Open Letter to Larry David

LD

Dear Larry,

I am sad to say that you have the exceptional distinction of being the first Jewish individual I have written to regarding actions or remarks damaging to the Jewish people.  Before I start allow me to make a critical point so you know who you have offended.  I am a Liberal with a sense of humor.  I am very tolerant, very accepting and I like a good laugh.  Even at my own expense.  Sometimes especially at my own expense.  If you offend a Trump supporting angry Conservative it would be hard to make a case for that to mean anything, but to offend me? Well I guess you can say to do that you really had to have made an effort.

You see Larry, there is funny, and then there is disgusting.  Your remarks this past Saturday night on SNL were disgusting.  They reflect what can only be a personal disdain for who you are where you come from.  The comments were so bad that I do not need to do any additional research on you to attack you for them.  I don’t care how much charity you may or may not have given, or kindnesses you may or may not have shown till now, the comments you made both about Jewish sexual deviants and the Holocaust were so damaging, insulting and hurtful to the Jewish people as a whole, there is nothing you can say or do to justify them.  Not to mention the fact that there was absolutely nothing funny about them.

You chose your monologue on Saturday Night Live to declare how many of the perpetrators of sexual harassment are Jewish.  Did you do it to help the victims?  Did you do it because it upsets you? No.  You did it because you felt it would get a laugh.  You decided to appeal to the lowest of the low at the expense of your own people.  Are you proud of yourself today?  I’m not blind. I see how far too many of the guilty are Jews.  But did you do this on an interview where you expressed concern in order to possibly help change things as they are? Again no.  You did it on SNL because  somehow you felt it appropriate to joke about the sexual deviants within the Jewish community.  If you had taken a moment to think about this you might have realized the last thing the Jewish world needs today is a famous Jewish comedian singling out his own people.

Your follow up to these comments just went on to prove how much of your motivation may be in self-hatred.  For anyone to make light of the death of 6 million people of his own religion indicates a dangerously sick disconnect.  I want you to take a moment, close your eyes and imagine every one you care about, all your family and closest friends suddenly murdered.  Now take it one step further and imagine how some, if not all of them were raped or tortured before they were murdered.  Stop and realize how many people could close their eyes and open them up to the same devastation. When you finish doing this I would like you to please tell me what part of this you find funny?  What part of this belongs in a comedy routine?  If you think any of it is or does, I would say you are not merely a self-hating Jew, you are a sick man as well.

I used to like you Larry. I found much of what you said to be funny.  However, after what I heard come out of your mouth I not only find you to be anything but funny, I find you to be detrimental to the Jewish people and even a little dangerous.  I can turn off the TV and never have to listen to or watch you again.  But you have to live with your self-loathing.  If I was not so angry with you I’d feel sorry for you.

Sincerely,

David Groen

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For those with No Words today, I offer you mine

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A number of times today, in light of the mass shooting in Las Vegas, I heard the phrase, “I have no words”. For those who share that sentiment and to all the rest who are stunned by the turn of events, please allow me to offer you my words.

Although an act such as this one, an act so horrifying, so violent and bloody is meant to  terrorize society, whether it falls under the government’s definition of terrorism or not, it seems that the prevailing feelings today are more along the lines of sadness and anger.  I can not even begin to imagine the horror felt by the people that witnessed this pure act of evil and can only hope and pray that those injured and scarred by these events somehow find strength and that the loved ones of those lost find a way to make it through their days.  But it is important to note that a large segment of society is not cowering in fear.  As I write this there are still many unanswered questions regarding the shooter, but one thing that strikes me is that the worst of the feelings felt by Americans today is not fear.  I would categorize it more as fatigue.

We are all tired.  Sick and tired of the abyss our world is sinking into.  Sick and tired of bad news.  Jews and Zionists such as myself recognize this feeling.  That feeling that this will never end.  That the world will never get better and that whatever we do we can’t stop the downward spiral.   The feeling that people just like us can be struck down dead at any time by those with no value for human life.  As people we do not want to get so caught up in a tragedy that it debilitates us, but at the same time we can not help but feel pain for what has happened.  How do we deal with this, process this and move on with our lives without getting desensitized?

I learned a sad truth about myself this morning.  Earlier in the morning I had woken up and peeked at the news story on my phone.  I briefly saw a statement saying that 2 people had died in a shooting in Las Vegas.  I remember briefly thinking it was sad, rolled over and went back to sleep.  When I awoke at 6:30 and turned on the news I saw a different report.  This report indicated that 50 people had been killed and hundreds injured.  All of a sudden this story became a lot more serious in my mind.  But why did it take 50 deaths? Why wasn’t I feeling the same when it was 2 dead?  Do I not value the lives of the 2?  Have I become so desensitized that 2 would have made is acceptable while 50 did not?  The answer is partially yes.

By no means is it acceptable, but we have no choice but to acknowledge the new normal.  The new normal is that whether it’s at a Congressional softball practice or a march against hate or a concert in Manchester, we live in a world where there are people who think it is either justifiable or even worse, righteous to murder people.  And most of us, as normal people who respect human life, although we never come to terms with the logic behind it, have found a way to come to terms with the action itself.  As long as the number is relatively low.  But the sheer number as it stands at this hour, 59 dead and over 500 injured is part of what shakes us to our collective cores. The larger the number the more we relate to it.  The larger the number the easier it is to imagine it could happen to us.  Whether it was downtown Manhattan around 9AM on a Tuesday morning, a concert in Manchester, a train in London, a Pizza place in Jerusalem. a promenade in Nice or a country music concert in Las Vegas, it is a lot harder to accept when it is easy to picture yourself there.

By no mean do I imply we only feel bad when we can imagine being a victim, but part of what we think after an event like this is how it has changed our world.  How many people even remember what it was like to check into an American airport before 9/11?  How many people will no longer go to an open concert, or a fireworks display or maybe even a sporting event because of the possibility they might die there.  We feel increasingly frustrated, tremendously saddened, bitter and anger to the point of fury.

What’s important here is to not lose sight of who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.  Simply put, if you are reading this and you never want to see anything like what happened in Las Vegas happen again, you are one of the good guys.  It doesn’t matter if you are Conservative or Liberal, pro or anti-Trump, pro or anti Gun control.  None of that matters in the determination of whether or not any man or woman is good or bad.  What matters is value for human life and the willingness to work together to try at least to solve our problems.  I successfully resisted the urge to react to those who made it political today, not because I disagree with all of what I read, but because most of it pivoted into blaming the other side for what happened.

Someone sharing my political views is not more saddened by this then someone who does not.  This hurts every decent human being out there.

Death is bi-partisan.  Our survival may depend on everyone realizing that.

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A Rabbi and friend’s tribute to my mother

Please read this beautiful sermon, given by Rabbi Michael Simon, family friend and not only my mother’s Rabbi for the last 10 years of her life but also who she referred to as her “5th son”. This sermon gives a wonderful and moving tribute to my Mom.  Thank you Michael.

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Sermon for Rosh Hashanah Day 1 – Kaveh El Adonai
          Over a breakfast with other rabbis last month the subject of our High Holiday sermons came up.  Well in the course of that conversation, one of the rabbis, whose wife is going through a serious illness herself, asked the following question.
 
            What can you say to your congregants who have either gone through, or are going through, some pain or hardship in their lives this year?  What can you say that can help them deal with their troubles? 
 
            Although there are no easy answers to these questions, at least I had a thought.  Because it is the exact same subject I had already planned on speaking to you about this morning, on Rosh Hashanah.
 
            You see, in thinking about Judaism’s response to these questions and to life in general, I am reminded of the story of a young American who moved to Israel shortly after the State’s establishment.  He applied to have a telephone installed in his home.  Three weeks later, he still had not heard from the phone company, so he took a trip to its office. 
 
            “When did you apply for the phone?” an official asked. 
 
            The American gave the precise date. 
 
            “But that’s only a few weeks ago.”  The official picked up a stack of much older applications, which had still not been filled.
 
            “There are so many people ahead of you,” he said.
 
            “Does that mean I have no hope?” 
 
            The Israeli looked up sternly.  “It is forbidden for a Jew to ever say, ‘I have no hope.’  No chance, maybe. But no hope, Never!”
 
            Now you know why the national anthem of the State of Israel is Hatikvah – the Hope!!
 
            But hope, Tikvah, is only part of our response to life’s difficulties.  We know that man cannot live by hope alone. 
           
            That is why, beginning with the month of Elul, twice each day, in the morning and evening, we add Psalm 27 to our liturgy.  Why Psalm 27? 
 
            Because that is King David’s story of his own struggles against adversity and hardships.  Look at the words David chooses.  “Adonai Ori V’yishee,” “The Lord is my light and my help, Whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the strength of my life, Whom shall I dread?”
 
            And then he concludes with the words, “Lulei Heemanti L’rot b’tuv Adonai;” If I have faith to see God’s goodness.  “Kaveh el Adonai chazak v’yametz libecha v’kaveh el Adonai.”  “Look to the Lord; be strong and of good courage! And look to the Lord!”  
 
            Faith, Hope, Strength and Courage!  Aren’t these the very qualities we all need to get through life’s ups and downs?  Of course they are!
 
            Before FDR famously said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” King David, as well as other figures from our literature, our history, and our liturgy, remind us that if we place our trust in God, if we have hope and faith, if we have strength and courage, we can face our greatest trials and obstacles, and we can overcome life’s challenges, without giving in to fear or despair. 
 
            Think about it.  Wasn’t it just last week, wasn’t it this very same message, that helped us get through the potential devastation of Hurricane Irma as it has also done for other disasters we have faced and will unfortunately continue to face?
 
            And you know what else?  If you were to take a moment and really think about it, aren’t some of the most inspiring people throughout history, not just King David, looked up to precisely because they exhibited these very same traits; often under the most trying of circumstances?
 
            Can you perhaps think of some of them as you sit here today?  People who you have admired over the years, not just for their status or their talents, but because of what they faced and overcame to achieve that status?  Helen Keller, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jackie Robinson, Elie Wiesel, to name a few?  They all had hope and faith.  They all exhibited strength and courage to overcome obstacles and succeed.  
 
            Here’s one example.  In 1986, when the famous Soviet refusenik Natan Sharansky, now the head of the Jewish Agency, was finally set free by the Soviet Union, he explained that during his many years of imprisonment in the gulag he had turned to the Book of Psalms, specifically to that final verse of Psalm 27, to help him cope and give him the hope and courage to endure.
 
            Why did Sharansky rely on that line to help him get through?  Because it inspired him to not be meek, timid, or subservient.  “No matter our circumstances,” Sharansky said, “we are reminded that we can look to God for light and for the courage to face whatever comes our way and resolve to overcome those difficulties.”
 
            When Sharansky was finally freed and arrival in Israel, his friends and admirers carried him to the Kotel in Jerusalem to pray and to celebrate his freedom.  Even at that moment, onlookers observed that he was still holding tight to his beloved Book of Psalms.
 
            While we might never be able to eliminate life’s difficulties, while we never know when hardship or sorrow or illness comes upon us, we do have the ability to react to it in a more positive way; by relying on our faith in God, our hope for the future, and our own internal courage and strength. 
 
            And it is precisely this message, that needs to resonate and remain with us as we begin this New Year.  Because this message is a quintessentially Jewish one.  Certainly on an individual level, but yes, even on a societal level as well, we must always believe that things can get better and then do our part to make that so.
           
            And we act with that way because Judaism requires us, asks of us, even demands of us, that if we face life’s problems and overcome them, we then repay God by helping others, and by inspiring others through our own actions, to do so as well. 
 
            That is a Jewish life.  That is what Psalm 27 teaches us to do.
 
            You know what else?  You don’t only have to look for a famous person to draw this inspiration from.  That’s because I am sure that each of you sitting here can think of an example from your own lives, someone you know or have known, who inspired you, and who has helped you get through difficult times because of their own faith and hope and courage and strength.
 
            I’ll share one.  This past February, Rabbi Amnon Haramati, a High School teacher of mine, passed away.  Just so you know, the only difference between Rabbi Haramati and God was that God didn’t think that He was Rabbi Haramati.
 
            But if you looked at him during class, every so often you would see him wince.  His eyes would squint ever so slightly.  A sour crease would envelope his lips.  Sometimes he would rub the side of his head with his fingertips.  On the right side, if I remember correctly, was about a one inch square indentation, as if a chisel had been taken to his skull.  There were rumors his skull harbored a metal plate, a souvenir of Israel’s War of Independence.  But he never spoke about it.  We never knew what had happened.
 
            In his short but moving acceptance speech upon receiving the Covenant Award as an outstanding Jewish educator in 1994, he finally told his story. 
 
            One day, in the summer of 1948, as a member of the Israel Defense Forces, he was critically wounded near the walls of the Old City.  He was brought to the monastery which served as the temporary residence of Hadassah Hospital where he was declared dead on arrival and left in the corridor. 
 
            That night a nurse passed by and heard a groan from his bed.  She alerted the doctors who rushed him into the operating room.  They treated his injuries and successfully revived him.  Although he left the operating room breathing on his own he remained in a deep coma.  The diagnosis was that if he even emerged from the coma he would be blind the rest of his life. 
 
            The following night a nurse wanted to read.  So she took a flashlight and chose his bed to sit at because she was sure that she wouldn’t disturb the blind, comatose patient.  However, while she was reading, he uttered the Hebrew word “aish,” meaning fire.  The nurse thought that maybe this meant that there was some vision and so she called the chief of the eye department, who came, examined him, and determined that there was indeed hope for his eyes.  In time, he responded to treatment, came out of the coma, was able to see and eventually left the hospital.
 
            About a year later he was facing a medical board who told him that he was about to be discharged from the Israeli army as a disabled war veteran due to his head wounds.  He was asked by the board what were his plans.  He answered that he would like to continue his academic studies.  The medical team told him don’t even try, you will never succeed.
 
            However he remembered his Talmud teacher who told him a Jew may not despair.   Never say there is no hope.  And he remembered King David who said, hope, look to God.  However just having hope is not easy.  There are always difficulties on the way.  Therefore King David said, be strong, and be courageous.
 
            By having hope and faith and courage and strength himself, Rabbi Haramati continued his studies, became a revered teacher, and gave hope and inspired others.
 
            As I asked, do you know of people in your own lives, including yourselves maybe, that might have a similar story that has inspired you?  I know for certain that many of you do.  Rabbi Haramati is certainly one I knew.  But let me share with you another story of hope and faith and strength and courage. 
 
            It’s the story of a young girl who was born in Amsterdam, Holland.  And no, I’m not talking about Anne Frank.  Her mother died when she was thirteen, leaving her with her father and brother.  But she never despaired.  When the Nazis came to power her father, brother and then fiancé were all taken away; to eventually perish.  She still did not despair nor give up hope or faith. 
 
            She studied to become a nurse.  She stood up to the Nazis when they confronted her in the Jewish hospital.  And she survived the Holocaust thanks to her faith and the heroic efforts of her future husband and a Christian family who hid her. 
 
            When the war was over she found herself pregnant and alone, giving birth and developing a severe illness.  But again, she did not despair.  Through her faith, hope, strength and courage, Sipora Groen rebuilt her life which included five children, 12 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren before passing away this past April at the age of 95.
 
            I want to share with you something that Rabbi David Glanzberg-Kranin said at her funeral because it was the perfect description of what I already knew that I would be speaking about today.  How to live your life without despair, and with the faith, hope, strength and courage to live that life no matter the circumstances. 
 
            He said,
 
            “Here’s the important lesson for all of us.  There are external forces in our lives that are completely out of our control.  You’ve all heard the ancient Jewish teaching: “Stuff happens.” For all of us, stuff will happen that we were not responsible for; there will be circumstances that we did not create.  But in case you had any doubt, here is what Sipora’s life reminds us:
 
            We do have control over how we respond to the circumstances of our lives.  We can choose love instead of hatred; we can choose laughter instead of bitterness; we can choose strength and resilience rather than giving in to despair; we can choose to continue to learn—even in our 90’s—which is the decade that Sipora read Torah and Haftarah for the first time.
 
            We can choose to speak our minds like Sipora would always do telling Americans how prudish we are–and advocating that both marijuana and prostitution ought to be legalized in this country—as it is in Holland.  We can choose to love for every moment we are blessed to live as Sipora’s family will tell you how blessed they were to receive so much of that love.
 
            And we can learn that it is never too late to develop a crush!  Sipora really did have a crush on Bill Clinton and she thinks that secretly, he, too, may have had a crush on her.
 
            And we can learn from Sipora to put your actions into deeds.  Sipora frequently went around telling her story about surviving the War to both children and to adults—in her heavily Dutch-accented English—often for 45 minutes without a pause—and with nary a peep to be heard in the room as she spoke.
 
            And there is one thing that Sipora would do after every such talk: She would give each person present a hug.  In that hug, Sipora would convey something unbelievably profound to people who had often been very wounded by life.
 
            “So have I been wounded,” that hug would convey.  And yet life is worth living—and each of us is worthy of love.  Sipora Groen gave out literally thousands of these holy hugs over the course of her life.
 
            Talk about faith, hope, strength and courage. Sipora delivered it.”
 
            As if those words from Psalm 27, which we recite during these days of introspection and repentance, didn’t inspire us enough, then let Sipora and others like her, be our role models to always inspire us to remain hopeful, to remain strong, to remain faithful, and to remain courageous no matter what comes our way. 
 
            Let us always have faith in both God and our fellow man despite how difficult that faith might be at times.  And let us use Rosh Hashanah to rekindle the hope and faith in those in whom we might have lost faith with this past year.  And yes, that can include either God or our government and other institutions. 
 
            I’m not naïve enough to believe that if you just have hope and faith, all your problems will disappear like magic.  And I’m certainly not naïve enough to believe that if you just have hope and faith, you will suddenly be cured of whatever illness afflicts you.  We know that life doesn’t work that way.
 
            But I will tell you what I do know, what I do believe, and what I am sure about.  That without faith, without hope, without strength, and without courage, we can never, ever, overcome whatever difficulties life throws at us.   
 
            And I also know this, and I can say this, because unfortunately there are a number of you sitting in this room who have dealt with unbearable pain in your lives including the loss of children.  You are indeed here because you have had the faith, hope, strength and courage to see you through your pain and are an inspiration to all of us. 
 
            To ignore or deny the realities of life would be foolish.  But to give up and deny yourselves the tremendous goodness and beauty in this world, in our families, in our communities, and in our houses of worship, and the hope, faith, strength and courage we derive from them, would be equally, if not more, foolish.
 
            My answer to the question asked by those rabbis at breakfast a month ago?  Kaveh el Adonai Chazak V’yametz Libecha V’Kaveh El Adonai.  Even at your lowest moments, never lose faith, never lose hope.  Have the strength and courage to carry on.      
 
             I’ll conclude with perhaps a modern translation of Psalm 27, from the late, great Jerry Lewis,
 
            When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of the storm, there’s a golden sky
And the sweet, silver song of a lark
            Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
            Walk on, walk on
With hope in your hearts
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone
 
            May we all be blessed with a year full of health, happiness, prosperity and peace.  May we all be written into the Book of Life. 
 
            And may we all live our lives with strength and courage, and with hope and faith in God.   Kaveh el Adonai chazak v’yametz libecha v’kaveh el adonai.
 
            Amen 

Open Letter to President Donald J. Trump

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Dear Mr. President,

I hesitated in writing this letter, partially because I questioned whether or not it would make a difference and partially because I realized I may anger or offend some people in the process.  I chose to move forward regardless out of an obligation and responsibility I felt to the history and memory of all those lost in my family and other Jewish families in the Holocaust. Although I take issue with much of what I see coming from your office, I recognize and respect the office of the President of the United States and will address you appropriately, even if I often question whether or not you share that same respect.

I am one of those rare few who is willing to break from his position if he feels it is the right thing to do.  I did not vote for you, and do not support much of what you appear to stand for, but will speak positively about you when I feel the situation merits it.  For example, I supported your tough talk directed towards the leader of North Korea.  I believed it was an example of not trying to be reasonable with an unreasonable person and felt that a show of strength was necessary in this instance. I also have come to the conclusion, one shared by many of my fellow Jews, that you do indeed like the Jewish people.  I recognize that many people who lean to the left as I do felt differently, but that is not what forms my opinions. My opinions are formed by my personal history, my family’s history, and the values instilled in me both by my parents and my understanding of the world around me. Sadly I find you to be heading down a path that puts you progressively on the wrong side of history.

I find myself wondering if you have a clear understanding of what the Nazi Party was and what people who suffered under their rule, primarily Jews, went through during that time.  Unlike many others who are not fans of your presidency, I do not underestimate your intelligence.  So I must ask myself, are you detached from the reality of what this all means, do you not care, or does your very large ego lead you to believe you are smarter than everyone else?  No matter how bad some protesters on the left may behave, protesters that represent the Nazi philosophy have chosen to represent brutality unlike anything the world has ever seen. I know your supporters that see this letter will come back with all kinds of information about how bad certain liberal elements are, but no matter what they come up with it will not justify any defense or the establishment of a false equivalency with the Nazis that marched this past weekend in Charlottesville and the fanatic that killed an innocent woman. Your supporters may choose to sell their soul in the name of what they call Conservatism, but make no mistake, supporting you when you do not make the clear distinction between the KKK & Nazi marchers from the marchers on the left is indeed the selling of a soul.

You debated with reporters as though you represented the groups on the right. What about the Alt-Left was your retort?  You spoke of what you called “violence on all sides”. Would you have condemned “violence on all sides” after the Jews of the Warsaw ghetto rose up and fought against their Nazi oppressors?  I am a Jew and a Zionist that takes issue with what I see as a hijacking of the left by the anti-Israel, anti-Semitic, pro-Palestinian block looking to push their occupation agenda. That being said, they are no more comparable to the Nazis than you are to Hitler.  I have disagreed and debated with many who have chosen to compare you to him since you exerted yourself into the presidential race and ultimately the presidency.  I find the comparison to be  unfair and unjust. I still do.  I even debated it with my late mother who passed away this past April. She would refer to you as “another Hitler”. My response very simply was, to be compared to Hitler you have to be a murdering fascist, something you are not and I believe never have any intention of becoming.  That being said Mr. Trump, because of your lack of desire to rid these modern day Nazis of oxygen, on the contrary your words have given them life, I actually found myself happy my mother was not alive to see this.

Maybe this is not entirely your fault.  After all, you are only human. You too feel empowered when you can say anything, no matter how unethical or immoral and get no push back from the holier than thou Mick Huckabees and Mike Pences of the world. These men who claim to be so devout and so committed to God and decency are notably silent when it comes to criticizing you at times when you deserve criticism.  But they too have sold their soul, finding whatever financial gain or acquisition of power available to them is worth forsaking their values for.

I’ve tried as hard as any person on the left to give you the benefit of the doubt.  That being said, there is no compromise or acceptance coming from me when Nazis are involved, and to any of my fellow Jews, that includes your daughter and son-in-law, that feel there is compromise, shame on you. Shame on you for allowing even the slightest bit of life or existence of a group who would kill you at their first opportunity. Frankly Mr. President, I suspect that by Hitler’s standards and rules you would also be killed.  After all, you are the father and grandfather of Jewish children.  Maybe you should remember that the next time you wand to say, “what about the Alt-Left?”

I met you once many years ago in the Plaza when you were married to Marla Maples. I too was married at the time, and my then wife who was normally very shy, asked if she could take a picture with you and Marla.  Before you left I asked you if it would be tacky if I gave you my business card.  Your response was, “yes, but do it quickly I am on my way out”. As funny as that was it told me something about you that possibly applies to what is happening here today.  It tells me that  just because something is tacky or even wrong, you still might be willing to do it.  That is all good and well when taking my business card, but that doesn’t fly with me or much of the country when it comes to dealing with Nazis.  You owe it to too many people, including your own family to do better, before it’s too late.

I realize that to you I am no one of significance.  Sadly I believe it possible that only your supporters are significant to you.  That being said, I am an American, I am a Jew, and as a voter I am not happy with what I am seeing.  You may find that many people who did not once feel as I do, may feel that way now. You should see that as significant.  In the meantime I urge you to put your ego and sensitivity aside and lead this country as it is meant to be lead, with decency and deference. After all, as President of the United States that is your sworn oath and responsibility. Whether you like it or not.

Sincerely,

David Groen

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Honoring & Remembering my Mother

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About 6 weeks after her passing, my mother Sipora Groen still received honors for the great work she did, and as the certificate says, helped to “Protect, Preserve, and Perpetuate A living Memorial through Education” She remains an example of what we need more of in this world today.

 

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Open Letter to Nassau Coliseum Senior Vice President, Booking – Keith Sheldon Regarding Upcoming Roger Waters concerts

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Dear Mr Sheldon,

Although I am not certain you are the correct person to address regarding this matter, I will start with you and go from there depending on the response.  As I am sure you are aware, there are a large number of people, not only from Long Island but from all over the tri-state area, and the entire world for that matter, that find Roger Waters to be an offensive anti-Semite with views riddled with hypocrisy and hate.  While I agree with the concept of keeping musical performances separate from political ideology, in essence meaning an entertainer can believe whatever he or she chooses to believe without having concern for their right to perform, in the case of Roger Waters this very issue is what makes it imperative that his upcoming concerts at the Nassau Coliseum get cancelled.  Please allow me to explain why.

As a Jew and a Zionist my personal views for Roger Waters are anything but positive.  His unrelenting attacks on the State of Israel, much of it through his activism in the BDS Movement, attacks that border on obsession, are so filled with a one-sided hate for the Jewish element in Israel, I would believe that alone would be enough to have him unfit to perform at your venue.  I do not sit here writing you this letter to make an argument for Israel’s policies regarding the Palestinians, but I will make a point of saying that anyone who refuses to even entertain at least some culpability on the part of Palestinian leadership is clearly biased in one direction.  Since that bias is directed towards the Jewish leadership in Israel it is clearly more than just anti-Zionism, it is unquestionably anti-Semitism.  In allowing his shows to go on, you are allowing an individual filled with hate to represent himself on your stage, a stage located in the midst of a vast Jewish population.

All that being said, there is a far more basic and solid reason to be made against his performance.  To quote his very own words, words he spoke in response to hearing of the efforts to stop his shows from going on,  Waters said his shows would not be cancelled, “insisting a performer’s rights should not be under attack because of his or her beliefs.”  This glaring hypocrisy from a man who has attacked and harassed some of the most established and successful musicians in the world for performing in Israel.  Here are a few examples of comments he made to fellow musicians.

 To Bon Jovi:

“You stand shoulder to shoulder with the settler who burned the baby. The dead can’t remind you of the crimes you’ve ignored.”

 

To Thom Yorke of Radiohead

“My answer to people who say we should go there and sit around the campfire and sing songs: No, we shouldn’t. We should observe the picket line.  Anybody who’s tempted to do that, like our friends in Radiohead, if only they would actually educate themselves. I know Thom Yorke’s been whining about how he feels insulted, people are suggesting he doesn’t know what’s going on.”

 

To the Rolling Stones

“Regardless of your intentions, crossing the picket line provides propaganda that the Israeli government will use in its attempts to whitewash the policies of its unjust and racist regime.”

Star like Paul McCartney, Alicia Keys and Neil Young have all been pressured by Waters to cancel performances in Israel.  Sir Paul and Keys even revealing being the victims of death threats and intimidation, all spurred on by the same Waters who insisted  “a performer’s rights should not be under attack because of his or her beliefs.”

You have an unprecedented opportunity here.  Rather than cancel his concerts, you can make them conditional.  Conditional on Roger Waters publicly declaring the same stance towards performers choosing to perform in Israel that he feels he is entitled to on Long Island.  That being as he said, the right to perform somewhere regardless of one’s beliefs. Should he accept the terms, he will be exposed further as the hypocrite that he is, but in doing so an enemy of the only democracy in the Middle East will no longer harass his fellow musicians. Should he refuse and cancel his own concerts, the message you will send to the people of Long Island and many miles beyond will solidify the Nassau Coliseum as more than just a building with a big hall, it will establish it as a place where true performers and artists are showcased.  It will unquestionably be better for business in the long run and will establish a close bond with the community.

I am sending this letter to you first, but also intend to attempt to work on having it signed and presented as a petition in the hope that the number of signatures gives you an indication of how important this is to many people wishing to be future patrons of your venue.

Sincerely,

David Groen

 

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The Trump Siddur(Jewish Prayer Book)

sachAs I have been doing on a regular basis for the past 3 months, I went to my local synagogue this past Shabbat( Saturday) morning. As I walked in I grabbed a Siddur, Jewish Prayer book, and a Chumash, the 5 Books of Moses.  When you open the Art Scroll Siddur, my personal Siddur of choice, on the right mostly everything is in Hebrew, and on the left mostly everything is English.  That is, usually it is. As I sat down to pray this particular prayer book had no English in it at all.  Where I usually read the English it was now replaced entirely with Russian.

After I made a double and triple take to make sure this was actually Russian and I wasn’t having a stroke, I decided to call this particular Siddur the Trump Siddur.  I then opened the inside cover and in my imagination at least, saw the words, Dedicated to Jared Kushner. Well not really, but I imagined it to be so.  I also imagined the second I put it back on the shelf a lacky from CNN was going to come collect it to see to it that it would be displayed as evidence on the next episode of Anderson Cooper 360.

Just before I stopped trying to be funny and got back to the business at hand of praying, I came to one conclusion.  Art Scrolls is clearly guilty of collusion.  That being said, until I hear evidence they influenced the election at all, I have every intention of keeping them as my Siddur of choice.

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