Open Letter to Bernie Sanders

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Dear Bernie,

When I found myself writing a similar letter to you 4 years ago, I was so filled with disgust for the distorted way in which you approached Israel I found myself feeling a disdain I never want to feel for a fellow Jew.

CLICK HERE FOR OPEN LETTER DATED APRIL 10, 2016

You see, the fact is that I would rather like you than not like you, but as a proud Jew, Zionist, and son of Holocaust survivors, I feel my priority is with the ideals that support the long term survival of the Jewish people.  When I stop and realize this fact it becomes very clear to me why I have such a problem with your positions.  It is not so much in their logic as it is in their motivation.

You see Mr. Sanders, I am open minded to a discussion about what is wrong in this world, even when it pertains to actions by those with whom I feel I have a personal connection.  However, your positions towards Israel are so distorted and one-sided against it that it is clear that you take your positions not for the sake of peace and well-being of both sides, but rather for the purposes of achieving your own, very self-serving political goals.

You portray yourself as a caring, fair man, one who wants equality for all, but when it comes to the safety and future of the State of Israel you seem to conveniently put fairness and balance on the shelf.  Perhaps you have wealthy Arab donors.  Who knows?  Perhaps you see a voting block in the increasingly anti-Semitic, BDS influenced college elite.  Who knows?  But what I do know is that if the well-being of people is of such importance to you, why is it that you over compensate in the wrong direction when it comes to the safety and well-being of your fellow Jews?

You’re a clever man.  You know that the safety of Israel is directly connected to the safety of Jews worldwide.  I believe that you also know, if you take the time to think about it and care enough to be honest, that most anti-Israel sentiment is rooted in anti-Semitism.  I know you are attempting to change that discussion, but as someone who deeply cares about the future not only of Israel, but of the free world as well, I can not and will not remain silent when someone such as yourself distorts reality.

It is really not all that complicated if you truly wish to understand the situation.  The Jewish people all over the world are far less safe without a strong Israel.  You do not push to support those that wish to change some of Israel’s policies, you push to support those that wish to bring Israel to its knees.  Israel has made countless attempts to reach peaceful solutions with the terrorist organizations that fraudulently represent the Palestinian people.  Why do you not attack those organizations?  Are you afraid of them?  Do you need their money?  I am sure we will never get an honest answer from you to this question, but in case you are in such denial of the truth that you are not aware of the following, allow me to enlighten you.  The so-called leadership of the Palestinians is nothing more than a group of self-serving criminals, largely financed by Iran with the sole function of using hatred against Israel and Jews worldwide as a means of generating support from an abused and manipulated populous.  Their priority is not to help their people but to hurt Jews, particularly those in Israel.

Sadly the description of the Palestinian leadership sounds a lot like that of Nazi Germany in its somewhat advanced stages.  As concerning as this is, it is far from shocking.  The ultimate motivation is the same.  A weakened Israel is a weakened Jewish people, and for any Jew to be part of that is not only disturbing, it is unforgivable.

You want to do good for the country and the world Mr. Sanders?  Start by remembering who you are, and by understanding that those who do harm to themselves are not good people, they are damaged people looking for ways to compensate for unresolved, sometimes dangerous personal issues.  It is my hope that you will either wake up or shut up.  Either way, the status quo is unacceptable.

Sincerely,

David Groen

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Can you be honest and objective?

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I’ve been told by a number of people that were I to share my philosophies and opinions, not only would there be interest, but I would get a lot of participation in the discussion.  So this is my first attempt at doing so.  I will make it brief. Rather than giving a long explanation of why I feel how I feel I will instead make my point and see where it goes from there.

I believe the biggest problem existing in today’s American politics is the inability for many people to form their own opinion.  Too many people follow the narrative dictated by the side of the aisle they have chosen, rather than look at the situation objectively and come up with an unpopular, more centrist position.  Can you hate how Donald Trump behaves while still acknowledging he has done some things right?  Can you appreciate the accomplishments of Barack Obama while questioning his treatment toward Israel before he left office?  Can you apply equal standards to all leaders regardless of whether or not you support them? Can you discuss these issues without it being obvious what side of the aisle you are on? These are some of the questions I pose and hope to get responses to without imposing restrictions other than the expectation that there be no personal attacks on others in the thread.

I will not be moderating this discussion but I will chime in whenever I have the opportunity.

I look forward to hearing your opinions on these and other issues. Whether I agree with you or not

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Open letter to Washington Post Editor Martin Baron regarding headline of death of ISIS leader

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Dear Mr. Baron,

I believe it is important that you understand that this letter is being written to you from someone who is openly left of center on political issues.  Although I pride myself in being a centrist, I primarily have voted Democrat in the past, defend attacks on liberals when I feel them unmerited, and criticize Donald Trump when I feel it appropriate.  All that being said, I find it impossible to be quiet when I see a headline bordering on showing respect to a known hater of western civilization and mass murderer.

I am referring to your recent article that refers to the recent death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in which your newspaper refers to him as an “austere religious scholar”.  To be clear, my problem is not in the accuracy of the statement.  Yes he was austere and although I do not have enough facts to speak to how scholarly he was I will accept that as being a true statement.  The problem with your headline is that you used those 2 facts to define the man, and that is neither sensitive nor true.

As a media outlet claiming to represent truth and justice, your paper needs to answer for this portrayal of a man who in his lifetime made it clear to the entire world that his ultimate goal was to conquer and kill.  If you were to be true to what you claim to be, rather than calling him an “austere religious scholar” you would have referred to him as an “ambitious fanatical killing machine”.  To focus on his austerity and religious knowledge is not only insensitive, it’s hypocritical.  The headline on your paper states the words “Democracy dies in darkness”.  I consider those words to be profound and true.  However, to use them as a means of attacking Donald Trump while choosing not to headline the death of someone as pro darkness and anti-democracy as the former leader of ISIS, is indeed hypocritical.

This is not about the American political situation or the current resident of the White House, both of which I am not always particularly thrilled with.  It’s about sincerity and agenda.  If you truly believe that “Democracy dies in darkness” you should require a headline indicating that with the death of al-Baghdadi a little more light shined through the darkness.  But if as a newspaper you are either so scared of going after the worst people or so focused on your own political agenda, you are doing a disservice to the American people.

Many funny posts have come out in response to your headline.  Some of them made me chuckle. but truth be told, nothing about this is funny.  We live in a democracy with freedom of the press, speech and religion.  You want things changed here?  I am all for you using your platform in the manner in which you choose.  However, if you claim to be a purveyor of Democracy and light, you lose credibility when ignoring the worst dictatorial hatred and darkness the world has to offer.

Sincerely,

David Groen

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Was today a good day for Israel?

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Over the course of the past 3 years I have prided myself in being an atypical centrist when it comes to my feelings for President Donald Trump.  Of course we live in a time when that stance is most unlikely to get approval from others, but since I do not take this position for the sake of popularity, rather because of what I see and hear, it’s of no consequence.  When it comes to the President’s policies toward Israel and the Jewish people my position is also somewhat in the middle.  I will without apology or pause, debate those who call him an anti-Semite.  No matter what else you may say about this man it is clear to me that he has so many Jews not just in his inner circle but in his family that it is next to impossible for this man to be an anti-Semite.  However, while I feel joy and appreciation for his behavior towards Israel, exemplified by the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, I have also openly stated that I am not at all sure that what he does is good for Israel.  So let me be very clear.  While I am convinced Donald Trump has value for Jewish life,  I have been less than convinced that his actions are ultimately good for Israel.

At this point, rather than sharing any more of my opinion, I will show you the words of 2 people.  The first words are those of President Trump earlier today when speaking about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan .

Erdogan is smart.

He’s a friend of mine.

I have great respect for him.

He’s a leader. He did a terrific thing. They were lucky it was him that made the decision.

Turkey is very happy.

Now I will share with you some of the words of the man he was praising.

The occupation of Jerusalem, the violation of the privacy of the al Aqsa mosque, and the violation of the rights of the folks of Palestine…we declare that we will not accept this.

With the strength of Jerusalem in our feet, let’s march together…let’s come and unify and be together and fight the tyrants with one hand, with one strong fist.

The world’s Muslims must take a physical stance on Israel.

Each day that Jerusalem is under occupation is an insult to us.

I don’t approve of what Hitler did, and neither do I approve of what Israel has done. When it’s a question of so many people dying, it’s inappropriate to ask who was the more barbarous.

 

Why do I take a centrist position? Because very little in this world is black and white.  When you couple that with a political world in which we likely do not know nearly as much as we think we do, the truth is even more murky.  Will the President’s position towards Turkey and its Jew-hating leader hurt Israel, now that he has in essence given him Northern Syria, more power and influence in the region and betrayed the Kurds, an ally of Israel ? I certainly hope not.  But I would ask those who can see no wrong in anything Donald Trump does to watch this situation very carefully and be honest about  your conclusion.  Even if it is that what is taking place in Northern Syria is just a way to take away from discussion of impeachment.  Like I said, we really don’t know for sure and very possibly never will.

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Our connection to the departed and a Yom Kippur Message

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This past week, having just celebrated the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, in the same city where my parents are buried, I found myself inclined to do something I generally don’t feel an inclination towards doing. That would be to make a visit to their gravesites.  Now don’t misunderstand where I am coming from.  I have the highest level of respect for both of my parents and their memory.  In fact, my actions in honoring them and remembering them in the synagogue and in thought and discussion are not anything to be ashamed of.  I truly do my best to reach the highest level of honor and respect for both my mother and father.  It is merely the fact that although I believe in showing the utmost respect to cemeteries and individual gravesites, I personally do not put a lot of spiritual meaning into the physical location of the remains of our loved ones.  A feeling I know I share with others.  And yet, the day after Rosh Hashanah, without encouragement or even suggestion, I found myself wanting, almost needing to visit the graves of my mother and father.

I did not come away somber or haunted by my visit, in fact I’d be more likely to describe it as comforted and fulfilled, but I was intrigued to the point of inquisitive.  So I looked up the reasons why it is customary to visit our loved one’s graves between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and found all the answers I would expect.  The fact that it is a time of self-examination, soul searching and a time where we address God’s choice of who lives and who dies all would make sense in being a factor as to why it is an appropriate action during this time.  For me personally it didn’t explain why the urge came to me to do something I previously never felt the urge to do.

Whether you call it metaphysical, spiritual or hocus pocus nonsense, there are those of us who believe in what could be described as other worldly impacts or events.  I for one believe in the connection between the living and the dead, and as someone who believes in God, I believe in God’s involvement in at the very least, steering the souls of the living and the dead together.  Although I unequivocally respect everyone’s personal belief, regardless of how different it may be to mine, I find it to be particularly clear to me during this time of year that there is significantly more going on than just being born and when the time comes, dying.  If prayer is a conduit to another being or another realm, it stands to reason that a successful plea during the time of prayer would increase that connection and possibly lead to thoughts or feelings we otherwise might not have experienced.  I maintain that my desire to visit the place where my parents were buried is something to be grateful for, since it may very well mean my prayers were at the very least, somewhat acknowledged, and that maybe I was lead in a direction that will strengthen my physical and or spiritual future.  Regardless of whether or not the specifics are clear to me now or ever.  As I stood at the graves of my beloved parents I said the following words to myself.  “OK, I am here and listening. What is it you are trying to tell me?”

I know some reading this will say that what I am speaking of is more psychological than spiritual, but the fact remains that just as I can’t prove my theory, so too someone who thinks things just don’t work that way can’t prove it wrong.  I guess my question to those feeling that way is, why would you need to?

So as Yom Kippur, the most solemn day of the Jewish calendar approaches, and many who do not spend much time in synagogue will show up for Yizkor, the service honoring our departed loved ones, I leave you with this message for the coming year.  Wherever you need to go to find guidance, support or answers, be it God, your living friends and relatives, or those you remember with love and honor, let no one tell you what works best for you.  Just make sure that if you are asking questions, you keep your ears, heart and soul open to the answers.

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Open Letter to Demi Lovato

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Dear Demi,

In light of recent attacks against you from all sides, I write this to you as a voice of reason and support.  While many jumped at the headlines, I took a few minutes to read what you did, what you were criticized for, and how you subsequently reacted on Twitter.  As a Jewish American and a Zionist,  I find it incumbent on me to write you this letter of support.

Not surprisingly, the anti-Israel, anti-Jewish mob came right after you.  For what? For doing nothing other than visiting the holy land, having a very spiritual experience, and thanking those who welcomed you and took care of you while you were there.  Since nothing less than a land without Jews is acceptable to those who ambushed you, they predictably made every attempt to shame and intimidate you.  Since I am not one to speak to another’s feelings, I do not know if they were successful or not in their efforts.  I do know that it is very possible and very forgivable if your reaction was something along the lines of  ‘I don’t need this shit. I was just taking a vacation’, and since it is not what one might call ‘your fight’, you did what you felt was the decent thing and apologized to anyone you might have offended.

A pet peeve of mine has always been when people go after the wrong people. This is one of the reasons I am taking the time to write to you.  I believe almost nothing exists in a vacuum.  I recognize the fact that you are not far removed from personal issues that put your life at risk and I respect and appreciate the fact that Israel was a place you chose to visit as part of your healing process.  Regardless of whether or not you and I share the same religious beliefs.  I also know that in this situation you are the victim.  These people who came after you do so from the position of one of the most disingenuous and corrupt false narratives ever perpetrated and come after you in an effort to use you as a pawn in their self-serving, Jew hating, power driven agenda.

When these same people, the supporters and activists of the BDS movement came after the Rolling Stones for performing in Israel, guess what they did? They added another concert.  When they came after Paul McCartney he basically told them to shut up and leave him alone.  When they attacked Lady Gaga for having the time of her life in Israel she ignored them.  And if they criticized Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez for their trip to Israel, it was drowned out by their praise of the country.  But in fairness, the celebrities I mentioned are significantly older than you are and are more seasoned in responding to attacks from various people and at least on the surface seem to not be recently overcoming battles to face personal demons that almost cost them their life.  Of course nothing would make me happier than for you to stand up to these people,  but in light of what you’ve recently been through and what you are fighting to overcome, I have no trouble understanding why you do not want to be in the middle of a political firestorm over an issue you never intended to be involved in.

So Demi, I am glad you had a wonderful time in Israel and when the time comes that it enters into your mind to go back and visit once again I hope you won’t let those who master intimidation and fraud stand in the way of what you want to do and I believe know is right.  I wish you good luck in all the battles you face in the future and a wonderful time on all your future trips.

Sincerely,

David Groen

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A Rosh Hashanah Message

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Being very flawed myself, I make every effort to avoid ever sitting in judgment of others for behaviors that can be considered nothing short of human.  Human behavior allows people to make choices not everyone else will agree with as well as permitting people to do that one thing we all do.  Make mistakes.  So since I try my best not to be a hypocrite or cross the line, I am not going to spend any of my time criticizing my fellow Jews that make the choice not to live in accordance with Jewish law.  Having come pretty close to making that choice at certain points of my life, I get it. I also believe these choices to be between man and God only.  The issue I want to address is pride in being Jewish. Or lack thereof.

I am not afraid to call someone out if I feel there is blatant self-hatred, but since this post is directed more to the many in that grey area I realize it is important to be careful about stepping over a line.  If I am to address a subject that goes after people for something as reprehensible as being ashamed of who you are, I need to speak in generalities.  After all, I may have an opinion, even one shared by many, but even so I do not know what is in someone’s heart.  Let’s just say that if what I am to say applies at all to you, or wakes you up to a different perspective, then maybe I’ve done something right.

It should not be a surprise that much of this discussion comes back to the Holocaust. Specifically in regard to the main issues I wish to address.  The first being support for the State of Israel.  Support does not mean blind agreement in all policies and actions of whatever government is in place. There are many people who have done more for Israel than I may ever have the opportunity to do that are much more opposed to the decisions made by the Israeli government than I am.  This is not about stifling opinions.  This is however about being balanced and fair as well as addressing the disingenuous motives of the BDS movement.

Fair and balanced means if you are to criticize Israel for its actions, you don’t fail to mention the years of dealing with a Palestinian Authority showing no indication of being a willing partner in peace.  It means if you are going to go after Benjamin Netanyahu for a hard line approach you also recognize that he is not only dealing with officials that reward terrorists financially for killing innocent Jewish residents of Israel but in many cases officials who once lead or performed acts of terrorism themselves.  And it means that when you criticize Israel for collateral damage that leads to the death of innocents that it happens when targeting enemies not looking for peace but preaching the destruction of the Jewish State of Israel.  So yes, criticize Israel if you feel it is appropriate, but realize that if you do so in a vacuum that ignores the actions of the other side that you are not only wrong for doing so, you are part of the problem.

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, aka BDS, had proven time and time again that it is not about helping Palestinians, it is about ridding the land of Israel of Jewish people.  It is a movement designed to cripple Israel economically regardless of who it hurts, Jews or Palestinians.  If an organization is to claim that its purpose is to advance the cause of a people, what does it tell you when it causes the closing down of factories employing the very people it claims to be helping.  But don’t take my word for it.  Just look at the name of the organization. It is all about hurting the Israeli government with no mention about helping the Palestinian people.  Partially because the people running the organization work hand in hand with the leadership that has for decades pocketed and misappropriated funding desired to help Palestinians and use hatred against Jews as a means of motivating the masses, much like Hitler and the Nazi Party did in Germany.  So if you are Jewish and support the BDS movement you need to know that the goal of the organization is to destroy a country created to keep you safe.  A country born from the ashes of 6 million murdered Jews.  Which leads me to my final and most important point.

You can find Jewish practice antiquated, pointless or even wrong, but make no mistake. You can’t hide from who you are.   You might try, but history shows us that our enemies don’t care how you feel about being Jewish, they care that you are and want you gone.  And with Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year approaching I would be remiss if I didn’t ask this question. Why would you want to hide from it? The Jewish people have major global impacts on education, science, medicine and pop culture. And for those of is who believe in it from a religious perspective, it has given us the Torah, a moral compass of how to live a good and productive life, regardless of how precisely or traditionally one chooses to interpret it.

Finally I want to wish all my fellow Jews a happy and healthy year ahead. Whether or not you believe or not, and even whether or not you accept who you are or not, I wish you blessings in the coming year.  I may not like how you think and I will call you out, but that very thing you want no part of is the very thing that teaches me to wish good upon you.  And when all is said and done, only you know what is truly in your heart.

A Happy and Healthy Year to all.

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