View current news articles, commentary, videos and more that have an impact on Jewish culture, politics and religion at Rabbi Silverman's Sites to See
(Portions of this article appeared 10 years ago in the Jerusalem Post)
Israeli and Polish children filled the air above Warsaw with kites in memory of famed and martyred educator Janusz Korczak, who fervently believed that every child should have a kite. Sixty-five years after the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and 60 years after the founding of the state of Israel, Education Minister Yuli Tamir led a singular educational event in Warsaw to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day in memory of Korczak, who was deported to Treblinka with his students 66 years ago and subsequently killed. Tamir, together with Israeli youth and Polish pupils who are studying Judaism and Israel, visited the original site of Korczak's orphanage, where he taught and cared for his Jewish charges. There, they learned about Korczak and his teaching philosophy, and heard, first hand, accounts from two orphans from Korczak's school who survived the Holocaust, Yitzhak Balfer and Yitzhak Sakalka.
Korczak was a devoted educator who developed an educational technique that placed the child at the center. He loved and respected his students and treated all of them equally, a philosophy that, at the time, was less obvious than it may seem today. He was a pediatrician, author, builder of orphanages, and even had a radio show devoted to education. When the Nazis offered Korczak the opportunity to leave the orphans and save himself, he refused. Instead, he proudly led the 200 orphans to the Umschlagplatz (deportation point to the death camps) and boarded the train to Treblinka and his death. An eyewitness described the scene: "It was not a march to the death train. It was an organized mute protest against the killings! All of the children lined up in rows of four and Korczak walked at their head with eyes lifted to the heavens holding two children's hands." Korczak visited Israel, or Palestine as it was then called, twice. Upon his return from his second trip in 1937, he wrote, "Every single child in the valley must have a kite until there are a hundred different types of kites and at every holiday and festival one should fly the kites. The kite is a type of toy and just like children who live by the sea are wont to launch ships upon it, so too children of the valley must fly kites. [Kites] delight children and adults as one."
On that day, ten years ago, Tamir and the Polish pupils visited the site in the Warsaw Ghetto where the orphanage had stood after its forced relocation, upon which a monument to Korczak now stands. In keeping with his wishes, they made kites and then flew them next to the monument. They then retraced the route from the site of the relocated orphanage to the Umschlagplatz. At the Korczak memorial, Tamir said, "In the face of the Holocaust and the brutal mass murders, Korczak presented an opposing ideal of compassion and love for every child and left behind an educational legacy which is still relevant today… "The kite represented for Korczak the right of every child to freedom and happiness. The joint kite flying of Israeli and Polish children testifies to the victory of hope and love for one's fellow man over the regime of fear and evil."
How very sad that 10 years later the kite is a symbol of hate and aggression for Palestinian children. Gaza’s parents who are mobilized by Hamas, are bragging of how hundreds of their youngsters are building kites as incendiary devices to burn Israel fields in the south. This is part is the “peaceful protests” being organized at the border. A child’s toy weaponized to bring the desired result of arson. Some enterprising youth have designed tails that are Molotov cocktails and others designed swastikas. One has accounted for the burning of a flash fire of 25 acres of land needing to be put out by fire marshals in a five alarm fire.
Naturally this activity doesn’t characterize how all parents and children in Gaza feel. But they are mute and fear being jailed for torture or retribution if they oppose their terrorist regime. Meantime, the media covering this ongoing rioting forgets these scores of incidents and emphasizes the death of militant Gazans seeking to penetrate the border. They highlight these deaths as an example of Israeli aggression in spite of clear warnings that trespassing a certain distance in the border crossing area can result in harm. Sadly there have been incidents where teens were acting to penetrate the border or stone Israeli IDF guards, most of them new trainees in their late teens and early 20s, whose mission it is to prevent a breaching of the borders.
Make no mistake. Successful penetration of Israel’s southern border would lead to imminent danger of Israeli civilian areas close to the border, as Hamas’ avowed aim is the killing of Israelis. It would also accelerate a mass rush of thousands more Gazans, thus leading to more loss of Palestinian life.
But back to the kites. No better way to frame this than to contrast Korschuk’s view of the kite as quintessential toy of children’s imagination creativity and commonality across cultures with the swastika kite / Molotov cocktail kite now a threat to Israeli life. No better way to portray a sick and sociopathic culture and ethos that rules and pervades Israel’s current adversary.
So spare me the sanctimony Ms. Natalie Portman, Hollywood’s apologist graduate of LI’s Solomon Schechter, Mr. Bernie sanders so proud of his Jewish origins, and Ms. Elizabeth Warren, spokeswoman for Progressive values, who appeal to the State of Israel to show restraint. The State of Israel remains responsible for the safety of civilian life on the Israeli side. Speak rather to the adults on the Gazan side and exhort their needed restraint. Appeal to their better nature and their compassion, and ask that they consider using their monies for building the land up that they now occupy, rather than making it a garrison state directed at killing Israelis. And even if you three don’t want to make demands of Hamas to reach across the border in friendship and compromise, at least appeal to them to not weaponize their children and now their children’s toys. The kite, a symbol of the right of kids' hopes and dreams to fly and soar is sacred. The kite and what it represents is sacred. Scold the Hamas and the Gazan parents for cynically quashing of their childrens' childhood. Hold them accountable for making children and teens combatants, which is against the Geneva convention. Hold them accountable for crimes against children, and for crimes against humanity. Read More
Musings About the Fast Day in Tammuz
Beginning on July 1, we enter into the period of Bein HaMeitzarim (between dire straits). We begin with a day of fast on the 17th of Tammuz, and we end on the night of Sunday, July 22 with Tisha B'Av. This year, we extend an extra day, due to Shabbat falling on the 9th of Av. This period of time, according to tradition, includes certain restrictions– in music listening, in eating meat (except Shabbat), swimming and purchasing new items, and the restrictions ramp up after the new month of Av begins (Should you be interested in these details, please contact Rabbi Ian). The day of fast, with no food or drink, begins with first light and ends with starlight, and is quite demanding because of the long days and heat of summer. Those who attempt to fast should stay in air conditioning and drink, if they feel their health at risk.
Here are some historical events that are associated with the 17th of Tammuz:
1. Moses broke the tablets when he saw the Jewish people worshipping the golden calf.
2. During the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, the Jews were forced to cease offering the daily sacrifices, due to lack of sheep.
3. Apostomos, a Roman ruler, burned the Holy Torah.
4. An idol of Zeus was placed in the Holy Temple.
5. The walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Romans, in 69 CE, after a lengthy siege (Three weeks later, after the Jews put up a valiant struggle, the Romans destroyed the second Holy Temple on the 9th of Av).
6. The Jerusalem Talmud maintains that this is also the date when the Babylonians breached the walls of Jerusalem and would, in three weeks time, finish destroying the first Temple.
It is interesting that the formative event at the time of Moses, was the smashing of the tablets upon seeing idolatry. Tradition tells us that the first Temple was made into rubble because of the same sin of idolatry. Anther midrashic legend connects the spies giving a bad report and convincing Israel of its inadequacy to the 9th of Av. One begins to think that certain days of the calendar have bad karma. But this cannot be in Judaism, because we know that all is in God's hands, except reverence and faith in Him, and if this is so, when we are penitent and pray and are charitable, we avert the evil decree. Thus, in Jewish belief, misfortune can be undone, but so much of that depends upon our choices and our mindset. Read More
It is a new year, a time of new beginnings! I hope that everyone had a lovely Chanukkah. As everyone knows, Cantor Nussbaum is now retired. He and Avrille are making arrangements to move closer to their family in New Jersey. He is extremely appreciative of the love and support he has received.
A lot has been happening over the last couple of months, so I would like to give an update of where we stand. We have hired Eliza Zipper as Religious School principal. She is a graduate of the Davidson School at Jewish Theological Seminary and has many years of experience as a Jewish educator and youth leader. She brings a great deal of energy and excitement about Jewish education. We look forward to working with her.
Also in the Religious School, we have hired Rabbi David Shain as the Hay Prayer and Hebrew Skills teacher. Those of you who have spent time at Gurwin may be familiar with Rabbi Shain, who has served there as a mashgiach (kashrut supervisor) and their Shabbat Rabbi. Rabbi Shain is very personable and knowledgeable. I am confident that our Hay students are in good hands.
Turning our attention to B’nai Mitzvah preparation, we have hired Dr. Paul Kaplan, a former long-term congregant, to tutor our B’nai Mitzvah students. Dr. Kaplan is a retired college professor with decades of teaching experience. In addition, in his own words, he has prepared “a thousand students” for their Bar and Bat mitzvah including at least one member of our Board of Directors. We are lucky to have him on board.
Finally, the Cantor Search committee has been meeting regularly since mid-November. With input from the Board and committees, a job description for our Cantor position has been developed. We have submitted our job posting to the Cantor Assembly Placement Office and we have begun to receive applications. It is still very early in the process, but we are on course and schedule. Look for future updates as things develop.
Shalom, chaverim! See you in shul! Read More