Author Archives: davidgroen1

How I honor the past through my personal happiness

benchdg

Good. I got your attention.  As anyone who has followed me even a little already knows, I spend much of my time telling my family’s history as to how it pertains to the Holocaust.  My parents, of blessed memory, were survivors.  They lost a large percentage of their family and friends to the hands of the Nazis and they lived in hiding or on the run for close to 5 years during the occupation of Holland.  And of course there is the story of the my uncle’s violin that was recently returned to us due to the righteous acts of a non-Jewish Dutchman and his son. At best these stories are inspirational.  But how can our speaking of this and understanding this lead to happiness? It’s about perspective.

I would like to think that my message is an obvious one, but since I don’t see more of it I feel the need to share it with anyone willing to listen.  Although Jewish teaching is rich with lessons of how to look at life in a manner that will lead to happiness, this message is not just a Jewish one and it certainly is not meant only for Jews.  It starts with a very important question.  What makes you happy?  It seems like a simple question.  One that can be easily answered and highly achievable. Yet many people are not happy.  Do they not achieve their goals?  Do they have misfortunes that prevent them from reaching a state of happiness.  Often yes.  But I believe that more often than not it is because they have not learned the proper way to achieve happiness, and that is very simply by deciding to be happy.

The decision to be happy starts with understanding the life that you lead and the gifts given to you, whether by God, if that fits your belief structure, or by circumstance.  Since this discussion is about our choices, it is not critical to discuss the origins of these gifts, merely to recognize them.   Having been raised by Holocaust survivors, my knowledge of the evils humans are capable of started at basic at a young age and developed into at least an above average understanding as I got older.  I learned about the fear people lived in for years of their lives.  I learned how they were hungry and cold and had no way of knowing when and if they would satisfy that hunger or ever feel warm again.  I learned about how even the bravest people lived in fear and had the courage to do things they needed to do even if it would bring more fear.  And I learned about how when it was all over it never really ever ended completely, because either what they had been through was now part of them or the people they cared for had been taken from them in a way that would haunt them forever.  And as a result I learned that not only did I have nothing to complain about, I should feel ashamed of myself if I did.

Psychologists might call this ‘children of Holocaust survivors guilt’, and they might be right.  But what is important about this is not whether or not that is the root cause of the conclusion, what is important is where it lead me.  It goes without saying that we don’t celebrate anything that happened under Nazi occupation, but at the same time we can say that the best way to honor and remember the suffering of those lost as well as those who survived is to celebrate life.  Many of us have known people who came out of the war having lost loved ones and suffered difficulties or atrocities and still managed to celebrate the life they had in their years following this horrific time.  They did so because they now looked at what they had, they appreciated their gifts, and they were determined to at least try to be happy.   They showed us the way.  It is up to us to choose to follow it.

Happiness is not something that can be measured.  It is an opinion.  Even our own happiness is based on what we think it is and our belief that we’ve achieved that state.  All we can do is make the decision that we want to be happy, learn the lessons from those who have been, and honor those who were less fortunate by appreciating what we have in our lives.  This is my way of honoring not only those who were killed by the Nazis, but those who survived as my parents did.  By studying the past, telling the story, and having a better, more clear perspective.

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The Luxuries American Jews do not have

benchdg

As Jews there are 3 things we do not have the luxury of doing.  We can not shy away from identifying the perpetrators.  If these were isolated incidents maybe, but since they are happening with alarming frequency we can not. The next thing we can not do is allow politics to distract us from the problem.  Depending on your personal spin you could waste your time blaming either side of the aisle.  And lastly, but most importantly, we can not remain silent. The order of the first 2 are interchangeable, while number 1 is unquestionably the most important of the 3.  Silence is not an option.

Although an argument can be made that there is no evidence that the increasing attacks by black individuals against Orthodox  Jews is an organized effort, it is a growing and disturbing trend, and if in the name of liberal tolerance we do not address it for what it is, we will be complicit in its ongoing development.  Furthermore, it is my belief that we would not be helping the black community in the process.  The fact that the severity and frequency of the attacks is a newer phenomenon indicates that this is not something that is encouraged or condoned in those communities.  I am sure there have been tensions in some areas for a long time, but the majority of Americans are not criminals who randomly attack other Americans.  Why is this important?  Because for this to end we need to solicit the help of black communities.  We can’t do that if we’re afraid to admit so much is coming from there in the first place.

The political issue is a big one, because like it is doing in so many other areas of American society, the position people take towards party and leadership has become so important they find ways to justify their position, rather than look at things clearly and honestly.  Since the increase in attacks I have consistently heard from people on the left how Donald Trump is to blame for the climate he has created in the country, while hearing from people on the right how Barack Obama and left wing liberals are to blame for what is taking place.  I have fellow Jews I care about on both sides of the political aisle, and I encourage them to continue the debate, but when we are under siege I urge them even more to recognize that we do not have the option of not working towards one common purpose.  Our personal safety.

And of course silence is not an option.  I am writing this today solely for that reason.  I am not so arrogant as to think I am going to say something that will make it all better, but I will try to lead by example.  Public officials in New York have reacted well, but the truth is that we can not allow them to get comfortable.  We have to make our voices heard.  We have to write them, we have to call them, and we have to organize rallies with large numbers to keep their attention.  We have to demand that they fulfill their number one responsibility, and that is to keep us safe.  We have to show that when we say NEVER AGAIN that we truly mean it.

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Making sure of NEVER AGAIN starts with our choices

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Over the past year or two I have progressively shied away from being political in my posts.  It’s not because I do not have opinions. That couldn’t be further from the truth.  I probably could write an opinion about every meal I eat.  I don’t have to look for an opinion to share. If anything I have to control myself from sharing every opinion I have, something I am happy to say I have learned to do.  But today I will share a political opinion.  Because today the Jewish people, I dare say all of humanity finds itself at an increasingly dangerous crossroads, and being the child of Holocaust survivors and a person who is committed to doing his part in helping to make sure it truly never does happen again, I can no longer remain quiet.

I am not about to endorse or attack one particular political party.  I know many who think like me when it comes to  the safety of Israel and the Jewish people tend to trash the Democrats because of how the far left of the party has in many ways gone off the rails, but when push comes to shove there is a very good chance that a more centrist, moderate, pro-Israel friend of the Jewish people, maybe even a  pro-Israel Jew, will get the nomination.  Hopefully then the choice will be between 2 individuals that at least don’t want to see harm come to us and the choice can be about other factors. This is more about a litmus test.

If, in light of  increasing attacks, attacks that have gone beyond disgraceful vandalism and have reached the point of violent attacks and murder, anyone as a Jew is prepared to support a candidate that is openly in favor of movements calling for Israel’s collapse or supportive of Jew-haters, you are making a critical mistake.  Although I have been open about the fact that I am not Donald Trump’s biggest fan, I have said numerous times that I would work for his campaign before I would vote for Bernie Sanders.  Hurray for the Brits and their statement against the vicious anti-Semite Jeremy Corbyn in the recent election.  He wasn’t only defeated, he was basically crushed into what will hopefully wind up as retirement and political oblivion (even worse than that wouldn’t devastate me either).  But what we are learning now should tell you, if you weren’t ready to admit it or informed enough to know it already, something very important about people like Bernie Sanders.  In the following Washington Post article you can read about how the day after the British election Bernie Sanders called Jeremy Corbyn to congratulate him on a good campaign and when asked where he got his campaign ideas Corbyn replied, “well, you actually”. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2017/07/13/britains-corbyn-i-got-my-ideas-from-bernie-sanders/

Besides hoping that Bernie Sanders’s career takes the same turn Corbyn’s has, what does it tell you about him that he buddies up with the likes of Corbyn, Omar and Tlaib while wanting nothing to do with Benjamin Netanyahu.  I don’t think liking Netanyahu and his government is a litmus test for who to support, but who you pick as your friends certainly should be, especially in light of criticism that is more like an onslaught against Israel than it is an expression of concern.

I have often said that I can not hate anyone that clearly likes Jewish people as much as Donald Trump does.  That being said, I have also stated that you can love people and have nothing but their well-being in mind and still not be good for them.  In other words, just because I believe President Trump is far more friend than foe of the Jewish people, the jury is still out whether or not he is good for us.

While I wait to see who the Democrats will choose as their nominee in the current election and reserve the right to keep who I vote for to myself, at least for now, I will declare that their are lines that as a Jew I will not cross.  Any candidate that comes even close to supporting the BDS Movement will not get my vote.  The Boycott, Divestment, Sanction Movement is a movement that in its very name reveals that it is not about the well-being of the Palestinians, it is about bringing Israel to its knees.  Anyone who supports that is, in my estimation declaring themselves to not only be anti-Semitic, they are wittingly or unwittingly complicit in the recent and increasingly frequent attacks.  I will make a very strong effort to distinguish between those who oppose the policies of Israel’s current government, something many Israelis and fellow Jews I like and respect do, but those who support crippling Israel as a tactic are not only wrong, they are dangerous.  Whether they are Jewish or not.

During the Nazi occupation of Europe there were Jews who were as dangerous for the Jewish people as any complicit non-Jew.  Although it will never be something someone will brag about, fear might be an excuse for doing nothing.  It is however not an excuse for being a traitor to your people.  We also live in an age with cable news and social media when ignorance is no longer an excuse. Subsequently I will say emphatically that NEVER AGAIN starts right here.  NEVER AGAIN means not accepting someone who openly declares a policy that hurts Israel and the Jewish people.  It means not supporting someone who puts his support for Jew haters above his support for Jews and it means understanding that although it is acceptable to oppose the policies of an Israeli government, being anti-Israel is today’s anti-Semitism.  And NEVER AGAIN means that when you have the opportunity to speak, be it literally or through your vote, you start by not tolerating someone who shows no concern for your survival.  All of our lives may very well depend on it.

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Bram’s Violin: New Page on Holland’s Heroes

BRAM’S VIOLIN

 

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My Uncle Bram Rodrugues, killed at the age of 18 in Auschwitz in 1943


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?

benchdg2

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

ISISLeader

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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