Monthly Archives: February 2016

Does anyone represent all the people?

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Till now I have liked Ted Cruz. I admit it.  That being said, I haven’t said I am voting for him nor am I openly supporting him at this time.  Having gone over this in my mind many times, I finally came to the realization of what it is about Senator Cruz that holds me back.  The issue for me is as follow.  Would he be a president for all of the people or just his people?  Who do I have to thank for opening my eyes to what is bothering me about the Republican Senator from Texas?  Of all people, the Pope.

As I read that the Pope issued a statement alluding to his approval of contraception to prevent the Zika virus, a stance I would applaud, I immediately asked myself what I would expect to be the most obvious question to everyone.  Why have I not heard the same implication from the Pope that contraception is OK in the prevention of AIDS? When asked about it in November the Pope said the following:

“seems too small, partial, when there are bigger issues confronting humanity. I don’t like getting into questions or reflections that are so technical when people die because they don’t have water or food or housing”.

Delving deeper into this I found that the Pope has previously shown a predisposition to the use of contraception to prevent diseases in general, and the Pope’s comments about people not having water, food or housing were made after a trip to Africa, so any thought I would have that the Pope does not care about one group of people as much as he does about another would be unfair.  Nevertheless it did make me think.  In attacking Trump for his proposal to build a wall I could not help but at least consider that this Argentinian Pope was somewhat more connected to the plight of some over others.  Again, to be fair, I am stopping very short of accusing the Pope of putting importance on one group over another, but as I said earlier, what this did do was make me realize why I am not prepared to put my support behind Ted Cruz.  Simply put, I have serious questions as to whether or not he would be a president for all Americans.

For at least a year I have said that my next vote for president would be for the candidate I felt would be best for Israel and strongest on foreign affairs.  Ted Cruz was a staunch supporter of Israel long before he declared his candidacy and has been a friend of the Jewish state loudly and without apology.  He is aggressively against the deal with Iran and is very vocal about the need for identifying and going after Islamic terrorists.  For all these reasons I do like Ted Cruz. However, the more I hear him speak, the more I believe his religious conviction is so strong that people with socially liberal ideas like me, people with what he in a disparaging tone referred to as people with “New York values” would not be in line with how he would run the country.

I am all for people having religious devotion.  I have tremendous respect for other’s beliefs and have many friends who are devout Christians; some of whom will no doubt read this but also know that I have nothing but respect for how they choose to worship. No matter how strong someone’s faith is, regardless of what religion, if it is without prejudice and violence I respect and admire it.  That being said, as  a Jewish man I know I won’t be comfortable if an address from the Oval Office includes references to the importance of Christian values and a shout out to the Lord and savior. I may call Bernie Sanders out for what I perceive as a lack of pride in being Jewish, but that does not mean, should he become president, that I would want him to tell the people of the country that they should atone for their sins if he speaks to the nation between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

My issue is not about religious liberty. Senator Cruz is correct about religious liberty being a vital part of our free society and I guess I feel somewhat more included when he speaks of Judeo-Christian values.  However, that does not mean we should do away with the principal of separation of church and state, a concept at the very foundation of what makes America great.  The day we have a president of any faith that feels his way of living is the only correct way is the day this country loses its status as the greatest country in existence.  The very greatness of the United States of America is in the name itself.  It is a united group of people from all over the world with different ideas, beliefs and ways of life.  As long as freedom continues to be a prerequisite, America should continue to be defined by different people with different ideas and different backgrounds living together to create a great society.

For the record, this viewpoint of mine is nothing revolutionary. There’s a term for thinking this way. It’s called New York values.

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Cristiano Ronaldo: One of the good guys after all

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Once I was a fan of Bryan Adams, and a moment later I hated him.  I have never particularly liked Cristiano Ronaldo, but after this I declare myself a fan. Am I shallow? One dimensional?  When it comes to Israel, yes. Work against Israel and I hate you. Work with Israel and I’m a fan.  Yes it is that simple.  Does one have to agree with everything Israel does or agree with everything its leaders say? Of course not.  But there is a statement I have made that my friends who are minorities always agree with. No matter what someone says, you can tell who is prejudice against you and who isn’t. And simply put, when one of the most high-profile athletes in the planet is proud of a project he is working on in Israel, he is definitely more of a friend than anything else. Check out his commercial here.

 

For this I thank Cristiano Ronaldo.  It is easy for all of us, myself included to go after the haters, but it is my belief the good guys need to be recognized at least as much, and today I learned that Ronaldo is one of the good guys.  With lawyers and handlers all over today’s celebrities, he had to know there would be people attacking him for this, and not only did he do it anyway, he bragged about it on Twitter, saying:

“There are rumors that I’m going to be a star in Israel. Not in soccer… In a HOT commercial.”

Way to go Ronaldo!

 

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The Complicated aspect of Bernie Sanders’ Judaism

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I don’t believe being Jewish is a complication in the mind of Bernie Sanders.  If anything I believe it to be a non-factor.  What it does do however is bring to the forefront the complications facing the Jewish community and very possibly one of the root causes of anti-Semitism.

So you have this 74 year old Jewish man from Brooklyn, a man who may or may not wind up being a serious candidate for President, fresh off the first victory ever by a Jewish American in a presidential primary.  It may not have ultimate significance- I jokingly say how the only think Bernie Sanders won was the presidency of New Hampshire-but whether he goes on to become the Democratic nominee, the President, or just slowly fades into the sunset, the fact that he is Jewish is history, and matters to many.  However, it also seems to not matter to many and that catches my attention.

I recently said that if just once I would hear Bernie Sanders take some pride in being Jewish I might even take a closer look at him.  Then it dawned on me.  Is that attitude of mine indirectly one of the motivators for those who do not like Jews?  There are many communities that want nothing else than to be seen as American only.  Recently before the Super Bowl, Carolina Panther coach Ron Rivera spoke about how he would rather be seen as a successful coach than a successful Latino coach.  If the fact that Barack Obama’s is a man of color had never become a big issue, no one today could ever say that dislike for him is based on race.  Yet here I am, and I assume I am not alone, a Jewish man, turned off by Bernie Sanders not bringing attention to the fact that he is Jewish.  I watch the Republican debates and take notice of the fact that no one mentions Israel more than Ted Cruz.  I get a little excited about the fact that front runner Donald Trump’s daughter converted to Judaism and that Hillary Clinton’s daughter married a Jewish man.  But when it comes to the Jewish thing, I have no overwhelming glee or enthusiasm over the fact that Bernie Sanders is Jewish. Why? Because he doesn’t seem to either.

So going back to the anti-Semitism issue, is it possible that my attitude, an attitude that openly shows pleasure when Jews distinguish themselves, and the desire to, in some way at least, see my Jewishness as a club I am excited to be part of, cultivate a hatred of Jews? Possibly. I know I am not alone.  Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah songs alone are almost enough to prove it.  I am sure many who are not Jewish enjoy them, but let’s face it, it’s extra fun for us Jews when we find out Captain Kirk or Scarlett Johannson are part of the tribe.

I can’t say I don’t respect on some level the approach that says, like me and admire me for my accomplishments as a person first, and vote for me or not as an American regardless of my background, but I also believe there’s nothing wrong in a little pride in where you come from.  Especially when the lack of emphasis may be more politically motivated than philosophically motivated. If going into the primaries in New York or other states with larger Jewish populations Bernie speaks more openly about being Jewish, I dare say we’ll have our answer.  In the meantime I hope that I hear him say he is Jewish at least once. Not because it would make me vote for him, but admittedly  because I prefer fellow Jews who are proud of their heritage, and then I can get at least somewhat excited about the current President of New Hampshire.

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Open Letter to Ted Nugent

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Dear Ted,

Originally when I knew I would be writing you this letter, my intention was to go after you in a way I have not done since Russell Brand.  However, in the name of responsibility I first delved a little deeper and realized that although your post is wildly irresponsible and insane beyond reason, your claim to actually like the Jewish people and hate Nazis will hold me back slightly.  Nevertheless for the damage you’ve done, it really needs to be addressed.

Ted, Ted, Ted.  You say that your father killed Nazis.  Well for starters I don’t think your post would make him very proud.  The great soldiers and resistance fighters who battled against one of the greatest evils this planet has ever known would not take this comparison lightly.  Comparing Jewish leaders whose stance on guns is different from yours to Nazis is not only irresponsible, it comes off as extremely anti-Semitic.  Now as I started saying in the beginning of this letter, I don’t believe you to be a total Jew-hater.  For the most part, people who hate the Jewish people are quite proud of it and certainly don’t make a point of disputing the assertion.  That being said, we don’t need you or anyone else helping those who hate us already hate us even more, and we don’t need anyone providing them with the ammunition your post gives them.  Is your vision so distorted that you don’t see the harm this does?

Furthermore, it is critical that you and everyone else with the same misguided stance understand what the Nazis were and what heinous acts they committed.  They murdered millions of people including 6 million Jewish men, women and children. They openly stated the need for a solution to what they referred to as the “Jewish problem”.  From the very beginning Hitler attempted to dehumanize the Jewish people.  To post the pictures of Jews, with Stars of David in each box, and to say that these people are the ones out to destroy our freedom and to call them “Nazis in disguise” is so far out of the realm of normal I am almost at a loss for words.  In one swoop you managed to make an argument for ultra-liberals  and ultra-conservatives to hate Jews.  The ultra-liberal will say that this is an example of Jewish people helping to strengthen the rise of fascism, and the ultra-conservative will say this is an example of how Jewish liberals are destroying the country.  Either way this becomes the Jews’ fault.  You claim to be a friend Ted? Frankly, with friends like you, who needs enemies?

I appreciate your hatred for Nazis and therefore stop short of saying the things I would say to someone I believe wants to finish off what Hitler started, but I want, no I pray that you look at what you are doing and the awful impact these types of actions can have on a somewhat fragile society.  I personally am someone who shifted from far left to very centered on the gun issue over the years, but no one can ever accuse me of having been a “Nazi in disguise” when I believed in the total abolition of guns for the average citizen.  I am not a better Jew nor a better American now because I’ve shifted so far to the right that I understand the need for citizens to own guns, and I, as do many others, take offense to the viewpoint that those who still oppose guns on the strongest level can be compared to supporters of a government that legalized mass murder.

So Ted, in the name of all that is decent I urge you to reassess your stance on this matter and understand that if your motives are indeed pure, these actions have the reverse effect.  All you are really doing in a post like this is spewing venom that poisons the very fabric of our civilized society, and if you are sincere about your desire for freedom and justice, you will look at this carefully and know this to be true.

Sincerely,

David Groen

 

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My speech on February 2, 2016

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Click here to listen to my speech to the New York Theological Seminary on Tuesday February 2, 2016.  After you click the link just download the file to listen to the speech. There is also a question and answer session.

In my speech I discuss my book, “Jew Face: A story of love and heroism in Nazi occupied Holland”, as well as the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German Lutheran Minister who gave his life battling Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.

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