Tag Archives: Jew Face

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.






Why this is my most important Tisha B’Av



This year, starting on the evening of August 10th till the evening of August 11th, the Jewish people commemorate the day known as Tisha B’Av, the 9th day of the Jewish month of Av.  It is the day that commemorates the destruction of both Holy Temples in Jerusalem and as it is universally recognized as the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, it is also a day in which the Jewish people remember the greatest tragedies in our history.  Specifically for those of us in this generation, the murder of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust.  For me personally, in many ways this is my most important Tisha B’Av.

When I wrote the book Jew Face, telling about my parent’s experiences in Holland during the Nazi-occupation, one of the most remarkable aspects of writing it was that I felt as though I went back into time and was with my parents as young adults.  This experience, for lack of a better term, was an incredibly “cool” experience and to be honest one I loved experiencing.  But as is the case with so much in life there is a flip side.  In my recent trip to Amsterdam that same, I guess I will call it sensation, returned for the first time since writing the book.  Except this time it was not as pleasant.  Walking through Amsterdam, specifically the former Jewish neighborhoods, I felt the horror that took place between 1940 and 1945.  Standing in front of what was once the “NIZ”, the Dutch Jewish Hospital,  I could almost sense the Nazi trucks approaching, the soldiers storming the building, and knew that I was within meters of the place where my mother shouted to the chief Nazi administrator, ” why are you doing this?”, to which he replied, “ask the Rabbis”.  I walked on the street that was likely my father’s favorite street on any given Shabbat and could feel what was once an incredible presence of Judaism.  I walked through the streets of Amsterdam at times feeling what I could only describe as the presence of ghosts in what to me was in some ways a graveyard of what was once a thriving Jewish community.

I recognize that I can not know how much of this experience was real and how much of it was just something I felt from within, but since it was more an experience than an overall state of mind I don’t feel it matters one way or another.  What does matter however, as I get close to the commemoration of the saddest day of the Jewish year, that I felt the greatest sadness I have ever felt as a Jew for the plight of my people.  Intellectually I have understood the importance of Tisha B’Av for much of my life.  Emotionally however, I have never understood as I do today, and go into it with an understanding that makes this my most important Tisha B’Av.  A Tisha B’Av in which I have a better emotional understanding of the pain and suffering this day honors and remembers, and the hope that that same pain and suffering is not only never something the Jewish people ever experience again, but that the evil that causes it is never given the power to do that anywhere again or to anyone again on this earth.








Does it make a difference?


In speaking with my mother, a Dutch survivor of the Holocaust, I have learned that Holocaust Remembrance Day is like any other day set aside for commemoration of an event.  In some ways it’s not really necessary.  Every day is, to some extent at least, a day in which the Holocaust is remembered.  For those who honor their parents as they should, who really needs Mother’s Day, right?

Maybe not.  Yes it is something that sticks with so many of us on a constant basis, but the question we really need to ask is what is the real purpose of a Holocaust Remembrance Day?  Especially one sanctioned by the United Nations of all things. An organization that has repeatedly shown disdain for, and prejudice against Israel and the Jewish people has a day in which they are saying everyone should remember the victims of the Holocaust during the reign of Adolph Hitler’s Nazi Party.  Is this day a day designed to strengthen world morality in order to see to it that no similar atrocity ever happens again?  Consequent actions and behaviors by the UN over the years certainly wouldn’t back that up.  Is it a satisfaction of guilt for a so-called world organization that does far less than it should to protect innocent people?  Or is it part of the farce that is the United Nations image that allows it to continue its worthless existence in which it does more to make corrupt people rich and powerful than it does to care for the weak and persecuted?

Whatever it actually is, if the results of this day set aside to remember does indeed increase awareness somewhere and with someone, who knows what type of positive ripple effect it could have.  I wrote a book about what my parents went through in the time of Nazi occupation.  Was this something I did as a totally selfless act?  The honest answer to that question is no.  Any success or achievement I have or will get out of the book certainly satisfies me on a personal level, but that does not negate the fact that nothing is more satisfying to me than inspiring or enlightening someone when it comes to the events that took place.  Now magnify this and imagine how many people may never have known that 6 million Jews were murdered by the Nazis if it were not for a Day of Remembrance.  If any of these people are inspired to the point that they actually do something to make a difference in the future, then no matter how disingenuous the formation of a memorial may be, it does some good, and in a world with so much bad, and in a world where hating Jews is becoming more and more in fashion, we need all the help we can get.  Even if it comes from a reluctant source.







Remembering my Father












I write this brief post in loving memory of my father, Rabbi Nardus Groen.  Today, December 18th, 2014  would have been his 95th birthday. Although I will never be the man that he was, I continue to work hard on becoming the man he would have wanted me to be. Despite the fact that I was very aware of my father’s flaws, the more I look back, the more people I meet, the more I learn about life, the more I realize what a great man he truly was.  The strength and inspiration he provided me not only during his life but as I remember him to this day motivates me to do positive things and take action to make the world a little bit of a better place.  Often when I do what I do I ask myself this very simple question: “What would Dad have done?” Chances are my answer isn’t always the correct one, but my love and respect for him is a large part of what motivates me to try my best.  He will always be one half of that truly great blessing in my life, 2 wonderful parents, and even though he passed away 7 1/2 years ago at the age of 87, he still is with me to this day, as he will be, and I say this joyously, for the rest of my life.






Holiday Gift Idea












Anyone who reads my posts knows that at the bottom of all of them is a link on “How to Buy the Book”. I will not deny that although I do my writing for the love of the craft, I also use this opportunity as a means to subtly promote the book I wrote about the experiences of my parents.  As the holidays approach I am throwing any subtlety out the window.  Simply put, the book “Jew Face: A story of love and heroism in Nazi-occupied Holland”, is a great gift for both Hanukkah and Christmas.  And here is why.

First of all and somewhat unfortunately, the book has a greater relevance today than it would have had in previous years.  The importance of telling an inspirational story of Holocaust survivors has always been there, particularly with the existence of denial and hate all over the world, but with the significant growth of evil and anti-Seimitism in today’s world, being aware of what took place has never been more important.

That being said, this is not your typical Holocaust era book.  This is very much a love story, despite the seriousness of the subject an easy read, and a book that acknowledges in style and substance the fact that my parents were, in many ways, 2 of the lucky ones.  I always put it this way when I talk about it to others.  No one should ever have to go through what my parents did over the 5 year period between 1940 and 1945, but compared to so many others, they were very fortunate.  For the record, certainly by the time I was old enough to hear the story, they were very much aware of their good fortune.

My father, Rabbi Nardus Groen of Blessed Memory, was a great man.  He was not a perfect man, but he was a great man.  The courage and strength he exhibited during the Nazi terror was unlike that of most men. In the book I do my very best to tell the stories of his remarkable actions during this time as well as the astounding bravery and strength of my mother, Sipora Groen, who, less than a month from her 93rd birthday is still an inspiration and joy to all those who know her.  I often say that it seemed to me that the only thing that ever scared my father was being without my mother.

In the book I make a clear distinction between the good guys and the bad guys. The bad guys were the Nazis and anyone who cooperated or worked with them.  The good guys were everyone else.  Therefore the character flaws and occasional strained relationships existing among normal decent people are not on display in this book.  This is not a book about the good and bad qualities of decent people.  It is a book about the good and bad in humanity, and how despite the awful price our people and our world had to pay, how good ultimately won.

If you want to learn more or purchase an inspirational and relatively inexpensive gift for someone this holiday season, CLICK HERE.






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Sadly, it’s about Killing Jews

ShowImageThis isn’t the face of a military man.  This isn’t the face of an oppressor. This isn’t the face of a politician. This is the face of a Rabbi. The face of a Jew. And tragically today, a murdered Jew. I did not know Rabbi Moshe Twersky, but since I know that everyone is flawed, I am fairly certain he was as well.  Despite whatever flaws he may have had, if the enemy was truly only fighting what they consider to be oppression and occupation, this would not be the face of their enemy. What this is, is the face of a Jew.

Whenever something horrific takes place along the lines of today’s terror attack in Jerusalem, I try to find a different angle.  Every normal human being is saddened, angered and horrified by what took place.  To write about those feelings would certainly be appropriate, but it has been and will be done by so many others, and rightly so, that for me to write something today I needed to feel something more specific, more personal.  That happened as soon as I saw the picture of Rabbi Twersky.

In 1940 when the Nazis invaded Holland, my mother had what would be considered the face of a Jew.  I partially based the title of the book I wrote about what my parents experienced during the occupation on the fact that the Germans identified what they saw as a Jew and murdered them.

It’s very simple albeit tragic and frightening. This is not about an occupation, oppression, naval blockades, land grabs or the building of settlements.  This is about the hatred of Jews.  This is reminiscent of the hatred and murderous ways of Hitler’s Nazis.  The term “two state solution” is just another way of saying “final solution”.  In Amsterdam in 1940 the typical face of a Jew was my mother, with her dark hair and dark complexion.  In 2014 Jerusalem, Rabbi Moshe Twersky is not the face of a soldier, an oppressor or a politician.  He is the face of a Jew.  The enemy’s purpose, their goal is not to live peacefully together with Jews.  Their purpose and goal is to not only rid Israel of Jews, but to rid the entire world of Jews.  In that way they are exactly like the Nazis.

Don’t tell me this is about occupation, oppression or land grabs and then storm a place of worship and brutally murder 4 Rabbis.  Rabbi Aryeh Kopinsky, 43, Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Goldberg, 68, and Rabbi Calman Levine, 55, and the man in the picture Rabbi Moshe Twersky, 59.  Take a look at the face of this man and recognize the truth.  This is not about helping innocent Palestinians or living in peace.  This is about killing Jews, and Never Again is here.





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Open Letter to San Antonio Spurs player Danny Green

DGreenDear Danny,

I decided to write this letter because I felt that in doing so I would not only be doing the right thing, but that I would also be providing a public service by using this as an opportunity to educate not only you, but others as well regarding an important matter.  The matter I am referring to is the selfie you took at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin.

Let me start by saying that I personally believe you meant no harm by your actions nor do I believe you deserve too harsh of a reaction from the general public for what I feel was nothing more than a moment of poor judgment.  One of the reasons I feel no anger towards you is because in order to make the mistake that you made, you had to be there in the first place.  So in my eyes, there’s enough sensitivity in the fact that you bothered to be at the Holocaust Memorial to absolve you from the dumb thing you did while there.

Your effort to learn about what happened, as evidenced by your visit to the Memorial needs to be acknowledged more than your mistake needs to be vilified.  However, the proper acknowledgment is in the form of some additional education on the subject, and that is what I will do in a very brief and personal way in this letter.

Danny, I am the son of Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands.  I am by no means a moderate, so there are some who will be surprised that I am cutting you slack, but since I am also not a hypocrite, I feel it only fair that I express my feelings openly and honestly.

Let me attempt to give you a perspective you may not have been able to gain from your visit in Berlin. As a child I grew up hearing about the Holocaust from my parents.  My father lost both his parents, his youngest sister, countless friends and family and the majority of his neighborhood to the murderous Nazis.  My mother lost her father and only sibling, a younger brother, her fiance, and most of her extended family and friends as well.  My father spent close to 3 years on the run, at times imprisoned by the Nazis, often hungry and exhausted and usually alone.  My mother worked in a Jewish hospital, saw patients taken by German soldiers to their death, and barely made it out of that hospital alive.  When she did she spent close to 6 months moving from place to place, constantly in fear for her life, and then spent a year and a half in hiding, sleeping every night in a small, dark and damp underground room with no way to get out unless someone opened the hatch from the outside.  My parents lived through a 5 year period no one should ever have to experience.  But here is where I offer that perspective I can’t be sure you would have without someone sharing it with you. Compared to millions of others, my parents were the lucky ones.

As I am sure you know, 6 millions Jews were murdered by Hitler’s Nazi Germany.  Many were starved, tortured, raped, abused and dehumanized in every possible manner. There were those who survived who went through the same horrors, only to carry it with them for the rest of their lives. The evil was unspeakable and impossible for a normal person to comprehend.  If you truly stop and think about this, and imagine the impact this had not only on those who survived but on an entire group of people, I am confident this will help increase your sensitivity in the future.  If you want to learn more I invite you to read the book I wrote about my parents’ experiences during the Nazi occupation of Holland. The book is called “Jew Face: A story of love and heroism in Nazi-occupied Holland” and can be found on Amazon.

Danny, people like myself,  the offspring of Holocaust survivors, did not all turn out the same way.  Therefore I guarantee you that at least some, if not many, will not feel as accepting of what you did as I do.  Part of your developed awareness will have to be tolerating their anger, because although I may not feel as they do, I do believe they would have every right to react differently that I have.  But I want you to know that you now have an important opportunity to take a mistake and turn it into a positive.  That all depends on what you do next.  As far as that is concerned, I offer you no advice.  That part you’ll have to figure out on your on.


David Groen





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Why Holland’s Heroes?

9781468573909_COVER.inddSome of you already know the background, but for those of you that have only started reading my work recently I wanted to give you a brief explanation of why my blog is called “Holland’s Heroes”.  In short, I am here today because of Dutch heroes.  My parents, Rabbi Nardus Groen of blessed memory and my mother Sipora Groen, were both Holocaust survivors from Holland.  As I cover in the book “Jew Face: A story of Love and Heroism in Nazi-Occupied Holland”, their actions during the Nazi-occupation of Holland were nothing short of heroic.  Originally set up to promote the book, Holland’s Heroes has developed into something far more important, an avenue from which to promote the truth, defend Israel and the Jewish people, and a platform from which to join forces with all those of all faiths that want a safe and decent future.


My mother showed incredible courage in some of the most dire situations including sleeping in an underground room for 16 months knowing at any time she could be discovered and killed.  My father was instrumental in saving the lives of many, including my mother.  He escaped the grasp of the Nazis four times including one remarkable escape from the Hollandse Schouwberg, Amsterdam’s equivalent at the time to Carnegie Hall in New York City.   The people who provided my mother a home for 16 months, Lubertus & Geeske te Kiefte, did so knowing that if they were to be caught, their entire family would be killed.  Despite the grave dangers, they not only gave my mother shelter, they gave her a warm and friendly home.  It hardly gets more heroic than that. And there were so many others, Jew and non-Jew alike that showed such bravery in such difficult times it is almost impossible to comprehend.

So very simply put, I am here today and able to write for you because of heroes from the small nation of Holland.  I’m aware of the problems facing the Jewish community of Holland today and knowing the rich history of Judaism in the country and my own personal connection it is even more heartbreaking for me than what is happening in other parts of Europe.  None of that negates the fact that Holland’s Heroes are the reason I am here today, and for that I will always be grateful and proudly call my blog Holland’s Heroes.



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Holland’s Football Heroes, the Agony of Victory, and the Whining about Diving

Arjen+Robben+IEven though this is a post to address the heroics of the Dutch National Soccer team earlier against Mexico, I want to start with a rant.  I am sick and tired of my fellow Americans bitching and moaning about players diving in the World Cup.  Seen an NBA game lately? Half the fouls take place when the offensive player moves into the opponent.  And flopping is a term coined for actions committed in the NBA.    How many players can even get off the ground without putting their hands out?  And don’t even get me started on how many superstars get away with travelling.  So enough already. You like that sport.  Teams win and lose and everyone has the option to use the rules to their advantage.  I’ve seen my teams lose often enough that I feel it was fair to see it go my teams way for once.  Especially when talking about The Netherlands in World Cup play.

The great thing about being a sports fan is that it allows you to put all your emotions and hopes out there without the fear of devastating consequences.  Everyone can pretty much say that when they follow a sports team they will see their team win or lose.  What you don’t know is when you will have that moment.  That moment when all seems lost, and quietly you know it is all over for your team, even if you tell yourself there is still hope.  That moment is complete when against all odds your team comes back from the dead with a performance of historic proportions.  I experienced it as a New York Met fan in 1986, as  a Philadelphia Flyer fan when a few years back when they came back from 3-0 down in a series against the Boston Bruins, and then from 3-0 down in game 7 , and I experienced it in this World Cup with Holland’s miraculous comeback against Mexico.  At the 85th minute of the game it felt like all was lost.  I already knew that I would have no more Dutch team to follow in this 2014 FIFA World Cup.  And then, Wesley Sneijder scores in the 88th minute tying a game that seemed lost,  and  4  minutes later Arjen Robben makes something from nothing and draws a penalty shot, comfortably put away by Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.

Yes I know this is just a game, and I know that these Dutch heroes don’t come anywhere near to matching the Dutch heroes I speak of in the book Jew Face: A story of Love and Heroism in Nazi occupied Holland, but on this day these Dutchmen gave me, many close to me, and millions of other people moments of pure joy only that moment of joy in sports can bring.

Now win it for my mother!   Pass this around…Let’s start a campaign….CLICK HERE..Come on Holland win it for my mother.

A Descendant’s Pride


When I first came up with the idea for this post my intention was to title it “My pride as a son”.  To be a little less self-centered I was going to change it to “A son’s pride”, after all I am not my mother’s only son.  But then I had to consider any daughter involved, and I was all ready to change it to “A child’s pride”.  But as the series of events unfolded just a few days ago, and I was blessed with my 9th Great Nephew/Niece, which subsequently means the mother I am referring to was blessed with her 9th Great Grandchild, I realized that limiting it just wouldn’t do it justice.  Henceforth, 2 days after the birth of the newest descendant of my mother Sipora Groen and my late father Nardus Groen, and as my mother gets ready to share her story before a crowd of people, I present you with this small but hopefully meaningful piece.

Knowing my mother as I do, I know that at no point as my mother sat holding her oldest son Marcel in her arms soon after his birth, did she ever dream that one day she would experience a 9th Great Grandchild.    But as one person wrote when reviewing the book “Jew Face” in speaking about my parents,   “Not only did they survive but they reinvented themselves and contributed greatly to post Shoah Jewish life”.

All of us, be it a son, daughter, grandchild, great grandchild or even long lost cousin, take great pride in where we come from and who we have close within our inner circle.  God willing, this beautiful little baby girl born just a few days ago will feel this same sense of pride and connection to the great sacrifices and strength shown by her ancestors, manifest so wonderfully in a 92 year old woman, my mother Sipora Groen, with an amazing desire and determination to let the world know her story.

Sometimes all you need to do to have pride is to look and to listen.