Unless you’ve been living in a cave, and particularly if you’re on Facebook, as I am, you’ve no doubt been (wait for the pun!) deluged with brief videos of people like me pouring buckets of ice water over their heads, or, more commonly, having someone else do the pouring. Were I to stop here, and you were, indeed, unaware of this phenomenon, you might simply think that it was some kind of fraternity initiation rite, or maybe a practical joke that had caught on.
Long before I was a rabbi, during the Musaf services of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I wondered how it came to pass that the Aleinu prayer became such a liturgical centerpiece of what are arguably the most important prayer services of the entire Jewish calendar year.
As I write, I am about as far from my home and synagogue in Forest Hills as I can be, or at least as I am likely to get. I am sitting in the living room of my daughter Leora’s apartment on Marine Camp Foster, one of some fifteen American military bases on the tiny but strategically important island of Okinawa, Japan. She is married, as many of you know, to Rabbi/Lieutenant Yonatan (Yoni) Warren, a Navy chaplain who is currently posted to a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) here in the Far East. A MEU is basically a Rapid Deployment Force that can move quickly to where the trouble is. There are a few of them stationed around the world in potentially volatile areas; this one covers the Far East. We are very, very proud of his service, and hers.
Like every war, the current conflict between Israel and Hamas has a broad narrative that varies according to who is telling the story. But it is also true that this war, like every war, is made up of countless stories of individual soldiers and civilians whose lives have been directly impacted.
The current hostilities between Israel and Hamas have, yet again, brought to the forefront a long-simmering feud between many supporters of Israel and the world of print, broadcast and electronic journalism.
The title of this article is actually the punch line of a well-worn Jewish joke. A man gets a message from a family member with those words… “Start worrying: details to follow.” If not the quintessential statement on the Jewish condition, it’s way up there.
Countless words have been uttered in an effort to give expression to the grief and revulsion that all of us who love Israel are feeling this week. The cruel and senseless execution of three young teens whose only sin was to be hitchhiking in a tough neighborhood has left us all stunned, and though words have poured out of everyone who can speak or write, none of them have been adequate to the challenge at hand. The pain is too great, and the implications of the event too present in our conscious minds.
The literary world of New York– and, not insignificantly, the Jewish world as well– lost one its brightest lights in 1988 when Paul Cowan, the renowned weekly columnist for the Village Voice, died far too soon from leukemia. He was only forty-eight. In addition to his brilliant writing for the Voice, Paul had captivated the Jewish world with his book An Orphan in History, in which he chronicled his discovery of his family’s Jewish roots, and his own slow but steady embracing of those roots.
Despite its many fault lines, the international Jewish community stands united, and shoulder to shoulder with Israel, in its struggle to bring Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Frenkel safely home. There are no equivocations to be argued, no moral equivalences to be drawn with Israel’s continued presence in the territories, no discussion of housing starts in disputed areas … nothing. This is, simply, a terrorist act by a terrorist organization. If you have to struggle to be appalled by it, well, shame on you.