Author Archives: davidgroen1

Why I am obligated to remember 9/11

Each time I thought about what to write on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks I came up with something different. I wanted to recount what I saw and how I felt that day. I wanted to talk about an answer I got from a relative who was born after it happened when I asked her how she perceived it when hearing about it as an event in history. Finally I thought about writing about how I wonder and question what we actually have learned from that day. My head was spinning so much I decided not to write anything. It was then that I realized what I needed to write, and that it would be short and poignant. So here it is.

There are some things we are obligated to remember whether we want to or not. When it comes to moments, days or periods of time of horror, it’s not a competition. So while I know the numbers of deaths pertaining to some events may be significantly higher, it does not diminish the importance of remembering 9/11. I remember how almost everyone I met post 9/11 either knew people who perished, people who were there and survived, or were one degree away at most from knowing someone who was there. I fall into the category of knowing or having known people who were there or in close proximity. That being said, the reason I am obligated to remember this day is because of what I saw, what I heard and even what I smelled.

I saw the first tower burning from my apartment in Queens. I saw people crying on the streets. Most notably an older couple who looked as though they may have had a child in one of the buildings. I saw people covered in grey ash as I crossed the 59th street bridge. And I saw trails of smoke from where the towers once stood.

I heard the sirens all over the city. I heard the sounds of throngs of people walking uptown, without hearing many voices as so many were stunned into silence. I heard people crying around every turn. And I heard radios blasting everywhere with only one thing broadcasting, the news of what was perceived to have taken place.

I smelled a smell that I almost do not want to describe, as it may very well have been that of structures burning and people dying. I smelled it on 9/11 and I smelled it for days to come.

It is an awful truth that mankind is capable of terrible evil, but it is also true that ignoring it, acting like it never happened not only does not make it go away, it adds fuel to the fire. We need to remember 9/11 because if good remains silent it leaves a vacuum far too often occupied by evil. So not only do I urge everyone to remember, I urge everyone to do something good in honor of those killed on that day. Even if it is just hugging someone you love. Remember the day and do it honor by filling the void with goodness.

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Why understanding accountability during the High Holiday is a gateway to happiness


The world we live in is filled with uncertainty.  Even before COVID-19 sent us into uncharted territory, economic challenges, regional conflicts and bad actors on both the local and global stage had us concerned not only for the well-being of future generations, but for our immediate future as well.  There are so many questions to which we seek the answer. Fortunately, if we are able to identify it, the answer to the most important one is within our grasp. That question is, how do we deal with everything life is throwing at us?  If we understand an important lesson of the upcoming High Holidays, we open our minds and hearts to understanding how best to move forward in difficult times.While much of the secular New Year is fundamentally different from Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, there are some critical and meaningful similarities that may be of greater importance today than they have been in many of our lifetimes.  The true observance of Rosh Hashanah is not structured around counting down the end of one year and starting another, nor is the celebration meant to be in party form with music and champagne.  The Jewish New Year, while not a sad holiday by any means, if properly understood is a deep holiday of critical religious and spiritual importance to the year ahead.  While that is something not normally associated with the secular New Year, it does begin to represent the place where the days have some significant similarities.  Maybe most importantly, when it comes to self- introspection and improvement.The idea of a New Year’s resolution is a positive and life affirming concept.  What we resolve to do is a reflection of what we deem important and the type of person we are, and the idea of making ourselves better in its basic form is a positive endeavor.  In simplistic terms it is what is most similar between the secular and Jewish New Years.  But if we look deeper we actually find that what differentiates the 2 holidays is most represented by the concept we deem most similar.A New Year’s resolution is for the most part, a promise to ourselves.  We want to do something important in our lives or we want to develop or improve a character trait or ability.  We often make New Year’s resolutions with a calm smile and relaxed demeanor.  After all, as much as we would like to do that which we set out to do, at the end of the day, should we fail, we are not accountable to anyone other than ourselves.  The greater accountability that provides us, the stronger character we have and the greater chance we have of accomplishing our goals.  But the reality is that even the very strong, while demanding of themselves, feel somewhat less pressured, knowing that they made that rule for themselves.Gale Sayers, the great Chicago Bears Running Back, was widely known for his friendship with his teammate Brian Piccolo who died of cancer in June of 1970.  He told the story of the friendship in his book “I am Third”, in which he stated, “The Lord is first, my friends are second, I am third”.  In thinking about the critical aspect of Rosh Hashanah, this quote came to mind.   The idea of putting God first, loved ones second, and ourselves third, speaks directly to the idea of true accountability.  In many ways it is the same as the idea of Bayn Adam L’Makom and Bayn Adam L’Chaveyroo, which translates into Between man and God, and Between man and his friend. Jewish commandments are divided into those 2 categories. Commandments relating to the relationship and actions for God, and commandments relating to the actions towards our fellow human being.  Ultimately these 2 categories create a breeding ground for true accountability.To some, accountability implies difficulty and hardship.  The extra effort and emotional investment connected to accountability is seen by some as a negative.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  Accountability is not the gateway to pressure and exhaustion, it’s the gateway to true happiness.  It makes us focus on that one thing in life which we have the best chance of controlling, our thoughts and our actions.  It allows us to create a breeding ground for personal growth, improved relationships, and a more promising future.  It’s everything that so much of today’s society is not.  It is not about finger pointing, assigning blame, or criticizing on social media. It is about looking at ourselves, being honest about who we are and making ourselves better.  It is what Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are all about.While the secular New Year stands alone as a day by itself, Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of a 10-day period culminating in Yom Kippur. It is a time when we look into our hearts, see what we’ve done wrong, what we can do better, and how best to move forward.  Our accountability to God and our fellow human being is meant to guide us in the year ahead.  If we do this, while it is unrealistic to expect everything will be perfect in our lives, I can promise you the following.  Your life will improve and you will be happier.  You will be closer to controlling the one thing, and maybe the most important thing that you can control. Your thoughts and actions.May God give all of you the strength to look to yourselves, accomplish your goals and have a wonderful year head.Shana Tova.  


Remembering my time with Jackie Mason

It was a warm and sunny Sunday afternoon around 6 years ago and I decided to go into the city and enjoy some time walking in and around Central Park.  Towards the later part in the afternoon I sat down in an area near 58th street to do some people watching.  Looking around I suddenly noticed the man himself, Jackie Mason.  This was the second time I had seen him relatively up close, the previous time being a few years back in an all-night deli on 7th Avenue when I walked up and said hello the way a fan does when they encounter a celebrity.  So this time, seeing him nearby and on his cell phone, I made eye contact with him and nodded my head in respect.  He proceeded to walk in my direction, stood about 6 feet from me and finished his phone call.  After putting his phone in his pocket, he walked towards me and the following dialogue ensued.

Jackie Mason: “ Do I know you?”

Me: “No, but I met you once about a year and a half ago in a deli around the corner.”

Jackie Mason: “You think I should remember you?”

Me: “No, but I’m a big fan.”

Jackie Mason: “Did you ever see me on Broadway?”

Me: “No, sorry. I never did.”

Jackie Mason: “So now I know 2 things about you.  Number 1, you’re an egomaniac.  You think I should remember you from a year and a half ago.  Number 2, you’re a f..ing liar. You say you’re such a big fan but you couldn’t spend $20 to see me on Broadway.”

After he grinned and I laughed, the conversation went on and got a little more serious. I told him who I was, a little about my history and of course, about my book Jew Face. I asked him if there was anything he might be able to do to help me get my book out there.  He in turn took my phone number, said he might know some people and said he would be in touch.

And so began my friendship with Jackie Mason.

I am not sure if it was the next day or 2 days later when I received a call from him inviting me to sit and meet with him and a few others in a café in Manhattan.  While it turned out that neither the people I met with that night nor any other night when joining him in the future would be able to do much to help my writing career, it soon did not matter to me.  I was hanging out with Jackie Mason and it was fun.

While I can only speak to the part of his lifestyle to which I was exposed, it was very specific and very consistent.  He would go out to dinner with one group of people, and the later in the evening go out for desert and a drink, be it coffee or soda in a café or diner with a second group of people.  While I was part of a group he himself selected, it nevertheless was a group, and it appeared that he would decide who it was he wanted to hang with on any given evening and they would be called and asked to join him.  In the beginning I was invited to the after dinner get-togethers, and while I don’t remember all the places I was invited to, I specifically remember the Applejack Diner, located on 55th street and 7th Avenue, Juniors, famous for its cheesecake, and the iconic Sardis, located in the heart of Broadway.  To sit at a table in Sardis with someone who had his cartoon picture hanging up in Sardis, was beyond cool for me.  And naturally, when walking the streets of Manhattan with a celebrity of Jackie Mason’s caliber, many people would stop and greet him, and very often ask for a picture with him.  And if the person rubbed him the right way, they would get one.

Eventually I would be invited to some of the dinners with him as well.  One time being in a French restaurant on the Upper East Side when one of the people joining us was his friend and high profile lawyer Raoul Felder.  While I am by no means shy and I have the confidence to feel comfortable in the company of just about anyone, I also knew these people lived in a very different world than I did, so I was almost never the biggest talker at the table.  I often spoke about my book and my parents’ story when being introduced by Jackie to someone new which more than likely was why he had a nickname for me.  To Jackie Mason I would be known as the “Holocaust guy”.

The man loved politics. I always wondered if part of it was so that he would have enough material to make fun of at least some of it, but when he sat down and discussed his views he did so with a passion.  While his interest in politics was strong, he never struck me as being partisan.  Without getting into specifics, I still remember him equally hating different high profile politicians on 2 opposite sides of the aisle.  His love for politics was so strong that if there was a major political event taking place, he was more interested in following the programming than he was the people he might have been with at the time.

He told a story of how Rodney Dangerfield once walked into a restaurant and started yelling at him, claiming that he had stolen his part in Caddyshack 2.  It didn’t seem to bother him much and he seemed to actually see it as a funny story, especially since according to him Dangerfield had actually turned down the part.

There were 2 moments I remember clearly from my time with Jackie Mason.  The first was crossing the street with him one late night, seeing him take his good old time not crossing at an intersection, and practically bear hugging him to pull him out of the way of an oncoming car.  While he was fine with me doing what I did, very possibly saving his life, it wasn’t such a big deal to him because he wasn’t concerned. It helped me realize that part of what made Jackie Mason special was his lack of fear.  Lack of fear of what anyone thought of what he had to say, and lack of fear of an oncoming car.  Frankly, as someone who cared, I am relieved and happy he ended up passing away of natural causes.

The second moment was being invited up to his apartment.  It was just once and just to meet him before we went to meet people at a café, but it still felt like an honor to be given that degree of trust and access to someone of his stature.

I remember him liking his favorite tables where he went, not eating anything with a face, and starting so many conversations with, Hello Hello.

One evening we were sitting outdoors at Applejack Diner and a man came over and engaged him in conversation.  Apparently the man had seen Jackie at the Catskills in the past and knew some of the same people.  When the man asked him if still ever performed in the Catskills, in that classic Jackie Mason form he replied, “No. I passed away.”

And now he has indeed passed away.  While my time being part of his circle ended over 4 years ago, I remember the man fondly.  That being said, I know that to many he a controversial figure.  His humor wasn’t for everyone, he never held back his opinions, and he chose to live his life the way he wanted, regardless of whether or not fan, friend or family approved.  I can honestly say that if I had to judge the man I would be lost.  Since that was not my role nor place in his life I never tried and never will.  I do know that there were 2 things about him that I loved.  He was proud to be a Jew and he was funny.  So very proud and so very funny.

 May he rest in peace.

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Jew Hatred will grow even worse if Jewish people find it acceptable

When Michael Che of Saturday Night Live made his joke about Israel only vaccinating the Jewish half of the country, it struck me as ironic that he was sitting next to a man who is married to a Jewish woman. Chances are some time soon after he made his joke he proceeded to head to what is likely a fairly nice home paid for by the salary he earns from the jokes he tells on a program created and run by a Jewish man.

Yesterday we learned of Myers Leonard, a fairly useless basketball player, playing for a team owned by a Jewish man, in an organization run by a Jewish man, comfortably and exuberantly using the term “kike” on a video game live stream.

Che’s joke, was presented in SNL’s satirical newscast this past February. The joke went as follows:

Israel is reporting it has vaccinated half of its population, and I’m going to guess it’s the Jewish half.

The joke, which clearly expresses the opinion that Israel is a country that only cares about its Jewish population, is in its nature an ant-Semitic one. While I think cancel culture is running amok, I am not ashamed to say that in one joke most of the appreciation I had for Che’s talents evaporated into nothingness. But what struck me even more was the grin on the face of his partner in the segment, Colin Jost. Jost is married to Scarlett Johansson who herself is Jewish, and somehow seemed to find a joke likely to strengthen the resolve of Jew haters not only acceptable, but funny. Understanding that sometimes people react instinctively to something and regret it later, I googled during the week that followed and saw that Jost did indeed have a concern regarding his partner Che. His concern was that he didn’t know what to buy Che for his upcoming wedding. Meanwhile as the week went on and people expressed their disapproval for the joke, not a word from SNL’s Producer and Creator Lorne Michaels. However I realized that too might have been OK. Maybe his way of handling it was by having Che make an apology during the following week’s segment. Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, not a word from Che, and from Michaels, crickets.

In the case of the Myers Leonard incident, unlike some, I do not demand immediate action. Personally I will be satisfied to wait a few days as long as the action is appropriate. So while I take issue with the internal reaction to Michael Che, as I write this it is too early to speak to the actions of Miami Heat owner Micky Arison, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, both Jewish men. The Heat have said that Leonard will be away from the team and the NBA has said it is investigating, so let’s see how this is handled moving forward.

But as Jews we need to ask ourselves if we are willing to tolerate other Jews in power turning a blind eye to Jew hatred, particularly when we are speaking of Jews who seem to have zero tolerance for hatred towards other segments of society. It is appropriate to express anger and disapproval towards the Ches and Leonards of the world, but if we sit back and accept cynical apathy from our fellow Jews, we ultimately will find ourselves in very big trouble. People like Che and Leonard will certainly not care what we think, if the Jews that employ them tolerate their behavior. Part of our responsibility is to make our voices heard by our fellow Jews who speak of and work for social justice except when it comes to their fellow Jews. In doing so we are not just holding them accountable, we are holding ourselves accountable as well.

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In defense of Gina Carano and the fight against the misappropriation of Jewish suffering.

I am the son of Holocaust survivors.  I am an unapologetic Jewish man who has consistently spoken up against anti-Semitism.  I have often made a point of highlighting the dangers of over using Hitler and Nazi Germany as a comparison to the events of the day. So while you might find it surprising that I am using my platform to defend Gina Carano, I find it important that I do.

Carano, who until being fired a few days ago for comments described by representatives of her former employers Lucas Films as “abhorrent”, was let go after she posted the following tweet:

Jews were beaten in the streets, not by Nazi soldiers but by their neighbors…even by children.

Because history is edited, most people today don’t realize that to get to the point where Nazi soldiers could easily round up thousands of Jews, the government first made their own neighbors hate them simply for being Jews. How is that any different from hating someone for their political views?

In response, Lucasfilm fired her and said that it was based on “her social media posts denigrating people based on their cultural and religious identities”

To address this matter as it needs to be addressed, I go back to my initial statements regarding the dangers of comparing Hitler and or Nazis to events and people of today.  As a Jew and son of Holocaust survivors, it has not only been important to me to defend the Jewish people in whatever means available to me, but to understand history as well. The misrepresentation of history in order to make a political argument today, creates the risk of minimizing the events that took place in Europe between 1933 and 1945. It also muddies the waters in a way that brings people far closer to Holocaust denial than we may realize.  It creates a spiral of thought that moves society’s away from an understanding of the horrors that really took place.  Pedro Pascal, the Mandalorian himself, compared Trump supporters losing the election to the Nazis losing their power in 1945. While I do not have any reason to believe it was his intention, Pascal’s statements can be seen as not far removed from Holocaust denial. To compare the events of the last 4 years to the events that took place during the time of Nazi Germany does 2 things. It elevates evil behaviors of the previous American administration to inaccurate levels, while simultaneously lowering the understanding of the evil behaviors of Nazi Germany. This is not only wrong, but extremely harmful as well.

So then why am I defending the statement of Gina Carano? The truth is, I am not. I am defending her, not the tweet.  Personally I find her post to have some important truth to it and far removed from “denigrating people based on their cultural and religious identities”.  I understand the point trying to be made and think it is a valid and moral one.  I still think throwing around the Nazi comparisons have to stop and take some issue with her statement on that level alone. However, how is her tweet worse than that of Pedro Pascal’s and why should she lose her job for exercising what is an increasingly rapid death of her right to Freedom of Speech?

The truth is that she should not have lost her job any more than Pedro Pascal should have lost his.  Which makes you wonder what truly took place here.  Gina Carano has made no secret of her support for Donald Trump, while Pedro Pascal in his tweet makes it clear not only what he thinks of Donald Trump, but of his supporters as well. What is most fascinating to me is that when you read Carano’s tweet, there is no side taken in the argument. “Because history is edited, most people today don’t realize that to get to the point where Nazi soldiers could easily round up thousands of Jews, the government first made their own neighbors hate them simply for being Jews. How is that any different from hating someone for their political views?”, doesn’t reveal any current political viewpoint, other than an opposition to fermenting Jew hatred. To which I say to Gina Carano, thank you.  So with this in mind you have to wonder, was Carano fired because the powers that be truly found the statement to be “abhorrent”, or was it that they found her support of Donald Trump to be abhorrent?

If you are someone who is arguing in support of the firing of Gina Carano because you find her views to be anti-Semitic, I challenge you to make that argument.  If you are someone who is misappropriating her tweet in order to further your agenda, then I insist you find another group’s history of persecution to manipulate to your benefit, and if you are doing this in the name of defending me and my fellow Jews I say the following.  No thank you. I do not wish to have the memories of my family and 6 million Jews distorted in the name of your, at best misguided, at worst heinous and cynical approach towards Jewish history.

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The critical question for Jews who voted for Joe Biden

While questions about the outcome of the election may or may not need to get worked out in the courts, Democrats celebrate a win by Joe Biden in the 2020 US Presidential race. Unlike the hundreds of thousands of experts on social media, I make no claim to know much about voter fraud and election rules. I am at the mercy of the news media to tell me what happens.  Unless I see evidence to the contrary, I am neither qualified nor irresponsible enough to question the legitimacy of the outcome. I do however have the ability to observe and read the reactions of people, and as I see many of my fellow Jews declare their joy over the election of Biden, what I have not seen in many of their statements are the words “the Jewish people” or “the State of Israel”.  While  I do not sit in judgment over what makes someone a good Jew or a bad Jew, as it is not my place to do so, I do find this to be curious, and can’t help but examine and indeed question, why this might be the case.

Everyone of course has their reasons for feeling as they do and saying what they do. I know many people who have done a lot for Jews worldwide that fall into that group that voted for Biden, and I recognize that, but the appearance it gives is that for many Jewish people in America, the best interests of the Jews and Israel were just not an issue of major importance to them in this election. To be clear, I am not merely coming to this conclusion based on reactions to the result, but also from discussions or debates I had in person, on the phone or in social media prior to the election. If anything it appears as though one issue was more important to them than anything else. Their hatred for Donald Trump. 

Some make the argument that Trump is bad for Israel and stokes the flames of anti-Semitism in the United States. The debate has been conducted ad nauseum and I have no intention of restarting it, but I will say that this reminds me of something an old friend once said to me when we worked together as salespeople.   People buy with emotion, and justify it with logic. I present this concept here because I have to wonder if the hatred for the sitting president is so great that Jews around the country just convinced themselves he was bad for Israel and the Jews in order to justify their vote against him. Or do they really believe that a man that moved the embassy to Jerusalem, something promised by administrations for decades, recognized the Golan Heights as part of Israel, ripped up a deal that paved the way for Iran to have a nuclear bomb, and made peace treaties increasing security and prosperity for the Jewish state is actually an anti-Semite who is bad for Israel, or as many of his haters call him, another Hitler?

I don’t presume to know anyone’s motivation for what they say or do not say, but when one of my fellow American Jews goes on a rant about all the reasons they chose Joe Biden over Donald Trump, and the issue of Israel and the Jewish people is either an afterthought or an omission, I can’t help but get the impression that those issues were just lower on their list of priorities, if there at all.  I know the responses many will give is either a list of all the reasons they see Donald Trump as an awful human being, as an existential threat to American democracy and all the reasons they feel the things he has done do not actually make him good for the State of Israel. I’ve heard and read them all. What I have not heard from my fellow Jews and Zionists is why, as part of one or two of those groups they are happy that Joe Biden looks to be their next president. I, as both a Jew and a Zionist am not, and it mattered enough to me to be reason alone to vote for Donald Trump.

While I am not writing this to argue the merits of hating or loving Trump, it strikes me that the number one reason people have grown to hate him is more because they don’t like what he says than it is what he does. I won’t litigate the various issues that people apply this to, but I will say that as a Jew and son of Holocaust survivors, nothing seems more irresponsible to me than choosing someone who sounds nice over someone who has your back. I said before the election that I felt that no matter who wins the election I believe there are dark days ahead for the Jewish people in America. As a Jewish man who is not convinced that Joe Biden will have our backs, I express no optimism over how he will be good for us in the coming years. So naturally I didn’t express any optimism. But for my fellow Jews that voted for him and also didn’t express that optimism, are you holding your breath and hoping for the best, or is it just not an issue that mattered to you enough to dictate your vote?  That is a question that each and every one of you can only answer for yourselves.

Ultimately I tend to believe people vote for what they perceive to be in their own best interests.  If any Jewish voter doesn’t see the security of Israel and the protection of their Jewish communities as being in their own best interest, then they’ve learned little to nothing from history.   

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Remembering a Giant. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

This remarkable speech, give by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, given over 3 years ago, could just have easily been given today. Sadly it won’t be, as we mourn the loss of a man who was a Rabbi in the truest sense of the word, for he was indeed a teacher extraordinaire. I urge you to start watching this speech as I am fairly certain you will find it next to impossible to stop until it is completed. Here are 2 quotes from the speech that speak to the incredible relevance then, and the equal if not greater relevance now.

“The people not like us, are people just like us”

“The only people who will save us from ourselves is we the people”

The term giant should not be thrown around, and I am not apt to do so, but today I say without pause or hesitation that not just the Jewish world, but the entire world lost a giant. We remember Rabbi Jonathan Sacks of Blessed Memory.

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No matter who wins, I’ll still love you (or like you)

No this is not a post telling you to vote. I start that way because a lot of similar sounding blurbs usually are precursors to telling Americans to exercise their constitutional right to use their voice in the ballot box. However, the concept I will speak of, the concept of not relinquishing your power is not only meant for Americans. It is meant for anyone out there who is so caught up in what is thrust upon them in news and social media that they are in danger of losing sight of that which they actually can control.

As someone who generally does not allow what I read online or see in the news to have too much of an impact on my mood and overall outlook, I have not been someone who has sworn off social media and the multitudes of “news” sources. That being said, I sometimes think that all I am doing is wasting time I could be spending on more productive activities.  Maybe so, but what it really comes down to is what does it take to make my life better? Who do I hold responsible?  I know a lot of people who come across as though their future totally rests in the hands of the upcoming election.  While I have my own very strong personal opinions and believe the outcome of the election will have serious consequences in the future, I go into November 3rd being somewhat indignant.  I refuse to allow my entire future and happiness be dictated by who wins and who loses on election day.  I intend to control my own outlook and state of mind.  And I urge you all to do the same.

I recently posted the following on Twitter.

No matter what side you support in the US, tens to hundreds of millions of people are on the wrong side of history. That’s scary regardless of who is right.

While I do believe that, I also believe the United States of America is plagued by 2 very significant problems. First of all, many people struggle to think for themselves. Group think is a real thing. People find their influences and often duplicate the thoughts and words they pick up from those influences. Some might accuse me of the same, but the mere fact that I am willing to see fault in both sides helps me to believe that even if they’re correct about me, it could be a lot worse.  In order to prove my point and piss off most people who are reading this in one sentence I will make the following statement. Calling Donald Trump a Nazi and Joe Biden a socialist are examples of group think, and both incorrect statements.  You may insist you came up with either belief on your own, and it is not for me to say that you didn’t, but many believe and say one of those things as a result of being part of group think.

The other problem plaguing us, and I believe this is a problem that transcends politics and is very possibly one of the most harmful aspects of our current society, is the tendency to always look for someone to blame for what is wrong in our lives.  Of course sometimes someone is at fault for hurting you or your loved ones.  It would be naïve to say otherwise.  But the mindset of always looking for someone to blame, besides generally being futile, also causes us to move away from the most important thing we can do for ourselves.  And that is to become better people.  There are 2 kinds of people in our world that blame others for where they are in life.  The first are the kind who were hurt by a person, people or institution in a way that impacted their life significantly.  Not only do we tend not to judge those people, we find ourselves having tremendous respect for their ability to overcome the disadvantage their history afforded them.  The other kind of person is someone who uses blame as a crutch, always finding culpability in everyone other than themselves.  With politics as heated as it is, and as much at stake in the upcoming election as there is, people are all set to use the outcome of the election as the reason for why it all goes wrong moving forward.

While I recognize the importance of our leaders’ decisions, I urge each and every one one of you to make the following pledge to yourselves. Pledge to yourself, should you have the medical and psychological capability to do so, that you will be the one that controls your mindset.  That you will recognize what it is in your life that makes it special and meaningful.  Rather than using your energy on blaming others for what can and does go wrong, focus on working hard on making yourself better and stronger.  Be kinder, more considerate and more loving, and watch in joy as it ultimately comes back to you from somewhere, be it expected or not. Don’t allow a very self-serving media, on both sides of the aisle, to terrify you into action or lack of action. And make the most of today, because no matter who wins on election day, no one is promised tomorrow.

Finally, while I believe in God and it personally provides me with some degree of balance and strength, I know some high quality people who don’t necessarily share that same belief.  I say this because while my belief in God may either contribute or be at the core of what centers me, there are others that need to find something else to center them. I urge them to do so.  Hopefully that center will allow you to realize that if you are fortunate enough to get another day to live and hopefully improve your life, you have something to be grateful for and something that can, and should be motivating moving forward. And of course please know, that no matter who you vote for, if I love you today, I will love you equally the day after the election, even if one of us doesn’t get the outcome we wanted.

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A Yom Kippur message: A better world starts within ourselves, not by blaming others.

As almost everyone Jewish, and many non-Jewish people know, the holiday of Yom Kippur is rapidly approaching. This Sunday night when this solemn day begins, Jews all over the world will celebrate in whatever fashion they deem most appropriate to them. I wanted to speak to a theme that was different than most of the themes of the day, and somewhat unfortunately I found it to be a very easy thing to do. The theme I wish to focus on is that of personal responsibility.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not by any means saying that there is a mass neglect of individual accountability. For me to do so would not only be overly judgmental, it would be contrary to the theme of this piece. For if I am to make the point I wish to make, it is very simple to do so. All I need to do is look to myself first and foremost.

We live in a world where people are not only prone to finding blame, they are obsessed with it. In so many of the discussions we have nowadays, finding culpability in what ails our communities, countries and planet seems to be our number one priority. The tendency to do so is so great here in America that it has begun to resemble the beginnings of an actual Civil War. But I present the following question. Are we correct for assigning blame to those we find responsible for the problems we’re exposed to on almost a daily basis? Well the truth is that we have every right as human beings to use our cognitive abilities and moral compasses to reach conclusions and take whatever action we feel can be helpful in bettering our world. That being said, as Yom Kippur approaches, I for one realize that there is only one place to start this process ethically and honestly. That is by looking first to myself and my own behaviors and actions.

The reality is that if our priorities were to look at ourselves first we would be collectively much better off than we are today. Again, since I want to maintain some semblance of credibility I will look only to myself and mention those things I feel I must focus on before I look to change anyone else. For me personally, my strong belief in God helps to keep me humble. That being said, it’s far too easy for someone to be pleased with themselves, and I for one know that I will concentrate on having a greater amount of humility. My personal belief that God is the boss, so to speak, is enough of a basis for me to realize that ultimately the power does not lie with me.

I will do my best to be better to my fellow human being. Not just those who are like me, be it religiously, racially or philosophically, but all my fellow human beings. On Sunday night until Monday evening I will spend much, if not the majority of the day making my plea to God that I will be forgiven for those actions I’ve done wrong and for anything I have done to hurt others. Imagine the greatness of a world in which everyone tried to improve on that issue alone. I will watch my words. I will make every attempt to use my voice to say things that are positive and helpful, and use as little of my time speaking ill of others, something that always breathes life into negativity.

I will do my best to give of my time and effort to those who need my help. If I am not qualified to do so based on lack of qualifications, I will do my best to improve upon my qualities and work towards being someone who can make more of a difference in the future than I do today.

Lastly, I will look to set a good example. While I do not know if I will always succeed in doing so, partially because so many of us have varying opinions, I begin today by setting the example of looking to myself rather than to someone else in regard to what needs improvement. If we all looked to ourselves first we might just find we have much less time to blame others for everything we feel is wrong, and with any luck we will help others do the same. If we want a better world, we need to start by bettering our personal worlds, something we can only do that by bettering ourselves.

For anyone I did wrong or for anyone I caused any pain in the past year I ask your forgiveness, and I wish that we all see a healthy, safe, productive and happy year ahead.

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Open Letter to Desean Jackson in response to his anti-Semitic comments

DJDear Desean,

As a son of Holocaust survivors and a defender of the Jewish people I feel it is my obligation to address your recent comments. The initial quote, which you were happy to credit to Adolf Hitler, read as follows:

“(They) will extort America,” the quote read, “(and) their plan for world domination won’t work if the Negroes know who they were.”

You went on to indicate that you have great admiration for the Reverend Louis Farrakhan. Louis Farrakhan, the man who has referred to Judaism as “a deceptive lie and theological error”. To be frank, those are some of the nicest things he has said about my people. In a response to be called out for his anti-Semitism he replied, “When they talk about Farrakhan, call me a hater, you know how they do – call me an anti-Semite. Stop it, I’m anti-termite!”  He also once said, “I don’t care what they put on me. The government is my enemy, the powerful Jews are my enemy.”  And while I can go on for many pages, I leave you with one more.“Do you know that in Europe in every nation where they were, they led an industry in commerce in trade in banking? And the gentiles were angry with them because everywhere they went, they ruled. So the gentiles rose up against the Jews and persecuted them in Europe.” 

This is the man you said you have great admiration for, right around the same time that you made your initial anti-Semitic statement.  It has been suggested to me that your statement is based on nothing more than stupidity. In order to determine whether or not I believed that to be the case I decided to read some of your additional Twitter comments.  What I found were highly intelligent, often self-promoting comments from someone who clearly is very aware of what he is saying. I believe your statements to neither be ambiguous nor reticent.  On the contrary, you know how you feel and you are very comfortable sharing it with others, as is your right in the United States of America,  However, I too have a right to tell you how I feel, and therefore I ask you.  If you were in my position would you be satisfied merely because you apologized?

I do not remember a time in my life when I did not know about what the Jewish people went through during the reign of Hitler.  More specifically, I always knew what happened to my family, and as I got older I learned what my parents dealt with when they were at the same age as you were when you were catching footballs and living a great lifestyle with the money paid to you by none other than yes, your Jewish employer.  For 5 years  the Nazis occupied my parents native Holland. My father worked with the resistance but had to flee his neighborhood to survive, always on the run and never certain if he would live to see another day. My mother had to move from hiding place to hiding place knowing that if she were ever to be caught by the Germans, death would be welcome after what they would likely do to her.  She would sleep underground in what she said felt like a coffin for 16 months.  When the war ended my father would learn that his mother, father, sister and brother-in law were murdered by the Nazis and my mother would learn of the same fate befalling her father and brother.  Not to mention the additional relatives and friends they would never see again.  6 million Jews were murdered by the Nazis.  There were countless accounts of torture, medical experimentation, rape and beatings. And Desean, this goes back a mere 75 years. So I ask you again, would you be OK with what you said if you were in my shoes? Would you be so quick to accept an apology?

Let me offer a quote to you, from none other than the great poet and civil rights icon Maya Angelou.

When someone show you who they are, believe them the first time.

I do not accept your apology, nor will I till I hear you denounce the anti-Semitic comments made by the man you admire so much, Louis Farrakhan. When you do that, I will be willing to accept that you are truly sorry for your comments. Until that time I will see your apology as just a way to make sure you continue getting a very nice paycheck, signed by none other than the Jewish owner of the team you play for.

Sincerely,

David Groen

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