Recently, a diner in an upscale kosher eatery in the metropolitan area asked for a side order of steamed broccoli to go with the main course, a salmon dish.
The waiter came back a few minutes later with the salmon, but not the broccoli. When asked where the side dish was, he apologized and said he would return with it in a moment.
He returned almost immediately. “We’re sorry,” he said, “but we’ve run out of broccoli.”
A few minutes later, the restaurant owner inquired if the diner was enjoying the meal. Said the disappointed diner, “I would have enjoyed it more if I could have gotten the steamed broccoli I ordered. How can you run out of broccoli?”
Last week’s column by colleague and brother Shammai Engelmayer brought me joy, not just because he’s rejoining the Jewish Standard as a columnist, as I and so many others had urged him, but because Shammai and I share one great passion: Jewish values. We both believe that Jewish values have the capacity to bring healing to a world that sorely needs it.
On June 4, at the Marriot Marquis in Times Square, my organization, This World: The Jewish Values Network, together with Rambam Hospital in Israel, is hosting a dinner honoring those who most promote Jewish values in the culture. The honorees are not all Jewish, and one need not be a Jew to absorb and promote the light the Jewish people have shared with the world.
Truth regardless of consequences
Foremost among the honorees is Elie Wiesel, the world’s most celebrated Jewish personality, whom we are honoring as “Champion of Jewish Spirit.” Here is where Judaism differs so much from Christianity. The latter looks at evil and has a simple response. It results from Lucifer, a fallen angel. Christianity is profoundly dualistic, dividing the world into competing forces of good and evil. The Nazis went over to the dark side. God was not at Auschwitz and therefore bears no responsibility for the mass murder perpetrated there. But the devil was present, and we must reject him fully and love God.
”Over the years, in this space, I have angered people, I have hurt them, perhaps inadvertently I even maligned some of them. I chose to close my eyes to their truths, to their certainties. I chose only to see the ‘right way,’ which meant my way….
“Not everything I ever wrote was wrong, not every opinion I ever held was incorrect….If I can learn to write without the columnist’s conceit, and if people still believe there is some value in what I have to say, perhaps I will return to this space some day.”
Next week, in a monumental achievement, about 1,000 volunteers from Norpac, a pro-Israel group based in North Jersey, will get on buses to Washington to lobby nearly every member of Congress and senator to support Israel.
Until recently, the case could be made that pro-Israel groups’ most important goal was to get lawmakers to vote for aid to Israel. But with the Israeli economy now regularly growing more than 5 percent each year, and with Israel ranking 16th among 187 world nations on the UN’s Human Development Index, American money is no longer as vital.
I recall the difficult days of the Yom Kippur War.
We lived in a modest neighborhood. While I was visiting my friend, his father, who worked as a tailor, walked into his house and told the family that he had just put their life savings — $20,000 — into Israel bonds. It was an important moment for me, seeing firsthand the commitment of an American Jew toward Israel in its moment of need.
In case you are thinking of passing on NORPAC’s mission to Washington this year, let’s outline some of the issues. The Arab Spring has come to mean a more aggressive Egypt; it means an unstable Syria with chemical and biologic weapons; it means Jordan, the next country likely to fall to the Muslim Brotherhood, causing mischief along Israel’s Eastern border; it means serious weapons from Libya and Syria falling into the hands of terrorists.
The case for stronger action on Iran’s WMD program is more compelling each day. The first four targets for this brutal theocracy are Tel Aviv, New York, Washington, and Riyadh. Iran’s mullahs wish to do to the Jews in 12 minutes what Hitler did in 12 years.
We have an opportunity to help to do something about this. On May 8, you can join NORPAC on its annual mission to meet with Congress and influence our most powerful federal leaders to stand by Israel, and to help Israel defend herself against the existential threats that emanate from all sides.
NORPAC’s members are going to outline this existential threat to both America and Israel to our national leaders. Let me illustrate the effectiveness of our advocacy. In 2011, the NORPAC mission to Washington was particularly important because Congress was in budget negotiations. The recession was deep, and the foreign aid package, which we had generally thought to be an “easy ask,” was in jeopardy. NORPAC was in Washington advocating for $3 billion in foreign aid and a new system, then in development, called the Iron Dome.
It was the day of the 2011 NORPAC mission when congressional leaders first advised the pro-Israel community that Israel would get the full aid package despite budget problems. However, we also were told that the outlook for Iron Dome funding looked grim. Nonetheless, the 1,000 NORPAC members continued to advocate for funding for the then experimental anti-missile system.
I stayed late for my last meeting to see my friend Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.). To my surprise, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the Republican caucus chairman, who was well respected among the fiscal conservatives, came out of the voting chamber to meet me together with Senator Ayotte. Senator Thune reassured me of the full funding for foreign aid to Israel but said that as an experimental system, the Iron Dome was too expensive at this time.
I gave the senator warm regards from my mother, who was too weak to join us that year. He remembered her well from other years. I told him of basketball advice my father gave me when I was young: “Short and Jewish — shoot from the outside.” I explained that the engineers in Israel were particularly good at this technology, that this is their outside shot, and that we all would benefit from a worthwhile investment even in these pressing times. The senator, a 6-foot 5-inch basketball player, chuckled at the story. And in a surprising turnaround he pledged his support for the program.
It was min hashamyim — by the grace of God — that NORPAC was in Washington that critical day of budget decisions, NORPAC members in each of over 450 meetings advocated for this little-known program, and the tide was turned. By day’s end, it was clear that Congress’ feeling about the Iron Dome program was palpably favorable.
Those of us who were on that NORPAC mission saw the fruits of our labors during last year’s war with Gaza, as the Iron Dome program kept missiles from raining on Tel Aviv and enabled Israel to avoid a ground war.
The oversized role that a few determined and committed people can play in our nation is astounding. Going down to Washington with NORPAC is a leveraged way of making yourself heard. Over the years, our members have made compelling cases. They have been key players in promoting legislative initiatives. This year, we will have about 475 meetings planned for small NORPAC groups.
A sincere citizen advocate in Washington is far more compelling than the most sophisticated lobbyist. Each of you who attends the mission has more influence than the 10,000 who stay at home.
Time and again, members of Congress have told us that the NORPAC mission was their best meeting of the year, that it was an eye opener, or that the NORPAC meeting changed their vote.
So if you cannot spare the cash, spare the time. Give one day to Israel. Give May 8, 2013, to Israel. You can do much more for Israel on May 8 than you can for your clients, patients, employers, employees, or customers. May 8 is the one day when you will do the most good to promote US-Israel relations, and be effective doing your part for the survival of the Jewish homeland and the Jewish people.
While it takes special courage and determination to put the family’s life savings in a country during wartime, as Americans have done repeatedly during Israel’s wars, and it takes a special character to stand at the front lines, like those fallen we recently honored during Yom Hazikaron, we must do our part as well.
Please join us for one day to do something only American Jews can. Come meet with our national leaders and participate in ensuring the continuing miracle of our generation, the survival of the State of Israel.
You can join the NORPAC mission by going to norpac.net or calling 201-788-5133.
Let me surprise you for a moment.
The reason that tragedies, like the outrageous terrorist bombing in Boston this week, continue to take place is not because the world lacks love but rather because it doesn’t have enough hate. Living in a Christian world that teaches us to “love the sinner,” we find excuses for evil and refuse to dedicate ourselves fully to its destruction.
North Korea is a case in point. As the young, brutal dictator Kim Jong Un threatens the world with nuclear Armageddon, we continue to make him the butt of late-night jokes. As the world stood by and watched, North Korea launched a satellite into space last December and conducted another nuclear test in February. It has vocalized its plans to attack the United States with nuclear weapons and is building missiles toward that end.
Erdogan, apologies, and the Armenian genocide
President Barak Obama’s first trip to Israel since he became president had the potential to yield many tangible results, not the least of which could have been a demand on the part of the leader of the free world that Hamas revoke its genocidal charter against Israel.
While it produced many inspirational moments, important symbolic gestures, and an eloquent speech before the Jerusalem Convention Center, its carefully staged photo opportunities seem, in retrospect, to be somewhat ephemeral, and the pressure for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to apologize to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan ultimately, we believe, counterproductive.
WASHINGTON – One act, more than any other, is indispensable from the Passover story: If God had not intervened, we would still be slaves. There would have been no Exodus, no Sinai, no bright future for the Jewish people. For the sake of a future nation, God intervened to save 600,000 warriors of Israel.
Remember that number. It’s about the same number of mothers and children who will be cut off from nutrition assistance if nothing is done to stop the sequester’s bulldozer-like roll toward the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Children and Infants, also known as WIC. Once again, an intervention is needed for the sake of a nation.