, some of which Chancellor Rubin Schwartz has experienced herself, and her wisdom and guidance is worth hearing, maybe especially at moments like these. I hope you’ll give it a listen.
One last thing—you won’t see me in shul this Shabbat. I was looking forward to the Scholar-in-Residence programs, but unfortunately, a wedding couple who I married on Sunday evening and subsequently dined with on Tuesday evening, have both tested positive for COVID. Though Tami and I have continued to test negative and feel fine, in an abundance of caution we are going to stay home from synagogue this Shabbat. Thank you in advance for your concern, but I assure you we feel fine and are all good. We will be joining you all through the Live Stream and hope that you enjoy the program in person or with us virtually.
See you online,