Surrender is usually less about treason than about exhaustion, and the Jews are an exhausted people. After centuries of being killed, there are Jews suggesting we die not with a bang but a whimper. Better to live in Canaan than in Zion; better intermarriage than to be thought intolerant; better oblivion than being eaten alive.
ëSee here how everything leads up to this day. And itís just like any other day thatís ever been,î go the lyrics to a Grateful Dead song framed in the Manhattan office of Rabbi Brad Hirschfield.
It was like any other day, explains the rabbi. He was walking in Jerusalem with his wife, Becky, and their two small daughters. The older girl, Avigail, 7, was hungry. They turned onto King George and Jaffa streets midway through afternoon. The kids let him know, again, they were hungry.
ìWhat would you like, honey?î he asked.
Rush Limbaugh, just before his blitz on black quarterbacks, said presidential candidates claiming Jewish ancestry is ìgetting out of hand.î Limbaugh was ticked off by reports that the retired Gen. Wesley Clark is descended from five generations of rabbis before being raised as a Christian.
When Natan Sharansky, the ex-Soviet refusenik turned hard-line Israeli cabinet minister, visited several local universities here last month, he brought a pointed message: Yasir Arafat, he told students at Columbia University and New York University, is an unrepentant ìdictatorî who is an ominous presence dooming peace and must be removed.
More than 40 years ago, a Ramaz high school boy living near the Parkchester section of the Bronx received a telescope as a present. He discovered that if he aimed that telescope just so out of his bedroom window, peering over the cement backyards and black-tar garage rooftops, he could see the Parkchester elevated train station as if it were some distant star.
Back in the Middle Ages, cartographers would draw maps of the world with the Holy Land in dead center, and if you never saw those maps you could pick up the Week in Review section of The New York Times and get the idea.
On one page of the section, Thomas Friedman’s column, “Obama and the Jews” was really about Israel and Friedman’s realization that those who care about Israel will be wiser to vote for the candidate “who will make America strongest ... Nothing would imperil Israel more than an enfeebled, isolated America.”
Other than the occasional murder, few newspaper stories, if any, originate from the desolation of East Tremont Avenue; certainly no stories in Jewish newspapers, now that all the Jews have long ago scattered from these Bronx streets. Thereís nothing left on East Tremont, is there? But let it be written, in the words of the biblical Jacob: ìSurely, God is in this place ó and I, I did not know.
Henreich Heine, the German-Jewish poet, wrote more than a century ago, ìder vorhang fallt, das stuck ist aus,î the curtain falls, the play is done. Then, in that tragic coda, the ax fell, too. Yet the drama goes on, a few German-Jews puttering around on a stage they refuse to leave, enchanted by that language.ìWir haben viel fur einander gefuhlt,î how deeply we were wrapped in each otherís lives, wrote Heine.
Despite The New York Times frequently distinguished and always-considerable attention to Jewish subjects in the last 15 years (at least), more than a few Jews continue to look upon the paper with what Elvis called ìsuspicious minds.î For most of the last century, the Times has returned the suspicion, looking upon anything Jewish with squeamishness bordering on contempt.