Monthly Archives: February 2017

Open Letter to the Jewish community: It’s time to unite

 

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We have an important choice to make.  Do we continue to battle each other over differences in political ideology or do we move forward and work towards our mutual safety and survival?  I have no doubt that most people reading this letter will choose to work towards our collective well-being, the question is whether or not we are willing and able to put our differences aside.  I am hopeful the answer is yes.  I realize that many believe it is impossible to make that distinction,  but the threats we face today are far more serious than political philosophies.  They are a matter of life and death.

With graves being desecrated in St. Louis and Philadelphia, and bomb threats against JCCs throughout the country becoming far too frequent, the threat to American Jewry appears to be coordinated and organized.  That would make it significantly more dangerous.  From the time of the first round of bomb scares I was concerned that it was a test run to see how the Jewish community and law enforcement would respond.  The gamble that these will only remain threats is a gamble no one can or should be willing to take, for it is a gamble with lives.

Whether we support or oppose our new administration, it is now time to make a concerted effort to make sure we help our government protect us. Regardless of whether we are staunch Liberals or Conservatives, blaming the other side for the threats and atrocities of today is neither the answer nor is it fair to either side.  Jewish Democrats and Republicans need to stop attacking each other over differences in political ideology.  That doesn’t mean we need to agree, and it doesn’t mean we need to cease our opposition of the other side’s political platform, but it does mean we need to stop the opposition towards each other. We need to cease with the personal attacks and unite against the enemy.We need to realize and accept that most of us want the same thing, a peaceful existence for our people and community.  That means it’s time for both sides to stop seeing the other side as culpable for the dangers facing us, no matter how much we oppose the other’s politics.  If we fight among ourselves we are aiding and abetting the the true enemy.  An enemy who at best wants to terrorize us, at worst wants to kill us.  I guarantee each and every one of you, no matter how far you may lean to the left or the right of the political aisle, the vast majority of Jewish people do not want to see their fellows Jews terrorized or physically harmed.  In most cases the intensity and in some cases extremism is actually motivated by a powerful desire to see our people live safe and happy lives.

It is OK that we disagree on certain policies, even if those policies impact the lives of the Jewish community in Israel and abroad, but that disagreement must stop taking the place of unity, because if it does the enemy has won a very key element of the war, and I know that most of us do not want that.

All discussions can easily descend into criticism of Liberals and Conservatives, but we need to step back and ask ourselves if by doing so we are allowing ourselves to be dangerously distracted.  If we need to mobilize and organize in defense of each other we need to put politics aside.  We need to spend our energies being vigilant in identifying and exposing dangers to the community and we need to provide each other with critical support when needed.

Our next steps need to work with law enforcement and each other in finding out who is doing this and stopping it from not only continuing, but developing into something worse. Our next step is not to bash the other for his or her political choices but to openly discuss and study what’s happening in the hope we find important answers that will help keep our communities safe.

I extend this challenge to all of you, but no less than I extend it to myself.  Let’s work together.

Sincerely,

David Groen

 

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Heads up:A Jewish Resident of Philadelphia gives a First Hand Account

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Today we cancelled a lock down drill.

Today we cancelled a lock down drill at school that was scheduled for a little before noon. Earlier this morning, we got a call from our sister school, the elementary Jewish Day School which lovingly prepares the majority of our incoming middle schoolers. There was a bomb threat and they were evacuating. Everyone was safe. The police were there. The teachers and children, ages 5-10, were cooperating.

Heads up.

We were already on alert. Earlier this month we had learned of the threats to JCCs and other Jewish institutions. Just the day before, I went with my mother and my daughter to the Mt. Carmel cemetery in Philadelphia minutes after I learned that it had been vandalized, terrorized, dehumanized. Scores of tombstones were thrown from their bases. Sheets of carved rock with Hebrew names and dates of past souls were broken. A man there tried to comfort me “it was probably some drunk kids having fun”.

Sigh.

I was not comforted. I was shaken by the images, by the souls, by the disregard for human decency. This could not have been a couple of drunk kids. These memorials were heavy stones, intentionally rocked from their core. This took effort. A couple of drunk kids would’ve given up after 8 or nine. They would have had their dose of adrenaline, worked up a sweat and leaned back on a still intact tombstone, grateful for it’s upright support.

No. These acts took stamina and determination.

Today we cancelled a lock down drill at school because 17 Jewish organizations were responding to actual bomb threats on this very day.

Babies were pulled from their cribs and evacuated from day cares. Elderly men and women hurriedly climbed out of JCC aqua aerobics classes, rushing to cover their wet bodies. Parents at work and in the market and at the doctor answered the call they dread.

We live in a world where lock down drills are cancelled because so many Jewish institutions are actually reacting to genuine threats of terror.

Today, February 27, 2017, at least 20 Jewish community facilities in 12 states received bomb threats. In the two months since Jan. 1, 2017 there have been over 70 bomb threats in

26 states and one Canadian province. No this is not a couple of drunk kids.

Who, then? Who is dialing, terrorizing, pushing over tombstones? Who is halting us in our tracks? Come out, come out, wherever you are.

Because we are 5000 years strong. We are in every state, in every city and we will not be scared away. We will stand with the good people of the world and our love and light will finally reach you in your hidden, dark, secret, pitiful, shameful corners of hate.

Never again” is a promise we made. It will take all of us, everywhere, every day, until forever.

Heads up.

 

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There is a time to be critical. Yesterday was not that time

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The complaint I heard yesterday from some was that Donald Trump waited too long to speak out against anti-Semitism. Although I have found issue with much of what I’ve seen and heard from the new President of the United States, emphasis in this case on the word NEW, I believe yesterday’s criticism, a perfect example being the criticism from the Steven Goldstein of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect,  to be out of line, poorly thought out, and damaging to any left wing agenda.

READ MY OPEN LETTER TO STEVEN GOLDSTEIN OF THE ANNE FRANK CENTER FOR MUTUAL RESPECT

It is now 1 month since Donald Trump took office. It therefore needs to be asked of anyone that wanted it to be done quicker, how much quicker would you have liked?  I believe the President deserves much of the scrutiny and even criticism he is getting, I have dished plenty of it out myself, but if you are to criticize him for everything, even that which he does correctly, you lose your credibility.  Case in point.  Not only does the General Flynn issue with Russia look like it might very well be a problem, it’s an issue that merits intense investigation, that if done correctly could reveal potentially serious issues and consequences for this administration. Does that negate the fact that picking H.R. McMaster as the new National Security Adviser was an excellent choice? Absolutely not.  If we are to battle this administration on those matters we deem critical, we do a lot better if we do so in a fair and balanced manner.

Furthermore, as a Jew I understand the delicate nature of the position President Trump finds himself in when fighting against anti-Semitism.  As I have said before, anyone who questions his favorable attitude towards the Jewish people needs only to look at his very close relationship with his Jewish son-in-law and daughter Ivanka who converted to Judaism.  However, and this has always been one of, if not my biggest fears and issues when it comes to Donald Trump, he energizes and gets support from the worst type of racists and bigots.  I don’t believe he is pandering to them when carefully choosing his words regarding anti-Semitism, I believe he is attempting to guard against backlash, and I admit that as a Jew who has opposed him vehemently, I greatly appreciate what I perceive as a concern for the Jewish community’s well-being, regardless of whether the motivation is philosophical or personal.

Those of us with views that are left of center are making a big mistake if we fall into the trap of behaving like so many on the right and far left where we automatically criticize anything coming from the other side of the aisle.  It destroys credibility, eats at the fabric of society, and obstructs anything resembling progress.  Attack what needs to be attacked, but when you see your President sticking up for you, finding something wrong with it does nothing to help your cause.  Save it for what he does wrong.  I have a feeling you’ll get your chance.  In the meantime be happy when he does something important the right way.

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Open Letter to Steven Goldstein of the Anne Frank Center regarding his statement to the President

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Dear Mr. Goldstein,

In some ways this is the most ironic letter I’ve written to date.  Here I am, the son of Dutch Holocaust survivors and a critic of Donald Trump, writing a letter of opposition to the Executive Director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect in response to his criticism of President Trump.  It must be clear from my background and personal introduction that despite my disagreement with you on the subject I am about to discuss, you and I are unquestionably on the same side.

My issue is with the following statement you made regarding the President’s comments made earlier today on the increase in anti-Semitic activity, threats and rhetoric.

“The President’s sudden acknowledgement is a Band-Aid on the cancer of Antisemitism that has infected his own Administration. His statement today is a pathetic asterisk of condescension after weeks in which he and his staff have committed grotesque acts and omissions reflecting Antisemitism, yet day after day have refused to apologize and correct the record. Make no mistake: The Antisemitism coming out of this Administration is the worst we have ever seen from any Administration. The White House repeatedly refused to mention Jews in its Holocaust remembrance, and had the audacity to take offense when the world pointed out the ramifications of Holocaust denial. And it was only yesterday, President’s Day, that Jewish Community Centers across the nation received bomb threats, and the President said absolutely nothing. When President Trump responds to Antisemitism proactively and in real time, and without pleas and pressure, that’s when we’ll be able to say this President has turned a corner. This is not that moment.”

Although both you and I agree that more needs to  be done, I also believe there is a time and place for everything.  I agree the president’s words mean nothing without action, but that does not negate the positive step taken today.  Your statement focuses more on what hasn’t been done before today rather than what actually was done today.  If we are to demand our leaders take action, it is my belief that the time to criticize them is not immediately after their acknowledgment of the problem.  As we have seen time and time again, the words of the President of the United States are more than just words, they are instruments of action.  Furthermore, if you look back at what I have written you will see that I not only am not an apologist for Donald Trump, I am a vocal critic.  But I also try to be fair and reasonable.  It is my contention that as I sit here today, the President of the United States did today what he needed to do today.  That does not mean he will do the right thing tomorrow or the day after.  If he doesn’t do what is needed in the coming days, that will be the time to criticize him for lack of action.  Today I find it far more reasonable to be pleased he is acknowledging the problem.

As the son of Holocaust survivors I have never backed away from attacking those I feel to be enemies of the Jewish people.  I heard the stories from my parents, read the history and know of the death and suffering of my relatives and the relatives of so many others.  I subsequently feel it is crucial to go after those who declare their hate towards us before we go after those who at least say words of support for our well-being and safety. Although I wholeheartedly agree that we must hold the President of the United States accountable for his actions and what happens moving forward, today he at least verbally declared he is on our side, and for that I am far more likely to thank him than criticize him.

As I have said in previous writings, I am not yet convinced this President will be anything close to what I want him to be, but regarding the issue of anti-Semitism, as a Jewish American, today he was what I needed him to be.  I believe we have more to gain by acknowledging that than criticizing it.  It would appear that is where you and I disagree.

Sincerely,

David Groen

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Open Letter to Jewish Trump Supporter

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CLICK TO READ OPEN LETTER TO TRUMP SUPPORTERS

 

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You’ll have to forgive me Mr. President. I’m a Jew and I’ve been hurt before

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I know as a Jew and a Zionist I am supposed to feel all warm and fuzzy today.  After all the President of the United States did greet the Israeli Prime Minister with great respect and they expressed their long lasting friendship.  To make it even better, President Trump went as far as saying that he would move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.  That’s never been said before. Oh wait. It has been said before. By just about everyone else to run or step into the office since at least the mid 90s.  So although I appreciate the nice words, right now they are nothing more than that, and as a Jew I am yet to be convinced.

For example, outgoing President Barack Obama, a disappointment to so much of the Jewish community started off by making the following comments.

“Let me be clear,“Israel’s security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable. … Any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state with secure, recognized, defensible borders.”

“Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided.”

Go back to recently defeated candidate Hillary Clinton who wrote the following in a letter, dated July 2, 1999 to Dr. Mandell Ganchrow of the Orthodox Union in New York.

“If I am chosen by New Yorkers to be their senator, or in whatever position I find myself in the years to come, you can be sure that I will be an active, committed advocate for a strong and secure Israel, able to live in peace with its neighbors, with the United States Embassy located in its capital, Jerusalem.”

Her husband, former President Bill Clinton declared in February 1992, at the height of the Democratic primaries, that he supported recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a step that would alter U.S. policy, but never signed the 1995 congressional mandate to move the embassy.

Senator John McCain pledged to move the U.S. embassy in Israel “right away” from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as did Senator Robert Dole and George W. Bush who actually did become president.  Candidate Bush made the pledge to move the embassy on his first day in office. Once in office he said he went from doing it on the first day to saying he would begin the process on his first day.  Instead he signed a waiver every 6 months delaying the same 1995 congressional mandate and in the end never did it.

Enter President Donald J. Trump.  Yes he has said some very nice things. He too promised to move the embassy to Jerusalem.  But now he is looking into it. He promised to rip of the Iran deal on his first day.  We must have missed it. And he publicly stated the following at a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

“I would like you to hold back on settlements for a little bit.”

Donald Trump may end up being the best friend Israel ever had in the Oval Office.  I certainly hope so.  But forgive me if I’m not ready to throw a party yet. I’ve heard this song before.

 

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Open Letter to NFL Player Michael Bennett regarding his cancellation of trip to Israel

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Dear Michael,

I just finished reading your statement as to the reasoning behind you cancelling your trip to Israel, and although your message was masterfully articulated, it is sadly riddled with an enormous undercurrent of serious & unfortunate ignorance.  You see Michael, what you and so many others fail to realize, is that over the years filled with constant terrorist attacks murdering Israelis and manipulated uprisings, citizens of Israel have been victims more than the Palestinians have and most of the victimization of the Palestinians has been predominantly at the hands of their very own leaders, not the Israeli government.

If even a small fraction of the funding given to the Palestinian leadership had been put into developing their neighborhoods and cities, the Palestinian quality of life would be so much better we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.  Instead the billions of dollars received has primarily been used for funding terrorism and making their leaders extremely wealthy people.  Naturally they do not want you to know this because that would destroy their illegitimate narrative of having a plight similar to those of non-white citizens of the former Apartheid regime in South Africa.  The truth is that even blacks from South Africa have come out often attacking this comparison saying that what happens in Israel is far from being Apartheid. I urge you to view this video of a South African member of Parliament and a man of color, Kenneth Meshoe,  discussing the misguided view that Israel is an Apartheid State. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykFVV9QdvZU

I further encourage you to take note of these 3 quotes from the late great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. whose picture you chose to exploit as evidence for your misguided stance.

“When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism!”

“The whole world must see that Israel must exist and has the right to exist, and is one of the great outposts of democracy in the world”

“Peace for Israel means security, and we must stand with all our might to protect its right to exist, its territorial integrity. I see Israel as one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security and that security must be a reality.”

No one with any decency and reason will say or has ever said that Israel has done everything right, but the stance you have taken puts the entire burden of blame of the government of Israel.  That is not only disingenuous and harmful towards the very people you claim to now care so much about, it is also blatantly anti-Zionist, and if you are to use Dr. King’s picture as a tool on your Twitter page you best know that he would have seen you as being anti-Semitic as a result. Whether that is your intention or not, your judgment and subsequent actions create that perception and destroy your credibility.  I suggest you revisit this issue and reconsider your stance.

Sincerely,
David Groen

 

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