Category Archives: Uncategorized

Welcome to a World of Sociopaths

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I’m basically a Democrat. I have plenty of friends who are Republicans.  I often disagree with them, occasionally agree with them, and from time to time don’t want to even venture into a political discussion with them.  I’m not fan of our current president.  I have friends who love him. We will definitely disagree on how we feel about him, sometimes jokingly while sometimes with more intensity.  One thing we never do however, is physically hurt or attack each other.  Does that make us wonderful people? Absolutely not. It makes us normal people.  It makes us people who are not sociopaths. Unfortunately we live in a world crawling with sociopaths.  They can be Democrats, Republicans, black, white, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, man, woman, citizen or immigrant. But make no mistake. Sociopaths are all over the globe, be it someone who drives a truck through crowds of people in Nice, blows himself up in a concert in Manchester, mows down women and babies on a Jerusalem street with a car, goes on a shooting rampage at a baseball practice for American Congressmen, or on a lesser but still significant level a comedian who holds up what looks like a severed head of the President of the United States.

I believe and understand that everyone wants to be part of something.  I realize that so many people in the world are in search of a movement.  That being said, even those who choose movements, even those movements I hate and find damaging or hateful, are not sociopaths for being what I perceive as stupid or misguided.  Do they give a platform or strength to the crazy person that feels it is OK to hurt or kill?  Frankly I say no, and here’s why.

I am a somewhat liberal Jewish Democrat who does not like Bernie Sanders at all.  It would not be totally abhorrent to me to blame him for what happened in Alexandria, Virginia since the shooter was a Sanders supporter. However, as much as I dislike Bernie, he is not the reason the shooter, James Hodgkinson, was crazy enough to go on a shooting rampage at a bi-partisan baseball practice with children present.  Somehow this man felt that he could do whatever he wanted to do no matter how vicious, hateful or violent it was. It’s one thing when dictators preach violence and murder against a segment of society, it’s something entirely different when a politician speaks angrily against policies. What happened was not Bernie Sanders fault.  But it is critically important to note that it also was not Donald Trump’s fault.  It’s society’s fault.

We are all very focused on the behavior of radical Islamic terrorists and for good reason. That being said, we need to make sure to pay close attention to our own house, because while we sit back and focus our concerns on other nations, we are a nation with it’s very own rising population of sociopaths, and until we find a way to stem this very dangerous tide, I fear more and more people will get hurt or killed.  My suggestion, and if President Trump follows through on this and has success this will be his legacy, is to appoint a Mental Health Czar. This would be a man or woman entrusted with understanding and dealing with the psychological issues facing so many people today.

Someone said to me earlier today that James Hodgkinson shot up the baseball field because he was mad that Trump won the election.  But that’s not the case. The reason he went on a shooting rampage against Republicans at a baseball practice is very simply because he was a sociopath.  He somehow felt his behavior was acceptable or justified. It’s very easy to blame the “other side” for all the bad that happens, and that is acceptable when it deals with policy, but when it deals with violence it’s time all of us normal people, the ones who don’t believe injuring or murdering people is acceptable behavior, remember this one very critical thing. We’re all on the same side.  When we start looking at it that way we may be on the way to saving the future of our very fragile society.

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Words do matter

A man walks down a street filled with trees.  All he hears above him is the chirping of birds.   He smiles as he walks, thinks nothing of it, believing it to be nothing but noise in the background.  As he emerges from the street his clothing and hair covered with bird poop, he realizes this has turned out to be more that just a lot of noise and a minor annoyance.  This is now a big mess.  He stops in exasperation and a very stately and large bird flies in front of him, perches itself on a fence, winks at him and says, “this is what happens when you think tweets don’t mean anything.”

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Yell at the enemy, not each other

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When I heard about the Manchester terror attack, one of the things that went through my mind was that it was the first time since my mother passed away on April 19th that I actually felt ironically and sadly happy she wasn’t alive to see it. It would have broken her heart.  As it did for everyone decent with a heart. There are many people with many different political ideologies and strategies on how to handle terrorism, but the one thing I can say for sure is that the majority of them were devastated by what happened and despite the likelihood that it will be repeated in some manner,  hope and pray something like this never happens again.

But apparently that is not good enough for some people. There are many who feel if your solution isn’t their solution you are now part of the problem.  As is so often the case, it is easier to go after the people who would never hurt you than it is to go after the ones that would be happy to hurt you. Calling a liberal a name for not being what you see as tough enough or calling a Conservative a fascist for what you may consider an extreme position against terrorism certainly is a lot easier than  screaming and shouting at the real bad guys.  I am an open critic of President Donald Trump, but one thing I won’t criticize him for is calling ISIS a bunch of losers.  Is the language “presidential”? Maybe not. But first of all it is true, and second of all it is a lot better than coming out and ranting and raving about how this is the fault of liberals.  So in this instance I not only support him and commend him, I urge people to follow his example.

You may think someone is misguided for their approach, but should you be yelling and screaming at the person who bemoans that they want to see peace between all people and all faiths? Should you put down the more militant type that is so mad at the brutality and evil taking place that they want blood?  The answer to both questions is no, you should not.  It is possible that one side is very right and the other very wrong or that the answer lies somewhere in the middle, but one thing is certain.  Neither of these people from either side are the real enemy and to lose sight of this does more to help the terrorists than it does to hurt them.  Debate the other from whatever side you sit on, but do not lose sight of the fact that most people, even those on an opposing side from yours want exactly the same thing.  A peaceful and secure life.

When we fight each other we give the true enemy a significant victory, something mostly everyone who will read this, be they to the far left or far right does not want to happen. Remember that and who knows?  Maybe we’ll get a lot closer to finding a real solution rather than just shout at each other trying to prove how smart we are.

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“Lemerlerveld was the best”

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A brief introduction for those who don’t read Dutch and don’t know the backstory. During the war, when my father moved my mother from hiding place to hiding place in order to keep her safe, it was not till she reached the home of Lubertus & Geeske te Kiefte that she was somewhere she would be safe and fed till the end of the war. The te Kiefte’s saved my mother at tremendous personal risk and had it not been for them it’s very possible she would not have survived the war. The 4 of them, my parents and the te Keiftes, not only kept in touch after the war, they became close to the point of being family. The picture attached to this post is that of their only surviving daughter Nina sitting with my mother in Florida this past March, and the attached writing in Dutch is the article submitted by Nina and her husband Harm in loving memory of the woman they called Tante(Aunt) Sip to Lemerlerveld’s media outlet the Lemerlervelder.  With the help of an online translation and a little bit of cleaning up on my part you can read the article in English.  You can also click the link and see how the article appears in the newspaper.  My warmest thanks to Harm for his efforts in getting this done. It is visual evidence of the miracle that was Lemerlerveld and the te Kieftes.

CLICK THIS LINK TO SEE HOW ARTICLE APPEARS IN THE PAPER ON PAGE 7

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Copy for the Lemelervelder.

“Lemelerveld was the best”
Commemorating Sipora Green – Rodrigues Lopes 01-01-1923 – 19-04-2017

On the 10th of  April it is 72 years ago that Lemelerveld was liberated by the Canadian Army. During the war Lemelerveld was a welcoming village for many people who were persecuted by the Nazis or for those with a shortage of food the long journey toward the east.

Sipora Groen – Rodrigues Lopes came as a young Jewish woman of 22 through her many wanderings to Lubertus and Geeske te Kiefte at the Kerkstraat, where she used the pseudonym “Tini” for the almost one and a half years that the family took her in.
In these war years she learned to know her future husband Nardus Groen (Alias Jan Henraat) which together with Bertus te Kiefte was closely linked with the local resistance in Lemelerveld.

On 19 April, Sipora Groen at the age 95, died after a short illness in Florida.
Until shortly before her death she was still active in life and shared her story through lectures in American schools and drove her car daily on the busy highways.
The friendship between the Groens and the Kieftes continued after the war and will always remain as the families have regularly visited each other over and over again.
During the last visit in March this year Sipora said again how she was impressed by the hospitality of the Lemelerveldse population in hiding her. “Lemelerveld was the best” she repeated a few times. “Everyone was good, with one exception. But he was warned! If he would open his mouth he would be finished and he took it to heart.”

The photo is of Sipora Groen and Dientje Kuijper-te Kiefte, 13 March 2017 during this visit.

“Lemelerveld was the best”
photo taken by: Harm Kuijper

in 2012 has David Groen, the youngest son of Sipora, wrote a book about the adventures of his parents during the war called “Jew Face” (Jodenkop) also has much to read about Lemelerveld.

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An Angel Departs

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I sit here today writing what is without  question the most difficult thing I have ever had to share with you. This morning, my beautiful and loving mother Sipora Groen passed away peacefully in her home in Florida.  She was the most remarkable person I’ve ever known.  Her love of life was inspirational to everyone who knew her. When my father died 10 years ago, my mother lost her partner in life of more than 60 years.  She mourned him when he left her and remembered her for the remainder of her life, but rather than let her life wither away she reinvented herself and lived a full life till the very end.

I started Holland’s Heroes to honor those whose strength and character helped keep the Jewish people alive after the devastation of the Holocaust. There were soldiers that fought the Germans, member of the resistance such as my father who battled the evil whenever possible, the martyrs murdered by the Nazis, and the survivors that rebuilt their world. No one exemplified that last group better than my mother.  With the loss of her father, brother, fiance and either running and hiding from the Nazis or witnessing their evil for close to 5 years, my mother, together with my father, the man who helped her through that awful time,  went on to build a new life rich with 5 children, 12 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.

My mother lost her mother when she was a young child of 13 and with the war and its horrors of 5 years lived a life filled with the saddest and most terrifying of memories. Despite all of that she was a woman filled with joy, enthusiasm, optimism, and most of all, love.  But she was also a woman who slept with nightmares.  She experienced everything life had to offer with the exception of one thing, and that was what she is finally experiencing today, as the nightmares end, and that is the peace she deserves so much.

Sipora Groen was loved by everyone who knew her, being called Mom and Oma by countless people who were thrilled to have her in their lives.  What I and my siblings have lost today can never be replaced, as God has opened up his doors for the angel that is my mother.  I have been so truly blessed to have the love and to have loved this wonderful woman, and today this world has lost a true hero.

In the past 10 years she has enjoyed most of what her life had to offer, always missing just one thing, and that was the man she loved, my father, Nardus Groen.  Today they are reunited and my Mom is finally at peace.  I love you Mom and always will.

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Purim 2017 as it might have been reported on FOX or MSNBC

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So there was King Achasveirosh, definitely not known as a righteous man but entirely evil per se, being influenced by his evil adviser Haman, a man who wanted to eliminate the Jewish people.  If not for Esther, a woman who had tremendous influence over the king, and Mordechai, the Jew in the highest of positions and the man closest to Esther, Ahashverush would have listened to Haman and awful things would have happened.

So does that mean as long as Donald Trump doesn’t listen to Steve Bannon because he is infuenced otherwise by his daughter Ivanka and her Jewish husband Jared Kushner everything will be alright?  I guess it depends on whether you read out of a Red Megillah (FOX) or a Blue one(MSNBC).

SPOILER ALERT: Bannon isn’t calling for the anihilation of the Jews or any other group, Ivanka is the daughter not the wife, Jared is the husband not the  Uncle, and Donald Trump is no King.

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On International Woman’s Day: A Tribute to the Famous Woman I admire most. My mother

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Today is International Woman’s Day and one of my social media friends posted the question, “Which famous woman do you admire most?”  Although my initial reaction was to say Golda Meir, I chose to change my answer to Sipora Groen.  Sipora Groen is my mother, and although my book about my parents and how they survived the 4 years of Nazi occupation in Holland isn’t the bestseller I naturally hoped it would be, I think enough people know about my mother to classify her as famous.  If that’s not enough, let me tell you why how admirable she is makes up for where you may not consider her famous enough for this discussion.

Sipora Rodrigues-Lopes was born in Amsterdam on January 1, 1922.  Sipora lost her mother when she was a young girl of only 13 and  was left with a large share of the responsibility in raising her younger brother Bram.  Prior to the war Sipora fell in love and got engaged to a young man named Hans.  At the outbreak of the war in Holland she was studying to be a nurse, and when the Nazis occupied Amsterdam and began the process of rounding up the Jews and transporting them to the death camps, Sipora was living in the nurse’s quarters of the Jewish hospital.  Her personal life was turned upside down seemingly forever when not only her father and brother fled Amsterdam to ultimately be captured and murdered by the Nazis, but the love of her life and fiance Hans was taken away to Auschwitz.  Alone and feeling hopeless, all she had was the work she had taking care of the sick patients.  If not for Nardus Groen, my father of blessed memory,  the man she would later spend her life with, she likely would have been transported to her death along with the majority of the patients.  Instead she began a journey with Nardus through the Dutch countryside that took her from place to place, through homes of righteous Dutch people who put the value of life over religious belief or personal danger.  Ultimately she ended up in the home of Lubertus & Geeske te Kiefte, the righteous and courageous couple that risked sacrificing everything in order to give her a safe home in the small town of Lemerlerveld for almost a year and a half until the war ended.

As the war ended in Europe, Nardus joined the Dutch Marines to help in the fight against the Japanese, not knowing till later that Sipora was pregnant with his child.  Part of the reason Nardus didn’t know was because originally Sipora didn’t know.  She took a job in a local hospital when upon feeling tired and worn down she was told by the Director of the hospital that she was indeed with child.  She moved back to Amsterdam only to find her home now occupied by the housekeeper who was with the family before the war.  The housekeeper pushed Sipora to leave the house despite her now advanced pregnancy, forcing her to take a very small apartment with very little heat in winter. If not for the help of her father’s childhood friend who gave money for her new home, Sipora might have found herself pregnant and homeless right right after spending 5 years running and hiding from the Nazis and losing so many of the people closest to her.  Just a few months after the birth of her son Marcel, Sipora would contract the lung disease known as pleurisy and would spend months in the hospital away from what felt like the one hope she had in life, her newborn son.

With his love for Sipora and a now a son, Nardus chose to leave the military and return to Holland where he would try to help rebuild the now decimated Jewish community.  He would be ordained as a Rabbi and start the process of building a family with Sipora who was now his wife.

Nardus and Sipora would have 5 children and would move often from place to place.  They ended up in America in the late 1950’s where they would live till 1976.  In 1976 they would move back to Holland where Nardus would take over a synagogue in the town of Arnhem while taking on responsibilities of the Jewish communities in 6 provinces throughout the country.  At the same time Sipora would become Director of the Jewish old age home in Arhem where she would be loved and respected by residents and employees alike.   After years of hard work between the 2 of the them, and setting themselves up for their senior years, Nardus and Sipora would retire, first to the Dutch seaside town of Zandvoort and later to Boynton Beach, Florida.

On June 13 of this year it will be 10 years since my father Nardus Groen passed away.  I’ve learned this about my mother during the time since his death.  This is in many ways my mother Sipora’s 5th life.  The first life, the most innocent and peaceful was the one she lived till the age of 13 when she lost her mother.  The second was the next 5 years, a time of peace in Europe but a time of both love and difficulty for Sipora.   The 3rd, and unquestionably the hardest was the 5 years of the war, a time we can try to comprehend but never fully understand.  The 4th were the relatively normal but still often very difficult years following the war, where she and Nardus worked hard and sacrificed to raise 5 children, experiencing all the trials and tribulations any family would during decades of normal life.  This was the longest of her lives to date as it would last till the death of Nardus over 60 years later.

The 5th life, and in some ways the most remarkable one is the one she is living now.  It is the life she has lived since my father’s death 10 years ago.  On January 1st Sipora Groen turned 95 years old.  This is a woman who reinvented herself upon becoming a widow while simultaneously honoring the memory of the man she still loves today.  She drives, she shops, she host Mahjong games, threw her own 95th birthday party on her own insistence, takes plane and train rides alone, is an active member of her synagogue and even has her own Facebook account. But what is most remarkable is the love of life she displays and the warmth she shows for family and friends, a warmth that can only be credited to a strength of will and character unimaginable to most of us.

In those moments when I would feel unreasonable self-pity I would sometimes ask myself, why can’t I be that guy?  The guy born into money with no worries, or the guy with incredible talent recognized by millions, or that person living the charmed life where very little ever goes wrong.  But not so long ago I realized I am that guy, because I am the son of a 95 year old mother who you just read about and who not only has gone through and achieved everything I wrote about, but has the incredible state of mind to enjoy it and share her joys with those around her.   You want to recognize someone admirable on International Woman’s Day, you need go no further than my mother, Sipora Groen.

 

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