Tag Archives: Muslim extremism

Being the Child of Holocaust Survivors and the importance it holds in turbulent times

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Between 1933-1945, Adolph Hitler’s Nazi Party ruled Germany.  Over the course of his time in power the Jewish people were persecuted, tortured and threatened, not only in Germany, but in every European country conquered by the Germans during the 2nd World War.  6 million Jews were killed in what is now known as “the Holocaust”.  But although a tragically small percentage of Jews from these countries either outlasted the war or were fortunate enough to make it out alive, their number was still significant enough to keep the Jewish world alive, primarily in Israel and America.  These people that made it out are generally known as “survivors”.  Survivors who were not already married would marry after the war, and as is the way of the world, the majority would have children.  This article not only addresses those children, the “Second Generation”, but it also addresses the differences between them and Jews who are not the children of Holocaust survivors.

It is often said that people should write what they know.  Being the son of Holocaust survivors from Holland, I know as well as anyone what it means to be the child of survivors.  What I also know, through friends and relatives, is where the differences lie between those who are second generation and those who are not.  It’s extremely important to begin with one very important premise.  There is not a better or worse type of person in this discussion.  Whatever values a second generation has as a result of their upbringing or whatever their actions and reactions are to what they see and hear in religious and political discussions, the magnitude of their background does not by any means make them better people or Jews.  First of all, values that speak to equal rights, tolerance, activism against injustice, are all values any individual is capable of. You don’t need to have had parents that suffered through horrific times to become that person.  Often what sets second generations apart from others is an overabundance of caution, and sometimes fear that comes from growing up in a household run by people who experienced persecution as opposed to seeing it from afar or merely understanding it in theory.

It’s important to note that some of these responses by second generations are not what would be deemed as healthy responses.  One does not have to be a psychologist to recognize neuroses.  It might be said that being a second generation increases suspicion of people, distances in relationships, and a pessimism about one’s future safety.  Now that being said, those behaviors can be accredited to anyone from any environment, but when you grow up hearing real stories about pain, suffering, constant fear and death, your predisposition to caution impacts your philosophies.  It can be seen even more clearly during this election cycle and the matter of the Donald Trump candidacy.  A fear of the rise of Muslim extremism is not limited to the second generation, but anything that can draw a connection in one’s mind to the rise of Hitler and the Nazis pushes a button that causes great passion.  That doesn’t mean all second generations feel the same.  Some will support Donald Trump because they believe he will deal with the terrorists in a way that will utterly destroy them, while those who don’t support him often see him as a bigger problem, comparing him to Adolph Hitler. Now of course the natural reaction to these statements is that millions of people share the same sentiments on both sides of the issue, but there is a difference. And this is where it gets more interesting.  The difference is more in self-perception than in actual philosophy.  We, meaning the second generations, often feel we have an inside track on understanding the evil the world is capable of.  That in turn impacts how we feel, how we speak, and how we act.

What about the millions of Jewish people who are not the children of Holocaust survivors.  Do they not share the same values and understandings?  It would be unfair and incorrect to say they don’t, but their values are not rooted in the same emotions. Emotions fade with generations.  To illustrate this I will use the example of my brother and his son.  I have a brother who left the United States and voluntarily joined the Israeli army.  He is no different than me or my other siblings when it comes to his zero tolerance towards anti-Semitism. I would say his philosophies on international affairs and his honoring the memories of those lost in the Holocaust are similar to mine.  One of his sons also joined the Israeli army.  He clearly felt a strong enough attachment to who he is and where he comes from to make a choice similar to the one his father made and go off to fight for Israel.  Where the difference is evident is in what appears to be what might actually be a healthy ability to detach from the emotions associated with these very meaningful values.  This detachment can be misinterpreted by not only second generations but by Holocaust survivors as well. Truth is, when actions speak volumes, behavior and interpretation of emotions are far less significant in general but very apparent to second generations because we tend to analyze everyone and occasionally judge as well.  Fortunately we make up for it by possibly being the most important people when it comes to keeping alive the memory of what the Jewish people endured.

Everyone acts and speaks how they do for a reason.  As a second generation myself, I am convinced that part of my motivation in getting words in front of others is to insure that nothing is missed and that anything I see that can make the innocents of the world safer I must convey to as many people as possible.  That, for lack of a better term, hero complex, is also a result of my upbringing.  I once read somewhere, and forgive any inaccuracies since it was long ago, that children of Holocaust survivors have a tendency to fantasize about being in an environment like a synagogue which comes under attack, and getting hold of a gun and fighting off the attackers.  Again, I am sure this same fantasy occasionally exists in the minds of people who are not second generations, but the study did show a tendency towards this from the children of survivors.  I’ll go as far as to say that anti-Semitic attacks I see are attacks I try to fight off with what is my gun, the written word.

The biggest responsibility a second generation has is to make sure fellow human beings, particularly fellow Jews who are not children of survivors, recognize the actual reality of what has and could always still happen.  Not just intellectually, but emotionally.  There are some brilliant minds, many more advanced than me, that understand the dangers and realities of being Jewish in this world, but their ability to detach emotionally, which is often a strength, can also be an advantage to those out to destroy other’s freedoms and liberties.  The balance lies between conveying these emotions while not letting them be an overwhelming force.  It is a battle second generations face on a regular basis, and although it is a burden, the one thing all of us recognize, is that it is a far easier burden than the one that faced and in many cases still faces our parents.










Canadian shooting: What we know–and RATHER NOT know–a day later

NCIf you read CNN’s website today the title of this piece will sound very familiar to you.  It is almost identical to CNN’s article titled, Canadian shooting: What we know–and don’t know–a day later.”  I purposely used this title and made the adjustment I made to make some important points regarding the media’s approach and to a large degree the American government’s approach towards the shootings in Ottawa and the general global climate.

What we know is that many media outlets seem to go out of their way to find evidence that this is not an attack by a Muslim extremist.  CNN goes as far as saying that what we don’t know: “The gunman’s motive in Wednesday’s shooting”..and..“Why he changed his name to Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, but two sources told CNN that he converted to Islam.”  The article first said the following in the “What we know”  category: “Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the attacker a “terrorist.”

CNN would do well to listen to Prime Minister Harper.  The implication that he said this was a terrorist but that it might not be, is part of a bigger problem. That problem falls into the category of the things we would RATHER NOT know.

We would rather not know that we live in a world where danger potentially lurks around every corner.  We would rather not know that all types of people from all walks of life are being targeted for Muslim radicalization.  We would rather not know that hate is growing exponentially.  Not the type of hate people complain about on social media that involves saying nasty things about races because they have evil within their ranks, but serious and dangerous hate. The type of hate that drives people to murder others brutally and think it is a thing of honor.  And we would rather not know that the murder yesterday of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was an act of a terrorist, but it was.  I am sure Stephen Harper wishes it wasn’t so, but as a real leader he knows that you lead people by telling them what is true, not what you think they want to hear.

CNN and others can continue to try to deny the truths until the end if they so desire, but I rather listen to the great Prime Minister of our great and strong neighbors to the north, the Canadian people.  The fact that they elected such a strong leader was not good luck, it was within character.  Canadians are strong and decent people, and part of their strength is in their willingness to accept the truth as it is, not spin it so people feel better now and suffer more later.  It would be like telling someone with Stage 4 cancer that they MIGHT have a tumor.  It’s not going to go away because you pretend it is not really there, but if you accept it and attack it, you have a far better chance for survival.

We don’t need to walk around scared, but we do need to accept reality.  Doing that might make the future a lot easier to handle.





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Want a Better World? Treat Women better

yaziI was sitting watching Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless discuss the Ray Rice incident on ESPN’s First Take, and my thoughts kept wondering back to the situation in the Middle East. After all that is the subject first and foremost on my mind these days. Between the threats Israel continues to face from Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran and the immediate threat ISIS poses to the region and the rest of the world, I couldn’t help but have the thought so many people of us have these days. The world is a really messed up place.  All of a sudden the Ray Rice incident and international politics crystallized into one as I realized what is actually one of the main sources of everything that is wrong in the world today.  The treatment of women.

This was actually mentioned to me in a discussion I had with a cousin of mine about a month ago.  She stated how so much of the bad behavior of Muslim extremists has its root in the mistreatment of women.  I agreed with her when she said this, never disputed it, and put the thought somewhere in the back of my mind.  But over the past few weeks it kept gnawing at my brain, and little by little has worked its way back to the forefront.  Here’s why.

The promise of 72 virgins up in heaven is genuinely used as motivation in terrorist training.  Somehow certain elements within Islam that require women on earth to cover up any degree of beauty they have, are promising available and virginal women up in heaven as a reward for men that kill, maim and destroy.  They are exploiting perversion to encourage murder.  A man’s desire for a woman is not a perversion.  A man pursuing 72 virgins is a perversion, especially in a society where women’s natural beauty is suppressed and covered up,  and especially when they have the  perception of acquiring the virgins through mass murder and suicide. The whole idea of having a woman who is specifically a virgin is more about conquest than it is about desire.  Wanting a woman for conquest rather than desire or companionship is in itself inherently degrading to women.

I believe part of what has drawn some to join ISIS or ISIL is the ability to live a lawless life in which they have the power to do whatever they want.  The abuse of women is no small part of this.  As tragic and despicable as it is, I don’t think anyone was terribly surprised to hear of how Yazidi women captured by ISIS terrorists have been and still are being used brutally as sex slaves.  If there were no women to abuse in the “Levant” I wonder if we would see the same unrelenting pursuit by these terrorists to conquer these territories.

Basic respect for women makes a man behave a certain way.  It’s not about the basic or natural needs of  a man, it’s about seeing a woman as nothing less than an equal human being.  It’s about not tolerating abuse of a woman in any form, including a football player punching his fiance in an elevator.  I make no claims to be perfect nor do I claim to have treated every woman perfectly, but this is not about perfection.  This is about basic decency and not having tolerance for the abuse of women.

Stop and imagine for one second what the world would be like if women weren’t being treated improperly.  If you do this openly and honestly you’ll not only see a better world, but a safer one as well.




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Why I no longer argue with Stuart

Israeli-FlagI have a friend named Stuart. I’ve known Stuart for close to 40 years.  Some of you reading this even know him. I recently came to the realization that there is no friend on Facebook, excluding family members or friends of the family that I know longer than I know him. He and I used to argue so passionately on Facebook that we went through an “unfriended” period, the details of which are unclear, specifically in regard to who initiated the “unfriending”.  Frankly at this point it is unimportant.  We no longer argue.  Why? Because we share a common understanding.  The understanding that most of the issues we used to argue about will mean nothing if we don’t preserve the freedom and safety of the civilized world. Maybe even more importantly, we share an unapologetic love for Israel and the Jewish people.

Those of you who know him may know that 2 of his favorite words are obfuscate and metanoia.  Stop pretending you all know what those two words mean and click on each one for the definition.  Stuart and I have certainly gotten into it over the past few years.  He has what can only be defined as conservative views while I hold some very liberal positions, particularly on social issues.  He believes that what has happened to me is metanoia.  I agree on some levels, but I’ve always loved my people, been pro-Israel, and hated bigots of any kind, especially anti-Semites.  That doesn’t mean he’s entirely wrong.  The events of the last few months certainly did change me, as I wrote in my piece  “My Summer of Gaza”.

But here is what I believe has become the common ground in our discussion. If we allow Muslim extremism to run rampant all over the world the other issues won’t matter.  The issues we argued about we’re allowed to argue about. We live in a free country.  If we don’t wake up, and wake up soon, those basic freedoms may vanish before our very eyes.

I urge those of you reading this who are really tempted to address my views on specific subjects to leave it for another time.  Why?  Not because I don’t want to have the discussion but because it goes against the exact point I am trying to make.

All these other issues are secondary to the greatest issue of our lifetime. Freedom from an evil spreading over the planet like an out of control cancer. It’s why my next vote for president will be for whoever has the strongest stance on foreign policy and whoever is most pro-Israel.  Even if on the issues they think just like Stuart does.  In fact, I might just nominate Stuart for president.



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