Monthly Archives: July 2015

Open Letter to Senator Charles Schumer

ChuckSchumer

Dear Senator Schumer,

I write to you today in the hope that when the time comes for you to make a choice, a choice that will confirm your legacy not only as an American Senator but as a Jew, that you make the choice you know to be right, not the choice you see as politically expedient.  I am of course referring to the vote on President Obama’s deal with Iran.

I have heard the arguments in favor of making a deal with Iran. I also understand the difficult position politicians in the Democratic party, particularly Jewish politicians, find themselves in at this time.  Your president is calling for your support. Your party is calling for your support.  Politics is at play on the grandest scale.  Oppose the deal and you risk alienating yourself from the top people in the party who have chosen to maintain their ranks by supporting their leader.  Oppose the deal and you yourself may fall far down the political ladder, destroying all you personally have done to achieve your current status.

I am not a politician, however I have a layman’s understanding of the basics in politics.  Sometimes you have to go against your better judgment and principles in order to ascend in the ranks.  I also understand that sometimes doing this causes an internal struggle only another politician can truly comprehend.  That being said Senator, as much as I sympathize with the personal challenge you are faced with, this is one of those times when you are required to answer the bell of those who elected you into office and supported you till now.  This is a time when the choice you make may determine the future safety not only of your home state but of the entire planet.

I have heard you say enough over the years to believe in my heart that you know that making this deal with Iran is a mistake.  That leaves me believing that the struggle you have is far more a personal one than an ideological one.  To make my point I will quote a line from the movie The American President, in which President Andrew Shepherd, played by Michael Douglas says the following: “I was so busy trying to save my job that I forgot to do my job.”

Senator Schumer, your job is to protect and serve the citizens of NY State and to represent us nationally in what is right and safe for all Americans.  It is my absolute belief that you know that dealing with Iran is wrong for the country and that the only reason for any hesitation on your part is concern for losing your job and or standing in the Democratic Party.  I urge you, as do so many others to do the right thing and oppose what you know to be wrong not only for New York, but for the rest of the country and the entire civilized world.

Sincerely,

David Groen

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Observing Tisha B’Av: Obligation, Guilt, or something else?

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As I sit here on a Sunday, not feeling very well and giving up a beautiful beach day, I ask myself what motivates me, a man in no way consistently observant, to acknowledge Tisha B’Av, the day widely recognized as the saddest day on the Jewish calendar.  Although by no means do I minimize anyone else’s observance of this sad day that commemorates the destruction of both Holy Temples in Jerusalem, but for someone whose observance is a daily integral part of their life, fasting and acknowledging the day is not even a question, very much like the observance of Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath would be.  For someone like me it can almost be seen as random that I take the day as seriously as I do, to the extent that I myself have questioned its origin.

As the title of this piece states, obligation has to be considered as a motivating force.  However, logically speaking, there are observances considered far more important than the observance of Tisha B’Av.  Frankly, as someone who truly believes each man and woman on the planet only really gets judged by God, I can honestly say I do not do it out of obligation.  Other than maybe 2 or 3 people, and now anyone reading this, no one coming in to the day had any idea that the day holds the importance to me that it does.  The other option I proposed was that I am motivated by guilt.  That too is not the case since when it comes to religious practice and honestly mostly every other aspect of my life, guilt does not motivate me.  That being said there is a personal element involved that is so inherent in my being that one can say it encompasses many factors including obligation and guilt.  Growing up the son of Holocaust survivors, and seeing how my parents used Tisha B’Av as the day they commemorated the murder of family members whose exact date of death was not recorded, as clearly as I felt the sadness of my family’s loss I felt the sadness of Tisha B’Av.  It is this fact that allowed me to identify what it is that makes the day so important to me.

As negative as the day may be, it is one of humanity’s most positive features that motivates me.  That feature is love.  Love for the Jewish people. I see humanity as one great force and see all people as equal in the most basic terms, but as a Jewish man raised in a positive Jewish household, I sit here as someone who loves the Jewish people.  Just as we observe the loss of a loved one and do so naturally, for me the tragedies that have happened to the Jewish people causes me an instinctive sadness.  As one Rabbi once told me in speaking of the fasting required on Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av, “knowing what Yom Kippur stands for who is able to eat? And knowing what Tisha B’Av stands for who would want to eat?”

I don’t believe that this makes me love the Jewish people more than someone who feels differently about Tisha B’Av, but on this day as I sit here acknowledging the day I realize my motivations to be pure and my love for who I am and where I come from to be solidly in tact.

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